Hey everyone As I recall the events of the September Labowski’s I do so with the quiet satisfaction that though I love going through to the Edinburgh festival fringe it is at times like this I remember there is no place like home and that means the wee back room filled with familiar faces and the contentment of genuine friendship.
Now I don’t know why, but it seems September is gaining a reputation for being a night when we explore the big issues of our time. Last year it was Words and Music which showed the politicians how to debate the independence question, this year the cultural crew were at it again this time setting an example on how to discuss the topic of refugees with compassion and sensitivity.
As is now customary I kicked off the night with a poem on the refugee crisis entitled The Dead Of Night to illustrate my view on the humanitarian disaster which had torn at the hearts of so many of us during the weeks leading up to the event and indeed continues to do so it’s aftermath.
Job done it was time to call up the first of the billed readers and on this occasion it fell to John Moody who continued on the theme of tragedy reading two poems on this theme Lazier Airlines Flight 370 and Washed Up On The Shore. Both poems were challenging and thought provoking and showed the capacity for the devastation caused by reckless actions.
As John a former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate took his seat on the green benches of Words and Music he was followed to the stage by a man who carried the same political banner at this year’s General Election where he fought his party’s corner in the Glasgow Central constituency I refer to my right honourable friend Chris Young. Chris is always an entertaining poet and this was no exception and his poems Mature Student and Something were as always very well received. Chris was followed to the stage by Claire McCann who performed her song The Square.
Fred Fingers was next up to the stage and I knew I was going to enjoy his set. Well this is Fred I always enjoy his work and this was no exception. On this occasion Fred performed four pieces which illustrated the versatility of his range. In his opening selection Pity The Child the bold Mr Fingers took a pop at bigotry so often the curse of the West of Scotland but bigotry has many forms and this brilliantly poignant poem could be applicable to all of them. From Bigots the ever topical Fred moved on to politicians and his expenses poem didn’t miss his targets. After ripping the political classes to shreds Fred moved in to space for Lunar Luncheon before finishing up with the brilliant and very funny Nursery Crimes which ensured I’ll never view Little Jack Horner or any of his friends in quite the same way ever again.
How anyone could follow that I can but imagine but someone had to do it and that someone was JJ Turner. JJ who has found his way back to the family fold after a period of absence showed those new to his talents what they’ve been missing with a set of three poems all of which he said would offend someone. First target was the veggies in Vegetarian’s main course which was a witty take on what I like to call an anti -carnivore lifestyle. His next poem Killing Americans again could offend those who don’t do irony but it was his final poem Sex Is Sex Does which in my view had most potential to offend. It is I think no coincidence that JJ waited till his daughters who have been attending the event with in recent months were back at University in different parts of Scotland before daring to read it. This is either cowardice or tactical genius which is it? I’ll leave JJ to decide the answer to that.
JJ was followed to the stage by a good friend of his and mine Pete Faulkner who read two pieces Temporary Teacher and Assisi. Both of these illustrated Pete’s excellent use of both language and imagery. Well, to be fair I’d expect nothing less from a cultured English teacher.
Next up was Susan Milligan who indulged herself by reading a piece of work with the title I Am A Miracle which at least to me sounded both boastful and pretentious. Trust me there is such a thing as over sharing and believe me this was it. Susan also performed a piece on Film Making which though not as bad as her opening piece wasn’t enough to retain my interest or that of the audience.
Fortunately this was only a temporary blip in the standard of the evening and in the excellent Victoria Hamilton I am glad to say the natural order of things was restored. Victoria is one of the best young talents we have at Words And Music. Like myself Victoria is a proud Irish-Scot her and her poems Grafton Street, Alba, and Antrim illustrated a pride in her history and culture from woman of power and passion and very considerable skill when it comes to the craft.
Following Victoria to the stage was Suzanne Egerton who was making a very welcome return after a difficult few months when her health quite rightly was her primary concern. Suzanne’s story From Southend was a very moving account of the difficulties looking after someone can bring to even the most loving relationships and I thoroughly enjoyed an entertaining and emotional read and of course seeing Suzanne back where she belongs on the stage in the wee back room.
Following Suzanne was the task of Words and Music regular Linda Grant. In a short set Linda read two poems Wiggle Wriggle and Dance both of which were highly entertaining and caused more than the odd chuckle from yours truly.
Linda then went back to her seat and the stage belonged to Lesley MacKay who gave an excellent if short set with Dutiful Son and Threads the selections of choice for this particular gathering. Though I’ve heard both these pieces before and no doubt will again they illustrate the truth in the old saying you never tire of quality and believe me these are quality pieces from a top class writer who is a far better performer than she thinks.
