Tag Archive | Music

Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

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My Thoughts On The Manchester Terror Attack

​ Last night the people of Manchester were the victims of a cruel and barabic attack as another misguided individual used religion to justify evil. 

I first heard of the attack as I scrolled down my Twitter feed to catch up the events of the night. On doing so I imeadiately switched my television on to the BBC news channel to catch up on the latest developments on this breaking story. As I did so , I was stunned and heartbroken to hear there had been both injuries and unfortunately fatalities. 

Now those who know me well will know I family in Manchester and though my cousins who are a fair bit older than me would be nowhere near the Ariela Grande  concert where the bomb blast took place, there is a possibility that their grandchildren could have been in the crowd. However, strange as it may seem it wasn’t my biological family who were foremost in my thoughts last night It was my blogging family and one member of that family in particular. 

Yes you did hear me correctly I do have a blogging family and that family are a very diverse crowd who come from far and wide. My blogging family is like my poetry, traditional music families,  a family which is both local and global and in that tight knit clan, I know and count as friends, many younger bloggers from the North of England who are shall we say of the age appropriate demographic to be attending the event themselves or taking a younger sibling along to see their favourite pop star. 

Now due to the interactive nature of Twitter blog chats it is possible to form friendships across the miles and I have developed a number of such friendships with a demographic young enough to have been my children had I been able or lucky enough to have any. It was due to one of these friendships that I gave a Twitter shout to one younger blogger who I know to be from the Manchester area and asked her to contact me to let me know she was safe. Naturally I was delighted and relived to receive her tweet telling me she was safe though she told me had been in the area and it was very scary. 

On hearing her news we had a short conversation and she said there was a sadness about the city today. This is I think underestandle in such horrific circumstances but from both mainstream news and my social media feed there seems to be  a determination not to let the terrorists win nor to scapegoat the local Muslim community.

That is as it should be, and I hope during these difficult days people  remember to cherish the diversity for which their city is known and stand proud of the multi cultural melting pot that is modern Manchester. It is by doing this that they can and will defeat the forces of prejudice and hate no matter where they come from or what disguise they wear.  

Till next time

Gayle X

One Of The Girls 

On day 27 of NaPoWriMo I look at teenage memories as made by magazines we read as girls and how what we learned between the covers of our favourite magazine went on to play a significant role  in shaping the women we’ve become.

 I was inspired to write this poem after visiting the Scottish Memories Facebook  group where members chat about what we remember growing up and after chatting to members from various demographics within the group on the topic of childhood games I decided to ask the women of the group what was their magazines of choice growing up. Needless to say I was inundated with comments and it was those comments which helped me to write this poem. 

 On completing the poem I had to find a title for it , and having came up with a few suggestions I  consulted with friends on what the most suitable selection should be. On putting it to the vote, the will of the people  decided that the best and most appropriate title  was One Of The Girls and being a believer in poetry democracy in action that is the title I’m going with. I hope you enjoy the read.  
One Of The Girls 
I was a Jackie girl. 

this was the magazine

 which shaped my formative years 

concerns and fears about not being cool enough for school 

briefly removed as I was transported to a place of dreams 

Donny Osmond would never visit the scheme I lived in 

not even on his tours of Britain 

but his posters adorned my bedroom wall 

and turned it in to shrine for my first crush 

the puppy love who made me realise I was one of the girls 

and made me go funny inside 

I blushed the impure thoughts 

I wasn’t supposed to have 

but could never hide from my mother 

I kept my secret stash of magazines

 hidden under the bed in a box filled with memories 

for older generations of girls 

 titles like  Romeo and Valentine 

reminded them of a more innocent world 

whilst those younger than me 

were caught up in the celebrity culture 

created by top of the pops 

and the weekly chart shows on the radio 

Smash Hits and Number One 

were the best sellers for the girls who just wanted to have fun 

and knew that Madonna sang songs that were made for dancing 

potential Prince Charming’s would need to have cold hard cash 

to be the material girl’s Mr Right 

and the mum’s who were brought up with Judy and Bunty 

were far removed from their daughters reality 

as some in the media expressed disdain 

that the new teens were reading stuff on sexuality 

progressive parents thought it was better 

to know the facts of life 

rather than have pregnancies due to ignorance 

changing times meant changing tastes 

on the magazine rack 

and when More arrived 

Jackie’s days were numbered 

well photo stories couldn’t compete 

with  groundbreaking content like  position of the week

it made some of my teenage reading 

look so meek and mild 

there was no longer a market for  the magazines I grew up with 

and part of my childhood died 

as I became a new woman 

with a taste for company and glamour. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Sliver Linings 

