Inky Fingers, the new Edinburgh event series set up by me and Alice Tarbuck, launched last night. I was pretty highly strung in the couple of hours leading up to the launch, darting around Forest pushing tables around, tapping the microphone, writing things on bits of paper, lighting candles – pretty familiar behaviour for anyone who’s run events. Truth is, we really didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Our feature acts were stunners, we had a full list of signed-up open mic performers, and the Facebook attendance figures looked good. But you never really know until it happens.
Right now I couldn’t be happier. Not only did everything go smoothly, Forest was packed literally wall-to-wall with a massively enthusiastic audience, the open mic readers were really strong, of a very high standard overall, the night went smoothly, and as people left Forest we were thanked over and over for having run a great night. But most importantly for me, we saw a real diversity — in age, background, style, content — of readers, and several of them confessed that it was their first time reading.
That’s the most important thing for me, because the reason I wanted to set up this series, the reason I love doing Open Mic nights, is that I really very strongly believe in writer and performer development. I love what creating and performing can do for people — it helps them find a voice to talk about what’s important, allows them to channel emotions into creativity, gives people confidence, allows us to make our own entertainment. I hate the idea that the arts could ever be made inaccessible, and I hate the assumption that professionals make the best or only significant art, that art that springs from the community doesn’t need our support and attention, isn’t among the most important we create. I’m often most delighted by performances at open mic nights, and I’m never happier than when facilitating others’ creativity. (That’s why I’m a theatre director, I suppose, and why I believe in interactive theatre.)
So, a successful night all round. Of course, we made some mistakes, and we’ll learn from them. I suppose it’s pretty exciting that from such a strong start we’ve still got loads of space to get better, loads of opportunities to make stronger, more entertaining and more worthwhile events. We’ll be back with another open mic in a month, but before then we’ve a Writers’ Group, providing a space for people to hear their words read and get feedback. I’m looking forward to it. I hope to see and hear some of you there.