No need to wash your mouth out: Bad Language, birthday celebrations and getting it right.

No need to wash your mouth out: Bad Language, birthday celebrations and getting it right.

If you know anything about the literary scene in Manchester, you’ll probably have heard of Bad Language already. Made up of Nicola West, Daniel Carpenter and Joe Daly,  they put on the most amazing nights of spoken word at The Castle Hotel in the Northern Quarter, featuring the best up-and-coming writers in the area. Hyperbole? I think not. If you’ve never been, make this Wednesday the night when you find out what it’s all about. The event is celebrating two years in the business, so it’s going to be a good one! In the meantime, here are Bad Language themselves, talking about how they got started, what makes an event work, and who’s going to be there on Wednesday:


So, Bad Language is coming up to its second birthday. When you first came up with the idea, did you have a vision of what you’d like to be doing in two years? How close was that to where you are now?

We started Bad Language out as a poorly attended writers’ group in the back of Nexus Art café and, until our very first live event (at The Bay Horse), I don’t think we ever envisioned it becoming what it has become. We were lucky that we were contacted by MAPS Festival, who commissioned us to publish an anthology of Manchester-themed stories and poetry in time for their festival: from that night onwards, I think we realised we wanted to continue doing live events. Still, I don’t think we thought we would be doing this two years on. For that we have to thank our performers and audience who have continued to come out in droves and have proven to be one of the most excited and engaged literary audiences we’ve ever seen.


Can you tell us a little bit about your own literary backgrounds, and what led to you getting together as Bad Language? Was it all worked out on the back of a beer mat?

Dan: I did a degree in creative writing in the Midland’s and part of what I experienced whilst I was there was an incredibly closed off, cliquey literary scene. There was only a single literature evening with no open mic and no way of performing. I got published on Rainy City Stories and ended up performing at the last ever ‘No Point in Not Being Friends’ event. When we knew that Bad Language was going to become a regular, monthly night, we resolved to address these kinds of issues and make sure that it was as open and welcoming as possible. Myself and Joe have known each other since we were teenagers, and both shared a love of literature and writing. Hence the starting up of the writers’ group initially. Nici joined when she moved to the city, and completely changed our outlook on things – she really put us on the map.

Joe: It all stems back to my parents, and especially my father, who would make sure I always had a book in front of me and always promoted the idea of writing as a worthy thing to do. So the route to an English Literature MA was the fairly obvious one! Thankfully, my desire to write stayed with me through University and when I came back, Dan and I met up again and decided we may as well start a writer’s group. There were no grand plans for it to last 3 years!

Nici: In terms of my background, I’ve been volunteering with literature events since my first year of university. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to work in literature and so for nearly six years I’ve been offering my services for free whenever I can. I moved to Manchester in December 2009 and at that stage I thought it was time I started doing my own things as well as working on other people’s projects, so Bad Language came along at exactly the right moment.


Whenever I’ve been to a Bad Language evening, the room has always been buzzing with energy. What would your advice be for anyone who wanted to start up a spoken word event where they live?

Dan: Be original. In Manchester certainly, there are so many open mic/literature events that are of amazing quality (just look at Stirred, Shaken Stories, First Draft, Magical Animals), and what makes them continue and thrive is their originality. Find out what’s missing from the landscape, and do it. Find a great venue. We were extremely lucky with The Castle, and it’s felt like a home away from home for us for the past two years. Often, the venue makes the event. People need to know what an event is going to be about before they come to it: post line-ups, talk about the guests. Don’t panic about low turnouts. Sometimes a small audience ends up being the best audience. And always make sure your acts and audience know what’s happening. I’ve performed at events where the organisers didn’t tell you when you were performing, at what time or in what order; when you have all of this in place, audiences and participants feel comfortable and relaxed.

Joe: It’s a matter of luck! You rely on the quality of people coming down and performing and people being prepared just to get up and do it. We have a lot of people to thank for their energy and help throughout our 2 or 3 years.

Nici – My advice would be not to be scared of failure. The first event we did as Bad Language was in the basement of a pub that was too dark. We had technical failures, we were beside the toilet so lots of people kept walking through directly past the readers and we didn’t have a big audience. Everyone has to start somewhere and you only learn by doing it, so I would say, create an idea, think through the first few steps of how to put it into action and just do it. You need to get through that first scary experience before you can get anywhere.


The official Bad Language birthday party is on the 28th November at the Castle Hotel. Who is going to be there, and why were they chosen?

We’ve selected highlights of our past year of Bad Language, which should hopefully show a spread of what we’ve been up to. Of course, we could have included so many incredible performers and had them up onstage. I’d like to mention Les Malheureux, who formed for our first birthday; Ewan Morrison, who performed for us at Waterstones; and Tom Fletcher, all of whom were stunning. For our second birthday, though, we’ve got Rodge Glass, author of Bring me the Head of Ryan Giggs, who launched his novel at Waterstones earlier in the year. He’ll be joined by Anneliese Mackintosh, who has become a regular on the Manchester literature scene recently, and Socrates Adams, one of the most unique writers about at the moment. His reputation continues to increase and we feel that he is a writer who suits the feel and style of a Bad Language night. And last, but by no means least, is short story writer Claire Massey, who has two chapbooks out through Nightjar Press.

It’s an incredibly varied line-up, and that’s not even starting on the open mic line-up which includes: Sadcore Dadwave curator Sian Rathore; award winning blogger, smut aficionado and half of Les Malheureux Clare Conlon; comedian Ste Price; novelist Matthew P Lomas; and amazing theatre maker Claire Symonds. Plus, all of Bad Language will be performing. What more could you possibly ask for?


I agree, that looks like a pretty perfect night! If, however, you could choose anyone at all from any time to be in another dream evening, who would you choose?

 Dan: Anyone at all? This could take some time. Junot Diaz, Stephen King, Grant Morrison, Woody Allen, John Updike, Don DeLillo. With Fat Roland and David Simon as support acts. Then David Foster Wallace headlining.

Joe: Though it is a fairly safe answer, to see Dickens lectures and performances would have been quite something, a man who firmly believed in the social and cultural responsibility of an author. On that same point, Thoreau would be great. Though I suppose by this point we would be getting a bit too brow-beaten by society, so let’s throw in Douglas Adams to finish.

Nici: I would love to get Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro all in the same room. It would be great to do some sort of live writing activity with very good experienced writers working together to see what they came up with!


Don’t forget: the Bad Language Second Birthday Party will be at The Castle Hotel this Wednesday, the 28th November. For more information, directions and information about upcoming events, visit the Bad Language blog, join their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter. Guys, it’s been great talking with you, and I look forward to many more Bad Language nights to come!

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