At this stage in the proceedings I noticed that Kirsty Nicholson who was making her debut at Words And Music had just arrived and taken her place amongst the company. However being the lady I am I decided to let Kirsty settle in to the night before calling her to the stage. I did this by doing a Hughie, those who know me well will know what that means but for the benefit of those who don’t it means filling the time by reading a couple of poems to give our next reader some valuable preparation time. The poems of choice were in keeping with the theme of the night namely migration and refuge so I performed Twenty Four Romanians to protest against the demonisation of economic migrants and Child Of Sorrow to illustrate my support for the right to safe refuge from torture or indeed from any form of humanitarian disaster.
Having performed what JJ’s dad and former Words And Music regular John J Turner senior would have called my random act of kindness, I now invited Kirsty to the stage and in one of the best debut performances seen at headquarters for a very long time Kirsty delivered a set of breathtaking quality. Kirsty started her set with a comic look at snacking or perhaps I should say midnight feasting in After Midnight Snack Delight before changing the topic completely and declaring far more subtly than her compare her political loyalties with the poems On Fire in which she takes a humorous look at a drunk man on a bus declaring his support for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the excellently titled I Used To Work In An Office And I Didn’t Get Paid in which she looks back fondly at her time working as a volunteer for Yes Scotland campaign in the run up to the independence referendum. In her final poem Being From Lewis Is Kirsty uses her gentle but cutting humour to examine the cultural stereotypes she has all too often heard because she is from an island. I have to admit I love this poem as I am proud as of my maternal Western Isles roots as I am of my paternal Irish ones. I guess you could be forgiven for saying that I am and always will be forever Celtic and this applies in my culture, my history, and of course my footballing loyalties.
Anyway, this was I think a superb place to lead us into our featured slots or should I say slot. You see it was complicated last month. I had originally planned Marc Sherland’s Word Factory to take the featured slot as a group but after discussions with Marc he said the group weren’t ready for such a move yet. Though disappointed I think this is probably a wise decision. So I then asked Marc if he would take it as a solo slot which he was willing to do. Unfortunately Marc was struck by the mother of all colds the night before the event and had to pull out of a slot I know he was looking forward to. So it fell upon Andy Fleming whom I had billed as featured musician to combine both slots in one and be our featured multi-tasker. Luckily for me Andy accepted the offer and as is always the case gave a quality performance.
Andy started his set with Mum’s Gone To Iceland or as I sometimes refer to it Ethnic Minority Of One. This was the perfect way to kick his set on a night when Words And Music showed our support for Syria. This was followed by Answers To Questions, Meat Meet 2005. Buck Up, and Fruitarian in the last of these pieces Andy recalls the day the fruit van came down his street when he was growing up in the Lancashire town of Wigan which is where he spent early years due to his father’s work commitments. I mention this purely to demonstrate that you should never stereotype or label anyone. Are you listening Mr Cameron? Andy then performed Treasure Island before treating us to what he refers to as his anti-valentine song Shredding Valentines before raising a few giggles with Odin’s Declaration or as it’s more commonly known at least to the Words And Music regulars There’s No Mention Of The Clitoris In The Bible. From there he wound up his set with Ju ju toffee and his classic Neighbours Everybody Good Neighbours But Mine Are A Shower Of Bastards. This brilliantly witty poem showed Andy at his best and when Andy’s at his best he has few if any peers.
After Andy it was left to me to wind up the night and since time was on my side I did so with a slightly longer set than usual. I kicked it off with A Thorn Among The Roses which was an appropriate poem to start as we had just celebrated towards the end of August. The poem is dedicated a to my many young lesbian friends but I do tend think of one in particular every time I read it and yes I do mean you Lisa Tait. I then performed a poem which many of regulars such as Andy, JJ and Pete know was was made famous in our wee room by the man who actually wrote it I refer to former Corporal of the Second Battalion The Parachute Regiment Jim Craig. Unfortunately Jim does not keep in the best of health these days and is unable to join the company the way he once did. However given the theme of the evening being one of suffering I thought it an appropriate gesture to read his poem Last Post a poem which shows there are no winners in conflict only casualties and grief. I followed one emotional poem with another, this time on the Highland Clearances. Entitled The Scattering, I hope it brings to life the troubles faced by my maternal ancestors at a time of great cruelty to our people. I then moved on to perform An Introduction Trans Women For Beginners. This poem has become a favourite of a few people due I think to its openness and honesty Well It was inspired by Sophia Walker and not only does she always shoot from the hip she encourages and inspires others to do the same. Not that I need much encouragement it has to be said. I concluded both my set and the evening by lightening the atmosphere with a wee bit of comedy and I think Lost The Plot is the perfect way to end an evening not just because it shows a group of women having fun, but also due to the fact that by the end of any Words And Music night I probably have lost the plot. In fact I’m completely honest I’ve probably lost more plots than Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders put together not to mention River City. Anyway, with the night over we all made our way home and an attendance of 17 enjoyed a cracking night of quality entertainment.
This was a night on which we welcomed back old friends and made new ones. It was a night where we mused on issues both global and personal but most of all it was a night when a main course of Fairness was served up to all as mum went to Iceland for our snack delights.
Love And Best Wishes