Like other spoken word events which I have attended recently , Bilston Voices defied the holiday season by drawing a packed house, making this what hostess Emma Purshouse declared a “blue chair” occasion, when emergency blue chairs had to be produced out of cupboards to cope with an expectant, burgeoning crowd. A local bill had attracted an audience from far and wide, the furthest of whom had travelled from the Italian Alpine village of Merano. Even the staff pull up chairs to listen to proceedings here, such is the following this evening has built up.
Upon inspecting the advertised bill I had been expecting to see Martin Jones the Shropshire Dairy Farmer who writes poetry, monologues and stories about farms, cows and cow pats. In fact first up was Martin Jones, but another one, from Wolverhampton ,who writes about lost love, unemployment, the shortcomings of Wednesfield High School and Stalingrad. Martin romped through his material which was raw, authentic and entertained. Memories of Wolverhampton had some strong lines and poignant observations. When he adds disciplined editing to the enthusiasm of his delivery, he will have a good poem on his hands.
Stuart Haycox has impressive antecedents with his previous work on the Sunbeam factory in Wolverhampton. He did not touch on that tonight, but he did cover much ground, most very impressively. Look Back in Wanting was a fond ,but not overly sentimental piece, about our preoccupation with the past, Black Girl counterpointed the ebony beauty of an Ethiopian woman with the starvation which ravages that country, whilst Lady from a Hot Land examined the culture shock of those who immigrate to this country from balmy climates to be faced with our “grey steel skies of November”. I Remember You was achingly touching to all of us who know, or who have known, a loved one smitten with cancer. Cafe Metro was a sure fire hit performed on home turf! An engaging and rewarding set which was enjoyed by all.
Roger Noon belongs to two local writing groups and quickly displayed his own versatility. From Paper to Silk and back to Wool ,looked at an all too short marriage, in contrast to his own ,now of some 41 years standing, before delivering an Ecclesiastical Trilogy which he dedicated to the influence of Simon Fletcher and a highly amusing, multi voiced Royal Wedding piece. Versatile, light, and effective, whether he is enjoying Jazz by the Levi French Trio, or gardening in autumn, Roger writes with a smile.
After the break, Marion Cockin opened with confidence and humour, reminding us that the insects of warm August will soon give way to the frosts of autumn. That sharp, but irreverent style was carried on both with the tale of a young girl who had gone to the seaside hoping to see the sea, whilst her mother had designs on a hotel waiter, and with her concerns about the irrational fear of her husband dying in inconvenient places! It was with some surprise that the audience also became aware that her excellent poem on a Cabbage White Butterfly had been cruelly overlooked for a butterfly anthology for which it had been submitted. Marion is appearing during the day at the Staffordshire Arts Festival on 17th September.
Greg Stokes, sporting an Albert Camus T shirt, closed proceedings with a reading from his new book, American Toilet Tissue and Schrodingers Pussy in which Black Country Les and Sheila Parkes tackle two arsewipe American image rights attorneys in the Big Apple. Amusing, sharp and episodic, the visitors from Italy confessed that they couldn’t understand a word of the dialect, the rest of us lapped it up!
Bilston Voices meets again on 22nd September, a one off spectacular is being held at the Imperial Banqueting Suite in Bilston on the evening of Saturday 17th September at which Jo Bell, the Anti-Poet and Heather Wastie, among others, will perform.
Gary Longden 25/8/11