Hey everyone. It’s that time of the month again when I look back at the events in the family madhouse which will forever be words and music at Sammy Dow’s and as always we had interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable night.
This month being the month of love well it is February and we did have Saint Valentine’s day I we had a bill which in many ways couldn’t have been more Scottish a valentine to our nation if you like and yet if people had stereotyped our headliners on their family names we would no doubt have been told by those lovable Daily Mail reading types that we were in the wrong country. However more of Tony Capaldi and Francis Lopez later on. It is as we say in Sammy’s world time to get this show on the road.
As is often the case nobody particularly likes the idea of being first up to the stage so it was my duty to get night under way and House Rules was the poem I selected to kick the evening off. This was I thought a particularly appropriate poem for a month which includes that well known love fest otherwise known as valentine’s day. Written in my best comic style it set out my deal breakers for any potential boyfriends. All future beaus please take note.
I don’t know why but once I’ve read everyone seems to be in a far more relaxed mood and that especially applies to the night’s first reader Susan Milligan. This month Susan performed three poems I Won’t Set The World On Fire, Last Look and Parting Kiss in what was a well themed and well delivered set. I have to admit I particularly liked the use of language in the final poem of her set. This to me shows an improvement in her work and demonstrates that she is putting the hours in to make what I call a house builders progress as she is building a better more solid foundation brick by brick.
As Susan returned to her seat it was time to welcome back Alex Frew to the family fold. Always a man with a keen and ready wit Alex spun an Irish yarn before entertaining us with a story entitled The Great Gold Rush in which he transported us not to the Californian Klondike of the late 1840’s but to the Ayrshire of the early 1970’s with a story of how he and his dad ended up in the Daily Record. Now I don’t know about you my dear readers, but personally I think I would be doing all I could to stay out of the Record or any other red top for that matter.
During this highly entertaining piece which had the audience enthralled from start to finish Alex became the first reader in history to interrupt his own story explaining during a particular passage of the story that the underclass may not have much money but they are very resourceful. Well you only need to watch Benefit Street to find out how resourceful and not always in the negative way they are portrayed. David Cameron please take note. Anyway this was a highly enjoyable story written by a man who has many stories to tell.
Next up was last month’s featured writer Marc Sherland
who entertained the gathering in that unique way that only he can. If there is Marc can teach us it is how to engage an audience which he did brilliantly in his set of three poems which included two Sherlandian Sonnets. Well if Shakespeare can introduce his own style of sonnet why can’t Marc? I mean genius though he undoubtedly was, Shakespeare was the bard of Stratford Upon Avon before becoming England’s greatest poet and one of the world’s greatest playwrights but Stratford Upon Avon at least sounds like it should have a bard. Marc on the other hand comes from Greenock and that is a very different world. So after living in the back of beyond for so long it was inevitable he would have to challenge authority and what better way to do than by invented his own version of a form. Anyway, it was a great set from a good friend and a keen supporter of the spoken word scene.
Following Marc is never an easy task but someone has to do it and who better than another voice from Glasgow Writers Group Lesley MacKay. When she first came to Words and Music Lesley always seemed to get lumbered with first foot duties. However it appears she has got wise to this now and enjoys appearing slightly further down the bill. This month Lesley read two of what I believe to her strongest poems This Is Africa and her by now traditional calling card Be The Change. I love both poems and never tire of hearing them because I know they come straight from the heart of a campaigner for fairness and equality both locally and globally.
Next up was a new voice to words and music and though one of the bairns in terms of who performed on the night David Forrest made a promising debut and his poems The Last Maker on the decline of the Scots language and Stop The War which he wrote his Syrian friends left me wanting to hear more of his work.
The man who followed David was the man who introduced me to him at one of his faith/unbelief workshops I refer of course to the genial host that event Jim Ewing. This month Jim read a selection of what he referred to as older poems though for me and many others in the gathering it was the first time we had heard them. I say this only to illustrate that no matter how old the poet believe his or her work to be it will always be fresh to someone in the audience.
Next up well it was supposed to be Andy Fleming but it was actually me as ever the techno whizz Andy needed time to boot up his computer so ever the dutiful hostess I agreed to fill in however on reflection I’m not sure Screaming Banshees may not have been the appropriate choice purely because by the time Andy got to the stage the charge on his computer may have been at death’s door.
