After the Night Before

Last night, we celebrated seven years of Yes We Cant. That’s seven years of putting on top-notch poetry events – originally in a Walsall pub and now online – which is no mean feat, and we felt we should mark the occasion with something a little bit special. So we did.

Our headliner was the incredible Liz Berry – who did a set made up of requests from our audience on the night, which was just phenomenal. ‘Alf Ender Tim Brookes explained how he’s relatively new to the world of poetry, and then showed us why he’s taking it by storm. Our open mic poets ranged from people performing live for the first time, through to poets with reams of experience. All of them were great. Oh, and NOFB Pitt drank mead. Well, it was a birthday. What else you going to do?

Thanks to everyone who came along, and to all the people who’ve supported us and our night over the last seven years. Let’s make the next seven better still.

Strength to strength

You might think that after running Yes We Cant for some considerable time – originally in the Pretty Bricks pub in Walsall, moving online when the pandemic happened, and still there now – we’d be a little jaded. That we’ve seen it all. That it’s next to impossible to find quality poets to join us on the first Sunday of each month and share their work.

Dear reader, you’d be wrong. Each month, we’re stunned by the quality of the open mic poets, and awed by the craft of our features. And last night was no exception. Our ‘Alf Ender was Carol J Forrester, and if you’ve not heard her read yet, we recommend you do. Her work is beautifully layered and crafted. The quality of the open mics? We’re glad you asked. They were astounding. And our headliner, Nafeesa Hamid, knocked it right out of the park.

Nafeesa first headlined for us back in July 2019, when we were still in the Pretty Bricks and her book ‘Besharam’ had been published by Verve Poetry Press just a few months earlier. It was truly wonderful to see how she’s grown as a performer and a writer over the years – her set was utterly compelling.

Next month, we’ll be celebrating our seventh anniversary. Seven years of putting on a monthly event which brings the best of contemporary poetry to our part of the world. We can scarcely believe we’ve done it, and you’d better believe we have something really special planned. Sunday June 2nd. Put it in your diary. We’ll see you there.

Tavern In The Town

Over the past six months, as well as running our poetry events, we’ve been beavering away on a project to commemorate the Tavern in the Town, which was a legendary rock pub in the heart of Wolverhampton through the 1970s and the 1980s. The project has been made possible by a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund (thank you, National Lottery players!) and we’re extremely grateful to them for that.

The Tavern was at the heart of the city’s rock subculture until it finally closed in 1987, when it became Moriarty’s. This was not – by any stretch of the imagination – a popular move, and Moriarty’s shut its doors for good at the beginning of 1991. During the Tavern years, however, the pub was often rammed, and walking in through the pub door which opened onto Queen Square – and which was the only part of the pub visible to passers-by – took you into a different world where denim and leather ruled supreme.

We’re passionate about our city and its rich history, and wanted to make sure this slice of  Wolverhampton’s past was recorded, not forgotten. So we’ve been busy researching the history of the pub, collecting photos from back in the day, and interviewing and photographing people who drank in the Tavern and who remember it fondly.

We’re now at the business end of our project, when the results of our work become clear. Earlier this week, two thousand copies of our free newspaper – titled Tavern in the Town and packed with images and edited interviews – arrived from the printers. Over the next week or two we’ll be distributing them to pubs, libraries, shops, and cafes across Wolverhampton.

We’ve also arranged an exhibition at the Mander Centre Community Hub from 19-21 April, where we’ll be displaying portrait photographs and selected texts on the walls, and playing audio clips through a small PA. Copies of the free newspaper will also be available here.We’ve also arranged an exhibition at the Mander Centre Community Hub from 19-21 April, where we’ll be displaying portrait photographs and selected texts on the walls, and playing audio clips through a small PA. Copies of the free newspaper will also be available here.

Thirdly, we’ve created a website Over the next two weeks we’ll be adding pages and populating them with stories, interviews, photographs, and memories of the Tavern days. You’ll also find a Spotify playlist of tunes which folk remembered from afternoons and evenings happily spent in the Tavern. There’s over seven hours of music there. Seven hours! If there’s a tune you remember which isn’t in the list, email [email protected] and let us know, and we’ll add it. If you’ve photos of the Tavern from back in the day, send them too.

Once this project has closed, the website will remain live for five years, until Spring 2029. All the information we’ve gathered over the course of this project will go to the Wolverhampton City Archives so it is available in perpetuity. Our sincere thanks to all the people who took part in this project. We hope we’ve done your memories justice.

Made Possible with Funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Thanks to National Lottery players.

Yes We Cant in Asgard

Last night we took Yes We Cant back to Walsall, and held our first ever hybrid event at the wonderful Asgard Games in the town centre. It’s a perfect venue: large, airy, clean, comfortable, welcoming. And it has a bar. What’s not to like?

Our goal was to recreate the warmth, atmosphere, and enjoyment of Yes We Cant as it used to be at the Pretty Bricks, while also ensuring that we brought our Zoom audience with us – we’ve spent three years sharing our events with them, and they’ve taught us a lot about the importance of accessibility and how we need to facilitate it. We’d finally found a venue, now we just had to make it work.

We kept it simple. Booked a great headline poet, a compelling ‘Alf Ender, filled the open mic spots, and threw open the physical and virtual doors to anyone who wanted to come. And reader, they came. Dave MCed, Steve looked after the webcam, and Emma chatted with the Zoom attendees. S Reeson (thank you!) rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in, too. Everything ran like a dream. The open mic poets? Brilliant. Our ‘Alf Ender, Tina Cole? Fantastic. Headliner Ben Davis? Hilarious.

And the feedback? It couldn’t be better.

“You did a brilliant job tonight. I’ve been to 3 previous hybrids and they were unsuccessful due to poor sound and a feeling of isolation in the zoom room. Yours was perfect.”

“Dear PPP, the first hybrid YWC was a triumph. Great sound and video quality, felt like I had a front row seat. All the performers knocked it out the park. Thank you all again for making your event genuinely inclusive. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to the next one.”

We’re over the moon, Brian. Over the chuffing moon.

Whose Round Is It Anyway

Last week we took our Fringe show – our award-winning Fringe show, no less (and yes, we will keep mentioning that because if we don’t, who will?) – up to Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds. A lovely venue, with helpful techs and management. And over-zealous parking wardens patrolling the streets outside, but that’s another story.

We were up there as part of Leeds Lit Fest, and we had a great time. More importantly, so did the audience, which shouldn’t be a surprise given how the show’s been received when we’ve done it before, but somehow still is. What we hadn’t expected, when we woke bleary-eyed next morning after a late-night drive home negotiating motorway junction closures and speed restrictions, was a glowing review of our performance already up on the Yorkshire Bylines website. Wow. We’re still blushing, and punching the air, and feeling just a little bit seen.

So here we are. Three poets from an unfashionable city in an unfashionable part of the country. You’d expect us to tell you our show’s good, but so far it’s been awarded ‘best in Fringe’ at Morecambe, gone down an absolute storm when we brought it back to Wolverhampton, and now had a belter of a review in Yorkshire Bylines. Why wouldn’t you want us to bring this to where you live so you can enjoy it too?

Get in touch and we’ll try and make it happen, because that’s what we do.

A black and white still from the show Whose Round Is It Anyway. Dave sits at the front, arms folded, looking into space. To his left and slightly back is Emma sitting cross legged and smiling. Behind Dave is Steve, a mischevious grin on his face as he holds a pair of hairclippers in his left hand.
the unsuspecting Dave may be about to get a haircut…