No. 7 @ The Windmill Pub, Southport

Sunday 9th June

Not far from the train station and just off the promenade, you’ll find the Windmill pub in Southport and it always seems to fit nicely with a very relaxed Sunday vibe. Before this Redundant Butties book tour, I’d been a few times on my own and with friends and always find it respectful and really chilled.

Unlike The Everyman at the last gig, The Windmill isn’t set out with a stage-like performance space but in no way is this a criticism. It’s a plus because not everybody wants the same thing, variety is the spice of life and I’d say for a newbie to poetry, venues like this are ideal and brill for feeling welcome and safe to test material and dip a toe in to see if you like it. Even as somebody who’s performed poetry for a long time, I find it easier here and at home in Wigan to try new material, as opposed to slighter bigger spaces where lots of new faces might be a bit daunting, staring back at you.

This particular Sunday was very drizzly and damp for June, and mourning the fact that summer was in hiding, I wheeled my way through the little boutique arcade, wondering where have all the obese seagulls gone? Do they have a secret hiding place to stash the stolen chips?

I know Southport and Blackpool are just like other towns for the people who live here but my childish brain always equates it to having many seaside days out, and I forget people live there and also do mundane tasks in their day, instead of wondering around scoffing ice-creams. I love the sea air and the sounds of being near the sea so it’s a great place to go and usually puts me in a good mood before the night even starts.

As a recurring theme in these blogs, I’ll mention now the practical aspects. There are firstly no steps at the front entrance so it’s easy to just wheel in and out as you please. The door, as with most buildings, is heavy and tricky to push and wheel at the same time but the staff are very friendly and someone will always help with that. There is also a disabled toilet with plenty of room, accessible with a spare radar key behind the bar if you’ve not got your own. On this particular occasion there wasn’t a mic or stand to hand but normally there is. Overall I’d say having small cosy numbers in the room, the mic wasn’t a necessity or a big deal anyway. As we went around the room taking it in turns to read, I was half expecting someone to burst into a bit of Bob Dylan (other folk artists are available.)

The atmosphere encouraged me to try many different poems from Redundant Butties and really get a sense of how I could build the small intro’s and make them work together. I was glad for this, as in many other performances I stay in the comfort zone of what I know works and then bottle reading some new poems at the last minute.

The other readers were lovely too and brought a wide range of subjects from mythical fantasy tales to mental health. As we went around the room for the second time, I could help notice that one lady had put a jar of jam on the table, as if it were a mascot. I got a bit fixated on it and imagined her saying something like, ‘This is Jonny The Jam and he’ll be supporting me this evening.’ They always brought a mascot along on the program Blockbusters when I was growing up so I liked the fact a jar of jam had come along too.

The only downside to the night was a nightmare getting home on the train. They’d cancelled the last two trains, and when I asked about the replacement bus, it wasn’t wheelchair accessible. Staff then told me they’d ring Northern to arrange an accessible taxi. The staff were great but they couldn’t tell me any time frame as to when an accessible taxi would arrive. So I waited just over two and a half hours and got home about half past midnight.

As most wheelchair users will testify, sadly this situation isn’t unusual and it brings home the realities, Just hours earlier, I was Part Of Something and involved, then as soon as it’s over, you become invisible again and the last consideration. I enjoy being active greatly. I’m not lazy but as someone with a disability you’re regularly being shunted through mixed emotions for wanting the basics but without much choice in the matter.

To summarise though, aside from the transport blip, I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone to come to The Windmill in Southport. The traditional feel of the night reminded me of exactly why I like doing poetry- it’s the chats, the different experiences and the quirky characters. I hope you’re lucky enough to come across a jam jar.


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