King’s Lynn Festival 2017: Roger McGough and Little Machine review

Roger McGough and Little Machine performed at King's Lynn Festival. Picture: Nick Wright

Roger McGough and Little Machine performed at King's Lynn Festival. Picture: Nick Wright - Credit: Nick Wright

The auditorium was almost full of people of a certain age waiting in anticipation for Roger McGough to appear on stage.

This is the generation who grew up listening and reading the works of the Liverpool poet, I imagine they were the cool kids of the 60s.

An era defined by sex, drugs and rock and roll, Roger McGough encapsulated the mood of the 60s in the anthology The Mersey Sound, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Along with fellow Liverpool poets, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri, The Mersey Sound took inspiration from the Beat Generation of writers in the US, a form of literary expression capturing the social revolution movement which dominated politics at the time.

For most of the audience it was about revisiting the past, for me it was about stepping into a world I never knew.


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The 79-year-old hopped on to the stage with a bounce in his step, looking relaxed in his untucked stripy shirt, jeans and trainers.

His recitals were accompanied by music performed by three-man band the Little Machine, giving an energetic performance which brought the poems to life with elements of rock and blues.

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Mr McGough took on the Beats theme with his poem The Ginsberg Skeleton and recited poems in protest of contemporary times - reviling the bankers, terrorism and war.

Most of his poems were surreal anecdotes ending with a catchy punch line - I never expected to hear a poem about mafia cats with The Godfather theme playing in the background, or see an imitation skull being used as a maraca.

But he revisited his younger days in poems about his family who have since passed, in poems which were both jokey and terribly sad.

He recalls his mother teaching him how to read during the Second World War, in a dark room with only a factory fire glowing through his window as a source of light. His bedtime stories would be instructions found on the back of an Ovaltine tub.

The show ended with a rapturous performance of The Scaffold's Lily the Pink, which got the entire audience singing and stomping their feet in time to the beat.

It was a reading like no other - an amalgamation of comedy, music and poetry proving Roger McGough is a poet for the many.

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