Well Spoken! is Doncaster’s monthly poetry performance evening, which I’ve been hosting at Doncaster Brewery and Tap for the past two and a half years. The format is an informal open mic session, with the occasional guest spot from a visiting published poet.
I’d been attending a writers’ group in Doncaster led by Ray Hearne since 2012. A regular topic of conversation was where we could begin to learn how to perform our poetry. Under Ray’s tutelage I had been writing regularly, and as I was confident that my work was improving, I similarly had the desire to test the material in front of a live audience. I knew Ian and Alison, the proprietors of the Brewery, quite well and they had always been open to ideas from arts groups as to how to increase the utility of the pub as a performance venue; indeed, I had previously staged several musical concerts there. They were very welcoming, and a trial event towards the end of 2014 proved sufficiently successful for us to schedule a regular monthly occasion.
I have to admit that we had more than a few “That will never work in Doncaster” remarks, so it’s personally rewarding to me that since then, we’ve not looked back. Well Spoken! has become a fixture in the Brewery’s itinerary and likewise in Doncaster’s arts calendar. It takes place in the bar-room on the second Thursday of each month and we will usually number around a dozen readers. It’s not exclusively poetry; prose, song and even short scripts have been performed, and neither is there a ruling that all material needs to be self-penned, as some readers have taken the opportunity to bring in their favourite works by others.
Here’s how it works: we assemble around 7.30 for an 8.00 start and each reader gets a 5-minute slot; time for a couple of short poems or one longer one. Prose writers will often perform an extract or write specifically for the time slot. Once each has taken a turn, we adjourn for a beer break, then repeat the whole thing, finishing around 10.30. We are always accommodating of those who may need to leave earlier for public transport and endeavour to ensure that those who wish to read get the opportunity.
We work hard at creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere in order to retain the ethos that we can be a proving ground for performers to build their confidence and performance technique. Our contributors come from a remarkably wide spread of age groups and the material on offer is of an equally wide variety of styles. The common factor has been that the quality is consistently high and the material is challenging and varied as well as entertaining.
Well Spoken! takes place usually the second Thursday of each month at Doncaster Brewery and Tap, 7 Young St, Doncaster DN1 3EL. The next Well Spoken! will take place on Thursday 8 June. Check the Facebook events page of Doncaster Brewery and Tap for more details. For enquiries, contact Mick Jenkinson: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Michèle Beck’s review of a recent Well Spoken! event here.
Mick Jenkinson is a singer, songwriter, poet and events organiser. He works as a solo performer with voice and acoustic guitar, and in various musical ensembles around Doncaster. Mick was director of Doncaster Folk Festival prior to commencing the Songs Of Our Town project in 2017 with Ian Parks. He is an associate member of Right Up Our Street; a nationally funded initiative aimed at increasing arts engagement in Doncaster. Mick is a member of the Ted Hughes Project, performing at the Ted Hughes Festival for the past 2 years.