ForgottenBeeBlog proudly gets to chat with the incredible Salford poet JB Barrington, kindly making time during his UK tour to get into “mither” or “myther” with the Bee……JB talks about music and its effect on his poetry style, his first live performance, winning “Best Spoken Word” award, and his roots in Salford.
WARNING: Contains poems that rhyme (taken from JB Barrington’s book “Woodchip Anaglypta and Nicotined Artex Ceilings”).
FB 1/ JB, Welcome to Forgottenbee Blog First Question…At what point did you realise that you had a gift for poetry?
Ha ha to answer this question says I think I have a gift. Do I have a gift? I dunno, maybe. I think I must have something as people seem to like what I write which, essentially, makes it all kind of worthwhile. I actually started writing raps in the mid to late 80s. I was a fan of Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys and other such artists of the time but before that if we go back to 1979 and The Jam it was the album ‘Setting Sons’ and a song called ‘Little Boy Soldiers’ where I found myself, as an 8 year old, moved by the written word simply from reading the lyric sheet to the album. Further on from that I remember the lyrics to London 0 Hull 4 around 1986 and also Billy Bragg’s lyrics of the same time inspired me to write just as ‘Setting Sons’ had done. I wanted to create similar feelings with words of my own just as those albums and artists had done for me. As for realising a gift for poetry, if it is a gift! I would say around the late 80s then into the 90s as I started to play guitar and write songs. Writing is something I’d always done but mostly just either to a guitar or something tucked away in numerous books and shoved away under the bed. I never really thought anyone would be interested.
FB 2/ I’ve often noticed that musicians have a natural flare for poetry and indeed sometimes the two come together in a very powerful way such as with the ‘Sleaford Mods’ @sleafordmods. Are you musical in anyway?
I think I’ve just answered that. Yes, I can play guitar and have written lots of songs. I was doing this before I began performing poetry and before I began concentrating on just writing poems. For performance poetry I do think it helps to have some kind of rhythm, as my poems are quite rhythmic in their style of performance and having some kind of musical ability definitely helps. I think so anyway.
FB 3/ You recently performed in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Does your Northern English dialect cross over well?
I’ve performed there twice and yeah I think so. There are certain words like ‘mither’ or ‘myther’ (never sure how you spell it) that some folk outside of Manchester don’t seem to get and I suppose there’ll always be slang words that don’t cross over but yeah seems to work ok. Dunno really, you’d have to ask someone from Edinburgh.
FB 4/ You are very proud of your Salford roots…What was Salford like to grow up in as a boy?
Simply wonderful. I grew up in a place called Little Hulton, which was essentially an overspill area of Salford in the early 60s. I was born in Hope Hospital in Salford but my Mam and Dad had moved to Little Hulton from Salford 4 years previous. Fantastic place full of character and plenty of colourful characters to go with it.
FB 5/ I admire your ability to stand up and perform poetry live. Do you remember the very first time you did this?
My first live poetry performance was upstairs in the theatre at the Kings Arms on the 9th March 2012. The night was called ‘Poems and Pints’ and it was organised by Paul Heaton and Zena Barrie. Bear in mind that one of my earliest influences and inspirations to write was Paul Heaton and the album London 0 Hull 4 and then for him to be sat in the audience as I did my first poetry performance !! That really was something else…. and yes I was nervous.
FB 6/ Any live performer takes that chance of being heckled. How do you deal with them?
Easy…I’ve got the microphone and I’m louder. They can be the funniest person in the world but nobody can hear ‘em.
FB 7/ Have “Words Escaped you” during a live performance?
It’s happened a few times yes where I’ve forgotten the next line or the opening line of a poem but it doesn’t happen that often.
FB 8/ Tell me what JB does to relax?
I don’t ….. it does my head in.
FB 9/ I see that your Salford show is a complete sell out. What do your supporters mean to you?
I feel blessed to have such great support and to know people enjoy what I do made and it’s all the more special knowing it’s in in my hometown of Salford.
FB 10/ Social Media… Do you find it an important tool to promote your shows and communicate with your fans?
I do yes although I do believe you can’t beat simply going out and performing live wherever and whenever you can.
FB 11/ You are involved with the brilliant “James Coburn and the Rum Bastards” film written and created by Nathan Cunningham that is still in its production stages. You performed a superb piece of contemporary poetry to the camera for this film. Will you be submitting more poetry to this project and or are you involved with other projects like this?
Yes. My role in the film is playing a poet (typecast or what eh?) In the film I’m writing a poem about the band and my storyline shows me researching the band. The few lines I perform as part of the trailer was written especially for it and it may be part of the finished thing….who knows?
