Bluecoat and Front Row
Gosh, how wonderful it was, last Wednesday, for Maureen and I to take an evening off from the gruelling business of moving house. We headed over to Liverpool, a favourite place of ours with its zestful vibe and friendly cosmopolitan air. Radio 4’s Front Row programme (which follows The Archers) was to be produced and broadcast live from the Bluecoat arts centre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Mersey Sound: Penguin Modern Poets 10 from Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. We’d booked tickets for the show.
Before going in, we bought crêpes (pancakes) from a van – crêpes with sugar and lemon – and enjoyed them hugely sitting in the cobbled side-street with hopeful pigeons and gulls gathering at our feet.
The Mersey Sound ushered in a new type of poetry – punchy, provocative, socially relevant and widely accessible – bringing the trio fame as “The Liverpool Poets” during that heady period, “The Swinging Sixties”, when The Beatles sprang from the city’s Cavern Club to take the musical world by storm.
Presented by John Wilson, Front Row was simply brilliant, with Roger McGough and Brian Patten present to discuss and read poems from their ground-breaking anthology. Adrian Henri, a painter and musician as well as a poet, died in 2000 but his partner, now his literary and artistic executor, Catherine Marcangeli, spoke about his “total art” vision and introduced a series of exhibitions and events called Tonight At Noon (after a Henri poem) celebrating The Mersey Sound’s half-century.
Lizzie Nunnery, a playwright and singer-songwriter, performed with musical accompaniment, an extract from Horny Handed Tons of Soil, her new work inspired by The Mersey Sound and Adrian Henri. Andrew McMillan, the award-winning poet, premiered his new poem, written in response to The Mersey Sound.
The Bluecoat, built in 1717, is Liverpool city centre’s oldest building, a charity school for nearly 200 years before becoming the UK’s first arts centre in 1907. And Bryan Biggs, artistic director of its 300th anniversary programme, spoke very interestingly about the centre’s role in supporting contemporary artists.
It was altogether a most enjoyable evening which Maureen and I will long remember.
Copyright © Paul Beech 2017