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My Afternoon with Women Of Words

Wednesdays are usually about the same things for me. It’s bill day for starters. It’s change the bed day. It’s big shop day. It’s midweek clean up day. It’s feed the plants day. If I’m lucky it’s catch up with my children day after their respective school/college day has ended. It’s Wednesday. The day before Thursday. Wednesday is that day that is necessary but neither here nor there. It doesn’t have the freshness of a Monday or the thrill of a Friday. Then last Wednesday happened.

I have been in hibernation for nigh on a decade but for tons of reasons Hull’s City Of Culture 2017 status has kickstarted something in me which was made redundant many moons ago. Unity, wanting in my own mouselike way to participate in this cacophony of non-stop events, exhibitions, shows, performances, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and a real sense of pride in this long ignored, much slated, end of the motorway city which birthed me and kept me here throughout my uni days, have all contributed to this awakening.

I’d seen WOW (Women Of Words) advertised in various strata; the gloriously happy Face of Hull Kofi Smiles has jumped about on Look North about it, leaflets, brochure mentions and then through my women’s magazine of choice – Sarah Millican’s revolutionary “No Bull” Standard Issue. Words are one of my favourite non-living entities in the entire world. Words make books. If books were food stuff and that was all the land had to offer me as nourishment, I would sooner starve and whither than crunch and munch on their chapters and spines. I was that odd child who bought books with her pocket/birthday/Christmas money. I love words. I also have a lot of love for women. I find them a passionate, honest, funny, thoughtful, and intelligent species. I am one and I’ve given birth to an insanely clever and beautiful young one (a boy who I’m equally proud of). It was time to throw off a few blankets, reach out to a much more confident and worldly old friend of mine and see if she would join me at Kardomah to see if WOW really did have the wow factor their abbreviations suggest.

I had no expectations. I had many doubts though. Would it stand out a mile that I wasn’t part of this writing squad? Would I embarrass myself? Would they all talk in a jargon that was foreign to me? Or even worse, where they a bunch of ‘Wordos’ who simply got together each month to massage each other’s egos? The answer to each of these questions was a booming, resounding “NO”.

We took our cups of tea (my safety blanket) through to the atmospheric back room and the lights went down. I snuggled further into my tub chair and pulled up the oversized collar on my faux leopard skin coat to both hide and protect me. Within minutes I felt at complete and absolute ease.

The compere for the afternoon told us the drill for the next 120 minutes, which involved guest poets from far and near, open mic and a break midway for the nicotine addicted, weak bladdered members of the congregation. She was warm, welcoming and smiley; and her anecdotes of her child’s early dental appointment that morning made me instantly resonate with her. I looked around and there didn’t appear to be any secret code going on and I didn’t feel like I’d gatecrashed some long established party.

The subject matter of the poems was as wide and diverse as the readers and audience members. Cinderella, loss, Donald Trump, abuse, Elvis, hope, realisations and awakenings. What was apparent from the very beginning was that these women ADORED words. Some were more manic and theatrical than others, some seemed to escape into a world saved for this moment alone. Some used humour, rhetoric, pain. One had a quake in her voice that can only come from vocally baring your soul to a room of thirsty ears . Words meant more to them than simply being a formation of letters. For that reason alone, I felt an affiliation.

They used words to express, explore, tell tales, make observations, and excite. Young women, grandmas, aunties,sisters, mums all of them joined together to celebrate spoken word. There were men there too (the majority notably huddled together) but this was a female soundbox.

They took turns to step up onto the little stage, adjust the microphone and share the words they had put together to give us a snapshot, a voyeuristic peek into the dictionaries of their lives. In this room were women who had arranged words to form poetical music, rhyme and beat. There were women who, like me, didn’t carry the courage to perform; but took a great deal from the experience nonetheless. Some women forgot their words but nobody cared. They paused, took a step backwards, and began again. I adored it. It inspired me and made me proud. It made me want to stand outside and usher passersby in, so they too could be part of this little secret I’d found. Wednesdays (well the first one of each month) can’t skip, hop and jump round fast enough for me now.

Words are powerful. The old saying tells us that “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you”. That’s untrue. Words can wind you, disarm you, catch you unawares, and leave you incapable of rationale. They can spread love and peace and make you so damn happy you can’t find the right one. My head is constantly full of words all scrapping and fighting with each other and I have to try to tame them sometimes. Get them to form an orderly queue and restrain them. Women are powerful. They lead, organise, create, nurture, commit and reproduce. Women and words. Put them both together within a safe environment of acceptance and expression and these broads have nailed it.

Women of Words Hull at Kardomah the first Wed of each month 2-4pm

By Melanie Hewitt

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