Bilston Voices has always had a reputation for strong poetry, an appreciative audience and skilful compering. And so it proved in June with a typically eclectic selection of poets on a warm summer evening orchestrated by the ebullient Emma Pursouse.
Eileen Ward- Birch is a totemic figure for this event, local, authentic, and with a wry sense of humour. She opened with a nod to the Black Country’s favourite, and recently passed, poet, Geoff Stevens before covering Music, Twiggy, the Cut and a whimsy of when the Black Country Was Green, before closing with a duet with Emma Purshouse, “The Mortal Man”. Eileen’s poetry is often elegiac, but rarely sentimental, unfussy and with the ring of truth.
Closing the first half was Andy Connor, who delivered an almost entirely rehearsed set , a feat which is always impressive. His octet was political and polemic, centered around his experiences as a teacher, but rallying around the interests of minorities, whether because of sexuality or ethnicity. It is good to hear a poet with something to say. Paradoxically, some of his views on education were more conservative than the Conservative Michael Gove, whom he was railing against. The most seemingly radical in the teaching profession frequently being the most resistant to change. But few could deny that “Aint it Funny and The croos cucumber were well written and powerful.
Ann Clarson cut a neat figure after the break, and that neatness was reflected in her poetry, the summer was dealt with nostalgically, before she took on Renoir and Jacob Epstein. She was the perfect introduction to the energetic and ebullient Roy Macfarlane. Roy is a poet with a rare gift. He tackles issues of the day but with a light Everyman touch. A scar on his partners body is transformed into a thing of beauty, “I Found Love in Central Library” should single handedly reverse the decline in Library attendance and tights take on a new lease of life under Roy’s lascivious and erotic eye. If the latter was light, it was neatly balanced by “I Wanna Know Your Name”, a crie de Coeur from a child with an unknown father.
Bilston Voices meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at the Metro Cafe, Bilston.
And finally, I was invited to open proceedings myself in June. Eileen Ward Birch comments:
A familiar voice and face on the spoken word circuit, Gary Longden bounced into the first slot of the evening with vim and vigour. He started by embarking upon a humorous poem about how women choose their clothing for an outing, going through their wardrobe piece by piece, and the reaction of the men. After this, he made in depth observations on the subjects of change and the names we give to coins, the Olympics both anticipated and in reality, and The Final fall, a tribute to Mick McManus the wrestler.
After a love poem called Step by step, we had a trio of short pieces before Gary explored his interest in musical subjects with RPM, an amusing trip through the music of his youth, pop stars don’t die like they used to and thoughts on Cheryl Cole. The best, however, was at the end when we chuckled at the dilemma of a man who has a coin stuck in the condom machine of a gents toilet, was this observation, experience, or imagination?