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> > > The Dandifest Fete, Norwich

Amongst the days entertainment at the glorious May Day Dandy Village Fete, in Norwich on 5th May, Ann Young encountered poet/ producer Vince Laws and the force of nature that is Bonk, (aka Dickie Lupton).

photo of performance poet Bonk sitting outside a church with a microphone in his hand. A poster which reads

Bonk (aka Dickie Lupton) performs at Dandifest in Norwich

Readers may already be familiar with the quiet, unassuming poet Bonk, but I knew very little about the man and his work. The first things that struck me were his warm smile and his willingness to get involved. Only occasionally did he slip away for a quick smoke and a chance to compose himself before his performance.

Vince Laws, warmed us up for a poetry fest with his amazingly powerful words that still make the hairs stand up on the back on my neck! I loved his wonderful poem about his Mental Helmet. The way he used a commissioned piece of art to create a new texture to the spoken word by wearing it whilst performing some of the poem. It was a very effective:

My Mental Helmet is safer, darker
Heavier, harder to communicate
Here I am alone, protected
Isolated, insulated from the throng
Crying in carparks, round and round 
Ripples in a goldfish bowl
But you can’t sleep
When you think about it.

Bonk would be the first to admit that performance is still very new to him. He describes himself as, ““Disabled poet, musician and performer, newly.”  He tells us of his own creative journey, first exploring his experiences of mental health both as a child and adult and then becoming involved in Disability Rights, campaigning against the injustices of an ‘uncaring and vindictive government’. It is here that he discovered the power of his words to challenge the status quo and unite people. 

I’m the clown of justice and I’ve come to let you know
That it’s time for IDS* to go
Revolution for the people, I stand here for them.
Portraying our anger for the news at ten

I was really struck by his rhythm and ability to create evocative images, through his words. My favourite poem was one in which he so poignantly describes memories of childhood, 

Woke up, got dressed, straight out to play.
Wonder what I’ll find that day?
I could go anywhere, be home when I like
No one will notice if I’m not back ‘til night

This is contrasted with the challenges of adulthood:

But when you get older, the boundaries merge.
Real life and fantasy start to converge.
My bipolar reflections are what I have left.
My child’s way of hiding when feeling bereft.

Bonk is a born performer, his words are meant to be spoken out loud, like shards of crystal light, they illuminate the dark.

Dandifest brought so many people together to celebrate art, creativity and diversity. Norwich has not had anything like this for a long, time. It made art accessible; not just in terms of physical access, which was acknowledged, but culturally. I saw people walk past and then come back to investigate, amazed at what they saw. St Margaret’s Church of Art is a shrine to those artists who still believe in the community approach of bringing art to everyone.