Welcome






Hallo - I started writing when I was eight years old and tried several different forms until the 70's when I settled in a serious way for writing poetry. Sometime in the 80's I joined a writers' group in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire run by Peter Sansom and his wife Anne Dancey. This was an excellent class which went on until local authority funding was withdrawn and that group and several others were sadly closed sometime in the 80's. I later joined I*D Writers in Connah's Quay, North Wales, and have remained there since, becoming the chair.

I have had three booklets of poems published by them as follows: One Small Stride (1999), By the Field with the Round Corner (2001), and By Pilgrim Cottage Door (2004), as well as various poems published in different magazines including I*D Books own mag and their Take Five Poets, as well as No Earthly Reason (Crocus, 1989) and Nailing Colours (Crocus, early 90's) both produced for Commonword, Manchester. Also there were two poems published in the Holmfirth Writers' Anthology (Peter Sansom's group) called Instead of a Journey. Again for North-East Wales, I was also more recently featured in A Kiss Of The Sun (I*D Books, early 2000's) and Land Of Stories (Bar None Books, 2006)

I am planning to finish my overall collection called A Tatsfield Tapestry of which Field With The Round Corner and Pilgrim Cottage Door are the first two sections. This latest booklet (likely to be called By The Clatter Of Princely Hooves) completes an anthology revisiting my early to middle years growing up in the village of Tatsfield, Surrey, which sticks out like a peninsular into its neighbouring county of Kent. Also, although being so close to the M25 London Orbital, it has managed to maintain a large number of local myths and legends. These, together with personal experiences, some from as early as the Second World War, have provided me with a rich source of poetry 'plots'.

THE WELSH PRINCES OF TATSFIELD

Tatsfield also had the unique honour of being, in the 13th century, the last seat of the Welsh princes of the House of Gwynedd who had been set up there by Edward the First so he could keep a close eye on their lives and monitor their activities. This had been achieved by getting the youngest surviving brother of Llewellen the Last, Rhodri ap Gruffudd, to swear allegiance to the King in return for the squiredom of the parish of Tatsfield. Rhodri was succeeded by his son Thomas and he in turn by his son Owain Lawgoch, who eventually went off the fight on the side of the French in the Hundred Years War. He rose as the leader of ex-patriot Welshmen who were hoping to regain control, one day, of their own country however, Owain was assassinated by a spy sent out in the pay of Edward the Third, and so the Royal line of Gwynedd was at last destroyed.

OPEN VOICE IN THE NORTH WEST

I have now lived in the North West for over thirty years with my wife Ruth, son Luke and several generations of cats. More recently I have become a regular at Chorlton Folk club where I frequently perform. Not only is this club well run by Jozeph Roberts, copland smith (yes, that's how he spells his name), Nick Swift and others, but the audience is second to none for listening and appreciation. Some of the players, including myself, also turn up to the Jumbo Acoustic Jam at the Carlton Club, Whalley Range, Manchester each last Sunday afternoon of the month. This is a musical get-together which again is well organised by multi-musician Dave Taylor and generally happens between two and five on that afternoon.

POETRY SPREADS AND COMPETITIONS

I do feel quite strongly that most poetry competitions are counter-productive! How can works of art compete? You may be lucky to see or hear the 'winner' but the other pieces generally disappear. We did have a poetry non-competition for the Chorlton Arts Festival here in Manchester in 2007, the idea being, that even though we needed an editorial policy, we would be as inclusive as possible and ended up with 31 pieces. They were all brilliant and none were discarded and, even if we had wanted to choose it was clearly impossible to decide which was the 'best'. The whole collection was published for the next Festival in 2008. So instead of just one winner we had a wonderful 'spread' of responses to Chorlton as a sense of place. This is something you would never see in a normal competition. It must be admitted that with some of the larger national poetry get-togethers, where we might easily see 2000 entries, a non-competitive approach might present problems, but for a small local festival as at Chorlton the approach was ideal. If anyone reading this screed feels inspired enough to 'pinch' the idea for a non-competition in your own area, please feel free. The more the better, and the better the more successful!

I*D WRITERS' GROUP AND I*D BOOKS

The Group was formed in December 1990 as a result of a writers' residency at the local library. This had been funded by the North Wales Office of the Arts Council of Wales. At the end of the series of workshops Clive Hopwood and a number of local writers initiated a group where people who were keen to pursue their interest in writing, both beginners and the more experienced, could share their work and benefit from the workshops and readings organised by themselves and professional writers.

