Looking for a literary night out? Kaite Welsh presents a guide to the top ten spoken word nights in Edinburgh
From the Walter Scott monument to the ‘JK Rowling wrote here’ signs in ever other café window, Edinburgh’s rich literary history is unavoidable. Although you could bankrupt yourself visiting every bookshop in the city, the literary scene isn’t just confined to the written word.
Forget the bars and clubs – some of the best nights out in Edinburgh come from the city’s thriving spoken word scene. Although come to think of it, quite a lot of them take place in bars and clubs…
Whether you like poetry slams, storytelling or a weird mash-up of the two, there’s so much going on that you never need to have a night at home on the sofa. And if you get inspired, there are plenty of opportunities to move from the audience to the stage.
Stories, poetry, comedy, music and even magic – Speakeasy is a rambunctious night of performance and general merry-making hosted every month at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Presiding over the madness is Jo Caulfield (above), who’s been on the telly and everything.
Rally and Broad
If Speakeasy is the mother of all spoken word nights, Rally and Broad are your boozy boho aunties. Also known as Rachel McCrum and Jenny Lindsay, they’ll guide you through a “magnificent cabaret of lyrical delight in Edinburgh, Glasgow and wherever will have us”. They’ve recently played host to Kate Tempest, the hottest property in slam poetry, and, refreshingly, they promise “gender-balanced billing” alongside political engagement and audience interaction.
In case those two exclamation marks didn’t give it away, Neu! Reekie! are something different, even in the eclectic world of Scotland’s spoken word scene. Neu! Reekie! isn’t just a night – it’s a movement. It’s even a record label, thanks to a single featuring its signature mix of poetry and high-octane indie pop.
The talented and extremely attractive folks at Illicit Ink – full disclosure, I’m one of them – present not one but two nights of eclectic performances, each based around a particular theme. Emerging artists jam with stars of the spoken word scene at Underground, all showcasing their individual take on the month’s theme in the Bongo Club, whereas Skyground at the Scottish Storytelling Centre features established performers taking part in a loosely-linked narrative – think famous lady scientists from history getting together for a night of gin, knitting and taking down the patriarchy, or a Raymond Chandler-esque murder mystery complete with good jazz and (deliberately) bad poetry.
A community-focused program of live events run by and for word nerds, Inky Fingers host everything from an open mic night to the chance to present your work and get feedback from other performers.
Blind Poetics is a spoken word event, with a feature performer and an open mic, run by Alec Beattie and Roddy Shippin, and held on the second Monday of every month at the Blind Poet pub.
A motley crew of comrades who perform together and separately, the Bloc is on a temporary break but keep your eyes peeled for their return – previous nights have included “an exploration of weird science and stranger arts” at the Edinburgh Science Festival and “an evening of literary necromancy” for Halloween last year.
Scottish Storytelling Centre
If you like a bit of history with your poetry slams, the Scottish Storytelling Centre has a calendar jam-packed with spoken word sessions both fun and educational. You’ll have noticed that they’re the venue for some of the best nights in Edinburgh, but the brilliant staff also produce in-house events for adults and children, including their terrific Café Voices. They also run workshops for aspiring storytellers.
Forest Café, Edinburgh’s one stop shop for radical politics and really good hummus, is unsurprisingly also a hub of artistic activity. Growing Underground is their answer to the creative open mic night and, in line with their chilled out, inclusive vibe, all you need to do is sign up and do something – anything – for 15 minutes.
Although they’ve moved on from the Leith area that gave them their name, the Shore Poets have been giving good live poetry since 1991. These days, they can be found on the last Sunday of every month in Henderson’s – and if the promise of poetry doesn’t sway you (it should) they also raffle off a lemon cake at every show.
Share this on Twitter: