Want to celebrate World Book Night in style but not sure what kind of event to put on? Never fear, the World Book Night pack is here! Browse for some quick tips to make your World Book Night party a success.
World Book Night is all about celebrating talent but, instead of just celebrating the words of people who are already famous, why not celebrate the talent of the future – you!
WHAT IS AN OPEN MIC EVENT?An open mic event is basically a fancy term for a talent contest. Think Britain’s Got Talent but in the library and without the dancing dogs.It’s a chance for young writers, musicians, comedians or performers to show off their skills in a friendly and informal gathering.
Some open mic events are just for poets but other open mic nights open the floor to people with all kinds of talents.The kind of open mic event that you run will be up to you, but it’s sure to be a great idea for making your World Book Night a lively occasion.
SO, MICROPHONES AT THE READY Let’s organise an open mic event.
GETTING STARTEDTo kick off your open mic party planning, first you need to decide just how ‘open’ your open mic will be by considering these questions:
QUESTION 1Do you want it to just to be a celebration of poetry and writing, or can you make space for musicians, actors and comedians as well?
Writing links neatly with the World Book Night theme, but variety might make for a more colourful evening and also might entice more people to take part.
QUESTION 2Do people have to perform their own work, or can they read from their favourite book or sing a cover version of a chart-topping hit?
There’s no right or wrong but, to run a successful event, you need to be clear what your aims are so that you can communicate these in your publicity.It’s also worth noting that, unless you run regular spoken word nights or writing groups in your library, you might struggle to find enough young people to perform their own work.
QUESTION 3Will there be a competitive element to your open mic night? And, if so, how will you manage this?
On the plus side, competition can add energy and drama to the event. (Think about how much tension those big red X marks add to BGT.)On the downside, who is going to be responsible for the judging and who is going to mop up the tears from all the broken dreams? (sob).
QUESTION 4Who is eligible to take part?Is it all ages, or just young people?If there’s a competitive element, will there be different categories for different ages or will it be dog eat dancing dog?
Again, there’s no right answer. Talent doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with age, and cute kids can do very well in talent contests. But, if it’s writing-based, you might want to award extra points to younger writers.
PLANNING MAKES PERFECTWhichever approach you choose to take, early and comprehensive planning is key. You can overcome any of the hurdles involved in an open mic night by thinking things through carefully.
HURDLE 1: FINDING PEOPLE TO PERFORMThis is absolutely fundamental. It’s no good advertising an open mic night and having just one little Johnny rapper turn up to spit his rhymes on his own.To encourage people to sign up, consider some of these options:
DO INSIST THAT PEOPLE SIGN UP IN ADVANCECreate a Facebook event and put a call out on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for performers.Ask people to register their interest well in advance of the event and make a set list of performers.If the date is getting close and you’re still short of people, put out more calls using persuasive language like this:
“We’re down to the last few performance slots for the World Book Night open mic event. Book yours now to avoid disappointment on the night. Go on, be brave. If you don’t sign up now, you’ll be kicking yourself later.”(or something like that!)
If you don’t ask people to commit in advance, you’ll have no idea if anyone is going to perform on the night, which can be embarrassing when you’ve invited people to be an audience.
MAKE LINKS WITH GROUPS WHO MIGHT WANT TOTAKE PART.Keen performers are always looking for an opportunity to show off (erm, hone their skills) so if you’ve got a local young writers group, youth theatre or song-writers’ workshop nearby, get in touch with them and invite them to join your event.
RUN SOME WORKSHOPSYou might know young people who would like to perform but lack the confidence, or there might be aspiring writers in the group who haven’t quite got the right performance piece.This is easily solved by inviting a local performance poet or writer to run a workshop in the run up to the event.People who take part in a workshop are much more likely to come and perform.
If you can’t afford to pay a performance poet, ask around and you’ll most likely be able to find someone who is just starting out and looking for experience who would come along and give you some pointers. Ask at local theatres, writing projects or arts centres..
ORGANISE A WORLD BOOK NIGHT WRITINGCOMPETITIONAsk people to send in their poems or stories on your chosen theme and invite the winners to come and read their work at a prize-giving ceremony on World Book Night. Time might be tight but you can run a quick competition on Facebook and ask people to email their writing.How could anyone refuse to read when they’ve been specially selected?