As we stand at the moment, members may read out their work (novel, poetry,short stories or memories) in an open, friendly atmosphere, receive constructive criticism from fellow writers and gain information on markets, competitions and courses. Workshop leaders in recent years have been Peter Sansom (poet and editor of The North), Beryl Baigent (Welsh Canadian poet), Morelle Smith (travel writer and poet), copeland smith (poet and musician who runs the monthly Manky Poets meetings in Chorlton, South Manchester), Gee Williams (novelist and poet), Aled Lewis Evans (Welsh poet) and Shamshad Khan (Asian poet based in Manchester). From time to time members of the group have organised their own workshops, a great exercise which has worked well for all.

The Group's magazine I*D PLUS is on hold at the moment but occasional anthologies have provided an outlet for members' own work. These last have included a series for verse (Take Five Poets) and a similar one for prose (Ace of Tales). Also there have been a large number of very successful local reminiscences. I*D Books is always open to fresh ideas for projects but we would stress that these are more likely to be successful if the authors organise their own sales. Individual members have had success in local and national competitions and published in magazines elsewhere in the country. A number of self-published books of poetry have sold well too.

Current membership is £10 a year. Meetings take place on the 2nd and 4th Friday evenings of every month (bar August) at 7:30 pm at the Community Centre, Plymouth Street, Shotton, Flintshire. The meetings generally finish at 9:30 pm. Refreshments are available and there is disabled access. For further details contact 01244-830485 (Connah's Quay Library) or write with a SAE to I*D Books Writers' Group at Connah's Quay Library, Wepre Drive, Connah's Quay, CH5 4HA.

THE FLINTSHIRE HERITAGE PROJECT

The Flintshire Heritage Project has been set up in recent years by Flintshire County Council to oversee a number of projects involved in the whole community of this part of North-East Wales. In 2005-6 I*D Writers' Group was asked by the FHP to investigate, together with various other groups (including local junior schools) traditional myths and legends of the area, to put these into written form and eventually to perform them at a public gathering at the end of the academic year. All the work produced was also published in an anthology which was called 'Land Of Story' (Bar None Books, 2006). The venture was developed because Flintshire is frequently regarded as lacking the rich tradition of myths and legends normally found elsewhere in Wales. We discovered very quickly that this belief is itself a myth, as did all the other groups, and a huge fund of stories were eventually read out and performed at Ysgol Estyn in Hope, Flintshire. A smaller performance, involving one person only from each group, was later held at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

POETRY AND MUSIC

Most of my pieces of poetry have a strong musical edge, and this is no accident. As a young teenager in the fifties, my first love was music, especially the jazz and blues of Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Jack Teagarden, Bix Beiderbecke and many, many others. My great desire was to become a jazz musician, and indeed I did eventually make some progress on the harmonica and trombone, but very early, at the age of 11 or 12, I discovered I could 'sing' the sound of the trumpet in the style of the Mills Brothers. This has stayed with me all my life and through this I eventually became a jug-band player, specialising in 'hand-cornet'.

DEDICATED MEN

I did play trombone for a while in the early sixties (not very well!) with a band called Zanies' Herd, based in Battersea in London, but my first tentative steps into the world of Jug were taken when I sat in occasionally with the Dedicated Men as they played at the World's End Pub on King's Road, Chelsea. This band, as I remember, was a six-piece with washboard, jug and guitar for the back-line, and then for the front three, baritone kazoo, swanny-whistle and a hand-cornet played through a Punch-and-Judy man's “That's the way to do it!” voice moderator. The link I have discovered for this group is a rare film of them playing live in an antique shop in Fulham. I couldn't believe my luck in finding it, but they don't look or sound quite as I remember them, which says a lot for their versatility. My memory is that they managed to produce a wonderful jug version of what was then a Britsh trad band.

SUMMERHILL AND THE CITY RAMBLERS

Soon after this I met up with Russell Quaye at Summerhill School (he was a visiting parent, I was teaching!) and he invited me to join his City Ramblers Spasm Band on a tour of Europe for that summer (1965). The line-up was Russell on vocals, baritone kazoo and quatro guitar, Bobby Taylor, trumpet mouthpiece-and-funnel, and myself on spasmophone (the bass version of what Bobby was playing), and hand-cornet.We left England with a washboard but no player, but soon picked one up from the city of Ghent in Belgium in the person of Roland van Campenhout who at that time was playing excellent versions of Bob Dylan numbers but who was a natural percussionist. He was also our main interpreter as he spoke English, Dutch, French and German. He is now Belgium's foremost blues player. In the event, the City Ramblers, with this line-up, did another tour the year after (1966) and then, when we were back home in England, we played for a while in a pub off the Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle, minus Roland, but plus Geoff Beaumont on five-string fretless bass banjo. We also had occasional visits from other musicians, including Wiz Jones.

