Category Archives: Readings

First feature of 2018

Loose Muse, Winchester, January 8th, 7:30 – 9:30pm
Winchester Discovery Centre Jewry Street, SO23 8SB

We’re thrilled to be taking London Undercurrents out on the road and doing our first out-of-London reading. We’ll be showcasing new poems and revised drafts of older poems – the results of our first two mentoring sessions.

Sue Wrinch, host and organiser of Loose Muse Winchester writes: Loose Muse will be launching Hilary Hares’ first poetry collection, ‘A Butterfly Lands On The Moon’. which is sold on behalf of Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care.

 Our second ‘Guest Feature’ will be two poets from London, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire bringing work from their exciting new project, ‘London Undercurrents’.


Trains from London can be found here
Entry fee: £6 on the door – includes open mic slots, so bring your poems and put your name down!

Girls just wanna have funding


Six months. That’s how long it took us two London Undercurrents project co-founders to fill out and submit our bid for Arts Council Funding. Six long months. We agonised over every question – what did it mean and what was the ‘magic’ answer that would guarantee success? And whhhhhyyyy were there so many questions in the first place?

We spent hours on the phone to each other and going back and forth via email. We spoke to poet friends who had been successful in their Grants for the Arts funding bid. We met with lovely, encouraging people in positions to help us understand what it is the Arts Council are looking for in an application, and how to give real value for money to any recipient of the activities the funding would support. They championed us and gave us such a boost in confidence. And on top of that they were lovely people, to boot. But most importantly, we interrogated – between the two of us – what we both really wanted the grant for, so that if we were actually – gulp – successful, we could be 100% sure of enjoying the activities we had proposed. Because this wasn’t just an exercise in form-filling. It was a real chance to work out why our project matters to us, why we must keep on going and why we feel it’s vital to share everything about London Undercurrents with the whole wide world.

Hilaire kindly said she’d be the primary name on the application, which meant she took the brunt of Grantium tedium. Joolz cheered her on from the sidelines, and provided an ear to lean on as Hilaire…err…what’s this bit…is this where I fill in…where on earth is…damn and @@@**!!! -ed over the phone. Together we took what felt a lifetime to finally….press….shall I press it? OK I’m going to press it…I’m pressing it….to press SUBMIT.

Screeeeeeeaaaaaam. We did it. We submitted what felt like a strong proposal which we really, really want to go ahead and deliver. We crossed fingers, toes and anything else that could be crossed. And waited…

Five weeks later, an email arrived with the enticing subject line Your decision letter is available for review. With shaky fingers and pounding heart Hilaire logged into Grantium and found her way to a screen where… DRUM ROLL… those magic words Offer letter danced before her eyes. Success!

All that to-ing and fro-ing, asking and listening, refining what our project is about and how we want to move it forward has paid off. We have funding for a mentor and for some time to research and write new London Undercurrents poems. We’re going to share our progress via this blog and other outlets, and we have a few activities planned for early 2018 which we’re very excited about!

Thanks to everyone who has helped us get to this point, especially Laura at Spread the Word. Now all we have to do is deliver!

Poetry, song and Eritrean food

Joolz writes: As much as we love reading at The Poetry Cafe, it’s been a real delight to discover new venues while the cafe is being renovated.

Fourth Friday has relocated to Bar 48 in Brixton during the Poetry Cafe’s hiatus, and promoter Hylda Sims was worried that FF’s loyal fans wouldn’t be tempted out to this new venue. Her worries were unfounded – a warm and eager crowd turned up, and the hustle of the bar and relaxed atmosphere (comfy chairs!) added a ‘proper gig’ vibe to the evening. Lively. That’s how we like our poetry readings.

Seeing as it was our second feature at Fourth Friday together, we decided to mix things up a bit by reading our solo stuff as well as  London Undercurrents poems. I read first and unleashed a new set of poems about the sea onto a guinea pig audience. This included a bawdy sea shanty, which I greatly enjoyed reading. Then Hilaire read a batch of beautifully crafted and lyrical poems about gardening and gardens. Lastly we both read north and south London Undercurrents poems that have been published most recently (Lunar Poetry and Brittle Star).

The other featured artists were fabulous – folk singer Leon Rosselson‘s satirical songs were deceptively cheery while delivering relevant and timely social and political comment. Poet Abe Gibson delivered deeply moving poems with a delicate musicality that was spellbinding. To top the evening off, the food was amazing. It’s well worth putting this monthly event in your diary, every fourth Friday.img_6377img_6380

Come hear us read!

