Catherine Wilson is an organiser for the Loud Poets collective, an award-winning collaboration of poets and the band Ekobirds. They recently returned from a debut run at the Prague Fringe festival, where they won the New Territories award. She was a part of the winning team at the 2016 UK National University Poetry Slam, and went on to represent the UK at the CUPSI tournament in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the BBC’s Generation 2016, and is entering her final year studying English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.
Live music is a great way to get people into poetry
Tell me about your experience at the Prague Fringe.
What was amazing about the Prague Fringe was that it was so small, only around 40 shows. This meant that every performer met and went to see each others shows, building a really nice community. This was a very unusual Fringe, purely based on my experience of the Edinburgh Fringe, which is so large. However, I thought it was an incredible experience. I love Prague as a city, and our venue was really good. Audiences were very loud, which is what we like. I would love to go back.
How would you compare your experiences of the Prague, Edinburgh, and Brighton Fringe?
The Prague and Brighton Fringes can be their own ecosystems, separate from the city life, while in Edinburgh that is not possible. In Edinburgh we know what to do, we have regulars, and we know other performers and the background information. Brighton is a bit different, where we do not know the artists but the network might be similar. Prague was completely new, with new finances, languages, artists, in a city full of tourists. We weren’t even allowed to busk in Prague!
Each one had their own different benefits, where Prague had a warm reception and were exceptionally friendly, and Brighton was vibrant with a diverse range of events going on. Edinburgh has the advantage of being close to home, with an enormous number of attendees that has the potential of having your audience numbers skyrocket.
How did you find the CUPSI tournament compared with Scottish slam poetry?
Before I came to Edinburgh the only experience I had of performance poetry was through YouTube. A lot of this was through organisations like Button Poetry, and so I was very aware of CUPSI. Slams are taken very seriously in America, and while we were at CUPSI coaches were taking notes on each score, making sure that performers remained within a certain level. It was very intense, and daunting to watch.
The main thing I learnt was that I love my style. The American style is often very serious, political, and with less jokes. I like what I am doing, and I love the Scottish scene. I also learnt to be less afraid to completely take over a stage, and to throw myself into a poem, if that is relevant. America was a weird experience, but it taught me to love what I am doing, and that I should be enjoying my art.
How has working with Ekobirds changed your poetry?
Ekobirds have been involved with Loud Poets longer than I have, and we are currently attempting to more closely integrate the poets and the musicians. Live music is a great way to get people into poetry. It also gives us a deeper consideration of our work, both in terms of themes but also rhythm. My poem 'Today I took a Bus Ride with Anxiety' had the intention of being a funny poem, but audiences took it too seriously. By working with the band I have managed to get the mood back to what I intended it be, by using upbeat rhythms and chords.
Ekobirds are an amazing asset to Loud Poets, because through their improvising they help you reconsider a piece. They have totally changed how we write, practise, and consider our work. They are talented wee squirrels, as Jenny Lindsay might say.
Catherine’s Twitter is @CJMacBeathW and the Loud Poets twitter is @LoudPoets