Sunday, 6 June 2010

Barefoot in the Park 2010

It's almost a stereotype of summer. I'm sat in a tent under a grey, raining sky, surrounded by threadbare students. But it's not a music festival in some muddy field this time. I'm at Barefoot in the Park Poetry Festival 2010. Co-ordinated and indeed founded by Victoria Ellis, a student of Masters in English at Leeds University, the event has been Vicky's wish to “pull together all the different types of poetry I've seen in Leeds” and has run successfully since 2007. She told me she finds the stigma of poetry annoying, this boring, mundane, GCSE-style requirement of English that comes across as “too highbrow.”

Running from 12pm to 9pm, this marathon creative event has unfortunately missed the heatwave by a single day. Vicky's optimism is steadfast, and she gestures to the imposingly large marquee behind us, saying “The weather's not been as bad as it could have been. We put the provision in place, and we needed it.” Indeed, the broad tent is more than half full, all colourful dresses and drainpipe jeans, sprawled on rugs and cushions.

Shoes are indeed off, but sat on the edge of proceedings, I am still safely booted. The organisers have a broad menu of entertainment on offer. The braver warrior poets can join the open mic sessions. Established creative types have booked slots to play music with bands, and lone wolves will recite monologues. There is a small tent boasting a wide range of artwork, from sketches to powerful watercolours. Tea, coffee and buns are available from a nearby pavilion staffed by earnest young volunteers.

Back in the marquee, the focus of attention is a wave-fringed nervous young man enunciating into the PA. His sometimes amusing, sometimes saddening work comes across as Viz on opium, all toilet humour and introspection on deceased Eastern European poets.

Next up, local band The Lovebirds are phenomenally young, but rousing and popular with sixties-inspired tunes under 21st-century dry, adolescent humour.

Adam Strickson and Avtar Lota supplied poetry and Indian music, either soloing or melding both forms. The sound of the dilruba and tabla is uniquely foreign, and is a beautiful counterpoint to the pop-rock of The Lovebirds. Adam writes biting social commentary and recalls foreign myths in a challenging mix.

We stayed to watch Carole Bromley, who reads out searing work, and her vivid creations held the crowd spellbound. A dignified and mature lady, she writes of youthful passion that borders on the uncomfortable in its burning honesty and innocence. This is I suspect what Vicky Ellis is aiming for when she tells me she wants to showcase poetry as “ beautiful and lively and glorious”, and she adds “glorious is my buzzword for everything.”

Glorious doesn't have to mean the weather, it can describe running the whole range of human experience and feeling. These creators and writers and artists and performers tell their audience of every facet of experience in a glorious procession of spectacles. What plans then, for the future of Barefoot? “Maybe Barefoot in Berlin?” she says with a chuckle, as she aspires to move to the German capital. She hopes other students will rise to take charge of the popular festival after she graduates, and considering the attendance in spite of the weather, there will be no doubt about next year's instalment. Make sure you are part of it as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment