“She’s a virgin- another virgin in the house, give her a clap everybody!”
The room erupts into woops and a mock drumroll pounded out on thighs.
The raucous laughter of an audience basking in a shared joke might seem at home at a Friday night comedy gig but feels somehow frivolous at a poetry reading at 6 o clock on a Tuesday.
Run by independent publisher Flapjack Press, in association with Manchester Central Library, Word Central is a monthly open mic poetry night giving aspiring poets the opportunity to showcase their work.
Founded by poet Tony Curry, Danny Middleton of Manchester Central Library, and Paul Neads of Flapjack Press, the Word Central series will next month celebrate over half a decade of nurturing new talent with their ‘we are 6 birthday special’.
Melanie Neads, a Salford based poet, author and playwright, is one of the series’ hosts.
She said: “It started mainly as a night for Flapjack Press poets, I do the book sales- there’s a stall for them to flog their wares, I’ll come and perform, I bake cakes every week.”
The event is free to attend, though open mic slots must be booked in advance.
Each performer is allotted 3 minutes, allowing for a wide variety of poets and performances.
Over its six-year run, Word Central has been nominated for several awards including best spoken word event.
Melanie described her pride at seeing the event grow and leave its mark on the spoken word landscape: “It’s morphed into a community, we get a lot of first-time performers, they feel supported and welcomed, it isn’t a showy performance, people stumble a bit.
“I’m most proud of its diversity and inclusivity, we have a lot of female performers, very unusual for the poetry circuit.”
For many emerging writers, Word Central has become a renowned safe space to share their work without fear of judgement.
Italo Ferrante, from Italy, a master’s student in creative writing at Lancaster University said: “I write from experience so it’s mostly confessional, therapeutic, it’s important to expose yourself when writing poetry because your story might help someone.
“I believe in bearing your soul, I loved that this was a safe place to share very revealing poems.”
During his three-minute time slot, Italo shares snapshots of his life, through poems Whole about the experience of queerness and In Memoriam, dedicated to those who lost their fight with anorexia.
For Italo, performing in Manchester has been the realisation of a long-term goal.
He said: “It’s a vibrant buzzing place for spoken word and avant guard, most of the events and opportunities are here, this is the place to be if you’re interested in performing poetry.”
Word Central is just one of many open mic events and writing opportunities across Greater Manchester, such as the long running Mancy poets run by poet Copeland Smith and its accompanying ‘Wordsmiths’ creative writing class in Chorlton, and Young Identity, a spoken word group which performs breath-taking poetry slams.
Poet Lindy Newns, whose work has appeared in various anthologies including the Poems for Grenfell anthology and was shortlisted for L’Éphémère Review’s writing competition 2018, said: “Manchester is a big hub for spoken word, a lot of spoken word artists, poets, live here so you get to know certain characters and they’ll say oh d’you want to join our critiquing group etc.
“You can turn down those offers in which case you won’t become part of anything or you can go out and do more!”
The Word Central series has hosted many talented guest poets, like Lindy, who come to share their work and hope to inspire the next generation of writers.
She said: “Word Central’s brilliant because, they’ve got such a diverse gathering, different ethnic groups, genders and ages, some very colourful characters- they can sometimes shock some of the older people!
“With open mics, either people are nervous, or if they’re established poets, quite self-absorbed, just waiting for their turn, but Word Central make sure people are given a good, listening audience, I like going just to listen, that’s the way you pick things up.”
With spoken word events running at venues throughout Manchester from Dulcimer bar and The Edge Theatre in Chorlton to Fuel Cafe bar in Withington, Lindy believes there’s never been a better time or place to nurture a writing passion.
She said: “Go to open mics, they’re dotted all over greater Manchester or find a stanza group online, they’ll tell you what competitions are open, where and who’s good to watch and they’ll critique your work.
“I think the important thing is the actual writing itself, that’s the fun bit, it’s not to do with awards, to get to that stage you have to perfect your craft, fame shouldn’t be the reason for doing it, it’s to learn and enjoy.”
To book your open mic slot for Word Central’s July 26 Birthday bash, email [email protected] from 12pm on July 12.
Word Central will also attend Chorlton Book Festival on Monday 19th September 2022 for an evening with special guests Tony Curry, Geneviève L. Walsh, James Hartnell and many more.