Poets reviewed

Council House
Earlier in the day, Brian Patten performed verse to 600 schoolchildren. Before a few dozen politely expectant adults in the Council House ballroom, he showed charm and zest that could warm a crowd of kids to poetry, and meaning they might discover with enjoyment years later.
This was Growing Up Before Your Very Eyes. We began with a childhood of rhymes and jokes -- having sworn to let ourselves be "single figures, agewise" -- and ended in an old age of Sufi riddles. (Not that Patten is old, yet: he was leaving his teens when he found Sixties fame as a Liverpool Poet.)
But there was no similar order in the age of the poems, and fresh work gave some of the most memorable images at both ends of the show. In childhood, a memory of his granny's fading tattoos, "as mysterious as rules"; in middle age, a shock of despair on seeing young women in a pub, a new thing announced as "still very rough" but sounding sharp.
Derrick Buttress, as "supporting poet", had a tighter focus: his wartime childhood in Broxtowe estate. Without flash or self-pity, he brought the chill of a poor Forties winter into this grand room.

Ian McMillan's catchphrase for nights like this is: "You won't feel daft." He needs it.
Where traditional poetry evenings might ask you to suspend your disbelief, his Big Family Show, honed to a scalpel edge on the schools circuit, asks instead that you hang up your dignity for a while. Your reward is choreographed, joyful chaos and - more grandly - a part in the creative process.
Remember the old routine where you're asked to repeat an ever-longer chorus? We had (in the authentic rush): "Doorknobs ay tiddly ay tie tie oh yes where's your jelly in my belly hedgehogs ay tiddly ay tie tie oh no what's your goldfish called Bob Bob Bob Bob Bob."
It made a sort of sense at the time. So did the young volunteer gamely following an instruction to "Wave like a swimming pool attendant."
Another lad jumped up for the grand finale, an "epic" of Nottingham speech that McMillan composed on the spot using a flipchart and shouts from the audience.
This volunteer played the True Voice of Nottingham, which said: "Gerrout!" Impressively, he always gorrin early enough to milk the laugh. Given another couple of decades, he might make a poetry performer himself.