Over the past two months or so, the poetry scene in the United Kingdom has changed a lot since the outbreak of covid-19. As a regular participant and follower of such events for a number of years, the effect has been frightening with a number of major nights been postponed or cancelled altogether.
Unfortunately, while some nights have stopped altogether others however has gone viral and over the past two months, I’ve noticed has cropped up slowly more and more. Speaking as co-organisator of Stretford’s always welcoming Literature Open Mic night Speak Easy, this has proved a really busy period for us when we decided to carry this night on Zoom (zoom.us).
Our night when done in person has always been held at Stretford’s Sip Club and over the past year has regularly had crowds in of around 18 to 20 readers every month with spectators taking the number of people attending to 50 people frequently. When we decided to carry this night on Zoom, I carried on the advertisements for the event in our normal method expecting roughly the same amount of people contacting me wanting to read. This proved far from the case as instead of 20 to 25 people wanting to read, the morning after placing the advertisement I had had over 60 enquires.
Yes, 60 enquires. This of course included a lot of our regulars from Speak Easy but also had a lot of writers from London, Birmingham, Warwick and both Southern and Northern Ireland so it resulted in us actually setting up two nights for April, one on our usual 1st Weds of the month and then a additional night for the 3rd Weds of the month which we had maintained for May and now heading into June.
Since then, we have slowly seen several other nights – some of which I have been to in the past begin to set up their own nights. Some have ran them like us on Zoom, I’ve seen a few on facebook live (which I will be looking at experimenting on myself on the next week or two), Skype, Discord, pre-recorded sets which are all edited together and uploaded on either youtube / face directly and I know of people who are doing them on Google Hangouts and Watsapp to name but two others. The feeling is very different to a live audience if you ever go to one and understandably it is not for everybody but it does seem to be getting more and more popular.
After things begin to get back to some of normality (if that is the right word), it is very likely I suspect you will see nights like this carry on likely hand in hand with a lot more of the nights. I’ve seen a few debates going around whether viral nights will take over from normal literature nights because of social distancing. I would like to think not, but with the onslaught of Social distancing likely to carry on for quite some time, I think it is very possible it has forced us to look at the way we conduct ourselves with nights. Whether we will be able to return to days of 50 people in a reasonably small room has very likely passed at least for a bit.