Sad Girls And Hip Hop Heroes Wrapped Their Words In Warmth

On reflecting on the events of the November Words And Music it is I think fair to say this was a night when we gave youth it’s voice. It was a night I had looked forward to ever since Jen and I decided to book Shannon O’Neill as featured writer. This was done as far back as April when we held an all day planning meeting to sort out our choice of featured acts for the remainder of the year. So as you can see we put a lot of thought and effort in to organising a programme we hope you’ll enjoy.

Having secured Shannon’s services for the featured writer’s slot we felt that it would be good if we could get a musician who could compliment her high energy performance style and when we managed to get Glasgow’s very own hip hop hero Johnny Cypher we knew not only would we hit the right note but we would also be putting one of the youngest featured double bills in Words And Music history.

As the crowd which would eventually reach 13 steadily began to gather we started dead on 8 o’clock and though there was no official theme it has to be said that remembrance was very much on our minds. Since we were less than a week away from the centenary of the armistice I started the night with a poem by a former soldier who for many years was used to being in the front line of our event. This was the man who first brought me along to Words And Music in May 1993 so I was only fitting that I performed The Last Post by someone who was one of our predecessors as host of this event and the best poet ever to come out of Castlemilk Jim Craig.

I followed this up with my own anti war remembrance poem Lest We Forget in which I pay tribute to those fell in wars the establishment would sooner call conflicts so they could avoid having even more blood on their hands than they already do.

My job done for this part of the night at least, I handed over to my lovely co-host and superstar Jen Hughes. On this Occasion Jen started her set with a series of haikus before going on to read what I consider to be one of her signature poems Fuck Today. I have to say I love this poem as it sums up perfectly, the anger and frustration we all feel when everything that can go wrong actually does. It is my opinion which is as unbiased as you’re ever going to get from a co-host that this is one of the best if not the best angry poems I have ever heard.

As you can imagine , following that kind of performance is never easy but someone has to do it and this time it was Mary Wilson who was first the billed readers to step up to the stage as she performed three poems for our entertainment Hostile Environment, As One Chooses, and concluded with Getting The Grips.

As Mary returned to her seat it was Derek Read who was next to the stage. On this occasion Derek tackled the theme of remembrance with his poem Arthur which was written about his grandfather and the cruel fate that awaited him in the great war. Derek read his second poem Chronicles before returning to rejoin the company after what I thought was his best performance since returning to the scene after his stroke a couple of years ago.

Derek having completed his set was followed to the stage by the man I call the maestro and it was great to see Robin Cairns take his place on the Words and Music stage. On this occasion Robin performed three poems all themed around water. He started with Reasons To Keep Swimming , which he followed with Reasons To Stop Swimming , and finishing up with Cold River This was an enjoyable and entertaining set which saw a welcome return to our stage for one of the good guys of the Scottish spoken word scene.

Talking of good guys, it was Alex Frew who was next to take the stage and as is often the case with Alex, where he goes hilarity follows. I am glad to report this was no exception as he entertained the company in his brilliant but unique style with the story of A Princess Tale and a brilliantly funny rap titled All Round Normal Guy. This has everyone including your hosts into absolute hysterics and I felt genuinely sorry for whoever was going to follow him.

When I looked at the list however I had no need to fret as Suzanne Egerton had the audience enthralled with her story No Lady in which she related the tale of a lesbian of a certain age who was on a cruise to recovered and gains the companionship of an older theatrical type of women. Unfortunately she also finds out what a stage whisper really means. This was a wonderfully heartwarming story and it marked the return of a quality storyteller for the first time since the spring.

From Suzanne we moved on to Susan and it was Susan Milligan led us to the bar break and she did so in true Susan with a story on Beowulf, a poem Magic Mirror, and a song Don’t Blame Me. This what I call a Susan style performance and we wouldn’t have it other way.

After the bar break it was time for our Featured sets starting as always with our Featured Writer. Shannon O’Neill. Like many of the younger performers who have made their way to Words And Music in the last few years I first met Shannon (Pictured Below) at the Blue Chair cafe and was imeadiately impressed by a writer and performer of genuine talent. In a very powerful and thought provoking set , Shannon who is one of our youngest ever featured performers showed exactly why Jen and I were so keen to get her along as a passionate poet delivered what she called her sad girl set in which she focused on the challenges faced by people with mental health issues. This is a topic which is often ignored by the mainstream media and those who suffer from the impact of it are told to cheer up and get over themselves by those who are either unable or more often. unwilling to understand. Thankfully we have poets who do get it and get the fact that people with these conditions need to be listened to and one of those poets who knows about the problems they face is Shannon O’Neill.

Picture (1) Our Featured Writer Shannon O’Neill

As our Featured Writer left the stage it was time for our Featured Musician and on the night we gave youth its voice we were delighted to welcome Johnny Cypher (Pictured Below) to fill that position. As regular readers will know this slot is usually filled by someone from the folk tradition but not on this occasion. In a break with tradition we got one of Glasgow’s finest young rappers and hip hop artists to take us on a different kind of a musical journey. In a breathtaking set Johnny tackled a range of topics from the meaning of life, to climate change and immigration and by the end of it he had like Shannon won a whole range of new admirers with a high energy performance which showed that sometimes taking what some would call risks and departing from our usual style can be a winner for performers and audience alike.

Picture (2) Our Featured Musician Johnny Cypher

At the end of two brilliant sets from what it is arguably one of our youngest ever featured double bills, it was time to crack on with the billed readers. As anyone whose ever performed after the featured slots will testify the first of these slots is often the hardest one to fill. There are however exceptions to this rule, especially when they are a close friend of the featured acts as is the case with A R Crow who had come down from Dundee to see them. In their first poem Crow performed an excellent piece Fem In. This was not only hugely entertaining but had a delicious play on words as they showed what societal norms are expected to conform to when they born or identify as female. They followed this up with Third Eye Tiger, before finishing their set with Beard. This tale relates the story of how Crow was gendered as a male rather than assumed to female when they were the passenger in a taxi on the road home from a night out and though Crow wasn’t too bothered by this I think that the message I get from this poem is that sometimes we land in bizarre situtions.

After a very enjoyable set from a far travelled friend it was time for our penultimate performer of the evening and that meant it was time for Andy Fleming. Like me, Andy also remembered a name from our past as he sang a song made famous in our community by the legendary Crispin Allen and treated us to a rousing rendition of Footprints On The Dashboard Upside Down. This song is such a Words and Music classic that even those who don’t know it end up singing along to the last verse. He then concluded a short set with the Morrisey song Every Day Is Like Sunday

At the end of Andy’s set it was my job to bring the night to it’s conclusion with two poems the first being my CND standard Tights Before Trident in which I take a comic and slightly girlie look at how fashion may be more important than fighting in the quest for world peace. This I thought, was an appropriate choice given the fact that this November marked the centenary commemoratation of the war to end all wars and it showed that humour can be an important weapon in the fight for a lasting peace. I then concluded both my set and the night with Dress Sense in which I take a look at the chat every daughter has had from her mother. You know, the you’re not going out dressed like that chat. At the end of my set we brought to an end a thoroughly excellent evening, where sad girls and hip hop heroes wrapped their words in warmth and on a cold November night, and

Till next time

Gayle X


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