We catch up for a chat with Jack, aka Leon the Pig Farmer

How did I get here!!!

To be honest, I am still new to this game, a mental breakdown in 2019 caused me to reflect on life. A period of sickness post doctors’ visits and subsequent mental assessments and CBT sessions identified PTSD and other associated syndromes linked to mental health. So, what did I do to combat anxiety, and panic attacks well I jumped on a stage to tell everyone my story, problems and frustrations! A little more subtle to be fair, it started writing thoughts as google and therapists suggested, then I suddenly found myself writing verse.

Spoken word followed and soon after Leon the pig farmer was spawned. A performance (poet) spoken word alter ego who found the need to project his newly written verse from any stage he could find. Truly in line with his recently diagnosed addictive attention-seeking persona. Well, it did replace alcohol and other recreational misdemeanours. And it has been well received, with plenty of gigs, great audience feedback and suggestions of book writing, radio airplay and interviews and apparently the need for a manager!!

It has been a bit of a steep trajectory so far, my path has taken me from spoken word open mic and multi-genre open mic nights to hijacking a festival stage in July, as a result doing an abundance of intro and support slots with bands and musicians around Manchester’s usual gig haunts with infrequent dalliances across the border into Yorkshire.

Highlights have been many, but performing on MMTV and artistic echoes live streams were a buzz as was the FAB radio session. I buzzed off intro slots at shiine on and Blackthorn festivals spouting to loads of mates along with sharing the stage with many bands I have followed in the current vibrant and up and coming independent music scene where my true love lies. Not to mention sharing bills with Tim Burgess, Tom Hingley, Dermo and been interviewed by Clint Boon. And all in a period of 6 months from picking up my book of words. The lad who speaks (in my own words) council English has done alright so far!!

So that’s how I got to where Leon now farms his words, I mean pigs, let me now tell you about the thriving spoken word scene in Manchester and surrounding areas which has welcomed me and offered outlets to read and perform. If your eye brow is lifted and you’re still reading how you can get involved. This run down is the tip of the iceberg and there are many more events out there but don’t be daunted all levels are welcome, newcomers are looked after and everyone is friendly. There is no denying that the scene is vibrant and in full swing with plenty to go at.

The Venues

1. Speak at Jimmy’s – A true flag ship in my eyes, always a full house and the crowd get going after been warmed by the great welcoming hosts. A headliner with 10 open mic slots. 4 mins to get your verse in so don’t mess about. great fun, book early these slots are like hotcakes!!

2. Punk in Drublic at Lock 91 – another leader as it combines comedy and spoken word in a harmonious fashion. Previously hosted by Rob Steventon the baton has been handed to Thick Richard who is a potty mouthed sharp-witted poet and worth listening to in his own right. Another that hosts headliners with open mic slots. These slots shift quick too

3. Lovely words at Rufus in Prestwich another mixed session with plenty of acoustic and spoken word on display. Just pitch up and get your name down. Nice and relaxed and a great atmosphere. One of my first!!

4. Cuckoo calling at the Cuckoo in Prestwich run by the great Gordon Zola!! This event is also a mixed style but does offer great opportunities for spoken word.

5. Speak easy at the Sip club in Stretford. Dedicated to the spoken word in many forms this one hosts about 20 slots with quick turn arounds by Andy and Steve who run it but its popular so get names down early or message in advance. Both are welcoming and love newcomers. I would go every time if it was on my doorstep.

6. Platform 1 at Elektric box, a reasonably new one to a town run by Jez where my first visit is due soon. A great fella who made me feel welcome at Sip and who is a great poet himself. As such it must be good so had to make the list!

7. Spoken Passions at the station hotel in Ashton under Lyne, not one I’ve visited yet but I have heard good reports and the proprietor does loads for the homeless so if you’re in the area job down and support a great cause.

8. Switchblade poetry at the Peer hat- an ingenious creation by the hosts who offer 10 open mic slots and a headliner. The concept being that applicants submit a piece for another to read and they also perform some of their own material. Slots are in the region of 5 mins so get your verse on!!

9. What she said at Tribeca – not one I have visited but I have heard great reports on the place. A monthly event for women and none binary writers who have guests and open mic.

10. Word central at the central library hosted by Tony Curry a monthly event with guest poet and open mic slots. Email in advance for slots. 

Other runners are Farrow and friends at Lion’s den, the crown and kettle which are generally open mic that offer spoken word slots. Spoken bars in Macclesfield, the thirsty scholar, Bad language at Gullivers NQ, Sayin at Niamoswhich is new, and write out loud in Bolton, Sale, Wigan and Stockport!!.

There are pages on social media for all that can sign post too, as well as spoken word/poetry groups that post events and one-offs.

Who’s on the scene??

The list is endless in Manchester, the city is literally bursting at the seems with great spoken word artists and poets. I have approached the scene as much as I would music in that everyone is different and a genre cannot pigeon hole any particular type of performance.

All the good ones I’ve seen deliver differently in style, content, tone and cadence so to compare especially as a novice myself would be wrong. But if I was to chuck a few names in I would say don’t miss Thick Richard, David Viney, Esther Koch, Amy king, Steph Lonsdale, and Ushi – Benjamin Crisafulli. 

Or if you would like something more in line with the music scene then Myself, Patrick Davies and of course Karl Hildebrandt are never far away!!

Get writing, get involved and get speaking!!