Back at the Catweazle Club 09 Feb 2023 – the beat rolls on

Catweazle is important to my development as a poet. Writing poetry is hard enough. Being a poet is harder. And, it can be hard to distinguish the doing and being. Catweazle is and has been for something like 25 years an entirely acoustic open performance club where I have worked my art. Show up at seven to put your name on the list. Performances start about eight. Was a fiver for the audience, now seven quid; performers free. The venue has moved from Jericho to the Centre, out to East Oxford for probably 15 years, and now back in the Centre of town at the Handlebar cafe above the bike shop in the Northgate.

I read “Crabapples” and “Looking for another story in Ukraine“. It was a poetry heavy evening. With a few inspirational guitars, a stand-up comic honing a piece, an acapella duo (were sublime) and maybe eight or nine poets. I read next to last. You are up there entirely exposed. No podium. No mic to hang on. There’s about 50 people in the room. Often supporters of the performers. The front two rows are sat on the floor a metre away. Then it is chairs and tables like wagons circled. The room is wide and short. You have to turn left and right to take everyone in. But, somehow it works. The Catweazle audience has always been inclusive, supportive and appreciative of anyone brave enough to put it out there on stage. Each performer gets two pieces, maybe 3 minutes each (your two pop hits of the night). It is a night of two halves. About 8 performers in the first half, a break, and then about six in the second half. Rarely there will be an extended set by someone pretty great in the folk world.

Matt Sage holds the stage with a small number of occasional comperes; I hear Phoebe and Alan have stood in recently. Matt created and holds the space, giving it his energy every flipping week for 25 years, with grace, attention, charm and pop affability. Now he has silver in the jet worn up in a ninja knot. We all used to smoke outside. The Beats, the Magic Bus, the Merry Pranksters, ranters, rappers, and the Incredible String Band roll on through Catweazle and Matt.

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