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Red Squirrels!

Just before we went on holiday, we agreed to take over the web site of Red Squirrel Press: the timing was so tight that the night before we set off, I was busy re-making the front page to advertise the launch of their second publication, Kevin Cadwallender’s Colouring in Guernica!

We were very sorry not to be at that launch, which sounded great fun: Kevin is always an entertaining reader, and Sheila Wakefield, the driving force behind Red Squirrel, had created a special Red Squirrel award, just for Kevin, in recognition of all he has done to promote other poets in the north-east – and managed to present it, too, despite having fractured her elbow (ouch!) only a few days before.

So it was a particular pleasure to go last night to the launch of James Oates’ Wideyback, the third poetry collection from the squirrels’ drey. It took place in a smart bar in Newcastle, an interestingly shaped space, all alcoves, low lighting and plenty of sofas, which would have been perfect for the sort of party where you drift around and talk to different people – and I enjoyed the part of the evening where we did just that. It was a bit of a challenge to the reader, though, particularly since James Oates was losing his voice, and there was music seeping through from the main bar space next door.

The words more or less held their own, though, particularly performance pieces like the Bigg Market Tarantella, James Oates’ homage to Hilaire Belloc:

Do you remember the Blackie Boy, Amanda?
Do you remember the Blackie Boy?

or his consideration of the particular flavours of wet kisses on the metro, in which Valerie Laws joined him to read the lines attributed to Jilly Goolden.

Quieter pieces, like A Longing for Clear Blue Skies were harder to follow, and I was glad to be able to read them afterwards, on the page. But then, I’m lucky enough that reading poetry is part of my job: my task for this morning was to add two poems from Wideyback to the Red Squirrel web site – and two from Colouring in Guernica for good measure.

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