This October, we present spoken word showcase Trope in partnership with leading spoken word and poetry organisation Apple and Snakes. Headlining Trope is Francesca Beard, a London-based performance poet who has been called 'The Queen of British performance poetry'. We catch up with Francesca to find out more about her journey as a poet...
Firstly, for those who don’t know – can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and grew up in Penang, which is a tropical island, balanced on the equator. My family came to live in London in the late 80’s. I still haven’t acclimatised to British weather, much like everyone else. Very few of us on this island are indigenous.
What does spoken word mean to you?
To me, spoken word is about asking the other people in the room, ‘Is anyone else weird like me?’
Can you tell us a bit about how you got into poetry and performance?
I was dumped by a guy who told me I would never be a poet. Basically, it was an act of vengeance.
What inspires you?
Making the world a kinder place. Also, vengeance.
What do you wish to convey through your performances?
Sharing stories is what makes us human, a greater diversity of stories makes for a kinder and greater society - I hope my performances convey that message.
What can people expect from your performances?
Honestly, it depends on the people on the night, I think all spoken word should have an improvisational element so the material I perform is influenced by who shows up, sometimes my set might be a lyrical story and other times it might be more interactive and satirical.What has been your favourite performance and why?
I recently toured a solo show called ‘How to Survive A Post-Truth Apocalypse’. It was the first one woman show I’d made since my daughters were born. I couldn’t get child care on one night, so I brought them to the performance. The show’s recommended age is 16, they were 14 and 11. Afterwards, they were so full of enthusiasm, it was the deepest and most meaningful validation I could have wished for, as an artist and a parent.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
Some of it is unconscious and much of it is in pyjamas except for when it’s with other people in the room and that is my favourite, most fun process, the collaborative kind.
Do you have any advice for those who aspire to write and perform?
Do it. Do it if you are scared and do it if you think you are no good and everyone else will judge you and do it if you think no one else cares. Give yourself permission and be kind and take risks. Do it.
Who are your favourite poets we should have on our radar?
There are so many amazing poets working in the UK right now - off the top of my head, poets who have recent books out are Roger Robinson, Jay Bernard, Raymond Antrobus, Liv Torc … Lemn Sissay just published ‘My Name is Why’, not poetry but certainly poetic as… I recently mentored a young poet called Aisha Borja for Rathbones Folio and the wonderful poet Kate Clanchy has just supported her to publish her first collection. The UK is so rich in poetry at the moment.
What’s one of your favourite poems?
Old school choice, ’Snow’, by Louis Macneice.
What is on your summer reading list?
A bunch of popular science and science fiction books - ‘Confabulation’, the next piece I’m developing, is about the future of memory.
What are you most looking forward to at Trope?
My brother lives in Brighton and is coming to the show, I’m hoping to secure more over the top family validation.