Tag Archive | Robin Cairns

When A Jumped Up Proletarian Meets A Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive We’ll All Find A Space For Reflections When Dreams Come Hame To Bide 

Before I could focus on our traditional Christmas Cracker (It happened last night and the story will be told later) I firstly had look back on the events of a November which showed in many ways what the real spirit of a Words And Music night is all about. This was a night that had a little bit of everything. It was both entertaining and thought provoking with equal measures of humour and the sensible stuff thrown in to create a winning recipe for an enjoyable evening of entertainment as only we know how.

Being November there were nods, as expected to Halloween, Bonfire Night, and the upcoming Remembrance commemorations in the work of some performers and it was with remembrance very much on my mind that I kicked off the night with a written by the man who introduced me to Words And Music the one and only Jim Craig. 

Jim as some of you will no doubt know was a former serving soldier in the second battalion the parachute regiment and on release this fiercely proud Scot wrote some of the anti war poetry I have ever heard. So it was in memory of one of the true Words And Music legends I started the night with his poem  The Last Post which he wrote in the form of a soldier’s letter to his mother.

Having kicked off the night in my usual fashion I called Angie Strachan to be the first of the billed readers to bring fireworks to  the Words And Music stage and believe me she didn’t disappoint. Angie kicked off her set with Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 8 in Scots, before moving on to the brilliantly titled To all the pyjamas I’ve loved before. Weans, Dear BBC Weather, which was both topical and hilliarous and concluding a wonderful set with Negativity Bias which privided a very witty insight as to how people with mental health issues can often fear the worst in many different situations. This was a cracking way to end an amazing set which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who heard it.

As Angie went back to her seat it was the turn of Steve Allan to entertain the company and this month he did so by reminding us that train journies can be both stressful and hazardous especially when we have no control over who sits beside us. In his story entitled Reflections Steve recalled a particularly troublesome journey when his peace and quiet was interrupted by two pasengers who insisted boring the life out of him with every little detail of their day and relentlessly slaughtered a colleague who it is safe to say wasn’t within listening distance of their conversation. By the end of his journey Steve had not only been traumatised to within an inch of his sanity he had also reached the conclusion that the college these two fools were demonising was probably a really decent guy. It is my opinion that a story is only as good the writer who brings it to life and Steve Allen brought this story to live so vividly I actually believed I was on the journey with him. 

After two performers who are both well known faces to the gathering it was time to welcome a newcomer to make his debut on the Words and Music stage. I first met Ronan Doran at those fabulous Blue Chair Wednesday nights which were for so long a part of my life throughout 2015 and 20216 and it’s no secret I’ve wanted him to come to this event so naturally I was delighted to see him take up his invitation and make his long awaited debut and follow in the footsteps of fellow Blue Chair family such as Kirsty Nicholson, A R Crow , Molly McLachlan, and Caitlin Buchanan who made one of the outstanding debuts I have ever seen from a featured musican in all my years at Words And Music 

On an evening when he could got away with doing more than he did Ronan performed only one song Roll On Yesterday which he told us was about a trip to the East Antrim coast. I must admit I’ve always enjoyed Ronan’s relaxed style of delivery and after this brief glimpse in to his repitoire I’m sure he’ll have gained a few new fans and we’ll see a lot more often in the months and years to come. 

Next up was Susan Milligan who read two very thought provoking pieces Modern Gods which was amusing and at times cutting take on the topic of celebrity culture and What Will It Take which looked at the state of the world as we know it as she pondered what will it take to bring the changes she wants to see as a legacy for her nieces and nephews. As tradition dictates Susan ended what I consider to be her best set yet with a song which in this case was Blue Moon and provided a fitting climax to a top quality performance in both content and delivery.  

Next up to the stage was one of the best poets and performers in Scotland as the Tin Hut welcomed home one of our own as Robin Cairns made the stage his own as only he can. In an excellent performance the maestro delivered two of his most recent poems, The Coppernosed Stone which he recalled the events of his youth in Clydebank and The House I Grew Up In which is a brilliant poem on how the imagination can play with tricks with memory 

As Robin rejoined the company it was Susan McKinestry who was the unluckiest performer of the night. Well someone has to follow Robin and on this occasion it was her. If she was bothered about it certainly didn’t show in a performance which showed just how much she has settled in to the Words and Music since first gracing our stage earlier in the year. On this occasion Susan read two pieces Tall and Short and The Key which followed in her tradition of biting and hard hitting social commentary on the impact of austerity and attitudinal prejudices on those soceiety considers to be weak and vulnerable. Make no mistake this is a quality writer and commentator who gives a much needed voice to those marginalised by the rich and powerful. It is a voice I look forward to hearing a lot more of in 2018 and beyond. 

As Susan went back to her table Jim Ewing started his set with a Halloween Haiku before moving on to the story of a Gorbals ghost story with which he enthralls audiences every time he shares it I refer of course spookily amazing tale of The Man With The Iron Teeth. This enjoyable tale of ghastly and indeed ghostly goings on in the south side of Glasgow was followed by a reminder of the sacrifices made in the two World Wars in Jim’s Remembrance poem Remember What You Will in he stresses the importance of remembrance in what is in my opinion my favourite poem on the topic due to it’s raw power and sincerely expressed emotions. 

At the end of Jim’s set it was my great pleasure to welcome Pete Faulkner back to the stage for the first time since August and Pete, a veteran of many a Words and Music night, was the perfect man to lead us to the bar break which he did by reading a poem by Diane Du Prima and A monologue on St Joan.

