I'm not entirely sure how long the Leicester Shindigs have been going. I could check, probably, by trawling back through this blog, but suffice it to say that it's been a good few years, from the early days at The Looking Glass to its current incarnation at The Western.
Whatever the case, last night's might just have been the best yet. Certainly top three, anyway. Four excellent readers, packed open mic slots, and an extremely appreciative audience. Kudos to Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators for all their work in building the event over the years, and to Jane Commane and Jonathan Taylor for their unflagging enthusiasm as hosts.
Let's start with the open mic. So many were signed up that the readers were restricted to a single poem (or in one case, piece of fiction) each, and that kept things flowing nicely. Regulars such as Roy Marshall, Jayne Stanton, Martin Malone and Charles Lauder Jr were reliably high quality, but there was a heartening number of first-timers, too.
The first guest, Michael W Thomas, was making his return after reading here a couple of years back. As then (when he read a superb poem about the secret language of tramps), he was quietly assured and utterly riveting. I'm always pleased to come across one of Michael's poems in a magazine (and fortunately, he's in plenty), and I rather hope that he's one of those small press poets who's actually widely read as a consequence of his prolific nature, his willingness to offer his work in a wide variety of outlets, and of course his skill as a writer.
Ben Wilkinson's pamphlet For Real, winner of the Poetry Business competition, was a real advance on the anyway highly accomplished The Sparks, and his reading from it confirmed all those good first impressions. It's poetry that thinks very hard about what poetry can do, but it's never less than accessible and engaged with the real world.
After the break, DA Prince read from her recently-released second collection, Common Ground. She's another poet who manages to be understated and precise without diminishing the emotional punch, and she read the same way, giving every word the chance to pull its weight.
Andrew Taylor brought the evening to a close with poems from his debut, Radio Mast Horizon, as well as two forthcoming chapbooks - his poems also work quietly, and perhaps with more of a cumulative effect than the other readers, but again without sacrificing anything in the way of readability (or listenability, perhaps that should be). I look forward to reading more.
So, the only problem now is that Shindig had set itself a very high standard to maintain in 2015 - get along in January to see what's next.