House of Verse.
Somewhere for everyone.
It all began in a dynamic debate. One newly bud wordswom’n, Hibword, bounced ideas she had momentarily visualised: a three-dimensional land of language… land gauge.. A place where entire bodies would experience words, where poetry could be embodied and ideas entirely involving and interactive.
One page of A4 was slathered in scribbles and slotted into a folder to be forgotten about for four years. During the very third year of her Design degree, said page was retrieved and eyes were rubbed in disbelief and thankfulness for Major Negotiated Project inspiration. A project crafting lyrically inspired, immersive installations was commenced and eventually realised by April 2014 when the first 3D draft was staged at Orange Tree, Leicester. A run of four installations on the themes of ‘worry’, ‘walk’, ‘eat’ and ‘sleep’ invited viewers to recline and pull tissues sodden in tears of poetry, stomp their inky footprints, arrange Sultan’s pepperings of verse and slump wearily ‘neath an angled headboard to crayon a rubbing of lullaby lyrics. The last minute addition of a ‘poetry booth’ was brought to life with incredibly intimate performances, especially close-packed with six people squeezing to fit into comfortable space enough for one. This invasion of privacy was actually uplifting and a novel way of experiencing performance on a deeper level, immediately tightening the gap between strangers and poets.
Feedback spurred Hibword to amplify the performance element of the event and she approached an unsuspecting bar in the Cultural Quarter, namely Manhattan34, to house the debut House of Verse live show. Once the banner was bought, things instantly became official. Authentic, pentagonal bunting was handmade by two crafty pixies and one sewing machine fire later, the première took place over two days as part of Everybody’s Reading Festival in Sept 2014. As an initial fusion of spoken word poetry, comedy, music, rap, beatbox and sound/video installation, it became immediately apparent that the variety of artisans strewn across Leicester was rich and eager to give.
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‘Eclectic City’ was staged for Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, Feb 2015, in conjunction with 2Funny Comedy and The UK Poetry Brothel. This collaboration saw the beautiful divide and cohesion between intimate one-on-ones in a private sari-strewn room, and the vibrant diversity of the public show in the comfy, spectral basement.
The variety event ever extended its arms to a more diverse anthology of performers, becoming bi-monthly shows. Adorned even more ornately each time with said penta-bunting, rogue rugs, smooshes of cushions, wallfuls of hangings, slinks of funky blankets, and smoked with incense, House of Verse became more than just a performance; it became a community, a tribe, a power, a vibe.
The supportive atmosphere, ever invigorated by the versatile and rad-skilled House of Band, gave rise to a skyrocketing attendance, so t’was time to move House of Verse. The Guildhall became the next dwelling for our swelling following.
The Great Hall with its enthrallingly tall ceilings and thick Tudor beams gave space enough for House of Verse’s racey dreamscapes, sound treks and spaced out reams. The Mayor’s Parlour housed tarot readings, live portraiture, face painting from the Carnival of Artisans and the courtyard gave room for tocks of ping pong alongside quick scoops of hula hoop! The poetry whores sultrily striding around the festive grounds led unsuspecting followers up to The Library, to The Balcony or out into the cobbled alleyway for private, personal poetry.
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From inside to inside-out to outside, in the ‘Gazebo of Verse’, St Martin’s Square accommodated our first fully external venture flecked with picnic benches, deck chairs and enveloped in the open air. Glorious weather with wordies of a feather, this gathering was followed up by a second gazebo gallivant, entitled Haunted House of Comedy & Shock! Tales in aid of Oxjam Leicester Takeover. Hosted by Bloodsuckin’ McGuckin and Jenny Dreadful, spooky dukes and hallowed hellcats flexed flaunts, picked stickled notes and professed hexed flows.
The House was next moved to The Music Café: a multi-levelled, cosy, urban hide-out on Braunstone Gate. Clad of course in plentiful drapes, fabrics, textures and a miscellany of troubadours, with the new boost of moody lighting and a resounding soundsystem, this place emanated vibrance, ambience and unity.
Our most recent venture has seen the start of ‘Public House of Verse’, in The Real Ale Classroom and Yesim Grill Meze Bar thus far, which aims to support tiny, local emporiums around Leicester as well as holding bite-sized shows between the monthly extravaganzas!
So there it all is, now you’ve had the House history (house-story) that brings us to right now, which is forever here. We sincerely hope our future includes you.
House of Verse
(THE Variety event in Leicester)