Thanet’s ‘Neanderthal Bard’ joins the Stretched Lips ‘poetry with attitude’ team

Stefan Gambrell - aka Neanderthal Bard - joins the Stretched Lips team

Ramsgate’s Stefan Gambrell – aka the Neandethal Bard – will be stepping up to the plate as a new partner in the monthly Stretched Lips poetry with attitude nights in Margate.

The third session taking place at regular venue The Waste Land bar – at The Libertines owned Albion Rooms in Cliftonville – will see the Bard join regular host Dean Stalham, from the Stretch charity, as co-host, MC and Poet in Residence.

Stefan, 45, is already well known in Thanet’s writing scene, from hosting the Soul Food and Street Sonnets events at Olby’s in Margate to performing at numerous events and locations.

The former chef is also Poet in Residence for homelessness charity Crisis, running education programmes.

Stefan, who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder,  could be described as an accidental poet.

Talking to Crisis, he said: “I had a break down when I was 37. After three years of being thrown around by mental health services I was feeling completely despondent but then one day my social worker suggested that I write down in a letter about how I was feeling.

Stefan with his portrait for the ‘Inside Out’ project

“The first two lines read, How would you feel sir and what would you do, if the world was just grey with no shades of blue? As I wrote more I realised I was writing poetry. I also saw how much I was learning about my own mental health and how it’s not just a personal thing but something that everyone needs to talk about.

“I performed that poem at an open mic in Margate three years ago and the reaction I got was awesome. The pub was packed and I was shaking but I liked it so much I carried on and since then everything has gone bananas. I wrote mainly about mental illness in the beginning but it was so cathartic that I started to write about other things I’d experienced like homelessness, and everything just went from there.”

Those two lines were the beginnings of a journey which now sees Stefan teach workshops and skills, mentor others and, of course, perform.

The partnership in Stretched Lips – which is due for the third of its monthly events on January 26 – could also be seen as accidental.

Stefan said: “At Stretched Lips 1, Shambolic (poet and rapper KeeKee Mckenzie) was performing. I have been mentoring her and so introduced her and did a quick poem

“I came back for the second one and Dean was ill so I jumped in to host for the night. Then Dean said ‘come on board.’

“There are some really nice ideas, you get a 10 minute set – rather than the standard three or five minutes – and then a 10 minute break so you can talk to poets about their work while it is still fresh.

“It is an awesome venue, quirky, which is how things have got since Turner Contemporary, which is a good thing for Margate. Like all seaside towns it went right down in the 80s and 90s but then there was investment from Londoners and a growing artistic community which means it has blossomed.”

Stefan is also involved with a project to mentor young isle rappers. Six people aged 18 to 21 are wanted to get involved with sessions looking at poetry, rap and drama.

The aim is to create a story-telling platform with one nine minute film Joe’ Last Post already created. The short film tells the story through poetry of homeless Joe with Stefan acting in the lead role and writing the words, assisted by Marcus Major in a supporting role and filming/editing by Andre Mckenzie (Megabyte) and music from Matthew Dickerson and master D khk.

Stefan said: “The way I write has a certain flow which comes across like rap and what we are trying to do is get the story element into the rap. I can teach about writing and performance. I’ve noticed a lot of young rappers look at the floor or each other but if you are working with a crowd you have to connect. It is really important, you create trust. Lil Warren is also going to be involved as a drama coach and we will be giving opportunities to perform at three events including the Margate Soul festival Spoken Word stage.”

Dean said he was pleased to have Stefan on the team, adding: “I’m proud and pleased to have him onboard and to be working with him on various projects. He is a true gem whose heart is in the right place.”

Stretched Lips 3 will feature a set from Stefan. Also on the bill are Clair Meyricks, Voices of the Windrush Generation poetic author David Matthews, Jack Mythos and, topping the bill, leading anti knife crime activist, charity leader and poet Mark Cleasey.

Doors open at  7pm, show starts at 8pm through until 10pm. Entry is free.

The Albion Rooms is at 31 Eastern Esplanade, Margate. Check out the Margate Street Art exhibition by Chu while you are there.

To find out more about the young rapper opportunities contact Stretch Outsider Art Festival lead Dean Stalham  on [email protected]