Last Monday at Rio: 'We range from 18-80 with a shifting mash of styles'

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A couple of summers ago I headed north in the camper van for a holiday in Scotland, and took the opportunity to drop in on the Last Monday at Rio poetry night in the west end of Glasgow. It was brilliant. A lovely venue which served food and good beer, and an evening which was vibrant, welcoming, irreverent, and inclusive. Everything I think a good poetry night should be. Earlier this month I asked Last Monday at Rio's organiser, Robin Cairns, pictured, to tell me a little about how he came to be looking after such an inspiring event.


"I’ve known the owner of the Rio Café since – in 1980 – he wandered into the print shop I worked in and asked me to do a poster for his band. I did, we became pals and watched each other's careers as he ditched music to build a powerful business empire and I chucked in printing to scribble my tuppenceworth and offer it to the world. When he opened the Rio Café 10 years ago he asked me to put on a spoken word night.

I’m fairly proud of the way the poets at the Rio don’t all fall into any category. We range from 18 to 80 with a shifting mash of styles. I try to be encouraging to almost everyone who comes along (not so much to those preening with self-love though). I like clarity of meaning, inventive expression and quality writing in general rather than any one ideology. And I can state with bald honesty that I have for 10 years put on stage many many people whose opinions and take on life I personally consider to be bollocks.

However, Glasgow has a great history of ragged half-coherent notions erupting from both top and bottom of society and as a gatekeeper of Free Speech I feel it is my job to keep the bloody door open.

I myself get paid for many of the things I do in spoken word, performance, schools work etc. Last Monday at Rio is funded by the owners of the bar. They give me a budget and I pay the headline poet. I never ever apply for public funding. The commissars of arts and council bodies can fill in their own forms if they want me.

The poetry scene in Glasgow is in good shape. There are half a dozen excellent nights every month. We run the Scottish Slam Championships here every year and sell out the Tron theatre. Individual students at the unis have done fine work in the last three years, catching up with other cities’ student scenes. We are lucky here that the American slam style has not really taken root and people are working in a range of poetic forms. We are also lucky/shamed that in Glasgow and its surrounds there are vast numbers of people who have lived their lives without realising that this thing called self-expression exists. As Scots many of us are still “brought up to shut up!”  When these voices find our scene they can be quite special.

If you want to know more about Glasgow poets best to come and hear for yourself. It’s a live art form. Let’s keep it that way.

Given one wish for Last Monday at Rio I would like Stephen Hawking to address the continual problem I have fitting thirty-odd open mic spots of five minutes each into an hour and a half."


Last Monday at Rio meets on the last monday of each month at the Rio Cafe, 27 Hyndland Street, Glasgow



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