Open Mic at the Balloch House Hotel

balloch house hotel

Welcome to another ‘first’ for The Balloch Open Mic!

Word of mouth, a newsletter, Facebook and now a presence on             

The seed for a local Open Mic was sown in a car journey home from a Glasgow speakeasy.  Why was there nowhere nearer? Answer? Do something about it.  In December 2017 an open invitation was extended to local writers who answered the call and fully supported the idea of a local Open Mic

Several potential venues were explored but found to be unsuitable – health and safety, too small, no food/drink facilities, accessibility. There was also the problem of money. We hadn’t any! We are still unfunded. Everyone involved, including our headliners, are volunteers.  A big Thank You is due to everyone.

Balloch House Hotel

room-open-mic-alexandria-balloch room

Fortune smiled on us and our first Open Mic took place on  Monday, 5th February, 2018, in the Function Room of the Balloch House Hotel, offered free of charge. All the five minute slots were quickly filled. Our first ‘headliner’ was Rolf Campbell who entertained with serious and emotive poetry as well as his more amusing pieces. Until Covid struck we continued meeting the first Monday of the month – except for Bank Holidays when we met on the Tuesday following.

balloch open mic reader

Apart from the local writing talent we had visitors coming in by train or car. There was usually a ‘headline’ act and everyone invited has so far agreed, and some have returned to book a slot. Readings are eclectic, poems, prose, articles, funny (sometimes scurrilous), serious – in English or Scots. What is most rewarding is the feedback that we are such a welcoming group. making for a pleasant and entertaining night out. People came just to listen.

The founders and organisers are:

Ann MacKinnon – a prize-winning poet who has been published in various anthologies, newspapers, pamphlets and magazines. Her latest book is due out soon.

Mary Irvine – a relatively new-comer to creative writing. She is enjoying all the new experiences especially receiving regular royalties from ‘The Wind Whispers Her Name‘!

George Gibson – a former director at the Scottish Writers Centre who has recently had his debut poetry collection, ‘The Final Midnight’, published by Seahorse Publications

The Final Midnight by George Gibson

the final midnight

In ‘The Final Midnight’, George Gibson’s debut collection of poetry, we are treated to a cornucopia of fascinating insights into his world. He has a musical quality to his verse, perhaps not surprising, as he shows his love of music in poems in praise of musicians. Not only does he use music in his poetry, but he praises fellow writers and artists. Many of his poems, though, are personal and a number show his sense of humour but there is a dark underbelly.  Sometimes rhyming and often free verse, he plays with different forms.

With such a wide range of poems it is difficult to select a favourite, but I will choose a few lines which, I feel, sum up George’s attitude to poetry. In, ‘A Bucketful of Poems’ he quotes Harriet Martiniau,’ as she says she wants to, 

’make my mind worth more than before.’

I feel after reading this collection that my mind has been improved as it has given me insight into a different world. 

He sounds very like MacCaig, when he says in The ‘Rememberer,’

‘no-one listens in the clatter of the day.’ 

 His collection is well worth listening to, for as he says,’ These moments craft our lives,’ in Less Judgemental Times Than These.

He talks about Leonard Cohen’s voice being, ’like dark blue ink’ but I think this collection is full of bold black strokes on the page. It is the humanity in it that brings it to life, the looking back over lives well-lived as in, ’Sitting with my Three Amigos.

‘The warm bath

 of this memory.’

and the engagement with the life that is now. His poems are ‘birthed from a blank page’ and they give the reader hope as in, Loch Lomond Under Snow’ he says, ‘Spring gives birth and earth transforms.’ We can be sure that there are many more poems to come as he promises, in ‘Unwritten Poems’, ‘It’s never enough to live the life,

          I live in my head.’

Review by Ann MacKinnon

All comments/suggestions/submissions: Please Email

October, 2020.

Open Mic Hits the Sticks – Mary Irvine, March 2018

Balloch Open Mic: Something from the Archives

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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