Heartbrokers: the review

You’ve hopefully already read our previous post about Heartbrokers by the AR-Tea Collective as part of On The Verge festival, showcasing new performances in unusual spaces across the city.

Split into two parts, there were Heartbrokers pop-up events all week where heartbreakers and the heartbroken could donate unwanted items left behind by their ex and cleanse their emotional palette. I went along for a chat with one half of the AR-Tea Collective, Lora Johnson, at 92 Degrees Coffee.

I didn’t have anything to donate (because it’s all buried deep in the attic in tightly sealed boxes, sob) but I was instructed to by Amber Regan get comfortable and close my eyes, guided back to a time when I’d barely left my bed in a fortnight, snot dripping, reaching for a tissue I hoped wasn’t snotty. Handed a pen, paper and Love Hearts, I was instructed to write anything I felt like; what Tom Twat the Second looked like,  a significant object or place that reminded me of him, or a particular memory. Despite being in a good mood and not particularly needing to unburden myself, it was a cathartic experience. I wrote (cringe):

‘Did you really give me fake flowers because they wouldn’t die or because they were cheap?’

We’re often embarrassed expressing sentimentality, but this event said, I care, tell me about it. They wanted to hear about the cinema ticket you couldn’t throw away, and when we’re assured people aren’t being burdened by our troubles,  it seems we can’t stop talking and were looking for a way to express ourselves all along. Groups of friends who’d only come in for coffee would discuss their own heartbreak tales, and I was sad I’d come on my bill.

For the auction half of the event at the Victoria Gallery, I brought along Tom the Third (time lucky?) Guests would be bidding with a chocolate coin currency, each person given two gold coins and 12 silver (extra gold coins could be bought for 50p each, 10p for silver) by an Elvis impersonator.


Empty Wardrobe: The first listing was a stack of clothes left behind by various break-ups to be bought in bulk. One girl near the front was determined to blow her entire currency – maybe she wasn’t quite ready to give them up after all?

Heartbreak Tango: The bundle contained a framed black and white photograph of a couple, a half empty/full vodka bottle, a copy of the Echo the donator had bought regularly at the newsagents where the pasty object of her desires worked, a set of knives with only one knife left, and a Homer Simpson sock. The woman’s mother in law had taken photos of the couple on Crosby beach, refusing to stop and prompting a hissy fit. She was presented the framed photo on her birthday by her mother in law, then subsequently dumped. Auctioneer Regan devised a fabulous song inspired by the accompanying note, complaining, ‘when we had sex I never came’. My boyfriend wanted this bundle for the vodka, but I thought the sock would have been more useful as he’s missing one after having to … oh … um, never mind.  She sang the woes of girlfriends of the PornHub generation everywhere: ‘I started farting and then stopped shaving… I only had myself to blame.’

Conclusions: A poem bidding an emotional farewell to his lover by Joshua O’Brien Attila The Poet in an attempt to enter the new year unshackled by the heaviness of heartache. Ripped out of a notebook, it came complete with tear stains. Blub.

Carly: Carly was a an African grey parrot found on the doorstep of a couple’s flat, having been battered by the local pigeons. The boyfriend and Carly became best mates, and I guess the girlfriend wasn’t happy because they broke up shortly after and she kept the parrot. A grey feather was the only memento left from this 2010 heartbreak, the touching story accompanied by a contemporary dance routine (or maybe not, it’s one of those words I don’t know how to use). A guy at the front desperately wanted it, bidding six gold coins; guess he’s been reading Cosmopolitan?


The Brook: Two sexual health pamphlets accompanied by a tale of lying legs akimbo for a nurse who instructed, ‘when you see my Scouse brows you’re in the right position’. Informed she had acquired genital warts, out came the complaints about having to pay THREE QUID’S PARKING A WEEK at the Royal on her day off to have her “fanny froze”. A hilarious tale and fierce bidding (note to those who missed out: get down the STI clinic before it drops off/you can’t see the entrance from quantity of moles).

Illinois: A souvenir tin (ironically named ‘Heart Breaker’, once containing sugarfree peppermints). The donator lived in America for six months while at uni, living “with a guy who was a friend, and he was just a friend…” The promise of a story inside for the winner escalated the bidding.


Lifetrap: A copy of the book Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behaviour… And Feel Great Again’ by Jeffery E. Young, Ph.D and Janet S.Klosko, Ph.D. Donated by a kind mystery gent, it helped him “to understand why I was drawn into yet another relationship with someone with a personality disorder”, which I was a bit offended about so didn’t want to reinvent my life any more and ate the coins instead. The auctioneer preached advice via exerts, and the young man next to me (not Tom the Third) told me he loved me, and me being a bit socially awkward I froze and just stared gormlessly. I love you too! Bidders challenged the fifty gold coins with “INFINITY GOLD COINS!!”, a banana, a striptease from a cuddly ethnic man, to a double female striptease. Somehow the infinity gold coins trumped.


Souls cleansed of broken dreams, the night culminated in a boogie to some golden oldie heartbreak tunes. It was a brilliant evening and the team should be commended for using humour as a tool to delve into own most intimate memories. It was also brave of all who donated, because although they were anonymous (except you, Attila The Poet) it takes guts to lay yourself bare for the world to judge.

Sooo… would the lady who won that knife like to donate 20 (real) gold coins for my fake flowers which’ll look just lovely on the grave of that twat of an ex?


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