Off to Stratford with my guitar on my back yesterday morning, I stopped for a coffee.
'Play me a song and I'll give you a free coffee', said the barista. I laughed; but he gave me a free coffee anyway and reduced me to tears with that act of kindness. Coincidentally, when Jono got to the studio, he'd been given a free bottle of water at a pop-up caff on the way.
It must have been something in the air.
We collected singers in Gerry's cafe after setting up the microphones, and the session went like a dream. What amazing singers you all are, and thank you so much for your goodwill. It was easy, and it sounded beautiful and I'm sorry the studio got so hot. I felt like you turned my life-dial to a more positive setting, and the after-session craic in Gerry's was great too. It's fantastic that musicians and artists refuse to be daunted by negative world events and just carry on burrowing into new venues, working out new ways to share their ideas, owning their past, and accepting and celebrating music in all its diverse and fantastic forms. I will write more about this another time.
Afterwards, I went to The Royal Festival Hall to see The Last Poets. I remember inviting Linton Kwesi Johnson to speak to students once, and him citing their influence on his own way of being creative. It was a really interesting evening, hosted by Anthony Anaxagorou; they performed some of their very powerful material and were also interviewed by Anthony, and the audience. Ashley Walters was supposed to appear, but a young north London poet appeared instead and had some wise things to say about Gangsta Rap, comparing the mentality behind the lyrics to The Cat in the Hat as opposed to Tolkien. There was a bit of side-stepping around homosexuality, and too much circling round 'the n-word' although it was used to great effect to describe Trump, which I thought was the best description I've heard of him so far. Overall, the whole discussion was centred on self-respect, becoming a male role model, and the importance of remembering that it's the message that counts in political poetry, not the person delivering it. Wise words indeed.