The Shifnal Festival is a vibrant affair in a village seeking to make its mark, and succeeding. Ken Dodd opened the twelve day run of paid for and free events. Ian McMillan was appearing on the Wednesday, but on Tuesday a healthy crowd turned out at the Oddfellows Public House for a combination of headline performance from Simon Lee, Emma Purshouse and Mark Niel – our Three Poets (who) Walk into a Pub.
Mark is a stalwart of the Performance Poetry and Slam scene, I first saw him perform a couple of years ago when he won the Muck Wenlock Slam, and tonight he was on his usual effervescent , ebullient form, opening up with his signature My Name is Niel through the Lozell’s Prayer and beyond. Few would imagine that having your name misspelled in a bank could result in an assault charge – but for Mark, it might!
Black Country girl Emma Purshouse was on home turf and breezed through her set of humorous observational and character based verse. Whether it be the wisecracking quips from builders to passing by women, the perils of choosing the wrong Welsh town to have an automobile accident in, or neighbours with twitching curtains, Emma has a story to tell about it. Wry and always warm.
Solicitor Simon Lee opened both the evening and the headline slots. His skill lies not in the verbose and grandiose, but in concise pithy comment on the world around him. Whether it be Robert Preston’s skills as an economics commentator, Patrick Moore’s skills as an astronomer or Richard Whitely’s skills as a Countdown presenter, Simon has a poem for them, and very well they went down too.
Local poets were strongly in evidence too, none more so than festival organiser and Marc Bolan expert Tony Stringfellow who entertained with Politician (not Cream’s version!). Lyn Curtis lyrically wrote of Cardigan Bay, Steve Harrison predicted a riot with Words and Jack Edwards stole his mentor’s opening line, before launching into In the Pub. My favourite open mic performance of the night came from Jane James whose poem Snoring combined the touching and comic in just the right measure.
With a strong bill of mainstream events it was a delight to see the success of what amounted to a Fringe event drawing in the travelling poetic hard core ,local poetry aficionados, and a fair few people having a pint who wanted to see what all this poetry lark was about. They, like everyone, enjoyed themselves.