MARTINS @ ANCHOR and National Poetry Day, 6th October 2011
With the possible exception of the fortuitous announcement on the day that Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the UK appears to have largely ignored this year’s Poetry Day event.
Even BBC Radio 4, which has given us a celebratory verse on the hour in the past, must have succumbed to the budgetary cut backs already and failed to deliver for 2011. The Poetry Society's topic chosen for the day was 'Games' and this must have been what 'Auntie Beeb' was playing with the finances.
This was not the case in Haydon Bridge. The John Martin Heritage Festival staged its own Poetry Day entertainment with 'Martins @ Anchor' which combined the day with Martin related material lead by one of the North's leading and most prolific living poets Keith Armstrong. Keith is no stranger to the village as he has been a long term Martin scholar and enthusiastic promoter of our legendary family.
With Keith were Gary Miller, the guitarist/singer/songwriter who was best known as a member of the folk/rock band 'The Whiskey Priests', and Northumbrian Piper Chris Ormston.
Keith opened the night in his usual strongly voiced style with 'I Saw the Signs' telling of John Martin's early days in Haydon Bridge. He also appropriately performed his best known local poem 'At Anchor'. This was written some time ago and refers to the sound of heavy transport disturbing his night at the Hotel which, since the by-pass, is a thing of the past for 'Anchor' residents. A framed version of this poem is displayed in the Community Centre.
Gary Miller is another Martin enthusiast and has composed several very cleverly researched and worded songs around the lives and times particularly of the Martin brothers John the Painter, Jonathan the Arsonist and William the eccentric inventor. Again, it is several years since he has been able to perform these in public and he certainly gave most dynamic renditions of these for an audience who were very appreciative of his efforts.
Chris Ormston is one of the county's leading Northumbrian pipers, a prowess which he ably demonstrated even when the temperature variation and humidity of the room were initially against him. He explained that there was nothing to indicate that John Martin had played the pipes but the material Chris played for the evening was by his near contemporaries William Dickson (the first producer of pipe tune manuscript in Northumberland), William Vickers and John Peacock.
Many thanks go to Keith, Gary and Chris for providing this wonderful and diverse homage to the Martins. Thanks also to Steve, Lindsey and the staff at the Anchor Hotel for allowing use of the venue for this National Day. They hope to be staging other such events in the future.