So. OUTSIDELEFT leapt back into the business of live entertainment with our first event in three years, featuring R.M. Francis, Kerry Hadley-Pryce, our own Jay Lewis, Wayne Dean-Richards, and ambient soundscaper, Woodenhand - on hand to keep the show burbling along. The Quiet Night Out drew a sold-out audience to Bearwood’s Bear Book Shop. It really was the most likely the most important cultural event in the town since the Beatles played here.
Jenny McCann's Bear Bookshop has hosted everything from children's stay and plays to string quartets, but possibly nothing as immediately acerbic as Wayne Dean-Richards opening poem, which hit like an IED, But funny...
You cunts... at me again for fucking up
and being late
arriving with a dose of the farts
of too much of everything
the night before…
The poem, You Cunts, is from his dourly hilarious collection It’s A Mad World But Funny which we are serialising (here⇒), and when we’re done with that, will be available from Outsideleft Books, in our new series of not-for-profit, but not-for-loss either items, most likely in late summer. Most likely.
Jay Lewis is renowned at Outsideleft for digging out treasured LPs from decades past and reanimating them, with generous and insightful reminders beyond merely why we loved them in the first place, but why they matter as art now. At the Quiet Night Out, Jay glued everything together between performers, as well as digging through his own backpages to provide a trio of poems vividly lighting up the hypocrisy in the tough working class world that raised him. Jay holds no Hollywood romance for the streets… His streets actually are Mean and pretty unforgiving. The poems, The Kingfisher (1985), Bender (1984), and The Starling (1976) are seared through with darkness and despair, while hints of optimism lie twitching. When there’s nothing left to take - something more to take will be found. I am not great with aphorisms, if I say this was controlled and impressive, you can add your own...
W O O D E N H A N D
I don't know whether to view the superb and understated Woodenhand as a musician or a scientist. Alright, I know he's a musician. But I think I have only seen the equivalent number of blinking lights from his many guitar effects pedals on the control deck of a server farm. The loops and melody, a honed meiosis. Splitting, spinning, soliciting each other. The stricture of being very, very quiet, a beautiful challenge met with gentle gusto. Extra love, Woodenhand, for that ancient Gibson guitar. What was not to love?
Beginning the second half of the show on a bench, Kerry Hadley-Pryce and R.M. Francis are quite a Black Country double act. Polished and at once at ease, underground and under intense scrutiny as the headliners. I wonder whether the architects of Breakfast TV have seen this duo. If they have, A Black Country Breakfast can't be far away. Here on Yoko’s Peace Bench, a bridge from Bearwood to the dark heart of the Black Country. Their fascinating discussion brought us inside their writerly techniques and outside into wilderness walks and talking up and down the psychogeography of region and place identity. Their passion for what is in some respects an amorphous patch of land was infectious. Later the audience couldn’t wait to engage. It was thrilling just to be.
Kerry read first from her recent critically acclaimed novel, God’s Country. An identical twin is dead and the twinless twin returns in grief with their partner. Subjective material for a room where at least two pairs of identical twins were represented. I live in a small town but what are the odds? I wondered what this passage evoked for those guys. It’s brilliant though and Kerry’s timbre, tells without telling. And if it tells you anything I am told that all of Kerry’s books sold out before Jenny the Bookshop owner could even set one aside for herself.
R.M. Francis is perhaps better known to OL readers. The recent R.M. Francis Week (here⇒) was wildly popular. He read from his new book, The Chain Coral Chorus, drawn from his days as the Poet in Residence for the Black Country Geological Society. Rob kicks about the stones, survives the pandemic, thrives in the rock, and bonds with the land. His voice is staccato, rich, and smooth, a performer, a joy to hear. He peppers his poems with Black Country colloquialism and dialect and layers it with geological intrigue, in moments so impenetrable it’s like witnessing Euripides in Greek on a mound. A magical end to a brilliant evening.
The Outsideleft Night Out is back, and and while the future might not be so Quiet, come along, July 14th, the Outsideleft Record Club, here we go.
R.M. Francis website here⇒
Kerry Hadley-Pryce here⇒
Wayne Dean-Richards here⇒
Jay Lewis here⇒
The Outsideleft Night Out returns with Record Club⇒, July 14th (free advanced booking essential).