Hey everyone As I near the end of the month it is I think time to look back on eventful entertaining and enjoyable evening of Words and Music at Sammy Dow’s. It is i think fair to say that headquarters was not as busy as it was for our 25th birthday but then bank holiday Monday is never our busiest night of the year especially when like this year we were blessed with good weather. Also the fact that many of our regulars are politically active the meant that with the small matter of a general election coming up this would perhaps even more than the bank holiday impact on our numbers.
There are some people who will no doubt claim that now we have reached our 25th year that we really need to start growing up being sensible. Now i hate to inform them but that kind of behaviour is simply not acceptable at Words and Music and never will be for as long as I have anything to do with it.
Before we started the evening I let people know that amongst the absentees this month were Monica Pitman and Suzanne Egerton as both had fallen to Illness. Andy Fleming who couldn’t make it due to family reasons Chris Young who was on political duties campaigning in Glasgow Central where he would be standing as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats and Derek Read who had been taken to hospital after taking a stroke.
I also informed the gathering that as our featured writer Jim Monaghan was another causality of the illness list and unable to join us we would not be having a featured writer but instead would let everyone else take a few minutes extra with their sets but our featured musician Francis Lopez would join the gathering to take his place among us.
As it was election week I kicked off the night with Condemned This is a poem which is dual purpose in many ways. Not only did it provide an overview of the last election it told it in the style of a certain William Topaz McGonagall. This gave me the chance to plug this year’s McGonagall supper, this will be the 10th year of the event which has a fantastic atmosphere thanks to the genial hosting of Colin and Irene Storrie and is always one of the highlights of my cultural summer.
Having set the tone for night it was now time for others to take the stage and first up was musician Frank Somers. A relative newcomer to Words and Music Frank was making his first appearance since February and I think he sang the same songs as he did on that occasion. The songs Chasing The Dragon and Venus Has Ailligned With The Sun are both good songs and the later is an original composition but I would like to hear different songs next time he comes to the event as he does have a genuinely good voice and his easy laid back style makes you want to hear more.
If Frank was a relative newcomer our next two readers actually were and both made highly promising debuts, First of two to take his chance was Colin Strathdee. This talented young poet who is a member of the Glasgow Writers Group was discovered at the Love Words event at the Gallery of Modern Art which is held every year by the Federation of Writers Scotland on the Thursday closest to Valentine’s day. There was however nothing remotely romantic about his choice of debut poem, though it was delivered with plenty of passion Let Them Eat Cake may have been quote from the time of the French Revolution but this was a powerful poetic polemic searching for an end to austerity. It was a brilliant debut from a voice worth hearing and the spoken word scene will hear a lot from that voice in the months and years to come.
After Colin it was the turn of Scott Smith who was also making his first appearance at the club. Dundonian born Scott had an excellent debut performance and his poem the Modern Caveman was a fantastic take on the problems of 21st century masculinity.
After the new boys had sparkled on the stage it was time to welcome one of our most faithful regulars and on this occasion Pete Faulkner read us an extract from his novel on the adventures of a young idealistic teacher. At the end of his set Pete had a moment which reminded me of the Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket when he used the and there’s more catchphrase made famous by the comic. However in Pete’s case he is actually right because there is a lot more from a man who is at home whether writing poetry or prose.
After Pete it was the turn of another well kent face to entertain the company for the first time In a fair few months and it was great to see Alex Frew use his five minutes for a mixture of comedy and education. As should be the case in Scotland it was the education that came first and Mr Frew gave us a valuable lesson in how to survive in these austere times in which he told us of Ten Things To Buy In Pound Land. He then present a theory on clucking like chickens,before finishing his set with Ghost Chickens In The Sky This is his unique take on the Johnny Cash song Ghost Riders In The Sky.
After the madness of Mr Frew Fred Fingers became Freddie The Frenchman and in doing so related not only some of the worst puns about history but arguably some of the worst puns in history. Luckily Fred also showed his sensible with his poem Martyrs which is written on the idea that dying for the promise of paradise and 72 virgins may be somewhat misguided.
After the puns it was back to the serious business of politics, and Jim Ewing provided an intelligent thought provoking set with a message for the voters of Scotland and Britain. Jim started his set with a haiku on the man I call the patron saint of dishonesty or if you’ve ever watched charmed the source of all evil Tony Blair. After this short start to his set Jim read a very political poem and Manifesto was right out of the top drawer. This was a poem that packed a punch and that I really enjoyed. This was followed by Unrequited Love before he concluded with his Referendum Haiku. Yes I think it is safe to say to that this man likes his haikus and this carefully constructed piece contained a message that unionist politicians in particular would be well advised to listen to.
