The third night of the A Toast To The People series sees storyteller and artist, Wana Udobang, and Glasgow poet, Hollie McNish, take to the stage in an evening filled with excellent poetry and thought-provoking discussion.
First up is Udobang, who writes, performs, and makes films. She’s also spent the last five years developing and curating Culture Diaries, a Pan-African artist network and archive. She kicks things off with a majestic set of poems that cover a variety of topics: one documents her time growing up with her turbulent family; another is a beautiful, if heart-wrenching tribute to the strength of her female friends, and there’s also one describing the visceral delight of her mother’s cooking. An engaging and commanding performer, Udobang makes it hard to tear your eyes away from her to pay equal visual service to her lyrical BSL signer. Her ‘Toast’ salutes the generations of ordinary yet incredible women who came before her in her homeland, Nigeria. Her final poem of the night is a tiny tribute to the miracle that happens every time a baby is born.
McNish barrels in next with a bunch of poems about her grandparents, teabag theft, her kids, periods, climate change, learning about sex (inspired by her 11-year-old daughter) and the dangers of revenge porn. She’s funny, self-effacing and down to earth and her poems are just the same. ‘Blood, Grandad‘, for anyone who’s ever wondered whether there really is a stigma attached to periods, provides a perfect answer. Her Toast celebrates the wave of kindness that swept the country during the pandemic – when all the ‘-isms’ were temporarily shelved, we clapped for carers, and looked out for our community. She has an excellent eye for both hypocrisy and justice. For any of you tempted to seek out her work after the show, her newest collection, Slug…and other things I’ve been told to hate, was released earlier this year.
While it’s fascinating to hear each artist perform – as well as their individual response to the brief (especially if you attend more than one performance) – there’s much food for thought in the post-performance discussions. Tonight, host/poet Nadine Aisha Jassat asks a mean question, in the best possible way. She asks Udobang and McNish about the silence in their work and about what they will take from the turbulence of the pandemic. McNish speaks up for the need for better sex education for kids – harkening back to a pertinent commentary made earlier during her set. As for Udobang, she focuses on joy and the importance of finding it. Excellent advice for life.