Graveyard shift

October 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

Well, half a bottle of Rioja and a hot bath and I was still wide awake at 3.30 yesterday morning, due to Sunday night’s reading of The Purging of Spence Broughton at Hill Top Chapel in Sheffield – a chilly, out-of-the-way place, but atmospheric, acoustic, perfect as a setting for the subject.  People threaded through crumbling memorials and over gravestones to the rarely lit building in amongst the factories of the Don Valley, among their number descendants of Spence himself.

My thanks to great support from Ray Hearne (as Spence), Matt Black (Coleridge), Chris Jones (Bentham), Fay Musselwhite (Blake’s Nurse) and Jim Caruth (Shelley), and to the attentive and perceptive crowd, who together made an event that’s still ringing in my ears.  What’s clear to me is that ‘folk’ histories are vibrant, resonant things that remain alive in the minds of communities.  The caretaker at the Chapel was a mine of local information; Ray spoke about the Sheffield balladeer Joseph Mather as well as the contemporary arguments raging between Burke and Paine.  Equally, there are ways into these stories for poetry which, with its focus on emotional truth and veracity, can produce the histories that, for political and social reasons, have been unvoiced.

Longbarrow Press has re-issued The Purging of Spence Broughton as a boxed edition with CD recording and in a plain envelope format – further information forthcoming.

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