Burning Books

Jess Green cares about education. She’s passionate about it (though she’d hate me using that word). It’s written all over her face and in every word of every poem she performs. She really cares – and that’s what makes it impossible to tear your eyes away from her.

Her poetry is not only intelligent, but also informed, which validates her zeal and invites us to get onside.

Jess herself is very personable, which endears us to her from the moment she begins to introduce the show. Her poetry is precise and honest, featuring a whole host of characters, who seem to leap straight from her mouth and into our minds. They are grounded in reality and are instantly recognisable, but Green’s writing breathes fresh life into them and we understand them from an entirely new perspective.

Her impressive poetic performance is accompanied by music from the Mischief Thieves (they are collectively known as Jess Green and the Mischief Thieves): simple percussion and guitar-playing that builds on the emotion in Green’s words and keeps the pace well.

A full range of topics is explored, from childhood cruelty and teenage angst to wealth disparity and racism. There’s even a moment where Green takes a moment to consider what it must be like to be Michael Gove. Her poetry is not only intelligent, but also informed, which validates her zeal and invites us to get onside.

At one point she says, “I wrote a poem about it because it made me cross and I thought that would change the world.” And why shouldn’t she change the world by performing poetry? In a country where our Education Secretary is downplaying the arts in favour of maths and sciences, it is invigorating to see such a gifted writer trying to combat that message with her words. 

Reviews by Marni Appleton

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★★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Burning Books is an hour long spoken word and music show set in an inner city secondary school suffering the cuts and blows of the coalition government. Supported by two musicians, Jess Green tells the stories of the librarian secretly taking books to the tip, the newly qualified graduate furiously supporting Movember and the tired out 60-something fighting for her pension on a picket line, all to the background of blues, folk and the occasional European waltz.