Monday, 23 February 2009

The Hayes Al Fresco Drinking Club

There is a rumour doing the rounds that in the days when the Hayes Island Snack Bar in Cardiff was known colloquially as Café Latrine and served tea so strong it would melt spoons a club called the Hayes Al Fresco Drinking Club used to meet on one of its benches. This regular get-together filled in the gap between lunch and tea when the licensing laws of the day caused pubs to shut. Secretary was allegedly Robert Minhinnick. Founder members were Nigel Jenkins and myself. Chairman was the late John Tripp. I say allegedly here because if pushed I’d need to say that I can’t remember anything about this. On the other hand writerly drinking things can often be like that.

The club will get a re-run in a marvellous new one-act play by the author and actor Peter Read. This premières on John Tripp day at the Wharf pub on Cardiff’s East Dock on Saturday 7th March. Peter Read, replete in cord jacket and baggy trousers, stars as the bard himself in John Tripp’s Tragic Cabaret, a fitting centrepiece for a day of 60s poetry revival.

Is it true that if you can remember the 60s then you weren’t there? At the same event the critic Matthew Jarvis will present Sing for Wales or shut your trap – All the rest’s a load of crap, a trip (if you’ll excuse the pun) through a Welsh version of that decade, putting the whole scene in place. Tiffany Atkinson will then present readings from the works of some of the period’s greats – Harri Webb, Sally Roberts Jones, Leslie Norris, Herbert Williams, Glyn Jones, Alison Bielski, and, no doubt JT himself.

One of the era’s best known young Turks and a poet who has now travelled the whole distance from upstart to gravitas is Tony Curtis. Tony, now Professor of Poetry at Glamorgan, knew John Tripp well and will be delivering The Meaning of Apricot Sponge – John Tripp’s Taste for Life – a talk that will put JT and his work into contemporary context. An outsider then, still somehow an outsider today.

For many years the work of JT has been kept alive with the annual John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry. Here performers battle it out in public and are scored on both content and style. Past winners have included Ifor Thomas, Mike Jenkins, Emily Hinshelwood, Clare Potter and Peter Read himself. A number will be present at the Wharf to give us a sample of how it is done.

The day runs from 11.00 am to 6.00 pm. Tickets cost £17.50/£15.00 which includes a light lunch. To be sure of a place call organisers, the Academi, on 02920472266 for yours. Or chance your arm at the door.

A version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail on 21 February, 2009

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