Well-versed pupils are stars of the show at Marsden's poetry jam
You must always expect the unexpected at Write Out Loud’s annual open mic poetry jam at Marsden jazz festival. This year a group of pupils from Lily Lane school in Moston, north Manchester turned up, and recited Michael Rosen’s poem ‘Attack’ – and stole the show.
They didn’t just drop in on the off-chance, of course. Headteacher Julia Clark is a regular attender at Marsden Write Out Loud open mic nights – and Write Out Loud’s founder, Julian Jordon, had witnessed a moving performance of poetry by her whole school, inspired by Tony Walsh’s poem ‘This is The Place’, just a couple of weeks after the Manchester Arena bombing.
As Julian said at the time, “such performances do not happen spontaneously. They must have rehearsed until their fingers bled.” Their performance of a single poem at Marsden was finely co-ordinated and choreographed, too. A great credit to all those involved – and a wonderfully uplifting moment at the poetry jam.
It was been a remarkable year for poetry, in this rather remarkable place, the stamping ground of poets Simon Armitage and Samuel Laycock. A year ago I arrived to be told of plans to designate Marsden as a “poetry village”. I must admit, at the time I didn’t quite get it. Did this mean a kind of “Passport to Pimlico” movement, declaring UDI from the Poetry Society, as it were? Taking back control? Or even something more sinister – “local poetry for local people”, perhaps?
A year on, now I get it. Members of the Marsden the Poetry Village initiative have distributed books of poetry in pubs and cafes for customers to browse through, many donated by generous poetry publishers eager to support the scheme. They have organised a Poster Poems competition, to coincide with the jazz festival, with winning poems displayed in the windows of shops and cafes. They are continuing to liaise with schools, in Marsden and beyond. You can walk the Marsden poetry trail. There has been good coverage in the Yorkshire Post and Huddersfield Examiner newspapers, as well as regular updates on Write Out Loud. The mission statement says the aim is to “promote the village as a literary and cultural destination … Poetry is much more than words on paper – this is a revolution.”
So Sunday’s poetry jam, conducted as usual at The Railway pub – also part of Marsden’s poetry heritage, since it used to be Simon Armitage’s local – and compered as ever by Write Out Loud’s firm but fair Julian Jordon, was very much a celebration of all this hard work.
Marsden regular Linda Goulden, pictured right, was one of the first readers, with her poem ‘ “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” ‘, one of the poster competition winners, and another, ‘Blues and Secrets’, with the line: “You can’t hide blues the way you dye your grey.”
Another poster competition winner was John F Keane, organiser of Stockport Write Out Loud. Although he couldn’t make it, five other members of the monthly group - Dorinda MacDowall, Martin Elder, Nigel Astell, Andy N and Andy C – did turn up. A very strong team, with Nigel, resplendent in a special Write Out Loud Marsden poetry jam T-shirt, pictured above, reading John’s Marsden poster poem ‘House of Jazz’, as well as one of his own, based on a murder mystery.
Jackie Hales had plucked a Marsden the Poetry Village book at random from The Railway’s poetry shelf, and read a brief passage from it. She had made a good choice – Peter Riley’s Pennine Tales, published and donated by nearby Calder Valley Press. Highly recommended by your correspondent.
Felix Owusu-Kwarteng, a fixture at the poetry jam and firm favourite of pub landlord Liam, opened one of his poems with the line: “Patrick reeked of poetry …” It became a fairly disgusting account of smelly poetry, delivered in Felix’s characteristically robust style. Another of his poems had an ominous rather than odiferous atmosphere, although there was a whiff of sulphur, too: “There’s a train that leaves Huddersfield station at quarter to four or three … there are no leaves upon this line, or snow that blocks the way.”
Jacky Pemberton, part of a Lancashire contingent at the jam that included Paul Blackburn and Linda Morgan, read her moving poem in Write Out Loud’s Milestones poetry competition anthology, ‘Remember Me’, and another about the herring girls of Aldeburgh.
There were poems about rejected and rescued dogs, only one about Brexit, (according to my count), an unrequited love for a woman more interested in her long-range telescope, and a poem about bottoms by Malcolm Jones that brought plenty of laughs.
It was left to David Coldwell, pictured right, chair of Marsden the Poetry Village, to conclude the reading and raise the tone. He talked about the Poetry Village, and efforts to include and engage more youngsters. And he read a wonderful landscape poem, replete with ghosts and moorland mists,that had been inspired by the Milestones competition theme.
David’s debut poetry pamphlet Flowers by the Road contains many poems of similar quality. I guess it’s hard not to write about landscape, when you live around Marsden. After the jam we went back down into the village, to soak up the autumnal afternoon sun, sample some Sri Lankan street food (very good!), and the jazz festival vibe.