5 WAYS hosted another Open Mic Night on the 8th of February to celebrate the talents of those in recovery.

The evening featured spoken-word performers, singer-songwriters, bands, comedians and poets. Complimentary food was provided by the 5 WAYS members who provided a range of curries.

As usual, the night was a sell out as the recovery community gathered together to recognise the accomplishments of those who have chosen to turn their back on drink and/or drugs.

5 WAYS Manager Jo Byrden said:

“I am always stunned and moved by the quality of the performers we attract here to our open mic nights. To see such levels of artistry and creativity is truly humbling”.

“What’s even more impressive is that people are now travelling to appear at the 5 WAYS open mic’s from across the north of England. Our reputation seems to have got out there that this is a great place to perform.”

One of the acts, and long time friend of 5 Ways and the site, Jem Stuart, kindly sent us this review of the night.

You just had to be there…


This was my 3rd open mic at the 5 Ways Academy and the 5th overall, but for some reason I felt really nervous.

It took me a while to work out why, because on my previous visits everybody has been both warm and appreciative; but I think on reflection it was that I was performing stand up comedy rather than poetry as I usually do.

Of course, I was worrying needlessly – the audience were brilliant; not just for me but for ALL the performers.

Speaking of which, here’s my review of the night.

First up was Hank, who since meeting him a couple of years ago, I’ve seen perform at least a dozen times and he always makes me smile.

© Forward Leeds. Hank

Tonight, he had a surprise for us – he sang Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley accompanied by his melancholy harmonica. He followed this up with a personal favourite, the Lion and Albert (parts 1&2) – which although made famous by Stanley Holloway, Google informs me was actually written by someone called Marriott Edgar – either way, I don’t know how Hank remembers all the words!

Then came Zoe, who read a very affectionate poem about her daughter, I don’t recall whether she’d given it a title but it contained a lovely reference to her deep blue eyes.

Ralph Dartford followed up with some very powerful poetry about addiction and recovery and here I must confess an interest; I actually paid to see him perform “Recovery Songs” at Bradford Literary Festival last summer and loved it.

If you get a chance to see this tour de force, I would urge you to seize it with both hands.

© Forward Leeds. Ralph Dartford

Behla came next, to sing and play guitar on some of her own compositions, which had us all spellbound.

© Forward Leeds. Behla.

Then it was my turn and after a few jokes about my grammatical pedantry, I closed my little set with a parody of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music – which I hope is funnier than it sounds…

© Forward Leeds. Yours truly, Jem Stuart

Our MC, Dane, then declared a break and it was time for some food, Leona kept up the high standards of previous open mics with a marvellously spicy Caribbean chicken curry. There was a veggie alternative, but after 2 bowls of the chicken, I’m afraid I had no room to sample that.

© Forward Leeds. MC Dane.

Anthony opened the second half with a rendition Bridge Over Troubled Water and I know this shows my age, but it took me right back to listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes on my very first transistor radio!

© Forward Leeds. Anthony.

The very talented Joe then performed a couple of his own songs, he was quite self-deprecating but I loved everything about his performance – particular his guitar playing. I was flattered to be asked to read a couple more poems and – although I had to read them off my phone – they were once again well received.

© Forward Leeds. Joe.

Tom then stepped up to do some stand up around addiction and recovery and although he might have felt bad when he forgot some of his material, I would like him to know that what we did hear was excellent and that it’s OK to use a crib sheet – I do it all the time!

© Forward Leeds. Tom.

Behla did a couple more numbers and then the marvellously named Jesus and the Aubergine closed the evening with their usual aplomb;

I’ve seen them before and always enjoy their set.

© Forward Leeds. Jesus & The Aubergine

As usual I was buzzing on the drive home and it occurred to me – not for the first time – that reading my poetry to audiences big and small over the last 2 years, has positively affected my life in every way.

When I was drinking, there wasn’t enough booze in the world for me to even sing Karaoke, but writing and performing has boosted my self-confidence, quelled my social anxiety, stimulated my creativity and introduced me to some wonderful people who have become close and valued friends.

I’ve already started to write a new comedy set – about ageing and health problems – for the next open mic; see you there?

Jem Stuart.