Why Reading Out Loud to a Crowd is Terrifying and Why I Can’t Wait to Do it Again.

Around two months ago I was a part of a launch event in which I volunteered to read out some poetry I had written in relation to our event and what our magazine represented: giving a voice to the voiceless. Whilst I write a lot on my own, I have grown too comfortable wrapped in the blanket of never having to share my work, yet alone reading it aloud. My poetry is generally about my feelings and other people’s feelings (from what they’ve told me), whereas my novel and short story writing is based more on the gothic and horror. I love how I can articulate my feelings on a sheet of paper; ironically documenting it for no one to see- ever. Not only is it therapeutic, but it also gives me good practice for my degree’s creative elements. If you are struggling with bottling up feelings, whatever they may be, I highly recommend writing them down, even if it’s on a napkin. This way they’re out in the open and you’ve released some potentially toxic material- a bit like a much-needed poo.

Back to public speaking. I really feel as though this is up there with my biggest fears and something I knew I needed to tackle at some point, because when you think about it, it’s only speaking to your mate… only a few more people are listening. I have developed a nervous stutter (it doesn’t exactly classify as a stutter as such, I just stumble on my words a lot) when talking to new people, or even close friends, about something I have created or something I’m anxious about. With this in mind, I knew speaking in front of a large group would be a challenge, but my love for poetry and literature requires this challenge to be done- done until it’s finally done well. I’m aware of the new outlet of Instagram poetry (short snippets of usually no more than five lines of poetry) which theoretically would be so much easier for me to delve into. I feel I must be the first to admit… I hate it. My sincerest apologies to the Rupi Kaur fanatics, it’s just not for me. I hate how short and ‘easy’ they seem, whilst I can appreciate the emotion behind some of them, I find it difficult to fall in love with their form’s simplicity when my idea of the perfect poem is long and extravagant and an experiment with words. My somewhat controversial dislike of this new era of poetry leaves me, therefore, with a greater need to overcome my fear of public speaking. This mode of poetry (spoken word) is, for me, the most powerful.

At this launch event for our student magazine we had created, I had decided this was the perfect opportunity for me to try out my spoken word poetry, performing to friends as well as other university students, lecturers, and academics that might appreciate how difficult it might be for students to do this for the first time. I had read my poetry out to my class beforehand, which had been nerve-wracking (I could feel my hand shaking as I held my book), but I was glad I had a test-run before the real thing. What was my fear for? I felt myself tremble slightly but realistically no one seems to care too much if you mess up. I managed the whole thing without any of the tragic happenings I had pictured: no coughing fits; no real stutter; no nervous farts; no heckling. All is well.

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Over the past few weeks I have been writing new content and I feel slightly more confident now to share it. Whilst reminiscing, I decided to ask a few people I know how reading aloud, performing, or doing anything in front of an audience for the first time went, and how (as well as if) it changed them.

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I met my friend Alice through joining my university’s burlesque troupe. We practice, perform, and support each other, encourage each other to bask in our confidence and fabulousness. This year she had performed her first solo dance, choreographed completely by herself. When I’d asked Alice how performing on stage changed her or affected her in anyway, she replied with this:

 

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In terms of how it made me feel afterwards, I didn’t have time to register it initially because I had to run off and get ready for another dance. But in the following weeks I realised it was the best moment in my life. Which is super cliché but true. All those people in the audience had been cheering me. Not anyone else. But me. It is easily a huge ego boost when you do something solo on a stage and people cheer. Especially strangers. Because they love what you did based on merit alone. Not because they are your friends but because you were amazing.’

Another of my close friends, Kiran, also joined our burlesque troupe at the same time as me. Whenever either of us felt nervous in the build up to the first show, or during practices when a move wasn’t perfected enough for our liking, we’d stress together, laugh together, and generally support each other. I asked Kiran the same question: when you performed in front of an audience, did it go how you expected it to and did the experience change you in any way? Here’s Kiran’s response:

 

 

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‘Before going on stage I was so scared, literally thinking of the worst things that could go wrong. But then I thought ‘fuck it’ and just embraced it all. After performing I felt like I could literally do anything. I felt so fierce and powerful and so happy. It really taught me to appreciate all my flaws.

