Waxing lyrical with Simon Armitage at Chester Lit

This week I Twittered:

I used to go see The Fall & cool bands. Now waiting for Simon Armitage to come on stage at Chester Lit Festival. #somiddleclass

How things have changed. With the university autumn term moving into top gear, I sat amongst the grey hair and North Face jackets at the University of Chester this week, reflecting how – 20 years ago – a university gig would have been about mainlining snakebite and black, and pogo-ing down the front.

For the first night of the Chester Literature Festival, it was a quiet pint of Guinness while reading the Guardian.

Inspired lyrics

Still, at least the headline act tonight, the poet and writer Simon Armitage, still has a whiff of rock n’ roll about him. And his words are worthy of comparisons with the lyrics of Nick Cave or Morrissey, both much loved by my undergraduate self.

You can listen to an Audioboo of Simon reading his poem, The Delegates, here.

But the night itself felt rather too low key. Perhaps the polite murmurings of the crowd and their stoic refusal to applaud until the very last reading, subduing the headliner into a far more downbeat reading than his usual turn on BBC Radio’s Radcliffe and Maconie show.

The only frisson of the night was a deflected question about the recent Armitage-meets-Morrissey interview, now ostensibly mired in legal issues.

Learning points

Still, I’ve got a lot of time for Simon Armitage and his use of language. So what did I learn?

  • To invest in some sperm-whale music asap
  • Love at first sight is just another form of mistaken identity
  • Halifax + Huddersfield + Oldham + Bury  = the northern punk belt

I also discovered that, not only does Chester have a High Sheriff, but the current incumbent appears dressed like a 18th-century dandy.

Somebody won £2,000 for a poem about pumpkins. The softy spoken Armitage offered the mandatory hand shake and grimaced through a reading of the winning stanzas.

The festival continues this week with Mark Kermode and Alastair Campbell amongst the headline names looking to shift product in the obligatory post-appearance signing session.

But I’ll probably give it a miss. I’ll be too busy dusting off my old vinyl and rediscovering the lyrics of The Good Son.


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