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Open Mic Night Celebrates Student Creativity

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Eighteen pupils performed alongside performance poet Mike Garry at the Girls’ Division Open Mic Night. The evening was billed as a celebration of creativity, and certainly lived up to the title!

Almost sixty students from Year 7 to Year 12 entered the Open Mic competition, competing for a place on stage at the Open Mic night. After much deliberation, Mike selected twelve to perform alongside him. The evening’s entertainment also included six writers who took part in the recent Writers’ Retreat at Patterdale Hall, a reading from Old Girl Danielle Tomlinson who is now studying creative writing at university, and Mike’s unique and enthralling performance.

There was a wide range of creative writing on display throughout the evening, and the winners of the Open Mic competition were deserving of their places on the stage. The pupils, who were selected from all age groups, brought life to the written words by speaking clearly and confidently in front of the audience. The strong rhythm in ‘Fire’, by Year 7 pupil Byony Meech, gave the poem an inexorable feel that echoed the nature of the subject. Year 10 student Khadijah Ismail’s poem ‘Have You Ever Wondered About Random Things?’ stood out with a repeated refrain of “Have you ever wondered” followed by trivial thoughts, such as what it’s like to be a tree, chair or phone; however, Khadijah also wove in really thought-provoking lines, such as, “what it’s like to be a gun? Killing an enemy who’s trying to run.” An unusual prose piece titled ‘The Traveller’ was read by Shakira Campion of Year 9; the vivid imagery earned special mention from Mike at the end of her reading. Ragini Mohanty of Year 13 gave a dramatic and expressive reading of her poem ‘In The End’, which despite the grim-sounding title was an uplifting piece.

The overall winner of the Open Mic competition was Year 12 pupil Lydia Hounat, whose fast-paced poem ‘North West Jewel’ captures the essence Manchester; her enthralling reading kept the audience hooked all the way to the final line. This poem shares a common theme with Mike’s poem ‘Mancunian Meander’, which he performed later.

The pieces from the Writers’ Retreat were also excellent, and a number of them had the audience laughing at the imagery and wordplay. The readings from two Year 13 students were particularly amusing: Leda Hadjigeorgiou’s poem ‘Medusa’ gave a new, funny and poignant perspective on the mythological figure; while Hannah Mitchell’s ‘The Goldfish’ used repetition to comedic effect. There was even a poem for children by Year 11 pupil Annie Linfitt, about “those little creepies that make their home in your spine”!

After a short interval, the audience returned to enjoy a reading from Old Girl Danielle Tomlinson. She read a piece titled ‘The City’, which also shared elements with Mike’s work.

Mike then took to the stage to entertain the audience with numerous poems and anecdotes. He told the audience that he found reading difficult, and often chose to read poems because they were shorter than prose; he also revealed that Spike Milligan’s poem ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’ changed his view of poetry and language completely. He talked about the relationship between poems and song lyrics, and where he has found inspiration. He also reminded everyone of the importance of creative writing, not just as an outlet or as something enjoyable, but also as a learning tool. He believes that writing helps people to become better communicators, allowing them to find the right words to talk to one another.

He opened with ‘Mancunian Meander’, which was his first piece of slam poetry, and won him his first slam poetry competition! He also read ‘God is a Manc’, a funny and perceptive piece about the creation of Manchester and the Manchester man. However, the majority of the poems Mike read out were commissioned pieces. He pointed out that he likes his commissions to work in contexts other than the one they were specifically created for, and that was certainly the case with the pieces he read out.

Manchester United commissioned three of the poems he shared at the Open Mic: ‘Always Eat Your Greens’, full of advice for aspiring footballers and inspired by his teenage son; the cleverly metaphorical ‘Battling Tribes’ about the rivalry between United and City; and ‘Threads that Weave’, a tribute to the club’s fans. He also read out ‘Lancashire’s Old Trafford’, originally written as a commission to celebrate the long-standing cricket tradition in the area. He shared a piece written at the end of 2012, when he was asked by the BBC to put together a piece summarising the year; the result was the technical masterpiece ‘Rondeau Redouble for 2012’. He was also asked to write a quick-fire piece to be read out on the radio, which was to be based on the news stories of the day; although the news was dominated by child abuse scandals, Mike instead composed a tribute to all the parents in the world doing their best.

Watching Mike share his thoughts and perform was a great pleasure and privilege for the students and the audience alike.

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Mike Garry was the guest of honour at the Open Mic night

Mike Garry was the guest of honour at the Open Mic night

Open Mic winner Lydia Hounat performs North West Jewel

Open Mic winner Lydia Hounat performs 'North West Jewel'

Hannah Mitchell got plenty of laughs with her reading of The Goldfish

Hannah Mitchell got plenty of laughs with her reading of 'The Goldfish'