Tag Archive | Aidan Rivett

When Women Of A Certain Age Decide To Get Fierce The Golden Girls Can Really Rock The Mic. 

​Due to an unforseen accident in the last Wednesday of April, It’s fair to  say that May was a quieter month than usual in my poetry calendar. Indeed I had to postpone my own event due to a badly sprdined ankle.

This meant  there was no Words And Music at the Tin Hut on the first Tuesday of the month. I also missed cracking nights at Fail Better, Extra Second,  Express Yourself, and Last Monday At  Waterstones. In fact the only event I made in the whole of May was on the second Sunday of the month when I captained the over 40’s team in the four  ages slam at the Tron Theatre 

 This was an afternoon which I simply had to attend comes as 0ou I was  chosen by the host and organiser of the event Robin Cairns to captain the team for my spoken word demographic but also the fact that it was my first journey outside Baillieston since injuring my ankle at the tail end of last month Since I was still a bit shaky in the terms of my movement I got taxi’s to and from the venue well it made more sense than going for a bus and potentially making things worse. 

Having been made captain, I had to select my team for the events in which we would be doing battle with the teams representing teenagers twenty something’s and thirty something’s and with an emvarrasnent of  riches to choose from I made a few tentative enquires as to who may or may not be available for selection. Eventually I settled on my choices and in Angela Strachan and Lesley Traynor I knew I had chosen well, whether we would would be able to take on and beat the other teams would be as it is in all slams in the lap of the gods, the aududnce, and the judges.

I arrived early for the big event and was quickly joined by rival team captain and close friend Victoria McNulty who since she was taking a social media break had not heard of my recent accident. As we chatted I told her that this was only the second time I’d left the house since it happened and the other occasion was to cast my vote in the local elections. Eventually I was was joined by my team mates and other competitors including fellow team captains Carla Woodburn , Matt MacDonald. As kick off time drew ever closer we went through to the Victorian Bar took our seats on the stage and waited for the battle to  begin. The rules of the competition were simple all poets would perform twice in a round robin fashion and the two highest scoring teams after the two rounds  would progress through to the final to compete for the title of the Four Ages Slam Champions 

After the prelimaries like deciding  on team names and  the running order,  we were treated to a sacrificial poem from one of our judges Brighton based poet Deborah Martin. Sacrifice made It was time to start the competition and it  was the Young Team who were first to the mic as Aidan Rivett opened the slam with his take on Karaoke.One by one the  poets made our way to the mic when it came to our turn to put our first poem out there I decided to take a captain’s responsibility and lead from the front as I performed Jewel Of The Clyde in which I looked back the impact of Glasgow’s year as city of culture on both the politics and culture of our cityThis being my first ever team slam though I have competed in and judged individual ones, I was understandably nervous as I didn’t want to let Angela or Lesley down so I was glad to get it out of the way and get back to my seat. 

On a day when we played to what was a predominantly non poetry audience who had paid £7 for the privilege of seeing us I think we saw the poetry community at it’s best and those gathered  heard poems on a wide range of topic including domestic violence ( Victoria McNulty) family from both (Adam V Cheshire and Moki , male anger Loki, Sex and taming the bad guy Lesley Traynor with her hilarious take on the big bad wolf, nightclubs, me (lost the plot,) and Aidan Rivett , facebook friendships, Jess Smith , shopping and the perils of giving up  smoking (Angela Strachan) and the dangers of swallowing spiders  from Carla Woodburn. 

At the end of the second round of  poems it was four quality teams who waited for their fate to be decided by the judges two of whom would be judging every poem but the third judge was a different story as this was a different member of the audience for every poem and I must admit I rather liked the idea of what I call poetry democracy in action.

As we waited for the judges decisions I talked tactics with my team to decide what poems to perform if we made it through and also I had to consider who would be placed where in the running order. I took a captain’s decision that should we get through I would be going first , Lesley would follow me and Angela, would be our final poet standing. Eventually , the judges made their decision and we had qualified for the final where we would pit our wits against the young team. It was set up as the classic final a battle of youth against experience. 

Having lost the toss it was the young team who went up first then it was my turn to step up to the mic and I performed one of the few poems I know well enough not to need a paper copy or my phone  and when Karaoke Queen got a maximum score of 10 from the audience member I knew I had played my part to the best of my ability. 