WEBSITE NEEDED FOR RUSSELL QUAYE

Although I have managed to find passing references to the Russell Quaye Band on several sites on the internet there appears to be no main website to which I could make a direct link for readers to check this band out. In the fifties and sixties in Britain this combo was a major player in the skiffle and jugband world of postwar London, and it is my firm belief that somebody needs to set up a blog which covers the story which is still largely untold, certainly in this medium. Like many other groups, the City Ramblers was made up with several different combinations of players and I was only a small part of the very last line-up.

HULL UNI AND HUMBERJUG

From '65 to '68 I was a full-time student at Hull University where I was partly instrumental in getting a college band started called Humberjug. The line-up here was myself, mostly on vocals, hand-cornet and harmonica, Bob Boucher, lead guitar, vocals and baritone kazoo, Stu Bartholomew on second guitar and vocals (now a professor in charge of an art college in Bournemouth), Mick Terry, tub-bass, vocals and nose-music, Peggy Ruse on vocals and John Pilgrim on washboard. John had originally been a member of the Vipers' Skiffle Group which had managed to get several numbers into the British hit parade in the fifties. Bob Boucher went on to become a very successful bass-player in Birmingham and is still playing regularly.

THE GINGER JUG BAND........

After college I next played with the Ginger Jug Band, based in Orpington, Kent, a band which had its early beginnings as a group called Tinderbox at Sevenoaks School. Again the line-up had changed over the years but as far as I remember the Ginger Jug Band I knew consisted of Geoff Beaumont, slide fretless bass banjo, Tony Petto, vocals and guitar, Pete Baston, 12-string, harmonica and 'lumpit', Steve Horne, washboard and jug, Bob Jones, mandolin and fiddle, and myself, for two separate periods, on spasmophone and hand-cornet. The 'lumpit' was a similar but more heavy duty version of Bobby Taylor's mouthpiece-and-funnel in the City Ramblers. I was teaching in Orpington at the time but when I gave that up, Ruth and myself moved up to Manchester in the early seventies where we have been ever since.

.....AND OTHERS!

Manchester is a great city but I failed to find a jugband or anything close, so for a long time I dropped out of that scene altogether. It is only since I have started going regularly to the wonderful Chorlton Folk Club (as mentioned earlier) that I have found like-minded musicians and have started playing hand-cornet again, now billed as the Palmophone! That and the Manchester Community Choir, of course, which Ruth and I joined in 2000. The only person I have been able to play with in those intervening years (apart from some wonderful private sessions with Colin Swinburne from Bachdenkel, when I was in Birmingham 1971-1974) is my good friend Martin Everson-Davies, a fine guitar-picker, singer, harmonica-player and ex-potter who lives in Powys, Wales with his wife Marilyn.

NOW LET US RETURN TO POETRY......

I believe that historically all the arts were one and have gradually become more specialised and separate as civilisation (as we think we know it!) has developed. This is not a new idea – but I feel sure that at one time the tribe or community would have had festivals and rituals which involved multi-performances recreating ancient stories, dance, spectacle and group singing and a whole lot else. A great deal of colour was employed to enhance these gatherings (both as body paint and decoration of artifacts) which itself would have grown as a precursor to the visual arts today, and of course there are still many strong connections between all the arts in the times we live in now. Poetry, for instance was clearly at first the words of songs, as well as sagas and long stories learnt by heart to be recited on special occasions. The connection between poetry, music and performance is still very strong. For me though, all poetry which seems to work carries its own music in the way the words are put together. There are indeed many poems which 'refuse' to be set to music because the result is too 'rich' a mixture. Conversely there are those who, looking at the words of pop songs, comment on how trite they are, forgetting of course that they're only reading half of what was written. The other half is the music the words were tied up to. The reason why I have included this is because I am acutely aware that most of my poetry has a element of music in its construction.

SIGNING OFF

To all those who have taken the trouble to read this blog, who have followed up some of the links included, I would like to say thank you very much and I hoped you enjoyed visiting this website and especially appreciated the poems. This website will continue to grow so please keep in touch. I would also like to thank Hussein Al-alak who was almost entirely responsible for putting the site together, as well as Dave Saunders who made some very valuable suggestions.



All the best,

Mark Abraham


lead pic: With the compliments of Courier Media Group, Sevenoaks Chronicle.

3 comments:

  1. Hi,

    Mark how well I remember the band in Hull. Still have the EP!

    Lewis C

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Mark,
    Andy here from the folk club - let me know if you are about this week to practice something for Thursday. You can get me on the email andrew dot w dot yates at gmail dot com

    regards
    Andy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice career. I also had started my writing career from the age of 10 years. I know how much you have to struggle to become a good writer. Good luck mate

    ReplyDelete