Interview with poet and spoken word performer Phil Pearce

I remember the first time I heard Phil Pearce perform…

Phil performs with such passion, sincerity and power that he had me tearing up in a few sentences. He’s a fantastic spoken word artist and poet, and I’m beyond delighted that he’s agreed to compere an hour of my 12 Hour Charity Open Mic this year (happening on 28th May 11am-11pm at Brooklyn Bar in Leeds – do come along and say hello). I asked Phil a few questions to find out more about him…

When did you first start writing and what first inspired you?

I started by accident – I was in prison and the governor asked for something to highlight the dangers of a drug called Spice. That night I dreamt a conversation between 3 people in a prison about Spice and the people were speaking in poetry! The staff loved it but said it needed to be longer, so I then had to sit and actually consciously try to write.
I never intended on being on stage until October 2016 when I wrote my first piece and performed it the following month. I try to write about real life situations as I do a lot of work in Schools and Prisons and use poetry to talk about things like addiction and knife crime.

What’s your favourite thing about performing your work live?

Lots of things! The adrenaline, the people, the response from the audience, the conversations after, the venues! I’ve only been doing this a year but I’ve performed in 12 cities, a proper theatre and a 250 year old library.
I’m from a council estate in Beeston, Leeds and performing live has opened me up to these places and people.

You’re a regular at Leeds open mic nights, do you have any particular favourites?

There’s a night in Pudsey at Cafe Lux, first Thursday of the month called SWALK!
I do host but I’m not being bias when I say it’s a brilliant night! We have a 60 seconds challenge every month which is a timed comp with a prize and we suggest a topic to get people writing. Everyone gets 10 minutes, with an opportunity for someone to get a 20 minute slot at the end. We don’t have ‘main slots’ or ‘headline acts’ as the night is about progressing people. I have travelled for hours to do a 3 minute slot, so I wanted this to be different and there’s no wages for anyone. The venue is run by a charity so all the £3 entry fees stay with the building.
‘Spoken Weird’ in Halifax is AMAZING but it runs the same night as SWALK and also ‘Word Exchange’ in Wakefield. LS6 cafe is another good night but I’ve not really been to a night I’ve not enjoyed.
Keep your eyes peeled for Leeds VS Wakefield team slam – it’s a charity event coming in April with a 1 vs 1 set up, where the audience decides the winner of each heat… there’s even a trophy!

What piece of advice would you give to someone first starting out on the poetry scene?

Nobody wants to see you fail. I struggled with people being nice about my work at first because I was new to it and I thought people were saying it through encouragement to continue. Like when a child draws something that you can’t quite tell if it’s a house or a person but you still say it’s amazing.
Also – remember open mic nights are not sold out stadiums with live feeds to millions!
I put so much pressure on myself to perform without paper and to get it perfect every time. If ever I made a mistake (which I did and have the videos to prove it) I would beat myself up about it for the rest of the event. Now I see it as a way of getting my mistakes out of the way, before the agents come and make me rich – I enjoy it so much more.

Which local writer / artist / creative do you admire most and why?

Argh – too many!
I love Genevieve L Walsh and Simon Widdop, they don’t just recite poetry – they really perform it. Matt Abbott and Toria Garbutt are absolutely smashing it at the moment but then there are the people who travel miles for an open mic slot because of passion. The people who dare to be different. The people who could play it safe by performing things that they have had a good reaction from in the past but choose to write something new. The people you meet who have something special inside them but they don’t see it yet and finally the organisers/ bloggers – there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of events and I don’t think the people responsible get the recognition they deserve

See Phil Pearce live in Leeds

The lovely Phil Pearce will be comparing at our 12 Hour Charity Open Mic, happening on 28th May. Visit the Facebook page for more information.


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