One by one we took our turn at the mic and when Lesley performed her poem my sister sleeps I thought we had grounds for optimism and then finally it was Angela who went all out for glory to prove that the so-called oldies can be Goldie’s and believe me The Queen Of Modern Suburbia didn’t let us down.Now having done all we could do it was two nervous teams who awaited the decision of the judges 

Eventually, they made their call and much to my delight they called it for us. The wise ones had  won the day and our all female team had proven that when Women of a certain age decide to get fierce the golden girls can really rock the mic. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

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17 Poets

Hey Readers On day 22 of NaPoWriMo I look back on a wonderful night of spoken word at Extra Second. This is a night I can’t recommend highly enough and to celebrate my first appearance at this excellent evening I have written a poem entitled 17 Poets. Though I have already written a poem with the one word title Poets which was inspired by my friend Audrey Marshall, this is very different in content and though I was tempted to change it I was reminded that there were the three versions of The Power Of Love and none of them sounded remotely similar. My thanks to Paul Wardrope for confirming that my original choice of title was the right one.  So here it is, 17 Poets I hope you enjoy the read.

17 Poets

When poets speak with authentic anger
the audience listens 
as tales on Europe
homelessness poverty and unfulfilled ambitions
proved the personal is political
Now I don’t mean to be critical
of the older generation
but there are occasions
when they need to wind their necks in
and realise that just because they are a certain age
they do not have a right to rage
about not getting a seat on the bus
this culture of entitlement
is not an enlightened attitude
I am sick to death of their platitudes
of how it was better in their day
it wasn’t there lying
it’s not cool
and voting SNP both votes
will not be enough to free Scotland
from Westminster rule
despite Facebook campaigns
to the contrary
capitalism will never cure poverty
it magnifies the gap between the haves or have nots
and just because someone has bouncy hair does not make them an optimist
so make sure you have no regrets
the law doesn’t work for women
or at least not yet
and male ego doesn’t mean
that you are the smartest man in the room
I heard all these tales and many others
on a night when the world discovered what happens
when words danced to the tunes of ranters
and the only recruiting Sargent’s
were from the army of 17 poets
whose dreams were  shared on the stage
even though the final poet raged against rage
we were the voice of authentic anger.

@ Gayle Smith 2016

NB This poem was written on day 22 but couldn’t be posted until now due to the usual technical issues like my phone needing charged.

When Drunken Superheroes Were Climbing Wonder Walls A Mother Hen Told The World She Had Dreams And Songs To Sing

Hey Readers At this time last week I was attending a party. It was a very special party, it wasn’t held to celebrate one individual but rather the first birthday of a very creative community at the Blue Chair open mic night.

Unusually for me at least, I arrived before kick off. This was due to the fact that I was given a lift to the venue by my friend Victoria who had brought her young son along to enjoy the evening in this inclusive and family friendly venue. On arrival I noted that the seats were filling up fast so we found a table and settled down for what was sure to be a party to remember.

The night kicked off in traditional Blue Chair by Kieron as our host sang his Welcome song. He followed this up with Dancing Dirty Dancing, and concluded a fine opening set with The Heart Of Wednesday Night.

Kieron was followed to the stage by Joel (pictured below) who performed four songs all of which had a blues like seductive quality which enticed the audience to listen to him and invited you in to his world. I really enjoyed Joel’s set and found his laid back manner to be very easy on the ear. 

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Next up was Victoria who performed three poems The Stray, A feminist poem entitled If Gender’s Equality, and The Dalriada written in memory of her grandfather. Whilst I liked all of the  poems selected I have to admit that her first poem contained the line of the night and ‘ I partied in places that taxi’s don’t go to.’  sums up in a picture of certain parts of working class Glasgow with a really stunning image of the dark, dimly lit and dangerous places where nobody from outside the area would ever dare to venture.

Following Victoria is never an easy shift but Greg stepped up and gave us a set of four songs which put us all in a mellow mood. This was music to chill to and that was exactly what we did as we were taken to dreamland by a talented singer /songwriter I want to hear more of.

At the end of Greg’s set it was time for Lucy to entertain us which she did with interactive stories which went down much better than I thought they would.  I make this point as I am not always a fan audience participation particularly in this genre but I’m glad to say it worked and worked well as Lucy is a talented performer with a very engaging manner. 

Talking of engaging performers they don’t come any more engaging than our resident comedian Gabriel Featherstone
To celebrate our birthday Gabriel told tales of Oxygen in the Merchant City, Elephants Colon’s, and  A very drunk superhero before singing a love song to Samantha and showing us a card trick which apparently went wrong not that I would have noticed the difference. but it was another excellent set from the man who describes himself as the Salvador Dali of extreme sexual competence.

