Thursday, 29 December 2011

Generic 2011 Round-up

Songs of 2011

If Ever I Stray- Frank Turner-Finally Frank found his voice and his own tempo, no longer recycling cynical angst, his beautiful love and passion explode from this folk-rock gem

Let ‘em Come- Scroobius Pip- A forthright punk-gilded rap outburst, less of the story-poetry of earlier work, more a two-fingers assault

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised- Grace Petrie- A perfect political protest tune raging against the media and press, as uplifting as it is sweet-sounding

For The Kids of the Multiculture- Sonic Boom Six- Finally, a whole generation introduced to chavcore and SB6 perfectly reflecting 2011’s Britain, predicting the backlash from Racist Tram Lady

Bones- Random Hand- Another anthem for the ska-punk scene

Albums of the Year 2011

Richie Blitz- Protest Songs & Sing-a-longs

Grace Petrie- Mark My Words

Dropkick Murphys- Going Out In Style

Chris T-T- Disobedience

Claypigeon- Time Won’t Cease

Frank Turner- England Keep My Bones

Scroobius Pip- Distraction Pieces

Random Hand- Seething Is Believing

Stand Out Riot- Carnival Militia

Lowkey- Soundtrack to the Struggle

Best film of the year

Attack The Block

My highlights of 2011

I was grateful for Shattered Glass Media for a gig with Don’t Let Paris Fool You (R.I.P.) to start the year off. I performed my stuff to various punks and punk fans at Strummercamp 2011, meeting acts like Louise Distras, Billy Liar and lending a hand with Bootscraper’s Tim & Joel. I performed in London & Manchester for the first time.

At the Edinburgh Fringe I saw too many shows to mention, but shout-out to Matt Rudge, Tim Clare, Luke Wright, Tim key & Richard Marsh whose shows were lovely combinations of stand-up, comedy, theatre & spoken word. I also came 2nd overall in the Hammer & Tongue slam. Ace. Next year. Take a show. Fingers crossed.

Come September I performed in 40 Years On, a great bunch of lads and a fun performance to be a part of and cement myself within the Theatre Royal.

I supported John Cooper Clarke, compered the acoustic stage at Pie Race 3 with Jake & The Jellyfish, Joe Tilston and once again Billy Liar and Louise Distras. I compared a night at Stereo with Helen Chambers, Jonny Gill and Nathan Luke. I also put on my own gig at The Basement with Chris T-T and Franz Nicolay.

Me and my girlfriend Lizzie launched Snapping Turtle Press, a ‘zine pure DIY, home-made style to get my work out there but other poets and illustrators. Also so I could sell some stuff at gigs to put a bit towards trainfare. Drop me an e-mail if you want one, a mere 50p + P&P.

But it’s not all about me. Because that would be a boring year. I marched on the 26th March with hundreds & thousands of other angry protestors. At the Tory party conference aftermath I did Protest Hugs at Occupy Manchester. I marched again with the students in London in December. But I was also invited to read poems at the rallies to support strikes on the 30th Nov and the 30th June. I feel like I’ve been a part of a beautiful movement this year, with many heads and many arms. The Hardest Hit, the Trade Unionists, The (A)narchists, The Occupy Movement, the Militant Students, we’ve all played our part.

So…THE highlight:

Snapping Turtle Press #2 launch night, with some of my closest friends both performing and in the audience. Comedians, musicians, poets, story-tellers and randomers. I loved you all, and it was a great night. More to come in 2012.

So thanks to everyone for checking me out at a gig, speaking to me, giving me feedback, protesting with me, protesting at me, giving me a gig and buying the ‘zine. Oh, and thanks for reading this blog.

Next year’s resolution: The perform more and more gigs (naturally), to branch out to new cities, to take a show to Edinburgh Fringe (fingers crossed) and to work with more young people in an educational format, including workshops and devising.
So thanks again everyone, hope 2011 was good, hope 2012 is even good-ier.



