Hammer & Tongue has moved! No longer found on the top floor of the Fountain but at The Junction with a fancy new stage, box office and cabaret style tables. The new setting has given the much loved event a refreshing boost and suits Hammer & Tongue nicely.

In the more than capable hands of hostess Fay Roberts we are guided through the season’s penultimate Hammer & Tongue; a prestigious slam with each winning poet proceeding to the Regional Finals where they compete for a spot at the National Finals in London; bookended by two feature acts. Roberts sets the tone of the evening by reading a piece of her own new writing, sufficiently warming the crowd before introducing the first feature act.

Robin Lamboll won his Hammer & Tongue slam back in November and will be competing in the Cambridge Regional finals this year. A poet with many hobbies and talents, Robin covers some interestingly diverse topics ranging from Justice to Vanity to Death. Robin uses his impressive scientific knowledge to explore these topics with clever quips and witty rhyming that manages to make his poems both educational and funny.

I have seen Robin perform on a few occasions now but for the night’s performance he pulled out a host of new poems which came along with a new and energetic style of performance. It is always wonderful to watch a performer experiment and discover their “style” and this new found confidence of Robin’s makes me truly excited to see what will come next.

After a brief overview of the rules from Fay Roberts, the slam was underway with sacrificial poet Afrodita Nikolova returning from last month’s victory. A sacrificial poet’s role is to introduce the audience and volunteer judges to the format – a practice run, if you will. The slam was a close one featuring some old faces and some new.

First up was second time slammer Matthew Cox, who although clearly nervous to be on stage gave a great poem focused on sending a message to bullies and their victims.

This followed by Steven Alderman who returned to the stage with a dramatic and almost angry poem for lovers which explored the intensity of love. A line I liked a lot from the poem was “the lightening striking the hurricane” which conjured some good imagery. A high scorer but unfortunately Steve went over time and lost crucial points.

Shaun Maran performed his first poem “hot air rises” in a strong Welsh accent and surprised the audience when he returned to his normal British accent for the second. Two poems are always hard to score in this kind of slam and although the audience liked the poems, the judges were unsure.

This followed by first time slammer and the night’s winner Cal Church, who performed a poem dedicated to his sister. The poem was full of clever insults (I will be adopting douche canon- thank you Cal’s sister!) and witty twists that flowed easily and told great stories. Although it was obvious that this was Cal’s first Hammer & Tongue slam he performed with confidence and I think he will be one to watch out for!

Finally, it was time for the feature set from Mark Gwynne Jones, who greets Cambridge as the final point of his Hammer & Tongue national tour. Mark Gwynne Jones is well known for mind-altering poetry with an almost music hall edge and is a five times fringe award winner. Jones has a way of commanding the stage with ease, his conversation flowing effortlessly into poetry. He covered a range of topics performing 7 poems in total from correct pronunciation to different perspectives bridged by a tribute poem about slug lust. As resident poet in four of London’s parks, Mark explored what is meant by ‘common ground’ in 21st Century Britain – the outcome a lovely poem about people and spaces and how we often view them. Jones manages to be deep and philosophical, witty and clever whilst being playfully silly resulting in a wonderful combination. Like his poem “The Devil’s Arse” he manages to say nothing and everything with every word.

Words from Nikki Marrone