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REVIEW: Dr John Cooper Clarke, Morecambe Poetry Festival

John Cooper Clarke on stage at Morecambe Winter Gardens

Morecambe Poetry Festival headliner Dr John Cooper Clarke was as hilarious, eloquent and entertaining as ever when he graced the Winter Gardens stage on Friday night.

He was performing in the iconic building during its 125th year and it was great to see it so full as the restoration project for it continues.

Clarke was preceded by his regular support act, Mike Garry, who told personal and at times amusing poems about his life and working class background in Manchester.

Despite the short time he was on stage, he’d made it his own and it felt like we’d learnt so much about him through his thought-provoking and emotional descriptions of his younger years.

He walked across the stage while telling his stories, but his voice still carried thanks to a combination of impeccable stage presence and the audience being gripped by his poetry.

It was then time for the more direct and comedic John Cooper Clarke, who began his set with jokes and banter with the audience, which continued throughout the night.

The legendary Salford-born wordsmith is now 73 years old, but his poems remain iconic to this day and to say that he was well-received by the Winter Gardens audience would be an understatement.

This year is his 45th in the poetry game which he started out in in Manchester’s folk clubs in 1977, and he continues to perform his work at breakneck speed.

And it wasn’t just poetry that the so-called Bard of Salford entertained us with, he was singing snippets of rock ‘n’ roll hits from decades gone by in-between poems too, though as ever it was done with more than a hint of self-mockery.

He was also indulging us in his life stories, new and old. Whether these short anecdotes were centred around recent trips to the doctors, or older tales about his first and second marriages, they made the crowd laugh out loud.

The poems he performed live on Friday night included ‘The Luckiest Guy Alive’, ‘(I Married a) Monster from Outer Space’, 'Beasley Street and Beasley Boulevard', as well as arguably his two most iconic and well-known poems: ‘Evidently Chickentown’, which featured in the penultimate episode of the hit American crime series ‘The Sopranos’, and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, which rock band Arctic Monkeys adapted into a song in 2013.

In short, John Cooper Clarke remains a brilliant live performer with incredible wit and a great sense of humour. His two most recent books, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and ‘The Luckiest Guy Alive’, which he was keen to advertise during his set, is available to buy now, as is one of Mike Garry’s several collections of poems from over the years, entitled ‘Men’s Mournings’.

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