Upcoming Jan & Feb 2012

Before I do my review of 2011, I just wanted to list some upcoming gigs and events so far for 2012

Jan 25th:  Part of Jonny Gill’s great line-up for his album launch at Duchess (York), I have tickets for £4 if anyone wants one

Jan 28th:  Comparing the Goods Vs. Evil night at Stereo hosted by Sky Rocket Jack

Feb 1st-2nd:  Letter To The Man (from the boy), my one-man spoken word show at the University of Leeds, Workshop Theatre.!/events/150593345049677/

Feb 5th:  Something at Stereo (York)…more details to come

Feb 8-11th:  At some point during the Leeds Fringe I’ll be performing a short story, will post details as soon as I get them!

Feb 10th:  Letter To The Man (from the boy) returns to York, this time at the City Screen Basement!/events/298150430228710/

Feb 25th:  Supporting Howard Marks at the Duchess, get in touch for £5 guestlist entry:

And that’s all before March!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A Little & A Little Adds Up To A Lot

This weekend I was privileged enough to perform at The Little Festival of Everything, the brainchild of Alex Wright (Belt-Up and Flanagan Collective) and Tom Bellerby (Pilot Theatre).  The setting:  The Fauconberg Arms in the small North Yorkshire village of Coxwold.  The plot:  To provide arts to a small community and allow companies to network and test material.  The cast:  Theatre companies, performers, musicians and poets from across the country perform in the tiny pub to local and travelling audiences. 
I wrote a poem about it, which I think sums it all up:

There was a little bit of sketch comedy when a man fell into a chasm
Two writers in a restaurant trying to out-do the other one
There was a little bit of music, the ugly sister’s side of the story
And foot-stomping, fist-swinging, hot dancing folk music glory
There was a little bit of poetry, lines written and read
Conversations with a copper who was also her Dad
There was a little bit of story-telling, William and Polly in the stars
Smiles on faces when we found out drinks were free at the bar
There was a little bit of heroism from tinfoil armoured knights
I had dinner with Dr. Higgs and I don’t think he’s quite right
There was a little market stall, a little chiselling of stone
A little filming too to tell the whole world what we know
That a little and a little and a little adds up to a lot
Going on in this friendly, old North Yorkshire pub.

I think that the event really tapped into the ‘folk’ element of theatre and poetry that we forget amongst the busy hustle of London and the rainy leaflet-driven world of Edinburgh.  To perform to a small handful of people in a small room in a small pub can achieve so much, when said show/pub/village/room is full of appreciation, friendliness and love.  Poetry and acoustic music and theatre can pretty much be performed anywhere, all you need is an audience, it’s a very rootsy ideology.
Also, remember I’m doing a gig this Thurs, by which I mean physically putting it on off my own back, so please come down, it’s Franz Nicolay, ace acoustic musician, and Chris T-T, protest music artist, plus Copasetics and Helen Chambers.  City Screen Basement, £6, starts 8pm, Dec 1st:!/event.php?eid=294161147279011

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Three Ps: Politics, Protest & Poetry

"When they say cut back, we reply: March, Strike, Poetry-ise"

Just read Dorian Lynskey’s article in The Guardian about the current protest music scene (  Made me think about poetry and politics.  I want to talk about a point Grace Petrie has hit the nail on the head here, to quote from The Guardian:

“The challenge, she believes, is to convince people alienated by mainstream politics to feel empowered in other ways. ‘What I'd like to achieve through my songs is to put it into a language that people who are new to politics can understand. There's not much to be gained by singing to rooms full of lefties who agree with me already.’”

Chris T-T has encountered this problem too, and has written the song Preaching To The Converted.  Itch from the King Blues has said more or less the same thing.  Who changed more people’s opinions, chart-toppers The Jam or The Clash or underground Anarcho-Punk bands like Discharge or Conflict?  I bet Anarcho-Punks are more dedicated to politics than fans of The Specials, but the number of people who bought and were stimulated by Ghost Town greatly outnumber the punx.

So, if we are talking about empowering a mainstream audience, please allow me to explore the medium of poetry and poetry open mics.  For poetry, it’s not really all that common to hear a politicalish poem here and there at open mic nights or slams.  We poets are, by nature, going to be upset with authoritarian government impeaching on our artistic liberties.  And, even worse than the musicians, we own a notion that we have something essential to say to the world.  And that the world wants to listen.  But we do have a fair whack of history behind us.  We have Shelly’s Masque of Anarchy to back us up, and the anti-war poems that emerged from the First World War.  We have William Blake.  We’ve got Allan Ginsburg.  We’ve got The Lost Poets, Jack Mapanje, Gill Scott-Heron, Ian McMillan, John Cooper Clarke and Attila The Stockbroker. And shout-out to less known fellows Captain Of The Rant, Cat Brogan, The Ruby Kid, Kate Tempest, Monkey Poet, Chemical Poets, Luke Hoggarth, Martin Dawes and Young Dawkins.

