Lip Service West
Lip Service West is about providing an avenue for authors, especially those of an unconventional artistic background. Producer Joe Clifford spent many years as a homeless drug addict in San Francisco before getting clean and earning his Master’s degree in creative writing. On those streets Joe met incredibly talented writers, painters, and musicians, whose creative spark still shone through dim light, and since returning home he has sought to tap into that rich narrative pool. LSW strives to be a voice for the voiceless, the recovered addicts and criminals, or the just plain disenfranchised. But it’s not just former addicts and ex-convicts who can submit stories. Anyone with a story to tell can do so. Lip Service just asks that they be “gritty, real, and raw,” true and 1,500 words (or less). Be compelling, be authentic and dare to push boundaries and convention, and there’s a good chance you’ll get selected to read at one of LSW’s bi-monthly events. So far LSW has featured a former bank robber, an ex-Israeli soldier, and a noir pugilist aficionado, and the best is yet to come.
When Joe returned to the Bay Area, he brought Lip Service with him, where he found a willing partner in the San Pablo Arts District Fund, an organization devoted to using the arts as a catalyst to combat urban blight and crime. Through a series of programs focused on property and community revitalization and active neighborhood promotion, SPAD generates art initiatives and events in the North Oakland stretch of San Pablo Avenue, known as the Golden Gate District. The programs benefit existing residents and businesses along the San Pablo Avenue corridor and encourage others to visit, work, shop, and move here. SPAD encourages local residents to take pride in their neighborhood, while offering cutting edge entertainment, and LSW has proved the perfect fit.
Anyone who has suffered through your stereotypical poetry reading knows how the phrase “literary event” can elicit droll associations of long-winded diatribes about the peak of Kilimanjaro through the mist at sunrise on a cold autumn’s morn. Lip Service West is the antithesis to such inaccessible (and uninteresting) “literature.” LSW is real stories by real people in extreme situations, pushed to the limit.
Part of what propelled Joe west in the first place was a love of writers like Kerouac, London, and Thompson, writers who injected themselves into their narratives. Far from a staid and safe viewing distance, writers of this ilk were the story, surrounding themselves with an amazing supporting cast and acting out stories too outlandish to be believed in fiction.
Lip Service West is distinctly Bay Area, and the writers selected are the ones who best fit the NorCal experience. Most of the writers chosen are amateur, with little or no writing experience. But they have passion for their words and work, chronicling life in SF, Oakland, and the greater Bay Area, operating outside the mainstream and daring to defy convention. Like Joe in the ’90s, they are artists who merely want the chance to be heard.
Joe feels he owes a debt of gratitude to the community of writers and artists he met in the ’90s in the Bay Area. Lip Service West is a chance to pay some of that debt back.