Sonnet Youth is a spoken word, poetry music and comedy night with regular events in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Over the 15, 16 and 17 February Sonnet Youth are taking over the Tron Theatre in Glasgow to present the Sonnet Youth Weekender. We caught up with poet, performer and Sonnet Youth co-host Kevin P. Gilday to tell us more about what we can expect at the Weekender and to give an insight into some of their future projects.


What have Sonnet Youth planned for the Weekender at the Tron Theatre in February?

We’ve got an amazing trio of shows lined up for you. On the Friday night I’ll be performing my show Gigantic Lying Mouth – it’s a one-man theatrical spoken word performance about the afterlife, and also yoga. It toured across Canada in 2017 but has only been performed in Scotland on a few occasions so this is a great chance to see it before it disappears again.
Then on the Saturday Victoria McNulty will be performing her hit show Confessionals, a poetic monologue about a night in the life of a Glaswegian barmaid. Cat Hepburn and I produced and directed the show, our first production outwith the traditional Sonnet Youth shows. It was a fantastic creative process, Victoria is such a talented writer and performer – I think we really helped the show to reach its potential.
On the Sunday we’re presenting a special Sonnet Youth Showcase. This is a matinee performance – a first for us. We’re hoping that it’ll give an opportunity for a new audience to discover Sonnet Youth. The line-up is great too, with poetry from Angie Strachan, comedy from Christopher Macarthur-Boyd and music from Heir of the Cursed alongside some poetry from myself and Cat. A great introduction to the Sonnet Youth vibe.


Spoken Word is more commonly performed in bars and pubs. Do you notice a difference in audience reactions when staging work in a theatre?

Yeah, I certainly feel like there’s more of a reverence when we perform work in theatrical spaces. People are a little less likely to be spontaneous in their reactions. A big part of the Sonnet Youth Weekender is to break down that barrier and permit the audience to act in any way they feel towards the work they’re witnessing. Part of the joy of spoken word is that it’s such a raw form of communication – we don’t want to lose that amongst the bells and whistles of a professional theatre space.


Both Confessionals (written and performed by Victoria McNulty) and Gigantic Lying Mouth (written & performed by Kevin P. Gilday) are described as incorporating multimedia , such as music and video. What advantages do you think there are in bringing these elements into a spoken word show?

I think the short answer is that it helps the audience’s attention span. As much as I love poetry I’m not sure I want to sit through an uninterrupted hour of it. Both these shows have a narrative structure which instantly engages an audience as they know they are witnessing a story and not just a poetry collection being read aloud. The addition of multimedia is really a case of adding texture to the work, it allows us to explore different concepts while working within the confines of budget and scale.


Sonnet Youth has been around for almost three years now. Have you seen a change in the spoken word scene in Scotland in this time?

I think so. One of the big changes we’ve witnessed is a move away from slam events towards more long form work. We all love the quick bite-sized hits of a poetry slam but I think audiences are ready to engage more with the performers and allow themselves to really dig into the subject matter. I think we’re also seeing a general increase in stature at the moment, although I’d argue these things are cyclical. The success of Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish on a UK scale – as well as the likes of my co-host Cat Hepburn, Leyla Josephine and Chris McQueer nationally – have maybe brought a few more eyes to what we’ve been doing quite successfully for a while now.


What plans do you have for Sonnet Youth for the rest of 2019?

We’ve got the rest of our season of shows still to go, monthly at Drygate and the Gilded Balloon until June. The headliners we’ve managed to get there are amazing. After that we’ll be popping up throughout the summer at festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe with a few special events planned that hopefully we’ll be able to reveal soon. We’ll also be producing Drew Taylor-Wilson’s poetry-theatre hybrid show ‘thick skin, elastic heart’ on its Scottish tour starting in the Autumn. This is our biggest year yet, we’re really excited to share these shows with everyone.