Last Thursday night literature lovers (and booze enthusiasts alike) made their way to Bookfinders Bookshop and Café, Edgar Allan Poe anthology in one hand and a bottle of three-pound Tesco red wine in the other, for the first ‘Poetry and Pints’ of the semester.
Despite Bookfinders’ less-than-inspiring façade, inside was a real-life boho-chic Pinterest board: fairy-lights draped over niche oil paintings alongside burning candles stuck into empty wine bottles. Every quirky student’s fantasy.
Soon the space became packed, buzzing with eager students ready for the poetry to begin, now that the pints were well and truly underway. In spite of not having a microphone, event organiser Niall McGrade silenced the tipsy crowd using a hotel reception bell (which I can only assume he carries with him at all times in case of emergency).
Niall McGrade is the most recent organiser of the English Society’s ‘Poetry and Pints’ – a QUB gem which has been part of the uni experience for decades. He told QR: “Poetry and Pints has been going in one form or another for a very long time, and I think it’s a first taste of poetry for a lot of people. I know I started going in first year and it’s had a huge impact on me. I met a lot of my best friends through Poetry and Pints and I’ve heard a lot of great poetry.”
Amongst well-established poets and regular attendees, there were dozens of first years – some with friends, some alone – who came to Bookfinders to experience the first QUB English Society event of the semester. Even the night’s roster was a blend of both familiar and fresh faces, several of which were performing their material for the first time publicly.
Rachael Ireland, a regular performer at Poetry and Pints, recalled her first experience of the event: “the first ‘Poetry and Pints’ I went to was in my first year of my undergrad and it was possibly one of the scariest but best things I’ve ever done. I went by myself and sat in the corner feeling very small, but everyone there was so welcoming and friendly that I decided I would go back next time. Three years later and I still love going every month. If you’ like reading/listening to/writing poetry it’s a great place to go and gain some insight.”
I think the most significant aspect of the night was the crowd’s support to those showcasing their poetry. Despite the amount of drinking and messing about during the intervals, when someone was performing the crowd of well over fifty were all hush to silence.
This semester’s first ‘Poetry and Pints’ was not only a great insight into the creative talent QUB has to offer, but was also a refreshing change of pace as nights out go (much better than the new Cuckoo, which is just plain bad).