Most cliches have a basis in fact and the one which says that people in the north of England are more extrovert and friendly than those in the south may well have an element of truth in it, although if it is the case, as a loud and mouthy southerner, I’m one of the exceptions.
Whatever the merits of that observation, I certainly received a lovely welcome everywhere I went last week.
The gigs were planned around Brighton’s first league game at Old Trafford since 1983 and what an occasion that turned out to be. More of that in a moment.
I began last Wednesday with a benefit show at Brewdog Manchester, one of a series of Punk in Drublic fundraisers for the Mustard Tree homeless resettlement project organised by a young performance poet called Robert Steventon and some of his mates.
And what a night it was — old punk (me), young rappers, poets and comedians together. I was three times the age of most of those present — but of course age is irrelevant and it was yet another example of how the spoken word scene has exploded gloriously in the last few years.
The performance standard was very high, especially Isaiah Hull, a young poet with words of exceptional quality and a riveting stage presence. Loads of money was raised. I stayed at Robert’s house overnight and his pet boa constrictor broke my glasses — fortunately just pound shop ready readers. I love snakes and am always eager to cuddle them. My fault.
The next day, after a very enjoyable cycle ride round parts of the Manchester-Rochdale canal, I did a spot at Moston Miners’ Club, next door to fan-owned FC United of Manchester’s ground, as part of a day-long event headlined by a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Ken Loach.
This was another fundraiser — for Salford Unemployed & Community Resource Centre, dubbed “the fourth emergency service” by local people for its work helping the poor, homeless and vulnerable and under threat due to government cuts in the voluntary sector.
The discussion with Ken was riveting. This centre must stay open. It is desperately needed by its local community.
And then on Friday to Darwen — first time I’d ever set foot in that Lancashire town — for a gig which was quite literally a piss-up in the outlet pub of local micro Hopstar brewery. Bridging the north-south divide, the stage was adorned with a Lancashire Against Fracking banner and my Brighton scarf. As well as a great reception I got many good luck messages for the following day’s match.
Old Trafford. David against Goliath. Brighton, risen from 91st in the league with no ground, challenging the might of Man U in their own backyard.
Challenge them we did — even Jose Mourinho agreed that we were so unlucky losing 1-0 — the goal a deflection following a disputed corner.
I was very proud, not just of our team but of our fans who filled that huge stadium with song.
As for Man U, their vocal support was pathetic. When we stopped singing, there was total silence. Wonderfully clever and whimsical rapper/songwriter Gecko will hopefully be pleased to know that, while pins could be heard dropping all over Old Trafford, I turned one of his lyrics into a very quiet football chant: “Sshhh! It’s a library!”
You’ll hear more about Gecko in my music round-up in a couple of weeks. His new release Volcano is one of my albums of the year.
And then after the match I extricated myself from the Old Trafford traffic just in time for my gig at Ham & Jam Coffee Shop in Preston. Another great night.
Tonight sees the launch of the community buy-out scheme aiming to save the lovely Greys pub in the Hanover district of Brighton. I’m doing a show there at 8pm as part of an all-day event. And next week I’m doing a Stand Up For Labour gig in Chingford on Thursday and, at the weekend, I’m at the Fox & Goose in Hebden Bridge on Friday, Small Seeds, Huddersfield after the Brighton game on Saturday and a benefit for the Doncaster Women’s Refuge on Sunday.
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