Hey everyone. As we get ready for this month’s edition of Words and Music it is time to look back on the events of April on the night Sammy’s celebrated our 25th Birthday in the wee back room of the best cultural venue in Glasgow or for that matter anywhere.
As soon as I arrived I went straight to the family home went on to the stage and felt a sense of both history and belonging. I thought of the many great poets, storytellers, musicians, but most of all characters who have graced the stage over the years. This roll of honour included names such as Crispin Allan, Christine Wallace, John J Turner Senior, Eddie Graham, Frank Mullen, the legend that was, is, and ever shall be the one and only Hughie Healy, Ian Davidson, Kenny Caird, Susan Bell,and the man responsible for me coming to Words and Music Jim Craig. As I did so I remembered both them and the contributions they made to our event it would be both impossible and indeed wrong not to feel an ever slight tinge of pride that our wee event which started when Glasgow was European City Of Culture in 1990 had reached such a significent milestone. I suppose some people would call it a silver jubilee and why not well if a jubilee is good enough for auld Lizzie then it’s certainly good enough for us.
On an occasion such as this I suppose it was always going to be a night which would not only be filled with memories but where new ones would be made and this was most definately the case as a wonderfui mixture of friends old and new began to assemble at the family table amongst them featured writer for the evening Pamela Duncan amd the man who wouls provide the music featured musician Billy Pryce. Before I officially kicked off the night I got the company to raise our glasses and proposed a toast to words, music, and friendship but most of all to Sammy’s and the continued success of our club.
Now the sensible part of the evening was over or at least I hoped it was it was to get on with doing what we do best namely enjoying ourselves and as compare I got the night started by performing a couple of poems from the early days I started with Disco Dick which was the first poem I ever performed on the stage I’ve come to call home and followed it up by performing an oft repeated since like Disco Dick it was first performed in the summer of 1993. I have to say that both poems divided the audience in the sense that they brought giggles from those who were new to them and smiles of recognition from those whot had heard them on more than a few occasions. That said however I knew I would not be the only one who take a stroll down memory lane on this particular evening. This was after all a night made for memories and there would be plenty of them before it was over.
Having got the night underway I introduced the first of the billed readers. A relative newcomer to our stage John Moody has a talent worthy of a place at any table especially our family table. Before starting his set John reflected on our unlikely ailliance since he is a Liberal Democrat who once stood as his party candidate for Inverclyde and I’m a card carrying member of the SNP. Speaking personally, I don’t think its that unlikely. After all Chris Young his party candidate for Glasgow Central is one of my one best friends on this earth. On this auspicious occasion, John read Vespular Vulgaris and I Was Hit By A Bus and got the evening off to a top quality start as I knew he would,
Next to the party was Lesley McKay who revealed that her father was a founder member of the SNP on the day both Sammy’s and the party celebrate their birthdays. Lesley who was relieved not to be going first read a number of excellent pieces including Dutiful Son and her breathtaking Be The Change which has in many ways become her poetic calling card. Not bad for someone who like Linda Grant once said she didn’t do poetry.
After Lesley it was the turn of Pete Faulkner a man who like Lesley is equally at home at with both poetry and prose and very accomplished at both. Pete’s piece this month was the Bad Thief’s Song and it was humourous with a moral twist which I enjoyed immensely but then I’ve always been a fan of Pete’s work.
Pete like myself and a few others were referred to by Hughie as the Golden Generation and as Pete went back to his seat it was another from that golden crop Audrey Marshall who made her way to the stage. In a powerful and emotional set which showed her at her best Audrey kicked off by reading a poem on the closure of John Smith’s bookshop. This talented poet who all too often underestimates just how good she is moved on to perform Child a very moving piece about her now grown up daughter Lisa and then paid tribute to a man she described as one of the best friends she ever had the wonderful Crispin Allen by reading one of his gloriously entertaining pieces.
As Audrey had referenced Crispin I thought it only fair to remind those who knew him of another piece of his work which I could remember the first and last verse from memory and that was the highly topical piece he wrote on the former Foreign Secetary Robin Cook. Needless to say this provoked quite a few laughs from those in audience.
After my brief interlude it was back to the serious stuff and Jim Ewing delivered an amazing set on the theme of Easter as he chronicals events of the Easter weekend starting with the cruicfiction of Good Friday before moving on to the despair of Black Saturday in When It All Seemed Over before finishing with the rising of Easter Sunday with the stunning poem Hands. Now I know that faith based poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of coffee but as a christian this set really spoke to me and spoke loudly and clearly about my values and the way I try to live my life.
After Jim giving us an early version of Late Call it was time for the News and who better to tell like it is than our very own John McGlade. As many of us are fed up the BBC and the state propaganda they feed us. It was refreshing to hear the news told in such a refreshing and poetic form. This include poems on The Mansion Tax and Chris Graham’s Enemy List. Yes John covers the story that the BBC won’t touch I wonder which one of them is telling the truth l’ll give a clue I know where my money’s going at it’s not on the BBC.
At the end of this news bulletin. David Forrest showed that some men can actually multi-task by entertaining us whilst making us think. The bairn of the Sammy’s family read two poems, The Great Invisible and Still In Love both of which show this a young man well versed in his craft.
