Young Digital Reporter at Carol Ann Duffy and LiTTLe MACHiNe, Tuesday 9th October, 7.30pm, Manchester Town Hall, Banqueting Room
Words by Anna Hart.
Entering the magnificent banqueting room at Manchester Town Hall, I feel as though I’ve been transported back in time to the Victorian era. The magnificent oil-painted portraits displayed in grand golden frames, on the archaic patterned wallpaper, gaze down upon the full audience waiting patiently for the event to commence.
Carol Ann Duffy, the current Poet Laureate, stands behind the lectern, her face alight with a warm yellow glow from the stage lighting. Duffy commences with a particularly culturally significant poem based upon the wife of a famous character from Greek mythology, King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold. Spoken with a clear and truthful voice, accompanied by gestures and facial expressions, Duffy’s story telling is captivating.
Between poems, she gives an informal explanation of the subject matter and key ideas of her writing, providing the audience with the opportunity to engage with the literature they are experiencing. Many amusing stories are told in these brief intervals, keeping the audience interested and involved.
Continuing the theme of famous people’s wives, Duffy reads an array of different poems, including Mrs Darwin and Mrs Faust. The latter is fascinating. For 25 years, Faust has unimaginable power, in return for selling his soul to the devil. Duffy compares the idea of an omnipotent figure to Nick Clegg, which receives an outburst of knowing laughter from the audience. The speed of Duffy’s voice increases significantly as she reads Mrs Faust, which echoes the extremely fast-paced nature of the poem. It is an energetic account of Mrs Faust’s life, which describes years using short phrases and single words.
Following this is a very different poem, which is possibly my favourite of Duffy’s work, entitled The Human Bee. Addressing a current dilemma in the world - bees are coming close to extinction - this poem explores the consequences of bees vanishing in certain parts of the world, namely China and areas of America. An interesting approach to this global catastrophe is taken by Duffy, as she chooses to illustrate how inhumane the situation is by writing from the perspective of a person who pollinates plants by hand - a ‘human bee’. The harsh reality of this issue is brought to life by the fascinating and vivid imagery Duffy creates.
As the evening progresses, Duffy hands over the stage to LiTTLe MACHiNe, with a humble statement that she is merely a warm-up act. The band, comprising of Walter Wray, Steve Halliwell and Chris Hardy, take to the stage with broad grins on their jovial faces. With a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar and all three men singing, the band is able to create many different sounds, which they do spectacularly. Their opening number is an upbeat and lively one, Adam Lay yBounden. Next comes a four-line song, Western Wind, which, in contrast, is calm, soothing and harmonious. All three of their voices are very rich, strong and versatile.
LiTTLe MACHiNe play an extremely diverse selection of music, contributing to the variety of artistic gems the audience experience during the evening. During one song, the lead singer holds a skull in one hand, shaking it like a maraca, which generates a lot of amusement and fascination among the audience. Their performances are exciting and engaging, containing a mixture of instrumentals, harmonies and the occasional guitar riff. LiTTLe MACHiNe give poems a ‘re-birth’ in a sense, as they don’t simply let them die on the page, but instead bring great works of literature back into people’s lives.
The ambiance of purity that was generated by the astounding setting reflected the purity of the literature that was spoken and sung. The architectural masterpiece at which this event was held complimented the wonderful selection of poetry and music perfectly. I truly enjoyed hearing Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful poems and listening to LiTTLe MACHiNe’s revolutional music. Tonight’s events illustrated that literature is timeless and exhilarating and can be enjoyed by all.
Throughout the Festival in 2012 we will be working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters will respond to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio. We are really excited to see how our young reporters get on and hope that you will enjoy reading, listening to and watching their work.