25 January 2015
Robert Burns, Rabbie Burns, Robbie Burns, the Bard. There were so many choices for what name should be iced on to Scotland’s national poet’s birthday cake, that it was fitting that Edinburgh’s Rally & Broad team rolled into Glasgow with “The Apology Shop”. Rachel McCrum and Jenny Lindsay’s firebrand show melds spoken word, performance poetry, and music with impactive lyrical content, all stationed within the hospitable basement of Stereo Cafe. The decision to move the R&B shows from Wednesday evenings at the Tron Theatre to Sunday afternoons in Stereo has proven to be an astute one as droves of the rain-sodden public piled beneath the cobbles on Renfield Lane. With such extensive choice around the city, the R&B event appears to be making itself quite at home with a public blithely familiarising themselves more with cabarets than Songs of Praise. ust as Burns alluded that we are all equal prey in his poem “To A Louse”, the spoils on offer at this afternoon’s line-up were genuinely remarkable:
Shambles Miller is one of those musicians where the music is almost incidental to the story-telling. A well-rounded performer, Shambles’ easy going manner allows laughs to filter between each couplet, each string pluck, and it becomes simple to see why a spot supporting the similarly-endearing Beans On Toast towards the end of 2014 was acquired. Dipping in to the sterling repertoire available as digital albums on his website, Shambles played a set of three songs, consisting of the EP single, “Confessions” – a beautiful ode to an ex lover which doesn’t so much tug as much as it does haul the listener in to the smaller, finer details of relationships. The killer line ‘So long and thanks for all the sex’ is executed in a strangely-comforting manner, which is a clear precedent of Shambles’ instantly likeable character. That uncanny knack of knowing when to pause for laughs (and they were always coming…) is clear throughout the bewitching second song, “Rapture” – a paean to the end of the world, before Shambles rounded off his short but effective set with one further number; a wonderful, commentating musician to begin proceedings.
As the waist-coated and bearded musician stepped offstage, it was then the turn of Texan-talent Carly Brown. A stunning set, garnished in unorthodox, theatrical, and comedic ingenuity graced each poem that Carly chose to perform. The wonderful “50 Shades” was a critical review of the character Anastasia Steele from the book of the same name (albeit, ‘of grey’ tones), analysing our so-called heroine’s self-perception. Carly’s next piece insisted that she was ‘not a poet’; a wonderful tongue-in-cheek look at the ingredients which supposedly mould what a poet should adhere to; the ‘black polo neck top’, ‘the black racoon eyes’, etc. It became clear how Carly became the Scottish Slam Champion in 2013, demonstrating an astute attention to detail and a bright approach to subject matter. Final poem “Texas, I Can’t Bring You To Parties Anymore” was a volatile, but erudite, response to the methods and disciplines adopted by her home state – racism, the death penalty, and the deeply-ingrained lifestyle of Texans were all subject to Carly’s clinical revulsion. This is a poet whose smile is as wide as her talent, and one that promises a fantastic future ahead of her.
Next on the stage was Glasgow’s irreplaceable Kevin P. Gilday, vexing facetious and indignant verse from his second full-length show, The Man Who Loved Beer. As one of the hardest-working poets on the scene, Kevin’s devotion to performance poetry have provided indelible memories during 2014 of performing to thousands at George Square during the referendum and the privilege of sharing his thoughts upon the spoken word stage at Glastonbury; rallies and broad-range, if you will. Gilday’s confession to being enormously hungover was apparent as he clung to the microphone, face whitened by the spotlight, head tilted backwards. However, this worked beautifully in the young poet’s favour as he frothed lines that painted pictures of alcohol dependency (“I’m a can-carrying man /a pint-swallowing bam”…) and an ugly Glasgow with all its prejudices and shortcomings. An expertly-delivered poem entitled “Found In The Mud” listed off Kevin’s first experience of the patter that circulates round Glastonbury festival, with the line ‘Some mud went in my hummus’ delighting the capacity-crowd, roaring with approval. It is Kevin’s grasp of culture, patter, and the patterns of behaviour that Glaswegians depict that makes his poetry such an accessible and enjoyable experience. This continues in the final segment of his set; the exhausted escapade of “Middle Class Love”, the dispirited-but-still-horny “Hangover Poem #3 – Hangover Sex’, and the cringe-worthy treasure that is “There’s A Workie In My House”.
