On Bonfire Night Its Fair To Say We Had Our Share Of Sparklers

Hey everyone. Monday night was bonfire night where some people commemorate the fact Guy Fawkes was executed for trying to blow up the Westminster Parliament. Some others depending on their politics celebrate the fact that at least he tried & had a right good go. Most of us however just think its a good night to have a party. As for me, well I celebrated the fact it was the First Monday of November & made my way to Sammy’s for the monthly feast of Words & Music.

I don’t know why but I had a feeling it was going to be a good night & as if confirm this I met my good friend Erin McHugh whilst still in the city centre. As I had left my home earlier than usual I managed to have a good quality catch up with someone who will always be close to my heart. On leaving Erin I begun the second part of my journey which would lead me to the poetry family home.

I had anticipated a lower than average attendance because of the bonfire night festivities & I was have to say accurate in my assessment. However, I was pleasantly surprised as to how well the night actually went. There may only have been 12 in attendance but the quality shone through for all to see.

The night started with Pamela Duncan being the first up to the stage. This on the eve of American presidential elections was perhaps even more fitting than usual. Well Michelle Obama may have got four more years as America’s First Lady but Sammy’s has always had the same First Lady since the day we were formed & even when she steps down which she is planning to do the near future that fact will never change.

Anyway Pamela fired the first of our bonfire night sparklers with a set of four poems which demonstrated not only the quality of her work but the versatility of it with topics including golf & god or at least to trying to get a child to go church. Well Pamela has a had a very busy life & is a woman with many interests which are reflected in her writing, be it short stories or the poetry she chose to share with us last night.

As Pamela left the stage I decided to take to the stage & read of my recent poems a Different View which was only written on Saturday Night to commemorate the birth of Channel 4 which celebrated its 30th birthday on Friday. It was a tongue in check look back at the history of the station which was at that time Britain’s newest TV channel & it was well received by those in the gathering as it probably brought a few back a few memories.

Next to the stage was my good friend Maryanne Hartness who only read one poem. This is often the way with Maryanne but trust me when she reads the rooms listen & her poems are always worth listening to.

Another voice worth listening to is that of Peter Mohan. A relative newcomer to the scene Peter tends to write prose rather than poetry, & is quickly establishing a reputation for himself as a quality storyteller with cracking description & dialogue & credible believable characters.

After Peter it was Linda Grant’s turn to entertain us which she certainly did by reading a varied set of which her last poem Up Jumped The Devil was easily the best performed. Not only was it seasonal as hallowe’en was only last week it also at least in my opinion is the type of poem which lends itself to this type of event. Overall I think Linda is one of most improved performers on the scene & as I reminded her she is now a world away from that shy sensitive soul who was scared to take the stage

Being scared of the spotlight is something which could never be said of Susan Milligan & last night having slightly more time than she normally would, Susan gave a more relaxed performance than is sometimes the case. I think the smaller crowd possibly helped with this as there have been occasions recently when nerves have got the better of her.

As Susan went back to her seat it was turn of a newcomer to make her first appearance at Words & Music & Glasgow based Shetlander Chris Tait certainly provided a fresh new voice which I’m sure I’ll hear a lot more of both at Sammy’s & other venues in the months & years to come.

After Chris had delivered her set it meant all performers had read at least so I opened the stage & asked anyone who wished to do so to perform again. Maryanne Hartness took up this invitation & read one of the poems of the night with her brilliant performance of fighting the dust. Indeed I was so impressed with this powerful anti war poem I told those gathered it was a great shame it wasn’t heard by two of the finest solider poets ever to have performed at Words & Music Jim Craig & Sean McBride.

Both Jim & Sean were at different times members of the parachute regiment& both have written some fantastic anti war poems. Jim’s Last Post, Heard it, & The Hero
& Sean’s The Day I Went Commando & the brilliant Floods Of Tears are amongst the finest poems I’ve ever heard at Sammy’s or indeed any other venue & I am sure that had they heard Maryanne’s poem they would have placed it right up there with the best of theirs or anyone’s.

Awe struck I decided it was my job to lead the crowd in to the bar break & I did so by challenging stereotypes by reading one of my most recent poems Dance To Find The Diamonds. This is a poem about how young women are perceived as its my belief that they often get a very bad press. In what was a very female dominated room it went down well & should I decide to enter the Scotia Bar Poet Laureate Competition it may well be included in my set.

After the break we had a slight departure from tradition but sometimes a change is as good as a rest& it certainly was on this occasion as we welcomed the featured musician to the stage before the featured writer for only the second time in our history. The only other time I can recall this happening was in November 2009 when Robyn & Amie went on before that night’s featured writer Chris Young. This time we welcomed another new musician to Words& Music as Lisa Gilday made her Sammy’s debut.

Its fair to say that 2012 has been the year of the newcomers on the musical side of Words & Music with Kirsteen Fraser, Unoma Okudo, Alan Smart,& Francis Lopez all making their debuts this year. Well now we can add Lisa’s name to that list & with a set which a combined a mixture of covers & her own material made for an excellent debut performance. Its fair to say that Lisa comes from a very talented family, her elder brother Kevin is a top quality poet, however I’ve known since I first met Lisa at an open mic in McChuills that she was one of the West of Scotland’s hidden jewels & I’m proud I brought that jewel to Words & Music.

The reason for the change in the order of proceedings was to allow to our featured writer Jim Ewing to get back
from Lesmahagow where he had been taking part in a concert earlier in the evening. When he finally did take the stage Jim delivered a quality set & wasn’t afraid to tackle big issues such as war death god & murder. The highlight of an excellent set was a poem which probably covered all of those topics in one & Remember What You Will But Remember is a poem which live in the memory of those who heard it for a very long time. Like Lisa. It was Jim’s first time as a featured act, also like Lisa it won’t be his last.

As the evening drew a close there was another first for Words & Music as Chris Tait got up & repeated the set she had performed earlier especially for Jim Ewing. Now unlike the BBC Sammy’s don’t usually do repeats but since we had the time & Chris was making her debut I decided to go with it for one night only.

This left me to bring proceedings to a close & I did so with a set of four poems Costume Drama which looks the strange sights of a hallowe’en night in Glasgow City Centre Video Nasty & Crocodile Tears on the horrors of war as portrayed by the media or the obsession of fighting for oil, & I concluded with The Multi Linguist a short poem recalling a memory of hearing a gifted musician by the name of Gwen Marie Yorke at Celtic Connections.

So that concludes the story of a cold November night. A night when many people gathered round the bonfire to watch the fireworks. However it was a night when though the gathering was smaller than usual we proved that quality counts more than quantity & on bonfire night its fair to say we had our share of sparklers.

Love & Best Wishes
Gayle X

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