Hey everyone After the insanity of the fringe one may have been forgiven for thinking that it could have been a quiet & sober Sammy’s as the crowd gathered for the traditional first Monday at Words & Music. However despite the fact that we are now in to the season of mists & mellow fruitfulness when we come together at the poetry family home, we remember that Sammy’s & sanity don’t mix & our evenings are all the better for it.
As is usually the case, the evening got off to a quiet but reflective start. The first up to stage was a writer from the East End by the name of Stephen Eric Smyth who hasn’t been along for a while & performed a variety of poems of different styles. After Stephen it was the turn of one of our regular supporters whose poetry is always both thought provoking & a joy to listen to. A poet of immense quality & stature, we are very fortunate to have A C Clarke grace our stage.
After such a sensible start we wondered when the place would descend into Its usual madness. We didn’t have to wait too long as our next performer in his sensible moments can put the L into liberal & the D into democrat. I have to say however I prefer it when he puts it the L into lunatic & the D into demented. I refer to the wonderful talent that is Chris Young.
On taking the stage he told the assembled company that he was going to do something he had ever done once. This led to some very dubious questioning, most noticeably from Robin Cairns & Pamela Duncan. I thought Pamela was brilliant when she asked if Chris was going to be a politician. Honestly I’ve heard of being heckled at the end of your set but getting heckled before it now that is rough. However, it was good natured banter, & Chris made the most of it as he introduced us to Johnny Suave a character who played the ukalale & viewed of the world through a 1920’s window. It may have been a departure from his usual style of performance but it was as it always is entertaining & enjoyable in equal measure. Also I can report unlike Eilidh McAskill, Chris will not be undertaking a daily ukalale ceilidh any time soon.
With the natural order things restored it was time for a new voice to be heard & Peter Mohan to make his debut. He read a character monologue in which the characters extols the virtues of Glasgow in stark contrast to the rest of Scotland. He even gave a Glasweigan version of the ten commandments which was littered with a combination of humour & sadness. It was performance filled with so much grit I felt like I needed a wash after it, but it came from someone I’m sure I’ll be hearing a lot more of in the months & years to come.
As Peter made his way back to his seat It was Linda Grant’s turn to
shine,& she entertained us with a quality set the highlight of which was a brilliant poem about her youngest son Alan called if only you could be like him. In the poem Linda contrasts Alan to her elder son Mark painting Alan very much as the golden boy until the twist at the end when she discovers the two boys are perhaps more alike than she thought.
Next up was Susan Milligan & the highlight of her set was a thought provoking piece on dyspraxsia. She was followed to the stage by the man I call the maestro & whose question Would You Let Your Daughter Marry A Weegie? would lead to many Arguments & Nosebleeds, & It was great to welcome back Robin Cairns who entertained us with two brilliant poems of comedy poetry. In the first of this short set, Robin pays his homage to what he calls Scotland’s national ned fest otherwise known as T -In -The -Park which he followed up with Rona McPhee From The Isle Of Tiree Talks Dirty In The Gaelic. These two poems are examples of comic genius at its brilliant best, they are also two of many reasons why I invited Robin to our featured writer next month. I am delighted that Robin has accepted the invitation & will be our headline act for the October edition of Words & Music which will take place during Glasgow Poetry Week in which Jim King will be featured musician. So if I say so myself that’s a night not to be missed. Meanwhile It was Jim Monaghan who finished the first half of the evening by delivering an excellent poem on the demise of Scottish football & asking the most important question to be answered in 2014. This is not whether or not we vote to be an Independent country but whether we will qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil. With almost perfect timing that brought us to the half time whistle & a well deserved bar break.
As we started the second half I called Andy Fleming to the stage for our featured writer slot. The next 20 minutes resulted in chaos comedy & brilliance as Andy turned on the magic as only he can. This included a game of Andy lottery, as for some of his set Andy encourages some audience participation by getting the crowd to shout out a number between 1& 101 which he will then read or play depending on what the selection demands. After a varied mix of poems & music, Andy concluded his set by performing a song not written him but by another legend of Words & Music the late great Crispin Allen who wrote the brilliant Footprints On The Dashboard Upside Down. This was a fitting way to conclude an excellent set & certainly brought back memories of Sammy’s past for those of us who have been attending HQ since back in the day. Well the 1990’s, & there were more than a few of us in the room last night.
As regulars will know the featured writers set is usually followed by the featured musician, unfortunately despite many attempts I was unable to secure a featured musician& as Pamela says it isn’t always easy securing the services of a featured acts. However Francis Lopez from San Fran & The Sisco’s who had come along to the event for the first time with his friend & mine Jim Monaghan agreed to perform a song or two for the company.
