Peel Street Poetry is a group of people dedicated to promoting poetry in Hong Kong. It centers mostly around the weekly open mic nights which are held every Wednesday of the month except the first. These open mic nights have been running for 10 years and began in a mythical place called Joyce is Not Here. Joyce is Not Here was a little blue bar on Peel Street, in Central, which lasted from 2005 to 2013. It was there that two lovely human beings, Nashua Gallagher and Keith McMullen, banded together a small group of poets to come share their writing, and some laughs, every week.

Joyce is Not Here, one of the last nights before the venue closed.

During the Joyce is Not Here days a rotating cast of poets would fill the bar on a weekly basis. Akin Jeje eventually took on the role of emceeing the open mic nights and making newcomers feel welcome. Akin continued to preside over the weekly congregation as it moved to Peel Fresco, due to the closure of Joyce is Not Here.

Peel Fresco, some Wednesday night in 2013
Peel Fresco, some Wednesday night in 2013.

During the brief Peel Fresco days Akin passed the emceeing duties on to Henrik Hoeg, who remains the current emcee. Soon afterwards the whole show was moved to Orange Peel (off Peel Street itself for the first time).

Akin Jeje reading at Orange Peel, 2015
Akin Jeje reading at Orange Peel, 2015

At Orange Peel the group has continued to grow. With Hong Kong’s seemingly endless propensity to bring new talent out of the woodwork. A series of collaborative events in 2015 have really helped to raise the profile of Peel Street Poetry and poetry in Hong Kong in general. This coincides nicely with our 10th anniversary which will be occurring later this year.

Peel Street Poetry is a true testament to ‘build it and they will come’ – an attitude that has prevailed as we enter into our 10th year. The history above however is wonderful, but if you really want to understand Peel Street you are better served by coming down to Orange Peel on a Wednesday. The open mic, the supportive environment and the friendly people are an experience that can’t be captured through a website and some pictures.