Since kicking off their own open mic poetry night in January, Filipinos Angel Cruz and Belle Ramos have been providing a platform for residents to unleash their creative side and grow in confidence. Here we talk to the ladies about resonating voices and support in the community
Angel: A friend suggested Voice of Echo. At first, I didn’t want to use ‘echoes’ because when you say your voice echoes, it means the room is empty. But if you’re shouting at the top of the mountain or in the desert, your echo reverberates and carries on for longer.
What makes Echoes different to other open mic poetry events?
Belle: It is like opening a new platform for artists. Sometimes you can see that they really have this artistic side, but they are shy to perform in front of a big crowd.
Angel: We try to create a warm stage: our venues are almost always intimate. We did not want it to be competitive, but for people to be the best artists that they can be. At the same time, we want them to feel that they are in an environment where they are safe to explore their artistic side.
There seems to be a lot of support among the artistic community even from other open mic poetry organisers…
Angel: We think it’s hypocritical to say “I’m the best!” when you’re there to make a connection. We go to Rooftop Rhythms, we go to Backyard Poetry. It is like a big network and family of artists where everyone is supportive of each other. Dorian (Rooftop Rhythms) has his own crowd, Safwa (Backyard Poetry) has her younger crowd. Initially we were gearing ourselves for the Asian/Filipino community, but now it is developing into a mixed crowd, which is amazing.
Is there something about arts and cultural events that you think makes us, as expats, feel more connected?
Angel: Yes. A big part of me is my artist side, and I felt like I kind of lost that identity [when I moved here] because I was not able to connect with people here the same way I connected with them in the Philippines. No matter how hard I try, it is very different to be able to go back to that level of artistry. Meeting friends from back home who think in the same way that you do really does make you feel “at home”.
What would you say to encourage more people to share their poetry?
Belle: It’s about encouraging people to be creative. We believe there is an artist in all of us.
Angel: These are their truths. As much as possible, we do not want to restrict anyone, but then again, we have to abide by the laws of this country. I always tell artists who have edgy poems to challenge their creativity: if you want to say something, you can say it without being too literal, play with your metaphors and words. It’s just challenging and transforming your creativity. You might find a poem boring, but when they perform it, you realize “Woah! I was so wrong about it”. This is what I love about spoken word: you can never understand it or get the gist of it until the writer pours their life into it.