An Evening With Carol Ann Duffy And Friends At the Royal Exchange Theatre

“Carol Ann Duffy returns to host our hugely successful poetry readings. Joining Carol Ann will be new writers from Manchester Metropolitan University and a variety of established poets offering a medley of Jazz, Poetry and Conversation.”- From the Royal Exchange Theatre website

Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea, but seeing and hearing poetry read by the poets themselves is a truly amazing experience that no one can come away from unaffected. This is why ‘An Evening With Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’, an event which takes place often at the Royal Exchange Theatre, is such an amazing opportunity for everyone, regardless if you read poetry all the time, occasionally, or not at all.

The studio at the royal exchange theatre is a brilliant atmosphere, perfect for a poetry reading. It is both dynamically contemporary and beautifully traditional, like a 21st century sonnet. Live jazz music sets the scene perfectly, creating a relaxed and delightful setting. The huge marble pillars of the exchange theatre cannot help but make you feel impressed, but the warm lighting and the stage not being raised in the studio means that you won’t feel intimidated.

The event starts just after 7pm, although the doors open beforehand for there to be an opportunity to have a drink at the very stylish bar, and listen to the excellent music. Once the audience have taken their seats, and the jazz band taken a bow, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy walks on to the stage. Speaking in a soft but powerful voice she modestly introduces herself, the production and the House Poet, Liz Venn. She goes on to read some of her own poetry to kick-start an amazing session of emotive and moving poetry reading. On the 19th of November the audience were treated to the thought-provokingly different perspective of the myth of King Midas in Mrs Midas and an incredibly witty, tongue in cheek view into the origins of The Origins of the Species in Mrs Darwin. Both poems can be found in the 1999 book the World’s Wife, which is being republished by Picador as a classic. Defiantly worth a read.

Following on from Duffy were three poets who are students or ex-students at the Manchester Metropolitan University, where Duffy is Professor and Creative Director of the Writing School. Eloquently introduced by Liz Venn, Justine Chamberlain, Michael Conley and Robert Harper each brought something new and unique to the stage, literally, as some of the works hadn’t even been published yet. Chamberlain read her hilariously clever Christmas Sonnet. Conley also got the audience giggling with his poem Aquarium which was intriguing with a decisively funny streak. Harper read a very powerful poem about a teenager going through a rough spot, which many of us can relate to. Each of the three poets presented their work with passion and confidence, making the poetry seem filled with energy. When a poet preforms their work, it seems to make more sense, as if the tone, pace and pauses annotate and explain the poem for you. This is why those who feel that they ‘don’t get’ poetry ought to give this event a try, as it makes understanding verse accessible to all.

After an interval of more drinks and jazz, Liz Venn delights us with some of her own work. Her charming personality shines through in her seamless introductions into her fervent poem The Spin. Venn then introduced the guest poet for the evening, Ann Grey. What follows is a selection of heartbreakingly honest, beautifully personal and endlessly motivating poems by a charismatic, inspirational and superbly talented poet. Selected from her book At The Gate, each poem evoked a different emotional response that left the audience spellbound. A very enthusiastic applause with a few pairs of tearful eyes from the audience signalled the end of a tremendous night of poetry readings.

Afterwards poets and audience alike reflect on an excellent evening in the bar, giving the opportunity for members of the audience a chance to speak with the poets themselves. Overall I would urge people not to be tricked by society’s misconceptions that poetry readings are pretentious and boring, the reality is the complete opposite! Having had the pleasure of having a quick word with Duffy, I can confirm what anyone else will tell you; Duffy is a wonderfully down to earth and generous person, not pretentious in the slightest. The rest of the people I spoke to on the night (the poets and those in audience) were also lovely. People of all ages from many backgrounds were represented and I believe that everyone would be accepted. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference between trochaic meter and iambic pentrameter, poetry is for everyone to enjoy.

So for £12 a ticket, I would undoubtedly recommend everyone go to An Evening With Carol Ann Duffy and Friends. A night to remember!

For more information about the event go to-

For more information about the poets mentioned go to- -Carol Ann Duffy -Liz Venn -Robert Harper -Justine Chamberlain – Michael Conley -Ann Gray

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