This is an event which Behind the Arras has been meaning to get to for some time. Finally happenstance fell sweetly , and I caught up with the September instalment of this monthly event. The Britannia Hotel itself is a middle ranking city centre establishment which clearly pedals hard to prosper in these difficult economic times. Busy with a range of functions happening I was surprised to be offered a curry with the pint I had bought at the bar – value for money is clearly something the Britannia believes in on a Wednesday night. The venue itself was a downstairs conference room although the exact room varies according to availability, but the direction boards form the foyer were clear enough.
Master of ceremonies is poet, author, artist and sculptor Tony Stringfellow whose easy manner and credibility eased the evening along gently, but purposefully. As well as overseeing proceedings, he both read a few of his own poems and read a selection of poems entered into an NSPCC sponsored competition organised by Stuart Favell. For the latter, the audience were asked to rank a collection of nine submissions in a vox pop.
Inevitably, the standard set by Tony was formidable. Past-ex amusingly told of a past love, Princess movingly juxtaposed the pride that all of us fathers feel for our daughters with the hard times that can befall some. But it was To the Moon which really caught my ear. The recent fortieth anniversary of the first moon landings has prompted many reflections from wizened fifty somethings recalling the youthful wonderment of Man’s greatest technological achievement. Moondust ,by Andrew Smith, definitively caught the zeitgeist of the era with his interviews of all those who had set foot on the moon before old age claimed them. Tony’s perspective was somewhat more cynical as he contrasted the naive optimism of the time with some of the illusions of the contemporary sense of achievement . His line that Woodstock was “high on hypocricy,” the embodiment of the moral confusion which ebbed and flowed between the sixties and seventies.
The assembled poets took apart in an egalitarian round robin of readings enabling a good few to be aired. Jack Edwards impressed with On the Night Gary Hit the Town (not about me!), Scribbles and Sonnet, Martin Jones’ memorable contributions were as definitively idiosyncratic as ever, and Stuart Favell amused with a series of poetic shorts.
A good quality microphone ensured that all were easily heard in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere at a readily accessible City Centre venue, the 10pm finish offering those who needed to use public transport a chance to do so too. A fine night, led by a distinguished literary figure, Poetry Train next plays on 26/10, but Tony is leading another one off open mic night at the Cock Inn, Holyhead Road ,Wellington, at 8pm on 17th October.