Next up to the stage was Jamie a young comedian from Ardrossan who spoke to my condition. As a fellow Strathclyde graduate I wanted to Jamie to do well and I have to say the boy done good. With tales, lifts, and growing up in the wilds of North Ayrshire I was impressed by his talent and to told him so during the break. 

Next up was another performer making their debut and like Jamie, Zander didn’t disappoint. I have to say, I  really liked his song Boom and I hope to see more of him at future open mic nights.

After Zander it was back to our regulars and Molly (See Picture) did what she does best and woke the place up a bit with two brilliant poems  The first of these, The Smartest Man In The Room which tackles head on the attitudes of a certain type of unreconstructed male and their inflated sense of self importance.
Molly’s second poem Neither Successes Nor Failures looks at the viciousness of contemporary societal values and puts them under the microscope for a detailed examination and trust me the patient aka Capitalism and/or British society does not escape from being given a very bad report as it is in much poorer health than some would like to think.

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(The Wonderful Molly McLachlan) 

Next up Anna Crow (See Picture) performed three poems two of her own Austerity, and The Role Of The Artist and a poetry cover of Kevin Gilday's The Man Who Loved Beer As is always the case  Anna gave
a flawless performance which was entertaining and thought provoking as befits the style of an artist who is both passionate and principled.

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(Anna Crow A Poet Who Makes You Think)

Anna was followed by Louise whose poem I Cannot Leave was a fabulous take identity on accents and the trouble they  can cause for a Yorkshire born lass who now speaks fluent Glaswegian

Lucy was followed to the stage by Aidan Rivett who was runner up in the Blue Chair slam. On this occasion Aidan read Ben Jammin Franklin, Euphemisms, a poem on the art of love masking or as Aidan calls it Shagging. He then moved on to Silk Streets, and his poem on Bowie and finished with a challenging poem entitled Get Colour. This was an excellent set delivered by a poet who packs a punch.

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(Aidan Rivett A Poet Who Packs A Punch)

Aidan was followed by our third debut of the evening and Drago and like the other newcomers this was also a man of calibre as he showed with material which was innovative and well performed Next up Gaynor and Kieron did a  couple of Oasis numbers including Wonder Wall which was the Strathclyde University anthem of the mid to late 1990’s and brought back many memories for this blogger who was a Strathclyde girl
during those years. During an enjoyable laid back set they regaled us with Half A World Away before Gaynor (pictured below) sang With Or Without You, Getting To Know, and Bad For Each Other It was during this set I finally selected mine as guess who was next to be called to the stage. 

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In case you haven’t guessed it was my turn to entertain the gathering and my set of four poems was one of the most personal I’ve performed at the Blue Chair or for that matter anywhere else. I started with A Thorn Amongst The Roses which is a kind of love poem for all my younger lesbian friends many of whom see me as either an extra or replacement mammy. I then moved on to attacking the callousness of the Conservative Government with Self Service Cafe in which I lambasted the gap between rich and poor  which has accelerated under their rule. In A Day For Donegal I illustrated my pride in my Irish-Scots identity and the importance of music and friendship in maintaining the culture I’m proud of. I then brought my set to a close with Mother Hen which is yet another poem on the maternal bond I have with certain younger female friends before finally returning to my seat. My set went down well with the regulars though I have to say I was initially heckled by a drunk who thought he was being entertaining rather than a pain in the ass. I don’t think he felt quite so good once I gave him his  character

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(This is me (Gayle, As A Gayle Force Poet Takes The Mic)

After me it was Andrea’s turn to take the mic and entertain us and just I was about to relax and make her contribution to the evening she was interrupted by the heckler and this time he wouldn’t shut up. So the inevitable happened and the drunk was rightly evicted by Lorell. After this ignorant intrusion by someone who had more ego than talent it was hardly surprising that Andrea cut her set shorter than I would have liked. I look forward to hearing her many times in future as I have in the past by which I mean without interruption.

As Andrea went hack to her seat Max treated us to a couple of songs but just as he was about to take his place amongst the crowd Kieron put the call out for the Fields. Now if like me you are a yes voting, Celtic supporting member of the SNP you will realise exactly what was meant by statement. Though initially reluctant do sing it Max couldn’t resist the unstoppable call and eventually The Fields Of Athenry was being belted out by the company and yet again when it mattered most I had found my singing voice. Now I don’t know why but a Rangers fan walked in with a face that looked he’d had a promise from a liar and told us that if Rangers fans were passing they might not take too kindly on hearing this and told me that they had their own version of this song. I told him I knew this and had heard it and just like his team I didn’t think much of it. Anyway Lorell dealt with him though it has to be said he was a much nicer guy than the drunk.

