Tag Archive | JJ Turner

The Tartan Tights Awards 2015

Hey Readers Welcome to the fourth annual tartan tights awards and every year they seem to get bigger. This is the case again this year with more than ever to give out so forget the golden globes these are the awards to win. Apart from the awards for which I hope you are all dressed up in your virtual finery, this is a time to celebrate those who’ve made my world a better and more entertaining place by simply being in it. So let’s crack on and see whose won what this year and given me moments to cherish and made 2015 a  better year than it might have been.

I start these awards with my politician of the year and though First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has had a brilliant year leading the SNP to the most sensational results in her party’s history, it is a beneficiary of that never to be forgotten night in May who succeeds her party leader  in picking up this award.  In defeating Douglas Alexander she caused one of the biggest political earthquakes on a night which had plenty of them,  she became the youngest MP ever to be elected in the democratic age. Make no mistake this is a young woman with a very big future Indeed her maiden speech  was widely acclaimed as the best heard at Westminster for many years. This however is not a woman who is content to rest on her laurels and in the time since her election she has shown that she is a woman of  passion, power, purpose, and principles. My 2015 tartan tights politician of the year is the brilliant Mhairi Black.

My young politician of the year is like her predecessor Laura Doherty a member of the SNP and is also a member of the Shettleston branch of the party. Since this is my local branch I know this fighting force of nature well and during the successful campaign in Glasgow East she seemed to be everywhere. Not only was this dynamo buzzing all around the East End of Glasgow she was also encouraging others to do the same. I am, I have to say very happy to announce that the thoroughly deserved winner of the young politician of the year is the flame haired genius pictured below, the lovely Morgan Horn.


My vision of Scotland award goes to that politician or member of the public who by their actions have made Scotland a better and fairer place. This year this award goes to someone who rose to prominence during our independence referendum in which she gave many impassioned speeches in support of a yes vote which she believed would bring about a fairer more inclusive Scotland than would be possible under Westminster a socialist Scotland which she said would be bolder than the version of independence offered by the SNP. This fair but feisty feminist was a great asset to the Yes campaign and was able to connect to voters who for so long were thought to be beyond the reach of traditional nationalists. Now a columnist for the pro independence newspaper The National , her columns are always insightful, thought provoking and a damn good read. So for her commitment to a fairer more inclusive Scotland and presenting alternative vision of independence which I believe  not only needs to be heard but also needs to  articulated my vision of Scotland award goes to Cat Boyd.

My next award is the Unsung Hero/Heroine Award. This award goes to the politician who represents their party quietly and without fuss and often restores people’s faith in politics and political system as they do so, Last year this award was won by Caron Lindsay of the Liberal Democrats but this year it goes to a member of the Green Party A fellow poet she will speak out the issues that concern her, she is after all well versed on such matters. Ladies and gentlemen my  unsung heroine for 2015 is that patron saint of poetic polemics Anna Crow.

Now it’s time for my One To Watch award. As the title suggests, this is someone who I think will go to bigger and better things and become more widely known than they are at the moment as they have the talent and potential to shape to the future of our nation Our winner this year is someone who I think is great asset to their party and yet again their party is my party On election night she defeated one of my least favourite opponents when she removed Jimmy Hood from Lanark And Hamilton East My one to watch award goes to Angela Crawley.

My Impact Award goes to the politician who has made the biggest impact on one or more issues in the past year and like my politician of the year this was a straight fight between two members of the same party Mhairi Black and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. This time it was Nicola who prevailed though Mhairi ran her a lot closer than any of her political opponents. In what was a memorable year for her she managed something even Alex Salmond couldn’t and working in partnership with Plaid Cymru and The Greens  got the UK General Election debates increased from what the UK press and media like to call the three main political parties Conservative, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats increased not to four as the so-called big three parties in the Westminster village wanted . I  believe they were going to include UKIP probably because every village needs an idiot, but to seven which was a much fairer representation of British democracy.

Not content with winning TV appearances  she then set about winning the debates and with team progress of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and The Greens set about the Westminster old boys network in spectacular style. A force for change Nicola also launched the first ever SNP woman’s manifesto slaughtered Jim Murphy in the Scottish TV debates and has regularly trounced unionist party leaders in the Scottish Parliament by maintaining her dignity whilst they lose theirs. If that’s not making an impact I don’t know what so the winner of this year’s impact award is Nicola Sturgeon.

My last political blog is for political blogger of the year and despite some brilliant posts by Bella Caledonia, and the ever wonderful Burdz Eye View, in an outstanding year when he published two or is it three volumes of his work he has been yapping, yelping, and biting the hand that patronises more often than ever before my winner for the second year in a row is Paul Kavangh for Wee Ginger Dug.  

Having given out my political awards it’s now time to focus on the community awards and what better place to start than with blogger of the year.  This is never an easy decision but this year I have split this category in to two separate awards  Scottish blogger of the year and International blogger of the year. The later category is for bloggers not resident in Scotland but more of that in a moment, firstly let’s focus on Scotland  It is I think fair to say that Scotland has a number of talented bloggers and last year’s winner Last Year’s Girl is the perfect example of what I like in a blog it has to be informative with content worth reading but it also needs to written in that kind of chatty style that would make me want to read it again and this year’s winner certainly has that style. It is for that reason she beat off challenges from A Life With Frills, Colours And Carousels, and Frankly Ms Shankly and the winner of the Scottish Blogger of the Year is Claire Smith for G Is For Gingers.

2015 is the year that I began to chat more to other bloggers both inside and outside Scotland. This meant joining lots of blogger chat groups and I’ve even hosted a couple of them.  It is with this in mind I have come up with a new award of International blogger of the Year. This is in tribute to all the fantastic bloggers from the other nations in the British And Irish Isles. Most prominent amongst them are  All Things Beautiful , AliCaitrin, Becky Bedbug, Blogs All Beautyy, Cardigan Jezabel, Colours Of A Rose,  Country Pearls, Dorkface Blog,  Dungarees And Donuts, Forever Amber,  Jessica Lauren Hatcher, Mini Mouse Chic,  and  Naturally Beige, As you can imagine trying to pick a winner from that little list wasn’t easy but in the end I had only had one choice to make, and I make it not just for the quality of her blog but for the fact that she isn’t afraid to speak out on the issues that matter to her. She is similar in that respect to the wee ginger dug and her post on challenging the main stream media (the dug will be proud) to use plus size models to advertise woman’s wear was the best I’ve read all all year so my first ever International Blogger of the year is Olivia Jade Thirsten for Dungarees And Donuts.  

My next award is activist of the year and since i think of activism in terms of community empowerment rather than just in it the political sense of the word then it is in the right category 
Explanation over I can now tell you that this was the easiest decisions of the night You see my winner is a fellow blogger who in an effort to empower other girls and indeed some more mature women invented the idea of the girl gang to help us encourage each other to become better bloggers. So to those the blogging world it will come as no surprise that my winner of my Activist of the Year is  Dorkface Blog also to her family and friends by her given name Jemma Humphreys.

My Young activist is of the  Year someone who was has made her mark not just in the world of spoken word but also a fiery campaigner on issues which range from woman’s rights to Scottish Independence and was very active in the campaign to save the Blue Chair Cafe. A regular supporter of Words And Music she was the featured writer who led us in to Christmas my tartantights young activist of the year pictured below enjoying the company of friends is the lovely and highly talented Kirsty Nicolson.


Now the focus switches from communities to culture and where better to start with the awards for poets and poetry it is after all my art of choice and the one with which I have most direct involvement.

The first poetry award is that for The Best Poetry Performance of the Year. In a year filled with top quality performances I decided that this year’s winner would not be a 50 minute show at the Edinburgh though I ,did see some good ones. Well, I always do you know. However, after much consideration I selected a set from the Christmas Words and Music in the wee back room.  Far giving us a fuzzy festive feeling our winner read a set of three poems on the devastating impact of depression and left those who heard it gobsmacked by the power of what was one of the best sets  heard at Words And Music for many a long year  My winner of the best poetry performance of 2015 is JJ Turner.  

My next show is for the best show at the fringe. As always I saw a lot of quality shows and there were many others I would liked to have seen but of those who did there was a very clear winner.  I say this because with Agnes Torok and Hannah Chutzpah I knew at least to a certain extent what to expect namely top quality poetry of the highest possible calibre and that is exactly what they delivered but knowing how I hated sketch shows it was going to take the mother of all sketch shows to convert me from a deeply entrenched position. There are however exceptions to every rule and when a young London lass handed me a flyer for her show she was so confident I would love her show she even offered to buy me a drink if I didn’t enjoy it.  Needless to say the woman in question  Yes I do mean you Katie Norris was proved right and in the words of a certain Simon Cowell ‘I didn’t like it I loved it and that’s why my choice for the best show at the fringe is the best double act to hit the British and Irish Isles since the days of Wood and Walters and The Two Ronnie’s the brilliant Norris And Parker for All Our Friends Are Dead. Thankfully as you can see  from the picture below where this deadly double act are pictured with yours truly the girls are very much alive.


