January 2022 was a great month for me, amongst other things it was the month I discovered an awe inspiring event and company called Nowhere Nights (of which you can find a cool aftermovie for at the end of this post).
A fun fusion of poetry and jazz, performed on stage by a group of musicians and two guest poets on a monthly basis in London… all completely improvised on the night!
Sophie and I were lucky enough to catch Tomara Garrod (who we spotlighted in issue 1) and Rasheeda Page-Muir on our first visit and since then Nowhere Nights has become one of my favourite haunts, which I attempt to attend anytime I can!
Gracefully, poet and founder of Nowhere Nights, Oliver Cable, agreed to answer a few of my questions for this issue.
What made you start Nowhere Nights?
I started Nowhere Nights back in 2017. I was looking for a night that combined live music and poetry, and channeled the organised chaos of jazz. I didn’t find anything like that on the London scene, so I decided to start it up myself. The first Nowhere Nights was at
Libreria bookshop in Shoreditch as part of their all-nighter to celebrate the night
Overground opening, and it’s just evolved from there!
2) What is your personal background in poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was 14, using it to channel thoughts and reflect on life and its absurdities. When I moved to London, I set myself the challenge of writing 50 poems in 50 days, which kickstarted a writing habit and gave me a decent portfolio of work. Looking for open mic nights, I discovered Niall O’Sullivan’s long-running Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Café, which gave me the first few performances under my belt in front of a hugely supportive audience. Since then, I’ve performed at many open mics as well as been feature poet at a number of nights. Nowadays I tend to write more prose, and in 2016 published my first novel, Fresh Air and Empty Streets. I’m now working towards publishing a collection of short stories.
3) Nowhere Nights has a certain magic about it, doesn't it? I became a big fan the first night I attended and always look forward to returning. There's something in the air when the musicians and poets get on stage... how would you describe it?
The term magic indicates that the performances raise questions rather than providing all
the answers. Good poetry, by its very nature, does this, but audiences are also often
amazed when they discover the sets happen unrehearsed.
Poets give the band a general vibe they’re after, but what happens creatively when they get up on stage is anyone’s guess. It’s testament to the quality of the performers that this always produces incredible combinations. They’re confident, sensitive, communicative and, most of all, brilliant at their art-form.
One of the best things I’ve seen is saxophonist Ben Vize catching a vibe off Miss
Yankey’s poetry, and the two of them freestyling back and forth in the middle of a poem. I
can’t speak highly enough of house band drummer James Morgan and ever-present
bassist James Wilson, who know the sensitivities of performing with poets but also push
the band to go wild and create that organised chaos I’m after on the night.
Jelly Cleaver on guitar, the Repeat Beat Poet on the mic and James Wilson on bass. Photo Credit: Tyrone Lewis
4) What are your plans for the future when it comes to Nowhere Nights?
2022 marks five years since that first Libreria performance, so we’re pulling out all the
stops for a Nowhere Nights festival in June, before taking the series abroad to Paris in July
and The Hague in August. We’re also in talks to take Nowhere Nights to a festival in July.
5) How can our readers find out more about what you do, and how to attend a Nowhere Nights gig?
Head to my website, www.olivercable.com, where you can find my writing and the various
things I do with words (walking workshops, poetry event production for other organisations,
exhibitions). For dates and tickets for upcoming Nowhere Nights, visit
www.olivercable.com/nowhere-nights. I’d love to see you there!
For more spotlights subscribe to our quarterly magazine!
Also spotlighted in issue 02: Dimitri Reyes