November 2, 2011 — Literary Death Match teamed with the first direct Dialogue Festival for our first-ever trip west (in London, at least). The night finished with a historic beard-enthused battle that saw Jacques Strauss score a five-beard run to out-beard co-finalist John Osborne by a score of 7 beards to 2. What are we talking about? Let's start from the top.
So, LDM finally took heed of what the Pet Shop Boys have been banging on about all this time, and made the long journey West — at Under the Westway to be precise. And was it a hoot? Rhetorical, children, rhetorical — of course it was a hoot.
Hooting for LDM were the awesome Osborne (author of Radio Head and The New Blur Album, and member of poetry collective Aisle16) the stupendous Ella Hickson (whose debut play Eight acquired many an accolade, and is now playwright in residence at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith) the prodigious Olumide Popoola (author of This is Not About Sadness and PhD in Creative Writing), and the immeasurable Jacques Strauss (author of The Dubious Salvation of Jack V).
Honking for the judges was Neil Denny (producer and presenter of the Little Atoms Radio show) on Intangibles, Laura Dockrill (author and illustrator) on Performance and lastly, for Literary Merit, Ekow Eshun (author of Black Gold of the Sun and broadcaster) who simply loves to hear the joke “Ekow, Ekow, Ekow…” over and over and over again, because it never gets old.
Kick off saw Osborne regale the crowd with some of his marvellous poetry, leaving us with several pearls of wisdom, including “Just remember this: rich people are dicks and that money would have turned you into a bastard anyway,” And “most people aren’t that happy anyway.”
Hot on his heels was Popoola, reading from her novella, this is not about sadness – a story about the unlikely friendship between two complex and traumatised London-based women, one an older Jamaican and the other a young South African. With accents and all, Popoola had the crowd fish-hooked.
Judges, after much heated deliberation put through Osborne, partly for his ability to turn words into “something else” but mostly for his image of a drunk man with a xylophone.
Round two saw Strauss taking on Hickson with a reading from his novel, which regaled the audience with colourful images of vagina faces a gogo. “You’re such a li’l ro’er!” Dockrill squealed in response. We think she means to say “little rotter”.
Hickson then read two monologues, for the second imploring her audience to imagine her as a 19-year-old boy; the audience responded with a wolf whistle followed by a devoted suspension of imagination, manifesting itself with pin-drop silence.
Judges — perhaps liking the idea of an all boys club — decided to put through Strauss, after which a brutal finale ensued: guess the literary beard! (Perpetuating the all boys club, we think – unless there are some particularly hormonally challenged female writers out there.)
Typically, the semi-bearded Strauss ran away with the crown, leaving a baby-faced Osborne wallowing in his beard-less sorrow.
Despite some rumours of beard-fixing, nothing has been confirmed.