I’m in the pretty little town of Tattenhall. It’s built on a slight hill, with handsome red brick buildings, a handful of pubs and restaurants and the Welsh hills distant in the background. It’s the Cheshire equivalent of my home town of Coggeshall, except it didn’t double in population during the 90s. Places like Coggeshall and Tattenhall used to be less gentrified than today, but since the 70s they’ve become more middle class as professional baby-boomers looked to move out of the cities and bring up their kids in old houses in winsome villages.
Last night I did a gig in The Barbour Institute, a kind of community hall, with plaques like this on the wall.
The gig went pretty well but as we didn’t have a mic or stage lighting I had the duel problem of not knowing where to put my hands and seeing the faces of the people I was performing to. Actually, these were not major problems but it took some getting used to. Often people who are loving the gig pull the most disconcerting expressions when they are listening. I want to do more rural touring, it seems like the sort of thing a poet should be doing – going off the beaten track, shunning theatres, exploring the bits of Britain you would otherwise never go to. So all was good, I even did an encore, which was nice.
Afterwards the organisers took me to the pub and we drank beer and agreed on everything from Beeching to punk. This is the way gigs should happen, they should be about going into a community and actually meeting people. It feels right to go to the pub with your audience and talk on level terms (rather than declaiming from the stage). There’s a movement within the arts world to get poets into theatres and making theatre shows, bringing more than just the forth wall into play. I want to go in the opposite direction, it should be about pubs, communities and the countryside.
I’m in Audlem tonight for hopefully more of the same.