Spoken Word Reviews

EINSTEIN'S BICYCLE, BOOK LAUNCH - Terry Dammery, Edale poet, Conrad Press 2020

Terry Dammery launched his book called Einstein's Bicycle at a Zoom meeting in which he used slides featuring pages from the book which he then read to us. There was a chat icon where people could make comments or ask questions and the comments were very positive. His book consists of a poem in free verse. There are two main characters in the story, a mother and child and the setting is London. He describes the world in which he was brought up as a waste land with the General Strike, soup kitchens of the 1930s, the misery caused by the First World War and the declaration of another war. It took Terry three to four weeks to write the tale and he then decided to have a prologue and an epilogue, also writing a preface at the publisher's request.

The year 1922 is significant for this poem as it was the year his mother was born but also the year in which TS Eliot published his important poem 'The Waste Land' and Einstein's theory of relativity was proved. 1921 is also significant because in that year the country experienced a drought which lasted for six months creating a waste land appearance in the country with the earth being scorched and many trees dying.

The poem is a biographical narrative. The writer considers that he has picked the short straw and it is particularly sad to hear his account of his time in and out of an orphanage. People throughout history have drawn the short straw and have been subjugated by the ruling class who control their culture by various methods including literature which brings about an acceptance of receiving the short straw.

Terry Dammery gave an inspiring talk revealing he had something very important to say in his poem which was important in his life and important to all of us. Without hesitation I immediately went on Amazon and bought the book.

Roger Horvath

ALICE GOES ELSEWHERE - Buxton Drama League

Buxton Drama League takes Will Blake's musical Alice Goes Elsewhere into the audio arena for a lockdown Buxton Festival Fringe. In a performance that tips the hat to Alice Through The Looking Glass, the music is loud, the characters are louder and the language is sweary, so cover the ears of the children and any elderly great-great aunts with a delicate constitution.

We first meet Alice, ably played by Megan Davies, drowning her sorrows in a West Country pub. Remember pubs? A talented singer-songwriter, Alice is freshly dumped by her boyfriend, smarting from being deemed by her psychotherapist as on any number of spectra, and bemoaning her lack of success. She meets a mysterious stranger who lures her 'elsewhere', where a group of musicians, misfits for a variety of reasons, are between realities. Elsewhere, dreams can come true. Does she want to stay or is she trapped, and will she ever get home?

Because the performance is set in a world of musicians, the songs sit neatly into the action, rather than feeling parachuted in. We cover the gamut of music, from 60s' psychedelia and 70s' classic rock to pop and Broadway, all written and composed by Will Blake.

Tim Warburton gets a special mention for the voice of the world-weary and deliciously sardonic narrator who would clearly rather be doing something (or anything) other than narrating the drama. His hope at the beginning was that there were 'enough blueberries in the muffin to keep your ears pricked'. The play is sometimes a little heavy on description – telling rather than showing – but that does give us more chance to hear Warburton's melodious tones. Overall, a gentle and whimsical trip into an alternative universe, studded with blueberries and some cracking songs ('Zombie Me, Zombie You' is today's earworm).

Listen to Alice Goes Elsewhere at https://alicegoeselsewhere.com/

Suzanne Elvidge

FANTASY VS REALITY - LIFE IN LOCKDOWN - Chapel Arts Creative Writing Group

The Chapel Arts Creative Writing Group perform a wide range of poems, plays and folk tales in six Youtube videos. Most of the writings and performances have a theme of lockdown although these are punctuated by an assortment of creative folk tales. There is a synergy here since folk tales are full of magic and morals and are a good way to make sense of our unusual experiences during lockdown.

Most people will be able to relate to the more immediate themes of some of the lockdown writing including shielding, alcohol, worrying about Boris and a possibly unhealthy interest in the activities of our neighbours. But other pieces of the lockdown writing are more reflective re-examining life before lockdown and imagining life after it. The folk tales often mix traditional structures and themes with modern life. Examples include "The girl who loved the people and the places" which referenced climate change, "The pixie and the spelling test" which was about cheating in a school test and "Simon the pieman" that played with themes of healthy eating, the naming of things and weekends at Matlock Bath.

Alex Watts

BEING INSPIRED - ONLINE - Buxton Spoken Words

Buxton Spoken Words meet monthly to share new poetry and have put together a video of their members reading poems on the theme of Being Inspired, alongside some of the poems that have inspired them.

Don Dolby introduces a wealth of local writing talent, with a dozen poets contributing. Gordon MacLellan, sometimes known as Creeping Toad has a great voice for poetry and accompanies his readings with a nicely wrought slide show. The Bears is a witty evocation of the fears, emotions and desires hiding behind the cracks, and the nature poem, Another Kind of Loving, is brought to life by rich and alliterative language. Nicely placed immediately after MacLellan, Randall Horton reads Unnaturally Out of Place, about his contrasting lack of knowledge about the environment sound him - I don’t know much about the plants and birds around me either, but I’m not as defiant as Horton, whose wry delivery is superb in his poem of denial, Standard Disclaimer.

There are personal themes to many of the poems, Alison Morton’s poem about the death of Davd Bowie morphs into a moving memory of her late first husband, and Bruce Glasser shares poems about his Parkinson's, though I chuckled at the his ode to a worm stuck on the tarmac. And there are other laughs to be had, I enjoyed David Mountain’s mischievous tribute to John Cooper Clarke, and Stephanie Billen’s reworking of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. Simon Rogerson references the current pandemic as does Dolby, who also visits Peterloo in a powerful poem, and look out for a charming reading from his grand-daughter!