As the voice of youth left the stage he was replaced by the voice of experiance in the one and only Andy Fleming. In a set where Andy rolled back the years he performed two of his classics Neighbours Everybody Needs Good Neighbours and You Won’t Find It before paying homage to Crispin by singing the song written by the great man. Footprints On The Dashboard Upside Down. I have to say this was particularly well received by Pete Audrey, Pamela and myself as like Andy we had the honour of knowing him. Andy then finished his set by performing the song that was number one in the charts on the night Words And Music was born and treated us to a rendition of Madonna’s vogue in a way only he can.
Following Andy is always a difficult task but for some reason Linda Grant will insist on doing it and yet again it fell to her to be next up after the man. However it must be said that Linda gave one of the most polished performances she ever given at Words and Music perhforming no fewer than five poems. Linda kicked off her set by reading Yesterday’s Darling the first poem she ever read on the Sammy’s stage. This was followed by As Others See Us, Stolen Glances, The Language Of Lust before completing her set with a poem written in tribute to her friend and mine the late John J Turner Senior My Little Mobile. Those who like Linda and I had the good fortune to know John will know he had what we can only describe as issues with technology.
As Linda went back to join the gathering it was the turn of the man who was won The Words and Music Championship more than anyone else to lead not in to temptation but deliver us to the bar break as Jim Ferguson showed us why he has won the title on no fewer than four occasions 1993,97,98 and 99, Jim started his set with The Close, before moving on to Alex Harvey Was My Hero, The Optimist, Part Empire, Shipwreck, and finishing with No Love. This was a quality set from beginning to end and showed why he is respected throughout the spoken word community. As Jim finished his set it was time for a well deserved bar break and if I say so myself I was rather pleased at the way the had progressed. In fact Lesley McKay was so pleased she brought us a birthday and made sure that everyone who wanted a slice was given one.
After the break I performed another before introducing our featured writer. This time however the poem was not mine but one from the man who introduced me to Words and Music Jim Craig. The poem of choice was Last Post, written as so many Jim’s poems are on the topic of war. In this poem written in the form of a Soldiers letter to his mother former Army corporal Jim describes in graphic detail the futility of conflict and the horrors of losing friends in battle with red raw emotion. I remember it making an impact on me the first time I heard it and more than 20 years it still makes that same impact.
After reading Jim’s poem it was time to introduce the featured writer and on a night like this there was only choice for the job I refer of course to the First Lady of Words and Music and the head of the Sammy’s family Pamela Duncan.
As is always the case with Pamela she gave a polished performance with 20 minutes of poetry and prose of the finest quality. Pamela started her set with Rhyme Without Reason before reading a very moving poem Born To Die which was written for her grand daughter who wasn’t expect to live very long. Gwen who I believe reaches 30 this year has exceeded all expectations in terms of having a better life than the so-called experts would have her family believe.
Pamela then moved on to Special Delivery whih was written for her gran following it up with A Rainy Day In Autumn, Mrs Lawrence about a neighbour from childhood, Beyond Repair, Shoes, Time-Bound,Remembrance Day At The 11th Hour in which she produced these brilliant lines ‘In war there are no enemies just victims of their nation’s pride’ This speaks to a fundemental truth and as she finished her set with Computor Blues I think all in attendence will agree we were treated to an excellent set filled with variety and delivered with style.
After Pamela’s set it was time for our featured musician and this month is was the turn of Billy Pryce to entertain the gathering. Billy is no stranger to Words and Music and will always have a home at the family table. On this occasion his set was comprised entirely of new songs such as his opening number Drones. This could be said to be ever so slightly political and believe me he didn’t miss his target. This was followed up by Step In To The Dance, Look In To Yourself,Invisible Hand, and Come As You Are. Before I insisted that he finished an with encore and that it had to be The Nutcracker Man. Naturally Billy obiliged and brought the curtain down on a fantastic set.
After Billy it was back to the rest of the billed readers and next up was Susan Milligan. You know there is always one guest who brings ackward questions to a party and with pieces asking What Happens When You Die and What Does The Future Hold? Susan certainly was that guest. Though to be fair she did redeem herself with an excellent rendition of the John Lennon classic Imagine.
Newcomer Muriel Baker performed two poems Tchiovna and Exclusivity and added a fresh voice to the evening and who I hope will return to join the gathering again.
After Muriel, it was the turn of rising star and fellow Eastender Victoria Hamilton to be the penultimate reader of the evening. In a quality set which proved why I rate her so highly Victoria read three poems Traffic, Spectator,and Alba, which has to be my favourite poem of the night. This brilliant heartfelt piece was written by someone who like myself is fiercly proud of her Irish-Scots heritage and though very much a yes voter in the independence Referendum this poem documents her struggle to identify with some of the more traditional symbols of Scottish Identity. How we address this issue is a conversation Scotland’s independence movement needs to have if we want to achieve our dream of independence any time soon and this poem wil be a valuable building block in starting that dialogue.
As is always the case it was left to me to bring our celebration to a close and I did it by reading three poems Tights Before Trident, The Tartan Ronaldo, on the pressures of football and fame and I finished on The Early Train a poem so fresh it was getting its first ever public reading. As my phone packed in on the last leg of the journey you could say the train never reached its destination though it stop in another natural station and maybe there is a story in that.
You see I think this poem was saying I stop here for tonight but the journey goes on and that’s exactly what I say about Words and Music. We know we may eventually have to stop for the night, after all we all have homes to go to. However we also know we’ll be travelling this way again and on a night when 28 travelled with us, I think we can best sum up the events of a memorable evening by saying on a night we celebrated our friendships forged by memories we gathered in the wee back room and we all got a slice of the cake.
Love And Best Wishes