Triumphantly returning to Bristol Old Vic after the superb extended weekend of programming that was 'Blah's Big Weekend', the regular monthly instalment of ‘Blahblahblah' had the benefit of only having to provide an evening's-worth of entertainment (versus the Big Weekend's four consecutive days!), though also the disadvantage of having to shine independently from under the looming shadow of one of the best weekends of spoken-word programming in Bristol's recent memory.
Thankfully, the line-up at this Mid-May event was strong. Event producer, poet and author Anna Freeman hosted the evening, introducing the Bristolian audience to the talents of Shagufta Iqbal and Indigo Williams, whilst reintroducing Chris Redmond to those that saw him spearhead his incredible touring band Tongue Fu during their roof-raising show at the 'Big Weekend'.
Commencing proceedings, Shagufta Iqbal delivered a number of pieces that drew upon on her rural Punjabi heritage and her religious identity, in which she challenged where her place in the present should stand and explored where she can shape the future path for herself and others. Also confronting subjects such as sexual harassment, gentrification and gender equality, her set was crafted with purpose. Captivatingly intense in it’s content and seemingly disruptive to many of society's default narratives, Shagufta's voice proved a thought-provoking start to the evening, with many present likely to be keeping an eye open for her future development within the scene.
Directly following Shagufta, Chris Redmond was to prove highly contrasting in both style and content (and indeed a canny display of scheduling strategy that kept the audience thoroughly on their toes!). Unable to perform the 'loop pedal'-based material that'd been advertised in some pre-event press, he'd thankfully arrived sporting an abundance of stage presence, charisma and enjoyable content with which he could entertain the crowd. Whether relaying fantastical tales about foxes, introspectively exploring the variance of his own attitude towards strangers on the tube, or belting out the call-and-response crowd-pleaser ‘Let The Pig Out!’, Redmond confidently whisked the audience through a superbly energetic and entertaining bout of spoken-word, textured with some great moments of reflection.
Following a brief interval, Indigo Williams stepped under the spotlight as the concluding performer in the evening’s line-up. Composed and articulate, Williams was a likeable presence who quickly proved herself an understated powerhouse to behold. With stories of her experiences in London both as an individual and as a poetry workshop educator, she crafted vivid worlds of rich characters with her powerful command of language, painting scenarios of her own experience that were interwoven with themes that resonated with all.
Often purposefully empowering in sentiment (at one point even getting the audience to shout their names out proudly en masse), the addition of her friendly authority and incredible ability to fuse intellect and emotion so ably made for an inspiring, reflective and truly impressive experience. On a number of occasions the impact of her words left one caught in reverence of the departing moment, before rushing to eagerly catch up with the next inevitable lyrical gem.
Departing after a comfortable, confident performance that delivered expertly-crafted emotional hammer-blows from the most impressively succinct usage of language, Indigo Williams concluded another Blahblahblah event that ably demonstrated the breadth and quality of the spoken-word scene in the UK.
Following the blockbuster that was ‘Blah’s Big Weekend’, the return to the comparatively bite-sized format of a single monthly event still managed to leave the appreciative Bristol crowd with bountiful intellectual nourishment, whilst maintaining the fantastic momentum of the growing 'Blahblahblah' platform.
Photography: Darren Paul Thompson