Twenty Four Romanians Saw A Big Red Banner On The Night When There Was Love In The Gallowgate.

Hey everyone. February is never my favourite month of the year but it is one of my favourite editions of Words and Music for preciously that reason. You see I always suffer from post festival blues at the end of Celtic Connections. This is something which a good night at Sammy’s can either delay or cure and this year it delayed my usual post Celtic downer by a couple of days.

Like January, we only had one featured performer instead of the usual two as Andrea Cunningham who was to be our featured musician had to pull out due to a family health issue.
This was disappointing for the club and for Andrea who had been looking forward to making her debut in the featured slot but family comes first and we will make sure Andrea has the chance to get the featured slot she deserves at the earliest available opportunity.

Before the night started I saw a couple who were new to Words and Music and went over to introduce myself and tell them about the night. As it turned out they were friends of one of our regulars Alex Frew who had recommended them to come along and enjoy the evening.
The couple who it transpires are both fledgling writers told me that they were going to be attending South West Writers a writers group run by Alex and also home to other writers who are known to me. Naturally, this was an opportunity for me to talk up my friend as both a writer and performer it was a chance I didn’t miss.

That said the night kicked off in the usual Sammy’s style as I opened the night by performing a couple of my best known comic poems for to give the couple from Kilmarnock a taste of what they can expect if they become regular attenders as I hope they will. Needless to say Karaoke Queen and Every Saturday Night were very well received not only by the couple and the regulars but also by other guests who had come along to support our featured writer David Forrest.

After I had opened the night it was time welcome the listed performers to the stage and it was one of newest recruits musician Frank Somers who got the night under way with a couple of songs.

Lesley McKay was the first writer to take the floor and on this occasion Lesley read us a chapter from her novel which is set in both Glasgow and Norway. In this passage the main character Theresa Logan says ‘only respectable men wear suits’. Theresa had obviously never met a civil servant or British politician. In her narration of a story which made me want to hear more Lesley gave thought to the idea that preachers with unclean minds have musical accents and in doing spoke one of the fundamental truths of our times. Well how else can they spread their message? Believe me as a regular attender at church I know the power of a musical accent I mean if there is one thing they can’t afford to be its mono tone.

Anyway,that’s enough about Lesley at least it is for this month. Next up was Victoria Hamilton, Victoria read three poems Love In The Gallowgate, The Wake, and Lipstick Stains A Cup on what was her debut at Words And Music. Personally I hope it will be the first of many appearances over the months and years to come as she showed why I had been trying to get her along to our night ever since first meeting her at the September edition of Faith and Unbelief. I particularly liked the Love In The Gallowgate which was a fantastic take on Glasgow’s most lethal cocktail of sex and football. This not only showed Victoria’s wit at its brilliant best it also left me wondering just how many west of Scotland babies are born nine months after their team celebrated an old firm victory. This is a writer I want to hear a lot more of and I want to hear her soon.

Following one of the best debut performances I’ve seen in a long time would scare seven bells out of most people but for Susan Milligan it held no fears. Susan in contrast to Victoria had one of the weakest debuts if not the weakest debut ever seen in the wee back room. When she first performed at Words And Music Susan had very little confidence but it is testimony to the journey she has taken over the last three and a half years that on this night she produced her best performance to date. In a highly entertaining and engaging set Susan read three poems Dictatorship a poem on Vladimir Putin and the dangers of Britain marching to the right. Lest We Forget which focused on the horrors of war, and Not My Colour a lighted hearted poem in which she tells of her dislike of the colour Brown before concluding with a song and this month it had to be My Funny Valentine.

As Susan returned to her seat it was the turn of one of my favourite poets Kevin Gilday to entertain the company. In a short but power packed set Kevin performed two poems Shitebag and Who Does The Atheist Pray To? This to me has to be one of the great philosophical question of our time and is surely worthy of an airing at Faith and Unbelief. I think it is safe to say that it would provoke plenty of discussion and debate as well as being recognised for the quality poem it is.

Our next reader Linda Grant is definitely a woman of faith and back in the day she was a leader for the Brownies and Girl Guides at her local church. Being the family woman she is and the romantic she can sometimes be but will never admit to, Linda read Darling Daughter a poem which was written her highly talented daughter Louise and Roses All The Way, A Touch Upon My Lips, and The Valentine I Never Got.

