Poetry and Politics Do Mix

An Explosive Combination of Poetry, Politics and History

The Socialist History Society’s first ever poetry reading held on 10 June proved to be a tremendous success.

The event was conceived as a celebration of the many and various ways that poets have sought to convey a Socialist message through poetry and was also aimed at raising some much needed funds for the SHS; we are pleased to report that it magnificently fulfilled its tasks on both these counts. It was a very entertaining experience for performers and audience alike.

Warmest appreciation is reserved for committee members Greta Sykes and Deborah Lavin, who put together an extremely varied programme of readings that combined classic and modern readings.

Several other Society members contributed to the evening’s entertainment and the level of enthusiasm shown by all concerned was much remarked upon.

The event was held at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, which proved to be an excellent venue, highly atmospheric and congenial.

The line up primarily consisted of poetry enthusiasts from the Society along with a few friends from London Voices Poetry Group and other contacts. The eclectic programme demonstrated the rich variety of what it is possible to categorise as “Socialist poetry” including works by Brecht, William Morris, Mayakovsky, John Cornford, Shelley, Heinrich Heine, Langston Hughes and Harri Webb.

The period covered stretched from the French Revolution to the modern day. Especially well received were the spirited performances delivered by Deborah Lavin, Penny Dimond (from the New Factory of the Eccentric Actor), Khatchatur Pilikian and Greta Sykes.

London Voices member Vincent Berquet gave a special presentation about the revolutionary impulses in the Marseillaise and how the anthem has been interpreted over the decades, while Gillian Oxford recited a song about the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

Jane Ennis read extracts from Morris’s Pilgrims of Hope whose theme is the Paris Commune and David Morgan read from a translation of Common Cause by the French poet Francis Combes which is a series of vignettes concerning key episodes in revolutionary history. Greta, Deborah and others also read some of their own poems. Mike Squires and David Horsley also gave readings from John Cornford and Langston Hughes respectively.

The evening raised over £100 for the Society’s funds and the enthusiastic feedback has inspired everyone to put on a repeat performance in the near future. There is certainly sufficient material around to put together several programmes.

Thanks again to everyone who made the event such a success and one that exceeded all expectations.

David Morgan

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July 2011

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