They call me ‘intrepid’, ‘tireless’, ‘like a machine’,
But there are still venues I have never before been.
For the first time in months, I utilised Google Maps
To find The Poetry Café, just near the tourist trap
That is Covent Garden.
‘Stand By Your Nan’, the show was called, and I thought
“That’s got to be proverbial: most ‘nans’ probably ought
To sit more than stand, at least for long periods.”
As I looked around, this crowd was quite serious
With notebooks in hand.
Was this a press night? Was I sat among reviewers about to make notes?
Alas, this was ‘open mic night’, and we were about to be engrossed
By the contributions of others, and these others, unlike me,
Had read the memo, and in exchange for paying a reduced admission fee
Would read some poetry of their own.
This, I suppose, is a belated attempt to correct
Not having brought some verse of my own to project
Or otherwise, inflict on this unassuming audience
Whose stories, with meaning, were truly glorious
Spoken from the heart.
But before all those wonderful tales and reminiscing
Came a section about Eve to which we would listen.
She was called Edith really, but her artwork said ‘Eve’
And her life was so colourful: it was hard to believe
She had accomplished so much.
The interval was used to fix a running order
To eliminate the possibility of a state of disorder.
We heard from folks that had something to say about those
Who impacted them greatly. Through rhyme or in prose,
Their stories were brief (a time limit was imposed).
Someone had a list of principles to live by,
One or two controversial, but most would apply
Pretty much universally. And then, an account of a memory
Of an hand-cranked ice-cream machine, a delightful accessory
Rarely found these days.
Some spoke fast, some spoke slow,
Some spoke loud, some spoke low.
I shan’t forget in a hurry the man whose traditional upbringing
Made him an unlikely candidate for feminist thinking –
One of life’s great observers.
There was just the one visual aid, almost at the end,
To coincide with some stories previously penned
About bygone days when mining was still a thing.
Some music, played on an instrument with three strings
Wrapped things up nicely.
This is the first time for many a year
That I have even attempted to use verse to make clear
My thoughts and opinions on any given matter.
But after the show, there was so much banter
I couldn’t help but feel inspired.
It was humbling, and a privilege to hear so many speakers
Giving mutual support: the evening couldn’t be sweeter
If it tried. I assure you the quality of what was shared
Amounted to a performance almost beyond compare.
Oh! The power of words.
Is it fair to place a star-rating on a production
That was only really a mere introduction
To people’s mothers, grandmothers, cousins and siblings?
An immersive experience, four stars is deserving
For an evening nothing short of thought-provoking.
By Chris Omaweng
Stand by your Nan is a Poetry and Storytelling show by Rachel Sambrooks telling stories of unforgettable and unsung women who have helped make us who we are. Rachel has worked her way around communities of London sharing her stories about her Nan, Eve Hind, and hearing the incredible stories about Nans, Mothers, Sisters and friendship of women from London’s suburbs.
Rachel’s Nan, Eve Hind appeared to be an ordinary working class housewife whilst she dreamed of greater things, becoming a working parent, new age pioneer and a lifelong learner.
The show is all about turning memories into stories. Recognising the unforgettable & unsung women in our lives and keeping their stories alive, exploring where we came from, and how those women contributed to who we are today.