Of the many ways the upcoming Words Weekend festival could be described, perhaps Lisette Auton says it best; “we’re mint in the North East, we just need more festivals and events to prove it; both to ourselves and to others”. Leave it to a wordsmith to best describe a festival full of words…
Disabled writer, poet, spoken word performer and theatre-maker, Auton should know a thing or two about the importance of words. Creator of passionate, high octane, pieces Auton’s work sets a benchmark for spoken-word political speech/stand-up comedy/ activist pieces which provide an informed, intellectual and thrilling perspective of the world. Covering topics from economics, selective amnesia, discrimination, British nostalgia (and much in-between) Auton’s work is often hilarious, often heart-breaking, but always moving. Her piece ‘Second Best Room’, a meditation on how people respond to our appearance, is particularly breath-taking.
“I trained as an actor so I understand the importance of pieces of art which move a person” replies Auton when asked about her creative process “often though what I write about starts off as something very personal; and it’s those pieces which tend to end up becoming quiet universal.”
Drawn further on the centre of those universal pieces, Auton admits that they don’t always start from great places “I take things from my life, usually the things which make me angry, and start writing from there. It’s interesting that anger tends to be a common denominator in my work and also how people connect to it”.
Unafraid to air these emotions in public, Auton’s live shows end up becoming a collage of work usually picked on the day of the event (“There’s a core structure to a show but I try to respond to an audience and if I don’t feel a piece on the night then I won’t perform it.”) as well as pieces that push her into often difficult performance places (“I try not to chose pieces that are easy, the pieces need to be raw; you need to feel it”). A combination that leaves little to the imagination Auton’s live show both challenges and inspires.
Pre Words Weekend we catch Auton as she’s juggling projects and pushing her work further into public focus; a recent signing with Penguin Random House to write for children has not only sharpened her working practices (she’s recently moved into an office to avoid ‘distractions’) but also made her aware of the importance of North Eastern events; “I think there’s so many great artists and venues up in the North East but we tend to get forgotten about. We need events like Words Weekend as it’s a big challenge for local artists and also a great way for us to showcase some of the talent in the North East. Writing a novel has shown me how London central most of the art scene in the UK is, but it doesn’t have to be, we’ve got enough talent to hold our own events and be proud of our achievements. We just have to knit together and support each other and support events like this.” We’re mint in the North East? And so says all of us.