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Inside London's poetry scene: State of Denial's 'Vows'

Words by Ursa Gregson

On a fine Spring evening in very central London a knot of ill-looking types dressed variously in dark suits, tan suits, confirmation gowns, dark suits, puffa jackets and dark suits seeped into Pearson Square and gathered at the entrance to Fitzrovia Chapel to suck on rollups and chew their bellowing nerves. Most of the rabble appeared to know each other; the hushed familial spirit, location, dress code and complimentary (delicious) white wine arranged on trestle tables just inside the chapel gave off a distinct wedding/funeral/mob christening aura - but as we filed inside, lifted our glasses to our lips and turned to face the glowing belly of the building it became abundantly clear that the poets assembled were there only to enter a State of Denial, and read their many and varied Vows.

Photo Credit Jacob Ray

State of Denial - aka Joe Taylor and assorted associates - have been putting on shows, putting out publications, crafting bespoke outfits for events, building an undeniable brand of design and fashion, bringing together myriad London creators and generally weaving a halo of talent around themselves for a good few years now, but this is the first literary event they have staged. Not that you'd know it.

The spell that the evening cast was down not only to the gorgeous interior of Fitzrovia Chapel - a shimmering, vaulted golden cave of dreams covered floor to ceiling in mosaic tiling, brightly coloured inlays and meticulously engraved, fluted, sculpted detail - but also to the sense of both levity and gravity enabled by the consummate events-chops of the hosts and the beautiful scene/crowd they'd summoned.

Photo Credit Jacob Ray

We all took our seats in rows facing the altar, crowded with guttering candles and framing the gold organ-pipes - this reviewer felt as though she were floating disembodied above proceedings - and with only a quiet two-minute warning from Master Denial, the readings began without fanfare and quiet descended on the audience.

What followed was an uninterrupted flow of heart-and-throat-catching performances. Discerning their place in the running order from programmes left on the chairs, the poets floated up and down the aisle and delivered their wild and varied goods, the acoustics of the chapel carrying their voices to and through each of us in the crowd. Poems populated by revolutionaries, sick fathers, troubled mothers, holy heathens, famished missionaries, latent loves, dark shadows and brilliant highlights bled into one another, laid us down, lifted us up. Moments of comedy were as numerous as moments of tragedy and the laughter that filled the vaulted space perfectly complemented the few moments of devastation promised by the readers.

Photo Credit Jacob Ray

This reviewer's personal favourites included, but were certainly not limited to: Sienna Bordello's enchanting first turn as a live poet, menacing and theatrical; Sabina Hellström's impassioned jazz-poetry tirade; Ned Green's darkly comic abstract vignettes, a hush descending around the wry metaphors; Daniel Crilly's solemn and beautiful warnings from history and deft character-spinning; and Vida Adamczewski's magnetic waltz through family, love and death.

Photo Credit Jacob Ray

The full list of readers was as follows:

Lucas Edwards

Armando Allan

Vida Adamczewski

Elena Bradley

Harry Kumar

Sabina Hellström

Sienna Bordello

Marta Zenka

Angus Rogers

Ned Green

Hannah Hayden

Daniel Crilly

As we thronged chatting outside the chapel afterwards, the sky now dark and the high doorway emitting a soft light into the square, all in attendance agreed that something special had happened that night. Sometimes it all comes together like that. Hideous Magazine extends gratitude to Denial, the readers, writers, organisers and chapel for making it so - whether more literary events will be put on by S.o.D. is a mystery, but the mystery and beauty of that night is enough to sustain us until that time, I'm sure. Off into the night then.


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