Open Mic Night #100

The set up for our first Open Mic Night.

When we first moved into our Montmorency Studio way back in 2013, something Blaise wanted to do was host a monthly Open Mic Night.

That had been a requirement at our Professional Writing & Editing course – students had to read at least twice a year. Most students (or at least most students I knew) dreaded it. Read in front of an audience? Terrifying. I’d almost hyperventilate, and had to continually psyche myself up beforehand.

But, inevitably, I grew to enjoy it, and in my second year of study would volunteer to read. Later, after I’d graduated, I actually spoke about mental health issues for SANE Victoria, then Beyond Blue. I never would’ve done that – never would’ve considered it – if those school readings hadn’t introduced me to public speaking.

As far as Busybird was concerned, I was worried that without that study imperative, people wouldn’t attend. But Blaise was typically optimistic. And persistent.

The first few Open Mics were understandably sparse, but gradually they grew. They were rarely big, barnstorming events, but they gained respectable numbers, and many of those people became regulars over the years.

What everybody immediately embraced was the passion behind the night. A lot of that came from Blaise and Kev. They brought warmth, familiarity, and encouragement to the Open Mic Nights. People felt that the moment they walked in. It wasn’t a place to be nervous. It wasn’t a place of judgement. It was a nest that was nurturing. Readers could find their voice in a way they might not have been able to otherwise.

Blaise behind the microphone.

On the day of an Open Mic Night, we’d often try to predict how many people would attend. Sometimes, we’d have a cold, wet, miserable day, and think that would impact numbers. Nope. People wanted somewhere cosy to settle in.

When we reached Open Mic Night #21, Blaise drew a key on an A4 sheet of paper, and people signed it like they’d sign a twenty-first-birthday key. It seemed amazing to have gotten that far. (That key’s now stuck on the wall behind Kev’s collection of cameras. Check it out.)

That was way back on 15 April 2015 – look how far we’ve come!

The Open Mic Nights were something that could’ve easily imploded during the Covid years. But Blaise worked industriously to keep them going, running them as online functions until we could forage back out into the real world. Then, when she unexpectedly passed away, it would’ve been easy to let them fall away.

Kev used the first couple of dates for Blaise-centric events – first a memorial, where family and friends could talk about her, and then, to launch her novel The Colours of Ash. Both were well attended, but they were events.

The first few Open Mics after that were sparse. Understandably, the bulk of regulars hadn’t returned. It was a strange space to now occupy – a Blaise-place without Blaise.

For Kev, myself, an intern Daniel (who was so helpful during that difficult time), Kate the bookkeeper, and Oscar, it was noticeable every day.

At functions, it was far worse. Typically, Blaise would be front and centre behind the microphone. All the dynamics had changed. Maybe it was only natural to call time on Open Mic Night.

We kept pushing, thinking – as was the motivator behind so many decisions back then – it’s what Blaise would want. Numbers started to grow. Lots of new people started coming. Open Mic Night had found a new lease.

Now here we are at Open Mic Night #100.

A captive audience.

Blaise grew up on a hippy commune nicknamed “Tralfamadore”, a place (I imagine) that she developed a sense of close-knit community. Walls didn’t separate neighbours. Everybody knew everybody. Everybody relied on everybody. It was (for a time) their little utopia.

It wasn’t until Blaise passed away that I realized that’s what she was doing with Busybird, and with the Open Mic Nights – creating a community of like-minded people, and giving them a place where they could feel safe, where they could find their voice and be appreciated, and where they could form lasting friendships.

One of the important outcomes of writing, Blaise would say, was leaving a legacy behind – our stories would remain here long after we were gone.

Through Open Mic Night, she built her own legacy, and allowed all of us to tell our stories and connect with others.

And long may it live on.

Hope to see you all tomorrow night, Wednesday, 15th May, at 7.00pm at our Studio for Open Mic Night #100!

One response to “Open Mic Night #100

  1. Wonderfully written sentiments Les. The 100th Open Mic night I’m sure will be a success and the realization of Blaise’s wishes. I’m grateful to be a small part of it.

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