Men’s Morning – Moss Side Leisure Centre

I grew up in a grey world

Grey buildings, grey pavements and grey skies

Photographs were grey

The caravan sites were grey

The beaches were grey and the people were grey

Then, Slum Clearance and we moved to new house and slowly, glimmers of light would flicker through peoples eyes and I’d hear singing in peoples voices and a thing called the sun was rumoured to live behind the grey clouds

Warmth existed in peoples words and kindness lived behind the beamed smiles

I went to new places

I experienced new things

I ate pasta

I started to live a new life and people inspired me, not pop stars or film idols, just ordinary people that I would meet on my street and in my neighbourhood

And they still inspire – Heroes, every one of them.

My formal education was atrocious but what I learned from certain experiences in certain places, was more than I ever learned at University

One such place was Men’s Morning at Moss Side Leisure Centre

Every Friday morning the whole of the leisure centre was a “man only “space – so, you were free to do activities such as 5-a-side, badminton, squash, weights, table tennis, swimming etc and it was all finished off with a good scrub and sweat in the Steam Room and Sauna.

At 12.30 all the men would leave and the afternoon was a Woman only space.

Equality in Moss side, circa 1980’s.

I first started attending Men’s Morning at the age of 13 – I had a football injury and my doctor recommended it. I think he recommended it more for the mind than the body. I loved it

I loved listening to grown men speak of “Grown up” things.  I loved the competitive nature of the sport. I loved the banter and the fun and the confrontations and hanging with the “bad boys” – I continued to attend through my teen years and into manhood (??) and i was amazed by the range of people and the stories and the lives that were shared.  It was a special place and it was made special by the people.

I can’t remember whether it was Arthur Rimbauld or Eric Cantona who said “An artist in my eyes is someone who lightens up a dark room.”  If that is the case, Men’s Morning was full of artists.

I write about the things I’ve seen and experienced.  I try to capture beauty in words and I want to share that beauty because the more beauty we see, the more beautiful we become. I wrote a poem called Men’s Morning that attempts to capture the essence of what Men’s Morning was about. Its people, stories, its spirit and its warmth and those things words alone just cannot capture .

It later became my first book, I remember typing it up on my old Mac Classic I bought from Johnny Roadhouse for £100.  (I’ve still got that computer)  Then, I got my mate Ant Ball to lay it out for publication and do a cover.  I got an ISBN and everything.

Job done. I’d made my first book.  I launched it in May 2000 on a boat called “La Pinta” in Salford Docks and I read it with my beautiful friend Diké Omeje (rest in peace)

It was an amazing night – amazing things happened and continue to happen

Sixteen years later, someone from  BBC Radio 4 heard it and liked it and asked me to make a programme about Men’s Morning.

I love Moss Side. It’s the back drop to much of my poetry.  It made me what i am and who i am.  I am so proud of the place and it’s people and i’m proud to have grown up there.  So, when Radio 4 asked me to go back and to talk to some of the people from my poem and men who attended men’s morning, I felt honoured.

The programme will be broadcast in May and part of the programme will be a live reading of the poem from Moss Side Leisure Centre on Wednesday March 23rd.

The boat was packed in Salford on the launch night and a kind of magic happened that only happens only a few times in a persons life

If it felt one millionth as good as it did that night on the boat, it will be beautiful.

It starts at 7 and your invited but we’d love you to get there for 6.30

It’s going to be emotional

and we will see colour

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness

2016 is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl – a seminal piece of work that changed the world of poetry and one could argue, that it changed America

Now, i could go on about his influence on Kerouac and the other Beats but it’s the personal things that mean so much more to me

Like the time I was playing at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in the Big Sur in California. I met a guy who grew up in San Francisco but his family had a cabin by Bixby Creek Canyon close to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin where Kerouac wrote “The Big Sur”.

A beautiful man who took me for a walk down the canyon, under Bixby Bridge and onto the beach he played on as a kid.  He told me some amazing stories but my favourite was the time he was walking to the beach as a young man and saw someone stark naked on Ferlinghetti’s cabin porch, just stood there, looking out – starkers – “A tall hairy man” he described him to his father.  It was Alan.

