How Arts Council Funding has helped me realise why I am a Mouthy Poet

So… it is funding bid time again. We have laboured over word count and evaluation, we have agonised over cash flow projections and budgets. we have stayed awake until way past midnight, texted and emailed and called each other across the darkness to check and double check and cross reference what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do it, how much we should budget for this or that. It has been frustrating. At the moments when I have wailed into the night that I’m tired and the figures won’t balance and I never wanted to be involved with financial stuff anyway, I realise that somewhere across the city is somebody else wailing and gnashing too – and what’s more there are people across the other side of the country proof reading and editing and advising, not because they have a vested interest, but simply because they care about what we are trying to do. Then…. hit SEND. All we have to do is wait…

…except, we need to do our ‘Activity report’ for last year’s fund, if we don’t, we won’t get the final payment and if we can’t show where all the money has gone, who knows, they might want it back. This is the point where I scrabble through our spreadsheets and pull out all the required data, whilst my partner in crime trawls through documents and evaluation material to write the bulk of the report – by 10.30pm last night she had sent me a first draft which needed cutting in half- I slash away and send it back to her at half past midnight. I awake this morning to see she had completed it at 2am this morning. I found it in my inbox, needing about 300 words trimming off. But that’s okay – I do that, spot on 2000 words to see a ‘timed out’ message and discover file hasn’t saved… so I start again and this time get it down to 1997 words.

Then I move on to reading through the evaluation material in the attached documents and remember why I sit at this lap top at night and bash away until my eyes go like Catherine wheels.

For sake of clarity, Say Sum Thin Events are the performances we deliver at Nottingham Playhouse twice a year – this year our headliners were Tshaka Campbell  Lemn Sissay. After each Say Sum Thin Event, Mouthy fill out an online Survey explaining how they felt the event went and what they achieved.

“Sitting in the front few rows, surrounded by people I had in some cases only
met a month or so ago, before the lights went down and the show started-up:
feeling part of something so vital, necessary.”

“Performing! I just wanna perform all the time now. Watching all the other
mouthies kill it. Having poetry come to life and engage a whole room in front
of me.”

“I’m so proud of the numbers we managed to get and have faith that we could
do it more regularly. I’ve never performed on a stage before so that was very
new to me, and being told by people afterwards how good I was makes me
feel confident in not only performance and writing but in all aspects of my life.”

“The breadth of people who attended and were involved in SST5- not just
friends and family- not just the usual spoken word scene.”

“The main constant of the day was actually the attitude mouthy had as a
whole to the public. The level of welcome, drive and interest with whoever
they encountered, of all ages and backgrounds, was there throughout. The
feeling of safety, again, of acceptance and general enthusiasm for whoever
walked into the day was apparent and pretty beautiful.”

And talking about our weekly Mouthy workshops (every Friday 5-8pm) in relation to
SST5:
“They bedded in the reality of the road ahead. Not an easy road, but a journey
that could be chunked into stanzas and swallowed in small pieces.”

“Friday sessions are always helpful no matter what we do. Having a place to
socialise as a group of writers helps immensely to understand each other and
our individual aims. Audience members have said that the camaraderie
between us is obvious, and I think that that is built each and every Friday
session.”

“The editing quality in Mouthy Sessions is beyond pretty much anything else
I’ve taken part in – especially impressive for a group that anyone can join. This
applies both to work editing and critiquing performances. The level of detail
and the… ah… benevolent ruthlessness of the criticism would be valuable to
any performer, let alone a completely amateur one (like myself).”

“The sessions helped me forget about my exams for a while.”

“Overall, the safe, productive space generated in the weekly sessions
provided a consistent feeling of worth within my writing and even further than
that, myself. The opportunity to share material prepared for SST5 in smaller
groups was an absolute stand-out in terms of activities that truly supported my
own performance. The chance to have in-depth feedback, dialogue and
responses from such a diverse range of participants was invaluable in terms
of confidence in what I wanted to get across in my piece and overall faith it
was as important an undertaking as I believed and wanted it to be.”

“the perception of numerous audience members as to what poetry ‘was’ and who it was for. So many murmurs of ‘I didn’t know poetry could do that, or say that, or make me feel like this’ were going on during the interval and after the show had finished. So many perceptions were smashed apart in a single experience.”

“It changed my mind on what performance is after seeing Lemn Sissay.”

“It makes me confident to try new things in the future and continue to push
myself to become better, again, not only in regards to writing/performing, but
in all aspects of my life.”

“It was a family in that auditorium.”

“Showed me that we are able to draw an audience to fill a large auditorium
and made me realise that maybe Mouthy needs to step up to the next level.”

“ I feel that in comparison to SS4,the performances were more polished. Last
event was about each poet writing something that for whatever reason was
something they needed to write about, very emotional. This time around
Mouthy came across as emotional but far more polished and controlled and
the audience were taken on more of a journey. Each performance was
diverse and they was defiinately something for everyone.”

“people have now witnessed the breadth of talent we have and the power of
Mouthy passion. From a Mouthy perspective: one step closer to world
domination.”

And all of that is why I will continue to be a Mouthy Poet. Each and every member is a bit battered and bruised by life, as we all are and so seeing them develop as writers and people is a really rewarding and special thing.

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