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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Bilston Voices: January, 2011

Better late than never.
My review of this month's Bilston Voices has been delayed by real life. Actually the bit of real life in question started on Thursday afternoon when I finally taught my last class at South Birmingham College but  it was the bit on Friday, my leaving party, that prevented my normal prompt review from appearing.
Anyway, enough of real life, what about the monthly entertainment that is Bilston Voices?

It started this month with Jackie Evans who gave us quartet of poems and then one of her prose pieces. The short poems - about the moon, butterflies, valentines day and blackberries - were very nicely done and very traditional but, for me, what I like to hear from Jackie are her very warm and human tales of her life. She is in the process of writing an autobiography and her memories of incidents from her life in her wheelchair are warm, humorous and an absolute delight to hear. On Thursday her tale was of two brief brushes with the law when she was younger and were as charming as ever. I rather hope that one day she completes and publishes her autobiography as I, for one, will be at the front of the queue to buy it. I suspect that everyone who has ever heard her read will be there with me.

Jackie was followed by Ron Davies who, in previous performances, has usually given us very Black Country oriented writing but on Thursday gave us a very funny tale of two people visiting a particularly seedy guest house in Weston-super-Mare. I chuckled all the way through it and laughed out loud a a couple of the funniest parts. It was a portmanteau view of some of the worst places that most of us will have, at one time or another, have stayed in.

Jane Seabourne was next. Her poems are diverse and thoughtful and covered topics as far apart as why we throw coins into fountains (or indeed, as the poem suggested, into just about any bit of available water), the story of King Canute, how fossils are formed and, as with Jackie, butterflies. Her quiet, relaxed style perfectly suits her poetry and, as I've remarked before, the venue - Cafe Metro - perfectly suits the style with its comfortable surroundings and attentive audience.

After the break we had a slightly more lively and animated performance from Naomi Paul who was the only performer of the evening that I hadn't seen before. Her poems, and her one song, were also diverse in tone and content but were great fun. Perhaps, though, fun is  the wrong word, given that the content of some of the poems wasn't exactly cheerful. I was particularly taken with her poem about libraries which included the great line "a novel a day keeps the fascists away". She finished with a tale of a trip across the USA on a hippy bus. It was a great performance from someone I hope to see perform again.

We finished with Dave Reeves who mixes poetry and music in the most entertaining way. Some he recites unaccompanied, in other cases he uses a harmonica to punctuate the verses or an accordion to provide a pleasing backdrop like a frame for a great painting. So he gave us the story of Good King Wenceslas, retold from the peasant's point of view, a rant about living in a home with thin walls. His final piece, this time with the accordion, was a marvellous piece about going home in the rain on a cold day in 1953. It reminded me greatly of Ivor Cutler or, perhaps, Viv Stanshall. I was pleased to find that he felt this to be a compliment because that's certainly what I intended it as.

If I get my hoped-for job overseas, I am starting to run out of visits to this monthly event but when that happens I shall certainly miss it. Since it started it has given me one night every month when I am guaranteed some great entertainment and after I am gone it will go on giving entertainment to others.
I will miss it.

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