Next I turn to the Most Original Show of the year and this year the award goes to a show which had the most multi cultural cast I have ever been involved in. Well when you’ve got South African gospel choirs , and Canadian jazz musician as well as the fantastic Anti-Poets it’s going one of those mights which will live long in the memory.  To organise such a cast takes time and effort of the magnitude which deserves be recognised  and rewarded  and that is why the most original show of 2015 goes to Rose Fraser Ritchie for Fringe Of The Fringe. 

My next award is new award and it is given in memory of the late Sandy Hutchison a well respected poet and traditional musician who passed away at the end of the year. Sandy was a man who loved language be it expressed in the lines of a poem or the lyrics of a song, he also loved both Scotland and the wider world but had a particular passion for the country he called home  To win this award the winner needs to demonstrate both their love of both language and Scotland. Indeed I want them to show their Scotland and make it so real I can imagine being a part of it so strong is the power of  their words and images and this year for showing his Scotland in such an authentic even the BBC/MSM can’t deny the reality of it I award the first Sandy Hutchison Memorial Award to Shaun Moore.

As some of you will no doubt know, I am a big comedy fan so I thought it was time to introduce award which reflected that so this new award is for the Live Comedy Show of the Year. This is the event which had me giggling so much I nearly proved the truth of that tenna lady advert that oops moments happen. I went to this show at Webster’s Theatre in the spring of last year and I’m still smiling and giggling now as I do every time I think of it. With an amazingly talented cast of talented local performers my choice of my comedy of the year is The Graduettes  . 

Next up is an another new award for the most inclusive show of the year. This takes me back to a windswept Evening in February when as part of LGBTI History Month I along with many others including  the excellent  A J McKenna, and the magnificent Dave Lee Morgan was privileged to play my part in a truly amazing night of poetry, stories, and song this was a show in which everyone felt valued and proud to be a part of. The winner of the most inclusive show of the year is Colin McGuire for Talking Heids.  

Talking of the LGBTI community brings me on to the topic of equality and it’s now time to name my Equality Champion and this year this award is a very easy choice.
It goes to someone who when just a party activist came up with the innovative idea of holding the biggest LGBTI event Scotland has ever seen. Thanks to his determination  the event took place and was held in early February to great acclaim from not only from participants and received favourable coverage from press and media. It was I have to say  one of my few regrets of the last year that I was unable to attend what I heard from all I knew who attended a truly inspiring day.  In May this talented and determined young man was elected to Westminster to represent his local area and the people he grew up amongst as he won Glasgow South East for the SNP as he played his party in the party’s landslide victory. In his acceptance speech he said he had done ‘no bad for a boy from Castlemilk ‘ and how he right he was  It is fair to say that  I think we will hearing a lot more from this year’s equality champion Stewart MacDonald.

The award for Quote of the Year comes from the maiden speech of yet another newly elected MP. This time Ian Blackford takes the title for warning the Westminster establishment that  they are in for a big disappointment if they think we are going to play the game by their rules with little gem  as he told them ‘We are not here to settle down, we are here to settle up’.

Moving on from words to music It is time for Musician of the year This has yet again
been a difficult choice to make as every year I seem to find more and more top quality musicians from which to choose to add to those I already know Those considered include Bob Leslie, Pauline Bradley, and the lovely Chrissy Barnacle, but my winner is a lass from
Montrose that I had the privilege of seeing at the Royal Concert Hall at the Danny Kyle Open Stage and she warmed my heart on a cold winter’s Sunday with a lovely easy listening voice. The fact that she writes her own songs is also something that gave her an edge as did the fact that is was only 17 at the time of that performance So my musician of the year for 2015 is Rona MacFarlane.

Next up is my event of the year and believe me there was only ever going to be one winner. As a trans woman no words can describe  how happy I was to attend this event and to do so as a VIP guest was beyond my wildest dreams. From the moment I boarded the train to the SECC to when I reluctantly had to make the journey home, I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier or more empowered and that’s why  my event of the year  for 2015 is The Girls Day Out Show.  (see deliberately placed promotional photograph) Well I can’t wait till this year’s show and I want to tell the girls of all ages to attend and enjoy a great day)


The Girls Day Out is for the future but it’s time to get back to present and get on with the awards and whilst the X-Factor may claim it’s time to face the music I prefer to celebrate it and what better way to so than by naming my Best New Band and this year my choice proved that just like my football team the glorious Glasgow Celtic I can also score last minute winners. I say this I saw this band at the December edition of Rally And Broad and they blew all other competitors completely out of the water with a set I can only describe as sensational.  My best new band of 2015 pictured below are the amazing Teen Canteen.


Next up is the Campaign of the Year and my winner demonstrated spirit and guts in taking on Glasgow City Council and winning the right to stay open . A  community cafe which has become a haven for poets and performers with weekly Wednesday night spoken word events, it was a campaign in which I was proud to play a small part, though so many people did so much more. My campaign of the year goes to Save The Blue Chair.

From campaigns I move on to songs and my song of the year was heard back in the cold dark days of January on yet another night at the Danny Kyle. This was one of those songs which was so catchy you just couldn’t help wanting to sing along. A comedy song it not only made me want to sing it gave me a doze of the giggles My song of the year for 2015 is Martha Healy and Too Many Vodka’s In My Cranberry Juice.

Now on to my venue of the year. and this year of all years and Words And Music celebrated 25 years at Sammy Dow’s before continuing our story at the Stag’s Head which is the same place under a new name, my venue of has to be the wee back room in the place we call home.

As you know I always get a buzz from seeing new talent on the performance scene and I have to say that the standard
of poets, musicians, and performance artists both in Scotland and the UK has never been higher. Amongst those considered for this award were Anna Crow , Kirsty Nicolson, and Peter Russell, who as regular readers of this blog will know are all top quality poets, From the world of music Rona MacFarlane was also carefully considered and to show that age is no barrier to talent Russell Wilson was another I thought of in this category. However this year’s winner comes from the world of comedy. No it isn’t Gordon Brown seeking a new career, comedians are supposed to be funny so my award goes to yet another member of the Blue Chair family. Our winner describes himself as the Alice Cooper of Stand Up Comedy his style is educational, edgy, and entertaining. My discovery of the year is Gabriel Featherstone

As for my comeback of the year I would normally give this to a poet who returned to the performance scene after a long absence. This year it is slightly different and I give my award not to an individual but a group. This is a group I was proud to be a part of back in the day but in 1995 the group disbanded as we all went our separate ways and got on with what we had to get on with. 20 years later, the group had not only re-formed with many of the original members and put on their first show in two decades. Under the direction of Neil Shackleton their production of The Hired Man led to one of my most emotional nights of the year and my comeback of the year award goes to GAP Community Theatre Group.

My best sporting moment of the year is dedicated to the voters in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for selecting Andy Murray as the well deserved winner of the award for his decisive role in winning Britain their first Davis Cup Win since 1936.

My Team of the Year is the British Davis Cup Tennis Team also known as Dunblane Tennis Club. Well where would British tennis be without Andy And Jamie Murray? I’ll tell you exactly where it would be playing Division Z matches and losing to Luxembourg that’s where and I won’t hear blinkered fools attempt to tell me otherwise.

From sport I move on to one of my favourite awards The I Think I Must Be Mad Award. This is given for friendship which goes above and beyond the call of duty. In other words this award is for the friend who not only puts up with my bad days but as and when required steps in to sort them out and as I’m sure last year’s winner Audrey Marshall would be only too willing to testify this is not an easy task. I have to say however in this year’s winner Audrey has a very worthy successor. You see our winner is a woman of faith who by her gentle kindness, keeps my feet on the ground, my head out the clouds, and my heart in the book. It was she who selected the passage on which I based my entry for the Faith and Unbelief poetry competition, she is to me at least Scotland’s Hidden Treasure, and the well deserved winner of the I Think I Must Be Mad Award is Samantha Hands.

Now I move on to The Lifetime Achievement Award This award is not given lightly and recipient has to have served their community, culture, or organisation, for at least 20 years. Like all of previous winners this year’s choice has served this time and more. Our winner is from the world of traditional music and has taught generations of young musicians at the Comalthas Irish Minstrels over the last 40 plus years Inducted in to Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame at the recent Traditional Music Awards, former BBC Young Musician of the Year Paddy Callaghan said of this year’s winner that he doubted he would be the same performer without the help he received from him, and in a chat at St Patrick’s family fun day my friend Maryanne Hartness said on seeing one his daughters playing with St Roch’s Celi Band that he had done so much for our Celtic community and deserved to recognised for his contribution to our culture. These are sentiments with which I wholeheartedly agree and I pay my small tribute by awarding the 2015 tartan tights Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank McArdle.

So at last it’s time for the main choices that of my man and woman of the year and as always I’ll start with my Man of the Year. The past year has been an interesting one for many of the potential candidates I know and a significant number of them rose to the challenge the year provided in innovative ways and around eight or so were viewed before I selected the final three from which to choose my winner. The three candidates who reached the podium places this year were Shaun Moore, Stewart MacDonald, and Chris Young. Of those nominated I will if I may, start with Shaun. My reason for nominating Shaun was for his commitment to both the independence movement and the more importantly the spoken word scene in which he is gaining a deserved reputation as a poet of considerable stature. This reputation was greatly enhanced when he organised the first Paisley spoken word slam the sma shot’s big shot was an outstanding success and showed that Shaun is a man who is as passionate about poetry as he is his political beliefs.

