Celebrating death at Southbank Centre & The Poetry Takeaway | Festival review
It is all about the Ultimate Equalizer, the Grim Reaper, the Blessed Release – call it however you like, the great theme of this month’s Festival in lively Southbank Centre remains a very fascinating one: Death.
From Jan. 27 to 29, it is indeed a celebration for the living, “not about morbidity,” says Artistic Director Jude Kelly, “but a weekend full of delight and humour.”
Over 20 different events over three days – all conveyed through music, literature, puppetry and visual arts – offer a vibrant feast of cheerfulness across Southbank’s grand halls and bars, despite the apparently gloomy topics. These vary from suicide to organ donation, from bereavement to death rituals, from afterlife discussions to exuberant coffin exhibitions.
Friday night, one of the most original events was offered by a stand called The Poetry Takeaway where two poets sat deeply immersed in thought yet highly approachable and “open to customers.”
The Poetry Takeaway specialises in the production of free, made-to-order poems, hand-written and delivered in about 15 minutes. Behind this innovative idea are author and musician Tim Clare and theatre producer Tom Searle, who thought about taking the challenge of writing poetry to a higher level.
Clare and Searle are very enthusiastic about their mobile poetry emporium, created about a year ago. “The Poetry Takeaway is currently the closest I’ll get to having to look after a baby,” says Searle. The duo, regularly joined by a rotating cast of poets, travels across the UK to deliver poetry on any kind of topics.
This time adapting their work to Southbank’s theme, the crew is accompanied by Dan Cockrill from stand up poetry Bang Said the Gun. From behind the counter of this cute literary store – which attracts adults’ and children’s curiosity alike – Dan acts as the perfect host, explaining the activity and literally ‘taking the order’.
“It could be about anything you like,” he says, “you give me some information and I write a poem out of it.” (The final touch will be a sprinkle of death.) After 15-20 minutes the piece of poetry was ready and wrapped to go.
Also queuing to be served was frequent visitor of Southbank Centre Aleksandra Zur, who found the stand very pretty but did not conceal her reservations about the idea of it. “I think that ordering a poem as a takeaway can make it lose its value,” she says. “A poem should be personal and inspiring; it shouldn’t be manufactured even if it is custom-made.”
Dan confirms that indeed it can be tricky: “The more particular the requests, the harder it gets,” he says. “Sometimes you do struggle a little – but most times words just flow. It is an amazing experience.”
However, I have to say, I was very satisfied with Dan’s customer service skills and especially, with the product of his work.
Overall, Southbank was very enjoyable and energetic, populated with people of all ages who had plenty of activities to choose from and explore. Perhaps it was also because of this particular theme around death – such a great cultural taboo and fearful topic – that, taking on these colourful guises, made everybody look and feel so alive.
For Southbank Centre’s events: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/home
The Poetry Takeway: http://thepoetrytakeaway.com/
Bang Said the Gun: http://www.bangsaidthegun.com/