Eventually though, Andy did get to the stage and regaled us with a yarn against the orange order and a song by sisters of mercy. Now there’s an ecumenical set if I ever heard one. The orange order and sisters in the same cultural timeline. Speaking as a Christian I wonder what the religious fruit cakes would say to that.
After Andy it was Linda Grant who had the responsibility of restoring some order to the proceedings. Well Linda being Linda she’s good at the kind of thing. I think her inner Sunday School teacher comes out to play sometimes. Well being in charge of a crowd of unruly children is the perfect training for life on the spoken word scene.
Anyway, this month Linda performed four poems Parting Kiss, Hidden Love, Dream Music, and the highlight of her set Time To Care. Whilst the first three poems kinda stuck to the idea of love, romance, and valentine’s day, her final poem could be interpreted on different levels and though i could be wrong on this, I think it could even be an emotional appeal for Scotland to vote No to independence and stay within the United Kingdom.
I make the point only because the poem was written about a marriage at breaking point where one of partners is making a plea not to walk out just yet. Similarities one could say with the better together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK.
If this Linda’s heartfelt and genuine opinion on the constitutional question then I for one welcome it. After all it is better to have a friend who is a no voter than a friend who has no opinion. You see it is my belief that before you can ever attempt to change a person’s view they actually need to have one. I know from experience that it is easier to change someone’s viewpoint if they have a position than it is if they don’t care about an issue.
It is true to say that the real enemy of democracy and the freedom of speech we enjoy on spoken word nights is not our opponents who have differing views from our own it is apathy and the can’t be bothered culture of those who conform to the rules and restrictions of the comfortable classes. Anyway after a set which showcased Linda’s growth both as a poet and a performer she had every right to smile as she made her way back to her seat.
At this I thought I was my turn to lead us in to the bar break and I read Ask The Angels which had been freshly written just a few days and was still a bit raw in the sense that it was a difficult poem to perform. This was mainly due to the fact it was about one of the best friends I have ever been lucky to have in the lovely Christine McColl. Make no mistake, this was emotional for me especially since it was about celebrating a life which was cut tragically short and this was the 10th anniversary of her passing. No wonder I was messed in the head.
As it turned out it was Suzanne Egerton who eventually took us to the break reading a story to commemorate LGBT history month with the very long title It’s Good To Talk But It’s Actually A One Sided Conversation. This was a brilliant and very moving piece of writing from the perspective of a Gay man who is hoping against hope that his partner will recover from illness. The quality of this story was truly breathtaking and since there was no way you could follow it I decided it was time to go to the very well deserved bar break.
As we recommenced proceedings it was time to introduce our featured writer for the evening Tony Capaldi. As anyone who knows Tony will testify he is a very proud member of the Scots-Italian community and used to jokingly refer to himself as the Tartan Tally until his wife Wendy who was never keen on this description put her foot down and ordered him to stop. Knowing that his wife was not a woman to be messed with, no woman is Mr Capaldi, Tony agreed and I for one am glad he did as there so much more to his writing than this moniker however self depreciating can described by it.
Tony started his set with one of my favourite poems of his, the balled of Ben McGee. This is Tony’s take on the Robert Burns classic Tam O Shanter and showed Tony’s humour at it’s best. After such an excellent start I wondered how can you follow that? I needn’t have worried as the bold Mr Calpaldi had more than a few tricks to keep his audience entertained.
In his poem he explored the meaning of love in his own unique way with and his rendition of See Love was a true Glasgow valentine even though Tony had to live in exile for a number of years in that deep dark wilderness known to weegies everywhere as Cumbernauld. However let it be said that this is a man with Glasgow in his heart and women on his mind, as this delightful poem which had us smiling and giggling in almost equal measure shows to good effect.
After Burns and love Tony turned his attention to matters political and his poem A Jacobite Am I dropped a subtle hint or ten as to which his vote may go in the forthcoming Independence referendum. I think without giving too much away for those of you who haven’t seen him perform or for that matter bought his book I can say he may just agree with the man from Del Monte rather than a Darling whom he would consider anything but. Another one for the banner me thinks.
After leaving no one in any doubt on his voting intentions the bold Tony regaled the company with another of the Ben McGee tales. This time our intrepid hero is the reluctant Christmas hero as he steps in to help Santa with his Christmas duties. It is safe to say however this adventure was not without its mishaps but all ended well in the end.
