It’s that time of the month again when poets, musicians, storytellers, and culture lovers will make their way to the Tin Hut in the name of a good night out.
As I look back on the events of July it is fair to say I do so with fondness as this was a night when the atmosphere was as warm as the summer sun which shone on our performers. One by one they took the stage and claimed it as their own and you know what we may only have been two nights in to our residency but everyone felt at home in our new surroundings.
Now, those who know Words and Music will also know that no two nights are ever alike and as if to prove the point our team for the evening was apart from two or three us a completely different line up from the one who graced the stage on our first night at our new venue. This I suspect may well be the case for the next few months as more Words and Music regulars find their way home. Not to worry though I think everyone who needs to make their Tin Hut debuts should have done so by the first Tuesday of December or at the very latest January.
To those who have still to make their first journey to the Tin Hut I can guarantee them the sane warm welcome they always got at Sammy’s. Well though it’s true to say that times change and so do people there is also the fact that the more things change the more they stay the same.
As host it was my job to get the night started and I did so by reading Spoken Word, the poem that is rapidly becoming my poetic manifesto. I have to admit that I really enjoyed writing this poem and I’m enjoying performing it even more. I believe it challenges the preconceived ideas some people may have about spoken word nights and the type of people who attend them and anything that can tackle that kind of inverted snobbery has to be a good thing
Having started the night it was now my pleasure to call up the first of the billed readers and as is so often the case that honour feel to John Moody. Never a man to duck the important issues John did a set of three poems The Screaming Never Stops, Laburnum Seeds, and Canister all of which tackled difficult topics with the poetic skills and sensitivity for which John is rapidly becoming known.
Next up to the stage was Derek Read whose set of three poems Signed Song, Rabymere, and Tartan Trip showed the variety of his work and effective use of both imagery and well placed humour. It is no secret that Derek has suffered from ill health in the past few years particularly last year when he had a mild stroke. This impacted on Derek’s mobility for a number of months and he is still in recovery from his issues but slowly and surely his confidence is coming back and I for one am delighted to see it.
As Derek returned to his seat it was the turn of A C Clarke to entertain us. Needless to say she did this by making us think with a set of three poems on very challenging topics In her first poem Viewpoint she made us think about Glasgow’s relationship with the slave trade before moving on to a poem entitled Territory which made us think of issues around borders. This was an excellent choice of poem when one considers the Brexit vote was less than a fortnight before the event. Anne concluded her set with a poem which was ironically enough entitled The Poem and explains how a poem is actually written. This was a phenomenal set from a very accomplished poet. A C Clarke is if you like the poets other poets look up to and respect.
Following a poet of the calibre of A C Clarke is never an easy shift but Susan Milligan gave it her best shot with a set which comprised of two poems and a song. Susan started with the bizarrely titled When I Perceive I’m Going Mad Like Plants. This was followed by Permanence in which she asked some interesting questions about death. Susan then concluded her set with a song I’ve never heard before entitled A Grand Old Painter. Personally, I prefer A Grand Old Team but that as they say is a different story.
As Susan returned to her seat it was the turn of Linda Grant to take her five minutes in the spotlight. In a short set Linda read three poems starting Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? before moving on Music And My Heart’s Desire and concluding with her most well known poem to Darling Daughter which is written about her long suffering daughter Louise. I have to say though enjoyed her set Linda needs to put more effort in to coming up with better titles as the first two titles in this set
don’t do justice to the poems concerned.
Next up to the stage was to quote the comedian Bob Doolally one of the truly great players of the game and as if to prove it he had went to Paisley the previous Saturday and won the Paisley slam. Well there are times when a poet has to do what a poet has to do especially that poet is the man I call the maestro and that man is Robin Cairns.
On this occasion Robin entertained the gathering by telling us the tale of The Old Once Upona. This was a tale of love, lust, and passions stirred on adventures under the sun kissed skies of the Mediterranean. As he regaled us with his story he transported the listeners to exotic places only viewed in our imaginations. Well you don’t get sunshine on a day trip to the Costa Del Clyde.
After another masterful performance Robin rejoined the company and Alex Cuthbert was charged with the job of following him. Like Robin, Alex is an accomplished poet and on this occasion he read two poems Old
Lags which was a poem written for his father and Alarm Bells a brilliant poem from his back catalogue which was written in 2002 as a warning of things to come and contained some biting satire which give Tony the Tory Blair his character and showed him up for the fraud was, is, and ever shall be. Personally I think the fact the Chillcot Report in to the Iraq war was due to be published the next day may have had a bearing on his decision to read it. To say it was well received would I think be an understatement, and given words and music’s shall we say left wing political tradition this should come as no great surprise to anyone.
It was Suzanne Egerton who followed Alex to the stage and led us to the bar break with a story written in two voices. In the first voice Suzanne wrote from the perspective of the fitness instructor who viewed one of her participants as lazy and probably a bit on the snooty side. To her this was the type of women who loved to be centre of attention and tended to do stuff for effect.
When she switched voices Suzanne showed that far from being the snooty nosed Tory voter the fitness instructor had perceived her to be the participant who wasn’t the fastest or fittest in the class, the woman was in fact lonely and looking for companionship as she struggled to come to terms with her husband’s death.
By taking this approach Suzanne demonstrated how two people can look at the same event and view it from very different angles. This was a well written story with brilliantly crafted believable characters brought to life by a woman who has a genuine warmth and humanity which shows in her writing. This heartwarming tale was the perfect place to bring the first half of the night to a close and enjoy a bar break in which we could catch up with each other’s news.
