At the moment we put on shows at The Albany in Deptford, at Soho Theatre, Rich Mix, the Free Word Centre and various other places. We stage different kinds of show at each venue, so have a look at our Events listings to get a flavour of what happens where.
I work with poets from a broad range of styles, from page-poets to hip-hop MCs. Apples and Snakes has no house-style – we simply programme artists whose work we like. And in terms of experience, too, I’m committed to working with the full spectrum: we often book big-name headliners, but we also do our best to provide opportunities at a grass-roots, open-mic level. The bottom line of my job is to ensure that each show works as a well-balanced programme.
Sometimes other people approach us, asking if we can programme a poetry event for them – as part of a local arts festival, maybe – and that’s another of my responsibilities. For the last few years, for instance, I’ve put together a poetry showcase for the SW11 Literary Festival and provided them with a poet-in-residence. I’m increasingly attempting to link up in some way with all of London’s thirty-three boroughs, some of which are better-served than others on the poetry front.
Broadly speaking, though, there are tons of regular poetry events in London – you could go to a different one every night of the week. I’m particularly fond of Farrago, Express Excess, Utter!, Poetry Unplugged and Touch Me I’m Sick, but there are new ones springing up all the time, and I try to keep abreast of them.
It goes without saying that Apples and Snakes doesn’t act in isolation, and I’m grateful for the friendship and good will of London’s other performance poetry promoters. I feel that we are all working for the common good of the artform as a whole. For example, we will often recommend poets to each other and help to promote one another’s events.
On a wider level, I’m also in charge of the London element of any national projects that Apples and Snakes undertakes. In the past, these have taken the form of national tours, and right now we’re running a series of writers’ residencies. I work closely with our other regional coordinators, and always try to find non-London gigs for poets that I feel really deserve greater exposure.
As a performer myself (strictly D-list – and no, I’m not allowed to programme myself), I do my best to see things from the poet’s point of view. I know that it sometimes feels as if you’re banging your head against a brick wall, and I’ve no wish to perpetuate that. Whenever a poet contacts me – and you’re always welcome to ring up, email, write, or pop in for a chat – I try to be realistic about what their immediate expectations should be, and to not make any promises I can’t keep. If that sounds negative, it’s not meant to – sometimes a poet gets in touch and I want to snap them up immediately!
All in all, it’s delicate balance between respecting Apples and Snakes’ 27-year history and looking ahead to the next exciting developments in spoken word. And there really is so much that we can do with this genre.
See you out there, somewhere.
Russell Thompson, Apples and Snakes London Coordinator
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford SE8 4AG
020 8465 6154