The next candidate to be considered was Stewart MacDonald whose achievements have already well documented in this post and quite rightly so. After all, organising the biggest ever LGBTI political event ever staged in your country is something of which you should be justifiably proud , but Stewart is not one to seek the limelight so I guess I’ll have to trumpet his achievement for him and believe me I am happy to do so.

In the end however both guys were beaten by a man who had a very mixed year and proved the truth of the old saying what you lose on the roundabouts you gain on the swings. You see our man of the year, like so many of us on spoken word scene has an interest in politics his party of choice being the Liberal Democrats so it has to be said whilst he was at long last enjoying success in the world of poetry winning practically everything he entered including the Words and Music championship he had long coveted, his political adventures were somewhat less fruitful failing to save his deposit at both the General Election where he fought the Glasgow Central constituency and the subsequent Carlton by-election caused by the election of the local councillor as the local MP. However it has often been said that you learn more about the character of someone by the way they react to defeat than you do when they celebrate their victories. In this case the man concerned showed humility in his successes and dignity in his defeats, it for this reason and a million others that I am proud to say my tartan tights Man of the Year for 2015 is Chris Young.

Chris pictured below receiving the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy as Words And Music Champion from myself and Jim King.

Finally I come to my last award of the evening and that is my Woman of the Year. If selecting a man of the year was a hard task and it was, then choosing my woman of the year was even harder as more women than men play an important role in my life. Among those considered before I made my decision were Agnes Torok, Leanne MacKay, Lesley MacKay, Kirsty Nicolson, Samantha Hands and Victoria Hamilton and believe me when I say all of them had a real chance of winning right until the last half hour before decision time. Eventually however after much procrastination I finally made my choice and that choice was in favour not of a poet, nor a woman of faith, but a kick ass beauty consultant who has been a constant support and encouragement to me in more ways than I can ever list. So my tartan tights Woman Of The Year is the lovely Cheryl McHugh.

So there you have it, we’ve finally reached the end of our tartan tights awards ceremony for 2015. I offer my congratulations to all our winners and all those nominated and thank them for making 2015 an entertaining and enjoyable year for me and as I raise my glass to them all I look forward to 2016 and what ever challenges it may bring us I am sure we will face them with dignity It is with this message I wish you all you wish yourself and hope you’ll continue to read tartan tights throughout the coming year.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X


A Wandering Samaritan Found A Ghost In The Flat On The Night That Started Christmas

Hey Readers Having given the events of the festive season full and due coverage I now take you back to the night that started Christmas. Well it did for me, as it always does and that is the Words And Music Christmas Cracker.

It is my personal tradition that regardless of how many doors you’ve had from your advent calendar this is the official start of Christmas and it was good to see a healthy attendance of 17 poets, musicians and cultural types in the wee back room to do what Elton John commended and step into Christmas. 

As compere it’s my job to get the night under way and I did so by performing a seasonal poem, entitled Mary Christmas. Well it’s what I do at this time of year you know. In particular poem I look at the idea of having Christmas as the family name and think what be the most unfortunate name to give a daughter and in my opinion that name would be Mary. With that being the case I decided to give Mary her chance for a Christmas rant and it seemed to go down well with those in attendance.

As I took my seat it was John Moody who was first up to entertain the crowd. Needless to say John duly obliged by reading two pieces Breath of Life and Wandering Samaritan. Though it would be fair to say I enjoyed both pieces I really liked Wandering Samaritan because of the powerful moral tale behind it.  As a Christian I felt it was a piece with which I could really identify and though not seasonal in the festive sense of the word I did make think about the reason for the season. 

After John it was the turn of that well respected Words and Music stalwart Pete Faulkner to claim the stage as his own. Pete is a reader I always enjoy listening to and a man who knows how to captivate an audience.  On this occasion he read two poems both of which a seasonal theme to them, The Museum Of Winter, and The Forge. Pete believes as does Samuel Taylor Coleridge that poetry is about the best words in the best order and when it happens the result can be stunningly beautiful imagery as is the case is in the second of Pete’s poems when the image of the Blacksmith’s shop in the snow somehow conjures up  memories of rural Scotland in the biting cold of the season.

Next up was the man who will be our featured first foot and lead us in to 2016 the one and only Fred Fingers. In a taste of things to come, Fred delivered poems on Inflation, Hemroids , and Graffiti and it was this last one entitled Writing On The Wall which I thought was the best one of his set and best illustrated why he will be the featured writer who will be our cultural first foot of 2016.

After Fred had entertained us in his own unique style, it was time for Susan Milligan to grace us with her presence. On this particular occasion Susan read a story entitled The Black Tardis which though enjoyable was and it has to be said a wee bit on the long side. If she ever wants to read this story again as I suspect she will I think the best plan would be to read the first half one month and the second half the following month. Well sometimes it really is best leave your audience wanting more rather than feeling they’ve eaten two full Christmas dinners. Anyway, that said it was a good story and as often the case Susan left us with a song which in this case was I’m Not Dreaming Of A White Christmas. It was I think the ideal way to finish her contributions to  Words And Music 2015.

At the end of Susan’s set it was time to welcome back an auld acquaintance who certainly shouldn’t forgotten and that is Billy MacLean. In his first appearance in the wee back room in a guid wee while and it was nice to have him back among our number  Billy performed a set of four poems starting with We’re from Glasgow, then moving on to one with the brilliant title Every Lie I Tell Is The Truth
and which he followed with one written for his wife,  entitled My Best Friend, before concluding a heartwarming set with a poem which all poets can I’m sure can identify as it has the title Poetry At Half Past 3 and as I certainly testify that is when many of the best ideas come to me.

As Billy returned to his seat it was the turn of JJ Turner to take the stage. JJ is an excellent poet and has a varied selection box  from which to make his choices  This time he decided that festive poetry was not the way to go and instead read a brilliant set of three poems on Mental Health. Before starting his set JJ talked with honesty, integrity, and sincerity as is the mark of the man and his poems Death Of A Cycle, Blue, and See Me were not only works of genuine quality, but they were written with authenticity  and spoken from the heart. I particularly liked the raw courage illustrated in See Me  As has often been the case since his return to Words and Music a man I admire and respect was supported by one of his daughters sometimes there have been more than one but on this occasion it was Rebecca who was there with him and I know how proud she is of her dad. Well I say this not only to her but to all her sisters you have good reason to be proud of a dad who loves you and who is a man of genuine stature, warmth, and humanity.

Following one of the best sets I’ve heard in the history of Words and Music was not going to  be easy but in Suzanne Egerton we had just the writer to do it and her story Autumnal was an entertaining take on the idea of Christmas panto’s which certainly brought a smile to the faces of those who heard  this quirky festive tale.

As Suzanne finished her story it was time for Lesley MacKay who took us to the bar break with her story entitled Whispers.  As with all of Lesley’s prose , this was a well written piece which was enjoyed by a captive audience.

After the break it was the turn of the featured writer to take to the stage and this month it was one of the most talented young poets in Scotland  Kirsty Nicholson (pictured below) to fill the 20 minute slot. As you can see Kristy came dressed as Christmas due she said to the fact that she didn’t have any Christmas poems. This however is Kirsty and she can be  forgiven for anything. Well she can in my opinion, and anyway not having a Christmas poem isn’t a mortal sin. So that said Kirsty cracked on with a set which had in truth a little bit of everything.

Kirsty Nicholson (aka Missy Christmas)

In her first poem Do You Hate Me? Kirsty tackled myths around asylum seekers with a personal, political, polemic which challenged those who would discriminate against head on by writing a piece directly from the point of view of those who seek only refuge yet find only barriers.  This was followed by Imagine, and another with a thought provoking title in Nothing Ever Changes. I really like this poem because it states the obvious without stating the obvious if you know what I mean. Even if you don’t know what l mean I’m sure Kirsty will it’s an island thing.

Anyway, after that the adventurous wee soul that she is Kirsty read three poems with one word titles. Of these poems Boy, Tree, and Guppy I have to say that though I enjoyed them all, the first of them was my favourite in this section because not only of the story it told but the warmth in the way it was told.

Kirsty’s next poem Ghost In The Flat recalls the story of a Celtic player whose ghost is said to haunt her flat. Well Kirsty at least it’s  a Celtic player so I know you’ll be surrounded by good spirits rather than the forces of darkness but hey as a Celtic fan who remembers the date the 10th April 1991 and that defeat by Motherwell all too clearly I would say that wouldn’t I?

In her penultimate poem Being Cool Part 1 Kirsty examines the societal pressures of trying to perceived as cool at all times and making sure that hanging about with the cool kids is something you can actually do rather than just talk about. 

The set was completed by my personal favourite of all Kirsty’s poems which is Being From Lewis Is.  I love this poem   because it rips in to the cultural stereotypes that so many people have of island life. It really was the perfect way to end a truly wonderful set.

