Bilston Voices

Metro Cafe, Bilston

IF YOU like your poetry events in an unpretentious, friendly, welcoming environment, you should look no further than Bilston Voices.

Organiser and MC Emma Purshouse has this uncanny knack of assembling an interesting and varied bill, and then simply letting it happen. There are no vain displays of her own work, and no artificial hype. She performs nothing herself, just offering kind words of introduction and appreciation, she lets the poets do the talking and it is a very effective device.

Kurly McGeachie was an exceptionally strong opener. Hugely experienced, he performed only four poems, from memory, but did so in style. He specialises in soft light rhyming pieces, which were tender with a wonderful, innocent vulnerability.

“Smile” and “You are Beautiful” did as their titles suggest, “Words” explored the joys and torment that words can offer, whilst “Home” was his disguised gem. An opus of epic proportions it starts off as a straight forwards homage to domestic bliss before launching off into several clever and unexpected tangents. Confident, but self-effacing, Kurly’s performance was a delight.

In contrast to Kurly’s campaign medals, Maurice Arnold was making his Bilston Voices debut. His style was wry and reserved as he skipped through several quite short pieces.

“The Poetree” was written subsequent to his visit to the Much Wenlock Festival, “Tipton games” was a localised look at the forthcoming Olympics, whilst “Special Cake” humorously recounted the adverse effect that a cake with hallucinogenic properties had on his partner! Light, fun, avuncular and satisfying.

Closing the first half was Bob Hale, teacher, travel writer and poet. Bob is very good at assembling a set thematically. Previously I have seen him do a Travel Set. This time he opted for an autobiographical collection.


He combines easy, accessible language with sharp observation and a dry wit. His Games trilogy was funny, “Bangkok” amusingly accurate. His well known Bears poem about a collection of teddy bears was as popular as ever but “A Secret Place” stood out for me.

Poignant and evocative it told, of the secret place he had as a child to escape the hurly burly of an adult world. It succeeded because it conjured up the desire most of us experienced as a child of wanting a secret retreat and spoke touchingly of a childhood we all lose. We are soon to lose Bob for a year or so, first to Harrow, and then to China – what tales he will have to tell upon his return.

Prior to Simon Fletcher’s closing set, Mark Reece read from his recently completed novel “Sub-Prime” featuring Mike, a dodgy insurance salesman, in an even dodgier insurance company. Simon himself promised us a quarter of an hour of butterflies, birds and flowers – and was as good as his word.

Including selections from “The Cherry Trees of Wye”, “Some Fine Old Ways To Save Your Life” and “Butterflies of Shropshire”. His nature poems are distinctive in that he revels in exactitude of description rather than fullness of lyrical description. “Moon Daisies” was a delight, whilst “Welsh Poppies” memorably combined the flower with the politics of Welsh invasion.

“Woodcuts” was his most satisfying piece, about a beech tree carved with lovers initials and messages at the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfalls beauty spot in Wales. He created a marvellous sense of place, beauty and occasion, whilst being unable to resist using the word dendroglyph ! Assured and urbane, Simon delighted an appreciative audience.

Bilston Voices next meets on Thurs 23rd June.


Gary Longden

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1 Response to Bilston Voices

  1. Bob Hale says:

    Thanks for the kind words Gary. I enjoyed Thursday enormously. I enjoyed performing and I enjoyed the others who were on. You are absolutely right about “unpretentious, friendly and welcoming.”

    While my performances tend to cease while I am working away, my writing tends to increase as I have more time and less to fill it. Keep watching the blogs for new work.

    (And I REALLY will try to get to the next Burton event before I go.)


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