This month gave us a very different City Voices as a combination of intention and circumstance threw the normal format out and replaced it with no fewer than nine performers, five of whom didn't appear on the printed program.
The first half was taken up completely by the Scribblers writing group, of which I'm a member, launching our latest anthology with a selection of readings from it as well as a few additional pieces from our individual writings. Silvia Millward kicked off the proceedings with two pieces from the anthology and a brand new poem. They are fine poems but her rather quiet delivery was done no favours by the noisy air-conditioning from the bar. She writes and reads very well but still comes over as a little tense and stilted in the links and will be even better when she is able to relax more into the performance.
She finished by introducing Andy Moreton who read both his pieces from the anthology - a short anti-war poem and a long and amusing story about a dirty old man. Both were very well received with the short story generating frequent laughter from the small but attentive audience.
Andy was followed by Janet Bogle who chose not read her story from the anthology but gave us instead her accompanying poem and a second short poem from her other writings. Both pieces were excellently crafted and very perceptive, characteristics of all of her work.
Jill Tromans was next delivering a dialect poem about buying a new oven that had the audience chuckling and her lengthy and amusing piece documenting a month in the life of a computer. This was not the easiest piece to read, having a rather awkward structure but it had enough about it to please the audience.
Neil Howard followed in his first public performance. He read his slight short story "Tiger Waits All Night" and a poem reflecting on mortality, "Gone", before introducing my section.
Years of teaching mean that a noisy environment is no match for my loud voice but, having performed last month and with one member of the group still to come, I kept my offering quite short. My three poems, two about homelessness and begging from the anthology and a third about Alzheimer's from my collection, Chaos Theory, were very well received and drew gratifying compliments in the break from a number of people whose work I respect a lot.
In turn I handed over to Mike Narroway who has a pleasant mannered delivery and gave us his poem, "The Garden" in which an exasperated Eve has a conversation with a rather naive Adam. It was a good end to the first half.
If the first half had been different in form by intent, the second was different by accident. One of the billed performers Jonathan Collings had failed to turn up leaving the other one, John Thomas, to carry the bulk of the time. After an introduction that was, perhaps, rather too long, he read three sections from his modern gothic novel "Beyond This Wilderness". The writing was rather stylised and reminiscent of the classic era of gothic writing but the necessity to set the scene and explain the background, combined with the descriptive nature of the chosen extracts made it all seem a little slow and ponderous though he read with confidence and conviction.
To fill in for the absent reader we were treated to a set of poems from Jane Seabourne who is one of the most accomplished of the regulars at City Voices. It was a short but varied set including poems about butterflies, staff training, dogs and a walk in the woods. The one about being expected to sit through training in an aspect of your job that you have done for years, given by someone who has never done it, struck a particular chord with me.
All in all another fine night out.