After a much needed bar break it was time for the main business of the evening and that of course was our two featured acts starting as we usually always do with the featured writer. This month saw Katharinerine MacFarlane take her place in the spotlight and I must admit it gave me particular pleasure to introduce not only a fellow fierce woman but my fiercest sister from the whole of that tribe.

Katharine started her set with Spaces which set the tone for the quality to come. This was a poem vivid in its imagery which transported the audience to place where poetry meets the soul. This was followed with Being A Seal as our poet looks at life from the perspective of the seal and  attempts to see the problem we as humans may create for them. 

In Sholbost Katharine (pictured below) takes us to Orkney and shows the landscape of the area and the folk traditions that surrounds it. Staying on Orkney our featured superstar oops I mean writer took us to Mae’s Howe and followed it with Ba. Katherine then moved tom the Western Isles for This Island before enchanting us with a poem in Gaelic and the subsequent translation of it into English. Ever the patriot in the cultural sense of the word Katherine a keen scholar of our history and tradition performed St Andrew’s Bones a poem on our Patron Saint and his final resting place. After this she moved on to Kuris and the brilliant Listen, which captures the awe inspiring power of nature at it’s truly breathtaking best. Katharine wound up a mesmerising set with the Longing Of A Person and her final poem the amazingly beautiful Lang Go Lang.  This concluded a wonderful set of poetry which encompassed all that’s positive about Scotland. In 20 minutes Katharine explored our islands , our history, our langauges, our culture, and traditions in a way which was educational, entertaining, imformative and inspiring. Make no mistake, this was poetry at its very best and I was privileged to hear it.

Picture(1) Our Featured Writer Katharine MacFarlane entertains the gathering in two languages with poems in both English and Gaelic in her set )

From featured writer we moved on to our featured musician and were delighted to welcome back that weel kent Words And Music favourite Bob Leslie to fill the role with 20 minutes of musical madness as only he knows how to make it. 

Bob started his set by maintaining the link with the isles which Katharine had built in to her set with An Island Boy. He then moved on to sing of American culture we seldom if ever hear about in The Lands Of The Sioux And Cree. If that song contained a political message from the other side of the Atlantic his next song When Dreams Comes Hame To Bide had even stronger political content for an audience far closer to home. In A Jumped Up Proletarian Bob showed that being a good trade unionist doesn’t necessarily mean being a member of The Labour Party despite what Jeremy Corbyn may like to claim. From politics the focus switched to comedy for his next song Her Father Called Me Frankenstein  in which Bob recalls an unwanted nickname from his first girlfriend’s father due to the fact he towered over him. Well Bob (pictured below) is shall we say a very tall gentleman. This was supposed to be when the music stopped but I invoked the compare’s privilege and insisted on one last song and I also requested what it was. Of course Bob was happy to obliege and gave a rousing rendition of Big Dead Bob a song which tells the story that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say we all joined the chorus and gave Bob’s set the ending it deserved. 

Picture (2) Our Featured Musician Bob Leslie belts out tunes old and new 

At the end of two fantastic sets it was time for the proceedings to return to normal or at least as normal as is allowed at Words And Music and our penultimate performer Claire McCann did her best to achieve this when she read her poem Open Book. This was an enjoyable piece which Claire performed well but as she went back to her seat, it was time for me for bring the night to a close with the final set of the evening. 

I started the set by looking back on the disappointment of Scotland’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia with a poem written about the drama of our last World Cup Qualifier in Slovenia which sums up how it’s been for us for the last 20 years entitled The Hope That Kills You. I followed this up with That’s Nice.  In this poem I explain the stereotypical reaction which poets often get when you tell friends and neighbours your going to a poetry event. From this slightly tongue in cheek poem I got just a wee bit more serious I read The Flying Winger. In this very personal poem  I reflect on the tragic circumstances which befell my late uncle Arthur and how life can be shaped by the choices we make and the chances we take or don’t. I finished both my set and the night with The Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive  a poem which tells the story of Karaoke nights and the part they played in my coming out.  

Having brought the night to a close I made my way home to the village . As I did so I couldnt help but think that when a jumped up proletarian meets a rock chick from devil gate drive  we’ll all find a space for reflections when  dreams come hame to bide. 

Till next time

Gayle X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time 

Gayle X

A Treasure Trove Of Memories In A Room Full Of Friends As We Came To One Last Carnival And Said Farewell To Rio 

Last night was an emotional one for the Scottish poetry community as it signalled the end of the cultural institution that is , was and ever shall be Last Monday at Rio after 10 amazing years in the heart of the both the west end and the Glasgow spoken word scene.  

 
Picture (1) The main man and host of this event Robin Cairns kicks off the final night of his reign at this cracking wee venue by taking us down memory lane as he performed the poem that opened the very first night at Rio and we meet the school teacher called Old Lochgelly. 

Picture (2) Peter Russell takes his turn at the mic 

Picture (3) Shows A R Crow and Shannon McGregor relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere of the night 

Picture (4) Sees Jim Monaghan share his thoughts on Rio and why it will always have a special place in his heart. It is the mark of a man of principal that Jim would sooner speak with integrity on the part that Rio has played on his spoken word journey than perform on such an important occasion. 

Picture (5) Is of a stalwart of this event and many others over the years. A man who has entertained us in his boxer shorts and worn his party candidate rosette on stage and had his hand up so many puppets that he could were he not so principled get a job as a Tory Chief Whip. I refer of course to the one and only Chris Young. 

