Tell me about the history of Poetry LGBT.
Poetry LGBT started in 2015 and since then it has been held on the first Sunday of every month at Tipsy Bar with a short stint at The Albany in Deptford last year. We have had approximately 280 unique performers share their words with us through poetry, spoken word, comedy, music, rap and even yoga.
Why did you create poetry LGBT?
I began writing poetry in February 2014; my girlfriend bought me a journal and suggested I write to release my emotions. It was a time in my life where everything that had happened to me throughout my life came to the forefront of my mind. I had so many feelings and thoughts, I needed an outlet to release it. The pen and paper had saved me. I poured my emotions onto it and it felt like therapy.
If someone upset me I wrote about it. Instead of lashing out at them I would write about it. For me writing had become a valuable outlet and I wanted others to experience how healing writing and sharing poetry could be.
Poetry LGBT was created to provide a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community to share in the form of the spoken word. When I attended various poetry/spoken word events I felt unable to perform pieces relating to my relationship or LGBT issues. This became even more apparent when I attended an event and one of the performers used the word ‘faggot’ in a derogatory way. It made me think that we need our own inclusive space where homophobia is not going to be accepted or tolerated.
What did you hope to achieve with Poetry LGBT when you started?
In the beginning, I just wanted to create a space for myself and others to be able to share their stories and poems in a non-judgemental space. Since then that space has become so much more to me and the people that frequent there. Friendships, relationships, and support networks have been formed as a result of Poetry LGBT.
What have you enjoyed most about Poetry LGBT so far?
I have thoroughly enjoyed creating the challenges where people do fun and silly things for a monetary prize. The challenges help to break up the evening especially after someone has shared something which can be quite triggering.
The creme egg challenge was my favorite. A few people seductively unwrapped and ate the creme egg and the audience decided who ate it the best. It was so much fun to watch.
What is your most memorable moment of Poetry LGBT so far?
Every month had so many memorable moments so it’s really hard to choose. I remember the first time I cried in that space. It was when I read my Syria poem. At the moment I physically felt my words as I read each line and the audience was so supportive and kind.
Other people have told me that the audience was supportive when they performed a sensitive piece also. Having such a welcoming space is what made various moments so memorable.
What have you enjoyed about collaborating with other organizations? And what did you learn?
When Poetry LGBT began there weren’t many events for LGBT people of colour and the only other LGBT poetry night was Incite Poetry hosted by Trudy Howson. Poetry LGBT has become very diverse since the first year because I actively reached out and encouraged people from all walks of life to attend.
I have enjoyed raising awareness of others LGBT+ events and causes because I feel in doing so it creates unity within the LGBT community and most of the time people are not aware of other spaces especially if they are not ‘out’.
I have learned that we need more welcoming events like this where people feel comfortable to express themselves and know that they are not alone with many of the things they have experienced in their lives. Collaborating with various organisations and causes was been a great experience. The LGBT+ community is quite fragmented so coming together as a community for me is extremely important as I think by supporting one another we become stronger and visible as a united LGBT+ community.
Poetry LGBT made its final appearance at Tipsy on 6th May. How do you feel about it? Are you looking forward to starting a new chapter with Poetry LGBT?
I feel really sad because that space did so much to accommodate us and I thought we had a really good relationship with the management. They were fully aware that poetry events don’t bring in as much revenue as their regular club nights and I’m sad to know that this is the reason we are not welcome there anymore.
The final Poetry LGBT was absolutely fantastic approximately 120 people attended to show support. Poetry LGBT has enabled me to have a deeper connection with my community through sharing and gaining additional knowledge of the issues faced by LGBT+ people.
I cannot and will not lose this vital space. There are plenty of London venues who would welcome a night like this I’m sure of it. It just needs to be the right venue that accurately meets the needs of our community. It was our final Poetry LGBT in that venue but fortunately, it’s not the end. We will return with one-off events such as the one we are currently planning with Ash Kotak to raise awareness of HIV as part of a festival in July once we find a suitable venue.
I know you write poetry as I’ve seen you perform at your event. Why do you write? What do you enjoy writing about? And what do you think are the benefits of writing poetry?
There are many benefits to writing. I find it quite therapeutic as it helps me to process my emotions. I write about anything really but mainly love, loss, homelessness, friendship, relationships, family, work, mental health, abuse. All things that I have personally experienced in my 37 years of life. There are poems that I’ve written that I won’t share openly but just by writing them I have been able to deal with how I feel. It’s cheaper than counselling.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I hope to become a motivational speaker who spreads seeds of hope to people who have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. Encouraging people to live their best lives and achieve their goals regardless of how big or small their goals are.
How do you hope to inspire others in the future?
I am told that I’m already an inspiration to many. I am experienced in delivering smoking cessation talks and presentations to large audiences at work and I feel that is what has helped me to compare at Poetry LGBT. Prior to starting Poetry LGBT, I had no experience in coordinating and running events.
I’m not as nervous as I was in the first year, however, I still shake with nerves. Germaine (my fiancé) notices but I doubt the audience notices. I’ve often been told that I make it look easy standing there in front of 60-80 people each month. It’s not easy but it is achievable.
Since 2015 I have been inspired and have inspired others through poetry.
I hope to continue speaking my truth and inspire others as I have been doing so far on this journey called life. I’ve met interesting people and learned that I am not the only one who has experienced trauma in my life. I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. We can all in our own way come together and share our life experiences through creativity and expression.
In future, I would like to inspire others by motivating others to create spaces for our community as I have been informed that spaces like Poetry LGBT have been valuable to the people who have attended, contributed and supported throughout the years.
Any final words?
I must say I couldn’t have done it all without Germaine. She has been my rock throughout this journey and has done a brilliant job welcoming people at the door. The event really helped to improve her confidence and also helped her to manage her social anxiety. I am extremely lucky to be sharing my life with her.
I am overwhelmed by the number of people who have supported Poetry LGBT over the years. If it wasn’t for the performers and the audience we would not have had an event so I thank each and every person who has helped to make Poetry LGBT a successful part of our LGBT history.
I live by my core values and beliefs and showing an abundance of love and kindness to others has helped me to be the person I am today. What I have learned is that life is not easy for anyone and we all have our ups and downs. As individual as we all are we do have a lot in common. We have an abundance of resilience within our community and we need to do more to join forces and work together.
Poetry LGBT has been an asset to both the London Poetry Scene and the LGBT+ community and will be back on 5th August at The Glory.