Hey Readers I have wanted to write this  poem for more than two years, however only now have I managed to craft it in a way with which I am totally happy. The story relates to the first Monday after our independence referendum, which coincidentally was also the day after Donegal lost both senior and minor that’s (Under 18’s ) All Ireland Gaelic Football Finals.  Now as you know some people like American Football , and some people even like cricket , but Gaelic Games have always been a passion of mine and Donegal have always been my team. My loyalty stretches back to 1977 when we couldn’t win a raffle let alone an All Ireland title  so nobody can ever accuse me of glory hunting. As I’m sure you’ll understand by that Monday evening I was in real need of cheering up and attending  the launch of a new collection of poetry by  Jim Carruth and listening to some songs by Alan Citizen Smart before I reached the venue was I think the perfect pick me up after such a difficult few days. I have given the poem the title  Silver Linings I hope you enjoy the read. 

Silver Linings

It was the Monday after the referendum

still reeling from the aftershock 

of defeat 

I retreat to the world of poetry 

as I so often do in difficult times

I was attending a book launch 

of a friend’s new collection

the perfect pick me up  

after the dejection of the previous few days.

as I made my way to the venue 

I heard a smart citizen sing 

In a last act of resistance 

to a small gathering of supporters 

there were no reporters present 

to misreport his views

Buchanan Street never made the six o clock news 

as the curtain came down

 on the first act of an unfinished play 

I stayed till the last  song ended 

in the sun of an autumn evening 

I left believing the dream had not died 

it had just been put on hold till  later 

as I sat in the comfort of the theatre 

listening to the words of a poet 

who paints images with phrases 

which he places in carefully constructed patterns 

I thought not of tartan but the red blood of internationalism

and the clear blue skies a million tomorrow’s will bring 

when birds with broken wings fly again 

on my journey home I met a friend from Cork 

who informed me Sam would not be coming home to the hills 

he had a kingdom to visit this time 

on hearing this I looked for silver linings 

and was reminded that Sam like Scotland 

had taken a different path

 to the one I would have liked 

but on that Monday night 

I knew the dream had not died 

and when the time is right 

the bonnie blue banner will fly free 

in a nation cleansed from the stains of yesterday 

and dressed in green and gold 

Sam once more will see the hills 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Unwritten 

Hey Readers 

I have often heard it said that the best poems , stories, and songs are never written because the muse is so often a nocturnal visitor and a fleeting one at that. So it is with this in mind that I’ve written this poem titled Unwritten for all those lost poems, stories, and songs. I don’t know why but I think this poem may strike a chord with my creative friends. As for the rest of you, I hope you enjoy the read. 

Unwritten 
This is written

for the unwritten songs 

the untold stories 

the half finished poems 

the novels I wanted to write

the ideas I had at the darkest hour 

of the night 

but never found the time 

this is for that perfect rhyme 

I found only when I completed 

that sonnet 

this is for every single bee 

I’ve ever had in my bonnet 

this is for the plays I left 

in notepads in the drawer 

this is for the stand up I should have performed

this is for those who never got the chance 

to dance, sing or take the stage 

for the words that never made the page 

the memories that could have been made 

by the stars who should have shone 

but were allowed to fade from view 

as the sky changed hue 

and night became morning 

at the dawning of another day 

meanwhile as the muse 

so often a nocturnal visitor

departs from our mist 

 histories remain 

unwritten 

@ Gayle Smith 2017. 
 

Prescription For Happiness (A Poem In Memory Of George Michael ) 

Hey Readers 

It was with sadness that on Christmas Day I learned of the passing of George Michael who died peacefully at his home aged 53. In a year which has seen the music world robbed of the talents of David Bowie, Lemmy from Motorhead, Prince , Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt  and the genius that was  Leonard Cohen, George Michael’s death was for me at least the hardest of all to take in. 

You see talented as the others undoubtedly were I never fancied any of them. I did however have the hots for George Michael since his band Wham first appeared on Top Of The Tops in 1982 and I and millions of others loved the fact that he had that winning combination of good looks and genuine talent. 

George Michael, was an artist in the true sense of the word. Not only was he a brilliant live performer he was also a gifted songwriter and one of the few musicians from the world of popular music to win the coveted Ivor Novello award. His death has left me saddened, shocked, and acutely aware of my own mortality since he was two years younger than me. After taking time to collect my thoughts I have written my personal tribute to the man and his legacy and given it the title Prescription For Happiness I hope you enjoy the read.

Prescription For Happiness. 

