CROWD – a conference of literary activists: January 2015
I was properly excited to attend this unique conference of literary organisers and activists, hosted and led by the extraordinary Lettretage – Tom Bresemann, Katharina Deloglu, Moritz Malsch & co, in Berlin, precisely because, absurdly, it seemed wholly focused on the extremely niche thing that I have found myself doing in poetry – that is organisation, curation, innovation, but also something more fundamental than this – the two extensive days of discussion in a room in Kreuzberg were about action. and the possibilities of doing that across Europe, with ambition and energy, while maintaining consideration and ephemeral sensitivity to what literature might be, rather than what it should be.
Lettretage itself is cutting a path for things like the Enemies project. It is doing what I’ve often inadvertently found myself trying to do. This conference was the best possible example of this, having been around near a decade, Lettretage is now innovating ways to grow and centralise a network of similarly minded people and organisations. They have secured fantastic funding support from creative europe and many others to create a tour of Europe, through their CROWD project and to develop things like an app which will allow visitors to new cities to get ‘local’ information on readings and performances. Always their emphasis is on the ground up outfits, the artists and curators who are building up from communities and live, contemporary cultures of poetry, literature and performance arts. Rather than shutting up shop after their successes, they are aggressively searching out those who share their mission and their general attitude of openness and innovation.
I have waffled about so many theoretical notions that gel perfectly with their approach, it was genuinely gratifying and made me feel wholly at home visiting them. So I trotted out these ideas again in Berlin – people before poetry, process over product, respect in the world, disrespect in the text… The guerrilla nature of Enemies was brought into sharp focus here, how reactive I am, and how grounded Lettretage and the many other organisers here are in their worlds and communities. I realised London is different place to organise, in a sense wonderful and anonymous and incremental because of its sprawl. The participants here are more rooted, they take responsibility with deeper ties, and all the while they maintain these positions of giving space to mostly avant garde, or contemporary, work and supporting artists while reaching actual people with that work.