But in all times where there’s clearly a mass movement, an injection of inspirational art never went amiss.  Coming from a theatre background, I’ve never been comfortable in going down the Emily Dickinson route of keeping my poems locked away privately.  Reading aloud to a crowd, words can stir the soul to thoughts and actions.  Like music, a poem read live is one of the most powerful tools we have in changing the world.

Reading political poetry aloud is not without its traps.  Perform a poem with too much aggressive politics, it makes the room uncomfortable.  Talking about violence, anarchy, socialist revolution and standing on a chair screaming your mouth off would be totally out of context.  And rightly so, poetry gigs are usually in a cosy back room of a pub or small bar, maybe even theatres or libraries.  Without the drive of music backing the work, it can fall embarrassingly flat.  And worse, it makes your issue seem like an over-zealous, extremist, radical and alienating affair.  But, as Grace says, it’s not about preaching to the converted.  It’s about creating accessible art that engages people and inspires them to perhaps take further action.  Like Sonic Boom Six’s Kids Of The Multi Culture, The King Blues’ Save The World, Get The Girl or The Jam’s Town Called Malice coming on the radio with a catchy hook, a poem in the right space at the right time has such incredible power and energy it’s no wonder poets and artists have been feared in dictatorships around the world.

So if you’re thinking of joining the foray and writing a political or protest poem about current issues, here are my thoughts.  I’m far from the most experienced ‘political poet’ out there, if anyone’s interested in writing some protest poetry, here’s some vague advice:

·         Don’t force it.  Allow the poem to come organically.  Let the thoughts mull around in your head.  Wait for inspiration; else the poem lacks that authentic element.  Don’t worry, watch the news enough and read newspapers you’ll find your spark.
·         Make the poem into a story.  Stating the facts is boring and too much like a speech.  Focus on a character, a situation, an emotion.  Make us care about the human issue.
·         Believe in what you’re saying.  Don’t talk about violence if you don’t agree with violence.  Don’t be naively optimistic if you feel somewhat cynical.  All honest individual feelings give your poem weight and avoid it becoming meaningless propaganda.
·         Have a read about issues online.  Look at pictures.  Go down to an occupation, picketline or march.  Talk to people.  Immerse yourself in a vibrant world.
·         Take delight in feeling like your poem will change the world.  It won’t, but it may well change people’s opinions.  Far more exciting for an artist if you ask me.

Anyone with some thoughts, please let me know suggestions or ideas.  Drop me an e-mail or on my FB, I’m always looking for different ways to write and be inspired to write.

Here’s a few examples of protesty/politicalish poetry.  My poem Protest Hugs (which you can see here: is a love poem in disguise, with some daft images it sort of works at open mic nights depending how it’s delivered.  Same for my new poetryzine The Unkettleables.  Here’s me performing at the rally for June 30th 2011 strikes, far more aggressive but the audience interaction works well with a crowd who are used to chants:  I remember Inua Ellams reading a poem that was heavily narrative-driven, focusing in on individuals, both police and protestors.  Luke Wright’s The Vile Ascent of Lucian Gore & What The People Did ( is packed with humour.

Poetry, like all mediums, is our tool to inspire and engage audiences.  If poetry is meant to reflect the beauty of humanity, then I assure you there is nothing more beautiful than people unified.  And if you think the movement only has frenzied hatred, then it’s your responsibility to inject it with some love and poetry.

