Amelia’s Magazine | Open Mic night at EXIT bar, Brick Lane

On the first Tuesday of this month I trundled up to EXIT bar on Brick Lane after work, carrying my laptop and recycled cloth bag; which together probably amounts to half my body weight! Tired from a previous late night, I was not feeling in the best of moods to impart my supposed literary genius upon others. However, after unloading all my stuff and making a beeline to the bar, my spirits were changed (note: I am not promoting that alcohol solves tiredness/problems- infact I had an orange juice)!
Mel (the fashion editor) and I got chatting to the organiser, Mr Salam Jones about the first ever Open Mic Night. He seemed slightly disorientated as he kept surveying the room for his friend who was running late. He told us this was the first one he had organised and that there had been a lot of support from poets, rappers and singers wanting to showcase themselves. Depending on how it all turned out, he hoped to run the night regularly, on the first Tuesday of each month.
Queue 9:30pm and Salam’s mysterious friend dressed in black finally turned up, running two hours late. Near to falling asleep on the sofas, Mel budged me awake, muttering, ‘aren’t you nervous?’ I replied, laughing, ‘I’m too tired to be nervous.’
The first poet was a middle aged Indian woman who detailed the natural landscape of India, citing moonlight, the exotic temperatures and sunrises. There were moments of real beauty. Then it was my turn!
Being my first time performing, I explained that my poems were from my creative writing dissertation on ‘Identity and the City.’ I explored different characters who lived in London through performance poetry. I began by saying the first piece was about an indie guy on the underground who was journeying to one of his many lovers. I raced into the poem entitled ‘Hot Stuff’ trying my best to emulate an indie-ish twang with:

This tube sends me wild
It gave birth to a multi-coloured child,
Live like a live wire
Set me on fire,
Travellin’ up higher,
Dialled the number to the moon up above,
Ridin’ free on the backbone of love…(etc)’


Other pieces were about: loss of beauty, memory, an attack on constructed notions of beauty in women’s magazines and rootlessness. One that differed was ‘…yes—yesterday’, a stream of consciousness poem on a particular encounter:

…..yes—yesterday coat-hang
errrs, ‘umm’- I said that too many times, times, times, AnOy
hiccup of dandy head yellow. Popping stalk-sturdy

we walked like chalk

Scratchy c l o u d s shaking in our radio-minds
——————-we were lunar praying forrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

the owl wings beat blue-flocking Up-uP uP twigs snapping in woods


On that note the crowd was miffed into silence. However I signalled that I was finished and they eventually erupted into applause.
Then another performance poet performed, whose poems were about lust, love and frustration. A rapper came after, who told a tale about his background and trying to break free from his former mould. Some decks were played in the background, making us all bop up and down to the beat. Later, the infamous Salam Jones read out pieces on racism in East London in the ’70s and his background as the only Indian kid at his school. My favourite piece was one called ‘I remember’ where he got into two different characters: himself (with an East end accent) and his dad (with a thick Indian accent). He even used a checkered hat as a prop to indicate the character shift to his father. The two differing experiences growing up in London was riveting stuff.
All in all the Open Mic Night was a massive hit with the regular crowd and a handful of interested people who came especially. I’ve been to past literary readings where everything is a bit ‘hwah hwah darling what do you think about this text?’ Events like the Open Mic Night acts against this by breaking the mould of what literature can be; where verse is opened up to regular people, not just those within literary circles. With an array of different people, perspectives and approaches to telling a tale, Mel and I really enjoyed it. If you’re ever on Brick Lane, pop into EXIT bar and ask Salam when the next Open Mic Night is. Who knows, perhaps you’ll even get to see him reincarnate into his father with the checkered hat once again!

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