This blog started out as a guide to Barcelona and I used to really enjoy doing it. I’ve been living in Manchester for over a year and in truth it’s taken me that length of time to start considering the city as my “home”
My last entry was about a day out at FC United and the reaction it got kind of made me want to start scribbling again. It’s fair to say there are thousands of things I miss about Barcelona but I can’t help but feel that Manchester offers a relatively soft landing from Catalunya. On face of it that may appear an odd statement but the people here are fantastic, some of the pubs are among the best in the country and the town is teeming with culture an’ that.
Getting myself back on my feet, establishing some genuine friendships has me in a position where I am starting to “do stuff” so I’m going to do a wee bit of self-indulgent blogging of it.
On Saturday I had a fantastically “Manc” day. First up was watching the United game with Toni & Ed, two “top reds” in the Old Nags Head just off Deansgate. Although I hate the idea of football tourists, if you are a United fan, and you find yourself in the area you really need to give the place a visit. Some impressive photos around the wall of United legends certainly let you know that it’s mebbes not the best place to go if you’re a City fan in from Stockport for the day*.
The reason we were in town was to head along to Salford Arts Theatre to see a poetry evening. Yes a poetry evening. Those of you who know me will know that, despite having a primary school teacher, the incredible Nan McCafferty whose love of the English language was legendary, a “poetry evening” is not something where you’d really expect to see me in the audience. To give you some idea I’m convinced that the man who named the city of Nantucket only did so because he loved limericks.
I went to a show around a year ago in the European Capital Of Quinoa, Chorlton at the Irish Club. Terry Christian did his recovering Catholic show and if I am honest it was very dark and the fact he raised some issues from a school around two miles from the venue and with many ex-pupils there, that part of the show didn’t really land well with quite a number of the crowd. This was a shame because sneaked on the bill was a Salford Poet called JB Barrington. He did a 40 minute set and it’s fair to say that his contribution to the evening was better received than Terry’s darker material.
As a result of that night a few of us have kept track of him and when he said he was doing a show at the arts centre I was keen to get along.
The Salford Arts Theatre is a fantastic wee venue deep in the heart of the area that has given the world John Cooper Clarke, Mark E Smith and Freddy “Parrot Face” Davies just the perfect size for a show of this type.
The reason I say “of this type” is that on face of it a poetry event doesn’t exactly sound a great Saturday night out for those us who don’t knit yoghurt and wear natural fibres but bear with me.
The show was opened by another Manchester poet, Marvin Cheeseman, another “Top Red”. I’ll probably make this point again but while this is a poetry show both poets have a wit and charm that many comedians who were doing stand up that same night would give a major organ to possess. He kept his set very light and with poetry subjects ranging from Roy Keane to William Shatner with an interesting observation about the undergarments of Norman Whiteside thrown in for good measure. Another poet I will definitely keep an eye on, his delivery was dry and perfectly pitched for the crowd.
The curtains pulled back and revealed the set for the evening, looking disturbingly like the front rooms I remembered from my childhood, evidence of the prodigious LSD use of wallpaper and carpet designers in the 60s and 70s .
This is when the show got under way. JB’s poetry draws heavily from his Salford, working class upbringing with sights and sounds that will both comfort and jar those of us of a certain age. Life in the 70s in Salford wasn’t that different from that in Lennoxtown of the same era. The night started with mebbes four or five poems from the “lighter” side of his output. “Things Me Mam Used To Say” and “The Blistering Sun” moved the audience into their happy place. Then the mood changed, the political aspect of his poetry was revealed, my highlight being a recent work called “Don’t Look Down”, a poem about how we live in a society where we are blaming the poor for the country’s problems..
Aye, it’s been those bastards all along.
The middle part of the show was truly moving, poems of love and loss, with the “First Of The Ninth”, a poem about the life and passing of a friend bringing a hush to the room. Set against a background of a string accompaniment, a 10-year-old from the local theatre group, dressed identically and they both performed this beautiful piece. I know I wasn’t the only one with “summat in their eye” at the end.
The stage then cleared with JB coming back on with a perfectly judged cock gag inspired by his Mrs (not his real Mrs but they’re affiliated). The show then finished with a string of the more upbeat stuff finishing on the spectacularly well observed “I’ve never seen a Chinese copper”
The point of this blog was to get back in the habit in writing and to get down the memory of a brilliant show. As I mentioned earlier, JB is described as a performance poet but the poetry is only part of the show. The between poetry patter with the audience and his general chat is better than you’ll hear in a good many comedy clubs, so if he’s on near you, especially this festival season do yourself a favour and get along.
I saw him by accident, you don’t need to do the same.
Fucking poetry, what HAVE I become?
*That is TOP RED bantz, as all City fans live in Stockport and up in the hills