As things slowly returned to as near as to normality as is possible on a cabaret night It was Grace (pictured below) who achieved the almost impossible and restored a sense of calm to proceedings. You could say it was automatic and that funnily enough was the song she sang

(Our Grace Star Of The Blue Chair)

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After Grace Christy performed Ciao Bella before Kirsty Nicholson See below was called to be the last act at the party. Needless to say Kirsty didn’t let us down well she never does but I confess I may be a wee bit biased with my opinions on someone who has established a very special place in my heart and claimed it as her own. On this occasion, Kirsty read a story from a nine year old on the topic of aliens and followed it with a song for her wee cousin before handing over to Kieron to finish the night as it started with a song

On a night like this when we had celebrated all that was good about Blue Chair Wednesday nights we also honoured all that was good about the Words and Music scene both in Scotland and beyond and Kieron (see picture) sang Closing Time to end the night in the traditional Blue Chair manner it is important to remember the words of Aileen MacKay that we are part of a community and that it is something very special birthday of which we should proud.

Needless to say I totally endorse Aileen’s comments 100 percent and i think we should remember the debt we owe to the owner of our venue the wonderful Lorell. It is due to her encouragement and support that we have built a creative community which is like a family of friends who all appreciate and value each others talents and abilities because without the woman pictured below we wouldn’t have such enjoyable Wednesday evenings.

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As I relaxed at home in my wind down time I thought of the night and how much it meant to be a part of it. As I reflected on the event I thought on the many new friends I had made since attending my First Blue Chair Wednesday in early October and how much a part of my life they’ve become. Well when drunken superheroes were climbing wonder walls and a mother hen told the world she had dreams and songs to sing then I think it’s fair to say that we enjoyed this celebration and look forward to making many more memories in the months and years to come.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

When A Woman Wants To Be The Change She’ll Do It By Dancing With Words ( A Review Of Blue Chair Poetry Slam 2016)

Hey Readers. Those of you who are familiar with this blog will no doubt be aware I have both attended and competed in a number of spoken word poetry slams over the years and on occasion I have even been called upon to take my place at the judges table. However, I have never experienced atmosphere quite like I did on Sunday at the Blue Chair I qualify this by saying that slams are usually tense , nervous affairs where you can feel the heat almost as soon as you arrive.

This is not because the poets concerned don’t like each other, quite the reverse actually, most of us on the spoken word scene get on well and some of us have not only made friendships through our common bond but found friends who have become like extended family, and as we all know there is nothing you like better than putting one over on friends and family. So yes there is a sometimes a bit of poetic sibling rivalry. This however was different and as poets mixed with each other sharing chat and wishing each other well you could sense that there was a real spirit of comradeship in the air.  

As I said, there have been some times in the past when I’ve been called to the judges table though this has usually taken place at Words and Music for our annual championship or at mini slams at the Edinburgh Fringe. So when the event organiser Kirsty Nicolson asked me as a member of the Blue Chair family if I would like to judge at this slam it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  As I took my seat alongside  my fellow members of the judging panel Kieron Murphy and Paul Wardrope we set about our task with fairness, honesty, and integrity and were ready to see what the day and poets had in store for us. With two three minute rounds of poetry where the contestants all got the chance to share their work I was certain that there would be plenty on offer from poets who would perform in reverse order in the second round than they did when the originally graced the stage for their opening poem and that deciding what three poets would qualify for the finals would be no easy task.

Of the original 15 entrants a field of 11 brave and talented poets took the stage to share their words and thoughts with the assembled gathering which it has to be said was excellently compared by the lovely Kirsty. Of this 6 of the poets were women and this makes it one of only a few occasions outside the two all female slams both of which I have competed in where the female contestants actually outnumbered the men. This at least from my point of view was a refreshing change and I think good for both women’s voices and Scottish poetry. Indeed it was three female performers who first to take to the stage as the first ever Blue Chair Poetry Slam got under way.