Linda was followed to the stage by a man to whom both she and I owe much, I refer to my predecessor as facilitator at Tollcross Writers the incomparable Derek Read. With February being the start of the traditional Celtic spring, it was perhaps fitting that Derek read a poem on the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc. This was followed by a poem on Trolls before concluding a short set with The Red Banner a poem which this gifted wordsmith has updated in support of the fight against the cutbacks made by Glasgow city council to the city’s mental health services. Maybe if the council had used their brains and not wasted money on a non existent re-vamp of George Square and ludicrous campaigns on trying to remove the cone from the statue of Duke Of Wellington, or attempting to get rid of the Buchanan Street steps maybe Derek wouldn’t have needed to remind them what colour the people’s flag is meant to be.

As Derek made his way back to the body of kirk it was a man o the kirk Jim Ewing who led us not to temptation but to the bar with a set so short that had he had a daughter and she had be wearing something that short Jim would have turned to her and said now look here lass your no going out like that.

After the break it was time for David Forrest to take the stage and make his debut in the featured writer slot. Unfortunately just as he was about to start Lesley McKay announced that due to having an early start the following morning she was going to have to miss his performance David just smiled the way he does, but when Lesley said he could give her a private performance in her living room he didn’t know where to look and to be honest neither did the rest of us. It was to his eternal credit that David one of the rising stars of the Scottish spoken word scene remained calm and got on with the job in hand.

As the laughter died down David started his set with a poem on the religious architecture of Seville. Now I don’t know why but when I thought of Seville my thoughts went back to 2003, Henrik Larsson and the night Celtic should have won the UFEA Cup. I wonder what Rangers fans were doing that night? Oh that’s they were watching the Bill. For his next poem David chose Lock Up The Racists. This was the poem which almost won him the Words and Music Open Poetry Championship and the much coveted Hughie Healy Memorial Shield and when you hear him perform it with power, purpose and passion it really isn’t difficult to see why. This a poet of conviction, faith, and courage and that comes across in his work.

This powerful and passionate side was also shown in his next two poems Arise,and The Exceptionals and the later of these two reminded me rather a lot of the rant from Train Spotting This was followed by a slight change of tone for Deek and the much softer more lyrical Nine Months In Glasgow.

As if to demonstrate his versatility our featured writer used his guid Scots tongue with great aplomb in the Last Makar in which he stressed the importance of keeping the Scots language alive. To conclude his set, David a man of faith read two poem which show only too clearly why this is so important in his life. Being a fellow christian I too value my faith so enjoyed both One Name and his final poem The Cross and if our lord will forgive a pun which borders on shocking, this was a great way to really nail the set.

Since due to circumstances beyond our control there was no featured musician to follow
David’s set, and only I was left to read, I thought I would give the audience a chance to decide what happened next. We could, I told them either have me read and finish the night early or do a rotating stage and fill the next 20 minutes by invited those wanted to perform the chance to get an extra spot on the stage. Needless to say there was no real choice to make as in the finest traditions of Words and Music everyone opted for a second shot on stage. Well they would have been daft not to, I mean 9.30 on a Monday night is far too early to leave a Words and Music gathering. So as many who wanted to squeezed in another performance. This included Frank’s rendition of Riders Of The Storm Kevin Gilday’s poem Jesus In Possil and though my set was still to come I took the stage to perform my anti-immigration poem Twenty Four Romanians as I know this is a particular favourite of featured writer David Forrest.

As we concluded this part of the evening there was only one reader left to take the stage and that of course was me. In what must be one of the most emotional sets I have ever delivered at Words and Music I made sure that just in case had arrived from another planet they knew how proud I was of my Celtic heritage. That said however I started my set with a poem for a young transwoman and read the Caged Bird Sings which I dedicated to Samantha. I then read A Thorn Among The Roses which is a poem dedicated to all my lesbian friends especially those who treat me like I’m their adopted mother. I followed this up with Her Father’s Smile this one was written when on a protest against the bedroom tax I met a young woman by the name of Roisin Caird who it transpired is the daughter of the late Words and Music favourite Kenny Caird. This is always a highly emotional poem to read and I’m always holding back the tears at the end of it. Believe me when I say this no exception. Sticking on the theme of emotional poems, I finished this set and indeed this Sammy’s with A Day For Donegal. This is always one which pulls at the heartstrings, well I know who it was written for and why it means as much to me as it does and like the previous poem it’s one I can’t get through without my heart melting and on this occasion it was without doubt the one to close the night.

So that was the February edition of Words and Music. It was a night filled with love, culture, faith and a few emotional moments and the 18 brave souls who attended the event enjoyed a night which will live in the memory. Indeed I think the night could be best summed up by saying that twenty four Romanians saw a big red banner on the night when there was love in the Gallowgate.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X


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