The Mancunion

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Review: Love Takes Guts

Ola Youssef reviews Fuel Café’s charity poetry event, Love Takes Guts, in aid of organ donation

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Poetry, live music, and free entry, three things that are guaranteed to draw me in. And I must say, I was not disappointed.

Last Sunday I was at Love Takes Guts at the Fuel Bar and Cafe, a charity event for Live Life, Give Life—an organisation that helps to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, to fund research, and to help to improve the lives of transplant patients.

The event itself was incredibly friendly, with the host, Eilís Hall, kicking off the night with a bold cover of ‘Gold-digger’, backed up by Liam Morgan on guitar. Small girl, big voice, the night was off to a good start, and with the tension broken, the mic was open and the audience waited with bated breath for someone to take the plunge. And then. Christina. I wish I could tell you her surname, because she is definitely a poet to keep an eye on, but alas, I cannot.

Dressed all in black, with a sunhat at night and indoors, she looked a woman who demanded to be listened to. And once she started, it was near impossible to stop listening to her. Could you blame us? The drama, the romance, the intrigue, she had us hanging on every word. Her poem ‘Artificial Identity’ about the dynamics of coming out in a religious family, was the perfect cross of storytelling and poetry, with a strong narrative voice, flowing verse, and unfaltering rhythm. Just stunning.

Next up, Jacob Bernard-Banton, to showcase a fifteen minute pick n’ mix of poetry. Now, truth be told the boy did not own the stage, and some of his words were lost to speed and nerves, but as soon as he got into it, so did we. His poem ‘Idyllic’ was the poetry equivalent of a cup of tea at the end of a long day. Grandiose poetry about romance is commonplace in the world of literature, but ‘Idyllic’ was about the comfortable everyday. His poem ‘I like you’, another romantic one, also made me smile, if only because I could relate to it so much. Incidentally I think that’s one of Bernard-Banton’s biggest strengths, his poetry speaks the mind of his audience; ‘She Didn’t Ask’—a self professed angry feminist rant—certainly spoke the mind of many people at one point or another. One poem—untitled—quirkiest one of the set, captured the human condition of constant growth—the constant sense of incompletion. It was done in the style of stuttering machine, incapable of processing the vast amounts of information bombarding it at all times, and we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

A little break from the poetry and into some live music from Johanna Alba and Alice Macy, playing covers as well as original music. Macy’s set was incredibly relaxed. Acoustic guitar and a soft voice, it went well the with cosy living room vibe about the stage. Her song ‘Sticks And Stones’ had to be my favourite of the set, a simple song with an almost bluesy quality to it that I’ve been finding pretty moreish, in that I’ve listened to it several times since.

Alba’s set hiked up the tempo a little; her music was more indie folk, spilling into a bit of light rock at times. She is an artist whom I thoroughly enjoy, in fact I think I’ve been through her entire SoundCloud page twice today. She performed three originals, ‘Can’t Stand Your Love’, ‘Runaway’, and ‘No Autobiography’, the first two, however, are part of an EP that is yet to be released, so you won’t be able to find them anywhere yet, you’ll just have to take my word for it that they were very good. Keep your eye on that one, she’s going places.

Last poet of the night was the wonderful Roma Havers, also doing a fifteen minute set. Her first was an ode to the art called ‘For Those Who Call Poetry Boring’, essentially a call for more people to open up their minds and see the poetry all around and inside them. ‘Halloween Safety Month’—definitely one of the weirder poems of the night—was a vivid, strangely dark poem considering it contained nothing more unusual than trick or treating. After that we had a funny little poem called ‘Coming Out To Yourself’, which had me smiling the whole way through. It was an upbeat one about denial, and realisation walloping you on the head when you least expect it, with a rhythm to be commended and a beat that nearly pushed it over the line between spoken word poetry and rap. Roma also explores mental illness in her poetry, her poems ‘Hysteria’, ‘For When Nothing Should Be Said’, and ‘Old Peg’, covered anxiety, depression, and dementia respectively. Havers approaches these topics, as she does all of her poetry, with good taste, humour, and vibrant imagery.

To wrap up the night, we had Janethan perform with his band, Levi O’Reilly, Liam Morgan, and Calum Bowie. Not a minute into the first song and the whole place was on its feet. After a quiet night of poetry and acoustic guitar, we were hit by a full on show of alternative rock playing half a meter away from our faces. Some very skilled instrumentalists and one of the smoothest voices out there, it was an explosive end to the night. Janethan’s single ‘Drummer Boy’ is out now, if you want to have a look, but nothing really beats live music, does it?
So that was Love Takes Guts. If you get a chance to come to one of these events, do! And bring some money with you to donate, but in the meantime, if you would like to donate to Live Life, Give Life, or if you just want to take a look at their website, you can find them at http://livelifegivelife.org.uk/