Keeping spoken word alive. Part 2: Sonnet Youth

Over the past few years, the Scottish poetry and spoken word scene has grown on the back of buzzy and creatively nurturing nights based in local pubs, small theatres, and other small venues.

We sat down with Cat Hepburn and Kevin P. Gilday of Sonnet Youth to talk about their new livestream shows and podcast, and keeping things going during these strange times.

Can you tell us a bit about Sonnet Youth Social Club?

CH: We launched Sonnet Youth Social Club as soon as lockdown began. It’s a fortnightly stream on Facebook Live featuring four artists per show. It’s co-produced by a top streaming company BlueStar Streaming, so it looks slicker than your average stream, and it’s been lots of fun to produce. We’re hoping to continue these shows all year round.

KG: Yeah, we made a very quick decision to continue to bring Sonnet Youth shows to our audience digitally. We respect the organisations who have taken the time to reflect and plan their next steps but we felt we had access to the resources and expertise to hit the ground running.

Can you tell us about the podcast and how it came about? 

CH: We have been wanting to launch a podcast since forever! It’s a shame it’s taken a global pandemic to get us going but I’m glad we started. It’s actually nice to catch up with each other regularly and chat with some of the awesome guests we’ve had at our live gigs.

KG: We’d talked for ages about getting a podcast up and running. We see it as another outlet for our stuff. A chance to chat at length with some great guests.

Is the Podcast something you will continue when live shows can start again? 

CH: Yes why not! We love chatting to one another and there’s an infinite amount of cool artists we could interview, so as long as people are listening we will keep going.

KG: Definitely. I’d love the podcast to act as a companion to our live shows. For it to act as an opportunity to get in-depth with the talented folk you’ll have seen on the SY stage. Sometimes I find those conversations and stories just as exciting as a live performance.

CH: I think there will always be value in online shows, so we wouldn’t pull the focus away from them completely. It would be a shame to build something and then stop it suddenly, so I’m sure we would still do them, just not as often.

KG: Yeah, I think there’s real value in creating work that can be accessed by people all around the world – I love the idea that someone could be discovering spoken word in another country through our show.

Have there been any previously unseen benefits to doing online live shows?

CH: Online shows have helped us connect with a whole new range of people. We now have an international audience, and people can tune in who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make it to the shows, which feels good.

KG: It’s made it much more accessible to showcase artists from all over the country without the large budget needed for transport, accommodation, etc. Being able to give these great new names a spotlight as part of Sonnet Youth is part of the fun for us. 

Getting into your work individually could you tell me what you have been getting up to during lockdown?  

CH: I have been doing a lot of commissioned lockdown poetry, I handed in my first draft of my new poetry book and most importantly for me, I have been enjoying taking things a bit slower and enjoying some downtime. 

KG: I’ve created a short with National Theatre of Scotland and the BBC as part of the Scenes for Survival series. That’s been great. I’ve also released an album with my band, The Glasgow Cross, and just generally been writing some new poems. I’m missing live performances but I can’t complain.

Cat, you recently wrote a poem for the Scottish Government can you tell me how that came about?

CH: I was approached by an agency who were producing the short film for Scot Gov. They gave me the brief and I wrote the piece and filmed the intro and outro of it, with lots of other diverse Scottish voices reading out the main part of the poem. I think the more videos I have put out online, the more people know my name and know that I can write and perform bespoke poetry.  

Kevin you recently released an album with The Glasgow Cross can you tell us a bit more about that project?

Yeah, Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross is my musical project. It’s a collaboration with my friend Ralph Hector, a fantastically talented multi-instrumentalist. Our second album, Pure Concrete, was released at the end of May on Iffy Folk Records. It sets spoken word and vocals to incredible musical arrangements and is a piece of art I’m really proud of. It’s up on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, etc.

If people want to get involved or support your work, how can they do that?

CH: We love what we do as artists and promoters. It makes us really happy to keep entertaining people, especially during such a rubbish time. You can support us by watching Sonnet Youth Social Club; jump on the comments to say hi, and please rate and subscribe to the Sonnet Youth Podcast.

KG: Art is such an important part of the fabric of society. It gets us through tough times and gives us meaning when we feel like there’s none. If artists have helped you through tough times then it’s time to help them back – support the independent artists in your life. In terms of Sonnet Youth, the best way to help is to spread the word – share the great art with your friends. Let them know there’s something special happening in our little corner of the internet.

facebook.com/sonnetyouth

Photo credit: Jamie McFadyen 

Read Keeping spoken word alive. Part 1: Speculative Books, here.

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