Father’s Day is an odd holiday, similar to Valentines and Halloween in the fact that it’s shamelessly used as a marketing ploy by any and every business with food, clothes, books, ties or other random paraphernalia to sell, and made even more perplexing because the date changes every year. It's always held on the third Sunday of June, which this year makes it 21 June (e.g. this weekend). Queue stampede of wild-eyed offspring to WHSmiths for a novelty dad joke card and a desperate attempt to make a last minute booking at his favourite restaurant.
However, thankfully, there are some people who have thought ahead, planning entertainment to make the day more meaningful. This year, that includes poet and comedian Jack Rooke.
A regular contributor to Radio 1’s The Surgery and co-host of stand-up poetry night Bang Said the Gun, Rooke is also the founder of The Good Grief project which encourages more discussion and support for bereaved young people in the UK. To raise money for this cause he is hosting The Alternative Father’s Day at Rich Mix in Shoreditch.
"I want to take the piss out of the gratuitously, commercial side of Father’s Day," says Rooke, "but still celebrate fathers, especially those who aren’t here any more." The line-up is a mixture of poets and comedians, each with a unique dad-themed story to tell.
Fellow Bang Said the Gun poets Dan Cockrill and Rob Auton will be performing; Cockrill with poems about his experiences of being a dad of two twin boys and Auton with a hilarious poem in which he promises to name his child Dad, just like his Dad before him. Auton will also be doing an extract from his Water Show in which he explores the thorny world of paternal expectations.
Comedian Cam Spence’s dad passed away when she was very young, and in her set she reveals her sense of pride and love for her step-dad; while poet Ben Norris describes a strained relationship with his own father in an extract from his show The Hitckhikers Guide to Family. As well as curating and hosting the event Jack will give the audience a sneak peak from his Edinburgh show Good Grief, which he co-wrote with his nan about the death of his dad as a teenager.
The night is also for those who’ve been left bereaved by the death of their dads or who may not have a traditional relationship with them. Rooke says "I lost my Dad at 15 and it can be a very isolating experience, especially when every shop you pass has a Father’s Day promotion on. The Alternative Father’s Day is a way to combat that, an all inclusive event featuring performers with dead dads, estranged dads or those who’ve just become dads. Bring your mum, mates, granny and even an urn if you want to!"
The Alternative Father’s Day is on at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, E1, on 21 June, 7pm. Tickets £7/£5.
By Lettie Mckie