As tradition dictates the featured writer is followed by the featured musician and in this case that was Andy Fleming who and it has to be said with my blesing has now become the only featured musician in the history of Words And Music to incorporate a 15 minute poem in to the featured music slot. Some will no doubt call this madness though personally I prefer innovative genius but you see I know Andy is a serial multi-tasker  who when you give him the opportunity will do precisely what he likes so it really is just best to let him get on with it

Before treating us to his epic poem which I have likened to going on a mystery tour, Andy started his set with another poem Tiny Tears Of Troon , he then gave a stirring rendition of Cockney Knees Up before. his epic poem This meant he had only enough time not to mention vocal chords for one song and though I would have liked to hear both Grandma’s Turkey and The Pound Shop he really could only manage one so since  I hadn’t heard The Pound Shop for so long it seemed like the logical choice

With all the billed traders having performed it was my duty to  bring the night to an end which I duly did by performing a set of three poems and a song. My mistake was starting with the song as I’m sure that my take off of I wish it could be Christmas Every Day titled I’m Glad It’s Only Christmas Once A Year cleared every music lover from the building. I then followed this with three Christmas themed poems. Christmas At Carols, about the type of friend and we’ve all got one who starts talking about Christmas before the Edinburgh Fringe. I  then moved on to Stocking Thrillers which is the unexpected Christmas treat which doesn’t quite go to plan, before concluding both my set and the evening by reading Christmas Lies the poem which we all secretly know to be true as we all have at least one family member and possibly a lot more who will make a complete balls up of buying the right present which is why we need to be thankful for the Boxing Day salesJob done I made my way back to Baillieston in a happy frame of mind. You see I witnessed a Wandering Samaritan saw a ghost in the flat, read writing on the wall, and hear voices that spoke from the heart as they joined us on the night that started Christmas.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

NB This post is later than it should have been as it would have been posted yesterday in time for the January Words and Music last night but the battery on my phone. ran out.

Resolution I must be more organised this year and  write my Words And Music reviews earlier in the month.

The Tartan Tights Awards 2014

Hey everyone Welcome to the third annual tartan tights awards. This has been the third year of this blog and so it is only right that those who have made this world a better place gain the recognition they deserve. Forget the queen’s new year’s honours list this is one you really want to win so let’s crack on and see whose won what this year and who has had made the past year more enjoyable, entertaining, stimulating, and thought provoking than it otherwise would have been.

I start this awards ceremony with my first award that of politician of the year. Now what can I say about the winner of this award which hasn’t already been said a million times already. My winner started the year by delivering a brilliant immortal memory at the Shettleston SNP Burns Supper and ended it as leader of her party and our country. My tartan tights politician of the year award goes for the second time in three years to our First Minister the brilliant Nicola Sturgeon.

My young politician of the year
is like last year’s winner Adam Miller someone who cut her political teeth in Shettleston where she stood as her party’s candidate in the by-election caused by the sad and untimely death of Labour councillor George Ryan. Though she didn’t win the seat she put a brave fight and campaigned hard for every vote. A stalwart campaigner for Yes Scotland she has now risen through the ranks of her party and is branch secretary of Shettleston SNP. A young women with a determination to get things done and win a better future for our country, I know we are going to hear a lot more from her in a future she will play her part in shaping my young politician of the year is Laura Doherty.

My Vision of Scotland Award goes to the politician or member of the public who contribute something to improve the quality of life for people in the country. This year the award goes not to a politician but to a campaigner who has done much to secure the right to equal marriage for the LGBT community and brought the issues of trans and inter sex rights to the Scottish Parliament. So it is with great pleasure that I give this very well deserved award to Tom French.

My next award is the Unsung Hero/Heroine Award. This goes to the politician who does not seek the limelight but represents their party with that quiet dignity and diligence which can restore people’s faith in a political system often knocked by those who are not involved because they only read what’s said in the press or reported on TV. This year it’s another heroine and yet again another change of party. The first award went to a woman in the SNP, her successor was a man from the Conservatives. This year it goes to a woman in the Liberal Democrats and if I say so myself it was an absolutely shoe in for the excellent Caron Lindsay.

Now it’s time for the One To Watch Award. As the title suggests this award is for someone whom I think may be worth keeping an eye on and when it comes to this year’s award, this is certainly the case It is I think fair to say that she is someone who I have always rated very highly and someone whom I believe will one day fill the boots of a certain Ms Sturgeon and lead both our party and our country. Like her party leader she started the year at the Shettleston SNP Burns Supper where she gave a brilliant lassies reply. Another of those I tipped for stardom a few years ago and she is one of our country’s brightest and most articulate young voices. My One To Watch award goes to one of the brightest stars in the political galaxy our current Minister For Children. Aileen Campbell.

The next award is the Impact Award. This award goes to the politician who I believe has made the biggest impact on one or possibly more than one issue in the course of the last 12 months. Amongst those considered were newly appointed Education Minister Angela Constance, The Labour Party’s best and brightest talent Jenny Marra, that traditional tartantights favourite and Ms Marra’s tag team teammate Kezia Dugdale, and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson but in the end there was only one winner and he won by a considerable distance. In the year of our independence referendum he gained more votes for his party and for the yes campaign every time he opened his mouth. The winner of the Impact Award for 2014 is the joint convenor of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie.

My last political award is that of political blogger of the year. In what everyone agrees was a momentous year for Scottish Politics in for Scotland and for Scotland in general there were plenty of blogs to choose from Bella Caledonia, National Collective, and the slightly more controversial Wings Over Scotland amongst those on the side of Yes campaign along of course with my favourite blog of them of All A BurdzEyeView written the woman who is and ever shall be my inspiration Kate Higgins. The Better Together campaign are represented by Caron Lindsay and one or two others which I’ve tended to forget along the way, however though all those mentioned were intelligent thought provoking and immensely enjoyable to read, there was I have to say a very clear winner in this category.
The award for best political blogger 2014 is the man who gave me my first ever guest post on his blog in which I explained why as a transwoman I would be voting Yes in the referendum it’s Paul Kavanagh for weegingerdug.

Now it’s time to focus on the community awards where better to start than with blogger of the year and I have to say that this is and will probably always be one of my hardest decisions. The standard of blogger in Scotland is higher than the hem line of a micro mini skirt and there are many excellent bloggers who are always worth a read. These include the 2013 blogger of the year the original Foodie Quine Claire Jessiman. Caron’s Musings, Mummy Central, by Donna Gorse, and A Life With Frills by Laura Pearson Smith
but my winner is someone who despite the title of her blog, you can always rely on to keep you both entertained and on trend. Our winner may call herself Last Year’s Girl but she is this year’s blogger of the year Lisa-Marie Ferla.

My next award is for the activist of the year. Now before our readers say that this award should be awarded in the politics section, I say that activism is not confined to politics but is also about those people who commit themselves to assisting and empowering others in any number of communities be they christian, cultural, or social. This year award however is going to someone deeply involved in politics. Though a member of the SNP she was also a founder member of the non party group women for independence she travelled all over Scotland with the hope of building a better tomorrow where women’s voices will be not only heard but respected. The winner of activist of the year 2014 is Natalie McGarry.

My young activist of the year is also from the world of politics. A teenager who took on the full might of the better together campaign and emerged not only with credit but credibility she is one of the most outstanding young voices of the future Scotland. My tartan tights young activist of the year is the mighty Saffron Dickson.

Now I move on the subject of poets and poetry, it is time to select my poetry performance of the year. In a year of many so outstanding performances this decision was not an easy one but eventually after changing my mind at least a dozen times I did pick a winner and this year it goes to Sophia Blackwell for 50 minutes of poetic magic in Becoming Wonder Woman her one woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe. This was to paraphrase the words of former Celtic Manager Martin O’Neill 50 minutes of astonishingly brilliant poetry and deservedly walks away with this year’s award.

The next award is for the best show of the fringe. This is never easy because there is so much quality on offer but despite magic of Monkey Poet and his excellently entertaining show Shit Flinger, the amazing Munich by Brendan Dunlea which was and I have to say this the best play I’ve seen on football which wasn’t on the subject of Celtic and too many other quality shows to mention, there was one show which was so totally amazing it stunned me and reduced me tears of rage about what happening to the care system in 21st Century Britain. For that alone and believe that is more than enough the winner of the best show of the fringe 2014 is Can’t Care Won’t Care by Sophia Walker.

Next up is the award for the most original show of the year. Yet again this one occurred in the wee back room at Sammy’s. This year it was the September edition which made me proud to be a part of that great cultural institution that is Words and Music. You see in the run up to the referendum some voices more sensible and cautious than mine wanted a no politics night on the First Monday in September. I however had other ideas and decided that far from having no politics I would on that last First Monday before our historic vote have a referendum special in which performers from Yes and No camps could give their poetic thoughts on whether we would be better together or as an independent nation. Those who were don’t know or even don’t care were also allowed their opinion. Well I didn’t mind if they didn’t know or didn’t care providing they could tell the rest of us why they had come to their conclusion. The result was and I have to say a victory for both poetry and democracy and some of the poems performed by supporters of both sides and neither that night were outstanding. So yet again Words and Music wins the most original show in what could be described as a champion night for spoken word.

