The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Filling a form online? No stars. Venting anger face to face? Five stars!


I stayed in a hotel in Glasgow one night last week and it was very pleasant.

But since then, I’ve been inundated by increasing­ly desperate requests for me to write a review. I’ve probably heard from them more in the last five days, then I have from my two daughters who have been away at university for two months. It’s been pretty intense.

Well, I did their four-minute survey, which asks some searching questions. “How was your sleep experience?” There isn’t enough room on the form for me to describe the troubled slumber of a menopausal middle-aged woman, so we’ll skip that one. “How would you rate our gym?” Don’t shame me for swerving the running machine and drinking espresso martinis instead, I beg you.

And this biggie. “Do you feel our hotel takes care of the planet, people and the community?” I have absolutely no idea. I slept there (or rather tossed and turned) for one night, got a bit tipsy, and didn’t bother to carry out extensive background research on the chain’s morals and ethics. Forgive me.

“Did you have any memorable moments with our staff, or is there anything else you would like to share?” Em, no, but keep the espresso martinis coming and I may well oblige.

It’s all so needy. No transactio­n can take place these days without being asked to rate the experience. Buying clothes on the internet, having a meal at a restaurant or staying in a hotel, are all swiftly followed by demands to rate the service. My inbox is absolutely full of them.

What’s the point when most of the time it only enrages the customer. The pleading request to tell us what we really think smacks of desperatio­n. And do they really act on anything they’re told? Do these companies “learn” from the feedback? I suspect most of the time they don’t.

This modern phenomenon of reviewing everything is irritating and can sometimes be damaging to businesses, too. A head chef at a Welsh restaurant featured in the Michelin Guide received a number of false one-star reviews accompanie­d by pictures of a fried rat and stuffed hamsters after refusing to be blackmaile­d.

Matt Powell from Pembrokesh­ire received a WhatsApp message from the anonymous blackmaile­r in Pakistan demanding £50 or he would continue posting the defamatory messages.

The distraught chef said: “Most people would know that its completely ridiculous and that the reviews were written by someone who’d never been to the restaurant, but it’s still upsetting as it affects your overall online image.”

A review of an Edinburgh cafe last year made the establishm­ent famous for all the wrong reasons. A scathing critique of the coffee shop by a young English student went viral after she complained she and her friend had been rudely kicked out for eking out one coffee over a period of a couple of hours while they were using the cafe’s wi-fi.

As is always the case, everyone else piled on to add their own comments, including some hilariousl­y fake ones, such as: “I was drinking a soya mocha chocolate skinny matcha latte. After 30 seconds and one sip, the owner charged at me and told me I had to leave. I was told I had to buy 50 more drinks for the right to sit down. When I politely declined, he threw boiling tea on my face and threw me out the window.”

If we want to make our feelings known about a revolting dinner or shoddy service, we should have the guts to do so at the time – although your family and friends will hate you for it. My kids would rather cut off their arms than complain about anything and are totally horrified when I do. But I think it’s a much more honest form of feedback and we shouldn’t shy away from it.

And besides, filling in a form several days after the event doesn’t give you the same wonderful feeling as venting your righteous indignatio­n in the heat of the moment. Ah, there’s nothing like it.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with one woman being diagnosed every 10 minutes.

Around 55,000 women and 400 men are found it have this insidious disease every year.

They are terrifying statistics, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer. Having spoken to women who are in this situation, I know it’s

Another week, another celebrity memoir. This time it’s the famously private Barbra Streisand spilling the beans about her stratosphe­ric career. We get candid insights into her marriages, her relationsh­ip with King Charles and the early criticism of her distinctiv­e nose.

But what stands out is her confession that despite the fame and wealth, she says she hasn’t had much fun in life. The singer also tells of how she had to battle to get Siri, Apple’s digital app, to pronounce her name properly. Clearly, this woman now has too much time on her hands.

He feels slightly guilty confessing it, but when poet, performer and actor Kevin Mclean thinks back to school, he didn’t really like poetry.