Liz Lochhead was the ideal way to finish the spoken word proceedings. As Scotland’s makar, Lochhead’s poetry has influenced writers the length and breadth of the country for decades, and continues to inspire young (and old) minds alike with her sharp wit and often beguiling story-telling. Today, seeing as it was Burns Day, Lochhead opted to recite Burns’ celebrated poem “To A Mouse”. This preceded her sublime response “From A Mouse”, where the bold vermin retorts to Rabbie’s scolding words. A self adulating slant considers poetry, life, and a bluster that Lochhead expertly delivers in her usual witty style; “Get Rentokil, get real”. Prior to rushing off to a Cumbernauld theatre for a Burns Night, Lochhead (in resplendent tartan jacket) promised to deliver some “mucky” poems for her audience, and the last two were certainly delivered with aplomb; “Song For A Dirty Diva” was a delightfully comical look at a sex life at standstill, while the final effort contemplated the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE) – a quick-witted reflection of sex in the sixties compared with the modern day, and the subject ‘happy to be a member of permissive society’. Often allowing the audience to finish her lines, Lochhead was a fantastic performer to the end, fully befitting of her maker title.
Hip-hop MC and wordsmith Loki was due to round off ‘The Apology Shop’, but was replaced at the final minute by the piquant flavours of Black Lantern’s formidable Texture (Bram E Gieben). As one of the BL founders, Texture has become part of the thriving hip-hop scene which has emerged out of Scotland over the last couple of years. This ability to drop intelligent, relevant and sincere words over electronic landscapes works beautifully on the incredible “Burn”, with Texture’s atmospheric, hypnotic swirl shuddering the walls inside of Stereo. An equally haunting but exhilarating “Incvbate” weighs in with commentary about society’s pressures, and clever lines such as ‘…uninspired by church spires’ are spit out with such venom that it is difficult to argue that Texture isn’t the real deal, and speaks from the heart.
In light of those stories which have failed to reach mainstream media, Texture’s snarling indignation permeates during the third number, echoing ‘nothing is sacred’, until the frustration of attitudes in the early eighties during “Echo Boomers” allows sections of the audience to revel in an incredible hook that overlays a time when ‘Thatcher’s sarcastic pound snatchers’ were gaining momentum. Texture’s anti-corporate stance and gifted vocabulary doesn’t always make it easy listening, but then it never was supposed to be – as the final number, as Texture says is “a love song to the Scottish hip-hop scene”, testifies; nods are awarded to Loki and Hector Bizerk, with Texture’s affection quite visible – ‘…we’re part of a mongrel family’. This was an astonishing look at what spoken word can become in future, if aided by confidence, electronics, and a direction.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Reviewer : Stephen Watt
Mumble Words is putting its feet up for the Festive Season,
But will be returning with a fist full of similes in the New Year!
The CCA, Glasgow
Tuesday 25th November
Shazia Hobbs tells us her brother will only write their story when their mother is dead. She smiles nervously at the audience, and adds that her mother barely features at all within her own book. Good thing too – Shazia’s book is garnering quite a lot of attention, and her mother is still very much alive. Shazia’s novel, The Gori’s Daughter, the autobiographical story of a mixed-race Scottish-Palestinian woman, has been a source of enormous tension within her extended family. Shazia tell us she is not on speaking terms with most of her folk, and many Pakistanis within her old community accuse her of whistleblowing. “White”, according to many of her relatives, is synonymous with “trash.”