Picture (6) Shows Shannon McGregor taking her turn to entertain the company .

Picture (7) It was an emotional night for Stephen Watt who regarded Rio as his poetry home and has done since making his performance debut on this stage in 2010. Over the years since first meeting him in this cracking wee cafe I have come to respect Stephen as a poet and even more so as a man and have valued his friendship support and advice. 

Picture (8) Has our very own Falkirk bairn Janet Crawford at the mic. In her introduction last night Janet informed us that it was Stephen Watt who encouraged her to go west with her poetry and I for one am very glad he did. 

Picture (9)  Shows a poet whom you can always rely on to raise the bar, the brilliant Katharine MacFarlane who went for a poem on sex and brought us all in to a fit of the giggles.  

Picture (10) Shows the man whose had more headline slots at Rio than anyone else the man who Robin described as the best poet in Scotland today the amazing poetic tour de force that is Kevin Cadwallender. 

Picture (11) Sometimes in life it’s the small things that make us happy and that’s certainly the case in the poetry world when Sam Small performs his work. 

Picture (12) As reached the penultimate open mic slot it was time for A R Crow to share their thoughts on what happens when Scots get a glimpse of the sunshine with their hilarious poem Taps Aff. 

Picture (13) Kirsty Nicolson makes history as the last open mic poet ever to grace the stage at Cafe Rio with one of my favourite ever poems Being From Lewis Is on the stereotypical images people have on the island where she was raised and her family roots are planted.

Picture (14) Our last ever headliner who took not only to the end of the night but to the end of an era was the excellent Hamish MacDonald. A consummate performer Hamish’s poem Ma Bit is an outstanding example of what can happen when people become too territorial and attempt to exclude others from what they believe to be ‘their’ communities.

And so it was over. 10 years of not only of quality spoken word but a valuable part of Glasgow’s cultural and social history. During a decade in which Glasgow has undergone many changes we have heard 1,000 voices speak their truths on a wide variety of topics and listened to everyone who shared them.  In doing so we have created a treasure trove of memories and we’ve done it in a room full of friends. I can think of no better legacy than that. 

Picture (15 ) Our host and compere for the last 10 years.

Thanks Robin. 

See you somewhere else. 
Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

The Little Lessons Teach You A Lot About Yourself If You Listen To The Voices In Your Head

As I prepare for the March edition of Words and Music  it’s time to look back on the events of a very eventful February. To me February is the month when we cast aside our party clothes after the excesses of the festive season and return to a place of normality as we wait to see what the coming year will bring us. It was with this in mind that I allowed myself a quiet smile of satisfaction as we began to gather for the evening ahead. 

 You see it was at this last year when we started our enforced break having been told by our previous home only at the very last minute that  they no longer opened on Monday and Tuesday nights news which threw both myself and the event in to chaos. Eventually however we did find a new home and having settled in to it baptising with the kind of Christmas and New Year shenanigans that only we can have , it was now time to settle in  and enjoy it as the surroundings take on that comfortable feel you can only have when you feel truly secure on your journey to the future.  

Talking of journies, our featured writer had travelled from Edinburgh to be with us and Matt MacDonald being the kind of sensible organised man that he is had even arrived at the venue before I had. Now that’s what I call dedication and as we enjoyed some pre event social time Matt told me how much he was looking forward to the night. 

As the crowd gathered I got the night started dead on 8 o’clock as I tend to do these days. I think the change of home has been good in this respect as whilst at our old familiar venue that was our home for 25 years I was mindful that Pamela would often get me to hold back from starting to wait for some latecomers to arrive, however on moving home I decided to change this and start as soon as the clock strikes 8 and welcome others as they arrive. 

As soon as the clock told me to,  I started the evening with a new poem which hadn’t even been written when we gathered in January to bring in the bells.  The poem Winter Miracle, recalls a childhood memory in which I relate the story of a boy who had never seen before in arriving in Glasgow and how  our teacher didn’t share our excitement at sharing a winter memory with our classmate and friend.  

With my job done, it was time to move on and enjoy the rest of the night and who better to kick off the madness that will forever be Words and Music than Andy Fleming who marked his first appearance of the year by singing Voices In My Head. Now I don’t know if Andy does get voices in his head but if he does they must be very talented ones to produce the kind of work he does. 

Andy was followed to the stage by his friend and mine Alex Ftew who read three pieces Land Fever, No Parrots, and a cowboy story entitled Lannigan which reminded me of the kind of wild west programmes my dad used to watch in the 1970’s. 

As Alex returned to his seat it was the turn of another of Words and Music’s most regular contributors to entertain the company and Pete Faulkner did just that with a witty yet sensitive story about a shy boy who becomes a superhero This was an entertaining and heartwarming story with which despite the gender differences I could easily identify. Well it’s a little known fact that the minute I put my tights on I become the tartan wonder woman 

Anyway that’s enough of my ramblings for Pete’s sake and as Pete Faulkner left the stage it was another Pete or should I say Peter who was next to bring his talents to the table and trust me Peter Russell is a man of considerable talent. 

On this occasion, Peter read three poems The Becks Blue Blues, Mr Murray’s Words which is written as a tribute to Les Murray, before concluding his set with the brilliant America First, a poem which offers hope for a troubled country as he reminded us of the resilience of the American people 

Next up was one of my favourite poets and one of my favourite people, I refer of course to the excellent A R Crow. A R, started their set with a poem on mental health issues titled Ask Me If I’m OK. This is not only a wonderful piece of powerful thought provoking poetry but also serves as a reminder to the audience and society at large that we should be looking out for each other more in these turbulent times . 

