This month’s featured resident organisation is Apples and Snakes, the leading organisation for performance poetry in England, with a national reputation for producing exciting and innovative participatory and performance work. By working with highly creative individuals across the country, Apples and Snakes seeks to nurture, support, and create opportunities for emerging talent and push the boundaries of the art form, artists, and audiences.
Founded in 1982 by a group of poets, Apples and Snakes sought to create more opportunities for performance poetry and be the voice of those who have been marginalised and disenfranchised. In 2002, the organisation made the transition to a national organisation and currently has programme co-ordinators in London, the North East, the South East, the South West, and the West Midlands.
Apples and Snakes’ programming has included incredible performances such as Jawdance, a poetry open mic night, and My Deptford, a celebration of the diversity and culture of Deptford at the Southbank Centre. Their upcoming production, Telling Tales, featuring award-winning UK poet Patience Agbabi, is a re-imagining of Chaucer’s masterpiece The Canterbury Tales. Renaissance One recently sat down with Patience to discuss it:
What 3 words would you say best describe you?
Imaginative, impatient, impassioned.
Tell us a little about your new book Telling Tales.
It’s a modern version of The Canterbury Tales, each story told by a unique character from ladette to ‘ladies’ man’.
You’ll also be touring Telling Tales; what kinds of events are you going to do and what do you enjoy most about spoken word?
I’ll be doing two kinds of events: arts centres with blatant sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and cathedrals, with covert sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Spoken word can connect on lots of different levels, much more than a traditional reading. The words fly straight from the mouth to the heart of the audience with no page in between. That’s the beauty of spoken word.
Which artists have influenced you the most and why?
George Szirtes, Michael Donaghy and Paul Muldoon for form; Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage for half-rhymes and accessibility; Jackie Kay for monologues and Black British perspective; Pascale Petite for imagery; Sharon Olds for honesty and reinventing the poetic line…and that’s judge the living poets. To answer this question in 20 words is impossible. There are times when form really does overconstrict a writer.
What’s an important piece of insider knowledge you have as a creator and performer?
If it works on the page, it will work on the stage. If I believe in the writing it fuels the performance.
What are you most passionate about? (doing/achieving/working)
Inspiring young people and enabling women to reach their full potential through my writing.
Where would you say your style of performing comes from?
It comes directly from the poem, knowing it off by heart and performing straight from the heart.
What creative masterpiece do you wish you had written? and why?
I’ve just written it.
Does current affairs or popular culture influence your writing and performing, and if so, in what way(s)?
The recession has permeated my recent work; and a huge range of music, film and visual art. It makes the writing richer, multi-dimensional.
Tell us about an upcoming project that excites you, and how we can find out more about it.
I’m working with The Full English on a Chaucer Teaching Pack, to enable The Canterbury Tales to feature more widely on the curriculum. I got properly into writing poetry studying The General Prologue and the Pardoner’s Tale for A’ Level. I’ve always enjoyed narrative poetry headed by a strong character.
What’s your experience been of making inroads in the spoken word and/or music industry?
Living in a large city helps! Pre-internet, when I was starting out, I attended loads of live events in London because it was exciting and I wanted a context for my own work. Even now, you can’t beat networking face to face.
Telling Tales is here for one performance only on Wednesday 21 May, 8pm. For more information and to book tickets, click here.
Megan Bommarito, Marketing Intern, The Albany