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Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

Glasgow Boy 

On day 30 I reach the end of my third NaPoWriMo with a poem in tribute to the late Scottish folk singer Ian Davison who  died on Christmas day last year after a battle with illness.I first got to know Ian at a Songwriting workshop in the summer of 1995 and over the years he became a regular guest musician at the Words and Music event I now host. It is therefore fitting that I post my last poem of this year’s NaPoWriMo in honour of his friendship and his memory. I hope I’ve  done justice to a fine singer and songwriter and a gentleman I am proud to have called a friend. I have titled the poem Glasgow  Boy I hope you enjoy the read. 

Glasgow Boy 

 
A man I knew well 

a friendship formed through mutual friends and music 

Ian was a Glasgow boy 

whose clydeside roots were rooted in internationalism

his socialism flavoured songs 

 written with hope for a better world 

he saw Mandela dance 

and said there was room for us all 

as lyrics told  stories of hogmaney parties 

and the welcome we give to others 

reminding us to have a dram 

and raise a glass to friends and neighbours .

both at home and overseas 

Maryhill or McKinleyville 

it mattered not to a proud Scot 

and even prouder global citizen 

with a mission for peace 

ring fenced by a red heart and a CND membership card 

this was a man who marched in October 1982

and even the man in the Whitehouse knew 

knew the power in his songs 

as did an innocent man 

in the jails of echolon 

on whose case he educated me 

now at last his body free from pain 

I can listen to the Glasgow boy 

wrapped in the warmth of memories 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

One Of The Girls 

On day 27 of NaPoWriMo I look at teenage memories as made by magazines we read as girls and how what we learned between the covers of our favourite magazine went on to play a significant role  in shaping the women we’ve become.

 I was inspired to write this poem after visiting the Scottish Memories Facebook  group where members chat about what we remember growing up and after chatting to members from various demographics within the group on the topic of childhood games I decided to ask the women of the group what was their magazines of choice growing up. Needless to say I was inundated with comments and it was those comments which helped me to write this poem. 

 On completing the poem I had to find a title for it , and having came up with a few suggestions I  consulted with friends on what the most suitable selection should be. On putting it to the vote, the will of the people  decided that the best and most appropriate title  was One Of The Girls and being a believer in poetry democracy in action that is the title I’m going with. I hope you enjoy the read.  
One Of The Girls 
I was a Jackie girl. 

this was the magazine

 which shaped my formative years 

concerns and fears about not being cool enough for school 

briefly removed as I was transported to a place of dreams 

Donny Osmond would never visit the scheme I lived in 

not even on his tours of Britain 

but his posters adorned my bedroom wall 

and turned it in to shrine for my first crush 

the puppy love who made me realise I was one of the girls 

and made me go funny inside 

I blushed the impure thoughts 

I wasn’t supposed to have 

but could never hide from my mother 

I kept my secret stash of magazines

 hidden under the bed in a box filled with memories 

for older generations of girls 

 titles like  Romeo and Valentine 

reminded them of a more innocent world 

whilst those younger than me 

were caught up in the celebrity culture 

created by top of the pops 

and the weekly chart shows on the radio 

Smash Hits and Number One 

were the best sellers for the girls who just wanted to have fun 

and knew that Madonna sang songs that were made for dancing 

potential Prince Charming’s would need to have cold hard cash 

to be the material girl’s Mr Right 

and the mum’s who were brought up with Judy and Bunty 

were far removed from their daughters reality 

as some in the media expressed disdain 

that the new teens were reading stuff on sexuality 

progressive parents thought it was better 

to know the facts of life 

rather than have pregnancies due to ignorance 

changing times meant changing tastes 

on the magazine rack 

and when More arrived 

Jackie’s days were numbered 

well photo stories couldn’t compete 

with  groundbreaking content like  position of the week

it made some of my teenage reading 

look so meek and mild 

there was no longer a market for  the magazines I grew up with 

and part of my childhood died 

as I became a new woman 

with a taste for company and glamour. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Hidden 

