Interview: Culain Wood on Glastonbury Festival 2024

Salford poet, “via the hills of the Peak District where I was lucky enough to grow up,” Culain Woods returns to this year’s Glastonbury festival following his performances at Poetry&Words in 2022.

“I’m even more excited than the first time,” Wood says. “I love it. It can be a place where you see humanity at its finest, weirdest and most interesting.”

Being back is “a dream come true” for the poet who plays a set on the Friday afternoon, as well as hosting the festival’s Poetry Slam on the Sunday alongside Dominic Berry.

“I was in a shit punk band for years and it was all we ever talked about. I could argue with my own reflection though, so being a one-man kind of thing is better suited to my moods. “

His work has been described as being “inspiringly crafted and full of integrity, humility and fragility.”

“I use spoken word as an outlet to vent spleen,” he says, “but I’ve been writing poetry since I wrote ‘I love you mummy, hearts and flowers, I love you’ at about three or four.”

Photo: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

Despite that literary gesture, Wood says he is still not his mam’s favourite poet, “but I’ll happily take second place behind W.B. Yeats,” he adds.

His influences are slightly different to the renowned Irish poet. “Joe Strummer, David Attenborough and Eric Cantona are the three artists I take the most inspiration from, but my two girls and the world they’re about to inherit are often main features of my writing.”

He’s developed his writing since his last outing at Worthy Farm. “Last time, I was definitely still finding my feet as an artist, and there was maybe a bit more aggression in the set. I’m trying to bring more variety of emotion this time round. I’m probably angrier than ever right now (I think we all should be) but sometimes you have to bring the light as well as the dark, to offer hope.”

On what he’s planning for the set, he’s thinking about what people can take away from his performance. “I always aim to leave people thinking and feeling things and some of those things aren’t always comfortable. They can be confronting, but we’re in it together and I never preach. I’m hoping to connect with people and share 27 minutes of something they remember.”

He’s also considering how to approach the show, learning from his experience in 2022, a bringing “a massive amount of gratitude” with him. “The first time round I approached it as if there was a chance it would never happen again, which of course there was. I’m extra grateful to be back.”

“I think it’s also important to go into these things with an open mind and not expecting anything other than to give it your all.”

He’s acutely aware of how a festival dynamic can bring unexpected features to a spoken word set. “A few years ago I performed at a different festival, and just as I was halfway through my first piece, a 40-strong marching band started up just outside the tent. Snare drums and cymbals don’t really mix with spoken word, but it was a moment I shared with a supportive audience, and it makes for a good story now.”

Mostly, it seems to be about living in the moment for Wood and using the platform his performance offers. “Have fun with it and don’t worry about numbers or reach or stuff like that. Be grateful for the opportunity. Also, and this is important, use your platform to say something beyond your own narrative or personal message if you can. I know for certain that I’ll be doing that.”

One of the other things Wood will be doing, like the rest of us, is checking out everything the festival has to offer and he has a few tips for acts to check out.

“I’m lucky to have a few friends that are on the Poetry & Words lineup this year. Dominic Berry and Kate Ireland are two spoken word performers/poets that you should definitely try and see. The three of us are all on within a few hours of each other on the Friday, and I’m so looking forward to seeing their sets.

“Another friend of mine is a bit of a name-drop these days, but Antony Szmierek is a mate from Manchester. He and his bandmates are ripping things to shreds at the minute. He’s a top lad and they make top music. I think they’ve got three sets booked in at the moment all over the site. I’ll also be seeing Kneecap at some point and I can’t wait.”

His best tip though is: “Just wander, see something you wouldn’t normally see – let the festival decide!”

Culain Wood performs at Poetry&Words, Glastonbury Festival on Friday 28 June from 16:43 – 17:08. The Poetry Slam takes place on Sunday 30 June from 17:00 to 19:00

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