A R continued their set with a poem on anxiety, before concluding on a poem entitled Queer Is This I poem I really enjoy despite the fact that as a trans woman  I would never use the word Queer to identify myself. I do however recognise that A R who identifies as a non binary person in other words does not identify with the notion of male or female gender identities is using the word in a positive context to empower themself rather than the negative stereotypes which were associated with it when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s 

As A R rejoined the company it was time for Susan Milligan to claim her five minutes and take us on a trip to her world. On this occasion Susan performed Mia, Love Lust and Lullabies, My Not Sonnet , and A Laddie which was written in Scots, and finished as she usually does with a song . As Valentine’s Day was just a week away at the time of our event I think the song of choice which was the Conny Francis number Where The Boys Are was I think a fitting one and I know that it’s a song she likes singing. 

After Susan it was Alan McGlas who led us to the bar break as he performed three pieces which started his classic Honey Nonny Nay before moving on to Hors D’oeuvres and bringing the first part of the evening to a close with his take on A Happy Marriage. 

During the break I caught up with Robin Cairns who was making a welcome visit to Words and Music and he told me of a new project he’s working on which is by far his most ambitious to date and his most serious piece of theatre since Sawney Bean and believe me it sounds intriguing and like all of Robin’s projects I’m sure it will be top quality entertainment.  

Talking of quality we started the second half of the night in   traditional way with our featured writer and in Matt MacDonald we had the kind of poet whose thoughtful well crafted work is always a joy to hear  

Matt started his set with poems on his home city of Edinburgh kicking off with a poem on friendship entitled 29th September 2011. He followed it up with Bloodlines , before moving on to Arthur’s Seat and then the last  poem of this part of his set The Island Of Broken Sky. At the end of this poem Matt took us on a journey not to broken skies but to the Western Isles of his ancestors and in particular the isle of Harris which his cousins still call home.  In his first poem in this section of his set Whisky Pebbles relates a tale of childhood adventures that warmed the hearts of the audience as we travelled back in time to share the experience with him. This was followed by Little Lessons a poem Matt wrote for his grandfather.Matt then moved on to another Harris based poem and Packing Up in which he shares a memory of a trip he made with his mum. For  his final poem Matt (pictured below) read Signposts In Gaelic To My Edinburgh Eyes and in doing so completed a  truly magnificent set which was both educational and easy on the ear. This is a poet  worth hearing and enjoying a poet grounded both in the craft and his heritage who writes lovingly of his family and trust me his family have a lot to be proud of. 


Having  Matt travelling all the way from Edinburgh and being up to my neck in Celtic Connections for practically all of the festival meant there was no featured musician but this meant I decided to double Matt’s fee and I don’t think there was anyone who would object to my decision.  

After Matt’s sublime performance, it was Claire McCann who had the challenging task of following him and to be fair to Claire she  gave it her best shot performing  two poems The Room, and The Square. Personally I thought The Room, was the stronger of the two as it focused on the impact of social class on  friendships and relationships and I have to  say I quite enjoyed it 

Claire was followed by January’s featured writer Suzanne Egerton whose storytelling skills have won her many friends over the years she’s been attending Words and Music. On this occasion Suzanne read a story entitled Patience and as usual her characters were brought to life using the  warmth and gentle  wit for which she’s become know.

At the end of Suzanne’s set it was time for which the penultimate performer of the evening and it was great to welcome Robin Cairns back to the Words and Music stage. On introducing his set Robin said that he had been inspired by Eveline Pye’s set of poems which documented her time in Africa and as a result of this inspiration he has written his own set of poems on a topic he knows well and that topic is commerce and industry. In a highly enjoyable set Robin read commerce and industry before finishing with That’s Why The Lady Is A ….. in which he showed that if satire’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. 

With everyone who wanted to perform having done so , it was my job to conclude the night and bring it to a close. I did so by  performing two poems Global Warning which was based on my mother’s unique and slightly eccentric  reaction to the idea of climate change and Yesterday When I Was Young which takes a reflective look at my life to date

With the evening now satisfactorily concluded we made our way in to the night and started on our homeward journies. As we did so I mused on the fact that the little lessons teach a lot about yourself  if you listen to the voices in your head.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

  

On The Night A Piper Played To Win Scotland Found A Champion

Hey Readers

On a dark Saturday night in the cold of a Scottish winter I made my way to the Tron Theatre to enjoy a top quality night of spoken word poetry as I attended the 2017 Scottish poetry slam championship final.

This is always one of my favourite nights of the year as Scotland’s premier poetic talents battle it out for the prestige of being Scotland’s national slam champion and the honour of representing their country in the poetry slam world series in Paris later in the year

As expected the Tron was packed to capacity for such an important cultural occasion and all stars of the Scottish spoken word scene including this blogger were out in force to support those judged throughout the year to be the cream of this year’s crop. Amongst those I chatted to was Jane Overton who was one of the judges for the event. I also had a quick word with David Forrest who like myself was there to enjoy the evening, and other audience members Kevin Cadwallender, Anna Crow, Janet Crawford, Lesley Traynor , and Shannon McGregor. Amongst the contenders I had early chats with Katharine McFarlane, Lloyd Robinson, Matt MacDonald, Molly McLachlan and Victoria McNulty and wished them well for the night ahead.

