Routes into performance poetry

 11 January 2012

Apples and Snakes is a leading organisation for performance poetry. They run events around the country, including schools, where they put a poet in a school every day of the year.

Performance poetry events

Geraldine Collinge, Director 1998-2009

"We do lots of different informal events, so working with young people, thinking about poetry and music. We recorded an album recently.

"Quite a lot of international work as well, which is a great opportunity for poets to travel and perform internationally, as well as for poets to come here and show their work.

"We also try to work both rurally as well as in urban places, which is where you might think of performance poetry being more in an urban place. But if you're in a village, there might be a performance coming to your village hall."

Running a poetry event

Russell Thompson, London Coordinator

"We put on between 20 and 30 shows a year, each of which involves a different lineup of poets.

"It seemed impossible ten years ago, now there are lots of artists who make a living from their work."

"I'm the person that seeks out the right performers for the individual shows and contacts them and makes sure they get paid, that sort of thing.

"Poets send me CDs of themselves or get in touch with me by e-mail and send me links to footage of themselves on YouTube or links to their Myspaces where I can listen to their poetry.

"I'm always looking for new artists as well as established artists. Whilst we have a lot of good links with established artists, some quite big names, I'm always looking to mix up the programme. It's a good opportunity for new voices to get themselves heard."

3 ways to make a living from poetry

"The other area that we work in a lot is in artist development – thinking about building the skills of artists, how we can help you to earn a living from performance poetry.

"It seemed impossible ten years ago, certainly when I was at school, and now there are a lot of artists who do make a living from their work."

1. Open mic

"There are a number of ways into the world of performance poetry for people who are just starting out. First and foremost, there's the open mic circuit where you can just turn up, sign up for a five-minute slot and read your poetry to a like-minded audience.

"It's really about working your way up the ladder. Hopefully once you've done a few open mics, there'll be someone in the audience who thinks 'well, that person is good' and they'll come along and get your phone number, get your e-mail address, and they might hopefully be able to offer you a ten-minute paid slot somewhere.

"It's a fantastic buzz getting your first paid slot. You have to be quite patient about it, because it doesn't happen overnight."

2. School workshops

"You can make a living as an artist by being a poet, perhaps by delivering workshops in schools. Doing that sort of work to buy you some time to be able to have time to write and develop new work."

[William Essilfie, Education Programme Coordinator] "As a poet working in education, I guess there are two main areas. One area would be working in schools or youth centres or whatever, running workshops and sessions.

"The other side of things is working with teachers and doing all the training around creativity."

3. Online and digital distribution

"People are making more money from having their work up on YouTube, perhaps finding deals, maybe selling CDs of their work at gigs.

"There's an increasing number of tools and paid gig opportunities for artists to get work around the country. I think for artists there is quite a thriving scene, and increasingly people are being able to give up their day jobs and go and make a living as an artist, which is great."

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