as live arts in the UK make a comeback.

by Norman Warwick

Norman Warwick
Sidetracks And Detours

A recent ´very live´ event at the Flying Horse in Rochdale town square was well attended and in many ways simply re-stitched an easily mended tear in the fabric of Rochdale performance poetry. Those Bards from the Baum, who pre-covid had performed on a monthly basis at the Toad Lane venue for nearly ten years have slipped across the road to a new location. Many commercial venues are creating some sort of re-launch as they re-open their doors after covid restrictions being lifted. The upstairs room at The Baum also lends itself to business functions and they are re-offering its availability in that guise.

The Flying Horse will remain the home of rock music that it has been for decades but the landlords are pleased to welcome the poets to an upstairs room to widen their programmes. The Bards have renamed themselves as Pegasus (flying horse, rising from the flames etc geddit?) and this first performance at their new home was a reminder of what had been so badly missed in the last 18 months or so of enforced incarceration.  

I´ve heard whispers that Robin Parker, with whom I started the Baum nights several years ago has emerged from lockdown triumphant after keeping the group going via zoom before negotiating this new home. Robin (shown far left with Langley Writers) reportedly looks rather svelt in his slimmed down reawakening into lifeblood vibes.

The tireless Eileen Earnshaw /right) who was the celotape that kept the community sticking together together when I was living in and working in Rochdale and who took on my role as co host with Robin when I retired here,  admitted even to the audience that she had put on weight  after contracting a version of the virus early on and still feels tired and ´bedazzled´ with it all.

Nevertheless, she could see the rest of the gang looked raring to go.

My favourite performer at The Baum was invariably John Leach, famous for his recollections of how he ´bowled a maiden over, behind the sightscreens´, and who once travelled 200 miles to Norwich instead of Horwich, only twenty miles from where he lives, in futile search of a lady he was smitten with, (or by). John was absent tonight but Eileen said he is OK and still out and about.

So, Robin sang the Monty Python Philosophers Song. as Ken Hall took a photo of the group for the Rochdale Observer, and away they went.

The Ukulele band was there, officially dubbed  ‘The Old Ukes’ but introduced as ´The Old Crocks´. Their performance tonight included Dylan’s Blowin’ In the Wind  and The Beach Boys’ The Sloop John B.

photo 6edit One of the ukelele players was a former member of my creative writing group in Rochdale, and was also the lady who persuaded my wife to join her in Rochdale Festival Choir, which Maureen Harrison (right) says  has resumed rehearsals, post-covid.

´Í been to half a dozen rehearsals now – but we have moved to Tuesday as we have taken a room at Castleton Community Centre and that was the only slot available, and this meant one member,  Lynn Roberts, had to leave has she has Spanish lessons on Tuesday evenings.   So our current number is around twenty five.  I have recruited a few more but we are top heavy with sopranos.   Alto were down to 4 but we are now back up to 8,  two returned and I dragged two along.   The men total 8 – I dragged some of the ukulele lot but I´m not sure their hearts are in it-

We lost quite a few members due to covid and a lot are still nervous about returning.    I have decided I have to get back to whatever normal is going to be.     Oldham choral starts next Monday with a concert already booked for November.   U3A starts back next Tuesday afternoon.    When I joined that there were only 8 in it, then it ballooned to about 50, now 31 have said they are interested in coming back.  

Maureen Harrison also tells me that ´the ukulele playing is now coming along nicely, since   my dog Pip died last August.  He hated the noise of the thing and I wouldn’t subject him to it, hence not much practice.  However in this last twelve months I have managed to do a lot of playing, albeit on zoom. The Old Ukes have now got together face to face and we expected to be dreadful but after the first song we were alright´.

I have told Robin I won’t do poetry in a public place but we will play a couple of numbers´.

Dave McKeun of the Old Ukes also sang on his own with guitar and also accompanied others including Alyson Brailsford and John Pye.

Alison, by the way, has very recently joined The Halle Choir, and is shown (left) celebrating in fish and chip style. This popular lady who sings in operatic fashion and delivers music hall and dialect with equal aplomb fully deserves a place in such esteemed company.  Typical of how quickly calendars are filling up as the arts return. Alyson now will find herself attending choral rehearsals at The Bridgewater Hall on Wednesday evenings, instead of meeting her mates at The Edwin Waugh Dialect Society in Rochdale, who are also now resuming live meetings.

Actually, stop the press !! We interrupt this edition to tell you our Sidetracks And Detours office has just had a missive telling us that The  Edwin Waugh Dialect Society committee met last evening and decided to restart meetings in October. They have agreed to change the meeting day from  Wednesdays to Tuesdays to accommodate Alyson Brailsford who now has Halle Choir practices on Wednesdays. She is a long term member and stalwart – and besides with ailments and misfortunes having laid low half the committee (broken legs, hips, mild strokes, miscellaneous etc.) we would struggle to juggle all the tasks.

Big question still remain, of course

How many will wish to brave the Brave New post lockdown World we now live in?

How many members can accommodate a Tuesday after eons of Wednesdays?

How many folk still have the skills to read and write dialect prose and verse?  Will there be anyone out there to enter our resumed annual writing competitions?   Will anyone care?

The last issue is a serious one which cannot be answered until EWDS members can get out performing, spreading the word and getting schools, libraries and the media involved. These were all grand designs planned by the Society before the Pandemic intervened.  Ne’theless they say they will ´do eawr best to do eawr best´.  

We look forward to bringing news of when the Off The Rails poetry lovers will meet up again and tell us of some of the some of the exotic locations they visit.

However, let´s ride again with Pegasus.