As tradition dictates the event was compared by the maestro Mr Robin Cairns who brought the occasion to us as only he knows how. After revealing that there would be two abaebtees from the list Robin took nominations from poets in the audience for a wild card entry and though a few poets themselves forward such as Jade Mitchell, and Shannon McGregor it was Ben Rogers whose name was pulled out of the hat and in to the slam.

In the first round, the poets were drawn in to four groups of four competitors each with two from each group going through to the second round and three (well that was the plan )going through to the final where the eventual winner would be declared Scottish Poetry Slam Champion 2017

As the draw was made we were all hoping that our choice or choices would make the final. For the record this totally unbiased blogger was trying her best to remain as neutral as possible , but even I have favourites though I’m not going to say who they are. Well I get on well with all the poets in the final so I’m not going to name any names as to who I may or may not have been supporting.

In an excellent first heat  we heard work of outstanding quality from Elise Hadgraft on Homelessness Aiden Rivet and his Wonderwall poem Daniel Piper and his cleverly crafted poem DJ Veg. This was followed by Max Sratchman whose poem on how a woman’s quest for love could have been filled by a Down’s syndrome baby she chose not to have tugged at more than a few heartstrings, and believe me this group set the standard for the other contestants to follow.

When we did get in to the second group there were yet more stunning performances. These came most notably from Katharine MacFarlane whose poem on her sister’s very traumatic rape and the ordeal which followed and now makes her fearful  as a mother with a daughter of her own This poem was so powerful that it blew the Richter scale to bits, and Lay La Josephine whose poem I Think She Was A She gave a very powerful and passionate portrayal of the way women who have abortions are made to feel guilty by a society in which these issues are not talked about as openly as they should be. It should also be noted that Molly McLachlan was in this group as was wildcard entry  Ben Rogers and I thought Molly who was the only contestant to get the hooter in the opening round performed well in this company. However , and I’m only saying because I love Molly to bits, it is my opinion she started her poem too slowly and in such a tight group the marks I’m sure it cost her illustrates how difficult competing at the top level really is especially when I believe there could be less than 10 points between those who qualified for the semi finals and those who missed out.

The third group was kicked off by Victoria McNulty whose poem Coffins From Derry is in my opinion a very strong piece in support of refugees in which McNulty draws on her own Irish heritage and the hostility towards the early Irish immigrants to demonstrate why as someone whose blood as she says ‘ is cut from refugees ‘ supports those she describes in the final line of poem as ‘ the displaced people residing in Scotland today ‘ Next up was the excellent Bibi June with her entertaining and thought provoking poem Simon Says . This poem was funny and disturbing in equal measure and demonstrates just how easily sheep can be led to whatever pen the establishment want to go to with alarming ease.

Hamish MacDonald’s poem Ma Bit focused strongly on tensions between rival communities both local and global and real and imagined as it explored the potential for conflict that territorial geographies can and do provide where borders are contested. Ellen Renton performed a thoughtful and considered poem on her love for both Glasgow and Edinburgh in which she produced the line of the night with the words ‘ I can still belong to Glasgow with my heart in Midlothian. This in my book was absolute genius and poetic imagery at its brilliant best. It was a wonderful way to conclude what I believe was the toughest group of all the first round qualifiers.

It was Matt MacDonald who will be February’s featured writer at Words and Music who kicked off the final qualifying group with his poem Fibonacci. Matt was followed by the pint sized pocket rocket that is the brilliant Hannah Raymond Cox. After Hannah it was time for the penultimate performer in the first round and Jack McMillan was climbing the ladder of spoken word success and finally Lloyd Robinson brought the first round to a close with his poetic take on those right wingers who voted for Brexit with I’m Ready To Stop Being English. This was a real crowd pleaser as the anti Brexit sentiment went down very well with the predominately West of Scotland audience.

As we headed for a well deserved bar break everyone had our own mental list of who we thought would qualify for semi finals but only the judges would make that decision and I for one didn’t envy Andy Jackson, George Miller, Jane Overton one little bit. 

As we reconvened after the break Robin gave us the results of the judges deliberations and it’s fair to say that for some members of the audience there were a couple of surprises amongst the qualifiers. I have to say however that I called most of them right, well 7 out of 8 isn’t bad by anyone’s standards and yes I did see hurricane Hannah qualifying from the final group because I’ve performed with Hannah at Other Voices and know how good she actually is. Trust me Hannah, is one of the best performers you will ever see on a poetry stage and I’m not understating the case when I say that she a talent ten times the size of herself.

As the semi finalists were announced we managed to get what very few political cabinets ever do the perfect gender balance of four male and female qualifiers. As the draw was made, you would have been given more than decent odds on the two heats being exclusively single sex but that is exactly how it turned out with the first heat being all female and the second heat all male. Now I can’t prove it, but it is my educated guess that the minute the judges saw these single sex battles was also the minute they decided to up the number of finalists from three to four.

In the first heat it was the turn of the girls to spice up the night and believe me they did exactly that with some truly mesmerising poetry as all four poets were outstanding and produced the kind of work which made me proud to have heard it. As for calling it I thought Katharine was a certainty for the final with her poem Bonnie Scotland speaking to my rebel heart in the gentlest and most passionate of ways.

As for the others I changed my mind at least half a dozen times before giving the nod to Hannah Raymond Cox for her poem The Revolution Will Be Televised. This poem shows why I rate Hannah as highly as I do as it combined wit and warmth in such a newsy style I thought I was being patronised by the BBC.

