Another year and another Edinburgh fringe passes. Arty types have all patted each other on the back, Edinburgh businesses have all patted their wallets, and the beautiful old town can return to normal. As ever, there was a host of awards dished out for various things, and amongst them was one of particular note: Dave's Funniest Joke of The Fringe. Of note not because Dave is The Authority on funny; not because some scientist worked out that it was the funniest based on a host of impossibly contrite variables; but because it wasn't won by a comedian.
Yes, that's right, the funniest joke of The Edinburgh Fringe was in fact written by a poet. Rob Auton has been performing his whimsical, hilarious, beautifully crafted and surreal-y genius poetry for years now and anyone who knows him will attest to his brilliance. I for one, however, was surprised Rob picked up this award. I was surprised not because of any doubts about Rob's comedy genius, but because I have never heard him refer to himself as a comedian, nor anyone else call him that for that matter. Yet, here he was, plastered across the national newspapers as the funniest comedian of the fringe.
The spoken word scene is relatively cosy. If you don't know a poet personally, then you're guaranteed to know someone who does; the degrees of separation are miniscule. When the news broke of Rob's triumph it sent a buzz through the scene and there was a justified outpouring of congratulations and support, all with the same caveat as me: Rob's a poet, not a comedian, surely?
Rob's prominence is, in part, due to his involvement with what can only be described as the beating heart of the performance poetry world: Bang said the Gun. Every Thursday night, The Roebuck in Borough is transformed into the most raucous, enjoyable, ferociously underestimated and down right incredible poetry night you will ever attend. Whatever you think a poetry night is Bang is not that.
Set up in 1998 by Dan Cockrill and Martin Galton and now run with the help of Peter Hayhoe and Rob Auton, Bang said the Gun has hosted poets over the years that include Ian McMillan, Sir Andrew Motion, John Hegley and Roger McGough. Alongside these big names, aspiring slammers and fledgling poets have taken to the Bang stage to cut their teeth. I call it the beating heart because everyone has passed through its doors; to perform at Bang has almost become a right of passage for poets.
As well as Rob Auton, there has been other performance poets commended this year. Kate Tempest, one of the shining lights of the spoken word scene, picked up the Ted Hughes award for her work 'Brand New Ancients'. It is difficult to know for certain that this was the turning point when performance poetry was embraced by the poetry establishment, no longer regarded as the scruffy sibling, but it isn't hard to hope.
Equally, Hollie McNish's poem 'Mathematics' went viral for its cutting insight into immigration and the national naiveté perpetuated by the tabloids.
So, what do all three of these accolades have in common? All three poets have Bang said the Gun in their heritage, and all three appear in the newly published Bang said the Gun Anthology by Burning Eye Books.
In the year when spoken word has reached its highest highs, and the awards amongst the faithful continue to grow, there is surely no better time for "spoken word's number one son" to bring out a collection than now. Featuring poems from Polarbear, Kate Tempest, Hollie McNish, John Hegley, Byron Vincent, Luke Wright and many more, this is the poetry book to buy, and if reading them isn't enough, Bang is launching the book at, you guessed it, Bang said the Gun on September 12th.
Come on down and see why 2013 has shaped out to be the finest year for spoken word, and why every single poet mentioned in this article deserves their place in the anthology of the year. See you there, Gunslingers.