Nathan Cunningham @LowGeese – In the film, JB’s poetry kind of tells the story of ‘James Coburn And The Rum Bastards’. Having a presenter, or narrator for a rockumentary is a little bit on the spotty student side so we wanted to do something different. JB’s a great performer so it’s going to be interesting to see him act too. He’ll be pleased to know that I’ve just binned a very homo-erotic love scene in which Vini Reilly from durutti column tries it on with JB after they’ve been chasing a chicken, naked, oiled up, down some back alley in Salford. Hahaha! Only messing. JB’s gonna be putting a big shift in for us and we’re all looking forward to it.
FB 12/ Drum Roll………Congratulations on your award for the winner of “Best Spoken Word” award at Greater Manchester Fringe last year. No doubt a hugely proud moment for you. How did that award make you feel, and who would you most like to thank for helping you to achieve this prestigious award?
Yes, it was a proud moment…. I think the only thing I’d ever won before that was a Goldfish on Silcocks fair in 1978 and our kid flushed it down the bog. Seriously though yes it was a great moment. I went to Manchester with my girlfriend for the Fringe awards and I was up against a whole host of talented poets and Phil Jupitus. I didn’t think for one minute my show would win but it did. Obviously I’d like to thank everyone that came along to the show, Salford City Radio for their support and on-going support people like Zac Peach, Paul Sewell, Daz Earl and Tony Thornborough as they play my poems on their shows. Zena Barrie at The Kings Arms and Debbie Manley at the Fringe for their support not only for the show that won the award in 2014 but also my first Fringe show ‘Words For Class Heroes’ back in 2013. They’ve all been great.
FB 13/ You have a wonderful book of poetry available at the moment “Woodchip Anaglypta and Nicotined Artex Ceilings” one of which you recently sent me and is now a treasured possession. Where can your supporters get a copy of this from, and get to see you live?
Its available via the ‘buy book tab’ on my JB Barrington facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheWordsEscapeMe … plus you can always pick one up at a show.
FB – Here are two of my favourite poems from JB Barrington’s book:
SHE HOLDS HIS HAND
She holds his hand
He’s no longer as strong as what once he could be
They fell in love in Salford 1953
She holds his hand
His legs have grown weak on his feet he’s unsteady
She cleans him she feeds him she helps him get ready
She holds his hand
Never once does she wish to let go
Through the 65 years of blood sweat and tears
He’s the most wonderful man she’s ever known
She holds his hand
Just to make sure he’s alright
She sings him to sleep with a sweet kiss to keep
And she holds his hand all through the night
She holds his hand
Just like she did before
Time got the best of those pains in his chest
She’ll still hold his hand evermore.
THE BLISTERING SUN
We’ve saved all year and the time is here
for a fortnight sun aboard
It won’t be long before we’re on that plane
and when it lands we’ll all applaud
They’ll bus down top the local town
where the shops and bars are bigger
Where the olive skin trim from the gym
puts shame to o my faccid figure
The tanned up skin and whiter teeth
adorn the shimmering sands
I look like I’ve bathed in a bucket o’bleach
and just my teeth are tanned
And the bellies hang with the belly gang
over shorts that show short legs
We fall in love with the two for one
the sun and cheap cigarettes
And the English girl wants English beer
she wants Budweiser Becks and Stella
After egg & chips she grips her hips
to Flamenco for her fella
The observations form conversations
of who might be on them yachts
From the whites the blacks the thins the fats
the haves and the have nots
With studious looks we sift the books
at Carousel Karaoke Bar
Where every Mam and every Gran
thinks their horrible kid’s a star
Tracy’s up for the umpteenth time
she’s murdering Adele
By 1am when the morning comes
she’ll be gone like a bat out of hell
The northern folk crack smiles and jokes
with a sense of finesse and flair
Then the sound of the south with a massive mouth
pollutes what was a calm sea air
Sheila helps Joan try and work her phone
the stray cats get shooed away
As I burn my knees I catch a breeze
and try and make it last all day
To enjoy the heat with scolded feet
you’d have to be a Lizard
Drive me up the M62
drop me off in a Pennine blizzard
We’ve saved all year the time is here
so I’ll plaster on fake smile
Where the water gun and the blistering sun
are fun…..for a while
JB it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on ForgottenbeeBlog. I could ask you loads more questions, but “Words escape me….”
Inspiring Salford scribe,
visited Bee’s Hive
Photographs courtesy of © Shay Rowan Photography @shayster57
“Brilliant and funny” – Terry Christian
“Quality” – Peter Hooton (The Farm)
“Great Poems, Northern Class” – Steve Cradock (OCS & Paul Weller)
WordPress Blog: https://wordsescapeme1971.wordpress.com/