Spotlight Review October 2009

Text by Kev McVeigh

A few months back I questioned whether a move to The Storey might revigorate Spotlight.  Now settled in its marvellous new venue, this month saw one of the strongest line-ups for some time, two excellent musicians and four of the area’s finest poets.

Compere Simon Baker did his usual sound job of maintaining the flow of the night, and found time to amuse us with a choice selection from Lakeland Magazine.  His humour also serves the vital role of allowing his audiences to re-focus between acts.

Open Mic

As usual the night began with the open mic acts, and any bill that commences with a poet of the calibre of Norman Hadley is off to a good start.  Norman read two poems, an amusing take on height differences and a well-paced description of a downhill mountain bike ride as winter became spring.  Keep an eye out for his forthcoming book.

Jenny Collyer stepped up next to read an extract from a ghost story.  It’s hard to assess the whole from a part, but there seemed to be a lot going on in this story, and I intend to check out the whole at www.jcollyer.wordpress.com soon.

Steve Spencer took yet another tack, with a piece previously read from the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.  I wonder how its clever turn from describing the view there to extolling his hometown Blackpool went down in the capital?  It and his funny rant about a stolen dongle with its comic ire and artful rhyme certainly amused the Spotlight crowd.

Finally Nigel Jay read two short extracts from his novel And No Wings which combined a Robert-Rankin-esque plot and rhetorical philosophising.

On the Bill

The first musical offering of the night launched the main bill.  Unlike some other examples of similar Spanish-influenced guitar playing, Rachid Winter seems to understand both technique and the structure of a performance.  His evocative pieces were most short, varied and offered a musical dynamic sometimes lacking.  The last number reached be-bopish dimensions whilst overall his tone matched the orange glow of the backdrop.

Over the past few months I’ve become quite an admirer of two poets on tonight’s bill.  Ron Scowcroft writes elliptical narratives rich in detail that double as sustained metaphor for the creative process.  The vocabulary and mood of ‘Returning To Ben’s Cottage at Hallow’s Eve’ are Coleridgean, and ‘Snig’ shares that  invocation of landscape and imagination.

Nor is he afraid of the simple, wryly comic, as he demonstrates with his response to Stevie Smith ‘Loft Bats.’

In a lovely touch Peter Crompton announced that he was introduced to poetry by a former teacher in the audience, none other than Ron Scowcroft.  Peter’s poetry and delivery are more contemporary, more direct than Ron’s, and he is a more flamboyant character on stage.  The observational humour of buying potentially embarrassing items in Tesco turns to mortification as the self-service scanner breaks.  His mental health poem is brilliantly realised, the internal torment portrayed equally in language and voice.

He finished with an oddity, a war poem.  It was vivid, dramatic and powerful, but felt slightly detached (as a young Lancastrian writing about Vietnam.)

After the break Kim Moore took to the stage.  In the year since her open mic debut Kim’s rise to the top has been rapid and inexorable.  Her confidence is high and she looks utterly relaxed at the mic.

Her verse has a strong and consistent female positive perspective, offering a wry glance or a face-on confrontation of relationships.  So ‘The Wolf’ is darkly erotic, ‘Fish In A Woman Suit’ humorous but challenging, ‘The Ring’ assertive but generous.  I was particularly taken by her poem about the young Shelley leaving his family.

And then there was Marvin.  Grange-over-Sands’ star poet Marvin Cheeseman is close to stand-up comedian as much as poet at times.  His verses ring with subtle truths yet contain humour in their comic juxtapositions.  From his self-deprecating update of ‘If’ onwards he offered exaggerated rhymes and a delicate balance of contrived verse and rapid flow.  ‘Tesco Breakfast’ is, on paper, just a list of items and prices, but Marvin’s attempted deadpan with interjections adding comic gloss is hilarious.

Four poets with very different styles and subject matter, making for a well balanced evening.  Interesting too that all four referenced another poet somehow, showing that poetry is a responsive, active form.

Finally Paddy Garrigan, whom I am always unsure about.  I usually end up enjoying his performances, but take time to warm to him.  Perhaps it was that opener ‘Seamonsters’ just didn’t make sense to me.  His often thoughtful words seemed too opaque on this occasion.  Nevertheless as he nimbly switched from ukulele to guitar to mandolin, he kept my attention well.  More interesting was the rousing ‘Me & The Universe Blues’ and the lovely ‘Cathedrals’.  ‘Lord Nelson’ (which brought Leon Rosselson to mind) closed the night, to considerable applause from an audience who, unusually, had stayed to the end.

So, yes, Spotlight delivered the goods tonight.

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One Response

  1. Behold the wonders of video technology

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