Shazia Hobbs name hints at her incongruent beginnings. The daughter of a white mother “gori” and a Pakastani father, Shazia was raised in a polygamous household, in which she resided with her father, his Muslim wife, and Shazia’s half-siblings; as well as Shazia’s mother – his white mistress. As a small child she was sent to live for four years in Pakistan with her grandparents (her father’s wife could not cope with his mistresses children.) When Shazia returned to Glasgow she was subjected to racism, violence, hate crimes. “It was the 1980s, she tells us. Child Line was for white children. When my sister and I called, they told us to find an aunt to talk to. When we said we were suicidal, they said to call Samaritans instead.” Shazia was labelled a “smelly Paki” by her schoolmates; her Pakistani community, who believed that white communities were inferior, called Shazia “the white woman’s daughter”; when Shazia filled in official forms, there wasn’t even a box for her to tick. “Mixed race wasn’t an identity,” she says. “I had to tick Other.”
The evening’s event – “Autobiography as Novel” – is focused around a dialogue between Magi Gibson, interviewer for the evening, and Shazia. To begin, Magi asks Shazia to talk about the process of writing. Shazia explains (unsurprisingly) that the starting point was simply her life. “People told me I had story to tell. Why not write it?” The point of the evening is to explore the relationship between autobiography and novel – and introduce Shazia’s work. After drawing out Shazia’s life story, Magi Gibson, Shazia’s interviewer, points out that novels – unlike autobiography – permit the author to fictionalize, to build on memories, and create a world which better represents the emotions underlying lived experience. This – she prompts Shazia to explain – is why fiction works better than autobiography or memoir. Shazia adds that fiction also provides a buffer for those writers who portray events so close to their lives. Particularly when their characters are still alive and kicking. As the evening ends, I am convinced not only that Shazia’s story is extraordinary, but also that I should read Shazia’s book – every Glaswegian should. I am also impressed by Magi Gibson’s delivery. She is a terrifically accomplished writer, and she has some killer anecdotes.
When it comes to the night’s discussion around fiction, however, I am left a little divided. Firstly, Shazia’s tale did not begin as fiction. She submitted her story as autobiography – and it was at the behest of her publisher that she made the transition into a novel. Secondly, I am not convinced that fiction – as many of the writers suggest – is so better a choice than memoir, or biography. The most interesting parts of the evening – and the book – for me, are the bits I knew to be true. Writerly factitiousness aside, the insights that Magi, and Shazia brought to the Scottish Writer’s Centre were incredibly interesting, and I would recommend attending one of Magi’s events, as well as reading Shazia’s book. Most of all, I am grateful for Shazia’s bravery in telling her story. That’s what it is, really, her story. The rest is just semantics (and I’m guessing Shazia’s received enough labels to last a lifetime.)
Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan
The Gori’s Daughter is available on Amazon.
The Scottish Writer’s Centre hosts literary events on Tuesdays, once a fortnight at the CCA. [25/11/2014]
The Rio Cafe
Twice a year, the ever-cuddly Robin Cairns replaces his normal open mike night at Glasgow with the brutal sport that is the poetry slam. Robin quipped to the Mumble, ‘its open to all & they’re all here!” & indeed, the Rio Cafe was positively bursting at the seams for the event, an excellent testament to Glasgow’s growing, unpretentious & inspirational spoken word scene.
On this occasion, nineteen poets competed ‘Glasgow-rules’ throughout two rounds of bite-sized, two minute Chicken mc’nugget monologues. The judges for the evening were Nelly Bean, Derek Parks, Carly Brown, the Mumble’s own Stephen Watt & Carly Brown, the winner of the 2013 Scottish poetry slam championships. She too would have competed in a similar slam on the way to her title, & of course tonights winner would not only find themeselves £50 better off, but would also be given an entry into next February’s Scottish poetry slam championships.
The nights winner, incidentally, was the keen-minded & verbally rumbistious Kevin Mclean, one of the famous ‘Loud Poets’ of Edinburgh. For me, I didnt really mind who won, for I loved the wide array of philosopher-poets that srutted their stuff on the Rio’s sacred stage. As I’d entered the bustling ‘arena’ I found myself sat with the young, & who turned out to be quite talented, Liam Mccormick, who very kindly sent me the first of his poems of the night, which reads as follows;
The Minor Tragedy of Reefer Madness
Drugs are fucking great.