BRIBE PEOPLEOffer some irresistible prizes and even the shyest wallflower might come out and perform.Call in favours or use emotional blackmail. “I’m going to look so silly up there on my own. Please will you sign up too?”And, of course, you need to sign up yourselves!
HURDLE 2: GETTING AN AUDIENCEWhilst it would be awful if little Johnny rapper did a solo performance to a packed house, it would be even worse if little Johnny rapper was just performing to his mum and dad.To make your event a success, you need to make sure you have an audience.So, how will you get one?
RUN AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING CAMPAIGNIt’s no good putting a poster up in the library and expecting your event to be packed. Instead try this:• Make fliers and ask all members of your group to spread them around at school, youth groups and in coffee shops• Create a Facebook event and invite all of your friends then ask them to spread the word• Contact local arts groups, teachers and youth workers directly
Don’t rely on just one Facebook post or Tweet. Social networking sites are jam-packed with information and a post can get buried quickly.Instead post regular updates along these lines:
Only two weeks until World Book Night, have you booked your ticket?
OMG! Just found out that little Johnny rapper is going to be performing at the open mic. Be there.
The World Book Night party is almost fully booked. Get in touch now to or you’ll be missing out on an awesome night.
GET PEOPLE TO RESERVE TICKETSEven if there is no entry fee, getting people to reserve tickets gives you an idea of how many people are likely to be attending. This means you can do an extra marketing push if numbers are low and also helps with your planning.
BOOK A HEADLINING ACTYou might not be able to get Adele to come and perform at your World Book Night event at short notice but there’s bound to be a young local band, performance poet or comedian who would welcome a gig and would probably do it for free.Have the act on after the open mic ensuring that people hang around until the end.
ALLOCATE ROLESIf young people have jobs to do, they’re more likely to commit to coming along (and to bringing their friends), so involve as many young people in the event as possible. Allocate people roles such as:• Designer• Compere• Ticket seller• Judge
HURDLE 3: DEALING WITH A COMPETITIVEELEMENTAdding a competitive element to the event will make it more exciting and encourage more people to attend. A poetry ‘reading’ might have 10 elderly audience members and be a rather sombre affair, where a poetry ‘slam’ might have loads of, usually younger, people in attendance and have a much more lively atmosphere.But it needs careful planning.
HOW WILL PEOPLE BE JUDGED?There are two main ways you can do this:1 Have all audience members involved in the judging.2 Allocate a judging panel.
THE AUDIENCE AS THE JUDGEAllowing everyone a vote, makes for a fun, inclusive event where every young person has a crucial role to play. But it’s not without it’s complications. To make things simple, try this:
USE A CLAPOMETERYou make something out of cardboard with some colours and a dial and pretend that it works, but basically you’ll just be judging who the audience seems to appreciate the most. Scientific and irrefutable? Non. Fun? Mais oui!
USE A SCORING FORMEveryone has a list of performers and scores them out of 10.At break time, someone adds up all the scores and reveals the winner.NB: to make this approach successful, you needa) A breakb) Someone who can add up.
HAVING A JUDGING PANELA judging panel allows you to recreate the successful TV shows and ham it up a bit. You could even have judges dressed up and acting in character as Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan, Tulisa or Danni.Judges can hold up score cords with marks out of ten and can also give a bit of feedback.You will need to think carefully about who your judges are though and what style of event you’re aiming for.
“THE POINT ISN’T THE POINTS; THE POINT IS THE POETRY.”This is the mantra of poetry slams. Designed to keep a positive atmosphere, it’s often shouted out at regular intervals during a slam.To make your event a success, keep the atmosphere light and entertaining and keep the focus positive. This should be an event where everyone really is a winner. Just getting up there and performing deserves the utmost respect.
To keep the atmosphere on key, you need someone (a compere) holding the event together.Ideally you need someone with lots of energy who is funny but also compassionate.The compere’s job is to introduce the performers and keep the audience upbeat by encouraging them to chant and cheer.
FINAL PREPARATIONSTo make sure your event gets top ratings, remember to think about the following things:• Timing: Don’t put on an event when half the local population are at the mosque or when there’s a football match.• Venue: What can you do to make the library have a gig atmosphere?• Comfort: Where will people sit? Can you serve refreshments?• Prizes: What will they be and who will present them?
Have a good time at your open mic event and remember that, if you don’t take part, you’ll wish you had done at the end of the night.There’s a performer in everyone if you just dig deep enough.