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The Day The Phoenix Rises 

This poem draws on the stories of my ancestors who told me about the importance of the phoenix in guarding the laws of Scotland and Ireland and the belief that our countries will finally be free of British rule on the day the phoenix rises. It is for that reason I have given it the title The Day The Phoenix Rises. I hope you enjoy the read. 
The Day The Phoenix Rises

Outsiders

we were scorned on arrival 

in a cold uncaring place 

 locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using language and religion as excuses to label us 

boasting of their achievements

as part of an empire

they were unaware their own culture was scorned 

Scots or Irish a Celt can never be 

reborn as a Brit

when they were told this 

the new order got angry 

they were beyond unhappy

when the Irish community formed a football club 

which would be open to those of  all faiths and none 

when trophies were won we were feared and hated 

the angry brigade felt threatened 

that their fragile identity had been questioned 

there were suggestions we should go home 

as those with blood on their hands

conveniently forgot  it was they 

who did the clearing 

which left us dispossessed 

the victims of cultural genocide

in the Celtic heartlands from which I am descended 

 I’ve always known my blood is the blood of twin tribes 

both of which were marginalised 

the Irish  and the Islanders share 

a history of oppression

with stolen lands taken from the people 

and given to those who would obey colonial orders

without questioning why 

in Culloden and Atherny 

the pain lives on  in the lyrics of our songs

and the hearts of those who know 

the history the oppressers tried to ban 

along with our culture and traditions 

that however was a big mistake to make

in their determination to break us 

they inspired a spirit of resistance

they will not quell 

hell will freeze over before we ever accept 

the label outsiders 

It is not who we are nor will it ever be 

our freedom will come on the day the phoenix rises 

to take us home from the ashes of a ruined estate 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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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 

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 

Quartet 

Hey Readers As I look back on the magic that was Celtic Connections one of my highlights from this year’s festival came on a cold and windswept Thursday night when I was lucky enough to get the chance to see Fara and Cherish The Ladies. This was the ultimate in what some in the media would call  Celtic girl power though to be honest I think woman power would be a far more accurate description. Being a big fan of both bands particularly Fara, this was must see show and I’m so glad I got a ticket for what was an amazing evening of entertainment. It is with this memory still firmly in my mind I decided to write a poem to a band who will always have a place in my heart that band are Fara. As there are four members in the band I have given it the title Quartet I hope you enjoy the read. 

Quartet 

On a cold January night

four Orcadians take to the stage 

warming the hearts of the audience 

daughters of tradition they compliment each other well 

 playing hornpipes, jigs, and reels 

to get feet stamping, toes tapping

and smiles on faces 

as they play the winter wind stops to listen 

and in doing so  calms for a while

then casting rivalries aside

they play tunes from a Shetland fiddler

this quartet who grew up together 

know each other well 

there is chat between sets 

though it has to be said 

one member, is the blether of the band 

Jeana has the crowd in the palm of her hand 

as they play tunes they composed 

with passion pride and power 

on listening I am taken to a faraway place 

I am in no hurry to leave 

I didn’t manage to get their CD 

but the memories created will last 

as  long as time endures 

in the cold of late winter 

I am warmed by daughters of tradition 

who claim their inheritance 

with passion, pride, and power 

all too soon they depart the stage 

leaving the night to others 

I return from my faraway place 

knowing I will visit again 

to see the band who made my heart dance

on a night I saw stars 

shine in the January sky 

@ Gayle Smith 2017