Like…. really fucking great
You get an itch, you send a text, you get a call, walk to Tesco, behind the bins, go home, with a bag.
Then you get your baccy, your skins, your roach, lay a bedrock of shredded brown leaves, put the
weed through the grinder, tap it out on the paper, sprinkle some tobacco, run your fingers up the
side, lick the gum, run your fingers up the side aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnd-
Where’s my lighter?
Check your pockets, look in the drawer, under the couch, kitchen table, bathroom cupboard,
flatmates desk (He still smokes right?), old jacket pockets, under the couch, lift the cushions, check
your back pockets- FUCK SAKE- check the fridge, washing machine, loft- I JUST WANT TO SMOKE A
FUCKIN’ JAY- kitchen again, top of the microwave, behind the microwave, inside the microwave,
behind the bread bin, behind the toaster…
Slam down the slide, filament fires up, press the soon to be cherry against the makeshift chemical
launch pad, inhale, inhale, inhale.
I would never presume to say, I have a problem with hash- I just like a smoke out
AND THE ONLY PROBLEM AH’VE HAD IS RUNNING OUT
But yet, when the sun rises and I fancy a slice of toast- I know-
I’ll have to settle for microwaved bread at most.
The rest of the poems on offer were full of intelligent word-play, hip-hop bibidibop, failed romances & socio-political diatribe, a wonderful selection that really should have done Mr Cairns, & Glasgow proud. Everyone was happy, the slammers & their entourages joining in the fun & applause rather than looking at each with those dagger-pupil’d eyes that often accompany poetry slams, & for the neutral we had a grand old time.
Reviewer : Damo Bullen
Queen Margaret Union
A solid five years had passed since I last graced the QMU. On that occasion, Kula Shaker provided the entertainment, and the last morsel of my twenties bopped along to the sounds of my teens. This time however, an entirely different spectacle was exhibited at the University Gardens venue inside Jim’s Bar; the eighth and final show for 2014, of Aloud – the cavalcade of spoken word talents, was tonight’s hot ticket in town. The brain-child of Ireland’s Syd Briscoe and New York’s Heather Margaret St Clair initiated due to a significant dearth of spoken word opportunities around the Glasgow University campus. Rather than tie the event in to a student stranglehold, Aloud was engineered to welcome poets and performers from all realms to step up to the microphone – and test themselves in front of a friendly, uncontaminated and responsive audience. The decision to make this a free event of course endeared itself to students and literary veterans alike.
Of course, where the already-established Verse Hearse, held within the confines of the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club, offers itself to the ears of postgraduate students and staff, the ideology behind Aloud is perhaps one of a more raw and wide-eyed look into performance poetry – the Simba to the Verse Hearse’s Mufasa. Its refreshing fáilte is carefully tuned in to the Glasgow spoken word scene mentality where both rookies and seasoned slammers extend appreciation and consideration when fellow performers are afforded stage time. This is not to say that this event was libraryesque (Yes, I just invented a new word); it was a student union after all. Minor disturbances included one female bursting through the doors with her skirt tucked into her underwear, and another attracted intoxicated students holding one another up before the clock had even ticked 10pm. This was delicately handled by the organisers, and did not spoil the otherwise-engaged crowd.
A strong focus on spoken word, sprinkled with flashes of clever performance poetry, and topics ranging broadly from anti-whaling to mental illness absorbed the audience’s attention. David Forrest’s benevolent poem ‘Cross’ leant itself to a compassionate look at the symbolism of a crucifix (“Bits of skin like cracked paint”), while Lynn Pilkington’s marvellous piece ‘City Girl’s Mission’ cavorted wonderfully between the persona of being strong and self-sufficient with ineffable, romantic notions (“Waiting for the rose tinted glasses to kick in”). In poets such as Callum Bannerman and Ross MacFarlane, and indeed the afore-mentioned hosts Briscoe and St Clair, it became clear that Glasgow’s continuing ascent in spoken word has plenty more worthy champions willing to advocate the good news that the city’s literary scene is flourishing.