As for the boys to me only Lloyd whose poem Jump written on the theme of suicide was met with the kind of silence a poet only gets when you know the audience have really listened to every word was a safe bet for the final. As for the others Ben , Daniel, and Hamish’s were all quality poems but I struggled to call second place though I did eventually decide for Hamish, but as I said I wasn’t in the judge’s seat and it was up those who were to give there decision and as we waited expectantly for their decision we were entertained superbly as Robin performed a poem from his extensive and varied catalogue

With tension building and the excitement palpable the judges handed their findings to our host who announced that it was going to be a final four and not a final three as originally planned. After making the announcement Robin named the finalists as Katharine MacFarlane , Elise Hadgraft, Lloyd Robinson, and Daniel Piper. On the night of all nights the audience were ready for our finalists to do battle one last time to decide who would be crowned Scottish Slam Champion 2017

And so as we started what was going to be a cracking final it was Daniel Piper who was first up with a poem on rave culture which used humour to explore a potentially challenging issue.

Daniel was followed by Katharine MacFarlane whose poem on her the use of language and its power to value or devalue people really spoke to my heart. I say this not only as a trans woman but also as a former equality trainer who used to have a section on language use in every course I ever delivered. I love this poem and the fact that it was written for her daughter adds to the power of a fantastic thought provoking poem which contained many examples of wonderful imagery which is the trademark of this gifted poet.

As Katharine left the stage our penultimate poet of this year’s slam to make her case for victory and believe me Elise Hadgraft delivered her best poem of the night right on cue and the brilliantly titled I Want To Wear Your Clothes showed that this is a poet with serious talent whose use of suggestion as intimacy was in my view an absolute masterstroke in a poem which spanned a range of emotions including love, lust, and a liberal sprinkling of humour and made her a genuine contender for the title. 

So it fell to Lloyd Robinson to be the final contender in this year’s final and yet again Lloyd delivered an excellent poem on the theme of suicide which was well received by an appreciative audience who gave all competitors the respect they deserved on such an important occasion. Now having done all they could do the fate of our final four lay in the hands of the judges and finally the decision was reached. In my heart I had called it for Katharine but alas this night was not to be hers.

As Robin announced the result I held my breathe in expectation. As is the case in Strictly and other important events the verdict was given in reverse order. So at the end of great night for Scottish poetry 4th place went to Lloyd Robinson with Katharine MacFarlane in 3rd. Our runner up was Elise Hadgraft which meant our new Scottish Slam Champion was Daniel Piper and it is Daniel who will take with him the good wishes of everyone involved in the Scottish spoken word scene as he goes to Paris as our representative in the world series in May.

I make this point because if there is one thing the Scottish spoken word community is good at it is supporting each other when it really matters and trust me this matters. We want our champion to be the best in the world and I’m sure Daniel will do us proud.

As the end of the evening a number of us both audience members and performers including Anna Crow, Aiden Rivet, Hamish MacDonald, Heather Duffy, Lay La, and Molly McLachlan, and of course Daniel enjoyed a post event drink in the salubrious surroundings of the Tron Bar. As I chatted to our newly crowned champion, Daniel said he felt a wee bit guilty about winning the title since he only moved up to Scotland at the end of last year and won the very last slam before the cut off date.

On hearing this very honest opinion, I replied that he didn’t need to feel guilty about anything as the only people in the position to deliver a verdict were the judges and there decision was that his poetry suited Scotland just fine. In fact what they really decided was that on the night a Piper played to win Scotland found a champion.

Congratulations Daniel Piper Scottish Poetry Slam Champion 2017.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

An Eclectic Cultural Selection Box Was Just What I’ve Always Wanted. (My Review Of The Christmas Last Monday At Rio) 

Hey Readers

I start this my 22nd Blogmas post  with a very serious question.

When is an event which is usually held on the last Monday of the last month held before the last Monday of the month?

The answer is when the event is Last Monday at Rio. Now come on readers especially the poets amongst you I said Last Monday at Rio. The poets should now be shouting Rio as they read this. You see the reason that there is a slight change of date for December is because the man I call the maestro and genial host of this amazing night, Robin Cairns likes to take a nice wee break during the festive season so by tradition we congregate just a wee bit earlier than ususal for the December edition of the event.

On this occasion coming so close to the day itself there was a very festive atmosphere with everyone in top form for what was for many of us myself included, our last performance of the year.

Amongst the highlights on excellent evening of entertainment were fantastic contributions Alisa Williamson whose set on the joys of married life made me wish I was in my mid 20’s rather than my mid 50’s, Jim Ewing (see picture below) whose poetic review of the year went down a treat and Suzanne Egerton whose story The Christmas Tree illustrated why I have selected her to bring in the cultural bells as January’s featured writer at the New Year Words and Music

Picture (1) Jim Ewing At Christmas Edition of Last Monday At Rio


There were also outstanding sets from Jane Overton who was this month’s featured writer at Words And Music, Anna Crow, Nancy Lippold Ingram, Peter Russell, Lesley Traynor, Janet Crawford whose poems about her love for sons had me welling up emotion, Alan McGlas who had us all in stitches with his bagatelles and Monica Pitman whose set included a traditional Lithuanian Christmas song. 

To perform in such exhaulted company is indeed a great honour but I seemed to get a few giggles and some audience reaction with my performance of Christmas Lies, (Just What I’ve Always Wanted ) Having enjoyed my short spell on the stage I decided I wanted to do only  one poem to get maximum impact, I went back to my seat to take in the rest of what was a fantastic night with Karen Jones, (see picture below) and Alain English the pick of a very merry bunch open of mic slots. 

