Monday, 31 August 2015

PBH's Free Fringe Spoken Word Awards 2015

Every year we ask the audiences to vote on their favourite spoken word show of The Free Fringe, and provide us with feedback and some ratings of the other shows along the way.

This year, as last, we awarded four commended shows alongside the big one. We'll list them below.

The PBHSW Awards may have sprung out of Spoken Word being ignored by the main prize-givers, but it's turned into a happening all its own; a chance to show some love to each other and crack some in-jokes, while giving the winners something to slap on flyers and funding applications.

We have plans to make the whole thing a bit more organised next year but, while your vote no longer counts towards the prizes, we still welcome your feedback on this year's shows. As one of the voters on the survey said: "I had a lovely week up the fringe. More spoken word please."

We'll take that. Thanks!

Go here to let us know what you thought:

Spoken word's star has been rising and rising in the arts and entertainment world lately. More and more people are seeing the value in this artform that spans so many different experiences, emotions, and disciplines. It's particularly brilliant to be part of a Fringe organisation that has been backing spoken word since long before all the cool kids noticed it, and will continue to pave the way for some of the most exciting talents in the genre, offering an unparalleled opportunity to take good risks and share great art with audiences from across the world.

Thank you for being a part of that! :D

And now the awards:

First up: Best Feel-Good Spoken Word Show on PBH's Free Fringe 2015

Voter feedback includes:

"[this artist] has important things to say, and says them very well… with wit, with heart and with spirit."

"Since attending [this show], I've thought differently about the way I interact with people I admire. I've been less apologetic for my presence. It's making a lot of little differences, and I'm happier and more confident as a result. Thank you; you may have changed my life. X"

The winner of this award is Hannah Chutzpah with "Asking Nicely". Nice one, Hannah!

Next up: Best Solo Survival Spoken Word Show on PBH's Free Fringe 2015

Voter feedback about this show includes:

"[This performer] was brilliant. I saw [them] in Loud Poets and then went to see [their] show. I would pay to see [them], I thought [they were] fantastic. [Their] poems are amazing and are the things that should be studied for GCSEs rather than poetry that makes children hate it. This is so raw and real. Fantastic!"

"[This performer]'s show was BRILLIANT. Hilarious, heart-wrenching, so honest and relatable."

The winner of this award is Sara Hirsch with "How Was It For You?" Nice one, Sara!

Next up: Best Wellbeing Spoken Word Show on PBH's Free Fringe 2015

Voter feedback includes:

"An exceptional fusion of infectious charm and devastating insight. Exactly the kind of artist the world needs. Humane and compassionate without being sentimental, simple without being simplistic, humble without being weak. Has clearly pushed [themselves] along all sorts of lines to get this show as good as it is. Conception, performance, connection with the audience, political awareness, philosophical insight, all at a strikingly high level and bound together seamlessly. This is clearly a 5 star experience. [They aren't] just a good poet, [they're] an important one."

"[This performer]'s wonderful and left me feeling happier and more inspired to make my own art."

"Very endearing message and beautiful poetry"

The winner of this award is Agnes Török with "If You're Happy And You Know It, Take This Survey". Nice one, Agnes!

Next up: Best Spoken Word Cast on PBH's Free Fringe 2015

Voter feedback includes:

"Thought provoking with bags of energy"

"Original, biting, spot-on and brilliantly performed."

"[This performer] is a genius!"

"A real barnstormer of a show with the entire cast of [this performer] in top form."

"Really off-the-wall but also really relevant. Weird to see those two things work together so well."

"[This performer] is just brilliant. A shining beacon in the literary world."

The winner of this award is Sophia Walker with "Cult Friction". Nice one, Sophia!

And finally: Best Spoken Word Show on PBH's Free Fringe 2015

Voter feedback includes:

"[This performer] is an awkward mofo that makes him a pure LEGEND"

"I never thought I'd be interested in poetry yet [this performer] engaged [their] audience and totally moved me"

"Amazing show, funny and witty with some really clever wordplay. Give this [performer] a bigger venue next year!"

"It was outstanding! I've been come to fringe for years and [this performer] has been the best performer I have seen! Well done to [them]!"

"[Thos performer] is not only an incredible spoken word artist, but [their] impact on this poetic scene is huge. [They are] the reason that I have fallen in love with Spoken Word Poetry."

"Thanks! Falafellöffel :)"

And the winner of this award is (to no-one's real surprise, we're sure): Harry Baker with "The Sunshine Kid". Nice one, Harry!

