Issue 5 - Summer 2017

Page 24


Margate Mercury

art & Culture

The Poetry Posse Writer

Seb Reilly

Photographer Ian Scammell

Margate’s spoken-word poets are hosting slams and jams all over town. Seb Reilly explores the current scene, and why Margate has always had a poetic side

T Jake Wild Hall

Sam Rapp

hanet has a rich literary heritage, with authors from Charles Dickens and Jane Austin to Ian Fleming and John Buchan taking inspiration on the Isle for their seminal works. As 2017 has been named the Year of Literary Heroes, Thanet’s connection to the written word is being celebrated this year. But it is interesting to note that the poetic hub has always been Margate. Much is made of JMW Turner’s visits and paintings of the town, but he also wrote poetry, exploring the vistas and colours through words and verse. John Betjeman wrote about the area in his poem Margate 1940. T.S Eliot spent time in Cliftonville recovering from illness and penned some of

his most renowned work, The Waste Land, even featuring Margate amongst the lines. Today the local writing scene in Thanet is still thriving, and true to form poetry is still bursting forth from Margate. During the past few decades, poetry events have been held in libraries and galleries around themes including migration, equality and responses to refugees and war. “There is a strong scene and a rich vein of poetry here in Thanet,” says performance poet Stefan Gambrell, also known as the Neanderthal Bard. “I like to think the scene was always here but now there are amazing regular events for locals to enjoy.” Stefan organises and hosts poetry events at Olby’s Soul Café and the Turner Contemporary each month, featuring some of the best headline poetry acts in the country, and consistently showcasing incredible performances. Along with his own, he attends at least one other poetry event in Thanet each week. “Feature poets from London, Kent, Birmingham and beyond are now a constant presence at least twice a month in Margate,” he continues, “which has encouraged local poets to venture out and watch different poets and thrive. Spoken word is now a massive force and the Thanet poetry scene is embracing it.” The Turner Contemporary is also the stage for Turning Words, a collection of published and award-winning poets including Meg Bowyer, Nancy Charley, Sue Flory, Frances Turner, Mark Holihan, Adrian O’Sullivan, Sarah Tait, and the Guyana Prize for Literature winner Maggie Harris. They craft responses to each collection and then read them in the gallery, among the displays, on the last day of the exhibition, fusing spoken word and installation art. Along with performance, a strong community is building around the written word, and many collectives are working with both. “Thanet’s poetry scene has evolved from the back of busy pubs to legitimate performance spaces thanks to the hard work of incredibly dedicated and diverse performers,” says Connor Sansby of Whisky & Beards (, a Margate-based indie publishing house. “There’s a lot of support from peers at every level as well, it’s not a cut-throat scene. We’re friends as much as colleagues; brought