I loved his songs I sang along 

as I danced to  young guns, bad boys, and club tropicana 

the feel good music a prescription for happiness 

in the days when Thatcher’s reign 

left a nation polarised and fragmented 

split between those who had and others who hadn’t 

on the covers of magazines

he  gladdened the hearts of the young 

of which I was one 

and in the days when my gender identity 

had to be kept secret 

he gave me dreams 

as a young trans woman 

from the scheme on the edge of nowhere 

he took me to the edge of heaven 

of course I fancied him 

like millions of others 

including Princess Diana 

at a time when ambition was privatised 

I can’t deny the gorgeous one gave me hope 

wake me up an anthem for a generation of girls 

who wanted him as part of our world 

and yes I did have lustful thoughts 

how could I not 

when I checked out that body on top of the pops

it sent my heart soaring 

there was no ignoring the reality 

he awakened feelings 

I never knew existed 

younger friends kissed his picture 

but for me it was slightly different

he had filled the void which lay empty 

since the Osmond’s and the Rollers 

were the secret poster boys 

in my Jackie reading years 

when he came out tabloids labelled him queer 

preferring to focus on his sexuality

rather than the music he made

the venues he sold out 

and the principles he made sure he  kept 

it was Erasure who sang a little respect 

but he deserved much more than that 

now as he begins his eternal sleep 

I sit in my flat and reflecting on an award winning musician

and a life cut shorter than mine 

though he had so much more to give than I 

the stars know the truth genius never dies

his music provided a backdrop for the lives of those 

who listened without prejudice 

 had the faith to let his words speak to our hearts 

whilst remembering careless whispers

would be used to wrap our chips 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

The Night With Two Endings Was The Night We Saw A Star

Hey Readers.    
As I get ready for the annual festive shenanigans which is the Words and Music Christmas cracker it’s time to look back on the events of magical November in which our featured acts were a mixture of youth and experience and there was the welcome return of some our most popular characters to our cultural family fold.

As is now customary I opened the night dead on 8 o’clock and this months opening poem was House Rules a comic poem on the rules I believe every girl should set before moving in with potential suitor. 

Job done, it was time to open the floor to the first of the billed readers and is was a tremendous pleasure to welcome my long standing friend and supporter of Words and Music Alex Frew to give us his unique take on the world. In his first apperance at our new home Alex read three poems starting with My First Telly, before moving on to the more serious topic of Care Homes and then lightening the atmosphere with his final poem Trumpets which was his ‘ tribute ‘ to  followers of a certain Donald Trump. This was a top quality set which illustrated why Alex pictured below with Andy Fleming) is so highly rated by yours truly and such a welcome addition to our company whenever he can make it along.

Picture (1) Alex Frew And Andy Fleming take in their new surroundings with Maryanne Hartness looking on.

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Next up was first time performer Mary Wilson. Mary had attended the October edition of our event just to see what she thought of it and I’m delighted to say she decided to come back. On this occasion Mary decided she would perform and on her debut performance she read three poems and I can remember the titles of two of them This Is Where We Come In and Canvassing Time. I have to say as a political activist for the SNP I really enjoyed canvassing time through I’m not sure I agree with all the, sentiments expressed in it.  

Next up was Peter Russell who read two poems Sandy Denny’s Wake and Only Those Who Change To Themselves Stay True. Both of these poems were powerful , passionate and filled with brilliant imagary which is the hallmark of one of most refreshing voices on the spoken word scene at the moment.

Peter was followed to the stage by the man I view as my mentor, the one and only Derek Read. On this occasion Derek read a poem by Louis McNeice and one of his own poems on The Closing Of The Burrell Collection and it’s great to see a talented poet beginning to find his way back to the spoken word scene as ill health has curtailed his appearances in recent times.

Picture (2) Derek Read Regales the company at the Tin Hut with his unique brand of entertainment.

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After Derek it was the turn of Alan McGlas to entertain the company and Alan read three pieces Silver Birch, Difference, and Glasgow Docks all of which he delivered with his customary aplomb before taking his seat to enjoy the rest of the evening.

As Alan made his exit Susan Milligan took her five minutes in the spotlight reading two pieces Fancy Veichle, and Back Doors On Buses before concluding her set with a song about Shipbuilding.

After Susan’s set it was the turn of Suzanne Egerton to share her cultural thoughts with us Suzanne started her set with Autumnal an excellent prose piece which showcased her ability as a storyteller who really knows the power of language and the impact it can have. Unusually for Suzanne who has gained a reputation as a quality prose writer she decided to show her poetic talents with us and Tuppence For him which she wrote about the closure of the Ravenscraig steel works was the work of a quality wordsmith Suzanne finished her set by returning to the world of prose for Arc Of An Affair before returning to take her place amongst the faithful.

