Punk poets and free samples

You’d think the free fringe events at the Ilkley Literature Festival would draw big crowds. After all, they’re free and they let you sample authors and styles you might not otherwise encounter. Sadly the audience is often a bit thin on the ground, and sometimes that makes me feel sorry for the people on the stage, but last night I felt more sorry for the citizens of Ilkley who missed out on Henry Raby.

Henry Raby’s a punk poet and he’s from Yorkshire – none of you will be in the least surprised that I went to see him, or enjoyed the performance immensely. And performance is definitely the word for it – a veritable one-man theatre piece, sustained for almost an hour with heart and soul and angst and humour. Long narrative sections interspersed with fierce poetry and the occasional character monologue came together to tell the story of a teenager on his first protest march in London (complete with cagoule and packed lunch), and ended in a love poem.

This was easily the best fringe event I’ve been to at the Ilkley Literature Festival this year (ever?). When the teenage hero pulls out a sheaf of poems on the march and says they’re more dangerous than the bricks someone’s thinking of chucking, I’m almost prepared to believe it’s true. “When the revolution comes, there’ll be no more students because we’ll all be learning all the time”: if only, Mr Raby. If only.

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