During our break I chatted Robin about his upcoming show at the Edinburgh fringe and he was telling me that he had already put in 85 hours of rehearsal for Morningside Malcolm’s latest adventure in The Good, The Bad, And The Weegie . Believe me this is a show I’m looking forward to seeing on one of many visits to the fringe. As I’ve already said on numerous occasions Robin is a consummate performer and his shows are always entertaining and as someone who has always supported Words and Music whenever possible I think it’s important that we support a valued member of our spoken word family.
As our featured writer got ready for their sets I chatted to the friends they had brought along to support them and one of those friends Neil Anderson, said he remembered me from many years ago when I
co-hosted a Friday night event titled Costa Culture at Costa coffee with Sean McBride, and our mutual friend Kenny McColl. This of course was back in my pre transition days and he said there is a marked difference in me now to the me he knew at the turn of this millennium as I am now much more comfortable in my own skin than I was back in the day. However, when he said that my late friend Christine would have been proud of the woman I’ve become. I knew I have to go the ladies to check my non existent mascara and compose my to introduce Anna Crow who was our featured writer for the evening.
As I welcomed Anna to the stage this principled, passionate, poet
started her set with a poem which asked Why Do We Create and then explained why we need art. This was followed by one of my favourite Anna poems I Got Sirred And I Liked It. In this poem Anna who identifies as a non binary individual who refuses to accept to the traditional male and female gender roles explains what it’s like to live as a non binary person and why being taken for a person who is not the gender Anna (pictured below) has been conditioned to be is in her view perfectly acceptable.
This groundbreaking writer then proved that poetry wasn’t the only string to their bow by reading a piece of fiction in which related the story of Finn and Anna. This was an engaging piece of writing which held the attention of the audience and contained some excellent examples of Anna’s humour and as well as showing the darker parts of the human condition that you can’t really explore in poetry.
On moving back to poetry Anna read a poem which was written in the wake of the Orlando shootings entitled Save This Last Dance For Me. This is in my opinion one of the best poems I’ve heard this year and the fact that Anna managed retained her composure reading what was a very emotional poem speaks volumes for her skills as a performer.
Anna then moved to her festival poem. This poem entitled Beware shows the sinister side not so much of festivals but of people’s attitude to them. An attitude shaped by the big brother society of the Conservative Party, BBC, The Blairite New Labour Party, and the right wing printed media. This poem has very dark undertones to it and shows a very unpleasant side to Britain in the early 21st century.
Alex Cuthbert And A C Clarke listen intently to words of our featured writer with Robin Cairns looking on in the background.
Suzanne Egerton And Derek Read focus on Anna’s words of wisdom.
This brought Anna to the penultimate poem of the set and in Sunday Lunch Anna explores the dynamics of family relationships and the difficulties faced by someone who is very much an individual and values that individuality yet at the same time loves her family and cherishes the bonds that gives them strength.
In the final poem of the set Anna a member of the Green Party and peace campaigner performed what I regard as her calling card the anti trident poem It Felt Like A Party. In this poem Anna describes what it was like to go on a demonstration to the Fasslane peace camp and the unity of purpose of the demonstrators. This is a real feel good poem for political types like me and it was the perfect way to end an amazing 20 minutes.
As tradition dictates the featured writer was followed by our featured musician and it was great to welcome an old friend of Words and Music Steven Clark in to our new home. This was Stevie ee’s first appearance at Words and Music for a few years and I have to is was all my fault as I always tried to get him at the last minute and never quite managed it I wonder why that could be. Anyway this made his return all the more welcome and I knew we were in for a quality night from a real class act.
Steve (pictured below) started his set with Referendum Waltz. In this song he expressed his disappointment with recent EU referendum result though I think the original version
was written for,a different referendum with which like me he was also disheartened with the result .
Our Featured Musician Steve Clark
This was followed by the Lobby Dosser song which was written in tribute to the cartoon character created by Glasgow cartoonist Bud Neil. Steve then moved on to a song with one of the most unusual titles I’ve ever heard in my life You’d Better Smile While You’ve Still Got Teeth In Your Head. Despite the bizarre title this was quite a catchy wee number, and it didn’t take long till we were all singing along to the chorus.
In his penultimate song Steve paid tribute to the genius of the late great Michael Marra by giving a terrific rendition of Marra’s song Magi Shaw before completing his set with the song I regard as his personal anthem Jock Tamson’s Bairns. This song speaks of my Scotland, a Scotland which welcomes refugees and people from other national communities as part of the fabric of our nation.
At the end of an excellent set it was up to me to bring the evening to a close and I did so by performing three poems two of which I had read at The June edition of Words and Music but I thought since there was only a handful of people who were in attendance that night I could do a couple of them again. I started my set with Learning Swedish which I wrote for Agnes Török and I followed it up by reading Faithful Daughter which sets out not only my personal faith but also the battles the church must win if it is to be relevant in 21st century Scotland. This poem may be controversial to some people but I hope it comes from a good place which has the best interests of the church at heart.
Feeling pleased with myself I decided to perform a poem which I should and do off by heart but the minute I told those in attendance I wouldn’t need the sheet for Karaoke Queen, God decided to teach me that pride comes before a fall and I needed two attempts to perform a poem I should have been able to recite in my sleep.
Lesson learned it was time wind up the night and make my way home to Baillieston. As I reflected on the events of a highly entertaining evening in the best Words and Music tradition, I couldn’t help but smile at how well things had gone. You see when a crow came to nest in the place we call home Jock Tamson’s bairns were delighted as stories were told and songs were shared in the name of a good night out .
Love And Best Wishes