Luke Wright bringing his new show to Diss
PUBLISHED: 14:14 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 22 February 2019
Poet Luke Wright is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his first gigs - including his first ever paid appearance at Norwich Arts Centre — with a new show, his first in three years.
His latest book has also just been published, he is about to release his first vinyl LP record. No stranger to Diss as the man behind the monthly Stand-Up Poetry Club, he is appearing in a 20th anniversary version of his show Luke Wright, Poet Laureate at Diss Corn Hall on March 2.
Tell us about your latest show…
There’s going to be a new Poet Laureate appointed in 2019. They will be the country’s official poet. They’ll have to write about royal weddings and royal babies and the unveiling of statues. Who wouldn’t want to do that job? My new show is nominally my tilt at that gilded position, filled with the very finest of my brand new poems – some to make you laugh, some to make you cry, some to make you THINK (note capitals). But in reality, not only do I not want the job, I don’t think we should even have a Poet Laureate. The laureateship mimics the monarchy, the power structure it was created to prop up – we’ve come a long way since then, I think we can do better. Look, at that, you asked such a short question! In the show I attempt to write poems about Britain and society and end up going down some personal rabbit holes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hurl, etc.
As a writer, what was it that drew you to poetry – and performance poetry?
I saw Ross Sutherland stand on the Colchester Arts Centre stage on 12 December 1998 and he just looked so goddamn cool. It was like watching the singer of a band but without the band. After him came Martin Newell and John Cooper Clarke, who were as much stand-ups as poets. They made me laugh, they made me think, they made me feel. I just knew I wanted to do that, it seemed like an impossible dream. Every inch of the journey appealed to me: filling notebooks with terrible first drafts, travelling around the country in the dead of night, kipping in dingy hotels, on sofas and in tents, meeting my heroes; the whole bruising, sad, joyous wonderful adventure. I was made to do this.
What are your memories of your first Norwich Arts Centre gig?
That was Saturday 19 June 1999. I was supporting John Cooper Clarke, Jason Raper and Ross Sutherland. As I finished the first poem I said out loud: “yes, the first one is out of the way.” I was very nervous. But I was in heaven, Ross was two years older than me and I thought he was so cool. I had got to spend all day with him, talking about poems, reading each other’s work, drinking pints in Kafe Da (now Karma Kafe) – it was the best.
How has the performance poetry scene changed since you started out?
It’s so much bigger. Maybe 10 times the size. Full of young people too. When I started out there were about five of us in our early twenties, now we’re over run with kids, and it’s great. I admire and love their professionalism and joy for the medium. It’s truly a great thing.
What are the most memorable venues you’ve performed in and why?
I performed my verse play, What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, in the Wellington Room at The Houses of Parliament (thanks for that, Clive Lewis). It’s a very political play about the failings of New Labour to reach out to their base (hence UKIP/Brexit) and it felt thrilling to take it to the heart of power in the UK. I performed to 400 people in a sort of amphitheatre space outside at Adelaide festival. I’ve played the London Palladium and the Royal Festival Hall. Perhaps my favourite moment was when my two sons saw me perform for the first time – last November at Birmingham City Hall supporting John Cooper Clarke (because, even after all these years, our relationship hasn’t changed). It went really well and as I walked off stage they rushed on and hugged me. Magic.
Politically and socially, we live in turbulent times. With society seemingly more fractured than ever, could poetry bring us together?
Poetry can change us as individuals. Poetry can help us to understand ourselves and our place in the world. And individuals can come together to make a better society, so yes, it has its role to play.
• Luke Wright, Poet Laureate is at Diss Corn Hall, March 2, 8pm, £12 (£6 students), 01379 652241, disscornhall.co.uk
• He will also be performing the show at Holt Festival in July. See more about Luke, and his poems at lukewright.co.uk