Arts & Culture


On the 20th November I stumbled across Give Poetry A Chance, a poetry open mic night hosted by Dan Cullinan. A celebration of the form and all its forms. A place where writers can connect. Starting with an introduction from Dan, he kicks off the night with some of his own words before flowing through local writers, old and new, fresh and veteran.

But don’t get it twisted, this night is neither artsy or curated, stuffy or outdated. You’re not getting marked or graded on a poem you wrote while you were wasted. More so, the evening is a safe place for your imagination to run wild. Stick with the structure, go off the beaten track, perform as someone new. After finding Give Poetry A Chance I had to meet up with Dan and find out more…

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

LVL: What made you get into writing poetry?

Dan: When I was twenty-one, I was in a bit of a slump in my life. My “dream job” wasn’t what I anticipated and I’d spend my working week counting down the hours until the weekend. It took over an hour to commute and I spent most of my life on trains or waiting for trains.

I’d sit there thinking about life and I’d wonder why it felt like I wasn’t progressing, while everyone else seemed to have their lives together. I was thinking that much, it felt like I needed to put my thoughts somewhere, otherwise my mind would explode. I started to write my thoughts in the notes section of my phone. I’d write whatever came into my head when I was listening to music. I have a really bad habit of daydreaming and I get sucked up into songs. I started to write down my thoughts and daydreams into stanzas of four, similar to verses in songs. This was the beginning of my poetry.

In March 2017, some of my mates sat me down during a pub crawl and said that I should either find a new job or quit my job and go travelling, because they could see I wasn’t in a great mindset. I decided to go travelling and in September 2017 I set off to Vietnam to teach English. While I was living there I collated my poems into a book. I found a printing shop in Hanoi and I ordered eight copies of my poetry book.

I came home that December and gave a copy of the book to my mum. Once I had my mum’s seal of approval, I started to confidently show my work to friends. In September 2018, I saw a post on Instagram by a collective called Your Art’s Worth, asking if anyone was interested in taking part in a poetry event. I contacted Dan Waine, the event organiser and expressed my interest.

That October, my work was on display in the George Henry Lee building and featured in a zine as part of the Your Art’s Worth’s event, in association with The Independent Biennial. Working with Your Art’s Worth inspired me as a poet and acted as a catalyst for my artistic ideas.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

LVL: What sparked the idea of GPAC?

Dan: It originally started as an Instagram poetry page. The name came from a Glastonbury newspaper I have hanging on my bedroom wall. Yoko Ono performed that year so the headline was ‘Give Peace A Chance’. It got me thinking ‘Give Poetry A Chance’ would make a cool poetry account name.

As much as I’d like to take the credit for coming up with the idea of running monthly poetry events, it was Founder of Mellowtone, David McTague’s idea. Dave was aware I had been writing poetry for some time and encouraged me to start performing when we met during Liverpool Sound City in 2018.

I was still very nervous at this point and I didn’t think I could perform poetry in front of a room full of people. I received a cryptic phone call from Dave in late November 2018, saying he had a plan for me, but he couldn’t reveal it yet. A few days later I received another phone call and he proposed the idea of running poetry nights in Liverpool City Centre. We met up in December 2018 and visited a few venues in town, but I had my heart set on the Jacaranda Club record store. Dave introduced me to the staff at The Jacaranda and the rest is history.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

LVL: What was the most challenging part of setting it up?

Dan: There were two aspects. Booking poets for the initial event was difficult because I didn’t know any poets in Liverpool and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to book enough poets for the event. I contacted Dan Waine asking for a list of poets who performed at Your Art’s Worth. I booked a few acts from the list, but also received emails from poets who had seen the posters around town or online.

Thankfully I managed to book enough poets for the initial event and the night ran smoothly. I also found creating set times for the initial event challenging because I’d never been to a poetry night before and I wasn’t sure how long the event should be. Alice Lenkiewicz, a poet who performed at the initial event, provided me with advice on how long an average set should be and when to have a break to provide a breather for the audience.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

LVL: What has been the most rewarding thing about hosting the nights?

Dan: Watching people perform poems about past trauma and turning their hurt into strength. Earwig, one of the poets who has performed at our events, once told the audience that he believes that every artist has experienced anxiety and/or depression at some point in their life and I agree with him.

Poetry acts as a form of therapy and it’s rewarding to watch people feel that comfortable they can perform poetry that lays bare the most vulnerable parts of themselves, to a room full of people. I just find that truly amazing.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

LVL: How has running GPAC changed you as a writer?

Dan: I’m constantly learning from other poets. I’ll openly admit that my knowledge of poetry is limited. I’m not aware of different styles of poetry and I don’t read poetry on a regular basis. I’ve always been influenced by lyrics from songs. In recent years I’ve been influenced by local musicians, such as Mick Head (Shack), Nick Ellis (The Maybes) and Bill Ryder-Jones (The Coral), but it’s poets who’ve performed at the events who have inspired me the most.

From delivery techniques to the content of the poetry, my writing style has changed over the past eleven months and it’s due to the people around me. There have been poems performed at the events that have changed me, not just as a writer, but as a person as well. From poems about mental health and politics, to love and comedy, they’ve shaped the way I think as an individual.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

LVL: What goals do you have to take GPAC forward?

Dan: In February, it will be our one-year anniversary and to celebrate we’re looking to release an anthology containing a collection of poems from every poet who’s performed at the event over the past year and any poet who wants to contribute to the anthology. We’re going to release two different versions. A free, smaller, PDF version, which we will release via a link and a larger, printed version. The free version will have one poem from each poet and the paid version will have a maximum of three poems from each poet.

We’re looking to use a local publisher for the printed version and all proceeds will go to the Scouse Kitchen charity. We’re organising a book launch, which will take place on Wednesday 26th February 2020 in The Jacaranda basement. We’ll ask every poet who’s contributed to perform their poems from the anthology at the event. There will also be a merchandise stall in the basement for anyone who’d like to purchase a copy of the anthology on the night.

I’m also looking to potentially start a quarterly zine with other poets that would not only focus on poetry, but on the Liverpool art scene as a whole. It’s just an idea at the moment, but hopefully it will come to fruition. The main goal for Give Poetry A Chance will be to continue to provide a platform for those who want their voices heard and to bring the poetry community together through different mediums.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!


So if you’ve just started writing, write in your spare time or have something published you’d like to share; make your way down to the Jacaranda basement on 22nd January or give Dan a follow on Instagram for updates! @givepoetryachance.

Check out Give Poetry A Chance on INSTAGRAM!

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