Summer Jam

5 August
Sadler’s Yard

To the armoury of famed poets from Greater Manchester, which includes the likes of John Cooper Clarke and Mike Garry, there has been a recent addition. He is someone who has recently shot to prominence, and could probably mark my grammar with a ‘can do better’ comment.

The overnight success that is now tumbling Tony Walsh's way has taken many years of honing his love of words, how they combine or sometimes collide incongruously, and how they can reflect the circumstances of a particular time or place. Sometimes they may just vividly describe, with their razor sharp observations of being over 50.

Sadler’s Yard in central Manchester provided Tony with another stage to perform on, this time with less sadness in the air than the days after the Manchester Arena bombing. Last year at the Sadler’s Yard Summer Jam, there was only one stage. This year, a second one was added. Or as one artist, Jo Rose, called it: "the pulpit stage". An added plus was that there were free jars of jam. Don't knock it. They were nice.

The wind found a channel between the tall towers encircling the area around Pilcrow bar. Bags swirled in the wind and people sought refuge, whilst remembering that, technically, it was still summer. Demonstrating a familiarity with the wit of his audience, Tony announced, "My book is on sale for a tenner. As it's Manchester, I'll do a deal. Two for £20."

When Tony went on stage at about 6pm, it was the first time during a series of performances that a hush descended upon the crowd outside, the first time that a performer had the full attention of those present. Yes, they may have been waiting to see his performance of ‘This Is Manchester’ - and that was duly delivered as effectively as in the aftermath of the Arena bombing - but there is so much more in his voluminous back catalogue of works that spark connections with his sentiments.

Phrases such as, "I'm like Aladdin's lamp and I can be your three wishes," may seem trite and throwaway, but as corny as it sounds, that line has probably worked in a dark, dingy place amidst past youthful fumbling. After tonight, a few more people may be using it as well.

But whilst words on a page are open to the reader's interpretation, watching and listening to the author recreate the feelings that gave rise to the creation is by far a better way to experience them. Quieter moments are key, with delivery emphasising selected words, and effective pauses.

Yes, you can buy a live recording of bands that capture the spirit of an occasion (Seconds Out by Genesis, anyone?), but the privilege of listening to a performer deliver the words exactly as he or she wants them to be delivered in a live environment can sometimes be worth the being the audience. Perhaps that willingness to enjoy the live environment of spoken word events is why evenings such as Verbose have to limit the number of would-be performers at their occasionally packed out nights.

Tony Walsh has certainly had plenty of practice at his craft - it must be 10 years since I saw him perform in a small bar in Levenshulme - but he deserves his moments in the limelight.

Ged Camera