My Name Is Gerry Potter: Performance Poet Visits Manchester Met
By Jacqueline Grima
Members of the LGBTQ community gathered at Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) last week for the latest in the Humanities in Public (HiP) festival’s ‘SEX’ strand. The event welcomed Liverpool-born poet, performer, playwright and author Gerry Potter, who performed a selection of his work before screening his documentary My Name is Gerry Potter.
The event was hosted by Manchester Met Reader in Cinema History, Dr Andrew Moor, who introduced Gerry. Speaking to Humanity Hallows before the event, Andrew said, “My Name is Gerry Potter was premiered at Liverpool’s Homotopia festival in October last year and I missed it. As soon as I knew that we were going to be talking about sex in this term’s strand of the HiP festival, I knew that I wanted to show it here. Gerry is one of the shining lights of the North West performance poetry scene.”
After Andrew’s introduction, Gerry performed a selection of his poems, including ‘The Effeminate’, which explored the power of the effeminate child, and ‘My Scouse Voice’, “still working class after all these years.” He also performed ‘Daytime Mild Mannered Man Drag’ and ‘You Got Me, Amy’, which examined the life of singer, Amy Winehouse, described by Gerry as “a short, long life, an incredible, short, long life.”
Asked by Humanity Hallows about why he chose to explore LGBTQ issues through poetry, Gerry said, “I don’t think I ever did. The issues were always there so it wasn’t a conscious choice. I was always picked on as a child and had to escape into my imagination, which is a Queer imagination, because I was ostracised by my community. What I’ve created as a result has been beautiful.”
After his performance, Gerry was joined by My Name is Gerry Potter producer Mike Carney, and director, Alex Negueruela. Asked by Andrew Moor what he had learnt from making the film, Gerry replied, “I learnt that if you point a camera at someone for long enough, you can make a film. You could point the camera at anyone and get a really interesting tale.”
The audience were then treated to a screening of the documentary which followed Gerry’s journey from his childhood in Liverpool to his work as a performance poet. In the film, Gerry visited his childhood home in Scotty Road and discussed the difficulties he faced growing up as an effeminate child. He said, “I was made out of fuzzy felt in a place full of working men.” It also showed how Gerry’s life changed dramatically when he started attending a drama group at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre. Here, Gerry had the opportunity to meet like-minded people and to begin to explore the issues he faced in childhood through performance. Gerry went on to form a theatre group called ‘Sex and Violence’ who performed plays such as Judy Garland, written by Gerry, at the Unity theatre.
The film also showed the many personas that Gerry has adopted during his performance career. The poet’s real name is Gerry Butler but he has changed it various times, his many pseudonyms including Gerry Pantomime and Jenni Potter before he became Gerry Potter. Gerry also performed for many years in the guise of female character, Chloe Poems.
In a touching scene, Gerry payed tribute to his deceased best friend, Brian King, to whom the film was dedicated. Reciting the poem ‘Brian’ in the final scenes, Gerry said, “I never wanted infinity, I think, just to grow old together.”
After the film, Gerry’s fans had the opportunity to buy signed copies of his books including The Chronicles of Folly Butler, Fifty and The Man Pomes.
For more information about Gerry Potter’s performances, see his Facebook page.
‘Polyamory – Consensual Non-Monogamy – Relationship Anarchy’ is the next event in the Humanities in Public ‘SEX’ strand. This event takes place on Sunday 21st February at Manchester Met’s No 70 Building. For tickets and information, see the HiP webpage.