The Word Zoo at Chintz Symposium

Patrick Green

If you haven’t been to one of the ‘Word Zoos’ which are held at Chintz (nestled above Hands bar) then you’ve been missing out on one of the most entertaining and artistically talented nights in Falmouth. If you agree with giving religion, political stances, sexuality, race and gender a proper platform for expression, then this is the place you have to be in Falmouth.

For those of you who haven’t been to Chintz, it’s a small and quirky wine bar with an Alice in Wonderland atmosphere and décor – posters, wallpaper, figures and pictures all create a depth to the room. Your eyes could wonder for hours before you’ve even bought a drink – there is so much to look at in this warren of colour and design. The walls and roof are covered in mismatching ‘things’ which seamlessly fit in, everything is strange but in its own context it is completely normal. A fire, a hidden booth, sofas, trestle tables and a ‘Risk’ board game table all accompany the dramatic décor of the room. And if you wanted, you can get married for a couple of quid on the marriage vending machine. I did, and it’s changed my life. (Tom, my vows are still true).

Illustration by Ed Hobson

Anyway, back to Word Zoo. These are spoken word nights which have been held at Chintz since July 2016. They involve a diverse range of poetry and music, performed by a very diverse group of people. Everyone is welcoming and engaged, meaning you will get a good reception as people who turn up actually listen (seems obvious right?). The performances are original and packed with talent. Read with or without a mic, the atmosphere is intimate and glowing with the low light and flow of wine constant. Everyone sits and listens with childish faces smiling at the different stories and struggles shared in a relatable and down-to-earth way. It’s one of the best ways to spend a night; in a creative and expressive environment where each performer is given the time and platform to express whatever they want – whether it be deeply personal and emotional, or satirically political (or just really funny). The subject doesn’t affect the quality, everyone offers a unique performance style and content. Performance techniques vary from a more button poetry type delivery to a less musical (but no less engaging) written poetry reading. But it’s impossible to define the ‘way’ people perform, there is too much variety and originality, meaning there is no pressure to perform in a certain way – originality is king.

All you have to do is sign up in advance on Facebook and they’ll put you on the list, you can perform a one or multiple pieces. Performances are done in waves, with short intervals in between each set to get more drinks and talk about the readings. It’s a very informal atmosphere and set up, which helps to alleviate the nerves and make you feel at home. If it doesn’t though, remember most people are as nervous as everyone else, there’s also no pressure to be amazing – everyone is honing their own art and trying to improve, there is zero snobbery in the room.

There’s nothing more I can say really – you’ll only know if you like it if you just go! You don’t need to perform either, just go along and enjoy some brilliant poetry – something really missing from mainstream culture and art. Hopefully the rising popularity of pages such as Button Poetry (and Word Zoo) are heralding a renaissance in poetry, so if you want to be part of this then get yourself down to Chintz on a Word Zoo night! Be part of the renaissance again.

And if THAT doesn’t convince you, check this out: