Pioneer Valley Poets: Spreading the word: Paul Richmond brings Great Falls Word Festival to Turners Falls this weekend

  • Beat Poet Laureate Paul Richmond of Wendell is bringing the eighth iteration of his annual word festival to Turners Falls Thursday through Sunday. Now called “Great Falls Word Festival,” the event will include many performances and readings at The Shea Theater on Avenue A. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Trish Crapo

For The Recorder
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

To anyone who follows the poetry and spoken word scene in our area, Wendell resident Paul Richmond has become a familiar character. Recently named Beat Poet Laureate by the National Beat Poetry Foundation headquartered in Wolcott, Conn., Richmond is well known for his often humorous spoken word rants that take on gender politics, gentrification, warmongering and environmental issues, among other topics.

He’s also worked to provide publishing and performance opportunities for poets, writers and spoken-word artists under the auspices of Human Error Publishing.

One of Richmond’s most ambitious projects has been the Greenfield Annual Word Festival, an event that for the past seven years has spanned multiple days every fall, and presented a diverse array of varied performers at multiple venues in downtown Greenfield.

This year, Richmond is moving the festival to Turners Falls. He has changed the name to Great Falls Word Festival, and will be holding his larger shows at The Shea Theater on Avenue A.

The Shea provides more seating than previous venues but, more importantly, Richmond hopes that the character of the venue will help audiences to take writers — and writing — more seriously. Individual ticket prices for four different shows at The Shea will range from $5 to $10, depending on the show. But, Richmond emphasizes that another option is to purchase a $20 button that’s good for all four days of the festival.

In addition to The Shea Theater, other venues for readings and performances include The Brick House Community Resource Center at 24 Third St.; LOOT Found+Made at 62 Avenue A; and two venues within Great Falls Harvest Restaurant at 50 Third St.

Richmond says, “The Shea, with its box office and the fact that, ‘Oh, you can’t get in unless you pay,’ is either going to keep a lot of people away, ” he pauses to laugh.”or, it’s gonna reset everyone’s mind.”

A siren drowns him out for a moment as an ambulance speeds down Third Street in Turners Falls.

Once it’s quiet again, Richmond says, “I hope it has people finally realizing that writing is an art form that performers or writers need to be paid for like any other artist.”

In previous years, Richmond relied primarily on donations and ads in his program book to help foot the substantial bill for venue rentals, insurance, advertising and other costs of the festival. This year, he’s trying a new system.

Those wishing to read in the venues Human Error Publishing has created and is sponsoring must register online. Registration options include a one-day pass for $10 or a $20 button that not only serves as your confirmation of registration, but also gets you into all of the festival venues all four days, including the four ticketed shows at The Shea.

“There are still a lot free venues,” Richmond adds. “There are a bunch of open mics. So if people don’t want to even register at all, you can still come to the open mics and read.”

Richmond says the festival has always had an emphasis on inclusivity and diversity. He says festival-goers will be able to “pick and choose like a Chinese menu which shows you want to go to.”

“For me in this time of fake news and people not trusting anybody, I feel it’s really important to give people their voice,” Richmond says.

The festival kicks off Thursday with several events at The Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A, Turners Falls. From 1 to 5 p.m., there will be an open mic outside the Shea and a bookstore and café inside. Thursday evening at 6:30 is The Mole, a performance in which presenters tell five-minute true stories using no notes and no props. A second show, “Do It Now,” words and music with Paul Richmond, John Sheldon, Tony Vacca and Jo Sallins, starts at 8 p.m.

Highlights on Friday include readings from 1 to 5 p.m. at The Shea by “Historical Oracles: Senior writers sharing their experiences of place and aging”; Strawdog Writers presenting “Sidewalk Typewriters” from 5 to 8 p.m. outside The Shea; and evening readings by a variety of individuals and groups at The Shea, Brick House Community Resource Center and Great Falls Harvest restaurant. A “Women Writers Celebration” at The Shea begins at 9 p.m.

Saturday includes a packed program of readings by individuals, small presses and writing groups, including a 6:30 p.m. performance by Exploded View, and a 9 p.m. show featuring “music and words of social justice by local and international poets,” including Ngona Hill. Saturday from noon to 2 p.m., Florence poet Tommy Twilite will lead a workshop, “The Easy Way to Write 30 Poems in 30 Days,” at the Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A.

Sunday the festival closes out with a workshop from noon to 1 p.m., led by Greenfield fiction writer Amy LaPrade at the Great Falls Discovery Center; and a variety of readings at the Shea from 1 to 5 p.m. The bookstore will be open throughout the festival when The Shea is open.

Check for more detailed information on the Great Falls Word Festival Facebook page and on the website at: http://www.gawfest.org (for now, Richmond is still using the old site). You can also email Richmond directly at paul@humanerrorpublishing.com.

Trish Crapo is a writer and photographer who lives in Leyden. She is always looking for poets, writers and artists to interview for her columns. She can be reached at tcrapo@mac.com