And there's one more award to bestow - someone who tirelessly made the whole experience just that bit more glorious for all of us. Unmatched energy, charm, and passion for spoken word and its proponents in all forms, our Spirit of PBH's Free Fringe Spoken Word 2015 award for services to poetry (and poets) goes to Jenni Pascoe of Jibba Jabba - she of the sparkly purple love, support, and sheer drive that kept a lot of people going this year, even if just by example.

Gan on, lass! :D

That's it. Have a wonderful year, and we'll see you all soon. Applications for PBH's Free Fringe open again in the New Year. Come and be a part of it!

(Data collation by Fay "Welsh Whisperer" Roberts; awards by PBH's Free Fringe Spoken Word Director Matt "Monkey Poet" Panesh.)

Saturday, 3 August 2013


Well, it's kicked off!

Our first day of shows was today (some are still going, or to come, but this tired little Director needs to SLEEP). The reports are starting to come in here at Poetry Towers (a flat filled with poets, producers, and directors is a lovely thing) and so far it's very exciting!

Edinburgh was filled with people today - if you've never seen it at this time of year, imagine the busiest, most throngy street in the busiest city or other conurbation you know. Now times that up a bit. Say 10. Now add in costumed people singing, dancing, juggling, balancing on top of things and each other, lying on the floor painted in fake blood, doing magic tricks, or puppetting, and all of them, all of them, importuning you to favour their show with your presence.

It's a heady experience, mingled with opportunistic food vendors, street performers, buskers, magicians, bagpipers, beggars, and other businesspeople, the scents and sounds and smells of all these people, all this food, all these costumes and gewgaws, these smiles, and laughs, and exhortations, these masks and instruments of entertainment.

Reviewers are making their way around and, this time out, they do seem keen on spoken word - and have we got a programme of shows for them this year!

See you soon - don't forget you can check out our full line-up at

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

PBH Spoken Word Album (a guest post by Dave Pickering of @Standup4Tragedy)

Today, on the morning of our fundraiser event and album launch (which is already being downloaded by eager listeners!), we have a guest post by the gentleman primarily responsible for the album’s generation, Dave Pickering of Stand Up Tragedy. Take it away, Dave:


My name is Dave Pickering and I run a night called Stand Up Tragedy. We’re taking a show up to the PBH’s Free Fringe this year. As our show is also a podcast and we have lots of audio experience, we agreed to put together an album to celebrate and fundraise for the spoken word line-up at the Free Fringe, which our tragic variety show is proud to be a part of.

A Maze of Breaths: Spoken Word at PBH’s Free Fringe is the result of our efforts.

It’s a selection of live and recorded tracks, bringing to your ears the spirit of the spoken word line-up at the PBH Free Fringe. We bring to you the variety and energy of the festival, making you laugh, think, feel and move with this collection that combines poetry, storytelling, music, comedy and everything in between.

All the tracks were donated by people who are either taking a show up to PBH’s Free Fringe or who have done so in the past. Performers either sent in tracks or arranged for us to record them live. We had lots and lots of amazing submissions, which I whittled down to this selection. I’ve tried to order it so that it flows as an album, but also to highlight the contrast between the types of spoken word that are contained in these 19 tracks.

The quality of the work submitted really took my breath away. There are a lot more songs and soundscapes than I’d expected. There are also some brilliant live performances, some of which were captured by the Stand Up Tragedy team. Shout out to Bryony Hawkins (who produces the SUT podcast) and our sound technician Steven Harvey, who also mastered this album and set up the bandcamp site.

The artwork was donated to us by another Free Fringe spoken worder, Max Scratchman.

Track By Track:

  1. Katherine McMahon with Fiona Keenan – Blackberries

    This track is as sweet and tasty as its title suggests. It gives me a warm feeling inside and seemed the perfect track to ease the listener into the album with its combination of gentle music and wonderful words. Download individual track.

  2. Dan Simpson –You Make My Flesh Crawl

    This is a romantic and macabre story set against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. I recorded it live earlier this year at Richard Tyrone Jones’ spoken word event, Utter Shite! For me this is one of those poems where the last line blows you away and gives you a new understanding that you can’t quite explain. I chose it as the second track so that people would get used to the way the tracks switch between live and produced sound. And also because it meant a transition from relaxed energy to tension; from sweet to bitter sweet. Download individual track.

  3. Fay Roberts – Blissful Chance

    Inevitably an album showing the range of what spoken word can do will also show the range of what the human voice can do. This is the first of two tracks from Fay Roberts, the current director of spoken word for PBH’s Free Fringe, which mixes speech and song. It’s also another take on the topic of relationships*. Love has, of course, been a preoccupation of poets and singers through the ages and this album is no exception. Download individual track.

