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Meet me on Jubilee Corner: all right on the night in Rothbury

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I don’t usually kick off a review of a poetry night by writing about a musician – but in the case of Rod Clements, a founder member of the legendary Tyneside band Lindisfarne and writer of the much-loved song Meet Me on the Corner, I have to make an exception.

Rod was the guest musician at Rothbury Poetry, Writing and Music Group, which has a guest poet and guest musician(s) each month, plus poetry and music on the open mic. It’s a very entertaining combination, compered by energetic organiser and community activist Katie Scott.

It’s currently held at the Jubilee Hall in Rothbury, and Rod had a song about that. Jubilee Corner was written in the 1980s, but as he introduced it I thought at first it was about THE corner, in his classic song. A meeting place of bored youngsters and people “drinking mysterious things out of brown paper bags”, the song did not necessarily find favour with some locals, he admitted.

It was his penultimate number, after songs that included nods to the blues, black and white films such as The Third Man, Northumberland’s mining heritage, and the poignant Refugees (“I had hoped I wouldn’t still be having to play it”).

Although he was brought up in North Shields, on the north bank of the Tyne, Rod has always had family connections with Rothbury, and has lived just outside it for a number of years. And he didn’t cut any corners. There was time for Meet Me on the Corner as his final number – “I leave you with the hit.” Later that night he posted a Tweet mourning the death of US guitar hero Duane Eddy. Lindisfarne’s Fog on the Tyne is included in the anthology of north-east poetry, Land of Three Rivers, published by Bloodaxe. 

embedded image from entry 135066 Guest poet Bob Beagrie had come up from Middlesbrough, and was reading from his latest collection Romanceros, published to honour the contribution of the International Brigades in fighting Fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The war took place in the late 1930s, and can be seen in one context as a dress rehearsal for the second world war. Bob read his poems with passionate intensity, partly because of the “parallels between 1936 and what is going on globally and nationally right now”.

It was illegal for British nationals to fight in Spain, so those that volunteered “had to sneak over there … the wives could not say where they had gone”. Those that returned were blacklisted, and not allowed to fight Nazism in the second world war, Bob asserted - not something I had heard before.

He began his reading with a poem that opens the collection, about a painting by Salvador Dali titled The Face of War, “and their silent, screaming mouths / in which the same horrid masks stare out.”

‘Passage’ was dedicated to inseparable friends Otto Estensen and Tommy Chilvers who travelled together from Teesside to Spain, crossing the Pyrenees, Otto bringing his mandolin. Another poem rhymed “Pyrenees” with “tyrannies”, and ‘Estar de Guardia’ includes the lines “I’m a mad dog and an Englishman / Out on the hilltop in the midday sun”.

‘A Particular Shade of Red’ notes that “it wasn’t the red cross of St George, who on this occasion had shrunk away from the Dragon”, a reference to Britain’s policy of non-intervention in the civil war, in contrast to Soviet and German and Italian involvement on opposing sides. The poem instead is about the death of a volunteer from Thornaby-on-Tees, “this particular red followed a quiet pop as a small hole appeared in George Bright’s forehead in the moment before his body dropped”. The inglorious reality of war.

There was a rich variety of contributions from the open-micers, including Carey Fluker Hunt’s poem about a cat on a beach, guitarist Graham Stacy’s musical setting of a  poem by Emile Brontë, Roger Plummeridge’s frustrations with a recalcitrant jar of gherkins, Phil Stuckey’s song inspired by Ronald Blythe’s Akenfield, Rosie Stacy’s ode to Pam Ayres (“her poems are strong and clear … more complex than they appear … let’s give Pam the praise she’s due”), Tony Henry’s tale about a northern walking trip, and Joanie Pattison's despairing cry about the situation in Gaza, Ukraine and elsewhere. It’s a great shame that the failing battery on my camera was unable to do any of them justice.

Organiser Katie Scott is a staunch community activist, and in particular a trees campaigner. In that role she was in mourning last night for two local weeping ash trees in the village that had recently been cut down because of ash dieback. At the start of the evening she played a poignant recording of two elderly residents assuming personas of the two trees, and reviewing the times that they had lived through. The audio can be found on the Rothbury Trees Trail.   

The poetry, writing and music group meets in the Jubilee Hall in Rothbury on the first Wednesday of each month. Next month there is an extra poetry event at Rothbury Golf Club, A Flight of Poets, as part of the local What a Wonderful World festival of arts, science and nature. Rod Clements will be performing, along with poets Catherine Ayres, Jane Burn, Peter Edge, Paul Mein, and Mike Pratt, on 27 June.  



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Julian (Admin)

Thu 16th May 2024 12:04

I agree, Rodney. Fascinating, the Spanish connection, and the blacklisting.

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Greg Freeman

Tue 7th May 2024 06:55

Well, thank you, Rodney! Welcome back after your cruise.

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Rodney Wood

Mon 6th May 2024 20:20

What a good read Greg!

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