On day 23 of NaPoWriMo I take a wander back in to my 1970’s youth and look at the  world of gender roles and how they impacted on me and girls like me who were growing up knowing we were different from the so-called societal norms. Though it would be  easy to look back on those days with the rose coloured glasses of time it would  be a misrepresention of the truth . Trust me in days less liberal than now there were Secrets you had to keep hidden which is why I’ve titled this poem Hidden I hope you enjoy the read. 
Hidden
Rebel teen 

was never punk 

too much of a boy thing

don’t you know 

loved stage shows and any kind of songs 

except heavy metal rock 

folks would be shocked 

if they knew how much she liked 

summer nights 

 loved grease and wanted to be Sandy

but the beauty school drop out 

was too cool for school 

or the rules that went with it 

she couldn’t cope with limits 

it wasn’t her scene 

though expressing herself as a dancing queen 

was strictly for her bedroom 

with the door firmly locked 

the family would be shocked 

if they saw the  lipsticks and leotards

she kept stashed away 

in secret hiding places 

the boys would blush 

if they saw the smile on her face 

when she thought of them 

but these were less enlightened days 

when Rising Damp and The Walton’s 

were the stuff of teenage television 

ambitions to be different 

were best kept hidden 

or reserved only for the rich 

meanwhile down at the football pitches 

she tried to fit in 

but was never picked for either side 

instead she watched from the back of the goal 

as sweat soaked would be football stars

never knew what she thought of their talents. 

or who she would like to be man of the match.
© Gayle Smith 2017 

Soundtrack 

On day 14 of NaPoWriMo My poem looks at the importance of music in creating memories and shaping who we are. I have given it the title Soundtrack I hope you enjoy the read. 
Soundtrack 

A musical journey through my teens 

when dreams were left unshared 

by girls like me 

with no-one to confide in 

closets were the hiding place 

where I found the personal space

to keep me safe 

the 70’s were not the time 

and Glasgow was not the place 

for those born in one gender 

to say they wanted to be another 

I had many fights with my mother 

on this and other issues 

where she wanted me to keep my opinions

to myself 

but I knew staying silent would not be good 

for my mental health 

anyway , I digress 

this was a night 

when I thought of party dresses,

I never got the chance to wear 

it was a time for shared memories 

for women of a certain age 

as Jackie the musical took to the stage 

 the theatre came alive 

a chorus of voices sang about Dancing On A Saturday Night 

whilst dreaming of puppy love with Donny 

the story of our lives

 told through the eyes of the leading character in the play 

my only criticism was that there were no Bay City Rollers songs 

to get the audience singing along 

not even shang -a lang 

the song that got me wishing 

I was kissing Les  McKeown 

behind the bikesheds 

in my school lunch break 

as teenage lust replaced all previous crushes 

from now on I wanted boys to hold me close 

kiss me in the back row of the movies

and be  the kind of boyfriend 

my parents wouldn’t approve of 

to me this show was more than just a night at the theatre 

many of the songs contained within it

were signposts on a journey 

the soundtrack of my life 

the songs that helped to make me 

the girl I was and the woman I’ve become 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

When Company And Camaraderie Are Mixed With Compassion It Really Is Something To Celebrate. 

As regular readers will know I love a good night out so when I recently had the chance to attend two in the space of two days I grabbed both opportunities  and enjoyed two excellent evening of quality entertainment as a result  

The first of these events was my was on the Monday of that week when I made my long overdue debut at the Aloud spoken word night which is held in the salubrious surroundings of Jim’s Bar in Glasgow University’s Queen Margaret Union. As is often the case at spoken word events I performed a set of my poems but since this was my first time at Aloud I thought I would mix it up and include some trans related comedy. This was better received than I could have hoped for and gave me the encouragement I needed to develop it further through to be  honest I think the fact that it was a mainly female audience, helped considerably as they tended to understand why my material contained references to chocolate mammograms, and vibrators.

 The next night saw me change roles from performer to audience member as I attended a traditional music concert at the Star Club in the Admiral Bar in aid of The Beetson Cancer Charity which was organised by Eric Grant. Though these were very different nights I enjoyed them both very different reasons and have posted photographs from  each event to let you know why 

Picture (1) Is the first from Aloud which was celebrating its third birthday on the night I made my debut. As at all good parties the first person you see is the host and who better to host a party than the gabby , brilliant , and highly lovable Shannon McGregor. 

Picture (2) Shows the perfect party guest as Molly Frawley shares her considerable poetic talents with a crowd who were happy to listen to her words.

Picture (3) This is one party goer you’ll never find in the kitchen. Like myself , he prefers a stage to share his talents. He is Aloud regular and all round good guy Ross McFarlane 

Picture (4) Shows a picture of someone who is rapidly emerging as one of my favourite poets on the spoken word scene Jade Mitchell. Jade is an amazing talent who really speaks from the heart and her poem Girls is one of the poems I’ve heard for a very long time.  

Picture (5) Takes me from performer to audience member as I listen to the music at The Star Club. in the relaxed atmosphere of The Admiral Bar. The event which featured the superb vocal talents of father and daughter Eric and Eilidh Grant and many of their random connections of friends from the folk music community was organised by Eric on behalf the Beatson Cancer Charity. This shot shows one of those connections Dave Gibb belting out some songs to a highly appreciative audience. 

