I had forgotten about Poems and Pints nights in Britain until I went to one on the evening of Thatcher’s funeral, the 17th April 2013. It was organized in part by the National Union of Mine workers, the NUM. It kicked off with Mr. R. Stoate giving a talk about the miners’ strike of 1984-5 when the local Welsh miners in Gwent and the Rhondda collieries stayed out of work for over a year. That they could do this was because they had the support of the local community, with the women collecting door-to-door for food parcels and cooking meals in centres for out of work miners. In Newbridge, Gwent this was done in the Memorial Hall (the Memo). I had not been in Britain during this strike as I was in Greece and Turkey. However when I got back, I worked as a development officer for the Workers’ Education Association (WEA) and worked to get women and by then unemployed miners (the collieries had been closed by Thatcher) back into education so that they could be retrained to fill vacancies which needed different skills. The talk was interesting for me because it was a reminder of events that I had not been around to witness and I learned about the ways miners were treated. The story of first-hand experiences in Orgreave was particularly chilling.
Interestingly, the south Wales NUM banner has the slogan (in English and Welsh) “The past we inherit; the future we build through socialism”. There are several ways of looking at this, but socialism seems to have been a dirty word for both Thatcher and Blair.
Next came the poet. Patrick Jones, who pointed out that he was not his brother (Nick, of the band the Manic Street Preachers). He read his own works which were very good, helped by his passionate delivery. They were in the vein of other Welsh poets and some of the cadences were similar to those of Dylan Thomas, although he also made mention of Emlyn Williams (Welsh dramatist and actor) and Idris Davies (the poet from Rhymney).
The poet was followed by a guy who played the mouth organ and guitar, and for “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”, the kazoo. Half-way through his set he announced “I am Cosmo and I’m and anarchist.” (He is Sandor Cosmo Dus.) Not that anyone cared, as the left were united on this occasion for a change. I enjoyed the act as did the rest of the audience.
The Socialist party was there, but in a low-key way as it was not their show. They did manage to get more signatories for the petition to open the Accident and Emergency unit in Ystrad Mynach, which is equipped, but not open because there is, allegedly, no cash to pay for doctors.
The final act was a group, largely composed of ex-miners and they entertained the audience with rousing renditions of a variety of rock songs, some of which were their own compositions.
This was the first time I had ventured out in the evening since I got to the UK mainly because the weather has been so foul. As we drove back there were high winds and branches were falling on the road. Luckily they missed the car. It was a pleasant evening and as various pubs have poems and pints nights I suppose I shall be going to more.