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Waving not Drowning

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A feature on Reading the Waves

Most people hate public speaking; imagine then Robbie Gillon’s dismay when the drill of a forgotten phone interrupted his monologue. I cringed as the noise bounced off Street Level Photoworks’ walls.

What will he do, pause until the imposter is silenced? No, he powered on. Like a pro the student finished his exert about fatherhood, “My children will grow to be who they are, who I am and who I never will be.”

As a father, he is no doubt used to interruptions. Like many of the night’s performers Gillian has had to balance parenthood with his creative writing. He and the rest of the readers come from a course that allows school leavers, parents and career- turncoats a start in the industry.

Originally launched at the Nautical College, in 2000, the HND Professional Writing Skills class has since produced award winning students and a bi-annual event, aptly named, Reading the Waves.

The event allows members of the public the chance to enjoy literature, lyrics and low cost liquor (okay wine) served up by students old and new. As well as being an outlet for fresh talent, it traditionally closes with readings from Scottish writers, such as Janice Galloway and Liz Lochhead. Not bad for three pounds a ticket.

Why then don’t more people know about it? Well, The Waves is usually hosted in Glasgow hideouts, like the Street Level Photoworks and the Scotia Bar, and since it’s a college event, it isn’t commercially punted.

Founder, Linda Jackson, explained, “Reading the Waves started years ago; it was organised as a night to make the HND course more concrete and give the students space to connect with previous students.

“This developed into the writers meeting others and doing events themselves.”

Testimony to this is Kady Reilly; ex-student and host of Magic Carpet Cabaret. Inspired by her college performances Reilly got involved with the open mic night, in Glasgow’s Tchi Ovna. Staged on the first Friday of every month, it sees musicians and writers gather to perform their work.

Despite her cabaret commitments, Reilly revisited Reading the Waves, to perform with Gillon and crew. She said: “I love coming here; it’s great to support the event.

“At college Linda always encouraged us to find our own individuality.”

The theme individuality prevailed as Reilly took to the stage to read her poem, The Tribe. Inspired by her time at school, Reilly parodied the culture of bullying, facebook hypocrisy and chav names, waxing, “No joke, there’s a Pocahontas too.”

At the interval she explained, “Every school in Glasgow has its neds, but I went to the second most violent school in the city.

“I got involved in a couple of incidents, but got through it. So I think it is important to show kids that there are more important things than trying to fit in with the crowd.”

More food for thought came as Joanna Bolouri recited her poem Cinderella, a comedy ballad describing the damsel’s boredom in marriage. Cinderella lamented, “She never knew he’d search for her or she would have moved abroad.”

Later Bolouri explained: “This poem was inspired by my daughter, who is six and obsessed with the world of Disney.

“She asked me, ‘Mum when will I meet my prince?’ You don’t want to tell her that it’s all bullshit, so the poem is a modern imagining of the fairy-tale.

“It shows, that just because you meet your prince, doesn’t mean you get your happy ending.”

With a punch line like that it is no surprise her poem went down a storm. However, Bolouri admitted it was the first time she had read that or any of her own material in public.

“I think a lot of new writers find it nerve racking reading their work or even submitting things, so any event like this that encourages them is good.”

“Reading the Waves is great because it is not just residents performing… I have been writing for four years and I know it can be very hard to get anything published.”

However, Balouri has persevered and managed not only to get her work in the Huffington Post, but also made it to mainstream publishing with her debut novel The List.

Balouri was just one of the night’s many stars; later to read was an SQA award winning poet, whose Sudanese name I won’t insult by misspelling, and Glasgow philanthropist Kevin Branigan, who founded charity Kev’s Stars.

Following these performances, the readers got to kick back and relax, with music from Gus Monro and poetry from Des Dillon.

So after rubbing shoulders with Glasgow’s finest, I left with change in my pocket and faith in the budget Arts scene.

For details of Reading the Waves events, check its founder Linda Jackson’s facebook page.

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