P.S. In response to the continous search for political music, personally, finding decent acts has never been a problem.  I think large protest movements do inevitably give rise to more people getting involved with making political music, so if you’ve having to desperately scour to find political music online or at the right sort of gig, maybe you’re looking in the wrong places.  Need some UK acoustic folk, with hints of the political, social conscious and protest?  Louise Distras, Jake & The Jellyfish, Billy Liar, Richie Blitz, Ducking Punches, Mike Scott, Robin Leitch, Chas Palmer-Williams, The Casual Terrorist, Chris T-T, Gary Kaye, Mike Scott, Mike Only, Ed Ache, Emma Hallows, Perkie, Joe Tilston, Babar Luck, The Last Laugh, King Charles, Sam Russo, Al Baker, Shankland, Liam O’kane, Oxygen Thief and the collective Fold.  Bands?  Too many to mention.  Here’s a few.  ONSIND, The Junk, Tyrannosaurs Alan, Throw Rocks At Cops, Crazy Arm, The Exposed, Resolution 242, Dirty Revolution, Stand Out Riot.
There.  Now grab a guitar/pen & paper and do it yourself.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


When you’ve been kettle tight by police,
So close its nose-to-armpit
And you really badly need a wee
And there’s not even enough room to hop from one foot to the other
And you’re human rights have been abused
Because they won’t even tell you that night’s X-Factor result…
You call…

The 'zine cover

A new poetryzine, Unkettleables is a 14 page story about a hardy group of kettled individuals attempting to escape from a police blockade.  However their methods involve pogo sticks, space hoppers, catapults and a legion of pigeons to slip past the police lines.
Written by me (Henry Raby) in the spirit of humorous punk poetry and lovingly illustrated by Lizzie Alderdice, this ‘zine is 100% DIY style.  The story itself is a like a fusion of Doctor Seuss and Shelly’s Masque of Anarchy.  A entertaining read anyone who’s ever been on a protest or anyone who enjoys surreal little stories.
To grab a copy simply drop me (Henry) an e-mail at  They’re priced 50p to cover printing/time/stapes/ink etc, plus however much P&P will cost, as wel accept Paypal.  I have them at most of my gigs as well.
This is part of the Snapping Turtle Press bibliography, which includes two compilations of poems my myself, Lizzie and other poets, both 50p each.
Cheers J

Here's some examples of the 'zine:
someone else suggested balloons.  Admittedly some read Congratulations but there was no call for celebration too soon.

His design for a makeshift catapult was fairly ill-conceived, whilst his slingshot made from banners and flags needed to be seen to be believed. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

If the Bad or Good Times are comin'...let 'em come!

I sit and type this fully intending to listen to Horror Punk and Psychobilly for Halloween (like Lord Byron used to do), and I might get to that later, but for now I’m listening to Chris T-T’s album of his show Disobedience, a collection of acoustic/folk songs based on the poems of A.A. Milne.  It’s a lovely set of poems, perfect for anyone of all ages, heart-warming, guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and only slightly left-wing J
Listen and/or buy here:
I supported the living legend that is John Cooper Clarke on Saturday night at the Duchess.  I always prefer it when JCC does more poems that his anecdotes, they sort of trail off into nowhere, and I’ve heard his jokes many times before whereas I can listen to his poems over and over again.  I think it’s an example of a tight show, even though it’s £15 a ticket, I reckon I’d rather seen 60 mins of quick-fire Clarke than the blurry 90 mins.  I think I did a decent enough set, people were engaged, new faces watched me intently, and although I had to break out the shoutier stuff to grab the babbling audience’s attention for my last 2 poems, I think it went quite well.  Nice to have a dressing room, eee that’s the big time.

Last night I went to see Scroobius Pip supported by B.Dolan last night.  It makes me think about my relationship with rap and hip-hop, a genre I came to because other bands I liked were influenced by this sort of music, it never clicked with me when Eminem etc. was all cool When We Were Teenagers.  So I really like their style of rap, intelligent, hints of the political and very theatrical, definitely showmen (B.Dolan wore a noose round his neck, Pip chatting in-between songs).  Same with The Ruby Kid, Sage Francis and MC Lars.  However I’m glad Pip commented how people in this country look like cat trying to reach something when doing the sort of hands up hand movement thing when the beat drops.  I’m no rapper, but as Pip and B.Dolan show there’s a blurred line between spoken word/poetry and rap music, but we all share energy, passion and great live shows whether acapella or with beats backing us up.  And Pip’s collection of poems with illustrations is brilliant, what I imagine Sbapping Turtle Press (the DIY poetryzine me and Lizzie do) will evolve into (
In other news:  2012 is looking busy busy busy already!  Here’s a list of upcoming gigs/events:
5th November PIE RACE FESTIVAL 3 comparing the Bar Room Hero acoustic stage:

