The confident Luton kid behind the spoken word revolution
Luton people's poet Lee Nelson, 43, claims he was one of those irritating youngsters with an excellent memory who loved reading, then reciting the bits that amused him.
“First it was Spike Milligan, then pop songs,” he recalls. “The words stuck in my head and I loved playing around with them and making up my own versions. Basically I was a confident kid who loved to perform.
“I always had a lot of stuff floating about in my head, so I wrote it down. I like poetry because I like deft and complex language.”
Not that he’s advocating anything opaque and unintelligible, you understand – just that he believes good writing should be “crafted and intelligent, as well as angry or silly or funny or powerful or emotional or whatever.”
Lee – the brains behind UTTER! Lutonia - works at an independent specialist college for adults with severe learning difficulties and disabilities.
The former Luton Sixth Form student, now living in Hightown with his immunologist wife Anna, started UTTER! Spoken Word in 2004 with his friend Richard Tyrone Jones.
It became one of the principal gigs on the spoken word circuit and Richard was responsible for introducing it to the Edinburgh Festival where it became a distinct strand on the Free Fringe.
Lee says: “Lots of key figures on the scene did some of their early gigs at UTTER! events and the goodwill extends to the Luton outpost.
“People who have national and international profiles will come and do my little gig . . . it’s lively and open, intelligent, questioning and engaged. The nights always pop with ideas and connections, something that’s sometimes missing in the internet age – that clear you-had-to-be-there authenticity.
“That’s what UTTER!Lutonia is for . . . and it’s for everyone.”
He’s a great fan of the town where he was born and it’s ‘do it anyway’ attitude.
“Even though everyone says Luton is awful, even though they say there’s nothing to do – so, do something about it yourself,” he advises.
“That’s what I learned from the alternative music scene when I grew up here in my late teens. The Switch Club and 33 Arts Centre – the attitude was if it isn’t happening and you want it, do it yourself.
That’s what I love – the self sufficiency, the bloody mindedness.
“Look at LutonAid, the Bear Club, Living Luton magazine – all run by Luton people who do it for love and its own sake and for the town, for the people of the town, all of them.
“That’s what makes it great. It’s a beautiful place and that’s how we might address some of the dodgey bits - by being positive and ambitious ourselves.”