Picture (6) Shows Eric ,with Dave Gibb, and Fraser Speirs on tin whistle. 

Picture (7) Shows Eric and Eilidh doing what they do best and that of course, is sharing their music with those who want to hear it.  

Picture (8) Is the final picture of what was a highly enjoyable, and successful night raising over £2,000 for the Beetson thanks to Eric , Eilidh , and their random connections. It is on nights like this and indeed Aloud that we see the triumph of the human spirit at its finest. 

The fact I share this post in the light of the events of last Wednesday is no accident. I refuse to let circumstances no matter how challenging or adverse they may be, stop me from enjoying my life,and I believe this belief is shared by people throughout Scotland , Britain, and the world. You see, I was worried last Wednesday. I was worried for SNP MP’s who I as a party member know and call friends. I was worried for honourable members of all parties even those I profoundly disagree with. I was worried for the many poets, and performers I know who are based in London or call it home and yes I was relieved when one by one I heard on social media they were safe.  However, as the photographs in this,post show, I celebrate my life with every day I’m given. I cherish the friendships I’ve made and every experience I’ve has helped to shape the woman I’ve become and believe me that is a woman who enjoys mixing and mingling with others. Yes I really like people, and it’s occasions like these with friends and good companions that remind me why.  

On two successive nights and in two very different capacities I shared company and camaraderie and when that is mixed with compassion we see the very best of humanity and that really is something to celebrate 

Love And Best Wishes.

Gayle X 

The Danny Kyle Showcase Finalists. The Class Of 2017 

Hey Readers As many of you will be aware I am a huge fan of traditional music. This means that one of the highlights of my year comes as early as January, though sometimes as was the case this year it can stretch in to early February. I refer of course to the 17 days musical feast that is  Celtic connections where the traditional culture of Scotland and Ireland meet many other styles from all over the world and combine to give my city the best possible way to banish the winter blues. 

Featured Picture The Class Of 2017 Smile for the cameras on final night of the Danny Kyle Open Stage. 

Though I love the big ticket concerts and the chance to see top name stars such as Cherish The Ladies , The Chair , Dick Gaughan , and Treacherous Orchestra. There is one event above all others, which I hold close to my heart and that event is The Danny Kyle Open Stage.

This event is very much part of my personal Celtic Connections it runs every night of the festival  and has done for more years than I care to remember. It has been the launchpad for to  many a glittering career including  current  stars  such as Karine Polwart, The Chair , and Iona Marshall and will I’m sure be aware the starting place for many more in years to come.  It is to celebrate the traditional music I love and the January family it brought me that I share these photographs of The Class Of 2017 Danny Kyle Finalists. I hope you enjoy them. 

(Picture 1 ) Brighton based band An Dha were first to grace the showcase with a set which was heavily influenced by a visit to the Isle Of Skye and whose haunting melodies will leave you feeling that you’ve been taken a very enchanted and magical place.

Picture (2) Is of the only solo performer to grace the showcase this year. The brilliant  Marianne McGregor may live in Dennistoun, but this  Orcaedian singer was in my opinion the stand out performer of the year. With a voice of the quality of Rachel Sermanni and a quirky style of catchy folk / pop lyrics I haven’t heard the likes of since Anna Meldrum ,  Marianne joins many fellow islanders including the Chair and Broken Strings in taking her well deserved place in the Danny’s hall of fame. 

Picture (3) Features The Magpies This Glasgow band played a range of songs and tunes which ably demonstrated their wide repititoire of playing music from all corners of the British Isles. This eclectic trio have a real passion in their music and it shows in their professional polished playing style 

Picture (4) Shows Avocet  This trio combine blues, folk, and jazz in a way which is easy on the ear and pleasing to the audiences wherever they play 

Picture (5) The final performance of the Showcase was from Dopesickfly  This  band got the crowd smiling with a mix of Rock and Funk with edgy poetic lyrics. Surely proof if proof were needed that the open stage truly lives up to it’s name and is always willing to bring new ideas to the party 

Picture (6) The prizewinners with the exception of Whyte who couldn’t play on this occasion due to illness) pose for photographs as our compere Liz Clark offers her congratulations watched by the wee bust of the of the wee man in a bunnet in whose memory the event was named.  I am talking of course of a man I was proud to know the one and only Danny Kyle. 

Picture (7) One for the road as I miraculously managed to capture all award winners holding their awards in one picture. My congratulations goes to all as they now take the first steps on the road to bigger things and they do it as the class of 2017. 

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X