Jewish Writer and Performer Hayden Cohen tells us about his creative work representing the Jewish community.
Performer, musician and podcaster, Hayden Cohen has been creating art and media on behalf of the Jewish community for over 10 years. His three one-man performance poetry shows have been to Edinburgh Fringe, one of which won Shortlist Magazine’s Pick of the Fringe, and his UK Jewish community podcast, Bagel Podcast, has featured high profile guests from around the globe. We found out more.
Hi Hayden! Tell us how Bagel Podcast started and what topics were featured?
In 2018 podcasts were really growing so I decided to start one for the UK Jewish community, I’ve been podcasting for 12 years, and I was a SoundCloud International Fellow.
There’s a section called Bagel Broigus which is a panel discussion where people with different perspectives discuss subjects of interest to the Jewish community.
There’s been some quite high-profile guests in its time such as one of the Co- Founders of Limmud, Clive Lawton OBE and the first female Chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar, who spoke about her childhood growing up in Soviet Hungary.
All episodes are available on Bagelpodcast.com for people to listen to and a relaunch is planned for 2024.
What’s special about performance poetry and what does it mean to you?
I like the rhythm of performance poetry and I enjoy performing it. Whenever I’ve done it in my shows, I never go ‘And, now here’s a poem.’ I might do a song, and then a bit of a spiel, and then before people know it, I’ve launched into a poem. And what that does is it disarms people.
School has a big part to play about how people think about poetry. Generally the way poetry has to be taught in schools is in order to pass exams. I haven’t seen anything in GCSE English that presents poetry in a way which would engage anyone, and I’m saying that as an ex-English Teacher.
I think it’s all about helping people to understand that their words matter. When I was working in a university in London, I was in a meeting and one of the deans said to a group of academics: ‘We hear you’ and one of the academics instantly became angry and said: “You may hear me, but you don’t listen.” I found the whole interaction fascinating because that just shows how you frame something completely changes the outcome.
How does being Jewish feature in your work?
While some of my work is most definitely Jewish themed, even those parts that initially appear to not be Jewish in the slightest, that Jewishness comes through. It’s a constant and integral to who I am and how I see the world. But of the three shows I have written and performed, 2013s Secrets of the Elders of Zion was the most Jewish by far and the one which was the most controversial.
It was a satire as to how I wasn’t invited to the secret Jewish conspiracy so I decided to start the UK branch myself. I wanted to point out how ridiculous of an idea it was that there’s a secret Jewish cabal. The issue was people thought I was being serious!
If you’d like to see more of Hayden’s work, then sign up to his mailing list on Haydencohen.co.uk and listen to his podcast on Bagelpodcast.com