Talking of champions, brings me on to my equality champion award. This one is for the man or women who has really made a stand for equality in this last year and there are no shortage of top quality candidates for this one. Patrick Harvie, the Equality Network’s Tom French and Stonewall’s Sophie Bridger were all major contenders but in the end my choice was someone whose very public stance on LGBTI bullying earned her a few more gold stars than I would normally give to a Tory. That said she did inspire one of my best blogs of the year on LGBTI bullying in school and that is why My equality champion for 2014
is the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Ruth Davidson.

My award for quote of the year was never going to be easy especially in a year filled with so many memorable one liners but it has to be the Mailman Delivers from Commonwealth Games boxer Charlie Flynn. Had I gone the political route Charlie’s namesake Labour MP Paul Flynn would have won it in a canter as he defined the Gordon Brown vow with the following statement. ‘A political vow is a solemn binding promise that endures until the votes are counted’.

Moving on from words to music it’s time for musician of the year and this has to be the toughest year so far in what has always been one of the hardest categories in which to select a winner. In a year when I saw many new musicians such as the excellent Declan Welch, the ever entertaining Zara Gladman aka Lady Alba, Billy Bates, Georgia Gordon, and Laura Corrigan I really was spoiled for choice but in a really close contest I decided to call it for Declan Welch not just because he has a fantastic voice but also because he has a gift for song writing which is in itself a real talent. Mark my words and mark them well, this is a young man with a very big future

My vocalist of the year which is an award I always keep separate from musician of the year is always a pleasure for me as ever since I can remember I have always loved quality singers.
This year were a couple of vocalists who stood out for me. One was Zara Gladman and the other was a certain local lass for whom I have always had a soft spot. I mean she is after all a Baillieston girl and this award is coming back to the village due to a brilliant set at the St Patrick’s Day family event my tartantights vocalist of the year is our very own Michelle McManus.

The event of the year has to be the Independence Referendum or the Commonwealth Games. At least it does if you believe the mainstream press. I however challenge that perception and say that my personal event of the year was to be asked to take part in one of the most liberating spoken word events I have ever participated in. It was the final Saturday of this year’s fringe and on that day I attended and performed in the Other Voices event organised by the wonderful and majestically talented Fay Roberts at my Edinburgh local the Banshee Labyrinth and gave according to good friend John McGlade the best performance he has ever seen me give and I have to take that as a great compliment as John and I have attended many events together over the years. Not only that but the quality of performers at that event was quite simply breathtaking and it was a real honour to be included in such a line up.

Next I move on to the best new band. In what was a quiet year for bands, the stand out act was one I saw at the Danny Kyle Open Stage on a cold January afternoon. This band have since went on to further success at Scottish Traditional Music Awards and a band I think we are going to hear a lot more of. The tartantights award winners for the best new band are the Scott Wood Trio.

As for the campaign of the year it has to be one which hit all the right notes for all the right reasons. I am pleased to say that though the referendum in which it was born has now passed into the annuals of history, this campaign shows no signs of going away in fact if anything I believe it will get stronger. After all independence is not just a political issue it is also a highly personal one. This is especially true for women and as a transwoman I am exceptionally proud to be part of this ongoing fight to win full equality for all women. My campaign of the year is one I will proudly wear my tartan tights for every day of my life Women For Independence.

Now I don’t know about you but to me every campaign every campaign needs good songs to get those involved singing along and in the referendum there is no doubt that the yes campaign had all the best songs Like last year this year winner also went viral on the internet though it did have more competition most noticeably from last year’s winner Citizen Smart whose brilliant take on the pro union bias in their reporting I heard about it on the BBC was seriously considered as captured the moment perfectly when he sang it outside BBC headquarters on the final Sunday of the campaign. In the end however my choice was the song that had everyone rocking at the National Collective and had Stereo and other venues GAGA every time it was sung. My winner of the tartantights song
Is Bad Romance by Lady Alba also known as the magical Zara Gladman

My venue of the year is yet again a bar but this time it’s not in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile but in Glasgow city centre. This is a bar which until last year I would have struggled to find but now thanks to those National Collective sessions I view maybe not as my second home but the home of a favourite relative. The winner of the venue of the year is Stereo.

For my next award I move on to the discovery of the year and this was a much tougher category this year than it was in 2013 when two outstanding talents stood at opposite ends of the age scale fought out a duel which was eventually won by that poetic tour de force that is Craig Scott. Attending so many events in the past 12 months that I ran out of fingers to count them meant I saw I lot new upcoming stars in a year in which was packed with brilliant performances. Amongst those considered were from music Declan Welch, Zara Gladman, Dol Eoin MacKinnon, and from poetry the excellent Shaun Moore, and recent Glasgow slam winner Kevin McLean. A tough list from which from to make my choice but finally after at least three changes of mind I have to give it to the shy lad from the Western Isles who can sing in both English and Gaelic. My discovery of the year is Dol Eoin MacKinnon.

Every year the spoken word scene not only produces brilliant new stars to enjoy there are also comebacks from those who have taken a break for a wee while and decided to re-engage with their muse. This year winner is someone I respect not only as a poet but also as a man and a friend. His comeback though brief was still the best of the year and those in authority better be worried as his new material has lost none of sharpness and indicates that the man is back on form. This is someone of whom I hope to see a lot of more of in 2015 and I’m sure there will be much more to come from our comeback of the year winner the brilliant JJ Turner.

My award for best sporting moment in a summer which was full of them as the Commonwealth Games came to Glasgow when in the rising out of her sick bed Lynsey Sharp defied both the odds and laws of nature by running the race of her life to win a silver medal in the women’s 800 metres. This to me sums up what sport is all about and when dedication meets determination it always results in success so this is a very well deserved success for someone who totally deserves it

As for my team of the year there is really only one choice to make. For representing their country with passion, commitment, and dignity and being great ambassadors for their sports, medal winners or not this award is for every single member of my team of the year The Scotland Commonwealth Games Team 2014.

Moving on from sport it’s time for one of my favourite awards. The I think I Must Be Mad Award is given to only to the bravest of the brave in my virtual village. These are the friends who are there for me during the hours of darkness when most sane people are in bed. So this award is for someone who has been there to support me above and beyond the call of duty. This year’s winner is at times far too sensible and despite my repeated requests is unlikely to change now. A friend who can be relied on when I really need her to be there the winner of the I think I must be award for 2014 is Audrey Marshall

Having given an award on the value of friendship and shown that true friends are the ones who stay the course. I now move on to my lifetime achievement award. As I look back on the last year I see there is really only one winner for this award this year and our winner is a man of outstanding calibre who joined his party whilst a student at St Andrew’s University in 1973. A man who has served twice as party leader first from 1990- 2000 and again from 2005 to September 2014. This is a man who made history not only by leading the first SNP government in Scotland’s history but by leading a minority government which survived it’s full term which the unionist parties and their friends in the press said could not be done.

Our winner then went on to lead a majority SNP government by winning a landslide victory in election of 2011. This again was something which our unionist parties and their friends said would be impossible to achieve. After all they had written the devolution rule book to make sure it couldn’t be done or so they thought. It seems to me that the unionists had forgotten one basic rule of democracy it’s votes that decide elections not party hacks and their pals.

Having secured a mandate for the independence referendum he had always promised the people of Scotland, he and his deputy leader who is now his boss Nicola Sturgeon reached an agreement with the coalition government that a referendum be held in 2014 to decide Scotland’s constitutional future.

In the end that referendum was lost and Scotland at least in the short term remains part of the United Kingdom but throughout a distinguished career in politics this is a man who unlike so many in the political village has conducted himself with diligence and dignity in his duties and Scotland must never forget the debt it owes our former First Minister, the former leader, of my party and our country. The winner of the tartantights lifetime achievement award for 2014 is Alex Salmond.

Now it’s time for the main awards of the event my man and woman of year and as always I’ll start with my man of the year. Well it’s only right we girls should have the last word on such an occasion. For now though I’ll focus on the men and name the outstanding man of 2014.

To say this was a tough choice would I think would be an understatement. Succeeding such figures as outgoing man of the year Chris Stephens and my first tartantights man of the year Jim Monaghan is no easy task but there were no shortage of suitable candidates. Amongst those whose names were in the frame were my writing mentor and friend Derek Read, Glasgow Poet Laureate Jim Carruth, Former Chairperson of the Federation of Writers Scotland Marc Sherland, The chair of Faith And Unbelief Jim Ewing
the excellent poet and playwright Matt Panesh, and the brilliantly talented and ever reliable Chris Young. In the end however, after much thought and careful consideration I made my selection and my choice is a man who not only a man who campaigned for independence but who kept yes supporters entertained throughout the duration of the campaign with some of the best political songs I have ever heard. My tartantights man of the Year is Alan ‘Citizen’ Smart.

As I have always said and always will it is only right and proper that the women should have the honour of final award of the year. Therefore the final tartantights award of 2014 is for my woman of the year and though succeeding last year’s winner Katie Walker and my first tartantights Woman of the year Althea Maxwell was not an easy choice, believe me when I say there was a number of very suitable candidates from which to select my winner.