  4. Flea Circus: Superbard – Brixton’s Afloat

    This tremendous track is the first longer form set-piece of the album. It’s also our first straight up story. The relationship element this time is a subplot for the main narrative as Superbard imagines what would happen if a man who thinks Brixton will be flooded is proved “right”. Beautiful vocals form a stirring chorus. Powerful and dramatic electronic scoring and a sad and funny tale give us something to really get our teeth into. Download individual track.

  5. Isadora Vibes – Lady V

    This track takes an often neglected and historically ignored part of the female anatomy and anthropomorphises it to a thought-provoking and often comic effect. Sex, like love, is perhaps one of the timeless topics of poetry, and it’s great to hear so many different voices and perspectives on this subject in the album. A range of sexualities are explored, so hopefully there’s something for everyone. Download individual track.

  6. Friends of Friends (Vera Chok, stephenmcaines and Pascal Barras) – Victor Lou (Sequin Edit)

    This track is a wonderful piece of music. The spoken word element is almost secondary. The voice functions as another instrument and a texture which helps create an engaging musical atmosphere. Download individual track.

  7. Sophia Walker – Around the World In 8 Mistakes

    This track was recorded live at a Stand Up Tragedy event. It was written on the day of the performance and is fresh, surprising and thought provoking. It takes you in all sorts of directions and has a strong ending. This is the first track that focuses on another age-old preoccupation of poets: the self. It expresses the interior emotional journey through a series of challenges and experiences. Download individual track.

  8. The Morris Quinlan Experience feat James McKay– The New Bali Ha’i

    This piece makes me think of Joy Division or Depeche Mode. It’s a poetry and music collaboration that fits strongly into the tradition of John Cooper Clark. Its lyrical content is surreal, ambiguous and evocative. And at track 8, we have the first meta track(!) which examines what it is to be a poet or make spoken word. But this isn’t empty naval gazing in any respect. It explores the external as well as internal. To me, it’s about half connections, the unexpressed, and everything in between. It’s pretty epic. Download individual track.

  9. Alan Wolfson – Love Sickening

    This was another track I recorded live at Utter Shite! It’s a mix of the funny and profound, and is an example of what can happen when you force yourself to force the rhymes. Download individual track.

  10. Richard Tyrone Jones – Visiting Time

    This is a new poem from Richard Tyrone Jones, who is currently taking a sabbatical from being the Director of Spoken Word at the Free Fringe so that he can tour his poetry all over the world. This track is part of a live performance he gave at a Stand Up Tragedy event, and it focuses on his grandmother’s dementia. It really is a beautiful collection of observations and feelings. The context he gives the poem is as profound and poetic as the poem itself. Download individual track.

  11. Catherine Scott – That Fucking Cockerel

    To liven the mood, we go from personal sadness to the frustration of having a cockerel crowing outside your widow. This is a fun poem, which is also a kind of love letter to the swears we scream and things we think when we run out of patience. Download individual track.

  12. Mellor and Steele – Beat ’n’ Trachea

    This is another longer form set-piece. It examines the voice itself, how we make sound, what sounds we make and how we choose to use them. It’s part science lecture, part song, and part manifesto. I was so impressed with the cleverness and execution of this track. Download individual track.

  13. The Antipoet with percussion by Mark Gordon – Hanging with the Poets

    Some more self-referentialness as The Antipoet sings a song about hanging out with poets. It’s a camp and humorous take on the spoken word performer’s lot in life. Download individual track.

  14. David Lee Morgan – DUH-MOCKRACY

    We go from a farce to a powerful and sincere piece from David Lee Morgan in the tradition of political performance poets like Gil Scott Heron. An evocative piece of wonderfully delivered rhetoric that considers what democracy is. Download individual track.

  15. Mel Jones – Porn

    This track from Mel Jones’ album, Fuckin’ Mel, takes a look at the state of modern pornography. It’s an earthy and funny discussion of pornofied culture, which posits an alternative approach to the one that currently dominates much of the Internet. Download individual track.

  16. Stand Up Tragedy – An extract from a true story by Andy Bodle

    This is the submission from my show, Stand Up Tragedy. It’s an extract from a longer true story told by ex-stand-up and core member of the SUT team, Andy Bodle. It gives you an idea of the tone we go for at our night. A sad and thought-provoking story of a teenage suicide attempt that will make you laugh. Download individual track.

  17. Jem Rolls – I know what the birds are thinking and I understand that look in their eyes

    This was recorded by Bryony Hawkins at a Bang Said the Gun night in London. Jem’s performance style made his set hard to capture as he moves around the stage a lot and doesn’t use a mic. But I’m so glad we did capture it, as this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Its delivery combines a wonderful mix of humour and anger and it will make you think about birds in a completely different way. Download individual track.