 

A personal tutor of mine, Dr Rory Waterman, a published poet and Senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, featured in one of the first poetry readings I attended. After going to this nearby poetry reading night, I was exposed to a range of different poetry styles: some highly abstract, some delving deep into personal issues and haunting experiences. This night only heightened my rekindled love for poetry. I decided to ask Rory about his first poetry reading and how reading in front of people may have affected him. To this he replied:

 

rory
‘I don’t remember my first public reading, but I know I used to get very nervous and now I don’t. I think the change happened when I realised that all the most important work had been done in advance: I’d written the poems, put a lot into them, and I WANTED them to have an audience. Before I had a book out, or many poems in print, this meant performing them at readings. I also realised that the fact I wasn’t much of an actor really didn’t matter: if I read clearly and naturally, the poems would seem as clear and natural as possible. I also learned that it’s hard for people to tell that you’re nervous if you just look up a bit and don’t read really fast. I do remember thinking that people were encouraging, too: pretty much everyone is on side, WANTS you to read well, and wants you to feel good, which is easy to forget when you’re nervous. I also remember looking around at other people’s readings, which were going well, and noticing that most people looked as though they were in some sort of mild discomfort. They weren’t: this is just the poem-listening face most people put on inadvertently when they’re concentrating on listening. I think it helped me when I realised that audiences tend to do that! I’m not sure whether it has changed me much, other than by ultimately giving me a bit more confidence to be myself.

 

I remember being so aware of my shaking hands and that feeling in your throat where you want to gag but must hold it back. Yet when asking my peers if it was obvious, they said they thought I was comfortable. Whilst I hate the nerves and anxiety that come with venturing outside your comfort zone, it also reminds you that you feel these nerves because this, to you, is important. I had to do it for me. Whilst it wasn’t a major event for most people, to me it was a valid stepping-stone and I honestly can’t wait to test myself more as my love of writing progresses. Top tip: a nervous wee is a must.

 

 

 

 

Photograph Credits:

Laura Clancy Reading is Laura Clancy’s own.

Poetry is Laura Clancy’s own.

Alice Baines dancing is by Sam Strutt Photography.

Kiran Tank is Laura Clancy’s own.

Dr. Rory Waterman is by ntu.ac.uk .

How to Sméagol When You’ve Become Gollum.

Is it better to actively set time aside for ‘self-care’ or should it be a part of your daily lifestyle? What is ‘self-care’? Is it the same for everyone? Recently, rather than addressing my issues, be it exam stress or general shittiness, I’ve found that I’ve often replaced a productive solution with ‘self-care’ which for me is food and baths. This is not ideal when an hour’s soak and a packet of biscuits in you’re left looking like a bloated, soggy raisin. I can acknowledge that when studying it’s causing me stress and gradually derailing my mood, but I’ve somehow psychologically programmed myself to now think ‘that’s okay I’ll treat myself later’. After constant exposure to ‘love yourself’ and ‘treat yo’self’ on social media I’m left with two completely opposing attitudes to life. Work hard and do well (even if it causes a premature mental breakdown) or ‘fuck it all- do you boo’. It saddens me to admit that my radiant ‘treat yo’self’ smiling face has been shadowed by the exam stress and guilt of procrastination, leaving me with a Gollum-esque reflection in my mirror. I need to get back to my Sméagol state. The old me, the Sméagol past of my Gollum mind.

 

So, to slowly remove yourself from this unfortunate state of exam (and life) panic, I’ve come up with four simple steps to reviving the Sméagol in you (you’re most welcome).

 

1)      Don’t panic about the Ring (exams, life, money, mates). It’s really all fine. Yes, you want to do well. Yes, your peers might seem so much more put together than you. Realistically, you just need balance. The Ring (whatever your personal ‘ring’ might be) is constantly on your mind, eating away at that last ounce of sanity you thought you might probably maybe have left. Find out what calms you and practice that on a regular basis. This does not mean ‘treat yo’self’, let’s clarify that. This means maybe go for a long walk, drink a shit tonne more water than you do now because the alcohol in your system just doesn’t count (sorry). Meditate, exercise with friends, moisturize. Sooth and calm your body: this soothes and calms your mind.

