The Red Poets did our first benefit for a good while last Wednesday at The Blast Furnace pub in Pontlottyn, an anti-opencast event organised by UVAG ( United Valleys Action Group).
Along with musicians Huw Pudner/ Chris Hastings and Merthyr's own Jamie Bevan we were delighted to show our support and help raisefunds for the cause.
It is vital that proposals to carry out opencast mining locally are resisted as strongly as possible so they are jettisoned forever. There's no future in fossil fuels and the air and noise pollution which are a consequence of these vast sites are intolerable. The proven incidence of asthma and lung diseases in areas close to the opencasting only reinforces the argument.
In the newspeak of the company behind it Miller Argent (and now Merthyr Council as well), all this is merely 'land reclamation'. But the land, once dug up, can never be reclaimed by the forces of Nature which existed there.
Years of strip-mining (as they term it in The States) and extension after extension leave a massive whole to be filled in : the wildness is banished and eventually replaced by a plasticky surface, a mockery of grass.
After 20 years of existence Red Poets is still going strong and Wednesday night provided the perfect platform for the return of local lass Sian Roberts (on top form), old-timers like Tim Richards with his signature poem 'Fuck 'Em' and youngsters like Josh Allen and Tom Rickarby who've only recently joined the throng.
Red Poets invariably thrive at such venues, working-class pubs with no pretensions.
As Sian Roberts rightly said in her intro. , ours is a poetry for the people by the people, not an elitist art-form which tries to be deliberately obtuse.
That's not to say we don't have variety : from Julie Pritchard's poem- and- song to John Williams' street couplets and Mike Church's up-to-date take on Dylan Thomas, there are many contrasts.
Much of the evening was filmed by Debbie Price who , along with other members of UVAG like Jim Davies and Dave Green showed what a talented group they are.
MC for the night was another member Alun Roberts, who has contributed a great deal to Red Poets over the years, including the power of his stapler to put together issue number 1 , after the printers failed to deliver.
It was great to be doing a benefit and I hope we can do more in future. In the past we have supported the Liverpool dockers, anti-poll tax union and Cymru-Cuba.
We missed our regular heckler Andrew Bartz and wish Jazz would return with his earth-quaking 'Giro City'.
Another invaluable poet down the years has been John 'Maesycymmer' Davies, sadly confined to a wheelchair for a number of years and we have all missed his rollicking humour and p-ing into the microphone.
This is the busiest time for Red Poets I can recall and we're so grateful to the singer-songwriters who join us, Huw and Chris and Jamie and Barry Taylor.
On February 18th we return to Clwb-y-bont in Pontypridd, with Jamie Bevan doing some songs as well. On March 12th we are at Newport doing an Open Mic. at Stow Hill.
On April 25th we are being let out of Cymru for the first time (unless you count Hay!) and the border guards have been warned! We are performing at The Bird's Nest pub in Deptford, London where exhibitions by John Williams and Gus Payne will also feature on the walls. A chance for our contingent across the border , such as Owen Gallagher and Alan Hardy, to come along and read.
At the Imperial Hotel in Merthyr on June 5th, as part of the Dic Penderyn events, we are lauching the very first collection of poetry by Tim Richards, 'Subversive Lines'. This will consist of the poems which have appeared in the magazines for every issue except the first one, plus some new ones.
And all this leading up to the launch of issue 20 at The Imp once again, in late September.
I'd say we are unique, not just to Cymru, but to Europe. Expect not to see us at the Hay Festival or on the pages of the NWR. Expect instead to see us at The Imp and in the 'Morning Star'.
People who think we benefit from being a part of this Disunited Kingdom should take a look around Merthyr, my home town. Once the deep mines and ironworks and almost every other manufacturing industry had gone, we have been left like a colony, abandoned. We're on crutches, hobbling from pawnbroker to Pound Shop, from Food Bank to Charity.
The Boomdays never happened here and, with all the Cuts, we've never been more Bust :-
NO BOOM, JUST BUST
Never seen a Boom in Merthyr
we've only ever seen Bust ;
Government stats say it's getting better
as we scrabble for a crust.
We'll be back to searching
for lumps of coal on the hillsides ;
Pound and Charity shops and Pawnbrokers
are the ones who thrive.
Get a job in the Retail Park,
get a zero contract or minimum wage,
stats claim there's loads of work........
you'll have to move to London to live.
They've cut all the benefits
like lopping off our limbs
and next come the Council cuts
making our brain-cells rust.
Cameron and Osbourne claim it's improving
and they've got the numbers to prove it ;
tricking us with figures like loan sharks,
while debts are screaming the opposite.