  18. Marcel Lucont – The Tits Of The Brits

    Marcel Lucont is a comic character that affectionately parodies both poetry and French people. It’s a bawdy, ironic piece which playfully provokes, and it was performed live to an appreciative audience. Download individual track.

  19. Fay Roberts (featuring Gav Sirisena of subzar) – Turn Again

    This is the second track donated by our current Spoken Word director, Fay Roberts. Like many contributors, she gave me a few tracks to choose between; in this case I decided to use both of them. I think they both give different flavours of what spoken word can be. This track is backed by music and forms, with the first track, Blackberries, a set of mellow musical bookends. The title for the album was taken from this track, although the shortlist included lines from many of the other artists. Download individual track.

  20. Anyway those are my thoughts. Hope you enjoy the album that we’ve put together for you. Some of it is rough and ready, some of it beautifully produced, and all of it brings you some of the spirit and flavours of PBH’s Free Fringe.

    With love both spoken and unspoken,

    Dave Pickering

    Stand Up Tragedy

Wow, thanks, Dave! :) You can download the individual tracks above for £1 or more each or the whole blimmin album for £5 at the addresses above. Come out tonight and tell Dave how much you love him and his team, and enjoy some of these artists doing their thing live and in person! \o/ You can also pay for a download card in person - swanky!

See you tonight.

*Oddly, it wasn’t written for that purpose, but it’s always amazing to hear what other people get out of my pieces...! - FR

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our first showcase/ fundraiser is nearly here...!

We are, it has to be said, getting a little* excited round this way. In just over 24 hours’ time (8pm Wed 26-Jun-13, to be precise), our first big, massed fundraiser showcase on behalf of PBH’s Free Fringe will be underway at the Hackney Attic.

(In case you missed the previous post about fundraising - basically, it’s an opportunity for us to raise some much-needed cash for publicity, printing, and other costs; even though the venues are free, there’s still a lot needs to be spent to get the word out, and we’re a collective organisation - we all work together to raise the profile of each others’ work.)

*For a little, read barely able to contain our glee physically - check out this line-up (links open in new window)!

Fay Roberts
Rob Auton
Isadora Vibes
Michelle Madsen
Josh Seigal
Mel Jones
Dave Pickering
Jess Green
David Lee Morgan
Sophia Blackwell
Richard Purnell & Gary from Leeds
The Antipoet
Dan Simpson
Stephanie Dogfoot
Richard Tyrone Jones
Ben Mellor
Phill Jupitus

If you want to tell us you’re coming via the medium of Ye Olde Facebooke, try this: Tell your friends. Tell everyone!

The show will be rich with both poetry and storytelling, and will run the gamut from the gently lyrical through the surreal, the downright filthy, and foot-stampingly rabble-rousing, via the personal, the political, the mystical and the touching through to the face-hurtingly funny. And this is what spoken word should be about, so we’re deeply, deeply chuffed to be able to bring such an amazing line-up to you!

It’ll also be a chance for us to launch the PBH Spoken Word Album, which you’ll be able to download from here: from tomorrow onwards. Some samples below:

See? And that’s just a wee sample!

So, see you soon - either at Hackney tomorrow, in Manchester or Cambridge next month, any of the many previews going on between now and August, and Edinburgh itself.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Shake a Bucket!

We've kicked into fundraising mode at PBHSW Towers (can I call it that? I shall...), which means putting on shows for people to come along to (the next one is on Wednesday 26th June at the Hackney Attic and you can find out more on Facebook here: and buy tickets here: and making stuff for people to buy (look out for the PBH's Free Fringe Spoken Word Album, available to download sooooon).

Why're you fundraising? Isn't it all free?!

 Ah, that old question.  Glad you asked - here are some answers:
  1. As you probably know, the Free Fringe does not charge its performers anything to perform (giving opportunities to so many performers, many of them finding their feet for the first time at a new level of performance in arguably the biggest arts festival in the world!), but there are costs involved, and we're hoping that, by holding fundraising events, we can raise enough money to mitigate them.

    (These costs include printing the free-to-the-public Free Fringe Brochure, which details all the FREE shows you can come and see with us during the Edinburgh Fringe.  Apparently printers ink actually costs, gram for gram, somewhat more than rocket fuel.  Who knew?!)

  2. It's a great way to raise the profile of a) PBH's Free Fringe Spoken word; b) the Free Fringe in general; c) the spoken word genre in general.

