Courtesy Birmingham Public Library
Bards & Brews collage
Bards & Brews emcee and creative director Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins (L); poet Jahman Hill (R).
The Birmingham Public Library downtown will host Bards & Brews – its popular series of spoken-word events and craft-beer tastings that is struggling to survive financially – this Friday night, March 3.
Donations will be accepted at the door to help keep Bards & Brews alive as it faces what librarian and series coordinator Brandon C. Smith calls a “perfect storm” of funding problems.
Blues guitarist George Griffin will perform at 6:30 p.m., and a poetry open mic will begin at 7 p.m., with poet and Bards & Brews creative director Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins serving as emcee, according to a BPL news release.
Beer tasting will be available courtesy of Grayton Beer Co. of South Walton County, Florida, and The J. Clyde will be serving the beer.
Bards & Brews, held on first Fridays at the main library since October 2010, “is the longest running and most successful adult program the library has ever had,” Smith told Iron City Ink recently.
But Bards & Brews is in jeopardy due to the recent loss of some grant money, the increasing costs of staging the event, and budgetary pressures at BPL that have caused cutbacks in adult programming, according to Smith.
Another hurdle faced by organizers is a recent change in regulations by the state ABC Board that means craft brewers will no longer be allowed to donate free samples of beer to the library.
The library would now have to buy the beer, which it can’t do with taxpayer money. “We’re trying different avenues to source outside funding,” Smith said
Donations were also asked of attendees at the Feb. 3 Bards & Brews All-Star event that featured a lineup of past winners. This was the first time that admission had ever been charges at a Bards & Brews event, according to Smith.
Organizers have found a venue for the April installment of Bards & Brews at the library’s Avondale branch, according to Smith.
However, he said that actually hosting that April event is dependent on organizers' ability to raise enough money on March 3 or to find a sponsor.
It requires about $900 to host a regular Bards & Brews open mic, and another $300 to provide prize money for the quarterly poetry slams, according to Smith.
Many long-time Bards & Brews participants are speaking out in support of the series.
Hawkins calls Bards & Brews “an intersection of art and culture” in Birmingham where writers, performers and visual artists have been inspired or met collaborators.
“Bards & Brews is so necessary to preserve poetry in Birmingham,” said Tomika Glenn, a multiple slam winner who performs as Blaque Diamond. “I want to see more writers and would-be performers inspired by other poets.”
“It’s so special to have an outlet to present my creativity and enjoy the creative thoughts of others,” said poet Lee Green, who has appeared at many Bards & Bards events.
The series also helps the library, according to Hawkins. “Bards & Brews brings people into the space,” he told Iron City Ink in September. “This allows us to let people know about all of the other programs that the library has to offer that may not get as much press as Bards & Brews.”
There are plans for an off-site Bards & Brews fundraiser, and the library is working on other grants, according to Smith.
“I think Birmingham needs more events that bring people from all over the community together, and it would be a shame for us to allow Bards & Brews to disappear without a fight,” Smith said.
For more information, contact Smith at 591-4944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public can give money to Bards & Brews at bplonline.org/about/contributions or mail donations to Birmingham Public Library, Development Department, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203.