Next up was the ever entertaining Fingers who led us to the bar break with two of his more serious poems which he tends to read around the time of Remembrance and So The Politicians Said and Keep The Home Fires Burning, certainly gave us plenty to think about as we stopped for a well deserved bar break.

After the bar break it was time to welcome our featured writer and in Marc Sherland (pictured below) we had a man of experiance and a consummate performer who is well practiced in the art of stagecraft and knows how to work an audience

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Picture (3) Our Featured Writer and keen Words And Music supporter Marc Sherland takes The Tin Hut stage

Mark started his set with Flourish, and moved on to Rumination, Braveheart which has I am pleased to report nothing to do with the Mel Gibson movie of that name but was a very moving tribute to his late brother who endured a personal battle with disability throughout his life. After this emotional and personal piece, Marc read the Edwin Morgan classic poem Strawberries, and his reply to it Kirkpatrick Hills which I enjoyed as every bit as much as Morgan’s original. He continued his set with Rip It Up And Start Again and Practising My Best, before concluding a fast paced and enjoyable set with This Is For The Fireman Who Saved My Life and his final poem Nice Shoes.

As I said I enjoyed this set but then I always enjoy Marc’s work he’s a quality writer and has a style to his  performance which like his sonnets can only be described as uniquely Sherlandian and that to me is great news for the Scottish spoken word scene.

After the featured writer it was time for our featured musician and in debut girl Caitlin Buchanan who was making her first appearance at Words And Music I believe we have unearthed a star who will enrich the Scottish, British , and Global traditional music scene for decades to come.&nbsp

Caitlin (pictured below) started the best debut set of any featured musician since a certain Anna Meldrum with The Cinema she followed up with moving Another Top, and The Tallest Tree which is my personal favourite of her songs before moving on to Hope Of Release and finishing an outstanding debut performance with the excellent Fools Gold. I have to admit I enjoyed a spot of bias as knowing Caitlin from the Blue Chair open mic nights I knew how good she was going to be as did Grace Alison who had come along to support her. That said it was great to hear her getting praised by the likes of Andy Fleming and Marc Sherland who unlike me had never seen her on previous any previous occasions and Marc was so impressed by this dynamic young singer songwriter that her gave her his business card at the end of the night.

At the end of her set I had one of those mammy moments with a girl who I think is destined to follow someone else I tipped for stardom the first time I saw her at the Danny Kyle open stage at Celtic Connections her name is Rachel Sermanni. As those who know our traditional music know Rachel went on to win a Danny Kyle award and has gone to much bigger things. Now I don’t know why but I believe I saw someone else who can also follow that path and her name is Caitlin Buchanan.

Picture (4) Our Featured Musician the brilliant Caitlin Buchanan rocks the Tin Hut with her breathtaking Words And Music debut set.

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At the end of two fantastic featured sets it was the turn
of Maryanne Hartness to take the stage however on a night which would still have some interesting twists and turns before it was over Maryanne politely declined to go up as she believed that Caitlin should be the last of the billed acts to perform at that I should wind up the night. With Andy saying earlier in the night that he wasn’t going to perform. I thought I was getting up to bring the night to close and as I read three poems A Stain On The Sunshine and Dress Sense that was exactly what I thought I had done. It turned out that this eventful and enjoyable wasn’t quite finished as half way thorough my round up as I was giving my thanks to the performers, a slightly scootered Derek said that I missed someone was Andy by doing this threw the night in to chaos but for some reason known only to the almighty this seemed to work as Andy then decided to get up after all and performed I Love America in his unique style which makes him such a hit with the Words and Music regulars.

With Andy having made his Words and Music comeback in a way that only he can Maryanne decided that she would after all make her first performance since the flitting and read two poems Old Stories And Halloween before
I brought the night to an end for a second and final time by reading the final poem of the night Walk Of Shame which is a humorous account of a women’s most embarrassing moment and is always well received particularly by the women in the audience. Well let’s be honest they’ve all been through it at least a dozen times and probably will be again. It is what Arielle Karo would call one of those relatable poems on moments only women share.

As I brought the night to an end and everyone made their way back in to the chill of an early November evening I stayed for a while to chat Caitlin and her friends on how they enjoyed the Words and Music experience. As they gave me their feedback which was I am happy to say very positive I told our newest singing sensation that this may have been her first appearance at the event but it certainly wouldn’t be her last.

Naturally Caitlin was pleased with the news and told me she liked the fact she had an appreciative audience willing to listen to her songs. I have to say this comment made me smile and the more seasoned Words and Music regulars will know why. You see we were brought up by good cultural parents, and Hughie and Pamela would always remind us that the best of nights are always enjoyed when poets really listen to the music and believe me we listened as the night with two endings was the night we saw a star.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X