Ian McMillan Orchestra Sharp Stories

18th October 2009

Reviewed by Colin Bertram

Not being a huge poetry fan I must admit to not knowing much about Ian McMillan and so it was as a music fan that I went along to the Dukes last night. I had been told that his orchestra included a hurdy-gurdy player but sadly she was missing from the line-up. But this hardly mattered as the remaining members of the band were all excellent musicians.

The leader of the orchestra is accordion and guitar player Luke Carver Goss who takes Ian’s words and sets them to music. Along with Nathan Thomson on double bass, Oliver Wilson-Dickson on violin and Dylan Fowler on guitar and mandocello they play everything from hillbilly hoedown music to dance tunes from Eastern Europe with all but Nathan adding vocals to Ian’s part talking part singing of his words.

Despite Ian being from Barnsley there were plenty of Lancashire references and even a story he had supposedly seen in the Lancaster Guardian about someone dying after having had a sea shanty sung at them. While most of the evening was guaranteed to put a smile on your face there were serious songs such as “Dot’s Leg” written about a resident in the old folk’s home his mum ended up in and another inspired by pushing his grandson on a swing watching planes fly overhead.

I realised what an established member of the poetry community Ian is when he read a poem he had been asked to write by the BBC about Ronnie Barker titled “It’s Goodnight From Him”. This included a memorable line about lighting four candles, a reference to the classic Two Ronnies shop sketch. He also composed a poem on the spot after asking for suggestions from the audience. One person shouted out Royal Mail which Ian cleverly changed to Royal Male. He then proceeded to delight the audience with a story of Prince Charles coming to Lancaster at Halloween and fighting a beast called the Garstang Gobbler which supposedly lurks by the River Lune.

Add topics such as a Russian heatwave, a quarryman’s hardhat and a list of nicknames of workers at a Sheffield factory and it all added up to a hugely entertaining evening.

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