Words by: Adam Costen
I don’t normally get involved with Facebook arguments. It’s like pissing into a strong wind; there is no way to do it without getting nasty. But sometimes you see someone you know post something that makes you think.
There was recently a multi-leveled argument circulating that is worth sharing as it brings up a lot of current issues.
No Use In Crying Over Spilt Milk
One local poet, we’ll call him John, publicly lodged specific complaints against some of the local open mic and slam nights that charge a cover fee to enter the event; namely Milk Poetry
, Raise the Bar
and Hammer and Tongue
.For those who don’t know, Bristol is a complete poetry hub on the national stage and these three events are perhaps the biggest in town. A slam is a competition for poets where they get three minutes and are judged with a prize at the end. An open mic is an open stage for anyone to come and perform with a five minute limit. Both types of events normally have a headliner poet who the organisers respect that they pay to travel and perform.John is a poet, older, a recovering addict and lives currently on benefits so has very limited finances.
None of the organisers promote full time nor make a profit from providing a platform for poets and artists to share and express themselves. It is done out of love and passion. All three events are full of poets from all ages and walks of life who wish to share their work with the world.John makes a valid point here about accessibility. If you are sharing a work of art with the world, especially poetry (the most affordable of all art forms.), surely you shouldn’t have to pay to do so. We must enable those from all economic backgrounds to have a voice. This is part of the ethos of inclusivity. Important to note that none of these three events promote themselves through inclusivity but much more through simply the best quality work.
John calling these events out publicly incites me on multiple levels.
He isn’t wrong to be frustrated that he can’t afford these events, but directing anger towards the event organisers is beyond stupid for multiple reasons.
First and foremost, we are all poets, creatives, liberals and we have far more in common than our differences. This is such a common failing among people on the political left that it is both comedic and tragic
. To quote Mel Gibson in Braveheart, “You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps…that you’ve missed your God given right to something better.”
John’s anger could be directed IN so many ways that might be productive. He could direct it toward himself for wasting all the opportunities his baby-boomer generation was given. Or, better yet, direct it toward a government that doesn’t give enough money to fund the arts, so that he can’t afford a £3 admission fee (even though he can pay that for a beer). But no, let’s pick on some local events and young hosts.This entrance fee goes directly back into Bristol’s arts community These are fellow poets struggling to bring something they love into the world. The remaining goes to promoting the craft of poetry as a whole by providing a space for anyone to get up and have a voice. On top of that, the entrance fee is waived if you perform at most of these events!
Cut Your Nose To Spite Your Face
This is a classic failing of people who value diversity. Each person thinks their fight is the most important. Go on any student march and see the diversity of what they are marching to change.Equal pay for women!Equal rights for LGBT!More jobs!
Save the NHS!
Fight for mental health!
Stand up to racism!
Conservatives only care about one thing, the status quo. As long as artists are forward thinkers keep in-fighting, nothing will change. Liberals need to focus and .work together to get some power before they can hope to change anything.
The second problem with this line of argument is that he is complaining about not having enough money. As a younger person going through the worst economic downturn since the great depression with skyrocketing rents, expensive university education, and a gutted NHS, I find it difficult to empathise with someone from the baby boomers who didn’t take advantage of any of those opportunities and then holds any grudge against us economically. Our generation is getting squeezed from every side while the wealth of people aged 65 and up has gone up 20% in the last 10 years while under 45’s have gone down by the same.
This is the first time in history that over 65’s have more wealth than every one else and they continue to funnel the wealth up. Who cares that younger people have families? Who cares that younger people’s rents cost on average 50% of their income?
Any baby boomer comes from one of the most destructive and entitled generations in human history. It turns my stomach to hear him attack these organisers on the grounds of money.
Raise the Bar, Milk and Hammer and Tongue are great events where some of the best poets in the world come and share their work. If you are interested in some moving, current and wonderful poetry, check out any of the three events.
Make Change The Right Way
I’m not saying they are perfect. This isn’t the first nor only issue of inclusivity to come up within these events (more on this in my next article). However, when John the poet publicly attacks these events and their organisers, the only people who win are those who don’t value art and want to quash free thinking..If you want to make a change and have it be positive do it the right way. Talk to people directly. Get a petition. Lobby the government. Most importantly, be aware of where your anger should go. If you attack with a public display of anger, that is the only thing you will get back.
Tags: bristol, ChuckArt, Hammer and Tongue, LGBTQ, Milk Poetry, NHS, protest, Raise the Bar, Tobacco Factory