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Poetry Café

Arts Richmond

Hampton Hill Theatre - 15 June 2018

Poetry Café

A Wonderful Evening of Poetry and Music

This inaugural event was planned to capture the atmosphere of a friendly café/pub.  Every seat in the studio at HHT was taken and the audience was entertained by a varied and versatile group of poets and musicians, many of whom perform regularly at the Adelaide.

The MC for the 1st half was Heather Montford who charmed the audience with her poem, Kew Gardens before going on to introduce members of the vocal group, French Lessons and two of the four featured poets, Suzy Rigg and David Russomano.  French Lessons has been playing together since the mid-70s and their experience and musicality, a mixture of pop/jazz and folk, shone through in numbers such as A Stop in Time and The Last Sale Day. Two of the group were present, Richard Gleave and Ian Lee-Dolphin who acted as MC in the 2nd half of the programme.

Suzy Rigg was the first of the featured poets. Her first anthology ‘Songs of My Soul’ was published in 2017 and since then she has been invited all over the country to read her poems. Her most recent poem ‘SS Empire Windrush’ was highly topical and presented a fascinating account of those first Caribbean people arriving in the UK. Suzy was followed by the delightful, exuberant folk singer, Delia Gleave, who has the capacity to engage the audience, even getting them to join in. David Russomano is much travelled, and this is reflected in his poetry. Many of his poems are enigmatic no more so than in ‘On Pompano Beach’ which succeeds in making a tantalising mystery from an unrecognisable object found on the beach. This poem like many of the poems he presented can be found in his publication, Reasons for Moving.

The second half of the programme began with a lively introduction by Ian Lee-Dolphin who introduced three polished unpublished poets: Fran Thurling who read an ecological poem about the amount of plastic washed up on Henderson island; Heather Moulson and her chirpy and highly amusing poems, The Beautician and Economics; and last but by no means least, Kevin Taggerty who sprang into the acting area to perform Genetics, a most thoughtful poem about the characteristics he may or have not inherited from his father.

The third featured poet of the evening was Greg Freeman. Greg, a former newspaper sub-editor who now co-runs Speak Out Aloud, a performance poetry group in Woking. His debut poetry pamphlet, ‘Trainspotters’, was published in 2015. One of Greg’s most memorable poems featured  images of Daffodils, which was about father’s survival whilst working on the Kwai Railway.

Frances White was our final featured poet who has authored three poetry anthologies with Words, a group founded by the late Aeronwy Thomas, daughter of Dylan Thomas. These poems plus Frances’s first collection of poetry, Swiftscape, have been performed at many venues and festivals throughout England and Wales. Sadly, Frances has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, which is affecting her speech. A selection of her poems was read by Frances’s husband, Steve and Heather Montford who gave inspired readings, including the poem ‘The Black Cuillin’, a mountain range on the Isle of Sky and where Frances’s youngest brighter died when he was only twenty-two.

The culmination of the evening was Trefor Ellis (son-in-law of the late Dylan Thomas) who read three of Dylan’s poems and concluded by singing the Prayer from Under Milk Wood to the absolute delight of everyone present.

This sun-blessed evening of poetry and music was a great success. Both the music and poetry were varied and there was something there to suit everybody’s taste. All performers were confident and relaxed and this I suspect was due to the rehearsals they had undertaken. There was, however, a degree of natural interaction between MCs, performers, and audience and this made for an even more enjoyable event.

The next Arts Richmond Poetry Event is the WW1 Armistice Centenary Poetry Event that takes place on Sunday, 11th November from 3-5pm at the Coach House, Orleans Gallery. If this evening’s performance is anything to go by, it promises to be a ‘not to be missed’ event.

Celia Bard

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