A happy return: Rhythm & Muse flies flag again to mark 10th anniversary
A popular poetry and music night unfurled its banner again on Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary of its launch. Rhythm & Muse began at The Lion pub in Teddington, south-west London, before moving to another pub in nearby Kingston, where it ran until a triumphant Christmas finale in December 2014.
Over the years celebrated guests have included Roger McGough and poetry to music group Little Machine, who are touring the UK together this year. On Tuesday night comperes Alison Hill and Nick Poole, pictured, were back together again, introducing a number of open mic poets, some of whom read on the opening night in Teddington 10 years ago, and three music acts.
One of those acts was singer-songwriter James Burton, who is a leading light in the international Miracles charity. This celebration of Rhythm & Muse’s 10 years was in aid of that charity.
At the start evening Nick Poole gave a nod to events that had taken place since we all last met in 2014, asking the audience: “Have you been good? Have you been making sensible decisions?” (uneasy laughter), before inviting us to “take back control” of Rhythm & Muse.
Among the poets who were there on that first night in 2007 and were back at Teddington’s Railway pub on Tuesday was Racker Donnelly, who performed with great brio one of his self-styled “travestations” - part translation, part travesty, as he put it - of Irish 18th century Irish poet Brian Merriman’s ‘The Midnight Court’. He described the original as Chaucerian, Rabelaisian. Racker’s glorious version was certainly in that tradition. Pity the poet that had to follow him. Er, wait a minute … that was me.
Another first-nighter back at Rhythm & Muse was Carolyn O’Connell, who contributed an entirely different poem - poignant with an extremely moving final line. Other well-known R&M faces who read on Tuesday included Susan Utting, Isabel Bermudez, Dino Mahoney, Dominic James, Alice Thurling, Jane Sherwin, Fay Avsec, David Russomano, and John Grant.
The other musical acts were young Simon Stanley Ward - energetic, enthusiastic, mixing comedy with country – and The Flying Blueberries (Dudley Tyrrell and Stephanie Sara), who included a couple of Dylan songs in their set.
Alison Hill, the organiser of Rhythm & Muse from the outset, told how she’d recently met one of her heroines, 100-year-old Mary Wilkins Ellis, one of the intrepid women pilots who delivered planes in the second world war, and who feature in her collection Sisters in Spitfires.
The night, which reflected the spirit that Alison and Nick engendered over their years at the mic, was wound up by another figure who was there at the start, Judith Watts, with a Rabelaisian poem - if I may describe it that way – from a woman’s perspective. She introduced it by saying: “I’ve been writing about sex for 10 years, but I’m really bored with it now. So this is my last sex poem.”
No more sex? Hopefully not, even if some of the Rhythm & Muse poets, including myself of course, are getting on a bit. And the last of R&M? Again, surely not …