Inky Fingers – Forest Cafe Open Mic – 15/11/13

Forest Cafe Monster

So one of the good things about being back in Scotland is the amount of Spoken Word Open Mic nights that are well established. One of them is at The Forest Cafe which is run by volunteers and has had a few different locations in the past. As they are quite popular you have to book your spot in advance so I sent them an email and was delighted that my request was accepted.

On walking from the bus stop I passed the Writers Museum and seeing as how I was going to a Poetry evening I thought it appropriate to take a few snaps of some of the quotes that are engraved on the paving stones.

Then I had a walk around Grayfriars Kirk Cemetery, where Grayfriars Bobby is buried.

Grayfriars Bobby Headstone

I didn’t know that there had been another change of address for the cafe though so I went to the previous venue to find it closed. Thankfully due to the fact the last bus leaves my town at 5.30pm it meant I had plenty of time to spare to find the new location.

I remembered the name Lauriston Place was mentioned in the facebook page so I got my iphone out and although I froze my hands in the process, by the power of modern technology I could see that it hadn’t moved too far.

When I discovered it I realised that I had in fact been there before looking for a poetry workshop during the Edinburgh Festival 2011 which run by Inky Fingers, who were the same folks running tonight’s event. On that occasion however the Cafe was still in a state of preparation and the workshop had been moved to another location. The builders tried to tell me where that was but I didn’t find it.

So I was happy when I could actually go inside the cafe this time. This was the third Forest Cafe venue I have been to and it still maintained that friendly cool vibe that were at the previous ones.

I sat at a table where I wasn’t too close to the stage but I could still set my camcorder on the table and not have it’s sightline blocked. I ordered a cup of tea and the girl brought it over to me. I didn’t know that it was Rachael McCrum who had sent me the positive reply to my request for a spot.

Rachel McCrum

I introduced myself to the guy who looked like he was in charge and asked him if it was ok to film some of the open micers. He said I could but only if I got their permission first. His name was Freddie and he was an American lad who was the compere for the evening.

Billy and Freddie

The gentleman sitting beside me asked if I was on that night and he told me he was on the stand-by list. He was sitting with a pile of identical books so I asked the obvious question as to whether he was the author. His name is Peter G Mackie and it was his latest book, ‘The Last Thing Before The Apocalypse’ that he was selling for half price at a Fiver.

Billy and Peter G Mackie

Initially I said I was skint, which I pretty much am, but I did have a fiver in my pocket and so being a kind hearted soul I ended up buying a copy. I like to support people in their creative endeavours when I can.

Then a guy who makes his living from Spoken Word called Jem Rolls appeared.

Billy and Jem Rolls

He is well known in the Edinburgh scene as he along with Jenny Lindsay used to run a night called Big Word which was quite successful back n the day, before I moved to Turkey. I had a few open spots on that event as well as the Slam nights that they used to run.

I had met Jem in August during the festival as he was putting a show at The Banshee Labyrinth which was very well received. He told me that he too had been AWOL for the past 7 years of which he spent most of it in Canada but also visiting some other places during some of the Winters.

He sat at my table and we had a bit of a chit chat while the place busied up. It was quite amusing to see everyone’s face as they entered the building as they were very happy to get in from the cold. Mind you, at least it wasn’t as cold as the Minus 40 degree Winters that Jem had experienced. He told me if you didn’t wear a hat outside you’d be dead in about an hour but as long as you dressed properely it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

I was told I was on in the 3rd section of the evening so I sat back to enjoy the evenings poetry.

Freddie done a very good job, creating a relaxed friendly atmosphere and read a couple of poems about how strange he finds some of our British holidays. It was Guy Fawkes night and he addressed that in one of them, wondering what is to be gained from setting fire to a man sized doll on top of a pile of wood. Good point.

As I didn’t have permission from the performers I didn’t film most of them but I did get Jem’s set. Being a professional you would expect a high standard and he never fails to impress. I love the way he makes the space his own and executes his performance triumphantly.

It was interesting chatting to him as he pointed out that for an hour’s show at the Festival he really has to mix up a lot of different styles to keep it entertaining. In fact, I enjoyed the diversity of the rest of the performers as well with each one bringing their own unique style to the mic.

Before the break Freddie listed quite a few books that would be up for grabs in the raffle. The point of this was mainly to raise money for those who put on the night. Alec Beattie who runs another night, for which I had also been accepted for an open spot the following Monday called Blind Poetics, came around to see who wanted to buy tickets.

I felt a bit embarrassed that I could only buy one due to financial restraints but he seemed happy enough that I done even that. I think it’s a bit rude to at least not buy one ticket to show support for those running the evening. Without them there would be no event so it makes sense to reward them for their efforts.

There was a special guest act that was put on in the second section. I didn’t write down his name and have still to contact him to ask if it is ok to put his video on youtube but as he was the main act I think he would be ok with me putting one of his poems online.

He played an very cool instrument from his native country of Zimbabwe to add a musical flavour to the evening.

Billy and Main Guest

At the start of the 3rd section Freddie and Alec done the draw for the raffle. It turns out my solitary ticket won a prize of the book, The Life of Pi. I had watched the movie with my son a few months previously and when they were announcing the list of books it was the one that I thought I’d like to win the most……so I could give it to my son as a christmas present.

Almost immediately after collecting my prize I was called to the stage to perform. I explained before my set that I don’t really consider myself as a performance poet as I just rhyme the second and fourth line but I recently saw a John Cooper Clarke documentary where he said he did the same, so if it is good enough for him then it’s good enough for me.

I performed Promotion, This Life is Our Life and I may have stretched my time a wee bit by throwing in Shame on the Family at the end. I explained that it was written for Nob but he doesn’t suit a beard and as I didn’t have a razor to hand then I would have to perform it as myself. I think I maybe split the room with it though as there were some mature ladies there who perhaps didn’t go for it quite as much as a few of the younger lads but that should be expected really.

Peter G Mackie

As I had already made contact with Peter I videoed him reading a section from his book and he was happy to have it put online. I haven’t had the chance to read it myself yet but if you are interested you can read a bit more about Peter here and purchase it here.

To finish the evening we had an extreme unicyclist called Jason Auld, come on stage for his very first time. When I asked if I could post the video online via Twitter a few days later he said he is honoured I even asked him. I think he done a good job and look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Thanks to all the performers for their efforts and to Freddie, Alec and Rachel in particular for organising and running the event. Rachel announced a few other nights that are in the pipeline which you can find out about on their facebook page.

With that I had to dash off to catch my train home. Outside Haymarket station there were some interesting billboards of which I took a few pictures and also of some posters in the train station itself while I waited for the train.

Never Give Up!

The Photos


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