This was the final time that Bilston Voices was to gather at the Metro Café. It was an evening of valediction and celebration. By chance, not only did it represent the swansong for the event, it also coincided with the end of the tenure of co-sponsor Simon Fletcher as Literature Development Officer for Wolverhampton Libraries. Simon came to close the evening, mingle with friends, and reflect on over a decade of helping advance writing, and writers, in the area.Unsurprisingly, the café was full with regulars andl occasional visitors making a special effort to be there for a final time. Host Emma Purshouse who has organised, promoted, and presented proceedings since inception, handled the occasion with the minimum of fuss offering a typically diverse and strong final bill.
Jack Edwards started off some years ago as a promising, but inexperienced, talent, and is now a seasoned performer and event organiser in his own right .His effervescent writing and sparkling personality made him an ideal choice to open. He did not disappoint with his accessible , insightful poems.Outrageous Metaphors was clever, School Days a welcome old favourite.
Offa’s Press stalwart Jane Seabourne is a consummate performer, understated, assured and with an unerring knack to pick her poems for the audience and moment. Her Welsh heritage is never far away and her evocation of large families in modest terraces was warm, faithful and touching in “Feathers”. Her gardening sonnet was inspired,Lead a Fabulous Life was a stirring rallying call.
Jane often performs together with Nick Pearson, another Offa’s Press favourite who this time followed her with an engaging five part travelogue which started in the Black Country, and ended in San Fransisco via Kinver
After the break, Peter Hill offered a change of pace with a prose piece entitled “Brothers”, about Black Country boys Enoch and Eli which was wry, laconic and authentic, before Simon Fletcher, who had helped create the event originally, rose to close it. He touchingly acknowledged all those who had thanked him for his help in the past before reading a set of familiar favourites tinged with humility and pathos.
The demise of any regular poetry event is sad. Bilston Voices impressed for its longevity over a number of years, its role as a catalyst for local writing talent, its remarkable attendances when no open mic was available to lure the casuals, and its unfailing delivery of diverse and talented voices .Yet it finished on a high, not a victim of indifference , falling standards or failing talent, but of the economics of opening the doors in the evening. Locally, Simon Fletcher is moving City Voices to the Lych Gate Tavern, Queen Square, Wolverhampton, 8pm. Tickets £2.50/ £1 (under 16s) on the door, second Tuesday of the month. Tony Stringfellow runs Poetry Train at the same venue on the last Wednesday.
For those who have enjoyed Bilston Voices over the years, the links at the end of this piece are to reviews of some past evenings, fondly remembered.
“We’ve shared a moment
And as the moment ends
I got a funny feelin’
We’re parting now as friends”
And now the curtain falls.