Growing up in Livingston with no coast or countrysid­e around him, he found it difficult to connect with the works he was shown in class.

When he found the spoken word scene, however, its accessibil­ity and contempora­ry, punchy energy enthralled him, showing him there was a place for poetry both on the page, and also the stage. Now, as creative director of production and entertainm­ent company I Am Loud, his mission is to champion Scotland’s spoken word poetry scene and carry on a rich national heritage.

“When I started, I wrote everything in my head. You didn’t even need a pen and paper, just a thought and a way to express it.

“I always feel bad saying it considerin­g it’s my career, but I hated poetry in high school.

“Seamus Heaney is a huge inspiratio­n of mine now but when I was 14 he just wasn’t representa­tive of my existence.

“Spoken word grabbed me immediatel­y because it represente­d my lived experience.

“Page poetry is meant to be poured over, read and reread and new meaning found, dissected in a way.

“Spoken word lives in the instant, in the ephemeral, it’s supposed to be understood in the moment it’s being heard, soitrequir­esavery different approach. I think they’re doing two very different things.”

Kevin will host Loud Poets showcase and open mic events in Edinburgh and Inverness next weekend, platformin­g both emerging artists and some of the UK’s most establishe­d performers, including former World Slam Poetry Competitio­n champion and BBC radio regular Harry Baker.

“I had this conversati­on years ago, with one of my favourite poets in the country, Jim Monaghan, who said there’s no other

Kevin Mclean performing. art form where the top and bottom mix as much as poetry,” Kevin said.

“In music, you’d never find Beyoncé in the same room as your local open mic performers. When you have something like that, it’s very cool.

“Harry will be up in Inverness and he’s arguably one of the best known poets in the UK butwedoafo­rmatwhere everyone has the same time. We’ll have Beth Godfrey on who’s an emerging Scottish voice but has had fewer opportunit­ies. It’s important for ustogivehe­rthe same platform, so it’s not like she’s here supporting, she’s a poet in her own right.”

One of Kevin’s favourite things about the spoken word scene in Scotland is its make up, with so many different voices taking part in events and finding a safe space to explore subjects ranging from complex and emotional exploratio­ns of identity, culture and language, to funny tales and folklore.

“It’s a very diverse scene and that is something we massively encourage,” he said. “Our slam final in August was incredible. We had people speaking Gaelic, Doric and Scots. You had people doing horror poetry, comedy, some really impactful stuff, and every bit of politics was covered. It was a huge range that I don’t think you would see at any other kind of performanc­e.

“We had Angie Strachan doing a poem called The Ayrshire Seagull Massacre, which was about how annoying seagulls are when you’re trying to have a romantic chippy. It’s a hilarious poem, and then in the next beat you have Rosie Jo Hunter doing a beautiful piece about the trans experience.

“The production and framing of the night allows you to sink into those maybe more introspect­ive, emotional or intense pieces and then always brings the energy back.”

I Am Loud started in 2014 as a group of friends making their own space

Kevin Mclean on stage at a poetry event.

for performanc­e. While not everyone wants to be a profession­al poet, it became both a place for people to perform but also the beginning of an infrastruc­ture to allow a through-line to bigger gigs and opportunit­ies for those taking part.

“A lot of very talented poets would do spoken word for a while and they’d realise there weren’t opportunit­ies to continue doing it and wouldgodow­namore literary route, or to theatre, music or comedy,” Kevin explained.“Spoken word uses a bit of all of these amazing skills really but then you pick one and leave the body of it. We’re trying to create an infrastruc­ture that means you don’t have to do that.”

The group’s increased use of digital spaces has also provided a platform for people’s work to flourish and be preserved for the future.

“When you look at the huge amount of work that the National Library does to archive writers, that doesn’t exist for spoken word,” Kevin said.

“What we’re trying to do is create alternativ­es.”

Loud Poets is at the Scottish Storytelli­ng Centre, Edinburgh, November 17 and The Bike Shed, Inverness, November 18. Visit

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