Well, it's been a long journey that I've travelled with City Voices since I first attended, and performed at, it way back when it used to be upstairs at the Clarendon. Last night was, at least for the foreseeable future, my final visit, as work will soon be taking me away, first to Harrow and then to China.
So how did it go?
Recently Simon Fletcher, the organiser of the event, has been mixing up the format slightly and last night was another departure with the whole of the second half being taken up with a folk duo, Billy and Loz. First though we had a three readers to entertain us for the first half, all of them regulars at City Voices.
We started with Yvette Rose, a quiet performer of personal poems. She started with several poems about nature - In The Garden, What A Blessing and Hibiscus - which she followed up with the slight but clever Love With Maths before moving on to the very personal poems about relationships, especially her relationship with her Grandmother.
Yvette was followed by Dorothy Baruch, who read a single poem, followed by extracts from a work in progress, a novel that she is writing. The poem was a short and quite strong piece revealed to be about adoption only after she had read it. She introduced the extracts from the novel by telling us that some of it is quite dark but she had chosen the "less dark" sections for the performance. She has a strong expressive voice and a good ear for dialogue. On one hearing of this short section I found it quite hard to work out what was going on but the rhythm of the words and the authentic and convincing way that she read carried me along as she described a naming ceremony for a child in the Caribbean. It was a fine performance.
Finally for the first half we had Jane Seabourne who, as I've said before, is a very accomplished poet. Her set was a mixture of some things I've heard before and some that I haven't.She opened with a favourite, At the Family Fun Day, which contains the great line "it's rumoured there'll be Morris dancing". She rattled on through a fast-paced series of excellent poems - Wilfred and I Celebrate Our 40th Anniversary - about how, as a teenager she discovered the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Note To a Non-Cooking Man - sharp and funny with a bitter twist in the last line, Wriggly Monkey - a well observed description of an old man who doesn't "want to be any trouble". She finished the set with two poems about school games lessons amd a gently observed one written for, and about, The Race For Life cancer charity.
After the break we had our folk duo, Billy and Loz, or Brian Dakin and Lawrence Hipkiss to give them their full names. Lawrence played the guitar well, adding occasional comments in the gaps between songs, while Brian alternated spoken word with song. Their songs and poems were all based firmly in Black Count history and were thoroughly entertaining. Drovers was introduced as being a Black Country cowboy song and was precisely that. Rag Time Roll was about old fashioned pub entertainment, The Bricklayers Daughter was a poignant and touching tale of a man bringing up a child alone and Hard Times was a bleak description of workhouses. My favourite though, my favourite piece from the whole night in fact, was the rousing Shut The Curtains, Gerald which told the tale of Queen Victoria visiting the Black Country and insisting on going through Tipton with the curtains closed so that she wouldn't have to see it.
Excellent stuff. I shall miss it.