Spoken Word in London


From Prime Minister's Question Time to Grime, everyone in London has something to say. Londoners are a famously vocal bunch and there are many places to hear their stories, gripes, rhymes and heckles. And if you're feeling brave enough, you can get up on stage and join in too. Here are some great places to hear Londoners at their best:
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This open mic poetry night runs every Tuesday night at the The Poetry Society' Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. Anyone can sign up to participate, the crowd is always warm and welcoming and I've heard some incredible poets there. They also invite a guest poet each week and they're always top notch. 

2. Cringe

This hilarious night started in Brooklyn and now allows Londoners to regale the audience with toe curling readings from their teenage diaries. It runs from time to time at The Phoenix in Cavendish Square, so keep an eye on the Cringe Twitter feed to hear about the next event. I read some extracts from my own teen diary there last year (that's me in the photo), and it was exhilarating to exorcise some mortifyingly embarrassing experiences in front of an ecstatically giggly crowd.

3. The Horse Hospital

I love this weird little basement performance space set in a former hospital for injured cart horses in a quaint Bloomsbury mews. It's now one of London's best avante garde art venues and hosts regular events featuring an eclectic mix of poets and performers. They also hold regular weird and wonderful film screenings.

4. The Moth

The Moth storytelling nights are world famous, and the premise is simple - anyone can come along and tell a five minute story as long as it's personal, true and follows a basic story structure. There's a different theme each month (I watched one on the excellent theme of 'Blunders'), and the audience picks a winner to progress to the next round. The quality of stories told is amazing, and skill involved in the way the stories are told is very impressive to watch. Nights are held on an ad hoc basis at the Union Chapel in Islington. You can also buy a great book of some of the best stories told to date.

5. Hip Hop Karaoke

One of my favourite nights out in London, and where I once just missed seeing Usain Bolt. It does what it says on the tin - anyone can turn up and pick a classic track from the set list to perform (think Coolio, Missy Elliot and 50 Cent). It's such a treat to watch the weird array of people perform, and I once saw a woman in business suit duetting with with blingged up pro rapper. The momentum of the night is insane - it starts with a few tentative early arrivals then gradually builds into a frenetic, pulsating crowd cheering on the performers. Currently on Thursdays at the Queen of Hoxton.

6. Speakers' Corner

Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park is a global omphalos of free speech, a welcoming home for naysayers and dissenters of all view points from all over the world. And it's the best place to catch an update on the progress the forecoming apocalypse. You might not always like what you hear, but then you can always exercise your right to heckle the speakers.

7. Up The Creek

Up The Creek in Greenwich is a fantastic comedy club off the beaten track that hosts some of the world's best stand up comedians. Go to The Sunday Special to see huge stars pop in as surprise guests (I've seen Stephen Merchant, Jon Richardson and Russell Howard for example), always worth the £7 ticket price (or £4 if you're a student). The 11pm finish time usually means it's a rowdy local crowd, and the hosts are usually rising stars (Josh Widdecombe compered a few of the shows I've seen there).

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