‘Are you ready for something provocative, powerful and challenging?’ our host, Jenny Lindsay asks. This is Reclaim this Script, Flint & Pitch’s contribution to SMHAF, and in this review, I don’t want to write about a couple of the performers and pass over the others – the careful curation that went into this line up deserves more.

Evocative, lush, live soundscape production was provided by Maud the Moth at the top and tail of the night. Vocals were unapologetic in their intensity (including a great piece of self-harmony via looper pedal) and rhythmic complexities, were handled with confidence and flair by their fantastic drummer and percussionist.

Vonny Leclerc read an unflinching personal history of puerperal psychosis, contrasting real experiences of mental ill-health, with those who comment on her work using words such as ‘mad’ or ‘hysterical’. The heart-breaking detail of Leclerc’s description of contemplating suicide on a railway station platform, and observations of the NHS mental health ‘beige’ and ‘pastel’ experiences, all culminated in a spine-tingling reclaim of the terms, backed by silenced women of hundreds of years.

Jenny Lindsay performed two of her own poems, as well as co-hosting the evening, and presiding over the funniest raffle draw I’ve ever seen. Her reclaim of menstruation into the plot of an action film was on point: witty, well-executed phrases like ‘misogyny mud pie and mint flavour’ zinged off in all directions. She also gave a flawless delivery of her univocal poem, ‘This Script.’

More music closed the first third of the evening, with Marc Rooney (of the band Pronto Mama). With just an acoustic guitar and his voice he made a big noise, and the audience were hanging onto his every word.

There was a collective inhale as Janice Galloway took to the stage to read from The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Her languid pacing was perfect. It would not be an exaggeration to call her slot a master class in how to perform prose, although perhaps I should call it a mistress class. Her live creation of character matched the rich descriptions of the book, no less relevant now as when it was published 21 years ago. The silence in the room was almost as potent as her reading.

Sian Bevan was honest about her anxiety in following Janice Galloway in the line-up, but her story –about a character’s unease in attending a social event, personified in a gremlin-type character biting her skin until she stopped breathing in – was vivid, funny and engaging. Her thoughts on power: ‘I roll the power around in my mouth thinking “I wish this tasted delicious”’ were relatable, shedding new light on the mesh of feelings that can be experienced around socialising in particular circles.

Even our hosts did not pretend that the New Voices slot for the evening was a ‘new voice’ per se. It would have been impossible to believe that Ross McFarlane was anything but a seasoned performer. His use of music (assisted by Josephine Sillars) in the opening piece, and assured, passionate, vulnerable performances throughout showcased a bewildering amount of internal and external rhyme and assonance, as well as a kaleidoscope of rhythms and tempos.

The enthusiastic crowd gathered in the Bongo Club was ready for anything – and it was just as well. Flint & Pitch provided an intense set of experiences in music and spoken word, and was both a thought-provoking and entertaining evening.

by Stella Hervey Birrell

Stella’s first novel, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? explores mental health recovery and was published by Crooked Cat Books in 2016. Shorter works have appeared in various places including The Guardian, and The Dangerous Woman Project. She blogs at #atinylife140, tweets at @atinylife140, Instagrams as Stella_hb and can be found on Facebook.

Image by Chris Scott