 

2)      Find a passion or hobby that isn’t remotely related to The Ring. Find something that can free all your thinking time for about an hour a day. Something you really love, and feel ‘yeah I’m loving life’ (even if it’s for a little while)- it still counts. For me, burlesque with my university society has really been a fabulous escape from the torment of exams and my messy life. For that hour in class you’re surrounded by other gorgeous people who all gather to practice what they love and have a good giggle doing it. I’ve recently revived my love of poetry too, so I keep a separate notebook just for that. Entirely for me. It’s in my bedside drawer with the rest of my ‘me’ things: moisturisers, face masks, bubble wrap…

 

3)      Surround yourself with people who aren’t going to sabotage your journey with The Ring. Glorious, funny, outgoing people who have a lot to say about positivity. A consistent environment of happiness and content people are only going to do good for you. Always keep in mind that, actually, life isn’t out to get you and neither are your mates. So go and chill out in the kitchen with them for a while. A short break from revision or work isn’t going to hurt anyone. Constant exposure to a stressful stigma is only going to show in your work. Remove yourself from The Ring’s grasp, with all your strength, and don’t punish yourself for your temporary freedom.

 

4)      Eat your veggies. You might argue this isn’t in-keeping with the Sméagol resurrection but a whole lot of vitamin c can only improve your precious Gollum ass skin.

Biting the Bullet with Burlesque

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Saturday 17th February 2018. Valentine’s week-end. Is there honestly a better time to watch NTU Tigerlilies Burlesque Troupe perform, along with BCU Burlesque, Burlesque Society UEA, and Lady Burlesque of Nottingham? The correct answer, ladies and gentlemen, is… no. The glamour and sophistication oozed out of the angels on stage leaving the crowd wild with awe. Boasting both solo and group performances at Pryzm Nightclub Nottingham, every performer offered a sensual show of what burlesque is all about. After practicing and performing with the Trent girls I can safely say a lot of time and effort goes into these shows as well as a mind boggling array of emotions: excitement, nerves, self-doubt, self-love, pride, and finally, relief.

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It is obvious to me after having performed once that in order to allow yourself to be completely vulnerable on stage, literally stripped of any protection or shield, you must first reach your ‘fuck it’ moment. The stage in your life where you embrace the fear and instead feel complete ease, because you’ve acknowledged that actually, yes, I could look like a complete tit, but I’m OK with that. I remember the realisation as it hit me, and the frustration after it was over. What do I do now?

 

Burlesque has influenced my emotions in such a dramatic way. The mirror is no longer an enemy, but a friend an acquaintance. Your fellow performers, despite the screaming crowd, are your biggest fans. And such a thought really does put your mind at ease. The usual tricks like imagining the audience in their underpants doesn’t have the same effect, because then we’d all be in underpants, and what would be the point in our show?

Although Burlesque is a very niche hobby and career, it is certainly one worth considering if you are thinking about joining a society at university or maybe just fancy a new hobby that involves being sexy. It is a gateway to embracing others’ ‘fuck it’ moments as well as realising your own worth. Whilst burlesque beams the height of glamour, it also helps mould you as a person through accepting both your shape and your sensuality.

Colour fans

We are lucky enough as a society to be able to support amazing charities whilst doing what we love. Our fabulous Valentease Show supported The Broxtowe Women’s Project Ltd. and we are immensely proud of the money and awareness we have provided for this brilliant charity that supports women suffering from domestic abuse.

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This show embraces each person for the sensual being they are and attempts to encourage everybody involved, whether that be on-stage or in the audience to do the same. Thank you to all those who came to support the performers in Pryzm Nightclub Nottingham and I hope you enjoyed the show as much as I did. Keep your eyes peeled for another show soon, and I sincerely hope you, you reading this, reaches one of many ‘fuck it’ points in your life. Life is just a giggle- bite your bullet.

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https://broxtowewomensproject.org.uk/get-involved/