16 November GILLGATE OPEN MIC another outing with Can’t Sing, Can’t Dance, Don’t Care comedy collective.  Dunno what I’ll do for it yet…but I’ll do it!
27th November LITTLE FESTIVAL OF EVERYTHING I’ll be performing Letter To The Man (from the boy), my one-man show at this fantastic festival up in Coxwold at the Fauconberg Arms:

1st December FRANZ NICOLAY + CHRIS T-T I’m putting on a gig (so you can be sure I’ll be doing the odd poem) at City Screen Basement.  More info here, both amazing musicians:

1+2nd February 2011:  LETTER TO THE MAN (FROM THE BOY) comes to Leeds.  My spoken word show, I do some poems, the audience do some scribbling, we all reminisce about growing up, becoming adults but never forgetting what we once loved.  Plus it’ll be free!  Two shows, one on the 1st, one on the 2nd, but limited capacity, so watch out for more info
8th February 2011:  LETTER TO THE MAN (FROM THE BOY) comes to York, this time in City Screen Basement Bar.  Haven’t decided price yet, but will get some support acts to make it people’s threepenny.
So thanks for checking out the blog. Have a good Halloween (a pagan ritual where we dress up as Frankenstein).


Thursday, 27 October 2011

How Awesome Merchendise Saved Rock 'n' Roll

Dave stared into the abyss.
The emptiness of the room gazed into his soul
Tore through his chest and took a shit in his heart.
The promoter held back tears like a brave soldier
And the sound guy kept checking his watch out of spite.
They packed the gear away.
The van spluttered in embarrassment onwards
And trapped inside, nobody spoke or met each other’s tearful eyes.
Dave arrived home.
He still believed in the dream, and went online
As he usually did to update the band’s necessary Facebook status.
“Great gig”  He lied.
He could not bear to look at himself in the mirror
And felt a small bubble of bile and vomit clog his throat.
Rock ‘n’ roll nearly died.
The ghosts of Elvis and Cobain were silent
They did not even bother to criticise this miscarriage to music.
But then, Dave noticed something.
An advert online for something called Awesome…
Awesome Merchandise for bands and artists alike.
Click.  Click.  Click.
The shopping cart was brimming like a packed venue
And the packages flying faster than a crowd-surfing singer.
Rock ‘n’ roll did not die.
Dave’s band never slowed down after that fateful night
And their fans were innumerable and armed with badges and t-shirts.
Their logo was omnipresent.
Upon lighters, bags, banners, coasters, hats, plecrums and mugs
Dave’s face was everywhere and automatically dubbed Awesome.
Eventually Dave would die.
Drugs and easy women took their predictable course
And greatly affected his musical abilities to the level of a small child.
They would find him dead.
Alone, in a pool of fluids, pen and paper in hand, with a half-written song
Which even his most loyal fans admitted was pretty naff.
But no one once blamed his merch.
His Awesome Merchandise.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

“Why is it all the intelligent people are socialists?!”-Headmaster

So on October 2nd I went alongside a coachload of others from York to Manchester’s March Against The Tories organised by the TUC.  Predictably, the march was sealed off by police, the route didn’t seem to see a single member of the public and for the most part we were only chanting to ourselves.  It seemed the example of a fruitless exercise, more demoralising than uplifting.  A trudge through streets repeating chant after chant serves little purpose when the only people who can hear you were chanting the exact same thing a few minutes earlier. And with no media coverage whatsoever and nothing really appearing in the papers, it’s more like a play acted to no one, a performance without a crowd.  As The Player says in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead: 
There we were—demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance—and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air. We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. Don't you see?! We're actors—we're the opposite of people!”
There were were-demented protestors shouting forth revolutionary anthems, holding high banners, placing very ounce of faith in unity.  Every action went unnoticed upon the sleepy world tuned out behind a barrier of police.  We’re activists-we’re the opposite of people!
Similar too was the Manchester occupation of Albert square, an attempt to recreate Tahir and Trafalgar occupations.  If it wasn’t for the rain, we’d have having a kick about, dancing to a soundsystem and there’d be far more people trickling in.  As it stood, in the miserable weather, we huddled under a weak canvas with the only option to listen to speakers.  I performed Protest Hugs, the first ever time I’ve done a poem at a rally or political event when the audience didn’t really know me, York’s crowd usually recognise my face.  Think I did alright, needed to be a littler calmer on the mic, make sure I could be heard, but few people cheered and said they enjoyed it so can’t complain.  Also, my fans on my LikePage ( has gone up a lil (not that I’m a fame junkie or anything…)

