Jude Simpson is a comic poet, performer, writer and now an author of a book about a Christian youth project. RUSS BRAVO catches up with her
RB: How did you get into performing?
JS: "When I left university I knew I wanted to be creative. I loved performing, but I didn’t really have any connections or confidence to use that in any professional capacity.
I ended up joining the Civil Service. [In 2001] I thought I could afford to go part-time for two years and try out all the things I was good at. I performed comic poems at an ‘open mic’ night at the Poetry Society in Covent Garden and got myself known. Over the years it’s very slowly grown."
Who have you been inspired by?
"I wasn’t particularly exposed to many artistic or literary influences while I was growing up, but I went on a church weekend once and the guy who was leading it did a poem about an old church building that was being renovated. He used it as a metaphor for a body of people being revitalised by the Spirit of God. That guy made me laugh but also said something extraordinarily important in an economical way."
Did you have some scary experiences performing?
Oh definitely. I think the blend of stand-up and poetry I do means it’s not as established as pure stand-up. When I first started some material was very hit and miss. With trial and error you funnel yourself into the genre of performance and writing that you’re actually good at.
Was faith part of your life from an early age?
From the age of seven or eight. My parents were Christians and I made a personal commitment to Christ, but in the last six years I’ve questioned and examined my faith in a more scary, richer way than previously.
What kind of feedback do you get?
When people say, “Oh, I’ve had such a good time and haven’t laughed so much in ages”, then that’s a pretty good achievement. But often people will say: “Oh, I so know what you mean”, especially in observational comedy. What I manage to do in my work is create a sense of, look, we’re all in this together, but let’s all say, we’re all quite amazing. I like the sense my audience is sitting up a bit straighter.
Do you prefer to be in a small packed place or at a big festival?
I’m happy with all sorts of things. I like an audience who’ve come to hear what you’ve got say and are prepared to be entertained. Some audiences just want the laughs and don’t want to listen to the intricacies of word play. The way you listen to jazz or folk is similar to the way you listen to poetry. You appreciate it just for its beauty or entertainment value but also you know there are layers to it sometimes.
How did the book come about?
A youth group in a disadvantaged area of Bradford had a story to tell and wanted to write a book. None of them were writers so the project got in touch with me. They wanted it written in a style that had some laughs in it. What I found were people who’d committed themselves to working with children and young people who had little hope in their lives. It felt like I’d stumbled on people that were really modelling Jesus.
Who is the target audience for the book?
Anyone who works in youth work if they are in deprived areas. Second, anyone who has a Christian faith and is prepared to ask questions. The book questions our assumptions.
Has it whetted your appetite for more book writing?
Definitely. What I love is when [people] say: “I’ve read the book and here’s the effect it’s had on me …”. I feel privileged to be the conduit through which an important story was told.
For more information about Jude Simpson go to www.judesimpson.co.uk
We have 10 copies of Jude’s book Just Walk With Me (Authentic, £6.99) to give away this month. Mail us your details by 23 October. Giveaway open to UK residents only.
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