I remember my very first on-campus Speakeasy event; it was in fact the very first on-campus Speakeasy event. It was held on a somewhat sunny afternoon on the lush though prickly grass of the humanities courtyard. I sat with my fellow honours creative writers, all too busy dreading the moment we would have to stand in front of our peers and read aloud what we had thus far kept to the quiet, dignified workshop table to really appreciate the quality of the non-honours BCAers (we had a superiority complex also, but don’t all BCAers?). We shared a bag of ripe, green grapes and those spicy, twisty snacks from the health food shop we were all obsessed with (is the health food shop even there anymore? So much has changed since ‘my day’, like the refectory, what’s up with that place? It’s like a prison cafeteria in there) and drank water from bottles that grew warmer as the afternoon stretched on. That was a long anecdote, but my point is, on that very first Speakeasy event, where, sans microphone we had to actually project our voices into the listless wind and hope that somewhere in that spattering of cross-legged writers someone was actually listening, and eat shared bags of grapes and grain snacks, which were no doubt tainted with the nervous sweat of our fellow superior BCAers, we could never have imagined that the event would grow and mature into the one it is today. Don’t get me wrong, I painted a much bleaker picture of the day than I intended, it was actually really lovely and I had a wonderful time, but the on campus Speakeasy event of today was for me at least, a thing of wonder.
As a long-time attendee of the Wheatsheaf Speakeasy events, I am becoming increasingly familiar with the crop of regular talent and was delighted to see Mario Pilla once again don the MC hat after his successful and very funny gig at the last public event. He was as funny and engaging as ever, keeping the course of things running smoothly while maintaining with a super casual, fun vibe, aided by the regular spruiking of the Speakeasy zine from Speakeasy’s Assistant Director, Alicia Carter, in the back-corner.
Round one kicked off with a short story by Mel Manson, who was followed by a group of sometimes lyrical, sometimes funny, always engaging poets. We heard poems about the environment and the climate crisis, bullying, and war, among others filled with delightful imagery and engaging subject matter. After a break we were treated to a surprising and rather impressive bout of beat-boxing from Jake Cefai, and more jokes from Mario. In round two laughs were provided by Peter Beaglehole and Luke Bartholomew followed by some fantastic 150 word stories by Samuel Williams. There were some great lyrical and metaphorical works such as Chris Willis’ tale about a tree’s growth as a reflection of a boy’s journey from youth to adulthood, and Miranda Richardson’s rhyming poem about the moon. Once again the break came very quickly, for me at least, who was having such a great time getting caught up in the passion and energy of these talented young writers.
Let’s, for a moment, reflect on the snacks. My goodness. I have been to an increasing number of post-grad events, each with the obligatory servings of cheese and crackers, finger sandwiches and slices of watermelon, which, don’t get me wrong, are great, but can become a bit of a bore after a while. Imagine my delight when I saw a snack table lined with mini-tubes of Pringles, Mami noodles, lollipops, fun-sized chocolate bars and cans of coca-cola. Oh My! Threasa assured us the reason for the lack of alcohol was her failure to submit a licence in time, though MC Mario was quick blame her for drinking it all herself. What really happened? I’ll let you be the judge.
Round three kicked off with more jokes from Mario before were treated to some clever 55 word stories by Jack McEntee, a very funny story about a primary school nativity play by Dominiek Neall and some great imagery in the story by Alicia Carter. We took a trip into space with a Frankenstien-esque monster aptly named Shelley, created by the very talented Lauren Fuge, and all was finally rounded off by Piri Eddy’s extremely entertaining retirement home story.
But that folks, was not all. Threasa, Speakeasy’s Director, gave out the door prizes. ‘What?’ you say, ‘door prizes?’ yes indeed, door prizes. You don’t even need to do anything but show up and you can go home with some cool gifts. What an amazing event. Can you believe that for all of this I paid only a gold-coin donation at the door? I know, right? Crazy. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a Friday afternoon for under $2?
Thanks to the hard-work and dedication of Threasa, Alicia and the Speakeasy committee, writing at Flinders campus is not just alive, it’s thriving. It’s pumping its fist into the air and screaming ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’ or some secular, but equally zealous alternative. The enthusiasm of these young writers is infectious. In fact, I think I came down with a downright, dirty case of Speakeasy writer’s fever, which if left untreated can result in bouts of delirious scrawling at obscene hours of the morning followed by intense periods of self-loathing, but, if managed correctly, can turn into a truly beautiful thing. Which is what these guys are. They are beautiful, disease-carrying, truth-sayers. Or something. I truly wish we had this kind of event when I was in first year. So come along, get in, catch yourself some Speakeasy fever. It’s way better than Chlamydia, I promise, well ... assume.
By Lauren Butterworth