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