After Ben’s adventures Mr Capaldi took us back in time to see the world through the eyes of Noah as he was building the arc before giving us his unique take on the Lass O Fishers Mill and finishing his set with a far more interesting History Lesson than any I ever got at School and so ended a set packed with culture, politics history and three topics Johann Lamont and the no campaign say won’t exist after the 18th of September Santa Shipbuilding and Scotland. Well Johann you may not want them to exist but the fact remains that they will. So you just stick to your scare stories and fairytales and leave those with real imagination and the ability to entertain us in the way Tony Capaldi did for a brilliant 20 minutes on a dreich Monday night.
After Tony took his well deserved seat it was the turn of Catherine Walker to enthral us with three poems of stunning quality Firefox, Catechism, and my favourite of the set the brilliantly titled I Won’t You know I’ve said it before but I believe Catherine is one of the hidden diamonds of Scottish poetry scene. An articulate, intelligent women with poems worth hearing and reading. It is great to see that she is taking her place amongst. the gathering more often these days and showcasing her outstanding talents to an ever wider audience.
After such high quality music it was time for some music and it was great to welcome back to Words and Music a man who is rapidly becoming a favourite of the crowd New Cumnock’s very own Francis Lopez of San Fran And The Sisco’s.
On this occasion Francis performed a solo set and songs as Last of the Breeze, When I’m Gone, Wishful Drinking, and Big Girl Now not only have beautiful lyrics they also have wonderful tunes crafted by an excellent musician. I have to say however, that my favourite songs of Mr Lopez are United Colours of Cumnock which is hardly surprising as the poem on which the based is also one of my favourite poems, and A Beautiful Country which though a song with a lovely title tells some ugly truths about what former First Minister Jack McConnell once described as ‘The best small country in the world. Yes Jack as I and many others have since said you are only small if you think small and maybe the sectarianism or to be more accurate Anti-Irish racism which blights our land is a result of thinking small for the last three centuries. Anyway whatever your political persuasion this song makes you confront an issue from which we have a duty not to run away. It is the job of the creative to challenge the establishment in all nations and in this excellent song Francis Lopez has shown he is a man who will take that job head on.
Having had poetry and music it was now the turn of the storytellers to take their place in the spotlight and Eric White’s comic tale of Scotland winning the 2015 Eurovision song contest within months of voting Yes raised more than a few giggles.
This is especially true since our reluctant heroine Sandy G who had what sexist judges may believe the perfect combination for a Eurovision winner of youth, looks, and shapely legs unwittingly caused a riot between those great neighbours and fiercest of rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan which caused the contest to be awarded to the nation in third place namely Scotland and Jings Crivvens I Think I Love You became the least likely and last ever winner of a contest which was now scrapped forever. Now whilst this may be great news for music lovers it is really bad news for Ireland and Romania whose unsuspecting public will be forced to endure more tours by Jedward and the Cheeky Girls.
Harry McDonald was next to the stage and his story Not The End Of The World focused on the absurdity of the scare stories put together by the better together campaign in the name of keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom and their places on the gravy train otherwise known as the Scotland To Westminster Excess. Sharp focused and insightful Harry didn’t miss his targets and offered them some helpful advice. Come in to the real world you might actually like it. Well one can but hope and as I never tire of telling people it’s time for hope to replace fear as the dominant narrative not just for a better Scotland but a better world.
Jim Monaghan was the penultimate reader of the evening delivering two poems one of which looked back on his youth and the other was a more general look in the mirror of memories and won him two slams in the past twelve months. This poem entitled What I Got For My Birthdays takes a retrospective look at the presents Jim received on landmark birthdays including Black eyes, babies and days spent on beaches. Not to mention 120 Birthday messages on facebook.
Jim having completed his set I concluded the night with a set of three poems Blind Hate about dating programmes such Blind Date. Yesterday’s Darling about my first love Donny Osmond and Leave To Fate on the perils of various types of dating. Honestly girls and boys just heading to the dancing. Anyway as another night reached its end I was happy that an attendance of 20 had a very enjoyable evening but as I made my way home I couldn’t help but thinking that Scotland and Saint Valentine have a lot to answer for but History Lessons tell us there are some things we can’t Leave To Fate.
Love And Best Wishes