 

When I’ve played with Philip Glass and Friends, we always finishes the show with “Footnote to Howl by Alan – It makes an amazing climax to the show and allows everyone involved to come on stage and share in the reading of the poem.  Usually, he gets Patti Smith to read it but when Patti isn’t with us, he asks me to read it – What an honour and what an amazing poem – Here’s Pattie performing it with tibetan monks for a special visit from the Dalai Lama

And finally, My Gaffer, Dr John Cooper Clarke told me a story about him and Alan Touring the UK and Johnny introduced Alan to his mum. Alan said it was a pleasure to meet her and described Johnny as “One of the most polite men he’d ever met” – Johnny was really pleased by this and explaining this to me he said, “What else does a mother want to hear?  It’s the greatest compliment that can be given to a mother about her son”.  And on reflection, he’s probably right.

Yesterday was the  Anniversary of that famous reading of Howl in Berkley and today we are celebrating it with a Beats Day in Luton.  The day celebrates Allen Ginsberg, his life and his poetry

The day looks like this

2pm – Opening of Beat day by Jeff Towns who introduces the day and his

2.15pm – Allen Ginsberg and GUERRILLA TV – New York filmmaker David Shulman in conversation with Jeff Towns. They will explore David’s 1990 film and show rare footage of Ginsberg narrating the introduction.

3.05pm – Black Breton: White Negro – Ideas of Race in Jack Kerouac’s writings: talk by Professor Daniel Williams.

3.45pm – Ah! Sunflower – British writer, documentarist, film maker and poet, Iain Sinclair introduces a screening of his seminal film of Allen Ginsberg in London in 1967.

4.30pm – Break

5.00pm – Mike Garry – Live dynamic performance poetry. A passionate Mancunian, his “Saint Anthony” on YouTube is read by Iggy Pop. He performed backed by New Order at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He has just written the libretto for a new Phillip Glass commission.

5.45pm – American Smoke – Iain Sinclair talks about his Travel/memoir across America in search of Beats, described by The Guardian as “grippingly haunted”.

6.30pm – A rare screening of No More to Say & Nothing to Weep For – A fine filmic eulogy to Allen Ginsberg.

7.30pm – Howl – a live performance with Ceri Murphy as Ginsberg reading the poem accompanied by graphic illustrative projections.

8.30pm – Round table summing up with Iain Sinclair, Dan Williams, Mike Garry and David Shulman, who will discuss the topics raised – chaired by Jeff Towns.

 

It looks like an amazing day & tickets are still available, so come and join us and for more info and a 10 time better blog than mine, have a look at what my mate Jeff Towns is saying as he’s arranged the day – http://ginsbergblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/fridays-weekly-round-up-260_18.html?m=1

Christopher Seddon 1942-2015

For this tree is a ladder and each branch a new rung

So, kids who once on branches swung 

They learned to climb

Did their time

Held tight – feeding each other

Like family – like brothers

I’m honoured to have done some work with Seddon Ltd.  They’re builders based in Bolton.

They Emailed me and asked me to come in for a meeting with the prospect of doing some work together.

I thought, building firm and poetry??? – Sounds good.  Sounds interesting.  So I tweeted

“Anyone done any work with Seddon Ltd?” and within 2 minute i was tweeted 4 times by people saying

“Yes, Seddon.  They Built my mothers Care Home and were brilliant.”

“Yeah Seddon, they built a new block at our school – Bolton Firm aren’t they?”

“Seddon built the hospice my Gran was in and were wonderful”

All positive and all good. So, i went and met them and was amazed.

I discovered that they’re a family owned Building company that span three centuries and 5 generations.  Established in 1897 when George and John Seddon, two orphans,  who climbed out of a coal mine and set up their bricklaying firm in Little Hulton. The business now delivers nearly£200 millions of building projects across the UK employing nearly 800 people.