Amongst those considered were Audrey Marshall, Caron Lindsay, Jenny Lindsay, Jenni Pascoe. Natalie McGarry Samantha Hands, and Sophia Blackwell. However after much careful thought and consideration I decided that our winner would be someone who not only has pride in herself and her community but someone who on a wet day in a car park at this year Pride Glasgow escorted me to a trans tent an idea she come up with to provide an inclusive for the trans community when her company bosses at Tesco Bank asked for suggestions at how they could contribute to the festivities.
On my arrival at Pride was escorted to the tent and I was VIP guest of honour and was made to feel like Cinderella for the day. So you treating me like a princess and making me feel like I’ve never felt before my tartan tights woman of the year is the one and only Lisa Tait.

So there you have it, all the winners of the tartantights awards for 2014 and I thank each and every one for making my year more interesting, thought provoking, entertaining, and enjoyable than it would have been without them. How they decide to celebrate is entirely up to them but I raise my glass to all of them and indeed all of those nominated. Having looked back over the past year I now look forward to this one with all the choices and challenges it will bring me. At this stage I can only wait and wonder they’ll be. There is one thing I will say though I’m sure the coming year will be an interesting journey for us all.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Better Together Or A New And Better Land Some Said We Were Voting For Madness So We Thought We Would Leave It To Fate

Hey everyone As we get ready for the October Words And Music it is time to reflect on events at the September edition. As this was last gathering before the referendum I had hoped to introduce a wee bit of light hearted rivalry between the camps with one of our featured slots representing each side of the debate.

As it turned out this was not possible as our featured musician yes supporting Citizen Smart made the mistake of thinking that it would be being held on the following Monday. As those of us who know our Sammy’s history will tell you this is a mistake more common than many people think when the first Monday of the month is also the first day of the month.

As for Better Together their representative on the night was our featured writer the one and only Chris Young. Yes there can only be one Christopher and whilst the world would be a better place if there was more than one I think it may also be more confused and chaotic than it could cope with. So with a great night lined up it was time to crack on with the evening’s entertainment.

As is becoming tradition I kicked off the night to allow those in attendance to get settled before taking the stage. As the theme for the evening was on personal choice I decided to tackle this head on with an opening set of two poems.

The first of my choices Suited And Booted was specifically chosen for this very reason. This was a poem on the early stages of my gender reassignment written not about my coming out at work on my Christmas night out but on selecting an outfit for my first day as a working woman the following Monday morning and the strange but brilliant feeling of liberation and empowerment that making those choices gave me.

I then went to shock my friends by declaring that I intended to vote no in the referendum. Now the fact that my friends are an intelligent bunch and my jacket was covered in yes badges may have suggested that there may be a catch in that story. I believe this could be the reason why my poem I’m a just a girl who can say no was never shown by the BBC on the following day’s Reporting Scotland. You see the fact is I was saying no to the UK and I don’t think our colonial masters would have liked that fact one bit.

Next up was a force of nature Words and Music has come to know and love. This force of nature is known is Lesley Mackay. During an excellent set Lesley read a poem Departing from a Maltese poet and a fairy story entitled Threads which was I have to say just a wee bit on the scary side.

Following Lesley was our recent comeback kid JJ Turner and in a brilliant set of breathtaking quality JJ showed the gathering exactly why his return was so welcome. Covering topics from domestic abuse to mental health which he touched on in his final poem see me, this was a man on top of his game and unafraid to tackle the social taboos that the chattering classes would prefer were left untouched.

With only two of the billed readers having read at this point this was already turning in to a night of serious quality. This was further enhanced when our defending champion Alan MacGlas took to the stage. In his introduction Alan told the audience that he doesn’t do daisy’s and unicorns. Somehow this didn’t surprise us as Alan is not a man known for messing around and I’m delighted to say he didn’t change his direct style.
His poem Right Thinking started with the line ‘thank god for paedophiles’. This line was used as a recurring theme throughout the poem to remind us of the dangers of demonising those we so often see as ‘other’ and the dangers we face when we give a place to fear and hate.

As Alan went back to his seat it was the turn of Pete Faulkner to entertain us and as he read a short story he didn’t let us down Pete who was making a welcome return to Words and Music after a summer break said that he wasn’t originally going to read anything on this occasion but had been requested to do so by Pamela and as anyone who knows about Sammy’s and the history and tradition of the event will tell you that refusing Pamela is one thing you never do.

After Pete it was Susan Milligan’s turn to take the spotlight and her story Sleepless in Seattle talks about her difficulty in watching that particular movie as she has issues with regards to finding a partner or should I say being given what she sees as a fair chance of finding a partner. The second of her spoken word pieces was a poem entitled Gray on the misplaced importance of colours. Susan finished her set with a version of Kiki Dee classic Amorous and by doing this she is undoubtedly playing to her strengths. It seems to me that Susan is now adopting the Oran Mor approach to Words And Music. I’ll explain this by saying that Oran Mor offer a play, a pie, and a pint at lunch time Susan is offering a poem, a story, and a song and I have to say it worked a treat though she does need to watch her time.

Next up to the stage was that wise old owl Freddie Fingers whose sets can always be relied upon to both educate and entertain in equal measure and this was no exception with food for thought going down a storm amongst the regulars.

John McGlade was the man to follow Freddie this is never an easy task but someone has to do it and on this occasion it was John who was given the honour. In a set which was as diverse it was topical John revealed how Limerick’s cured his travel sickness, his nieces favourite things on the internet and his poetic opinion on talks about talks. He also shared his thoughts about a rather unpleasant bus journey back to Glasgow on the road home from the Edinburgh fringe.

Linda Grant was next up to claim her five minutes in the spotlight and this rapidly improving writer gave as polished a performer as I have seen her give in almost four years of attending Words And Music. On a night in which the material could be said to be topical Linda performed three of her best poems The Cricket Ball, My Glasgow and Voting For Madness the last two in particular resonating with the theme of the night. This I have to say was impressive when you consider that one of Linda’s catchphrases is I don’t do politics. However I should perhaps enlighten you by saying that when I first got to know her, Linda’s most well known catchphrase was I don’t do poetry. Well she does now and it’s going from strength to strength.

It was Suzanne Egerton who took us to the break with an excellent story which contained a very dodgy and highly believable character short fingered Tommo the night club doorman. Though serious in tone, the story like much of Suzanne’s work had more than a liberal sprinkling of black humour and certainly kept us all entertained in the way she tends to do. So that concluded the first half of the evening and I have to say it had set the bar so high I don’t think there has ever been a pole vaulter in the world who could have reached those dizzy heights.

After the bar break it was time for our featured writer Chris Young. As anyone with a fully functioning brain will know Chris is one of my closest friends on the spoken word scene or for that matter anywhere else. A highly intelligent and likable man Chris is like myself active in political circles, he is a member and indeed former parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats at both the Scottish and UK elections and therefore does not share my vision of an independent Scotland and prefers that we remain part of the United Kingdom. Bearing in mind that this would be the last Words and Music before the vote his selection as featured reader was no accident indeed it was carefully planned that we have one of our featured acts to represent both the yes and no camps which is why he and Citizen Smart were this month’s selections. You see everyone was saying that there were more than TV debates to bore the backsides of any floating voters so i thought that by bringing some culture to the issue we could through performance have a presentation from both sides of debate at Sammy’s and speaking on a purely personal level If I had to listen to anyone from Better Together, No Thanks, or whatever they were called that day, then I would sooner listen to Chris than Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson, or Jim Murphy.

As he started his set Chris did caution us that there may be some politics involved but there would also be other stuff and that meant he could have a chance to plug his new collection Greetings From Glasgow which just to confuse you was launched in Edinburgh but not at the book festival nor on the fringe. Are you confused yet? If not don’t worry there’s plenty of time for that later.

Anyway, Chris started his set by reading a poem which showed he is very much a proud Glaswegian as it was entitled Umbrella. This is something no Weegie should ever be without due to the fact that it is quite often raining in this city and I don’t mean men. Well certainly not in my local area of Baillieston. He then moved on to Retaliation Analysis and warned himself to stop self heckling.

The next poem in his set was I Am You which was written on the topic of race and is powerful reminder that all of us have more in common than what divides and I have to say this appealed to the internationalist in me.

For his next trick this multi talented multi-tasker decided to give us a song. Entitled Gold, the song tackles the idea of running a race which Chris does not only in the physical sense to keep fit but also metaphorically every time he stands for election or even enters a poetry slam. I suppose the message behind it is to try to be the best you can be then you’ll attain your own personal gold even if you don’t win the race you are competing in on that particular occasion.
As he reached the tail end of a very enjoyable and thought provoking set Chris concluded with two of what I think are his best poems one of which Genuinely Worried I heard for the first time on the night. This was Chris making his impassioned plea for the union and giving his own unique take on why he believes we are better together. Believe me when I say that even as an opponent in this debate I was impressed by the way he stated his case using examples from Geography, History, and Economics to put forward his case. For his final poem of a brilliant 20 minutes this adopted Govanite read Come to Glasgow in which he extols the virtues of the city he calls home. At the end of his set he got a round of applause that some political leaders will never experience and the thing is he actually deserved it.

As I said earlier I had hoped to have Citizen Smart as the featured musician but unfortunately he couldn’t make due to a genuine mix up over the date. However this has happened with other performers and I dare say it will happen again but rather than look at it in a negative fashion I prefer to see it as an opportunity for those who have made it to be given a bit more time and this was what happened on this occasion.

