One night each month, the Baked Café in Whitehorse fills up with people clutching pieces of paper waiting their turn to stand in front of a microphone.
Not everyone has a sheet of paper. Some carry their laptop or journal up to the microphone and others have nothing at all. But they are all doing the same thing: overcoming fear and self-consciousness and performing something they have written themselves.
Thanks to the efforts of artist, broadcaster and event organizer Lauren Tuck, local writers now have a place to share and read their work. Tuck is founder and artistic director of Brave New Words, an open mike event for anybody interested in the spoken word.
“I thought one day I would try and do it and see what would happen and the response was pretty overwhelming,” says Tuck, who is also artistic director of the longer-established, broader arts show, Brave New Works. “Over 60 people came through and a musical guest, Howard Chyme, played.”
Now itself a regular monthly event, the next Brave New Words is on March 21 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Baked Café (formerly the Backerei) in Whitehorse.
“You can write down a poem or you can write down song lyrics, but when you decide to share that with people it’s like you are showing them a piece of your soul and that takes a lot of guts,” says Tuck, who, at the last event, sang a cappella a song she had written herself … a public first for her.
Another performer at the last show was Ashley Camara, who read a poem that she said is on its way to becoming a song.
“It was my first time ever doing anything like that. It was really fun. It was really nerve-wracking. It was really cool,” says Camara. “It felt so much like a family. A really inviting atmosphere for anyone to go up and do their thing.”
Charles Laberge performed at the last show, too, in French: “I don’t really write poems in English or do stuff in English,” he says. “My first language is French so, obviously, what comes out is French. It’s how my feelings come out the best.”
Laberge describes Brave New Words as “a big word party” that has helped him to meet other writers with whom he now hopes to collaborate.
Laberge says what he does at Brave New Words is “performing writing” and acknowledges there’s a difference between writing that’s intended to be read on paper and writing that’s intended to be spoken. His own writing, he believes, has most meaning when he performs it because he can give it rhythm and emotion.
For anyone interested in performing, or simply reading, all you have to do is bring something along on the night. There’s no need to sign up in advance.
You can even write something at the event itself and read that out, explains Tuck, who makes sure there are cue cards and pencils alongside the candles on each table that help create the relaxed atmosphere.
“The thing about the shows is that everyone is really forgiving,” says Tuck. “It’s pretty magical really.”