London Word Festival Review: Intergender Wrestling / The Goodbye Library

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 80 months ago
London Word Festival Review: Intergender Wrestling / The Goodbye Library
Isy Suttie demonstrates her press-up prowess / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Isy Suttie demonstrates her press-up prowess / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Simon Munnery tackles the Beaux Belles / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Simon Munnery tackles the Beaux Belles / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Oompah Brass were perhaps the real stars of the show, providing excellent tuneage / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Oompah Brass were perhaps the real stars of the show, providing excellent tuneage / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Josie Long says YES! / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Josie Long says YES! / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Nikesh Shukla shows his hip hop moves / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Nikesh Shukla shows his hip hop moves / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
The Ladies of the Press created a fanzine based on the books people brought along / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
The Ladies of the Press created a fanzine based on the books people brought along / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Emmy and Jack spring the interval on the crowd / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Emmy and Jack spring the interval on the crowd / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Joe Dunthorne telling a tale of gap year failures / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Joe Dunthorne telling a tale of gap year failures / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Elizabeth Sankey and Emmy the Great hail Sweet Valley High / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Elizabeth Sankey and Emmy the Great hail Sweet Valley High / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Inside The Nave / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Inside The Nave / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Jack Underwood and Emmy the Great introduce the show / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Jack Underwood and Emmy the Great introduce the show / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Referee Tim Wells counts Isy Suttie out / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Referee Tim Wells counts Isy Suttie out / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Simon Munnery takes down Lore Lixenberg / photo by Rosie Reed Gold
Simon Munnery takes down Lore Lixenberg / photo by Rosie Reed Gold

Josie Long stands on the ropes of a wrestling ring in the middle of a disused church. She wears running gear, gloves and a headband. "I'll smash you!" she shouts at commentator Tony Law, sitting in the balcony, "like I'll smash the glass ceiling!"

Just another night at the London Word Festival, then. Simon Munnery took on the role vacated by Andy Kaufman, challenging various women to a spot of wrestling. Long was just one of the ladies pinned to the canvas during the evening: Isy Suttie, Lore Lixenberg, Rachel Pantechnicon and, impressively, all five of the Beaux Belles fell victim to Munnery's lithe skills. Only Helen Lederer proved able to take him.

We had to keep reminding ourselves: this wasn't comedy (though each wrestler had a few minutes to do their stuff before each bout) and it wasn't sport, it was a performance art piece put together by Mel Brimfield. As such, audience energy levels were a bit like the Grand Old Duke of York - when they were up they were up, and when they were down they were down, and sometimes they didn't quite know what they were supposed to be doing. It's hard to start cheering on a fake wrestling match when you've just been listening to poetry, but in the end this unevenness just added to the air of - intentional? - surrealism hanging over the venue.

Back to The Nave again 24 hours later for a more 'traditional' night of poetry, stories and music themed around book categorisation systems, and to lament the decline of libraries. And yet it'd be fair to say this was the more successful event: Emmy the Great and Jack Underwood curated a heartfelt, funny and genuine evening, combining readings from Joe Dunthorne and Nikesh Shukla, songs based on the 'Mind, Body, Spirit' section and an absolutely hilarious tribute to Sweet Valley High, including a role call of all the unfortunate SV inhabitants ever to get bumped off in the name of narrative. Plus, at the end, the audience got to take home a book. What's not to love?

The London Word Festival continues in various venues around East London until 5th May. We went to these events on free press tickets. All photos by Rosie Reed Gold.

Last Updated 28 April 2011