At last summer’s Vale Earth Fair a new stage debuted, The Sneakaway, focussing, for the first time that I can recall at the festival, not on music but on spoken word performances.
Now the team behind it have staged a night at Guernsey’s Guille-Allès Library featuring a range of performances (including some music) to mark the launch of the first Earth Fair Zine.
Before I get to the event itself the venue is certainly an interesting one.
Located on the top floor of the library, the room (the same one used for a recent screening of 1984) makes for an unexpectedly good performances space.
With a spectacular vaulted wooden ceiling and stained glass windows at one end it has something of a feel of a secular church with the shelving and gallery providing a kind of natural focus onto the stage created for the purposes of this event.
The atmosphere across the night was a respectful one, though a few of the performers (particularly the musical ones), pointed out that maybe the audience was too quiet, though after all it was in a library.
In this way it had a feeling similar to the Guernsey Gigs Unplugged Club as, while not ‘open mic,’ it allowed an outlet for people who usually wouldn’t have one in quite this way, including the chance to try new material in a supportive and non-judgemental setting.
Also, while spoken word performance events have existed in guernsey in the past, I think its fair to say that ‘the rules’ of audience behaviour and expectation are less familiar to many (and certainly to me) than of say a live music event in a pub.
Over the course of the evening 10 performers took to the stage with most reading their own poetry.
This ranged from Beth Brown’s humorous but pointed take on feminism to Hollie Lucia’s abstract song lyrics (that really did work as poems without the musical arrangements), to event instigator Sam Hearne’s more darkly personal writing.
Along with that a couple of the performers read their own longer form prose which was equally engaging, though I will admit that I am somewhat unused to listening to reading like this in this context so found it hard to properly connect on a few occasions.
This is something that will hopefully develop with more events like this (its similar to how I felt when I first heard death metal, which I realise probably sounds like an odd comparison).
Amongst the spoken word performers a few highlights stood out.
Along with Beth and Hollie’s readings, Rhiana Rowe was a particular stand out, not just because she read a George Métivier poem in Guernsey French which is always good to hear, especially not coming from one of the same usual group of people, but her other pieces by both her and her brother.
Another highlight was Lupin Vivian who’s poems about autism and various aspects of mental health were frank and revealing without being tiresomely worthy or lecturing, providing a better representation of that particular world view than many other attempts I’ve heard in more logical and formal styles.
It was my first time seeing Maisie perform away from Track Not Found and her solo material, played on bass, shared similarities with her band’s work with a punk-y edge but it still worked in this setting thanks to her relaxed approach on stage.
Kiya is a familiar face on the island’s music scene now and did a great job of tempering her performance to fit the mood here and her atmospheric ‘semi-acoustic’ folk-rock sounded great and went down very well.
The night was then rounded off by Hollie playing a few of the songs she’d read the lyrics from earlier, along with others. Her performance was nicely relaxed with a few technical mishaps taken in her stride and with a general lighthearted tone that was shared with the audience.
Overall though it closed the night on a nice note, and despite a few jokes on the subject, the event as a whole acted as a great distraction from the ongoing ‘panic’ around Covid-19 out in the ‘real’ world and I hope these become a regular part of the Earth Fair’s event calendar.