Here’s a little link:  “Why is it all the intelligent people are socialists?!”-Headmaster, 40 Years On
On a very different note, I’m currently in 40 Years On at the Theatre Royal, York (  Alan Bennett’s first play, it’s more a collection of sketches from his Oxford days, but nevertheless very funny sketches.  It’s very fun to get back into acting, for some of the other lads it’s another job for them, but I haven’t had a nice role since spring 2010 when we did Henry IV Part 2 at Uni.  So it feels refreshing to be part of a play that’s getting good reviews, getting laughs and has some interesting things to say about Britain and Englishness, out attitudes to war and literature.  Our sense of morality and duty did not extend to actually being helpful, kind and generous in British society, and in an attempt to reclaim some sense of social justice post-world war two we have lost those notions of honour and stiffupperlipness.  Or perhaps it’s about the last day of term and some lads mucking about.  Judge for yourself, it’s on till next Saturday and I guarantee it will make you laugh at least once (or twice).
My current projects are many and scary.  There’s a play-writing competition for the York Mystery Plays to create a modern re-telling.  Something to think about, get my theatre head back on.  Then I want to really work on Letter To The Man (From The Boy) and make sure it’s watertight.  And finally, I want to work on a new long piece, 20-30 mins, based on love because to be honest that’s a subject I’ve not touched in my 4.5 years performing.  Now’s the time.
At the moment I’m having a sort of evaluation of what I can offer.  Yes I can do open mics, sets of poems and slots, but I want to write more ‘shows’ and packages that can appear to the majority of people.  So expect The Unkettleables poem coming very soon but after than a few more poems about growing up, love and friendship for any audience of any age at any event.
Bring on 2012!
Also a handful of upcoming gigs but not overly booked out so please get in touch to recommend any poetry nights or events etc. I should check out!
Cheers all, thanks for visiting my blog, all the best J

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Edinburgh Fringe Fest & York Peace Fest round-ups

So I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the 3rd time, the second time for the full run.  Last year I left Edinburgh with a desire to get back as soon as possible, and this year was much the same with the exception I desperately want to take a show in 2012, as opposed to work as a Techie which is what I did 2010 and 2011.
So firstly a few theatre highlights:  hanging out with The River People and seeing their visually spectacular Little Matter with old chum Ivan Stott.  Their Wagon, a medievial-style travelling theatre, has much the same ideology I share about folk and poetry.  It can be transferred anywhere, be performed anywhere, car park, field, garden, street etc.  The other great company I checked out was Milk Presents, whose Bluebeard:  A Fair Tale For Adults was gloriously chaotic.  Also drinking with some old, old friends whilst Dave from Propaganda Company and Ed from The River People play great tunes in the Wagon was terrific and unforgettable, one of those special Fringe moments.
I managed to perform three times this year, once was a spontaneous performance of a short set at the Forest Café thanks to Billy Liar.  Billy plays really tight and furious folk-punk and you should definitely check out his EP It Starts Here and title track.  Billy made me feel right at home at the Forest and gave me plenty of tips, so please check out his music:
The Forest Café is in desperate need of assistance to keep it running financially, please show some love over here:  My Fringe wouldn’t be the same without it, I dislike the big venues and overpriced generic booze.  Forest Café is the sort of place you can wander in and there’ll always be some random thing going on or bump into someone you know.
I also entered the Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam, getting through one round to perform the next night and come second overall, something I am so incredibly proud of and owe a lot to my mates for coming out to the nights, you guys are great chums J I said after seeing shows last year I needed to raise my game, and progressing to the next round as opposed to coming nowhere near last year makes me feel like I must be doing something right.
RAWR!!! Thanks to Cat Brogan for the picture (a poet with more fire than Vesuvius). 
But my key experience of the Fringe was seeing one-man shows.  Letter To The Man (from the boy), my one-man piece which debuted at York TakeOver Festival, is still a work in progress but I have some plans to come for it.  Shows I saw really inspired me, though, to understand the piece as one whole, rounded ‘show’.  I saw some shows classed as story-telling, some as comedy, some as poetry, but clearly it’s hard to simply label these so definitely.  Matt Rudge’s We Could Be Heroes was billed as stand-up, but Matt wanted it to have an element of theatre and seriousness messages behind it.  It was a great show, Matt is a clever comedian, but part of me wondered if he could have pushed the ‘theatre’ element further, more akin to Chris Goode’s The Adventures of Wound Man & Shirley or Ben Brailsford:  My Fortnum & Mason Hell, two monologues but packed with humour and almost stand-up moments.  Skittles by friendly and very talented Richard Marsh made the audience laugh throughout the entire performance, and rightly gained great praise and sell-out shows.  Tim Clare’s stand-up show How To Be A Leader delved into hilarious rap at the end, referenced his spoken word material and clearly came from a performative angle rather than simple stand-up in a pub.  Luke Wright’s very tight Cynical Ballads was a collection of his very satirical, funny and sharp poems but, of course, coupled with his banter in-between poems and projections, made it comedy and theatre.  Tim Key, too.  Baths.
So here’s a conclusion:  I want to create a ‘show’.  The core of it will be the poetry, but if it’s a specific ‘show’, a specific ‘performance’ then it will be different to a simple set at a poetry or music night.  This means it needs a running thread, a rounded theme.  Not necessarily a direct ‘message’ but certainly an overarching collection of ideas to explore.  Also I think I can play more with who I am in this, when performing normally it’s essentially me in ‘poetry mode’, but this will allow something to be more of a character or certainly characterful.  Food for thought.

