This is a reading of Maria Ferguson‘s debut poetry collection, Alright, Girl?, a personal recollection of memories and experiences from the East End. A working class voice. A woman dealing with growing up in a changing part of London, where expensive flats replace the friendly streets where money may have been scarce but support was strong.
With binaural sound adding a setting of voices, traffic, and the flotsam of the everyday, best experienced with headphones, Ferguson’s poetry is tightly wound but beautifully expressive. This web of words envelopes the listener in a cosy fog of resilence; one where the pubs have long memories, and where friends of similar class and concerns rub along together. The turns of phrase are vivid, the rhythm is strong, and yet we recognise the regular vernacular.
Alright, Girl? is about class, gender, and belonging. Ferguson’s previous work, Fat Girls Don’t Dance and Essex Girl have won awards and gained attention, and her move into poetry seems a natural progression. Each piece has something different to offer, and lines will catch your attention as you listen, and listen again. Poetry is often dismissed as elitist, but it should be our lifeblood, the pulse on which we walk.
Listening to a collection in this way is obviously very different from experiencing the words in an open mic setting, or with a wider audience. However, being pulled in via headphones – there are no visuals to speak of, so you can close your eyes and just lean into the memories Ferguson brings to life. I particularly enjoyed Body, which is perhaps the most obviously personal of the pieces showcased here.
We travel around East London with the poems, seeing the skies, the buildings, the parks, the streets. Everything we see, hear, smell, taste. A meditation on place and being. The people we encounter, “life is hard, but we are happy”. Shared experience, moments of pride and peace.
Alright, Girl? is streaming as part of the Living Record Festival until 22 February. You can book here. You can also see the virtual launch of the book on Ferguson’s YouTube channel.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Alright, Girl?
Other reviews here from the Living Record Festival.