Poetry at the Beachside

Wednesday, 27th April 2016

Last Sunday I joined Gerard Rochford, Sheena Blackhall, Andy Bissett, Angie Joss and Catriona Yule for the first of a new series of poetry sessions at Balmedie's Beach Side Cafe in aid of Shopmobility. We enjoyed a great turnout with every seat filled and, once the coffee machine had poured its last latte, the poetry began to flow.

Catriona was up first with a fine set beginning with old favourites such as 'Synchronicity' and 'If We Were Hippopotamuses', ending with some of her brand new work 'Pocket Watch' and 'Burger Van' and visiting her popular 'tattie' poems in between. Cat's always a hard act to follow, but follow I did and was happy to hear a few laughs for both 'Secret Secret Lemonade Drinker' and 'When Alex Met Frank' (the latter becoming relevant again by dint of annual election fever). The rest of my set seemed to have a preoccupation with death and was a little more sombre than usual (perhaps inspired by the current spate of celebrity deaths) but I was very pleased when Gerard Rochford mentioned how much he likes 'The Gunman' or at least the sentiments.

Angie Joss followed with a very entertaining set covering all from uncomfortable footwear to more dead celebrities (it seems I did set the theme). I'd only ever heard Angie perform before when she won a slam I hosted back in 2013 but was very impressed and would like to hear more.

It's always a pleasure to hear poetry written by children. The event featured the premiere of a Spring poem written by pupils from Balmedie school and performed by Katie Mitchell and Millie Smith. The poem was the end product of a workshop run by Andy Bissett and it featured some great images and themes - once, Andy explained, it had been stripped of references to ice cream.

After a musical interlude and a chance to replenish coffees, the second half began with a set from Andy himself. His work has real humanity, warmth and can be very, very funny. Most popular was his well-travelled poem about an excited boy who has learned about both Beijing and babies at school. Guess which one his mother wants to hear about? Speaking of laughs, you can always rely on Sheena Blackhall to have the room in stitches and she did so with a mixture of poetry, song and irreverent stories. Always ending with her downplaying modesty shining through.

Headliner Gerard Rochford really held the audience with a varied selection from his well-published past. He began with a series of poems about family members, each linked well with warm stories and ended with the superb 'Home Movie' which makes us think again about families, love and whether that always must be unconditional.

The event raised a tidy sum for Shopmobility and Andy plans to stage another this Summer. Can't wait.