Lingo Launch Night 2015
Review: Lingo Launch Night with Tongue Fu 16th October 2015 at the Workman’s
above: Oisín McKenna
Lingo, means a foreign language or local dialect. Naming Dublin’s spoken word festival Lingo, is suggesting that spoken word is a different language. I am not sure it is quite that different. It may be a slightly different dialect, a slightly different way of expressing the world. Spoken word sounds a little bit like rap or hip hop. It certainly has a beat. The energy of today’s spoken word scene reminds me of the Beat Generation. Of Allen Ginsburg’s vibrant force. Expressing things of social significance. The difference between spoken word poetry and poetry poetry is miniscule. With poetry poetry people cling to scraps of paper on stage or behind podiums. Their body is not as essential to their performance. The issues voiced by spoken word poets are very immediate and political. Spoken word poets shout their ideas and opinions to the world. Once the spotlights are on them, they are not shy. They express with such clarity, poignancy and humour our contemporary conundrums.
This year was my first visit to Lingo Spoken Word Festival. I only got the chance to make it to the launch night at Workman’s. The energy from the audience and performers was incredible, full of intense excitement and at times astonishment at the brilliance of some of the acts. Tongue Fu the group at the centre of the launch are an alternative spoken word night from London. They mash spoken word poetry with various genres of music depending on what the poet wants. The difference in this spoken word night and others was that when the poets went on stage they had to tell the musicians what kind of music they wanted their poetry to be accompanied with. Hip hop. House. Punk. Gospel. Chris Redmond, the singer/poet from Tongue Fu was the main MC for the night. At the beginning he announced, regarding poetry, ‘there is no failure, only endeavour’. The poets performing included, Stephen James Smith, Lewis Kenny, Oisín McKenna, John Cummins, John Moynes, David Lee Morgan, Genevieve Healy, Bern, Brian McMahon Gallagher, Anne Tannam, Stephen Clare, Cormac Fitzgerald and the Brown Bread Players. The words, the music, the energetic jumping about and gesturing from all the performers built an electrifying atmosphere. They spoke of their personal experiences of living now. Love. Drugs. LGBT. Politics. Depression. The Dublin Lifestyle. Hipsters. D4s. A lot of humour. It is difficult to pick and choose particular acts to discuss. But here goes.
Second up to the stage, Genevieve Healy performed a piece about Love called ‘The Devil’, which caught my attention. Wearing a black dress in a bluish light performing to low key lulling music spiked with some synth. She got the sound of love pains right. Speaking about how for her, ‘love and pain have always been synonymous’. Though it was a personal tale, she expressed a feeling which I am sure most people in the audience understood. The muddled feelings of how to be or weather to be in a relationship with someone. Now that you can have no strings attached things, everything is cool and you can be how you want to be… the question is now, how do you be? Since the perimeters are dissolved, you have to work out so much more for yourself. There is the dilemma Genevieve is expressing. I think. This confusion was echoed in the poetry of Stephen Clare, who said that ‘kisses don’t mean anything’.
Poems about Dublin were prominent throughout the night. A poem, ‘Dublin’ by Louis MacNeice was performed powerfully by Stephen James Smith. It is a poem detailing all of the city’s beautiful intricacies, both good and bad with ‘her seedy elegance … the glamour over squalor’. MacNeice’s poem was complimented by the words of Cormac Fitzgerald. He spoke of a past memory, seeing himself cycling through the city at lunch time, passing various characters and places. He revealed his journey through the network of streets, from Dorset Street, on to Drumcondra. An insightful look at the city in the rush to get home.
One of the most striking performances of the night came from the Brown Bread Players (Kalle Ryan, Gus McDonagh, Eva Bartley, Sean McDonagh). A group of actors/comedians/writers/poets who perform the most hilarious radio sketches mocking Irish and Dublinese culture. At this year’s Lingo Launch Night, they performed a ‘This Week on Radio’ programme set many years into the future, after the collapse of the economy and Germany’s takeover of Ireland. The show’s presenter is Sneachta Ní Mhurchú. She talks about the Proto Dublin-Deutsch dialect or language, which developed as a result of the takeover and she interviews Verne Hertzog, who made a documentary on Dublin spoken word artists. The inner city Dublin accent mixed with German had the audience in stitches. A delightful novelty for the ears. It was not just the usual mock-the-accent gig. The Brown Bread Payer’s put a new twist on things and created their own dialect.
My initial reason for heading to this particular Lingo event was because John Cummins was performing. I had heard many great things about Cummins, but had yet to hear him live. His performance generated such amazing energy from the audience. He got everyone involved and shouting. He asked us ‘Do you love the Lingo?!’. The audience screamed ‘I love the Lingo!’ And I do love it, but his performance was just that, the beat, the reggae, the singing, the repetition. His poem was a song about Lingo. It was chilled and rhythmic, it promoted the festival, but it felt a little insubstantial. Cummins is the shining star of Irish spoken word, but I was left wanting more.
Lingo Spoken Word Festival is a well needed platform for the thriving spoken word scene in Dublin and beyond. It highlights the poets who write about current social and political issues. They write about experiencing the now. There is no nostalgia, romanticism or backward thinking. These poets write about how Ireland is and how they want it to be. They make projections into the future. Their work is not abstract. They have a position and they project their experiences out into the world.
Give me more Lingo. See you next year.
Words and photography: Roisin Power Hackett