“One of my favourite open mic performances was when two people had an ‘argument’ in two different languages – Icelandic and Norwegian, if I remember right. I don’t think either person knew what the other was arguing about, but it was amazing to watch.”
Against a back drop of twinkling fairy lights on black walls and the gentle clinking of coffee cups, Chester writer and performer Danielle de la Wonk is reminiscing about some of the different acts that have graced the ‘stage’ at the popular open mic event that she comperes. Once a fortnight on a Sunday evening, a corner of the Harvest Moon Espresso Bar in Chester is transformed into a pop up theatre, complete with curtains fashioned out of beautiful saris.
Over a warming pot of peppermint tea, we talk of a shared passion for culture and Chester but I confess my ignorance when it comes to exactly what happens at an event like this. Danielle, who is part of the creative team behind the events, explains that people from all walks of life come along to take part, doing anything from reading an extract from a favourite book to singing their own compositions. On one occasion, some former X Factor contestants apparently even called in to perform – you just never know what each event will bring.
It’s a laid back and supportive kind of event, with the only proviso being the rule of two to ensure everyone gets a turn, ie you can read for example, two short stories or two poems or one longer story or poem.
As we chat, the hypnotic sound of an acoustic guitar and a mesmerising voice float up to our table at the back of the cafe. I ask Danielle who this mysterious talent is and she informs me that he just happens to be Harvest Moon open mic regular, singer/songwriter/musician Jonathan Coley from Chester. Words really can’t do justice to his immense talent, so I’m simply going to say that you have got to catch him live if you get the chance. More info can be found below.
Danielle, who also counts storytelling, letter writing and hula hooping amongst her many creative talents, tells me an inspiring tale of one regular open mic participant who had moved to Chester from Spain. Until taking to the stage at the Harvest Moon, he had never previously performed outside of his bedroom, let alone in front of a group of new people and with a song not in his first language. Now that takes some guts.
As a lecturer I’m used to talking in front of a group of people but ask me to read some of my own creative writing in front of fellow creatives, and I’m so far out of my comfort zone I’d need a spaceship to return. If, like me, you have ever considered having a go but are feeling somewhat reticent, then Danielle has some words of encouragement.
it is a really supportive environment
“If anyone is a bit nervous about the idea of coming along to our open mic events then I’d say that, firstly, we don’t actually have a mic and, also, that it is a really supportive environment,” says Danielle.
“Just try it and don’t worry if you are coming along on your own. Call in and ask for me. If it’s your first time performing then just tell us. We’ve all been there. Another great thing is that you can’t come along to the open mic event and not get talking to people – it’s such a warm and friendly place. This is where I first started performing.”
Well, Danielle, you’ve persuaded this open mic newbie, anyway. I’m declaring here and now that I’m going to dust off my book of short stories and get on that stage myself over the summer. No going back now, then. Make sure you all hold me to that. You promise?
Danielle would like to say a huge thank you to the talented team at The Harvest Moon Espresso Bar who work incredibly hard to make this open mic event possible and who manage to create an all-round warm and welcoming, yet cool, ambience. As Danielle says, “they are the ones who really drive the vibe.”
She would also like to stress that the open mic audience are equally as important as the performers in this creative equation. “You don’t have to perform to be part of the creative community,” she stresses.
The next Harvest Moon open mic event takes place on Sunday 17 May. Hope to see some of you there.
Want to know more?
To find out more about the Harvest Moon open mic event check out its Facebook page. Some of the Harvest Moon open mic participants will also be taking part in a special open mic event at The Gathering festival this weekend. The Gathering takes place at Alexander’s in Rufus Court, Chester from 12pm until 10pm this Sunday. The open mic bit runs on the inside stage from 2pm-4pm. There will also be live music, a barbecue and family activities during the day time.