In late 2016, David Ferris (organ-playing genius) and I (lost poet) concluded it’d be awesome if Birmingham’s equally thriving Poetry and Jazz scenes got together. We messaged peeps, made a sexy banner, and for reasons that are yours to discover, dear blog reader, we called the resulting night of unique collaborations Funkenteleky.

Funkenteleky is a space for spoken word artists and musicians to experiment and create something new together, in front of an equally open-minded audience. We ask each featured poet to make a specially decorated/modified copy of their work, that our musicians interpret as they improvise around the poet’s voice onstage. I reckon it’s this balance of spontaneity and engagement with the writing that leads to those special moments where everyone in the room seems to come together on a line, or a note, or a moment of silence. That little bit of indefinable magic in the air between us – the funkenteleky, perhaps.

Bringing down the curtain on Verve 2019 is a biggie, and we’ve got a lineup to match. Jasmine Gardosi and Bethany Slinn are renowned as two of Birmingham’s finest poets, and without wanting to add undue pressure (hahah), my magic 8 ball informs me they’ll be next level at this gig.

I’ve been a Kareem Parkins-Brown fan since Verve 2017. He’s got this way of combining the clarity of page poetry with hip-hop bars which I can only describe as gallingly brilliant. And Polarbear!? He’s a master storyteller, the Brum Spoken Word OG, and he’s well up for the gig – you simply don’t want to miss that.

Xhosa Cole our featured saxophonist is also a bit special. I recently saw him drop a standout set of jazz standards, and the next week steal the show at a neo-soul night. A spokesperson for the arts in Handsworth and across the city, we were already thrilled to have him – and then in November he went and won BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year. As you do. He’s backed by a trio of stellar improvising musicians – Ben Lee, Billy Weir, and the aforementioned David Ferris.

And opening the show… the perilously portmanteau’d Verveteleky Slam. This is a chance for poetry open mic-ers to get in on the spoken word experiment. The musicians double as our zero-preconceptions slam judges, and their rather unusual scoring criteria reward taking risks. The slam is your chance to try something new with your writing, performance or interaction with the audience – just as we seek to do with the whole night. It’s a platform for you to push the poetry boat out in a room that’s already onboard. Wahey. All conventional slam rule-breaking is highly encouraged. There’ll be limited entries available in advance and I hopes a few on the door.

So, that’s Funkenteleky. From a chance conversation to Verve 2019, via an obscure nod to Parliament-Funkadelic, the diverse talents of Birmingham, and some unrefined compering from yours truly. Come and be part of it!

Funkenteleky will be closing Verve 2019 on Sunday 17th February at 7.30pm. You can book your ticket here

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