But, Seddon are not your average business – their priority is not profit and their values run right through everything they do

To behave as a family, providing support to our customers, staff, supply chain and stakeholders

To act ethically and do the right thing regardless of personal consequence

To take the wider view in decision-making, looking at longer term rather than short term gains

To provide stability in the employment and training of our people

To enjoy what we do and have fun in doing it

 

I decided to write a poem about the history and ethos of the company and present it at an annual event organised by Seddon.

To write the poem, I worked with a range of their employees in their offices in Bolton but I also went out to building sites and talked to brickies and Sparks and apprentices to capture the essence of what they do – i.e. Build Houses.   Captured here by Granada Reports https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ0chgkoFlw

I worked closely with the family as well, notably with Jonathan Seddon, the Managing Director since 2007.  He amazed me.  Early 40’s, young family, learned his trade “hands-on” doing a YTS at the age of 16. First as a Brickie, then a Spark, then a plumber.  He learned the fundamentals of building houses. His dad treated him like any other employee, harsher most probably, so as no-one thought he was getting “special treatment”.  They guy still cycles to work.

I spent some time with Christopher as well, his father. He retired in 2007 but couldn’t resist continuing to be involved with the things that interested him at Seddon. But, he was the captain of the ship who had steered her through many years of growth and development and couldn’t just “let go” over night.

I was quite scared of him to be honest.  He reminded me of a really strict but decent Headmaster.  It was fear with great respect. He was sort the of guy who wouldn’t say a lot but what it did say, you listened and listened carefully. And, having done so much research on the company and it’s history and politic, I knew what this man had achieved and how hard he worked to achieve it.

I wrote a poem about Seddon and their history and ethos called “It Runs Right Through“.   A section of the poem focuses on Seddon’s work with Young People, something Christopher Seddon was passionate about. So passionate, he made Seddon’s commitment to delivering first-class apprenticeships part of the company’s DNA.

An apprentice bricklayer himself was later awarded an MBE for his services to apprenticeships and local charities he had worked for 56 years.

I’ll never forget delivering the poem to the family and company heads sat in the Board room at Seddon headquarters in Bolton – I was petrified that they wouldn’t like what i had written.

I read the poem…………….waited for a reaction……………………………………….. and Christopher stood up and walked toward the door but stopped in front of me, patted me on the shoulder and said

“You’ve done a great job.”

Nothing else mattered – I knew that if he like the poem, I’d “done a great job”

Sadly, Christopher died in August 2015 after a battle with Cancer.

Now, I could sit here and write endless lists of Christophers achievements.  I could write wonderful testaments to his character and tell you what a great man he was.But I’m not going to because it wasn’t his style and it isn’t Seddon’s style

However, to commemorate his life and most importantly, his commitment to working with young people, I’ve taken a section of the poem, worked with closely with Seddon staff and made a video that we believe champions the work Christopher.

 

Please feel free to share it –

RIP Christopher Seddon 1942-2015

Salford Song

A Salford son sang of Salford dirty

He sang of this town old

Of loving folk who still salt the earth here

Within a climate cold

 

No factory croft

No Gas works wall

Landscapes have changed

So’s the shape of the ball

 

And all the Champagne, Cigars and caviar of the incoming Noveaux Riche

Cannot buy A Taste of Honey

Where tradition runs rich and deep

 

Where you’ll still see the odd mongrel dog on the pitch

Smell Bovril at half time

Hear cold turnstiles go click

See rattles in hands

Small kids with freckles

Match stalk men from Lower Broughton

North Country Boys from Eccles

 

And a Mayoral Monkey driven in sane

Blyth Spirit from a Christmas past

Or will the underdog bite Again?

 

Predictions are useless

But the winner takes it all

The champagne cigars and the cavalcade of stars

In the FA Cup 3rd Round draw

 

Match of the Day

I’m probably the greatest footballer you’ve (n)ever met

Better than Pele, Cruff, Maradona, Beckham, Ralf Milne and George Berry all put together

Brazil wanted to sign me.  Holland wanted to sign me. Argentina wanted to sign me but me Mam said “stick with the paper round, son”

And she was right really – think about it, it was the 80’s

Perms, tashes, shell suits and really tight shorts – Not my bag man

So I played Amateur for years – If i’d have packed it in completely, i’d have been depriving the British public of watching a sporting genius at work

But, I always wanted to be on Match of the Day

It was and still is the best programme on tele

Old Gaz with his gags and puns and sincere face when needed. and hasn’t the boy aged well? I just wish Roy Keane was a pundit,  instead of on ITV.

