Imagine the audience are all wearing Primark – Chris Tutton at the Swindon Festival of Literature

9 May
Chris Tutton

Chris Tutton

This was Chris Tutton’s second visit to Swindon. Six years ago he led a session in the Museum and Art Gallery.

Today [Friday 8 May 2015] he read from his new collection, Angles of Repose, and then offered up the stage to the audience to read their poems. Chris gave performance tips and advice.

‘Just let me know when I’ve read for 40 minutes’, he asked and began with talking muscles, dreams of the sea, off-the-cuff remarks, grown-up regrets, and magpie memories. His asides and introductions to the poems were funny and dry, I was never quite sure why he was telling us this stuff, then I’d find myself laughing.

‘I’m just going to plough through these poems, I don’t have the strength to search the pages, just stop me after 40 minutes.’

‘Is anyone timing Chris?’ cried Paul from the audience.

Chris was tired, and old, apparently. ‘But I’m here.’ There was a humorous tale of walking his cosmopolitan dog and flashers too cold to take off their clothes this chilly April. ‘My Dog died on April 1st,’ expressed Chris. ‘At first I thought he was pulling my leg. ‘

‘What breed was it?’ asked Paul.

‘A boxer.’

End of conversation. Another poem with a dry, strange and quite wonderful introduction:

‘I was once asked by an old man what I would like people to say of me when I’m dead. Oh look, he’s moving, I replied.’

‘Is anyone timing Chris?’ asked Paul, again, from the audience.

Chris promised some lighter poems. I’m not sure we ever got those poems, this was all pretty dark material.  ‘I have not in all my searching, found the words to my song.’

We did end on a few corny ones. ‘These are relatively trauma free,’ promised Chris.

Not for us they weren’t. This reading was strangely enjoyable. We could have all sat around a table in a pub and had an amusing time listening to Chris’ poems and funny stories. He cleverly drew us into his mundane world of tales which wandered about until he made his point somewhere often unexpected.

There were questions, from Paul to start with. ‘How long have you been a poet?’

‘For as long as I can remember. I came second in a poetry competition and was devastated not to be first.’

‘Do you ever start writing a sad poem that end up humorous?’

‘No, I’m a sad bugger.’

Chris then offered the stage to the audience.

Paul was first up, after some tips:

Practice relaxation techniques. It’s hard to be nervous when you are relaxed (I’ve never thought of that!)
Read/speak slowly.
Know your material.
Imagine the audience is only wearing socks.
Imagine the audience is only wearing Primark (if they are posh).

Come up, read it, perform it. We’ll offer some encouragement.

Paul read a poem composed for his dad’s funeral. Chris offered good, sensitive advice to Paul. It was a tender moment and I was impressed with Chris’ handling of all the readers. There was Frank and Iris who also bravely got up and benefited from the performance clinic.

I imagined Chris wearing Primark but the image didn’t quite work here.

Words and photo by Hilda Sheehan.

One Response to “Imagine the audience are all wearing Primark – Chris Tutton at the Swindon Festival of Literature”

  1. Sophia Keeling 13th May 2015 at 9:24 am #

    I agree, it was a very enjoyable evening. I thought the two poems which ended the performance, which Chris described as his ‘corny’ pieces were very funny.

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