Scrapbook to come!

(On a final note, thanks to everyone who came out to York Peace Festival and thanks to the Backyard Cabaret stage for having me last Sunday).  Full set can be found here:  It was a fanastic community day for everyone with all manner of causes and arts side-by-side and I appreciate so much being a part of it and a stage with musicians and theatre-makers and comedians. 
^^^This above photo by

Thursday, 28 July 2011


The Men In Suits came to our city’s old walls
Armed with suspicious grins.  We all knew what was in store.
They tried to get into the city but the gate was shut
We said:  “You’ll pardon us if we don’t fully trust
But we remember Vikings and we remember Romans
We remember Dick Turpin, Guy Fawkes and Queen Vic
But we also remember non-magical money tricks.”
But the Men In Suits just smiled like vultures
Told us they had big plans for our town’s future
Promised shiny new hospitals worth every penny,
(though maybe not available to the smelly many)
Schools vastly improved at only slight expense,
(though maybe not everyone will access the contents)
Take the ‘Holiday’ out of Holiday Camp when it comes to prisons,
Sell off contracts, people and property with veiled good intentions.
But we knew we could not let our town be bought and slowly die
And as one we all replied in a mighty cry:
“You’ll turn Clifford’s Tower into one giant CCTV camera
Set up a base of operations in the crypt of the Minster
And if we disagree you’ll chain us up in the Dungeons.
What you’ll do to the Museum Gardens doesn’t even deserve a mention,
And we’re the most haunted city in Europe, but you’ll make it a real ghost town.
You’ll bulldoze every decent pub except you won’t knock The Willow down.”
Well the mask had slipped, the Men In Suits cursed and swore
As they tried feebly to batter down our gates and doors,
But were forced to bring their mercenary army to bear.
Armed with spears, axes, swords and hefty cleavers
They said “we’re going to chop your city and carve it up
And what we don’t hack, we’ll suck out all the blood
From your little town.  All its little history
Will still remain, but without a future of opportunity.
It’ll be our little quaint museum piece of peace,
A pretty little town sold and lulled to gentle sleep.
All those battles will be confined to the long forgotten past.
Any form of spirit kept firmly in a museum under glass.”
We (the people on the walls and the people in the roads
The people in the parks, in the pubs, in our homes)
Who had built the Minster, the Tower, the city walls
Knew this city was our home, these streets belong to us all.
So the cry went out from this old city fuelled by the past
Proving this spark and this community was built to last:
“You buy it, you break it
This city’s not for taking
We demand a future as well as a past
As One Voice Let Cry: York Fights Back