First up was a poet who was a new voice to me but Eleanor Susan Lim who opened the slam with a poem on Glasgow which I have to say I really enjoyed. As fate would have it Eleanor would bring the qualifying rounds to an end as being first up in the opening round meant being last to the stage in the second round. However this new voice kicked off the Blue Chair with a good quality poem and left me wanting to hear more

Next up was Carla Woodburn who performed a quirky poem on the disasters that await a woman when she inadvertently swallows a spider. It has to be said that this one got quite a few giggles particularly from those who hadn’t seen Carla before. I however had seen her before in fact I saw her very first performance which was at the Words and Music Championship at Sammy Dow’s where I was one of the judges at the event I usually compere As fate would have it she read the same poem that night so I was in a good position to judge just how far she’d come since last May and let’s just say she will I think be pleased to know that she got a higher mark on my score card on this occasion against a much higher quality of opponents. In her second round Carla to me at least made a mistake which as she becomes a more experienced slam poet she will learn from. Her mistake was to read two poems in the allotted time. I say this despite the fact she finished well within the time frame as many years ago I also thought I would do this and was given advice from one of the judges who has since become s friend that though it is possible to fit two, three, or a number of poems in to the time allotted the judges usually prefer you to perform only one as it makes their job just a wee bit easier. Now as I view things from a judges seat I understand why I was given this advice which needless to say I heeded.

When that weel kent Blue Chair favourite Anna Crow took the stage, I knew I was going to be both informed and entertained in equal measure . Speaking personally I always find Anna’s poetry to be both thought provoking and challenging. Anna is serious poet who isn’t afraid to write on serious issues and this slam was in many ways the perfect stage to illustrate this. Needless to say that is exactly what she did and both her poems Politics Ruined My Life which she read in the first round and I Got Stirred And I Liked It which she read in the second round both received good marks from this judge. Now I don’t know why, but I don’t think Anna will be too surprised at this.

David Forrest, like Anna is a poet whose star is very much on the rise. On this occasion David’s poems showed the diverse range of his work his first round effort was Lock Up The Racists the poem helped to a podium place at the 2014 Words and Music Championship. This poem showed a young man who is a passionate campaigner for a better world. In contrast, his second poem on a visit to Seville Cathedral showed not only a tourist but a man of faith whose clever use of imagery made the listener feel that we were there with him.

Aidan Rivet’s The Bartender was an excellent poem which contained brilliant rhyming couplets and excellent use of illiteration. In his second round poem The Revolution
Will Be Televised Aiden gave what I thought was a thoughtful intelligent polemic on the influence of both mainstream and social media on our everyday lives.

Lesley Traynor qualifying rounds featured two poems which as a friend of hers I had heard on many previous occasions. My fellow judges were however were new to Lesley’s work and hearing it with fresher ears than mine were impressed by quality of both Threads and Be The Change both of which were were delivered excellently by a poet who struggles to believe how good others believe her to be.

In Matthew Blanchett I found a new poet I hadn’t heard before and enjoyed his poems on science and mountains and it was nice to hear a poet who like myself believes that geography matters.

Like Matthew, Michelle Fisher was another new voice to me and though I liked her first round poem on Scarlet O’Hara I absolutely loved her second round entry I Was Never A Fan Of The Circus and l will state here and now it was one of my favourite poems on an afternoon filled with top class poetry.

Matt MacDonald on the other hand is a poet I know well and a poet who can always be relied upon to produce the goods. I particularly enjoyed his second round poem 11235 and this was powerfully written, beautifully crafted, and delivered with the sincerity which is the mark of the man.

Stepan Gsus Zatkulak who hails from The Czech Republic provided some international flavour to our event as did Bibi June Schwithal and Bibi’s poem I Don’t See Colour was a particularly powerful and passionate piece on the issue of race. VThough neither of these ports made the final they can both be proud of their contributions to the day in which the only winner was poetry.

Selecting the finalists from a very talented line up was not an easy decision to make but as we handed our score sheets to Kirsty she counted up the points and announced that our finalists in the order in which they would be performing were Matt MacDonald, Aidan Rivet, and Lesley Traynor As was the case in the qualifying rounds all three contestants read top quality poems and on my score sheet there was only 0,.2 separating first from third. As we handed out score sheets to Kirsty we knew it was going to be close but eventually the announcement was made that third place had gone to Matt MacDonald runner up was Aidan Rivet and that the winner of the Blue Chair Poetry Slam was Lesley Traynor.

This I have to say was a shock result and believe me when I say that no-one was more shocked than Lesley who for the first time I can ever recall was almost rendered speechless. As she paid a generous tribute her fellow poets. she claimed that she never expected to win and to be honest I believed her because as I said earlier in this post Lesley has trouble believing how good she is and how highly other poets rate her work. Hopefully now that will change as this golden oldie (her words not mine) begins to realise how well thought of she actually is.

So as I look back on the events of this the first ever Blue Chair slam I think that it can be said like a good wine Lesley matures with age and is living proof that when a woman wants to be the change and weave threads in our hearts then she’ll do it by dancing with words and leave the stage wearing the garland of a champion.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X