First to benefit was Monica Pitman who performed her poem the daftie on a night when she hadn’t planned to perform. After it was the turn of Sandy Hutchison who sang what many consider to be the unofficial national anthem of Scotland Freedom Come All Ye and left a lump in my throat as he did so. Honestly the words in that song are beautiful and they contain so many fundamental truths about why Scotland should be independent I can’t help but get just a little bit emotional every time I hear it.

After that red raw emotion I think the old place needed livening up again and in Andy Fleming we had just the man for the job. Particular highlights of an extended set were Just Say No, the brilliant Shredding Valentines, Scottish Poetry Tonight, and a song he doesn’t sing nearly enough One Star Review.

As soon as Andy had exited the stage his place was taken by fellow Ayrshire man and proud son of Kilmarnock Alex Frew. Alex is as regulars will know a man not given to outbursts so when he reads a poem titled Fuck You If Your Poor then goes in to a full blown Anti-Tory rant you think to yourself that you may just have been blown away by its power. Alex followed that with a rap on the unpredictability of the Scottish weather before finishing his set with a poem called An Average Kind Of Man and believe me that when it comes to talent that is something Alex Frew most certainly is not.

The penultimate performer of the evening had to be persuaded to get up and even then he only performed one poem. However when the performer is Jim Ewing and the poem is Bromance you have to say that both performer and poem are worth hearing.

At this we had arrived at that time when the last poet standing had to bring down the curtain on another Words And Music and that poet was of course me. Being a die hard supporter of independence I thought it only fair to warn those still amongst us that I would be presenting the case for a Yes vote in my first two poems and closing the night with a wee bit of comedy. The poems I selected were I Am National Collective. This is a poem dedicated to the cultural wing of the independence movement and I wanted to share its positive vision of our country’s future.

The second of my poems for yes was An Invitation To Better Land. This was written in response to a letter from Sophie a 19 year old Better Together campaigner which was aimed at targeting female voters. The letter informed us that Sophie was proud to be part of the United Kingdom. It also let us know that Sophie did not want to leave the United Kingdom and we were told Sophie was just a normal teenager. Except, well, she wasn’t you see what the letter didn’t tell us was that Sophie was a very active member of her local Conservative Party. Naturally this prompted a response and as is so often the case with me it came in the form of a poem. A poem I might in which I did not miss my targets. Well if your reading this the chances are you know what I’m like. So let’s just say that I am to unionism what Tony Blair is to world peace.

I finished my set with a poem on the problems of dating or more specifically finding the one. Leave It To Fate examines all the potential ways to find the one, but somehow reverting to type and going as we say in the West of Scotland down the dancing. Needless to say this poem got more than a few giggles as we ended the night on a high.

At the end of the night I congratulated Chris on an excellent set and just as I was leaving I was complimented by JJ, Samantha, and Rebecca Turner and also by John McGlade on the quality of my poetry in particular Invitation To A Better Land which JJ said absolutely nailed the case for independence. Indeed he even went as far as to say I should send to the girl who sent me the letter in praise of Better Together. I have to say however, I’m not sure I would do that as it is quite a long poem and they tend to have the attention span of a goldfish. Anyway it was nice to be told that people enjoyed my work, it was I think a fitting end to a top quality night.

Indeed as I look back on the events of an action packed evening, I must admit to a quiet glow of satisfaction at the end of what I consider to be one of the best nights the wee back room has ever seen. As I brought the gathering to a close I said to those remaining of the 28 who attended the night that whatever the result of the referendum life and Sammy’s would go on because we have to. You see as poets and musicians it is our duty to kick the establishment where it hurts right in the principles and to do it as often as required and no matter who won or where the real power lay we would still have backsides to kick be they in Edinburgh if independence was declared or Westminster if we stayed within the union. Now there is one vow I can make on behalf of the Words And Music constituency and that is no matter where laws are made if they are unfair or unjust it will be the poets and musicians who will hold you accountable for your actions.

Now I know there may some who say they are not political and didn’t really get what all the fuss was about whether Scotland was better together within the UK or whether we should be a new and better land with independence. There were even some who said we were voting for madness, so we thought we would leave it to fate. I mean some would ask isn’t that what we always do on the First Monday of the month? and you know what, I think it might be. Talking of fate, I wonder what it will have in store for us at the October Words and Music one thing I do know, it won’t be long till we find out.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

When History Making Girls Hear Those Sing-A-Long Songs They Carry On Family Tradition

Hey everyone Due to the magical mayhem that was Edinburgh I write the August review just as we prepare ourselves to get ready for the September edition of our event. That said this was the night which kick started a brilliant August and what I can only describe as my best fringe yet.

As the crowd gathered for a night of culture with a side order of lunacy. I was delighted to see one of our prodigal family members return home to the Sammy’s fold. Not only did JJ return he also brought along two of his daughters Samantha and Rebecca to give them a taste of the event in which both their dad and their late grandfather John J Turner Senior have graced the stage.

It was perhaps a fitting night for JJ to make his comeback as two of original golden generation Steve Allan and Andy Fleming were the featured writer and musician respectively. This meant that any chance of sanity had gone flying out the door faster than the speed of sound. It was in other words a good night to get the girls inducted in to the Sammy’s tradition.

As I kicked off the night I decided that it was only fitting she was now at the age to give her father nightmares that I dedicate the first poem to Samantha. The poem entitled House Rules is a list of rules with which I believe every woman should confront her potential partner before deciding if they should move in with them or not. Anyway judging by her smile Samantha seemed to like it and the night was off and ready to rock in traditional Sammy’s style.

After I opened the night it was time to welcome the first of the programmed readers to the stage. This month that particular fell to Fred Fingers who regaled the company with two of his tales. Fred’s first piece was The Lost Supper. This was both entertaining and educational and I have to say that anyone who takes the piss out of Rule Britannia is fine by me. As for his second piece So The Politicians Said I can only describe this poem with the following words moving, thought provoking, and brilliant. It was and I am not going to mince my words here a devastating attack on the horrifying futility of war and was made even more poignant as the event was held on the day on which 100 years before had seen the start of the so-called great war. This we were was the war to end all wars but 100 years wars still rage on and the chance of a lasting global peace seems about as likely as managing to clutch on to a single straw in the teeth of force ten gale.

After Freddie it was the turn of another storyteller Paddy Hannrahan to make a welcome return to the stage and as is always the case with Paddy he gave us a story which made us think and remember that every action has a consequence.

Next up was Susan Milligan. Now it’s fair to say that Susan has not had the best of times at recent Words and Music nights, but though she yet again ran over her time, this was a much better performance. In her set Susan performed two poems A Ticket For Anything Anywhere and Summer Dress before singing a song by Peggy Lee. This had audience singing along and capped a much improved performance which will give a boost to her confidence. However she does need to be aware that every time she over runs she eats in to someone else’s time. This is a mistake she cannot afford to make too often as it can begin to become a bad habit and once people establish bad habits they can be very difficult to break.

Our next performer on what was proving to be a very busy night was that one man force of nature that is Chris Young who was making a welcome and long overdue return to the family home. In an excellent set Chris entertained the company by giving just a glimpse to his world a world we can expect to see a lot more of when he takes the stage as September’s featured writer. In what surely was a tantalising taste of things to come Chris performed poems which showed his talent for social commentary starting with the highly amusing and very skillfully written Pretentious in which he takes the mick rather mercilessly of those who are too fond of airs and graces. Chris followed this with Do Not Judge Me, I Am Art which again looked a world in which social snobbery abounds, before moving on to his final poem Remember What You Will which left us with some pretty sobering thoughts.

Our next two readers brought very different ideas to the stage. Firstly Jane Overton a reader I am always pleased to see at Words and Music performed her parody of the Peter Sarsteadt song Where Do You Go To My Lovely?, after which Linda Grant who had forgotten to bring any of her poems read one of mine Do I Look Good In This? and if I say so myself she actually performed it quite well given the fact she was only given five minutes notice to do it.

Last up before the bar break was last month’s featured writer John McGlade. Known for using comedy to provide his social commentary on the world
John started with a look back at the Commonwealth Games and what the queen could have said in Alternative Baton Speech and I do have to say that one was very amused. Next up was the nautical tale of The Fish Eyed Lens. John then moved on to a brilliant take on the TV Show The Call Centre which I am sure could applied universally to call centres all over the world and finished with Keep It Unreal. Make no mistake this was quality from a man at the top of his game.

After the bar break it was time for our featured writer and who better to lift us out of our post Commonwealth blues than a man who a fine ambassador for both his city and his country during the games Steve Allan. In a brilliant set Steve took us from rants on Scotrail to reasons Why Poetry Is Better Than Sex. Amongst other topics covered in a 20 minutes which passed all too quickly were Different Types Of Poet. A Normal Poem outdated attitudes a subject tackled in his poem Anti-Clockwise and why the relatives of Daniel O’Donnell fans need counselling rather than mockery. As I said a quality set from a quality writer and performer. Well is a former winner of the Words And Music Championship and the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy.