Picture (2) The brilliant Karen Jones entertains the company as Karen Cairns, Suzanne Egerton, and Alain English look on. 

As for our featured act Colin Donatti I must admit to having a very slight bias. You see, Colin was one of my earliest influences as he was one of my first writing tutors back in the early 1990’s. So I knew I would be getting a writer of quality and substance as that was exactly what we got as Colin shared his poetic thoughts and musings with a crowd who were only too willing to listen. 

And so ended this year’s Last Monday at Rio and with my performances for 2016. You know it’s strange to think that despite the event now coming up for its 10th birthday which I believe Robin said it celebrates this coming April and me having hosted an event for 11 years and performed at venues at various locations in Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond, it took me till March this year to make my debut at this event. Now however, I’ve performed a fair few times at this excellent evening and see it as an important part of my cultural landscape. One thing I love about Rio is the variety of acts and topics which make up this manic but magical Monday and from Christmas Trees to reviews of the year and Lithuanian Carol’s this electic cultural selection box really was just what I’ve always wanted  

Love And Best Wishes 

Gayle X 

In A Busy Month For Poets Filled With Festivals And Fringes I Made Fierce Friends And Partied On Wherever Words Were Spoken 

Hey  Readers 

I’m two thirds of the way through October and I’m finally ready to post my photographic journey through August. Yes I know its late, this is late even by my standards but you see though I often claim to be a lady of leisure this isn’t strictly true as  I attend so many events these days that I quite often meet myself coming back and this is why there has been such a delay in putting this post together.  Well that’s my excuse and I’m damn well sticking to it as it happens to be at least 90percent true. 
Anyway I hope your getting ready for a rollercoaster ride because believe me this is a journey well worth sharing and like all or at least most of my journies it starts and ends in Glasgow though I will concede that for this month at least most of the action took place in a city 50 miles to the East and yes I do mean Edinburgh. However, as is almost always going to be the case our story starts on a Tuesday night on the south side of Glasgow in a place that’s made for Words and Music 

Picture (1) In what is the busiest month of the year for us poets is taken at Words and Music where featured writer Victoria McNulty held court entertaining a small but select gathering

Picture (2) is of Bob Leslie who provided the music for the company on that early August evening.

Picture (3) takes me on the the first of many visits to Edinburgh. The venue is the salubrious surroundings of the Merlin Hotel for the Pick Of The Fringe night organised by Rose Ritchie. Here you can see Rose on the right with Michelle Hogg belting out a song to the highly receptive audience.

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Picture (4) This sees us at the Scottish Poetry Library where the amazing Katharine MacFarlane was a joy to behold at the Women with fierce words event.

Picture 5 Is one you could makar up as current Federation of Writers Scotland makar Elizabeth Rimmer imparts her words of wisdom to the gathering.

Picture (6)  Sees me reading my poem The Lemon Dress on the topic of transformation

Picture (7) We were fierce, female and fabulous and we were prepared to shout it from the rooftops and here’s the evidence to prove it as Katharine and I show what it’s like to be on the top of the world or at least the Poetry library with Nancy Lippold Ingram smiling in the background.

Picture (8) By this time the fierce women had left the poetry library and were enjoying each other’s company over a coffee in the local Starbucks.This picture shows from left to right  Rose, Michelle, and the otganiser of the event Lesley Traynor

Picture (9) This is possibly the best action shot I’ve taken so far as Carla Woodburn has her warrior moment as she performs a poem from her phone.

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Picture (10) Shows a poet I always look forward to seeing and not just for his poetry but I also enjoy the company of  David Lee Morgan as this is a man who always has interesting stories to share. Here I capture the man outside the place I call home at every Edinburgh fringe the Banshee Laberinyth.

In Picture (11) The girls are banging the drum for Glasgow and who better to do it than Sheboom, Glasgow’s finest all female drumming band who had been playing at the Merchant City festival earlier that morning

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In Picture (12) I’m in political mode as I attend the campaign launch of Tommy Sheppard’s bid to become Depute Leader of the SNP. This picture shows me smiling for the camera with the candidate I am proud to have supported.

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Picture (13) Shows me bargain hunting at River Island which is one of my favourite fashion Festival

Picture (14)  was taken at the indoor market at the Merchant City Festival at the indoor market and showcases some of the amazing jewellery on offer at very reasonable prices.

Picture (15) Was also taken at the indoor market and contains the best advice anyone can ever be given. If you look really closely you will see it written in pink.

Picture (16) Shows me standing at the entry to my home in my new dress from Logo and if any bloggers reading this post think you recognise the dress you would be right as I have since featured it in an outfit of the day post.

Picture (17) features James Christopher whose one man show What’s The Tory Mourning Glory? took a very witty and topical look at the fiasco surrounding Brexit.

Picture (18) reminds me that I’ll always make time to for music especially when the music is provided by one of my favourite musicians the lovely Josephine Sillars in salubrious surroundings of the Gin Bar.

Picture (19) Sees me tired but happy as I make my way down the North Bridge to get the late night bus from Edinburgh back home to a very sleepy Baillieston. Well it was sleepy by the time I finally got back to the village.

Picture (20)  Demonstrates that the more things change the more they stay the same as I make my annual visit to see my good friend Matt Panesh aka Monkey Poet entertain the audience in the Cinema Room in the Banshee Laberinyth.