Listen online at:

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Protest Hugs the Movie (starring Bruce Willis as placard-holder-1)

What have I been up to?  Henry Rollin’s stand-up is bloody funny I’ll tell you that much.
Last week’s Snapping Turtle event was ace if I may say so myself, a busy and engaged crowd plus some amazing performers and some great laughs to boot.  Thanks to all the performers, Ben Winterton, Conor Whelan, Emma Swanton, Jake Holdsworth, Dan Sky Rocket, Jim Higo, Billy Lowther, Yuppa Brothers, Pete Sutton, John Holt Roberts and Al Baker. 
Thanks to everyone involved!  I really hope to put on more of these 'variety' nights on in York, I know enough poets/comedians/musicians/performers so hopefuly be able to start a regular-ish event bringing new talent to York as well as highlighting what we have here in the city.  There's a lot to be proud of in York, we have decent talent if you know where to look.  So if you would like to help out setting up these events, have any thoughts or might like to perform drop me a message we'll see where the wind takes us :)

In Other News:  Issue #2 of SNAPPING TURTLE PRESS is on sale now featuring various poets and hand drawn images by Lizzie Alderdice all for a mere 50p, copies of Issue #1 still available, please e-mail to get hold of one.
Also Lizzie has made a video of Protest Hugs:  A Love Poem recorded live at Stereo 13/07/2011
Watch it on youtube HERE:
 “These could be the last days/So let’s spend them together/ Let’s Never Surrender”-Evan Greer
“So here’s to love and solidarity, and a kiss behind the barricades”-David Rovics
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”-Che Guevara

Monday, 4 July 2011

Picketlines, protests and poetryzines

Last week 700,000 members of various Unions, including ATL, UCU, NUT and PCS, went on strike to defend their pensions. Rallies took place all over the country and I was very privileged and honoured to be asked to perform at the York Rally in Parliament Square to support the strikes.  These are genuinely historic moments, I don’t mean historic in the sense Columbus landing on what became known as America or Dickens writing Great Expectations but these events are catalysts and we should not underestimate the unity that comes from images of rallies in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, London etc all happening simultaneously.  I’m very proud of my hometown, and would rather stand on picketlines in York than go to a big rally in a bigger city because it’s my town and my home and my neighbours.
So I performed 2 poems, and I suppose I cheated a bit because neither were particularly original.  However I’ve performed my other political poems before at rallies, and these seemed very relevant.  I’ve been sadly too busy to write something really new, but hopefully this week or next, at least before my Edinburgh Adventure.

I performed The Picketline Song by Evan Greer as a poem, changing the words from empathises on the character in the song’s mother to just simple unity of “we all”.  I think it works in the context, it turns it into being about Us rather than Me.  The song can be found here and is incredibly inspirational, and one of the very few songs I can actually play on guitar.
The second poem I first heard via Al Baker & The Dole Queue.  Go Call FEMA (again by Evan Greer is about community and unity and rejecting the government bureaucracy that doesn’t actually help real people.  Al changed it to be more ‘British’ with references to Blair, the TUC and Cameron.  In the spirit of folk music, adapting, handing down, keeping the traditional afloat, I made it more relevant to the current struggle, renaming it ‘Can’t Draw EMA’.

(Video can be found HERE:
Speaking of Al Baker, he’s headlining a gig I’m putting on at Stereo, York.  I haven’t put a gig on for a good while now, so hoping this one goes down without any hitches.  There’s poetry, live music and comedy from mates in Can’t Sing, Can’t Dance, Don’t Care.  It’s FREE ENTRY, kicks of 7.30 and proves to be an ace night, promise.  Here’s the Facebook Event:!/event.php?eid=213054468714727
It’s also the launch of #2 of SNAPPING TURTLE PRESS me and my girlfriend Lizzie Alderdice’s poetryzine, with the theme of urban cities.  We had a look through submissions yesterday and very excited for the next issue and where this project is going.
So, to summarise:
Keep fighting
Come to the gig 13th July 2011, Stereo, York, 7.30, free entry
Click the link here:!/pages/Snapping-Turtle-Press-Poetryzine/215596188477512 find more info about Snapping Turtle Press poetryzine