Spoken Worlds, Old Cottage Tavern, Burton upon Trent

Mal Dewhirst in sartorial splendour, standing in for Gary Carr


Spoken Worlds is normally the domain of Gary Carr as master of ceremonies, but this month Gary was indisposed , leaving Mal Dewhirst of Polesworth Poets to step into the breach to keep the wheels turning, and a fine job he made of it too, ably abetted and supported by Gary’s daughter Kirsty, and his wife.

The Old Cottage Tavern is a bit of a rarity these days, a back street boozer, surrounded in part by old terraces, and in part bland modern replacements. Emphatically a drinkers pub, none of that “Gastric” pub nonsense would work in the back streets of Burton. Instead a good pint, at a fair price, overseen by a landlady who greets you with a hello on the way in, and a goodbye on the way out, and who doesn’t miss a thing.

There is an ongoing debate about what being British is. Perhaps it is to be found here? Where disparate souls meet in a first floor room, having climbed steep stairs, and a carpet that looks as though it has seen a fair few Prime Ministers. Where you sort your own chairs and tables, and no-one bothers you, and you bother no-one. And you entertain yourselves, sharing a love of words, and people. It’s a bit like a large lounge bar chat, except that some of the chat lasts for up to three minutes and is often in verse.

Ray and Terri Jolland will entertain you with a humorous sketch that they just happen to have brought along – with props. Andy Biddulph will rail against the Government, well any Government actually. Steph Knipe will tell you what it’s like to go back to Lisburn, and remember what it was like to fall in and out of love as a teenager again, whilst Mal Dewhirst will give a teenage boy’s perspective. Margaret Torr might observe that 30 years on in a relationship, things are not quite the same, Janet Jenkins might reflect on the game of love, and Jan Arnold might just be lost in transit. There were no menus lying around upstairs, and if there were, they would surely offer fan of melon, salmon with new potatoes in martini crème sauce, followed by baked Alaska – Steph would make sure they did.

When the chat has been going on for a bit, Rob Stevens will pull out his guitar and sing a song in a key at odds with his robust frame – perfectly, before Richard Young takes to the stage. The words sound familiar, and they rhyme, but you can’t quite place them, until it sinks in, and everyone smiles and almost all quietly accompany him as he recites Ernie – the Fastest Milkman in the West ,and his fearsome duel with ten ton Ted from Teddington.

Spoken Worlds next meets on 25/11 with, unusually, a special headline act – Ash Dickinson. Ash Dickinson is a writer, poet and comedy performer. He is also a multiple slam champion- including Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Solihull, the Museum of Scotland and the BBC Radio 4 Midlands Slam in 2009. In the previous BBC National Slam in 2007 he progressed through the Scottish heats, eventually finishing among the top 8 in the UK and was runner-up in the 2011 UK All Stars Slam.

In the summer of 2011 Ash embarked on a six-date feature tour of Canada, a country where he also performed shows in 2006 (including the Winnipeg Fringe Festival). He has also performed in Australia (including a regular run at a comedy club in Adelaide), the United States, and New Zealand. Having hosted his own weekly poetry night in Wellington he was invited to perform at the 2002 New Zealand Festival.

Ash had a four-star rated one man show at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the following year formed part of Scotland’s renowned Big Word during its run there. He has appeared at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Glasgow Comedy Festival, the Bristol Poetry Festival, The Larmer Tree, The Wickerman, the Stratford Poetry Festival and The Camden Crawl among many other events. He has headlined and featured at shows throughout the UK including Express Excess, The Poetry Shack, Brixtongue, Bang Said The Gun (all London), Wicked Words (Leeds), Sundown (Southend), Forked (Plymouth), Write Angle (Petersfield), The Stand Comedy Club (Edinburgh) and many others.

Widely published in newspapers, magazines and poetry presses,he has compered busy cabarets and music nights, performed at private functions and supported bands. He is heavily in demand to run poetry workshops. His media appearances include BBC Radio, The Times, The Scotsman, Metro and Sweet TV.

Gary Longden 14/10/11

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