To Follow Steve is never easy at the best of times so I thought I would have a featured musician who also doubles up as a poet and there is no better multi-tasker at Words and Music or anywhere else for that matter than Andy Fleming. On this occasion Andy included such classics as Sing A Long Songs, Jesus Will Kick Your Sorry Ass. No Job Like A Blow Job, and the song which is so often his encore The Only Gay Eskimo. So I have to say we had two brilliant featured sets from two guys I’m proud to call friends.

Talking of friends, it was perhaps fitting that it was time to welcome the return of a friend who had been absent for far too long back to stage where he rightfully belongs and that friend was JJ Turner. Earlier on in the evening he was telling me that he and his wife are separated at the moment though he hopes this will only be temporary and this was the subject of his poem which had the incredibly long title Sometimes You Don’t Need A Referendum To Go It Alone. It was as I would expect from JJ a thought provoking piece of work daring to do that thing men usually find too messy in other words talk about their feelings. However to me at least, JJ has always been a liberal minded metrosexual kind of man though I don’t know if his daughters would agree with my assessment of their dad.

At the end of JJ’s comeback it was time to greet the penultimate reader of the evening and one of the runners up at this year’s Words And Music Championship David Forrest who gave us a short set before I brought the night to its conclusion.

This month I delivered four poems. The first two of which were political My opening poem was the Champagne Socialist. This was and I have no problem admitting it shameless playing to the gallery as I know just how much JJ hates the whole Tony Blair New Labour monstrosity. The second of my political poems The Quilt illustrates my version of how Britain became a dis united kingdom, why Scotland needs to vote yes, and how by doing so we can as families so often do after leaving home get along much better when we are not fighting for what we believe to be our share of contested space.

My final two poems saw me shift from politics to comedy and I’m sure reminded many of us of those crazy nights out you sometimes regret later but always enjoy at the time and as is always the case with these particular poems the Karaoke Queen and Every Saturday Night went down rather well.

At that the curtain came down on another Words And Music which with a crowd 20 of had it’s best attendance for a few months despite being packed in between Wickerman and the Fringe. This was a good crowd to send me on the road to Edinburgh with a spring in my step, and on a night when JJ Turner made his comeback two of his daughters made history by becoming the third generation of the same family to attend the event. Let’s hope they and there dad will back among us soon, well when history making girls hear those Sing-A-Long Songs they carry on family tradition

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Rainbow Road

Hey everyone Tonight Scotland celebrates the right to love equally,
as our parliament passed the Equal Marriage Scotland Act by 105 votes to 18. This gives Scotland’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community the right to marry and to have their love recognised in law with equal value to their heterosexual family and friends.

As a transwoman I have campaigned long and hard for this day, all I need to do now is find a man who is both man enough and mad enough to marry me and it will be in the words of that classic Billy Idol song a nice day for a white wedding.

You know I should have known it was going to be a good day when Caron Lindsay shared a photograph taken by her friend Andy Myles this morning which showed a rainbow over the royal mile. I wonder if God was trying to give us a message of hope and you know what, I think he might have been.

On seeing this beautiful image I decided to write a poem on the right to equal marriage and dedicate it with love and respect to everyone who has campaigned for this result and especially to those 105 MSP who voted for my right to love equally
My heartfelt thanks go to each and every one of them.

Special mentions are however merited these include Nicola Sturgeon MSP and Deputy First Minister whose support for me on a personal level is more appreciated than she will ever know. I also appreciated the kind supportive words of The First Minister of Scotland the Right Honourable Alex Salmond who said when I was introduced to him at a social gathering for ‘new’ party members that I would be a far greater asset to my party and my country than I was in my pre-transitioned days when though likeable I allowed nerves to get in the way of the message. This he said would no longer be the case for a happy and confident woman who would serve Scotland well.

There are also others to thank for this day including Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie, Leader Of The Scottish Conservative Party Ruth Davidson, Glasgow Labour MSP Drew Smith, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart James Dornan, The organiser of Pride Glasgow Alasdair Smith, Stonewall Scotland’s Sophie Bridger, SNP Trade Unionist And PPC for the European Elections Chris Stephens, Shettleston SNP activist Steven Tierney, SNP Candidate in the recent Cowdenbeath by-election Natalie McGarry Woman For Independence and Scottish Independence Convention Member Shona McAlpine, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament Laura McLachlan Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice Caron Lindsay, All at LGBT Scotland, the Scottish Equality Network particularly Tom French, friends from GAP Theatre especially Gillian Clark, Gary McGuire, Iain Boyce, Michelle Brown, Michelle Sloan, Tricia Feeney, Lorraine McKenzie, and the Mitchell sisters Kellie, Sharlene, and Jade. My long standing friends from the University of Strathclyde especially Ailsa King, Carolyn Black, Jo Muir, Katrina Cuthbertson and Simon Mawson and all members of the Scottish Spoken Word and Traditional Music Communities

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of some members of these communities without whose support my journey on the road I now walk with confidence would have been a lot harder than it has. So I’ll start with the team from spoken word they include Marc Sherland, Linda Grant, Kevin Cadwallender, Alex Frew, Andy Fleming, JJ Turner, Agnes Torok, Sean McBride, Claire Askew, Derek Read, Audrey Marshall, Craig Scott,
Fiona Lindsay, Kathryn Metcalfe,
Danny O’Connor Steve Allan, John McGlade, Catherine Baird, Kevin Gilday, Lisa Gilday, Maryanne Hartness, Tracy Patrick, John Savage, Stephen Watt, Jim Monaghan, Pete Faulkner, Jane Overton, Chris Young, Jenny Lindsay, Jim Ewing, Robin Cairns, Sophia Walker Siobhan Harkin and her adorable daughter Shannon The one and only first lady of Sammy’s the brilliant Pamela Duncan and my mad poetic sister also known as the magical Viv Gee.

From the world of traditional music particular thanks are due to Roisin, Siobhan and Patricia McArdle, who stood by me and supported me when they could easily have walked away. To Eilidh Grant now Eilidh Leslie for her continued friendship and support. To Billy and Hazel Pryce, to Heather Currie and her gorgeous daughter Shauna who insists that I am not only her auntie but tells her mother I am never wrong. Jim King also deserves credit for putting up with my ramblings over many years as does, Anna Meldrum, Rachel Sermanni, and Laura Wilkie. Also credit must be given to Samantha Hands whose faith has inspired me to grow deeper on my own christian journey, Daniel Hunter for no other reason except he is Daniel Hunter to my former woman of the year the brilliant Althea Maxwell, and to Siobhan Marie Downes for late night chats and attempts to keep me sane and so many others too many to mention. All of those mentioned and many who are not, deserve wedding invitations when the great day dawns as it must and surely will.

Also I can’t let today pass without mentioning a few former work colleagues and the names of Pam Duncan, Pamela Miller,and Joyce Cowie come to mind. However there is one who shines above all others and who’ll be a friend till the end of time and that is Yvonne Hughes whose friendship and support saw me through many of my darkest days. Yes Yvonne sometimes a smile really does make a difference.

I would also like a mention to Yvonne’s cousins Jackie and Natalie who saw me as my true self before most of the world was ready and a long time before I knew Yvonne. In fact Jackie and Natalie knew in the days when I was young enough to get away with wearing a black mini skirt and silver tights or at least I thought I was. Well it was the end of the 1990’s and I was in my late thirties and at the beginning of my journey out from the deepest and darkest of closets. Trust me I had loads of confidence in my unique personal style even if some of it may have been severely misplaced, however I have to say I didn’t think that at the time

To conclude what must be the longest thank you speech in history since Barry McGuigan retired from boxing I have to say that Lesley McKay has at least attempted to bring some sanity in to my life as have the parishioners at Baillieston St Andrew’s Church especially
the quietest member of any congregation otherwise known as Jane Sharp. Thanks also to Sheena Campbell and
Diana Mc Naught. Other local lassies who have tried to varying degrees to bring out the softer side of my nature include Theresa Agnew, Laura Mallin, Leanne McKay, Gillian Robertson, Jade Mc Isaac, Carlene Kilday and that lovable nutter who insists on calling me Auntie Gayle, my current woman of the year Katie Walker and I have to say this description flatters me much more than I deserve.

Anyway to all of those I’ve mentioned and my many friends in the LGBT community who are far too numerous to mention I dedicate this poem. I have called it Rainbow Road and I hope you enjoy the read and think it worthy to celebrate such a wonderful occasion.

Rainbow Road

On the day we said yes to equal love
a good friend made me smile
she shared a photograph she was sent
of a vision on the mile

A rainbow shone through a cloudless sky
and as the day was dawning
I saw a future filled with hope
in the peace of a February morning

This was a day for all of us
to celebrate with pride
the fact the love is a human right
and should never be denied

Love does not discriminate
so let this truth be said
it’s the right of every citizen
to share a marriage bed

To live our lives with the one of our dreams
real love does not surrender
to narrow minded attitudes
biology or gender

We find who we will on our journey through life
and hope our love stays true
and as a transwoman I want to say
for the right to say I do

My road will not be yellow brick
but when I find my prince
I won’t be slow to let him know
I will be dropping hints

Believe me he’ll know he’s the one
and as I’m dressed in white
I’ll know I walked the rainbow road
to find my Mr Right

@ Gayle Smith 2014