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Veg Box Report #2: the Birdcage


Rob in jubilant mood beneath the Birdcage's mirrorball.

The second leg of our Out of the Veg Box mini tour was the Birdcage in Norwich. We arrived there in good time and met Joshua Jones in the Waterstones by the castle, a meeting point chosen largely by our meanderings through the town to find the Birdcage.

Josh took us to the pub, which was near the quaintly named Upper Goat Street. It was my first time in Norwich, so I’ve no idea where this is, but I really liked the look of the city. We were in the back room, which led to a beer garden on a piece of decking — an ideal spot to run through my warm up from Kristin. Here’s a wider shot of the room than the one of Rob above:

The Back Cage

There are further and nicer but no less accurate photos of the space on the Birdcage website.

You’ll have read of my newfound attitude towards using mics in my post on the Cambridge reading. For a while, I feared I might be forced into using the mic you can see in the picture, because there were a couple of buskers just outside the window — a saxophonist playing together with a singer/guitarist — and they were making their music at considerable volume. However, by the time our audience had gathered, they had gone and I was safe to carry on without the mic.

Flyer for events at the Birdcage (on the reverse), including our reading, marked "do not miss this!"

We each read for about 20 mins — Josh, me then Rob. Josh read very well indeed, whatever his reticence about presenting the poems. His set was largely (perhaps completely, I don’t quite remember) newer work not in Thought Disorder.  I really recommend you check it out if you don’t already know it. Here’s my set:

  • Pedestrian
  • MacAdam Essays the Meaning of Loss
  • Improvisation for the Angel Who Announces the End of Time
  • The Invention of Zero
  • Gåta
  • In Question to the Answers?
  • MacAdam Takes to the Sea
  • Lullaby
  • Breathing is the Place to Start

A lot of overlap with the Cambridge sets, but that’s largely because numbers 1,2, 4, 5 and 8 in the list are poems I’d worked on at Cove Park. Rob will doubtless post his set at some point; it had less overlap with the previous night’s. I had planned to read “45 Minutes” as well just before “Lullaby”, but the new approach learnt from Kristin at Cove Park has slowed my delivery, so I don’t have an accurate sense of how long a putative set would be without actually timing it, which I didn’t have the chance to do beforehand. Time meant I had to cut that one.

Nonetheless, there were lots of great comments about the set and the delivery. For instance, I was told that not using the mic seemed to give me more authority in the space, which was flattering to hear!

The audience — about 15, which was really good given that it was early afternoon on a sunny Wednesday — was really appreciative. Ira Lightman and his wife Marie were there. I’ve heard Ira several times on The Verb and am Facebook friends with him so it was wonderful to meet him in person and meet Marie. Helen Ivory and Martin Figura were also present — lovely to see them on their home territory, having met them on ours in August last year.

Unfortunately, we were pushed for time at the end and didn’t have as long as we’d have liked to stay and chat. We had to get back to the station for our train to London for the Wheatsheaf gig, which we did by the skin of our teeth. We’d probably have got slightly lost or certainly taken longer and missed it if it hadn’t been for Ira and Marie walking us to the station!

Anyway, the big thanks here go to Josh for arranging the reading. I hope we’ll be back in Norwich in the not too distant future. After all, Salt is moving much nearer there this month.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/05/2011 08:49

    thanks for the link, interesting read – I must have been away for this reading sadly!

    • Andrew Philip permalink*
      08/05/2011 09:14

      You’re welcome, Carmina. A pity you were away!

  2. 08/05/2011 13:27

    Thanks for the report, Andrew. I am very intrigued by the idea of reading/reciting — I gather it gives you more freedom to engage with the audience.

    • Andrew Philip permalink*
      09/05/2011 09:21

      Not having to have the book or mic in front of you does remove a barrier between you and the audience, but having memorised the work also allows you to think more about breathing and to access more readily the full emotional impetus of the poem, which naturally engages the audience. However, I do wield the book even with some poems I know by heart, because it’s useful for signalling to people that they can find the poem in the book.

      I don’t use the book at all for “Pedestrian” any more, because it reduces the impact of the poem. Simply speaking the poem draws the audience into the narrative more, and I don’t want to remind them it’s artifice more than I have to. Plus, I do use some small hand movements with that poem.

      • 09/05/2011 11:43

        Interesting thoughts. Thanks for that. My main sticking point about learning a poem by heart is that I might lapse into a pat rhythm, that I would cease to ‘access more readily the full emotional impetus of the poem’, as you say.

        When I acted in plays, I was wary of relying on rote memory, as I very much value coming to the work fresh. I would want the same thing for approaching poems. Is that a consideration for you or is it the memorising and then enunciating the poem that’s uppermost?

  3. Andrew Philip permalink*
    09/05/2011 12:39

    Working on the poems with Kristin certainly refreshed them for me. It remains to be seen what the effect of repeating them over a long period will be, but I’m also beginning to work on learning new ones.

    I think, with every audience being different and no two sets being identical, there will be at least subtle differences in the delivery every time. At least I hope so! And I hope that that will help to keep things fresh for me.

    • 09/05/2011 13:42

      Cool. That makes sense. Thanks, Andrew!

      • Andrew Philip permalink*
        09/05/2011 17:38

        A pleasure. If you ever get the chance to work with Kristin, grab it. It might not be for everyone, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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