The first Aloud zine is earmarked for January 2015, new members are surfacing at each live event, and a promising YouTube channel is devoted to filming participating poets who may otherwise never have had the opportunity to see their poems on the internet. Few could argue that Aloud is a fantastic addition to the current spoken word scene in Glasgow, permitting new audiences and knocking down barriers which once existed (No, you don’t require a friend in the university to sign you in). As for negative points about the evening……..the diet coke was rank. Last time, I left the QMU to Shaker’s Crispin Mills’ wailing Hush to an adoring crowd. This time, everything was very much Aloud.
Reviewer : Stephen Watt
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Comedian and actress Jo Caulfield hosts six short acts of varying styles, & makes up an evening that feels more like one of those lucky days at the Edinburgh festival when you randomly chose a class act of a show. For £6 the evening was an eclectic mix, with each act flowing well about Jo’s interludes of easy-humour and performer introductions. The whole effect was a mixture of a stand up comedy club, a poetry slam and an episode of QI. Jo Caulfield could host anything and I’d happily go – her style is so friendly & honest, we all feellike we’ve been personally invited to her home. Tonight, this was the Netherbow Theatre under The Scottish Story Telling Centre; a lovely, cozy, simple little Theatre in the heart of the Royal Mile.
First up was Sam Small, a member of the Black Lantern collective. A talented poet, he performed 3 of his pieces around the themes of ‘boxes, love and time travel’. All performed at a fast pace, – hyper, funny, angry, and intelligently executed. He had the audience intrigued and impressed from the first sentence and I was left wanting more. A talented guy.
Author Eleanor Updale spoke next, a friendly and warm presence, Eleanor told some wickedly funny & partly true, partly fiction (never 100% sure where the boundaries lay but who needs to know?) tales of what she and her media comrades are planning to do next after they have been robbed of the retirement pensions there were expecting. A story of pitching an idea to the BBC about an X-factor style show minus the music – just focusing on the sob stories called ‘Dead Nans’, followed into a weird and wonderful pretty believable plan to run a restaurant/brothel for pensioners with ‘live stream for TV’ in Edinburgh was surreal and lovely and sounded completely homely and respectable.
Phil O’Shea then shuffled onto stage and sucked the audience into his weird and wonderful surreal world. A intentionally nervous awkward style all of his own perhaps made the audience a little unsure for a few seconds before we realised that actually that’s how we were meant to feel and settled in for the ride. A squeaky northern accented turtle hand puppet accompanied some of the act and that’s all I can really write without rambling crazy nonsense as he does it so much wonderfully better!
The second half was kicked off with journalist and broadcaster from Radio 4’s Today Show James Naughtie. An engaging speaker, he told some great stories of ridiculous things that have happened when interviewing politicians, with some great tidbits and insights about his life as a journalist. A funny and interesting talk.
Next up we had Bram E Gieben Alias Texture, a poet also from the Black Lantern collective. Two poems were performed with thunderous hypnotic fury. The intelligent angry rhythmical ‘Burn’ was a wrenching strongly executed rant at the state of the economy, whilst ‘Keep going’ was as he said with a smile, ‘about divorce, suicide and cancer but -much more positive’. And it was – a powerful committed performance from this hugely talented poet. Highly impressive.
Last up was the bizarre ‘The Creative Martyrs’. Looking like an old fashioned mime cabaret act, the two chaps performed a slightly confusing piece with a cello and visual humour singing about war. I found it a little hard to follow exactly what they were singing about, but they were pretty funny to watch and ended the evening on a light note.
All in all a really lovely way to spend a wintery Tuesday evening and something completely different to see each time. I’d fully recommend spending £6 once a month to go to this lovely evening of well chosen performances and enjoy Jo Caulfield’s welcoming generous hosting and obvious love of the city’s talent.
Reviewer : Pip Burnett