Summer sees a slew of festivals encompassing all manner of artistic endeavour of which poetry is playing an increasing part. The Lydney festival is a sprawling affair taking in all of June and the first two weeks of July with events ranging from banshee busking, through jazz concerts, to a Last Night at the Proms event. Part of the Festival’s tradition is becoming a team poetry slam at which Lydney takes on a visiting team of poetic troubadours ,who this year came in the form of Team Rainbow. Amy Rainbow is a festival favourite and protégé of John Cooper Clarke, her team included Worcestershire Poet Laureate Maggie Doyle, one half of the Very Grimm bros , Adrian Mealing, and myself.
When I first took the call from Amy inviting me onto her team I agreed to participate without having any idea of where Lydney was, adding to the sense of adventure. On the day , travelling down, that sense of adventure assumed Biblical proportions as a fire delayed our motorway journey, roads became flooded with the incessant downpour ,and the pub was not doing food, equating to famine. All that was missing was the pestilence!
The venue, the Annexe pub, is ideal for performance with a modern, well equipped function room and stage, comfortable surroundings, and welcoming staff. Brenda Read-Brown hosted, with Andrea on adding up, and did a fine job entertaining and cajoling an appreciative good sized crowd. The format was two rounds of the two teams of four offering their finest three minute poetic musings with the highest aggregate score being declared the winner. The performers have the advantage of their own three minutes not being make or break, but that is counter-balanced by professional pride meaning that no-one wanted to let the side down with a bad performance.
The Lydney team benefitted from the redoubtable services of Fergus McGonigal, whose rant against the worst excesses of Eighties popular music was particularly well received, a counterpoint to team member Peter Wyton’s homage to the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones first ever gig. Carole Ruding splits her time between Lydney and New Zealand and her wistful poem about wanting to experience the joys of childhood again was both poignant and very well delivered. Special mention should also be made of final team member Roger Dury who performed as a late replacement with some great poems and a nice hat.
Amy led her team with assurance and aplomb dressed in a pink tutu, the latter of which did nothing to soften the venom in her notorious I Don’t put down of a man’s marriage proposal, which as always, was greeted with sisterly bonhomie from the women in the audience, and horror by the men! Adrian Mealing seduced the crowd with his smooth urbane manner before prodding their social conscience with his fine protest poem about the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 demonstration, whilst Maggie Doyle teased and entertained with her tales of the exploits of The Merry Widow.
A close run contest saw visitors Team Rainbow just edge victory past the home team in a contest conducted in the finest traditions of poetic goodwill, in front of a generous and appreciative audience. Prizes of copies of the Kama Sutra were gratefully received as was the kind hospitality of the organisers in inviting performers for a late night supper of pizza and wine.
More information about the Lydney Festival is available here: http://www.lydney-online.co.uk/events/lydney-festival/