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eight cuts gallery, Oxford's literary underground takes over Blackwell's for a night

Eight Cuts Gallery’s cabaret at Blackwell's bookshop was altogether more straight-faced than the playful open mikes of Cowley Road, and showcased some exciting new talent.

The event was staged in the formidable setting of Blackwell’s Norrington Room (which boasts an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most books sold in a single room). Happily, despite the library-like setting, the audience were offered complimentary wine and encouraged to make noise by the likeable compere, who sported red fishnet gloves and a beard.

There was a good turnout, and the audience was dotted around the three levels of the room – either sitting on the floor, or standing to peep out between piles of books.

The audience seemed to enjoy the novelty of being nestled among Norrington’s 160,000 books. I was situated among the Graphic Guides and was able thumb through a couple of cartoons about Critical Theory while I waited for the performance to start.

Girls outnumbered boys among the performers, which made a refreshing change, and there were also some very strong performances from younger poets. The range of work on offer kept things interesting – as well as music and poetry, artists stepped up with flash fiction, blog extracts and even an extract from a novel. Topics ranged from meditations on Facebook, gigs and same sex kisses to accounts of heroin addiction and family death.

Eight Cuts aren’t entirely convincing in their role as a self-declared literary underground, but they have a compelling kind of New Libertine vibe, and offer something different – perhaps more thoughtful – from some of Oxford’s more established open mikes. Well worth checking out.

Amy Hopkins (DI Reviewer), 19/10/11

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