When the Bardic Picnic at Becket’s Park is over Northampton will once again have a new Bard.
The contenders will have been through three rounds of performance or poetry, making their case to take on the role.
Finally a combination of audience reaction and a panel of judges selects the winner and in effect, Northampton has a new poet laureate.
Two years ago that happened to punk musician Mitchell Taylor who found that a whole new world of expression opened up for him as well as a love for Northampton.
He’s got some advice for the incoming bard.
“I used to joke that it was easier to write poems than songs because you don’t have to think of a catchy chorus but they are totally different beasts. I used to think poetry dull but that was because a lot of the poetry I encountered at school was dull. Then I saw some performances and I thought, yeah I think I understand what this is about. A lot of my stuff is political which you are not really supposed to be but the last couple of years has been so…..
“I don’t think any of it is necessarily tough rather than what you put on yourself. Because you are the voice of the town there is a certain duty to keep things friendly. Doing gigs in Northampton has always been fine.
“Take every single gig you can, some of the best gigs I have done have been small pubs where they dont normally have poetry.
“Spend as much time as you can walking around, get to know the town on a physical level, there is so much to Northampton
“Dont back down from an audience, it is very tempting to fall into the trap of reading from your book and being clear and eloquent with your words. It is more important to show you believe in what you are saying more than getting everything out perfectly. Dont agonise, do what you feel is natural for it. You are bard because people like you. Let that be the driving force. Shape the role yourself.
“You get a cape for the year. I got a lovely handmade box to keep my poetry in. You get to tell everyone that you are a bard, which sounds very impressive.”
Mitchell’s background is in performing as the front man in punk bands but it turned out to be not such a great leap to writing poems.
“I am guitarist singer in punk bands. My new band Taylor Smith have played a bit up here but we mainly gig around MK. We have a small car so it is difficult to get band members and equipment in at the same time.
“You can only get away with so many words in a punk song. It is quite a natural drifting point from punk to fall into poetry. You dont need any gear to do it, you have some words, youre shouting at people.
“The Bard before me Sam Upton spent the week before the trial talking me up to make sure I was going to turn up and do it.
“It was a bit of a blur on the day. Two of the poems I hadnt finished when I turned up I was desperately trying to get the verses down between rounds. I was very nervous and twitchy which I think they took to be a good performance…
“It’s three rounds that take place during the course of the day. There are bands and other acts so you have always got quite a big crowd. It’s Becket’s Park this year. It is a big free festival which is quite a nice draw.
“It’s going to be weird not being the bard any more. I love coming up to Northampton doing gigs. Everyone here is so lovely. I started going to the Raising Arwen night which used to be at The Lab and realising that you come to Norhampton and do something there is always an audience and people are into it. People here love seeing people get up and do something.
“It feels a lot more community here. It is less of a struggle than MK. There is much more of an artistic community in Northampton.”