Picture (21) Shows the lovely Catriona Knapman performing poems from the heart at the Merlin Hotel at part of the pick of the fringe event.

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Picture (22) sees us back at the Banshee for some early evening entertainment in the company of David Lee Morgan

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Picture (23) Shows that Every girl loves her girl cave and on a wet and windy Friday night the girlie comedy of Harriet Kelmsley seen here really was just the tonic I needed.

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Picture 24 Takes me yet again to the Banshee or as I prefer to call it my Edinburgh home as I attend a show which shows no topic is off limits as the brilliant Chella Quint talks periods in a most unusual way. Now I know you might not think that this is a topic for a comedy show but this is an educational comedy show as Chella takes us through Adventures In Mensuration.

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Picture (25) Is the sign that all performers want to see on the venue door before they start the show.

Picture (26) Shows the best poetic fitness instructor on the planet Katharine MacFarlane in her show Home Words. It was during this show I learnt of the ancient Scottish tradition of Waulking and the lovable if slightly mischievous Katharine made sure I learned of it the hard way along  with fellow fierce woman Emma Mooney, and Janet Crawford as we tried this traditional job and reached the conclusion that the women of the Highlands and Islands would never need to go the gym after such heavy manual labour.

(Picture 27) Is of yet another poet Tyrone Lewis. (Yes I know a lot of them) This was taken on a lovely Sunday when I went to the Pilgrim Bar just across the road from the Banshee (The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree) for an event which I’m sure which will keep pulling me back every year from now on. Poetry at the Boomerang Club was an excellent way to spend an hour and I even managed to perform one of my poems (Two Hours) on my first of two visits I made to this night.

Picture (28) Sees  me back at the Cinema Room at the Banshee for some late night comedy from Kane Brown 

Picture (29) Sees me back on home turf attending the launch of Verse Clique Glasgow’s newest spoken word night which is hosted by one of the most exciting new talents in years the highly likable Michelle Fisher.

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Picture (30) Shows the amazing Hollie McNish rocking the opening night at Verse Cliqueimage

Picture (31) Sees Jenny Lindsay performing Verse Clique on what was a spectacular opening bill.
and a great night for Scottish poetry

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Picture (32) Mark McGhee and his band the Giro Babies supply the music to provide a fitting finale for the first ever Verse Clique. Michelle Fisher should be very proud she put on such a fantastic night.

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Picture (33) Every year there is one show you need to see twice and this year it was Chella Quint’s Adventures In Mensuration. This picture was taken on my second visit to the show and shows me embracing the stain for every girl whose ever had a difficult period.

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Picture 34 Shows a poet at work as Jenni Pascoe inspired by the muse suddenly decides to get writing.

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Picture 35  Captures my friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett in thoughtful mood as he muses over the fringe in that part of the Banshee which will forever be his office. 

Picture 36 Shows the wonderful Tina Seiderholme during her final performance of her show Till Debt Do Us Part.

Picture (37) This picture sums up what the fringe is all about to me. The wee stage in the banqueting hall is where I have made more appreances that any other venue except for the poetry library and the majority of those appearances have been at Other Voices cabaret. This groundbreaking event gives a voice to those who are traditionally underrepresented in mainstream poetry such as members of the LGBTIQ community, disabled people, people of minority ethnic groups, and women. Superbly hosted by the brilliant Fay Roberts, this is an event I am so proud to play my part in and it is also a place  where I have taken risks and made friends I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. 

Picture (38) is for the woman I call boss and I mean that in the nicest possible way as it shows the wonderful Fay Roberts doing what she does best performing at other voices. 

Picture (39)  This picture is of a poet will never need Permission to read her thought provoking poetry and that’s why I love Hannah Chutzpah.

Picture (40) This is the face of poetry’s future and her name is Malaika Kegode 

Picture (41) is of a power packed poem who performs with passion and pride that poet is Katherine McMahon 

Picture (42) Demonstrates as if there were ever a doubt that can’t visit Edinburgh without doing the tourist bit and if ever a shop summed up Scotland it’s this one. 

Picture 43 Shows a view of Scotland’s seat of power  Edinburgh castle. 

Picture (44) Shows that though locations may change the spoken word world never stops. So with the fringe over and Edinburgh drawing drawing the curtains after three weeks of excess we move to the wild west. Well the wild west end of Glasgow where I spied a young poet with a great future in Ross MacFarlane who was first familiar of the many I saw at Last Monday at Rio 

Picture (45) Shows Robin Cairns back in his rightful place as our genial host welcomes us back to Glasgow and Last Monday at Rio much to the delight of the expectant crowd 

Picture (46)  Having got the crowd in focus I decided to get a clearer picture of the man I call the maestro commanding an audience as only he can and I think this action shot shows Robin at his best 

Picture (47) As is always the case at Rio Robin had lined up a top quality poet as his headline act for the night  and this month it was brilliant Edinburgh based poet Kevin Cadwallender who I hadn’t managed to see in the whole run of the fringe. Kevin is in my opinion a poet I always enjoy seeing as anyone who can give beauty tips to daleks is a man to be taken seriously. Well I was scared of the daleks when I was wee so anybody brave enough to tell them to clean up their act has got to be admired. 

So that was my journey through what was I’m sure you’ll agree a very busy month but it  was also a month when I made a fierce friends and partied on wherever words were spoken. It was a month in which I made friendships and memories which will warm my heart in the coldest days of winter.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X