The spoken word scene in London appears to be in rude health right now, with a number of eclectic nights springing up right here in Hackney; October has seen the return of poet Captain of the Rant’s Basement Sedition, held once more downstairs at the Railroad Café on Morning Lane. Hosted by Captain of the Rant (AKA Paul Case), it has run every Friday of the month featuring a varied and eclectic mix of artists covering the whole spectrum of the spoken word and poetry scene.
The Railroad Café itself is an excellent venue, sticking out somewhat on Morning Lane (dominated as it is by the vast Tesco, and featuring little else). The upstairs restaurant definitely sits in the more high-end of Hackney’s cafes and eateries, whereas the basement where the gigs are held is a wonderfully ramshackle affair, with salvaged furniture for seating and two giant light bulbs hanging from the low ceiling adding a surreal edge to proceedings. It is a world away from what the uninitiated may consider a poetry show to be like, with a refreshing lack of pretension and a gig-like atmosphere. In short, it’s fun.
This is fitting for a night being run very much on the ethics of the DIY, independent scene with the promoter having a background in running underground punk and ska shows, as well a history of performances in alternative spaces such as squatted social centres and venues like the Pogo Café. Entry is a cut price of three pounds, donations for unemployed and students, making the nights a very affordable and accessible night out. All the takings are split between the acts, with The Railroad not charging for use of the space. It is this spirit of running things fairly and cheaply that gives the night an extra edge.
The night has given people the opportunity to see a number of big names on the spoken word circuit in a very intimate setting, (the space fits, at most, sixty people), such as renowned storyteller Rachel Rose Reid, and hip-hop poets Tshaka Campbell and Raymond Antrobus. You would be hard pressed to see these acts in such a setting for such a reasonable entry price anywhere else in London.
In addition to Captain of the Rant’s hyperactive hosting skills (audiences are only given one poem of his as a introduction to the night), highlights from the four nights have been The Gamecat’s filthy acappella song/poems, Curious’s excellent hip-hop poetry, the subtle storytelling of Stephanie Dogfoot, the politicised poems of Adam Kammerling and the unclassifiable work of Dave Pepper…the list goes on, all excellent acts showing the diversity of the spoken word scene and the difficulty of pinning it down to one style.
All of the acts featured perform regularly in other venues in Hackney and across the country, but hopefully the Basement Sedition will return for a third outing at some point in the near future, providing as it does a real grass-roots entry point to the spoken word scene.