London. Awake at 5.15am in a taxi at 6.30am at Paddington train station for 7am and off to the historic and gorgeous town of Shrewsbury. I arrive, three trains later at 11am. There are gargoyles in the stone of Shrewsbury Train Station. I’m doing three readings on stage in the town square this afternoon for a Love Music Hate Racism concert. I’m on stage at Noon. I enjoy these readings where the audience has the choice of whether to listen or continue shopping. Here is where poets should be. You got ta be in the mood for it though.
“It’s a pleasure to be here for the Love music Love racism Concert” I bellow from the
stage through the PA. It’s actually the love music hate racism concert – There isn’t one single laugh. I can hear the tumbleweed. What is a joke to me is an awkward concept to many: Humour and Race. That’s okay The sun is shining. It is prime small town weather and I am a visitor. “You see, I thought that was funny” I tell them. The laughter works its way out. I’m pleased, because there is some serious poetry to read. I see a child
watching me and sucking an icecream which in slow motion slips off the cone and
splats onto the floor.
So this is what I am doing, three fifteen minute readings. Considering the subject matter it’s tricky to select the poems for. And it is a tricky place to do it. I won’t compromise the poems and their independence as art and nor will I compromise on the need to say things about the endemic racism that is finding hold in Britain. It may seem that these two are at odds with each other, but I guarantee you they are not. Not in a market square on the
edge of Wales on a Saturday afternoon. By now that child is trying to get the attention of her mother.
After each reading I return to a café in the square to consider the next and listen to
the other performers. But each reading brings me closer to the poems and audience, not that I was ever far from them. Mid poem on the second reading a drunken man
walks to the stage and starts shouting to me. It would be ignorant to ignore. None of the organisers offer to help and instead they watch as I cope. Eventually after repeating our conversation on the microphone “you’re name’s Michael…. You want to say something… on here….”. I invite him on stage where he gets seriously involved in a Donald Duck impression. Everyone is too polite to ask him to leave, except me. But doing this from the stage when his hands are glued to the microphone which is in turn propping him up, is not easy. But I do it. after which I continue my reading. I notice now that on reading certain poems the entire square is listening. Time to drop some science. I return to the café again. A woman walks up to me “you made me cry” she says, “your poems..”.
On my third and final visit to the stage at 3.40pm I read my heart out, new poems and old, voice ringing around this historic square. And there is an encore. An encore for
poetry and poems in a small town on the edge of Wales from people who did, cept a few, not know who I was. All this at a Love Music Hate Racism Concert. Magic Happens. When people say you just had to be there, I know exactly what they mean, cause you just had to be there. If art is not in the Market Squares of towns like this then where should it be.