There is a joy to touring that is impossible to express in its entirety. It is, as I have already said the elevation of the mundane, the familiar world seen through an unfamiliar lens.
There was a moment, last night (18th) where I had a clean 2 hours before Lit Up. I was booked into a hotel in Manchester city centre. I meandered through the Christmas Market. Now, a friend of me described it as buying stuff you didn’t want during the year. I echoed him in a way saying that it’s full of niche things. I told him about a wooden collapsible fruit bowl I’d bought a few years ago. I was just trying to sound cool. I love the market, wherever it ends up, there’s not a huge difference between the one in Birmingham from Belfast or Manchester, but that’s not what I’m looking for, it’s that rosy cheeked kind of cosy smaltz that I love sometimes.
So I walked through it, it’s more spread out because of Covid, I prefer it that way. Walking around I felt an affinity for city living. There’s a sense in me these days that there’s a crossroads coming up in the headlights but then we always believe we are living in interesting times. There’s a sense here that Manchester is my spiritual home, a place I still come back to. Looking out from my 7th floor window over central Manchester it hit me: how come I’ve never seen the city from this angle, this perspective?
Working backwards, just cause, Lit Up last night was brilliant. Thanks to Conor at Community Arts Partnership, Nick Lovell and Cat Brogan headliners and of course our amazing open mic. This blend always makes for a good show. We encourage everyone to perform a mix of their own poems and poetry covers. Cat performed poems ranging from the Tyrone colloquial to poetry about women as mountains, of kids like frogs, a smattering of Yeats and her own experiences with learning Irish. It was a superb set.
Nick Lovell also performed an eclectic set, his own poems, life as a dog track race, refugees, and a blasting of Nigel Farage with a huge nod to John Cooper Clarke’s Twat. His selection of poems was also inspired, everything from Macavity the Mystery Cat, to a series of Adrian Mitchell’s anti war poetry, including, of course, Mitchell’s Tell Me Lies About Vietnam
Open mic was brilliant Gerald Kells, Rhoda Thomas, Mike Baynham, Jeff Cottrill, Raquel McKee, Paul Butterfield Jr, Sarah L Dixon, Lorna Meehan, Nathalie Sallegren, Clive Oesman, Lantern Carrier and Geraldine Reid. As you can see from that roll call the gig was a treat. Thanks to all.
Finally, Conor’s skill in writing a wrap up poem at the end of each event, relating, in poetry the themes, subjects and purple passages of all the poems of the evening. Always a highlight and a fine way to finish. Next one December 16th.
Wednesday’s Beatification was a warm hearted return to the stage at Fuel Bar Cafe where I will be reading Fix on Mon. It was packed and once again it was a joy to see in the flesh, various poets I’d only been interacting with in small digital boxes. The format is great, it’s pretty much open mic but John G Hall extends a 10 min slot for all performers so you really get to stretch your poetry legs. Turns from Gerry Potter bashing Thatcher and Morrissey, Ben Willems was a revelation, I’ve heard him many times and he’s always been good but on Wed he was really on it. Anna Percy read from her new book, Steven Waling again brought his surreal skein at everyday life observations, John himself was unashamedly political as per. Other readers such as Helen Clare and some new faces I really enjoyed. I had to split slightly before the end to get home but left with a headful of inspiring words, tender hearted moments and a little moxie.
Monday’s Sale Write Out Loud was a lovely intimate affair. Everyone got to read plenty of work so I performed 3 sections of my new show, the first time I’d read any of it in public. I loved the vibe that night with great readers including Joliva, Dominic Walsh and Tony Sheppard and others. The host Sarah Pritchard is a fine performer and also very knowledgeable so it was no great surprise to find out she was an English teacher. Keep an eye out for the long running event (I headlined there in 2010), I have a lot of fond memories of the place and event, whether it was run by Steve O’Connor, Rod Tame or Sarah. Good times.
Tonight is Manky Poets Headliner Steven Waling Chorlton Library 7.30pm start. I’m open mic-ing it. I’ll write that up in good time.
For now though, it’s time to appreciate where I am. Manchester is a fine city. Head there some time. It can open your mind and do your heart good.