We’re delighted to have been invited back to read at Fourth Friday again, this coming Friday 23rd September from 8pm. As the Poetry Café is closed for refurbishment, Fourth Friday is taking place at a new venue – Bar 48, a wine bar and Eritrean tapas restaurant, at 48 Brixton Road SW9 6BT. Nearest tube is Oval.

With the change of venue, we thought we’d mix things up a bit too. We’re planning to each read some of our own non-LU poems, and finish with a few London Undercurrents poems. Poetry tapas, in other words! It should be a tasty evening, with more poetry from Abe Gibson and music from Leon Rosselson, plus voices from the floor. Entry is £6 or £5 concession. Hope to see you there!

Lunar Poetry issue 10 launch

We’re delighted to have two London Undercurrents poems published in the latest issue of Lunar Poetry. With Joolz away at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, it was down to Hilaire to fly the flag for both sides of the river at the launch reading on Tuesday evening. Here she reports back.

The event took place at the Peckham Pelican, a light and spacious café bar with a relaxed atmosphere. Lunar Poetry editor Paul McMenemy started proceedings by picking out the opening of Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra on an upright piano – an acrobatic feat as he had to stretch across a table to reach the keyboard.

I was first up on the stage and read both poems included in the current issue: In the Ether, which reflects the experience of a young woman working in a gas mantle factory in Wandsworth in 1931; and Joolz’s poem Coining factory, N1, told from the point of view of a 13 year old girl helping in the family coin forging business in the 1880s. Staying north, I performed Joolz’s Thames freeze, north side, 1814. I love the young maid’s voice in this poem, so it’s a pleasure to read it aloud, despite the maid reporting that her ladyship is loathe to cross to the south / at all costs. I returned south with my poem Lady Cyclist, whizzing around Battersea Park in the summer of 1895.

There were strong readings from several other poets in this issue, including Lizzy Palmer, Rishi Rohatgi, Dennis Tomlinson, Gboyega Odubanjo and Christopher Williams; and a real mix of voices from the open mic readers, covering topics from the EU referendum fallout (in a haiku sequence) to a Dulwich Hamlet fan’s search for a plain honest Shippam’s Paste sarnie. Paul rounded the evening off with a few of his own fierce and funny poems.

The magazine is a bargain at £5 or £2.50 for the ebook version, and is back on track to publish monthly (hence ‘Lunar Poetry’). Launch readings are on the first Tuesday of the month at the Peckham Pelican, free entry, and plenty of open mic spots. Definitely worth checking out!

Reading at the Peckham Pelican, 5th July 2016
Paul at piano
Paul McMenemy playing Strauss

“I’ll still be dreaming about you Croydon…

…especially in the cold and rain.” So sang Captain Sensible, which we discovered when we were guests on Croydon Radio’s monthly poetry show, Poets Anonymous. It was one of the London-themed records on the show’s playlist, and was chosen especially to fit in with our London-based project. We’d met the show’s hosts – Peter Evans and Ted Smith-Orr – when we featured at Beyond Words this January in Gipsy Hill, and were thrilled to be asked to guest on their show.

Listen to the full show here.

The journey to Croydon involved some nightmarish one-way systems, watch-out-for-that-tram moments and multistorey car park angst, but eventually deposited us safely into the welcoming warmth of hippy-chic Matthews Yard, where the radio station is based.

There was time for a quick run-through of the structure for the hour long show, then we went into the studio, got mikes and headphones sorted and waited for the longest 5 minutes known to woman or man before we went on air.

The programme was kicked off by Peter reading The Very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London by Kathleen Raine, then it was our turn, reading poems that wove from north London to south and back again, and slipped between different centuries. We had two generous ten minute reading slots at either end of the programme, and a relaxed interview with Ted halfway through, when we talked about the evolution of our project and the research behind some of the poems. We each read a favourite poem, too, and listened to great music tracks by George the poet, Mr Sensible and Phil Minton singing a setting of William Blake’s poem The Fields. That hour flew past. Today Croydon, tomorrow the rest of the world!

Listen to the full show here.







Mixing it up at Loose Muse

Lucky Dip

With over thirty-five (and counting) London Undercurrents poems to choose from, we couldn’t decide which ones to read during our feature spot at Wednesday’s Loose Muse. So we thought we’d let fate determine our set list.

Several themes have revealed themselves, subconsciously and consciously, whilst our poems have come into being. These themes have made it clear to us that women’s lives have been affected by fundamentally the same issues throughout the centuries, both north of the river and south of the river, and are still being affected by them today.

So we jotted these themes down (in cryptic form) on postcards and put them into a London themed bag (authentic tourist swag purchased from a shop near Piccadilly Circus) and bob’s your uncle – a London Undercurrents lucky dip for the audience to choose from.