Interspersed with their own readings the poets share work that has inspired them, so you will hear Siegfied Sassoon, William Carlos Williams, Stevie Smith, Christina Rossetti, and TS Eliot amongst others.

Look out for the Buxton Spoken Words group when they get going again for their monthly meetings.

Stephen Walker


A Burning Drake is a shooting star and its landing place is said to indicate where lead can be found.

In Burning Drake, Derbyshire poet and recording artist Mark Gwynne Jones has woven together poetry, music, dialogue, facts and legends to create to create an audio art work that entertains and informs.

At the beginning of the piece we are told that Derbyshire is a land of contrasts, of limestone, of gritstone and of shales. Descriptions of the landscape are taken from Mark’s poem Toad Man and are enhanced by mood evoking music provided by Psychic Bread, The Wyns Tor Singers and Sjal.

The poetry is interspersed with Alan Swain’s vivid descriptions of working in lead mines, historical information, tips about plants you might find around old lead mines, some local legends and even an insight into the development of Derbyshire villages.

The transition from facts to poem, throughout the piece, is seamless. One moment you are listening to Alan telling you that the main thought miners had on going into a mine was 'getting our safely' and the next moment you are listening to a poem celebrating the landscape and hearing a background birdsong. Just as you would if you were out on the Derbyshire Hills.

Of particular note is the thoughtfully planned soundtrack which enhances the spoken word. Sounds from Geiger counters to haunting melodies recorded in the Monsal Tunnel evoke Derbyshire past and present.

It is well worth listening to Burning Drake through headphones to enjoy the full effect of the evocative soundtrack. This piece is Chapter 1 of Voices in the Peak, a journey through the Peak District in word and sound. Chapter 2 based on Kinder Scout and chapter 3 about snow will be coming out soon. You can find more information about this piece and about Mark from links on the Peak District National Park website.

This piece is a fitting tribute to the Peak District National Park’s 70th birthday for which it was written. Mark’s love of the Peak District comes across loud and clear. Whether you are a resident or a visitor I highly recommend listening to Burning Drake.

Viv Marriott


The Paxtons and the Duke is a delight for anyone interested in either the history of Chatsworth, 19th-century gardens and glasshouse design or what a Victorian wife had to put up with when married to a successful man. Despite its simple format, this 20-minute Youtube video drew me into the lives of Joseph and Sarah Paxton and their main benefactor, the 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Joseph Paxton was a very creative gardener and engineer responsible for the creation of much of Chatsworth and the Buxton Pavilion Gardens. He had a bromance with his benefactor the 6th Duke and the two of them went gallivanting around Europe collecting inspiration for the creation of the gardens at Chatsworth and elsewhere. In the meantime Joseph's wife Sarah was left alone, often dealing with the project management and financial details of the projects that had been initiated by the two men.

The video describes how Joseph designed the great glasshouse at Chatsworth ('The Stove') and eventually designed the original Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition. I was interested in the photograph of the The Stove which collapsed in the 20th century. It also describes the strains that Joseph's success put on his marriage to Sarah who, frankly, was a saint.

This free event is 20 minutes well spent for history lovers.

Alex Watts

FRINGE READINGS - Buxton Fringe Readers

In the past, one of the Fringe events involved finding a cosy corner in one of the backrooms of the Old Hall and settling down to listen to someone reading their favourite poems or prose. The Buxton Fringe Readers have recreated this experience with a broad selection of readings that are available on Soundcloud. The length of the readings range from eight to forty minutes and the readings can either be specifically selected or the next will play automatically when the previous one ends. There are currently seven readings available and more will be released at the beginning of each new week of the Fringe.

There are currently two children's stories, two poetry selections, a short story, and extracts from a travel book and a novel. All the the readings were new to me apart from the episode of 'My Naughty Little Sister' which was my eldest daughter's favourite book when she was five. Just like the original event at the Old Hall, the charm of these performances is the the way that each reader personalises their reading both through their selection, their delivery and their explanatory comments. The readers voices are very pleasant an it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so listening to something that you probably haven't heard before.

Alex Watts


In three readings from Anne's recently published short story anthology 'Becoming Someone', the author playfully explores the manacles of identity - are they locked tight or can we choose to loosen them and break free? Do we doggedly accept a version of ourselves or can we explore opportunities and assume a role that appeals more?

'I want doesn't get' is the shortest tale and is all about viewpoints; the soberest of all is from the grave. Lifelong jealousies are avenged, but why and how?

At 11 and a half minutes, the longest story, 'In search of Mr Right', informs us that first love can last a lifetime and seeks to find out if beauty is more than skin deep.

'After Icarus' enters the realm of birds, those creatures to be envied because they can simply migrate with the effortless fever of flight and leave it all behind, whatever 'it' is.

Anne has also posted a literary quiz of quotations, also about identity and journeys to find and secure them. Not feeling particularly confident, my wife and I had a go and proudly got seven out of eight correct.

Anne also issues an invitation to see more of her readings through her YouTube channel and you can join her for an online chat about the issues raised - please see Fringe link for details.

David Carlisle