Spork! is a monthly night of pay-what-you-decide comedy, poetry and spoken word, usually hosted at Little Drop of Poison on Fore Street. We spoke to founder and host Chris White about the event’s first year, and plans for the future…

How did Spork! start?

In autumn 2018, I decided I wanted to bring a new night of spoken word to Exeter, and in October held the very first Spork! at Little Drop of Poison. Since then there’s been regular monthly events (and one month we had two), so September’s Spork! – which will be taking place at The Glorious Art House on Fore St, while LDOP gets a refurb – will be our twelfth. In April we teamed up with BlahBlahBlah in Bristol to bring a one-off ‘Sporktacular’ to the Exeter Phoenix, with the amazing Vanessa Kisuule headlining. Last month we went back to the Phoenix to celebrate the Exeter Fringe Festival. And this summer, Exeter Uni grad and all-round superstar Charice Bhardwaj joined the team to help organise and run our events. We’re looking to take Spork! into different types of spaces across the city in future.

What do you do?

We aim to make poetry engaging and accessible, to bring spoken word to an audience who might not think they even like spoken word. We showcase local talent, bring in amazing poets from across the UK, and get people performing who might not have tried it before.

And what keeps you doing it?

Running and hosting Spork! is really rewarding. The acts are always fantastic. Sometimes people come to perform who have never so much as stood in front of a mic before – and then they blow us away and come back again and again. Watching someone’s confidence build like that is a really special thing.

Who do you work with and why?

We’re a small team of two, and as such we really rely on the input of our audience. Often there’s a thin, wibbly line between audience and participants; some of our regulars just like to watch, some are also regular open-micers. But everybody gets involved and helps to make Spork! the welcoming, friendly night it is.

Imogen Downes headlining at Spork! in January. Photo by Lewis Plumb.

Imogen Downes headlining at Spork! in January. Photo by Lewis Plumb.

Tell us what a typical show looks like?

For the most part, Spork! is held on the first Wednesday of every month at Little Drop of Poison (154 Fore St). Our regular nights are always Pay What You Can, and we gently encourage audiences to chuck us a few quid (although any and all donations are welcome). There’s usually an open mic, which you can sign up for in advance or on the night, and then a couple of feature sets from some of our favourite poets, and finally our headliner, who is always astonishing. Previous headliners have included Jonny Fluffypunk, Melanie Branton, Imogen Downes and Daniel Piper.

What can audiences expect when they encounter you?

You really never know what you’re going to get at Spork! The performers we’ve had so far have been an eclectic bunch, from stand-up poets to published authors, punk poets to drag queens. Some rap, some sing, some bring a multitude of props. Some of them make you laugh until you hurt, others make you bawl your eyes out and stamp your feet. And that’s just our featured artists… the open-mic is a whole other level of unpredictability.

What you’ll always get at Spork! is a warm, welcoming atmosphere, a safe space, a diverse and beautiful mix of performers, and cake!

What does the next year look like for you?

We’ve got big plans to shake up Spork! in the next six to 12 months, bringing in a wider array of artists from across the country, running workshops and giving budding poets more opportunities to develop their work and perform. We want to look at other spaces we can bring our events to, because we know that a pub in central Exeter on a weeknight isn’t going to suit everyone. We’re looking at running events for young people as well as parents with small children… and loads more!

In the immediate future, we’ve got the very talented Muneera Pilgrim headlining in September. And October is our first birthday, so we’re be celebrating with a special line-up including the local legend that is Samantics. (And more cake).

Tell us what would make your life easier as an artist or arts organiser.

Definitely more money. It’s a bit of a balancing act some months. We want to keep Spork! accessible by being a pay-what-you-decide event, but at the same time we want to give all our artists a decent fee and build our audience through marketing. We’re very grateful to everyone who comes and donates but it’s sometime a struggle. That’s why we’re looking into different avenues of funding.

In what ways are you helping to put Exeter on the cultural map?

We’re helping to find and nurture some of the incredible writing and performing talent that already exists in the city. And by bringing in headliners from across the UK, we’re showing that Exeter is a cultural hub. I like to think Spork! reflects the city in lots of ways; we’re unpretentious, friendly and sometimes a bit odd.

How do we find out more?

Facebook: @sporkenword

Twitter: @SporkPoetry

Book a space on our open-mic by emailing Chris at chris_white15@btinternet.com

You can catch the next Spork! on 4 September, 8pm, at The Glorious Art House, 120 Fore Street, EX4 3JQ.

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