Chapter & Verse Blog
The Manchester Literature Festival Blog
Five minutes with... Dominic Berry
We caught up with the enormously entertaining poet Dominic Berry (aka Dommy B) ahead of his upcoming appearance at our Family Reading Day October 20.
What are you doing for MLF 2013?
At Family Reading Day I will be performing 'Spark, The Goblin Wizard', a brand new piece of writing commissioned by Ramsbottom Festival this year. It is a hugely interactive, very silly, loadsa fun show packed full of daft jokes and weird rhymes. It is part of my 'Dragon Who Hates Poetry' series. There are loads of chances to join in. It's the kind of show where no one has to do anything, if a child is really shy and just wants to sit and back and enjoy the jokes then that is cool; if a child wants to get creatively into the story that is warmly welcomed! Our aim is to get some rhymes written throughout the course of the story. We did the piece four times up at Ramsbottom and the words our audiences came up with were wild!
I am so happy to be performing at MLF. Previously I won the Superheroes of Slam competition at the festival (the finals took place in the much missed greenroom theatre) and it is amazing to be bringing a full piece to the festival this year.
How did you get into writing poetry?
I was lucky in that I loved poetry at school. I know that that is not everyone's experience! I think especially a lot of lads my age didn't connect to verse in their school days. I now do a lot of work with older people, performances and workshops in sheltered accommodations and nursing homes. The older generations seemed to connect to poetics far more strongly than mine did.
But I think in schools today it is changing again. High-profile poets like Luke Wright and Kate Tempest have done loads to help us verse-slingers, and Plan B has had John Cooper Clarke with him on his most recent album. There is more awareness of spoken word presently and its a good time to be a poet.
I have been writing for adults for many years but it was successfully auditioning to be on the CBeebies show 'The Rhyme Rocket' that made me decide to create a load more stuff for kids. Being on that show was brilliant, getting my words out to a national audience. I was lucky to get some Arts Council support following that to start creating a tourable set of work to make the most out of that experience.
What do you like about working with children?
The honesty. You know if a child likes or dislikes your work. Children are the harshest critics and us poets, whether we like to admit it or not, need harsh critics! I like the uninhibited enthusiasm, be it in a quiet or bombastic way, children have great integrity and when you've got their attention and imagination you've got it good.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I am right in the middle of a tour of the title piece of the 'Dragon Who Hates Poetry' series. It is touring the country and the closest place to Manchester it is playing is The Met in Bury in half term week on Tuesday 29 October.
I am also doing some adult work with Strangeways Prison and, as always, I am touring round the vegan festivals with my comic verse. Being vegan is really important to me and I love the experience of these vegan festivals up and down the country. The warmth and passion there is wonderful… and there is always a load of quality food, so I leave very full each day!
Finally, read any good books lately?
The Horrible Histories books! Am reading the WW1 ones in preparation for some adult work I will be doing for next year's centenary. Its great when you can call something like that 'research'…. but really its just total enjoyment!
Next on my list to read will be Rosie Garland's Palace of Curiosities. A MLF regular, Rosie has been a staple of the Manchester poetry scene for years and it is so cool to see her first novel do so very well. I've not started it myself yet, but I am very confident I will be a big fan.
See Dominic Berry at our Family Reading Day on 20 October at Manchester Town Hall.