I don´t know Linda and Carolyn, who apparently only joined the line up very recently during lockdown zoom sessions.  In fact tonight, they had a lockdown song, Happy Times Ahead, delivered with verve to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain with the recurring line ‘We’ve zoomed far too long as it is.’ Alyson Brailsford returned to read Pam Ayres’  I’ve Bought Myself A Wonderbra before Don Parry delivered his own self-penned post lockdown song, Those Good Times Are Coming Back Again  with the line ´there’s a destiny out there somewhere’. He also read a poem he’d published on the NHS website about Tomorrow’s Rainbow.

Val and Alfie were there, Ken Hall, and Mike, Glenys Meakes and the crank MH, alias Higgy Pop (right) , Michael the Lesser etc. gave the audience his entreaty to Byron during lockdown and  a 15th century panegyric to women: ‘A woman is a worthy thing, they do the wash and they do the wring’ which he thought would annoy the feminists but somehow didn’t. Ken, the nonagenarian poet cum observer was also there – he had rung ‘Ring and Ride’ and they had ‘brung him’ 

Because I couldn´t be there, you will gather that I cheated by requesting from a reliable source the names and titles of the performers and what they performed. performed. My informant  omitted the names of all those deemed too innocent or guilty, and who had paid the appropriate money, to keep their name out of this story.

I have heard that some attendees had dined before-hand at The Medicine Tape, a new name to me on the Rochdale venue list. It wasn´t quite a full line up, although there were nearly twenty readers and a good sized audience on what was a warm evening.

There were those in the audience who long for the days when the Nearly Dead Poets Society and others of their ilk return to the fold. There is as much room for entertainment and jollity as there is for introspection and political undercurrents. The Bards From The Baum always got that balance right and I have no doubt that Pegasus, The Flying Horse will continue to do so.

The upper room is good and absolutely fit for purpose, but some of the narrators need to speak up or at least stand somewhere in front  of the throng.

Meanwhile, running parallel with the performance poetry scene Rochdale maintains it thriving creative writing community, with at least two major groups still convening in the town. Indeed, Eileen Earnshaw had been reading earlier in the afternoon at a creative writing workshop. The event had been partly organised by local author Paul Salveson (see Of Critics And Critiques published in our archives on 14th July 2021) as part of a commemoration of a Victorian 1890s trespass resolution.

So, as Rochdale returns to as near to normality as it has ever been makes sure you avoid calendar clashes and diary disputes by reading Steve Cooke´s weekly all across the arts pages in The Rochdale Observer for arts-related news items and listings. Steve (left) became my partner after Robin Parker had done such a great job in establishing the pages as a founding partner.

Both men still play a major part on the Rochdale arts scene;  Robin with his re-branded Pegasus group and at Langley Writers; Mr. Cooke, not only with all across the arts but also with Stories We Could Tell, a project we established just before I left six years ago to give voice to the disenfranchised and which he is now bringing to full fruition under a new name

Rochdale, with its buzzing arts scene also engages with other initiatives throughout the Greater Manchester area, and last week we reported on how Manchester Cathedral continues to keep its doors open to all comers. Last week we reported on the series of concerts and philosophical readings and debates we reported on currently being conducted by the cathedral, but in all the excitement we forgot to mention the poetry competition they are running to complement all that.

Sharpen your pencil, polish your pen or hit the keyboard, because the Manchester Cathedral 600 Poetry Competition is here!  The competition is now open and will close on 30 September 2021…

This year celebrates six centuries since the founding of the Collegiate Church which grew into our cathedral. We are celebrating the Cathedral – this extraordinary home of spiritual life and diversity, the beating heart of a vibrant city.

We are looking this year for poems which reflect, express or connect with the Cathedral in some way.  Poems will be short – no more than 15 lines – so that we can make them really visible in the city and beyond.  Poems you submit should be broadly religious or ‘spiritual’ in nature and, like all good religious poetry, appeal to those who might not describe themselves as ‘religious’. We would like to see poetry from different faith traditions, as well as from those struggling to discover a sense of the sacred. Write in any style or form – your poems will be judged solely on their merits as poetry.

And this year, rather than one winner and a lot of hopefuls, we will be simply offering TEN prizes of £100, and publishing the winning poems in a Celebration booklet.

Check our web site

for entry details.

Meanwhile allow us to introduce our panel of judges.

Robbie Burton began writing poetry in her 50s, gaining an MA at Liverpool Hope in 2003 and publishing the odd poem here and there the following year.

Someone Else’s Street, published by HappenStance, is her first collection. Since 2009, she has run Cross Border Poets, a very successful Poetry Society stanza.

Her poems have appeared in a wide variety of magazines. Her work has appeared in the Quaker anthology A Speaking Silence (ed. R Bailey and S Krayer), The Book of Love and Loss (ed. R Bailey & J Hall) and other anthologies. Her poem Eternal Plane was commended in the 2010 Poetry Society Stanza Competition. Nun With Keys was highly commended in the 2019 Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition, and her poem, Deeds, won 3rd prize in the 2018 Ledbury Poetry Competition.

Andrew Rudd is Poet in Residence at Manchester Cathedral. Lately he’s been listening to blackbirds a lot, and wondering whether a poem could ever make music like that

David Holgate thinks of reading, memorising and writing poetry as a normal part of everyday life.  A one-time editor of anthologies of poetry for schools, he is a fan of contemporary anthologies. As a New Testament scholar, he has a particular interest in the poetry and stories of Jesus. One of his jobs at Manchester Cathedral is to slip poetry into public spaces and prayers whenever possible

Patricia Holgate read English at the University of Cape Town, but has been an inveterate reader of poetry and fiction since childhood.  She is interested in British and American poetry and has a large personal library of contemporary work, especially by women.  Before moving to Manchester, she was a long-standing member of a creative writing group in Salisbury and she continues to write poetry for pleasure

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