“In order to fulfil what is potentially a very important function, Hatch needs to re-examine its identity… until it does so, I cannot offer it my support.” Hatch still hasn’t cracked it, writes JAMES MACNAMARA.

Hatch james macnamara

Corpus Playrooms 5th November £5/£6

This is the third time I have written about Hatch. The last two attempts were scrappy. I couldn’t articulate exactly what it is about Cambridge’s most widely known ‘showcase of best new writing’ that made me uncomfortable, that made me question its motives and its process. The quality of the poetry and drama, however, I can talk about clearly and objectively: this time around, as it has been before, it was consistently disappointing. I’ve had more time to think about the more complex issues now. I will try to explore them as best I can.

People turn to Hatch for, again, ‘the best new writing in Cambridge’. They won’t find it. It doesn’t compare in quality to the free events frequently held around this city. The kinds of poetry it has offered suggests that it is a platform for tentative new writers to share their work for perhaps the first time, not for writers who have written seriously for years and are engaged critically, obsessively, with the content of their work.

Hatch offers us, perhaps, the best ‘new’ writers in Cambridge, those who, as its name and image suggest, need some encouragement from a friendly organisation or event to start showing their work to others. This is great: that encouragement is great. But it is not great enough to warrant a paid event that threatens to eclipse much more serious and developed showcases of ‘new’ writing. It should be free, and it should work within the fact that the quality of writing from inexperienced writers is often going to be poor.

And poor it often was. Unusual amounts of writing about the English countryside; the sort of insipid pastoral that lines the empty soul of the AQA anthology. Chummy, adolescent friends-forever sentimentality that takes the trivial and adorns it, without recuperating any triviality. Pieces too enthralled with their own prosody to engage with what they attempt to explore. The choicest wince-inducing line (embedded in an otherwise fairly promising piece of prose from Georgia Ingles): ‘The sheets were whiter than your skin your alabaster cloak of indifference’. This kind of clumsiness needs to be examined rather than showcased.

Hatch makes uncomfortably clear how much of the desire to write is the desire to have written, how much the creative act can be bound up with the anticipation of a  finished product and the social bargaining its exchange can bring. For many contributors content seems simply to be an inconvenience in the process of being invited into the ‘creative’ club. Hatch is far too eager to offer places and to show off the new members.

In order to fulfil what is potentially a very important function, Hatch needs to re-examine its identity: offer a critical yet supportive space for new ‘writers’ to show their work, or actually propagate some of the exceptional new writing that people here are producing. Until Hatch does one of these things I cannot offer it my support, despite the instinct to be friendly towards its aim. It’s a shame, but Hatch has yet to convince me that it serves any function other than to draw attention from events that really do ‘showcase the best new writing in Cambridge’.