As Jim went back to his seat it was time to welcome back another long standing friend in the excellent Jane Overton. I’ve always admired Jane’s work for its quality and topicality. In this set Jane read three poems Tidying Up Afterwards, Gold,and Evolution, all of which show a poet of talent and power.
Next up was Paddy Hannrahan who performed a story in his own inimitable style and like all of Paddy’s yarns there was a twist in the tale which showed the moral of the story and more importantly the moral compass of the man.
Susan Milligan followed Paddy and in a nice touch started her set by wishing Derek well. Having expressed her good wishes Susan got on with what was an interesting set in which she performed two poems Homosapians, and A Strange Habit Of Nodding before finishing with a song. This month’s choice was Moon River and she sang it well and with style.
At the end of Susan’s highly enjoyable set it was Linda Grant who had the unenviable job of taking us to our well deserved bar break. Taking advantage of the slightly extended set Linda performed four poems starting with the Burns themed As Others See Us, before moving on to Cold Snaps, Whose Bed Have You Been Sleeping Under? and Words Of Yours Words Of Mine. This was perhaps not the best set Linda has ever delivered and she could certainly be doing with changing some of the titles which are a wee bit on the tame side. This is I think a consequence of sticking too closely to set themes rather than interpreting them and using them as a guide. On the upside however it has to be said when it comes to performance the Linda I saw coming to the stage and commanding it, is the mark just how far she has come as a performer and dare I say it entertainer.
After a slightly longer than usual bar break it was time for our featured musician to grace us with his talents and believe me the talents are considerable when we talk of Francis Lopez. Francis started his set with a homage to the Peter Nardini song In Larkhall by adapting it for the post millenium era with the title In Scotland. This song has always had and still has powerful anti sectarian message a message our country cannot afford to ignore and I for one was glad to hear him sing it loudly and proudly.
In a set which covered all the bases Francis sang two of his own songs Last Of The Breed and Wishful Drinking before performing a cover of the Matt McGinn classic Troubled Waters. This in my opinion was a masterstroke as McGinn was one of the first people I got in to when I began to develop an interest in the traditional music as a teenager in the mid to late 1970’s. Finishing his set with another his own songs Keep Me An Island Francis had given us yet another excellent set in the easy going laid back style which has become his trademark and is one of the many reasons he will always be a valued member of the words and music family.
It is unusual for the featured musician to be the penultimate act of the evening but it was the case on this occasion. So earlier than planned I made my way to the stage to bring the night to a close. However, before starting my own set I read on a poem on behalf of a cherished friend. It should come as no surprise to anyone with a brain that the poem An Exiles Lambment was by a certain Derek Read. Now everyone who knows Derek knows he has a catchphrase for when he can’t make events and that catchphrase is a’m no very well and I quite often used at his expense. Well this time it was actually true and I just wanted to show how much he was missed and wish him a speedy recovery.
After my tribute to my friend it was time to get on with my set. As is appropriate on May Day Monday I did give a nod to my political opinion with my opening poem View From The Living Room Window which is an overt attack on the nationalism nobody talks about the British nationalism of the hard right. This kind of ugly nationalism was all too prevalent in the ironically named Better Together campaign where the political chattering classes of the three main unionist parties combined with the press and the BBC in an attempt to save their necks. In contrast to these deluded souls marching backwards to the past at breakneck speed, this poem offers a real vision of a fairer world where workers in all nations are paid a decent living wage for their labours.
I followed that with another of my political poems which though written at the beginning of the referendum campaign still has as powerful a message now as it did then. The Quilt which is a particular favourite of the more thoughtful and considered amongst those of us who voted yes last September reflects my hope that Independence will bring a better relationship with our neighbours and friends in the rest of Britain and a better British Isles will take the place of the current culture of blame which the Westminster parties and their friends seem so found of.
I finished the night with one of my favourite poems and in Lost The Plot I related the story of what really of what really goes on a girl’s night out. From the optimism at the beginning of the night to the potential pitfalls at the end of it and that was where we parked the taxi at the end of a night when 16 people attended a cracking First Monday at Words And Music
This however would not be the last time we would see the wee back room in this eventful month as there would be another night to get together on the third Monday of the month and this time there would be a trophy up for grabs as it would time to crown the Words and Music Champion of 2015 but that as they say is another story. This night though was a night when voices of promise showed modern cavemen ten things to buy on a budget and the view that we saw from the living room showed there could be a window of hope.
Love And Best Wishes