  3. The live shows are a fantastic opportunity for performers to practise their show, their audience rapport, their hosting skills, and the all-important "holy crap we need to turn this over fast" mojo before they hit those mean Edinburghian streets and stages.  The album's a good chance to work out which tracks work really well and are strong enough to pull an audience in by themselves.

  4. Ironically (wait for it), spoken word doesn't appear to be taken as seriously as comedy.  No, hold on, that's not quite it...

    It's maybe more like this: by the time you're taking a show to Edinburgh, you'd be hard-pushed to call spoken word "just a hobby" for you, even if you don't get paid for it that often.  The fundraising activities are a means for us to get together, to remind not only the general public (what's "spoken word"? why is it different from stand-up? why isn't it the same as theatre? what's the point? isn't it just reading aloud? poetry's boring/ elitist/ meaningless in this day and age! etc.) but also ourselves that what we spend all this time and creative (and administrative) energy on is not trivial or frivolous, but is meaningful, and worth breaking even on, if possible.  It's about stamping our endeavours in the eyes of others (and ourselves) as worthy of pride and attention.

    We're worth shaking a bucket for instead of being self-effacing about, in short.

So that's (my very personal) taken on why... :)

Okay, how can I help?

I'm even more glad you asked that! :D  Simply:

  • Come to the shows (London, Manchester, Luton, and wherever we find ourselves next);
  • Buy the album;
  • Tell your friends;
  • Pitch some cash our way when we get some kind of online donation/ kickstarter thing going/ when you next see us;
  • Tell people you've only vaguely met;
  • Seriously - tell everyone.

And, as a reminder, you can follow us on Twitter:; like us on Facebook:; and read this here ongoing blog, which will continue from now until the end of the Fringe (and probably a wee bit afterwards...).

And if you've any queries about any of this, do get in touch with us on


(PBH's Free Fringe Spoken Word Director)


Sunday, 9 June 2013

First Past the Post

Welcome to our new blog!

We'll be using this as a place to post updates and let you know everything that's going on with the PBH Spoken Word Section as it happens.  At some point soon this will be integrated with our new website (patience, patience).

In the meantime, you can also "Like" us on Facebook: and "follow" us on Twitter:

What's this all about?  Well, PBH's Free Fringe provides venues free to performers and shows free to enter for the public. PBH's Free Fringe continues to be the only not-for-profit, performer led space on the Edinburgh Fringe. Everyone in PBH's Free Fringe pulls together to provide equipment and volunteer their time and skills for administration and organisation - with no hidden costs to the performer.  This year you can see comedy, theatre, spoken word, cabaret shows and intellectual discussion shows at venues around Edinburgh. You can expect to see both up-and-coming performers and established and household names. Every show is quality controlled to ensure they meet the high standards expected by a Fringe audience.  You can find out more about the Free Fringe and its founder, Peter Buckley Hill, on

PBH has a remarkable and pioneering approach to Spoken Word shows, having its own Spoken Word section before the official Edinburgh Fringe caught on.  This year, following on from last year's bumper crop of award-winning shows, great audience numbers, and the (small but significant) victory of getting our own section in the Big Fat Official EdFringe Brochure, we'll be building on the strong communal spirit of the spoken word community to build an even more awesome experience for visitors, with a whopping 60+ shows over our four main venues (plus a few scattered among the music, cabaret, and comedy venues for good measure).

The long-term holder (and inceptor) of the position of Free Fringe Spoken Word Director, Richard Tyrone Jones, is off on a well-earned sabbatical with his Big Heart.  Taking over the reins for 2013 is Fay Roberts, aka "The Welsh Whisperer", bringing her love for poetry, spoken word and spreadsheets to the mammoth task of making this rapidly-growing corner of the Fringe tick over like a well-oiled poetry machine.  Look out for a forthcoming post on RTJ, Fay, her tireless team for 2013, and the history of spoken word on the Fringe.

This year we'll be bringing you poetry in the form of solo shows, collaborative ventures, workshops, cabaret, open mic, slams, competitions, and big-name showcases, along with some cross-genre shows, theatrical spectaculars, traditional storytelling, and the plain unclassifiable - everything from children's stories to a cappella true-life monologues, through hip-hop-inflected poetry-jazz fusions, to late-night guides to the world of kink (seriously...).

For details of all this and more, stay tuned to the blog.  You'll be ever so glad you did!

See you soon,

The PBH Spoken Word Team.

P.S. We're still looking for people who want to bring one-off shows and short runs of poetry and storytelling (and anything else that comes under the Spoken Word banner) to the Fringe as we have a few leftover slots available in a variety of venues.  Contact us on