Saxophones and sperm donation: a night at Verbose

“What is this terrible music?”

“You should try a burger when you go. Oh my. I was like.”

“I’m done with Tarantino.”

“Is it fancy dress?”

“See, I like the new Star Wars and I’m not a Star Wars person. Funny isn’t it?”

“I paid four pounds for this and I don’t even like it. Do you want some?”

 

January 25. It’s busy down at Fallow Cafe. I’m listening to the jazz of small-talk. Hello, goodbye, I like your frock, how are you? Verbose is in town: bringing words to the ‘burbs. Hosted by Sarah-Clare Conlon, Verbose is one of several literary nights in Manchester. It’s a booming scene. Tonight’s guests are writers who study or teach at Edge Hill University: John D Rutter, Jim Hinks and Ailsa Cox. I’m doing an open mic slot. My third time treading the boards at Verbose. Wish me luck.

A mixed crowd tonight. It’s always a mixed crowd. There are some admirably interesting fashions on display. A fellow with brown velvety eyes and chapped lips asks me if I like Gerald Manley Hopkins. “Not on a Monday night,” I reply. And certainly not outside the Gents. There are familiar faces. And there are faces I hope will stay unfamiliar. Some writers clutch shivering sheets of paper. Others store their genius in places unknown. I keep mine in my pocket.

Sarah-Clare takes to the stage and we’re off. She explains that the warm-up music was selected by that master of the uncanny and Nightjar Press supremo, Nicholas Royle, as a showcase of sublime saxophone stylings. Gerry Rafferty or Spandau Ballet do not feature. No one complains.

First up, Rutter gives us a tale of IVF treatment and sperm donation. A Geordie accent is attempted with some success. Brave man. Later, there is an eruption of energetic performance poetry from a young man who looks too cool to be in the same room as me. Words bubble out of his mouth: I’m not convinced they make much sense but I’m an old pedant, and it’s a tight, polished, arresting performance. Which is more than can be said of my reading. I wasn’t at my finest. My shoes were too tight. No bottles or knickers were flung at me as I read from a work in progress.

A fellow who looked like a shabby, less handsome version of Anthony Newley delivered a fine, cynical, comical rant, winning laughs all over the gaff. Jim Hinks read a strange, quietly absorbing story. He’s also the man behind MacGuffin, a self-publishing platform owned by the very fine Comma Press. Every reading at the event was recorded. Writers then had the option of uploading their work. You can listen to my dulcet tones here. It’s cheaper than a prescription.

Verbose takes place on the fourth Monday of the month, at Fallow cafe in Fallowfield, Manchester.  On Monday 22 February 2016 readers from The Real Story will be bringing their creative non-fiction to Verbose. You’ll be hearing from Nija Dalal-Small, Adam Farrer and Danielle Peet.

Check it out.

 

 

Lambert Flows

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reading my work at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. If you haven’t been, you should. I was merely a warm-up nonentity before the main attraction, Magnus Mills, a tall and genial fellow in a noticeable shirt. He looks like Syd Little and sounds like Tommy Cooper. He  entertained the crowd with  a selection of droll readings, my favourite being a telephone interaction between a less than forthcoming grocer and an increasingly exasperated customer. Mills himself likened it to a Python sketch. He was very good.  But let’s return to the nonentity.  I read from a work in progress. The piece seemed to acceptable to a boisterous crowd hungry for Mills. Indeed, nothing unsavoury was hurled in my direction. Does that count as success?

Jamie Stewart reviewed the event for Humanity Hallows. I was pleased to see what he’d written:

“Lambert flows through Dublin,” Stephen Hargadon begins as he kicked off the night with the equally hilarious and gruesome story of a “faded, rather hairy pop-star from the 1960s, who hides himself away in the West of Ireland.” It’s hard to listen to Hargadon’s prose without feeling Dublin around you, hearing the river and the voices curl nearby. “Lambert is observing, listening, walking.” Hargadon’s ear for city sounds is both disarming and utterly charming. Hargadon has previously had his work published in Black Static and Popshot.”

To be pedantic, Lambert was strolling, not flowing, through Dublin. But no matter. My dulcet tones, combined with a dry mouth, probably led to the confusion. Indeed, it was a happy mistake. I rather like the idea of Lambert flowing through Dublin like the Liffey. Constructive criticism at its finest. (BS Johnson thought critics a waste of space unless they could suggest improvements.)  As for the dry mouth, there must have been something in the air that night, for Magnus Mills reached for his glass of water several times to pacify a mutinous throat.

An enjoyable and instructive evening for all concerned.