Goal of the Month. Remember save of the season?  I love the music.

I used to stand behind the goal in North Stand at City, in my anorak with our Hughie and we’d know if it was on match of the day cos you’d see the cameras.

When there was an attack, I’d jump up and wave like a looney just so as I could be on MOTD. But I never was.

We had to stop going in the North stand though.  Not just because we were reds, we’d go city one week united the next, regardless.  It was because of Helen and that Bloody Bell she used to ring – i still think of her when my tinnitus is bad.

Same at old trafford – I’d stand on the tops of the Cages I was encaged in (joke really, when you think about it) and I’d wave like a windmill, Mick Channon style…. just so as we could be on MOTD.

And i’d sit there on the Saturday night – staring at Jimmy Hills chin waiting to be on TV, in my anorak.  But i was never on.

Years went by, I had to resort to playing Fatboy Baldy football.  Or, you might know it as 5 a side.But i always wanted to be on MOTD.

I must admit, I gave up all hope.  My right knee was wrecked and like Gorgeous Gaz’s big toe, it ended my career. I’d never be on MOTD!

Depression did set in, I must admit but it’s not uncommon.  it happens to loads of sporting geniuses when they finish.  Look at Best, Tony Adams, David Icke.  You’ve gotta find something you enjoy doing and keeps your mind off the game.

So, I decided to take up poetry.

I was lay baking on a beach in Africa last week and My phone rang.

“Hello.  is that Mike Garry?  This is Mr Match of the Day and we want you to write a poem about The FA Cup game between Salford and Hartlepool”

“Yes this is Mike Garry and Yes I will write that poem.  But can I have a bit of a game?  I’ll just come as sub in the 94th minute”

“No.  But i’ll get one of your favourite singers from one of your favourite bands to read the poem on MATCH OF THE DAY.”

“WHO?” I said excitedly

“Tim Burgess of the Charlatans”

“Beautiful Friend – One of my all time favourite tunes of all time.  12 studio albums spanning 25 years – quality single after quality single, everyone one of them weaving a seamless sound rhythm and dance and lyric. A musical diary of my adulthood.

Yes i’ll do it Mr Match of the Day”

So, I did it – And Tim’s reading it tonight on MATCH OF THE DAY – on BBC1 – 7.30 -.

and I’m wearing my anorak

( And i’ll post the poem on here after it’s been broadcast )

Skaken and Stirred Poetry Tour

I’m on tour with a group of amazing Canadian Poets and novelists in October

Ian Burgham

Jeanette Lynes

Steve Heighton

Catherine Graham

shall be sharing their work with me in a number of Venues throughout the UK

Manchester – Chorlton Library – Monday October 12th – 6pm –

London – Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, Regent St London – Tuesday October 13th – 6pm –

Edinburgh – Scottish Arts Club, Rutland Square – Saturday October 17th 6pm –

Edinburgh – Summerhall Arts Centre – Sunday October 18th

Please come along, listen to some live literature and share the words and work of Canada .

I’m a Doctor of Education now

IMG_6838

I’m incredibly proud to be honoured by the Manchester Metropolitan University.

I’m now a Doctor of Education.

I was given the award in July with all the other graduating students from the Department for Education.  It was great to watch new teacher after new teacher being handed their award.  I love teachers.  They do an amazing job but don’t get the credit or money they deserve.

I did an acceptance speech off the cuff

I find when I write things down and read them, they sound daft, so i made it up on the spot and tried to do it as naturally as possible.

I think it worked

The whole graduation ceremony is here and my introduction and speech begins 43 minutes in –

https://mmutube.mmu.ac.uk/media/MMU+Graduation+2015+Ceremony+18+LQ/1_avk5m6rn

Hope you like my hat

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