Before Francis took to the stage I reserved the compare’s right & read a poem to celebrate the life of a good friend of Words & Music Kenny Caird who died in July after losing his battle against cancer. The poem entitled Man of Dignity was received with total silence. This I think demonstrates the respect Kenny was held in by those knew both him & his music. It was dedicated to his wife Trish & daughter Roisin.
After my tribute to Kenny, it was time for Francis Lopez to provide the company with the music. Francis had originally agreed to perform one or two but actually give us three songs two of which big girl now & some people were written by Francis. However it is was the first song of his set for which the wrote only the chorus which completely blew my mind & provided what I believe to have been one of the highlights of the evening. It was a quite stunning musical arrangement of Jim Monaghan’s classic poem United. Colours Of Cumnock. This was one of those moments when you simply had to be there to savour a memory which will cherished by those lucky enough to have witnessed it. After his set Pamela handed Francis the envelope with expenses for the featured musician. Francis then came over to me & handing me the envelope said I think this was meant for someone else. After a few minutes I went over & explained to Francis that had I handed him the envelope & he wanted to hand it back there would not have been a problem. However if Pamela believes your worthy of the money then make no mistake you are worthy of the money.
With the featured acts over it was time to crack on with the rest of the night’s entertainment & what better way to do it than invite our current Words & Music Champion Steve Allan to the stage & his poem size matters did what Steve’s poems so often do namely lead the reader in one direction before taking them to another one where didn’t expect to go.
After Steve it was the turn of Paddy Hannrahan to engage the audience with one of his stories. Now Paddy is a nice man & one of life’s genuine characters,but he can go on a bit if left unchecked. This was a sin of which he was often guilty in his early days at Sammy’s but after being given a firm but friendly talking to by a certain compare I wonder who she might be he has I’m glad to say he has curtailed this particular activity & people enjoy his stories a lot more because of it.
Next up to the stage was a poet whose set covered a diverse range of topics from geography to culture from language to politics. You know its my opinion that Words & Music is always a better place when Jim Ewing delivers an intelligent thought provoking set. Though I do have to say that making your audience think later in the evening is not recommended for everyone & on no account should you try this at home.
Just as Jim made us think about what we shouldn’t try at home, Jane Overton reminded us or was it just me of what we used to be scared to watch at home. I mean surely I couldn’t have been the only one who Jane spooky short story about shadows taking over the lives of humans reminded me of a childhood spent in front of the telly watching don’t watch alone. It was scary stuff but hey I liked it.
As for next performer he is someone who could comfortably occupy both a pre or post watershed slot depending on the content of his performance. Though no matter what he does I’ll always be a fan of Alex Frew. Well the man is different class & not adverse to a wee bit of audience participation as he proved with his final poem of the set the brilliant Excelsior. This is an excellent performance piece, one of many in the catalogue of this accomplished performer.
After Alex is was time for the return to stage one of the true stalwarts of Words & Music Pete Faulkner who read us a chapter from his novel about the trials & tribulations of a young idealistic teacher. It is at this point I should point out that in his day job Pete is a teacher. I say this only because of the fact that when he can’t take his regular place amongst us he always phones me or sends me a note. I wonder if his pupils to do the same when they can’t or don’t make it to class.
After Pete ended his lesson in humour it was turn of the penultimate performer of a varied & eventful evening Sean McBride to illustrate he has more than one string to his bow by belting out a couple of songs which he has recently written on the subject of love. I have to say that I really enjoyed them & it was a departure from tradition for a man whose comic wit is razor sharp & is one of the finest anti war poets I have ever heard.
As Sean finished his set it was time for me to deliver my set & being the night to a close. In a change to my usual pattern I decided to select a theme based set which I had performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. The theme I selected was relationships I read three poems on the various stages of relationships all with a distinctive comic slant. Leave It To Fate deals with the issue of searching for The One & the problems of having so many varied choices in how to go about it. House Rules looked at my perfectly reasonable list of demands for any potential boyfriend before I would agree to move in with him & Over & Done examines a number of potential ways to dump someone.
I mean that’s never an easy thing to do but hey sometimes you just have to move on.
At the end of the set all that remained was to thank everyone who had attended & made it such a wonderful evening of enjoyable entertainment. The attendance of 24 was the highest of the year so far & if I say so myself after the chaos of the fringe it was good to be back at the home of Words & Music. Like any home we do have house rules, well we’ve got one rule & its a simple one which is come when you can, enjoy yourself & expect the unexpected.
Love & Best Wishes