As we return from the madness of what will forever be the fringe and get ready for the September edition of Words And Music, It’s time to look back on the events of August night which set me up well for the upcoming fringe. With Andy Fleming and Susan Milligan lined up for the featured slots I was ready for a night to remember and it was with an open heart and mind that we welcomed both old friends and new to our wee Tin Hut we call home.
As always I kicked off the night with of my own poems and in this case I selected my tribute to David Bowie A Vote Of Thanks To A Martian Transvestite as this was how my mother first described Bowie a man whose music she would come to admire in my pre teen years of the early 1970’s.
Job done it was time to call the first of our billed readers and Mary Wilson read three poems By The By Bucketful, Have A Nice Day, and Happy Days before returning to take her place among the gathering.
After Mary it was the turn of one of rising stars of the spoken word scene Angie Strachan to share her thoughts and musings and believe me the self styled queen of modern suburbia entertained us in that unique way that only she can. Angie started her set in a way only a mammy can with Fat, a brilliant and emotional poem her daughter Chloe over her concerns regarding body image and why a mother’s love is and will always be unconditional. This was followed by her election poem Ma Dug Is Better Than Your Dug in which she expresses all too clearly her frustration with all the petty points scoring which is or at least seems to be the lot of election campaigns these days. Angie concluded a thoroughly enjoyable set with Random Temptations her poem in praise of her favourite supermarket which for those of you who don’t know just happens to be Aldi. This is one of these poems which is always enjoyable to listen to and shows that even the self ordinary activities can provide inspiration.
Next up was Peter Russell. Like Angie, Peter is a poet whose work I really enjoy. On this occasion he started with Prohibitions By Order in which he expresses his concerns for humanity and the direction of political traffic. He followed this by performing Contrarian Blues. In this poem Peter laid out the five arguments he had with himself during the course of a day. Being a political animal myself I love this poem as it reminds me of someone I see every time I look in the mirror. From politics Peter moved on to music and in particular Jazz which has always been a passion of his with a poem entitled What I Know About Modern Jazz , The Bird, The Train, And Getz. He continued the jazz theme in his next poem Kinda Blue which was written for another of his heroes Miles Davis, before finishing a very entertaining set with Whose That Knocking At The Door.
As Peter returned to his seat it was the turn of Alex Frew to take the stage. As regular readers will know Alex often uses humour as a weapon to make his point and he did so again in the second of his two pieces. In his first piece however Alex showed that when it matters he can be serious with his story Careless In The Community in which he highlights the issues facing the most vulnerable members of our society.For his second piece Alex performed a tongue in cheek song I Got A Silver Cape about his experience of working in social care and demonstrated the truth of the age old saying if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. Fortunately he chose the first of those options to make some very important points and I for one am glad he did so.
After Alex , Claire McCann stepped up for her five minutes on stage and performed a song entitled Devon Remix. Claire, was followed by Derek Read whose poem A Quiet Land spoke of the sectarian tensions this Whirral lad witnessed growing up in the Merseyside of the 1960’s . This poem has always been one of my favourite pieces of Derek’s work as the story very similar to my own and shows that the sectarian problem of the July of the Ulster marching season has impacted on other areas of mainland Britain and is not unique to Scotland.
As Derek returned to his seat it was with great pleasure I welcomed back Suzanne Egerton to the Tin Hut for the first time since March as a combination of holidays and hospital appointments meant she had been unable to take her place among us. On reading her story Conked Out Suzanne reminded us what we’d been missing and that was a quality performer and fantastic storyteller who has a natural way with words
After Suzanne’s welcome return it was time to welcome a new face to our night and though Robert Neill was known to me from nights at the Kilmarnock edition a few years back this was his first appearance at the Tin Hut and he gave one of the performances of the night as he took to the bar break in style by performing four pieces all of which I found very enjoyable listening Robert started his set with a break up poem Ayrshire style titled You Left Me For The Man That Works The Road. This was followed by a song titled Fascist Girlfriend , in which he laments the idea of abyone ever going out with someone with such dodgy political views. He then movved on to a poem entitled Beep Beep before concluding his set with a brilliant take on the latest time lord or should that be time lady shenanigans in Doctor Who’s A Women Noo in which he muses on the fuss being made by some of the whovian fraternity about a development most of us would call progress.
After an excellent first half and the chance to catch up with friends at the bar break it was time for our featured writer and this month it was Andy Fleming who was given the task of entertaining the company and he duly did so by performing his own brand of Words And Music as only he knows how.
Andy started his set with two pieces written for past McGonagall suppers and since they both have incredibly long titles which I can’t actually remember off by heart I will say that I enjoyed them both and both contained references to vegetarianism.
Having established his vegetarian credentials with his opening poems Andy (Pictured Below) then established his musical ones with his song Middle Aged Part Time Punk. This followed by Too Bad, and the song which describes every fringe performers nightmare One Star Review. Having reminded me why I’ve never yet taken a show to Edinburgh Andy moved on through his repitoire with I’ve Been To Places, City Of Strange Delights, Everybody Knows, and The Party Dress before concluding his set with one of his classic songs as he took us on a visit to The Pound Shop and like the pound shop Andy is very good value who will never get a one star review from me . Well let’s be honest the man is a five star performer and Words And Music regulars know it.
Picture (1) Our featured, writer Andy Fleming
As our featured writer went back to his seat it was time for our featured musician to have their time in the spotlight and in Susan Milligan we had someone who loves to sing and is particularly fond of songs she heard growing up. Susan (Pictured Below) started her set with a song which I must confess I hadn’t heard before called I Begged My Mum To Stay before moving on to more familiar territory with The Carpenters classic from the 1970’s Don’t You Remember You Told Me You Loved Me Baby.
Picture (2) Our featured musician Susan Milligan
Susan followed this with the Marianne Faithful hit As Tears Go By and the Perry Como song For The Good Times which was a favourite of my dad’s and wasn’t easy to listen to but I thanked Susan for singing it at the end of her set. For her penultimate song Susan stayed with the ballads and performed Help Me Make It Through The Night which was made famous by Gladys Knight and The Pips. This is a real power ballad and Susan put everything in to it and gave a cracking performance of a song which isn’t really in her natural style. Susan finished what was a very entertaining and enjoyable set with what I consider to be her signature song Rock And Roll Waltz which was originally made famous in 1950’s by American singer Kay Starr . On this night however it was Susan who starred on the Words and Music and gave her best performance to date in the six years she’s been attending the event.
After our two excellent featured acts there was only one thing left to do and that was for me as the last poet standing to bring the night to its conclusion. I did this by performing a set of four poems starting with my fiercest poem of all and for those of you who don’t get the reference the poem was The Lemon Dress which is the one I performed at the Women With Fierce Words event at the Scottish Poetry Library on the opening day of last year’s Edinburgh fringe.
I followed this up by reading Two Rolls On Sausage , a poem on the challenges faced by people with Mental Health Issues. For my penultimate poem I switched the focus to activism and read Frontline a poem on the power of protest marches and the role they’ve played in my life. For my final poem Our Stories, I stuck with activism but this time it had an LGBT theme to it as I told the story of my coming out and the importance of pride especially during the early years of my transition.
With my set completed I thanked everyone for their attendance and 12 happy campers made our way in to the night ready for whatever challenges this festival month would bring our way and as poets told tales of Martian Transvestites and men with contrarian blues a song told us all we had no need to fear we wouldn’t get one star reviews
Till next time