Friday, October 19, 2012

A totally amicable Split

Split Screen, Sunday 14th October, 4pm, International Anthony Burgess Foundation

Words by Jo Bell.

It's a funny old thing, but not everyone likes a poetry reading. No, really, they don't. I should know because I've been to more poetry readings than... well, than YOU. And the reason that not everyone likes them is (whisper it...) that they are often A Bit Dull. Sometimes a poetry reading can seem like a presentation of people who can't find a clean shirt or the will to live, or the ability to speak their own words clearly to a paying audience.

Split Screen was NOT like that. I cannot pretend to be impartial for, reader, I was a reader at this event. But the premise of the Split Screen anthology - a collection of mostly paired poems about 1970s and 80s TV programmes - is a witty one, and the readers were varied and interesting. For each poem - on Dad's Army, on Tom & Jerry, on Doctor Who - an image from the programme was projected behind the reader. Admittedly some of the programmes didn't chime with younger members of the audience; Andrew McMillan, barely adult himself, confessed that he had never heard of the Child Catcher. But most of the programmes evoked a warm feeling of nostalgia, a slight whiff of Toast Toppers eaten in front of the telly in your tank top. 

The credits included a range of UK poets, with several Scottish luminaries making a special visit south to perform. They had come down with host Andy Jackson, a Salfordian who defected to Aberdeen many years ago. Not only was he wearing a clean shirt and a broad smile, but impressively he read his own poem about the Clangers in the original Clang, whistling gently into the microphone to rather moving effect. 

The programme concluded with a poem about the White Dot, which in prehistoric times used to shrink into the distance as you turned off your TV set - and then we were asked to stand for the national anthem. Really, we thought? We are artists, darling. We are intellectuals. We don't do that sort of thing. But republicans remained uncompromised - the anthem in question was Pete and Dud's Goodbye, which sent us all out with big smiles on our faces.

Wit, goodwill and the smallest amount of visual support made this a gently amusing and entertaining event; a pleasing success, and one which hopefully will bring Andy Jackson's Red Squirrel Press more sales of this attractive book.

Jo Bell is the Director of Bell Jar - Poetry in PracticeUK and the brand-new Canal Laureate. Workshops and events listed here: find Jo on Facebook and Twitter @Jo_Bell