Review of Blackbooks special event in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust & in memory of Matt Gilbert. (Feb 22nd 2017)

The event was supported by WonderZoo featuring The Word and BlackBooks / Flameworks/ CAN Culture and Arts Network / Teenage Cancer Trust and The Society of Young Publishers

Words : Pete Golding / Pictures : Reuben McCormack White

Nick Ingram.

What a gorgeous place for an evening of poetry The China House is, even on a chilly, dark wet evening in late February, with the night-lights from the yachts linking up Sutton Harbour and the Barbican. The evening began with the irrepressible Nick Ingram acting as master of ceremonies. This was no ordinary evening as we gathered in aid of Matt Gilbert, a teenage writer and poet who succumbed to cancer recently, at the tender age of just nineteen. All proceeds were donated to The Teenage Cancer Trust. Nick Ingram not only introduced each writer to the small gaggle of enthusiasts who braved the winter travails but belted out four of his own inimitable poems to begin the evening of original works spoken by their authors.

Rosie Barrett.

Rosie Barrett was introduced to us and she read out four of her poems, the first two (Name It and Toys Talking) concerned her teenage son, who had endured the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer, but she managed to put a positive spin on it, which was all the more poignant for having done so. She concluded with One Big Breath In the Midst of Chaos.

Sarah Adams read three of her poems. Gull explored the multiplicity of meanings embodied in that “flying rat,” the sea gull. Similarly she meditated on Choices, about the multiplicity of options, dilemmas and decisions we all have to make. The ever-green Joyce Matthews read three of her homely rhyming verses namely Old Age, Holiday and Cooking, poems that humorously contrast the past with the contemporary. She made us guffaw.

Stalwart Jackie Wacha read us A Policeman’s Testimony which sounded like she was reading the notebook of a humourless constable recounting the burglaries perpetrated by Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood. Original and thought-provoking, indeed, but also funny and telling. Well done, Jackie.

Robert Garnham is a consummate performer, verbally, visually and physically. A man of many hats, one might say. Literally. He read ten poems, mostly untitled, all humorous & entertaining. For instance he concluded by reading There’s A Badger In The Garden Who Thinks He’s On Eastenders which was about a badger in the garden that thought he was on EastEnders! Very droll.

Robert Garnham

Michael Drax part-read & part-sang some of his contributions including a Tribute To Liverpool and Everton FC and a Rhapsody To Home Park to the tune of Land Of Hope and Glory. We got embroiled in his savagely satirical recounting of the life of Ann Boleyn and the boisterousness of Essex Girls on a night out.

After refreshments, Nick Ingram re-commenced the evening with a homage to e.e. cummings. At the beginning of the evening he read four poems, my favourite being The Purity Of Joy which listed the wondrous things that catch your breath. He delivers his lines like a blacksmith banging an anvil.

Michael Dax

In contrast Simon Travers delivered his lines in a whisper including an elegy to the closing of the library in North Prospect entitled Costcutters. Stephen J Grantham read out a couple of his startlingly haunting poems namely They Come At Night and High High High, both very dark, mysterious and somewhat unsettling. We need to hear more from Mr. Grantham.


Thom Boulton, Plymouth’s poet laureate, concluded the evening with a couple of kids’ poems written by primary school children as well as an overheard conversation at Plymouth railway station. He read out four more, including a poem called Mister Goldfish, a poem about loss, entitled Beast, about despair called Abyss and concluded with Hush-hush about the art of bitch-craft.

Ŧhom Boulton.

For those brave hearts that broached the wintery weather, it was worth it. This was an evening dedicated to an excellent cause, The Teenage Cancer Trust, but it was far from sombre, in fact it was fun. If you weren’t there, you should have been because everybody that was there, enjoyed the camaraderie, the poetry and a convivial evening. Many thanks to all those who took part, to those that arranged the evening and those who donated to a worthwhile cause: thank you. Maybe next time you should give it a try. Only cancer is not welcome.

It has been three years since Matt Gilbert passed away from cancer, leaving behind a treasure trove of poems. Wonderzoo’s Peter Davey, over the last two years, working with Gabi Marcellus- Temple of Flameworks Creative Arts Facility, have commissioned artists across Europe to create the illustrations for his book , which will be realised later in the year by The Society of Young Publishers. A dream that will come real for his family.

matt gilbert

‘Every blank piece of paper is
A dream I’ve yet to dream 
Each ink blot 
Is a building block’

(Matt Gilbert)

Teenage Cancer Trust

Society of Young Publishers




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