Last Monday at Rio

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Rio Cafe, Glasgow

May 25th


On Monday night I went to Rio and I went without a passport. Now before the Scottish or UK Governments get involved in or indeed try to create a diplomatic incident I should say that the Rio concerned isn’t the carnival capital of Brazil but the poetry capital of the West End of Glasgow.

You see there is an event in this particular venue to which the cultured citizens of this dear green place make way on the last Monday of each month. This event is entitled last Monday at Rio and Robin Cairns is our genial hosts for this evening of erudite entertainment.

This Monday saw me make my long awaited and long overdue return to a night which I always enjoy attending but hadn’t been able to make due to a bizarre combination of circumstances for the last three years and believe me it felt good to be back.

Though I missed Robin opening the show and maybe one or two of the open mic slots I was fortunate enough to enjoy the vast majority of acts on what was a brilliant night of top quality spoken word. Whilst many of the performers were known to me such as Audrey Marshall, Kevin Gilday, Jim Ewing, Kirsten McAlease, Stephen Watt and recent discovery Ms Woodburn, there were also a number of fresh new voices. It is fair to say these poets were new to me, but such was the level of their talent they made me want to hear more of their work. It is with honesty I can say that as I listened to the voices of Adam V Cheshire, Aiden Rivett, Callum Rodger, and others I felt my cultural life had been enriched by hearing their words.
I particularly enjoyed Aiden’s poem about the old man on Duke Street. This was I thought a very poignant moment in a night which illustrated all that is good about the craft.

The topics covered included everything from altzheimers to televised revolutions from abortion to refugees. There was even room for spiders, seagulls, and boy bands, on a night when anything could be said and nothing was taboo. There were even poems on geography and ghosts and a brilliant if unique take on the next step for feminism from another voice new to my ears the pint sized pocket rocket Ailsa Williamson.

This was a fantastic night of top quality culture and with former MSP Rosie Kane as the headline act. I knew I had to be there. You see for my sins which have been many and varied over the years I have campaigned with her on a number of years for many different causes. These range from anti trident marches through to Scottish Independence and women’s equality issues. So you see this was a no-brainer, I not only had to be there I had to make sure I was wearing my women for independence badge and my badge in support of Maryhill foodbank. It was if you like a cultural three line whip

On taking the stage Rosie recalled her days as part of The Pollok Free State and how this quiet reserved Glasgow woman got involved in the protest against the M74 extension. In doing so she told us of how she was accused invading the chamber of commerce and according to the TV news holding journalists hostage.

As Rosie held court she had the audience spellbound with her tales of protest and campaigning which acted as a springboard to get her in to politics. This was a very personal set laced with fire, passion, and humour. It was an excellent performance from someone I have known for a long time in a different but parallel life. Well, if I’m being honest there are many similarities between spoken word performers and politicians. Both need good oratory skills and both speak from the heart and Scotland’s very own citizen Kane is blessed with an abundance of both these skills.

Entertaining as she was however, I have to say my favourite set of the night came not from our headliner but Lewis lass Kirsty Nicholson. In her poem Being From Lewis Is, Kirsty, who like Rosie I know from the political world explored the stereotypes which are all too often associated with the island life and delivered her own satirical rebuke to those with more shall we say metropolitan or international geographies.

In the second of her two poems Kirsty brought back memories of a Scottish Cup semi final defeat in which Celtic lost 4-2 to Motherwell as she told the story of the ghost of a former Celtic player who is apparently haunting her flat. Despite being a Celtic fan I can’t figure out who is guarding her flat but Kirsty has found his trophies and medals in her attic. Whether our poet knows the name of the player I’m not sure but if she does, it may be wise to keep his identity secret.

Now before anyone tells Kirsty there is no such thing as ghosts remember she is an Island girl and islanders, are like the Irish brought up on tales of myths and legends. Trust me I have both Western Isles and Irish blood and learned a lot of stories at my granny’s knee. I also learned traditional songs of my communities. I don’t know why but some people may call them rebel songs well I suppose I am a rebellious Scot but unlike some people I will never be crushed.

I say this because I am a poet and a poet will always have something to say and this was the certainly the case on what a was great way to spend a Monday. This was a night when I went on a flight of fancy just because I could to prove that geography matters and you don’t need a passport to find a world within a city.

Reviewer : Gayle Smith

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