It worked a treat and was great fun. The audience got to feel more involved by picking what we read and it kept us on our performance toes. The twenty minutes flew past and we managed to get through only four themes (pictured – can you guess what the poems would be about?) …and sadly nobody picked Sex and the City, but that can wait for next time.

As always Loose Muse, hosted by the wonderful Agnes Meadows, was filled with strong readings from women writers from the floor, who treated us to poetry, short stories and excerpts from books and plays. Sharing our feature spot was the talented singer Lillith who captivated and invigorated us with her guitar playing and unique voice. She even gave away a free tote bag – hmmm…maybe we can use that for our next lucky dip? Us girls have a great habit of helping each other. And long may that theme continue.

The Beyond Words buzz

2016 got off to a flying start for us with a feature spot at Beyond Words, the poetry night hosted by Angela Brodie and Caroline Vero at the Gipsy Hill Tavern. Held on the first Tuesday of every month, it’s a welcoming and uplifting evening, with candles on the tables and a raffle at the end with a prize of a bundle of poetry books.

In the first half, Donald Chegwin performed a set of surreal and hilarious poems – once you’ve heard his poem Kingdom, you’ll never look at a king prawn in the same way again. Ted Smith-Orr followed, reading a  selection of poems both funny and occasionally poignant, his subject matter ranging from football heroes to kerbside skips. Poetry is found everywhere!

And then it was our turn in the second half, after another strong group of open mic poets. The fifteen minutes allotted to us seemed to fly past as we read poems uncovering London women from the past, and explored themes such as the struggle for the right to vote, daring to travel independently and asserting control over their own bodies.

There was a lovely warm vibe in the room and our poems were well received. We can’t wait now to unleash more of our London Undercurrents voices at Loose Muse this Wednesday 13th January from 8 pm at the Poetry Café. Hope you can join us – as Loose Muse’s host Agnes Meadows says, come, share the passion, share the joy!

Beyond Words, Gipsy Hill Tavern, 5 January 2016

January’s hotting up


We’ve been quiet for too long. That pesky old business of earning a living. But fear not – we’re back with not one but TWO readings in January, to brighten up the dreariest month.


Tuesday 5th January we’ll be performing a 15 minute set at Beyond Words at the Gipsy Hill Tavern, 79 Gipsy Hill SE19 1QH. The event starts at 7:30 pm. Just a minute from Gipsy Hill Station, this is a warm and welcoming poetry night, with lots of open mic spots.

Wednesday 13th January we have a 20 minute feature spot at Loose Muse, London’s premiere women’s writers’ night, at the Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street WC2H 9BX, starting 8:00 pm. This is always a lively and varied event. Men are welcome in the audience, but only women are invited to read.

Hope to see you at one or other – or both! – of these events. Our feisty north and south London women’s voices are clamouring to be heard.


Shuffling for The Shuffle

We were both delighted to be invited by Peter Raynard to read at his Proletarian Poetry curated Shuffle back in June. Unfortunately the event clashed with Hilaire’s holiday to Greece. So it fell to Joolz to represent the south London Undercurrents contingency too.

Joolz says:

The night was hot and sultry, (not unlike Greece, but without the beach) and the line-up was scorching. Jo Bell, Hannah Lowe, Inua Ellams, Owen Gallagher and Malika Booker.

Proletarian Poetry is a home for poets and poems that portray working class lives from many different angles. And includes all forms of poetry, persona, plain, lyrical, vernacular and performance. The Shuffle certainly had all that, that night.

Owen Gallagher is from the Gorbals, Glasgow, and lives in London. He read from his collection Tea with the Taliban, opening the evening with quietly spoken pith.

Jo Bell was born in Sheffield and lives on a canal boat. Reading from her second collection Kith, she encouraged us to sing along to a ‘chorus’ and to be ducks demanding bread, now, now and now. Warm, inclusive and compelling.

Malika Booker was born in London to Guyanese and Grenadian parents and is founder of the writers’ collective Malika’s Kitchen (which I am a member of). She read from her collection Pepper Seed, harkening to an ancestry and again, encouraging us to participate along as she intoned a mantra of her mother’s ‘pain’.

Hannah Lowe’s tall elegance defies her strong working class accent. She read from her first collection Chick – candid reflections on growing up with her Chinese-black Jamaican father who amongst other things was a professional gambler.

Inua Ellams was born in Nigeria, lives and works in London, is founder of The Midnight Run, and owner of many fantastic hats. His lyrical voice brought us powerful stories, dipping in and out of his many projects.

And me – reading from London Undercurrents, both north and south parts.  I stopped short of doing my best Aussie accent! There was no need – Hilaire’s poems were steeped with her quietly powerful stillness. Each word, precise, nothing wasted.

Vive le prolétariat!