6th This Is Not A Burns Night, Govanhill Baths review Pat Byrne
I went along with my friend Gillian to The Rum Shack (657– 659 Pollokshaws Road, G41 2AB) for our first experience of this annual event. This year the celebration combined fundraising for Govanhill Baths with a tribute to the poet Tom Leonard who died recently. The venue was downstairs in the pub and it was stowed – by luck we’d got there early so were able to grab a good seat near the stage.
There were loads of familiar faces in the audience including Dave Anderson and Greg Philo (one of my lecturers at Glasgow Uni many moons ago). The place was awash with poets – we had two at our table: Maria Venditozzi and Finola Scott.
Jim Monaghan hadn’t given himself a spot but he was an excellent host. He explained that Tom Leonard had lived in Annette Street in Govanhill and made the point that the Govanhill Baths Campaign was a great example of working class solidarity and fitted very well with much of what Tom Leonard was about.
First up was the flamboyant poet Jim Ferguson, invariably entertaining, he spoke of how he first met Tom in the 80s at Paisley Writers’ Group, where Tom had ‘brought him out of his shell.’ Jim read some of Tom’s work and some of his own. I particularly enjoyed ‘Mr Chesty’, which Jim read from the wee book Tom had given to him in 1989.
Following Jim was Tracy Harvey, from Auchinleck. I’d never heard any of her work before but she’s a gifted writer. Her ‘Zombie on the Train’ was bursting with imagery and humour and her poem about two neighbours Betty and Leeanne was equally amusing but also full of pathos. Anyone who has every lived up a close will completely relate to this gem.
In contrast I had heard plenty about award winning writer, Chris McQueer, but I’d never seen him perform. He certainly lived up to his reputation as he revealed his range of outrageous characters, like the guy who wanted his hair cut the same as a notorious child killer and Big Davie – delighted with the tattoo on his bum.
Apart from performers listed there were some special guests: Liz Lochhead, made a brief and enjoyable appearance and Tam Dean Burn performed an extract of Tom Leonard’s ‘Mother Courage’.
‘hawd yer wheesht there stoap yer drum
it’s mother courage this way come
oh have yer squaddies halt and buy
new boots and claes an aw forbye!
flearidden sojers who love their loot
still want the guns they need tae shoot
but how does yer squaddie march tae fight
in scabby boots that’s faur too tight?….’
In the second half we had a lively set from the very feisty spoken work artist Victoria McNulty, who read from her ‘Confessionals’ (a performance piece basically created because Victoria “wanted to write about domestic violence from a working class woman’s perspective”. Just as well this was an ‘alternative’ Burns celebration as she had a wee disapproving word to say about the Bard.
The Ayrshire connection was well represented and the final reader was Rab Wilson, from New Cumnock, which apparently existed before Cumnock. He treated us to some of Tom Leonard’s work including his unique take on Nursery Rhymes. Rab also read some of his own work; ‘Sceptic Tank’ was particularly clever and funny.
Glasgow singer/songwriter Abi Normal, who also accompanies Victoria McNulty, played some of her original songs to conclude the show then Jim Monaghan invited everyone to raise a glass to Tom Leonard.
I’m sure Tom would have approved of the event with its fine airing of Scots language and humour. As well as being entertained I learned that in Ayrshire clothes horses are called winter dykes. A very touching addition was provided by Tom’s family, who had very kindly provided booklets from his funeral service complete with his recipe for Lentil Soup. I will definitely try out that recipe and if I had an open fire I would surround it with winter dykes.
Pat Byrne, 22 January, 2019
- (If the audience had been asked for requests I would have shouted out for ‘liason coordinator ‘ from Tom Leonard’s (Ghostie Men). It was the first poem I heard him read – a couple of decades ago at S.T.U.C. in Glasgow. Having worked as a community development worker for a number of years, I’d met a few people with that particular job title ‘jist whut this erria needs’. Unlike many writers and artists Tom Leonard has a particularly good website and I’m really pleased the poem is on there along with a lot of wonderful examples of his writing and views.www.tomleonard.co.uk)
- Five years ago I asked Tom if I could add him to the section Glasgow Writers on my website and was delighted when he agreed. Glasgow Writers: Tom Leonard.
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