Jo Bell’s Always There Awards #2

The second of my big yellow blobs goes to someone who, with his team, has done this to British poetry until it woke up rather startled, and shown it how to put on a live event.

Who knew that we were allowed to have FUN? Who knew that poetry nights could be so loud that the neighbours complain? Who knew that an audience of people mixing all ages, all races, all kinds of taste would pay to hear an equally mixed range of poets? Who knew that by bringing a spirit of love and good humour into a pub in Southwark, he could bash down the barriers between Spoken Word and Proper Poetry, and make us all proud to be part of one large tribe?

Dan Cockrill

Dan did.

Dan and his team at Bang Said the Gun are multi-handed superheroes of the poetry scene. Their flagship night in London advertises itself as Mud Wrestling With Words, and their slogan is “It’s poetry not ponce.” With humour, love, a bit of loud ska music, and absolutely unrivalled commitment from a team including Martin Galton, Rob Auton, Laurie Bolger, Jack Rooke, Peter Hayhoe and Sarah Redington, they

Dan Cockrill by Julian Ward
Dan Cockrill by Julian Ward

present the most even-handed mix of funny and serious, performance and page, black and white, male and female. It’s absolutely British, absolutely global – a weekly poetry night that can host Elvis McGonagall or Andrew Motion, alongside the best emerging and brand new talent of the UK, whether polite or polemical. Behind their brilliantly entertaining format lurks a real understanding of how to get poetry to people who would never pick up a poetry book, and how to get quiet poets better heard as well as the loud and lairy ones.

And do they make a song and dance of it? YES they bloody well do.  Long may they thrive.

Of the people on the Big Yellow Blob list, Dan and the Bangers have had a shorter life span than anyone else – but they threw themselves into the UK scene with such a vigorous yelp of ambition and joy that they have made a huge splash. Dan put his whole livelihood on the line to support Bang in its early days and he is one of the best men I know. There are many others doing this thankless and tiring work – Bohdan Piasecki at Hit the Ode in Birmingham, Debra Stevenson at Mouthy Poets in Nottingham, Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum at Rally & Broad in Edinburgh, AF Harrold at Poetry Café in Reading– but Bang take it into a louder and lovelier place than anyone else.

By the way, you can buy Dan’s book here or vote for it in the Saboteur awards here. Just saying.


Published by Jo Bell

Poet, boater, archaeologist and former director of the UK's National Poetry Day. One third of @OnThisDayShe. Erstwhile UK Canal Laureate.

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