Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Rommi Smith at Heart - evening of 26 March

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Poetry and Jazz is something which brings back memories of the sixties, which immediately dates me, of course. How well I remember my late teenage haunt, the old Peanuts Club, upstairs at the Kings Arms behind Liverpool Street station, where the likes of Mike Westbrook and Mike Osborne played and the likes of Bill Butler, Jeff Nuttall, Mike Horovitz and even myself blasted forth. Blending poetry and music (Coltrane-related Jazz a lot of the time) was a big scene in the sixties - I remember watching Danny Abse doing it with aplomb, and everyone knew that over in the States it happened in every smoky café. But enough of the nostalgia....

It's still going strong, and one of its most stunning practitioners in these parts is Rommi Smith, but to be accurate, we can't just say poetry and jazz in her case. She is a brilliant poet, musician and playwright whose work fuses spoken word and music. She has been performing since the age of fourteen and has achieved a reputation for sharp, socially conscious poetic imagery coupled with astute harmonies and jazz, funk and soul rhythms.

She has done so much that it is difficult to do her justice in a few paragraphs. My most recent view of her (through a camera lens) was in Leeds Civic Hall at the awards ceremony last October for the 2010 Leeds Peace Poetry Competition. For the second year running, she was the chief judge. After insightful and sympathetic comments, she called each winner in the primary and secondary school categories individually from the audience, and each one stepped forward bravely to read. Applause swelled, cameras flashed, smiles spread. If only all teachers (and judges) were like that...

Rommi performs her work regularly, both nationally and internationally at arts, music and literature festivals.  Rommi’s work has been broadcast on various media, including the BBC - print and audio versions of Rommi’s work are featured on the BBC website. Google her now!

During the bicentenary celebrations for the abolition of the slave trade, she was Poet in Residence at the Houses of Parliament, and she is currently in residence at John Keats's house in London. Use the link on the right to read more about her - there's plenty.

And if you haven't done so already,  get your ticket for the evening of  Saturday, 26 March, when she performs with the excellent Fruit Tree Project in the Shire Oak Room at Heart in Bennett Road. It is going to be something which will be remembered for a long time, so make sure you are there!

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