Wednesday, 13 May 2009


What Next for Sundays at the Oto?

when it’s no longer Sunday

Sundays at the Oto is coming to a close, to fit in with Cafe Oto's requirement to be a cafe in the daytime, a venue only in the evening. I would like to continue something like Sundays at the Oto, but therefore on a slightly different basis, and welcome suggestions how to do this successfully. The following are my present thoughts (1-4 are non-negotiable, and represent both my & Café Oto’s requirements; the rest are up for consultation & amendment):
  1. to carry on at Café Oto, as I think it is an excellent venue, welcoming and flexible with a very good atmosphere and a high profile

  2. therefore to be an evening event, but not necessarily the same day of the month each time, as this cannot be guaranteed by Café Oto. Varying the day can also give the event more flexibility to fit with availability of poets

  3. to continue with poetry and music - especially as this mix helps with two goals I have for the events:
    • a) people attending who are not already part of the Crazy World of Avant-Garde Poetry or whatever we might want to call ourselves (I suspect many other reading series may be a little off-putting to those not already of Our Persuasion)

    • b) a challenge, which can be accepted, or quite happily not, for poets to go beyond reading, and present their work as performance or utterance. Unlike some other series of music & poetry events, though, the emphasis is on the poetry

  4. admission to rise to, say, £6, to allow greater expenditure on publicity (at present sole cost for publicity is for fliers, which I’m paying for), to allow payment of travel for performers outside London (I’ve personally paid this on occasion), and to pay for a sound engineer if the technical requirements demand it (a Café Oto requirement; and one event was a little disrupted by technical problems with multimedia). This will mean bank account etc!

  5. evening timing to be doors open at 7.30, event starts at 8.00, ends by 10.00, giving time for both socialising afterwards & for out-of-towners (like me) to make their way to wherever. Strict timing, especially on start, to ensure this!

  6. to give out more information on the poets (to encourage and support more newcomers to the avant-garde poetry scene) in the form of an A4 sheet on the poets (like the info at arts cinemas). This could also be available online beforehand, eg on

  7. to extend the publicity. At present this is done through:
    • a) email list – taken from my initial guess at who might be interested from my address book, names added at events & performers

    • b) announcements on BritPo and UK Poetry ListServs

    • c) notifications on a range of websites that publish details of poetry events. Are there any I don’t deal with that I ought to?

    • d) dropping fliers at a number of locations (cafes, bookshops etc) on the route from Stoke Newington Church Street down Kingsland High Road to Café Oto, and I’ve now started on the little nest of shops & cafes in Hackney on Victoria Park Road. This could be extended – more locations in Hackney? Hoxton/Shoreditch? anywhere in Central London? (And some fliers are posted to Poetry Library). Some obviously left at Café Oto

    • e) dedicated MySpace page (main web presence) and Facebook group. I’m never sure these are active, cool or sticky enough

    All of these can be built on; but I would like to consider, apart from extending the fliering, more notifications (possibly even adverts), and a small-scale carefully targeted PR campaign (ie press releases & invites to major launch event in autumn)

  8. to act as a channel for a wide range of contemporary poets (of Our Persuasion, whatever that may be). I sometimes felt a little confined by my slogan invoking “the post-avant crowd”; but really, that should cover a wide & heterogeneous spectrum. (I hope you can visualise this!)

  9. music too can be widened – I took on initially suggestions from Café Oto which were very wise ones, and there are close and fertile links between some poets and some improv musicians. All this can be built on. But I’d also like to widen the sound repertoire beyond what may be almost too automatic a link. Eg industrial/post-industrial music, often with a very limited and narrowly subcultural exposure in this country (bit like us, then)

  10. branding will need to be altered. I’d like to keep existing weird mad dolls/puppets image & reuse. Name will have to change . Options seem to me:
    • a) separate name, probably not referring to Café Oto this time

    • b) use of one of my existing brands, either Great Works, or (Could even use both one of these & a separate name, as in “ presents ‘The Poetry Club of Dalston’”, or whatever)

  11. to screw my courage to the sticking place, and apply for Arts Council (or whoever) money. (Could link with here)

I am open to suggestions and comments as to programming, arrangements etc.

I would also welcome any persons who might want to get involved with the project. In my many bad moments I fear I may be getting too old for this game - it would be good if there were people involved for whom this is all fresh & expanding, and who can more readily network amongst the numerous emerging young poets. Probably useful, as well, if there were some contact with HE - this looks like the game plan for Alternative British Poetry's survival and indeed growth. If anyone can accept my basic vision of what I would like, and Café Oto’s requirements, (see 1-4 above), everything else is genuinely up for discussion & collective decision-making. There may well be a need for help with door arrangements – at present done by my daughter & her husband, but weekday evenings may not be as easy for them.

So - put comments here or on Facebook or MySpace, email me (, or best of all talk to me at Sunday’s event.

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