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Give Poetry A Chance celebrates its 5th year!

Matthew Jacobson interviews the founder of Give Poetry A Chance, Dan Cullinan, to discuss the forthcoming celebrations, the poetry anthology and what is next for the night.

Give Poetry A Chance provides a fantastic platform for creatives to express their love of poetry / spoken word. With talent queuing up to perform on the night and audiences flocking to watch and enjoy the evening, Dan has for sure influenced the city of Liverpool and importantly helped creatives to perform, or begin their own poetry journey. 

The night is warm, supportive and brilliant. And so is Dan. A gentleman and a talented one. He is a true poet and enjoys the vibrant music scene and just like myself ,he’s a Smiths fan. 

So, recently I interviewed this Charming Dan about all things poetry and giving it a chance….

Congratulations on your 5th year, how does it feel to reach the landmark?

Thank you! It feels surreal, to be honest. I can’t believe how quick time has flown and how many wonderful people I’ve met over the past five years. I’ve had over two hundred poets perform since February 2019, and I feel privileged to have met each and every one of them, yourself included!

Has it been a learning curve?

Definitely, when I started off, I didn’t know how long to allocate to poets. I was giving poets 15–20-minute slots. I learnt the hard way that all it took was a few dropouts or no shows and I was in trouble. I then started to allocate people 5- or 10-minute slots. Since 2019, I’ve altered the logo to ensure it’s short and sweet, I’ve created and developed a recognised name, I’ve embraced spreadsheets, optimal running orders, when to have breaks and how long for. But the biggest lesson of all is to just be myself. People ask me why the events have done so well over the years, and I feel it’s because when people see me on the stage compèring, or performing, they see the real me and it transcends into the events. I don’t try to pretend to be something I’m not. I can fumble an introduction or the delivery of a poem, I can ramble on, or appear like my mind is wandering. People come back to the events because they’re real, quirks and all. I find that’s why so many events come and go, because they’re too concerned with how they’re perceived and not about enjoying art in all its forms.

Give Poetry A Chance celebrates its 5th year!

The venue has changed as popularity has grown, as an artist, what venues have you enjoyed playing at?

I loved performing and compèring at Ullet Road Unitarian Church Hall for a Nick Ellis gig. It felt like I was part of the local community and everyone I spoke was lovely. The architecture of the church had a warmth about it and it just felt right being there. Spinners Mill for Mic at the Mill Festival was another brilliant venue. The history of the mill is fascinating, and it was great to see the mill now houses so many independent businesses. Another personal favourite was Some Place Absinthe bar (RIP), I think there was just something intimate about it (Plus I had a few drunken nights in there back in my drinking days!).

The talent at the events is fantastic. And the reviews are wonderful. Does this feel rewarding for all the hard work behind the scenes?

I definitely feel it’s rewarding, but it’s not why I do it. I’ll admit, the past year has been, at times, difficult to juggle the events, my day job, and my private life. There were times where I struggled to respond to messages, organise the line-up and get all the promo out there, all while thinking “How can I keep doing this”. But then the night comes around, I listen to the poets, watch the crowd, and see and hear the impact the art has on the audience. After every event I always think “This is why I do it”.

For me, the events bring our community together. I provide a free space for people to come and connect with each other through words, and I think that’s really important. Even if just one person leaves an event feeling a positive impact, I feel like I’ve done my bit.

It’s an amazing night and a great platform for creative, any highlights you would like to reflect on?

Definitely, I’ve heard many different renditions of “Give Poetry A Chance” sang in the style of “Give Peace A Chance” and I love it. Anything with AL Peters makes me smile too. We had KimmyG & Jimmy Garrett celebrate their anniversary with us and I was starstruck having John Gorman of The Scaffold on a few of our line-ups. But the most important highlights are witnessing many debut performances of poets who have gone on to many big things, as well as poets who have felt that comfortable at the events, they share their personal struggles with us all. The bravery that I’ve witnessed from so many inspirational individuals over the past five years has had a profound, lasting effect on me.

The anthology, please can you expand on it and how people can purchase?

Certainly, to coincide with the fifth anniversary on Tuesday 27th February, I’m looking release a special anthology of poetry titled “Give Poetry A Chance: The Anthology II”. The anthology will include poems by poets who have performed at the events over the years, and all proceeds from the anthology will be donated to TeamDDB, a Wirral based charity setup to fundraise for other local charities, as well as providing support to the local community in general.

Give Poetry A Chance: The Anthology II will be available to purchase on Lulu.com. I’m hoping for a release on Tuesday 27th February, but this will all depend on how quickly the test copy arrives. I’ll be looking to promote the anthology on all our social media platforms when the time comes.

What next for Give Poetry A Chance?

After our anniversary event Tuesday 27th February, the events will go on a mini hiatus to give me time to work on a few projects. We also have Give Poetry A Chance merch on the way. Designed by the very talented PlazzyBag, the merch will depict myself, Anthony Johnston, Gary Jardine, Jo Dickins, Joseph Roberts, Laura Ferries, Louise Evans, and Sophia Chendoh, as the original Give Poetry A Chance team. The merch will all be available via our social media channels in the coming weeks.

Last year I vowed to change the format of the events in 2024, and I’m sticking to that promise. During the second half of 2024, I will host pop-up events around the city. The reason I’m heading in this direction is because, as many people will know, we had an ever-growing waiting list of performers. As soon as I’d advertise an event, I’d receive many requests to perform (A great issue to have!). Pop-up events would mean I could book line-ups in advance and advertise the events at short notice.

It’s also been a dream of mine to create a Give Poetry A Chance podcast and I’ll make sure it happens in 2024. It might be the second half of the year, but we’ll see it come to life soon.

Thanks for this wonderful opportunity, Matt, I appreciate it.

My pleasure, Dan, Best Wishes.

Matt

Matt Jacobson

Explore Liverpool

READ MORE: INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, MUSIC JOURNALIST AND MUSICIAN JOHN ROBB

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