Jude Simpson – Poet, wordsmith, performer

HOME is where the gigs are…!

So, I had this idea back in September, of doing “At Home” gigs – performing my poems, songs and comedy to people in the comfort of my own – or their own – home. I tried it out “chez moi” at first – inviting my closest friends over to sample some new material and some old favourites. Kind of nerve-wracking – I mean, these people were my friends, and sometimes laughed at my jokes, but they hadn’t seen me perform before… It all went incredibly well. Even my husband commented, “I’d forgotten how good you are”!!!

So we extended the idea, and turned it into a fundraiser for Homestart – the brilliant family support charity I’ve been working with for some years now. And I’m happy to say that I’ve had a brilliant time over the last 2 months, performing for friends, family, supporters and friends of friends in my own and other people’s homes. What a great idea – a chance to hone my performing skills, try out a bit of new material, and entertain people.

There was some brilliant hosting on show too – from comfy sofas and a low-key gathering of exhausted young Mums munching through celebration chocolates in Royston, to prosecco, cheeseboard, sausage rolls and posh crisps shared by a dynamic group of neighbours in Buntingford!

And in the era of Covid, these gigs have been more comfortable for people to access, when they might be nervous of larger venues and extensive mixing. A shout-out to my Mum, who invited 12 friends over, most with masks on, all with extra layers so that we could have all the windows open. Lights on, windows open, 10am in the morning doesn’t necessarily sound like a recipe for a brilliant comedy gig, but we had a fantastic time, and I got loads of laughs and chuckles. After all, we need entertainment and a good laugh more than ever at the moment.

An “At Home” scenario is not necessarily the easiest of gigs, and fairly nerve-wracking for me! Performing to a small number of people, when you can see the whites of their eyes (not to mention their facial expressions) is much more scary than performing in front of a darkened audience of 100 in a theatre or purpose-built arts centre. But it’s great practice! I enjoyed the conversational tone I could strike up with the audience too – sometimes I lingered to answer questions about my writing and performing career, or was persuaded to throw in an extra encore!

The “Parent” poem was definitely a favourite – a piece about the varied and sometimes contradictory skills we parents display when bringing up our children. People really responded to the blend of humour and heartfelt depth here, and again it felt a privilege to be able to reach people and communicate something to their hearts. This poem will feature in the new poetry book I’m hoping to bring out next year. Other highlights were the “Don’t Panic” song and of course “Mango” (the refrain of which was apparently sung continuously afterwards by a 3-year old who’d come with his Mum – hope she enjoyed that!) I even wheeled out “John Lewis” and “Cambridge Gangsta” once or twice.

Heartfelt thanks to all those who took part – together we raised over £350 for Homestart – which I know will go towards providing practical, solid support to families going through crisis situations this Winter.

Who knows, we might even do this again some time…!!

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