I’m in a converted mill in Cheshire. If I throw a block of Cheshire cheese through the window it’ll hit a United footballer. Cheshire is Essex without phrases like “totes amazeballs”. I like Cheshire. It’s “totes amazeballs”. The mill’s in a town called Bollington known as “Happy Valley”. I heard it wrong. Um. I heard “Happy Valium”.
I’m reading at IASb2b as it merges with New York’s Stein into SteinIAS. It’s IASB’s fortieth anniversary too. Speeches are taking place right now. I have to shake-off the adjustment one glass of wine makes. People say a glass takes the edge off. But I like the edge. Good ideas are from the edge. The speeches end, there’s a break, and it’s my time to get involved. “Ladies and gentlemen Lemn Sissay”.
There’s no stage lights to obscure the audience. No microphone. No chairs in neat rows for the audience to sit in. There’s a pool table in the giant room and cool chic art on the walls. There’s no stage. It’s open plan in a mill the size of a ballroom. It’s very hip, very soho. It’s Friday. It’s 7pm and their desks span out behind this social area. computers like formation dancers poised for the music. The people I’m reading to are at the top of their game and I can see the whites of their eyes. I’m on. I’m one in a mill.
I enjoyed the gig. Some cried. All laughed. Want a tip to a good gig? Be in the present, trust your work and don’t swear too much. Two out of three ain’t bad. I stick around afterwards and speak to Tim the founder of IAS. He tells me he invited a poet called Bill Tidy years ago. Bill Tidy drew while he read, a bit like John Hegley and the late great Ivor Cutler. He tells me about a particular cartoon about a Polar Bear. Well place words, a deft drawing, can stay in mind for life and that is priceless.