Bang Said the Gun, London's premier spoken word night returns this Thursday (28 January) at The Bloomsbury Theatre. London's poetry lovers have been deprived of this fantastically raucous, irreverent and entertaining event for almost six months now, after the team took a well deserved sabbatical from six years of weekly shows above The Roebuck in Borough.
The 'Bang Gang' as they are affectionately known are a group of poets made up of Dan Cockrill, Martin Galton, Peter Heyhoe, Laurie Bolger and Rob Auton. Over its 20 year history Bang has grown from niche poetry night in Soho to hugely popular staple of the spoken word scene drawing consistently big audiences of those who might not normally find themselves voluntarily listening to poetry. With an impressive list of past alumni to their stage including Phill Jupitus, Andrew Motion and Roger McGough, Bang punches well above its 'pub night' weight.
With quirky animations, cardboard cut out 'applause' signs and shakers made out of milk bottles filled with pasta, the tone is set for an incredibly fun experience. The original creators are Dan and Martin who said "we've always been about making poetry relevant to people. Often people say to us after gigs that they were dragged along but absolutely loved it". Similarly the famous poets who perform "often do it for us as a favour because they like what we do and want to support it."
Bang Said the Gun has a winning formula of great atmosphere, friendly stand-up style hosting from Roundhouse Radio DJ Laurie Bolger, audience participation, high quality featured acts and a quick fire open mic slam, the Golden Gun Award. At each event one person in the room is asked to wear a huge cardboard hat and named the 'hatylyst', made responsible for starting off the whooping, clapping and floor stamping Laurie demands before each performer takes to the stage.
Throughout the night everyone is encouraged to shake their shakers vigorously at any given opportunity and normally Martin stands at the back, banging on the bar if things get too quiet. Dan says of Bang "it's anarchic" while Laurie compares it to "a sweaty punk gig" and says "it's a pleasure to host it, yelling my head off".
We reckon the change in venue from pub to 'proper' theatre is a great idea. As Dan mentions, "it felt like the time was right to professionalise a bit and to take the pressure off the group to handle all the technical elements of the night." A bigger space is great news for audiences too as things were getting a little cramped at The Roebuck. Now happening on the last Thursday of every month tickets are on sale for all gigs until the autumn and Dan let us in on the fact that there will also be a bigger show in October to celebrate the reopening of Bloomsbury's newly refurbished 500 seat auditorium.
Acts at Bang tend to be big names already in the poetry world or up and coming new talent. They're all united by great stage presence and the ability to work a crowd. In January they will welcome rapper Harry Baker and Radio 4 regular Salena Godden. Baker has a knack for thinking up hilarious puns, and riffs off his geeky persona with poems such as 99 Problems But Maths Ain't One'. The Feb line-up has also just been confirmed with impassioned young teacher Jess Green and Kat Francois, whose poetry play Raising Lazarus has toured globally.
All the Bang poets do regular sets as well. Martin often opens up brandishing a red book of poems for love and black book of poems for hate asking the audience to choose which one they'd prefer to hear from. Rob Auton's tongue in cheek comic poetry is another popular highlight as are Peter Heyhoe's poetic stories about his life past and present in Penge. The night is punctuated with various fun activities that slot in between acts such as 'balloon from the back of the room' and 'who the banging hell said that?' both of which are silly competitions designed to keep the atmosphere as wild as possible.
Says Dan "The biggest challenge will be keeping up our pub night atmosphere in a theatre". But with renewed energy and enthusiasm this seasoned team of entertainers are sure to come back with a Bang.
Tickets for upcoming shows are available now £12.50-£15