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– 24:7 THEATRE HUB, MANCHESTER –

As the Manchester International Festival came to an end, the 24:7 Theatre Festival held its official opening night in a small function on the ground floor of New Century House. Finding tonight’s venue was not the easiest of tasks, as it is tucked away in a corner of a dark back street between The Printworks and the CIS Tower.

Our fine city has seen many spectacular events over the recent weeks, but tonight’s launch party has brought something to rival many of the rarities that have been on offer, as we are given a rare treat to be in the company of Billy Childish.

In this small room sits around sixty people eager with anticipation at this evening’s appearance from whom many would describe as a living legend. His poetry, paintings, novels, films and photography have a well deserved cult following, and that’s not to mention his back catalogue of over 100 albums.

Dressed in beige salopettes and shirt and a brown trilby, the distinguished tall figure with his handlebar moustache, takes to the small makeshift stage much to pleasure of everyone here.

The first thirty five minutes finds us being given many of his dark, explicit and sometimes slightly comical confessional poems. The first of which is The Billy Childish, which gives us a brutally honest insight to the man stood in front of us.

I must admit at this point that I have never been a great fan of poetry, but the words I am hearing tonight are a far cry from the ones I had thrust upon me in my school days and at the end of each short reading I am ready for more of his stark, but intriguing writings, that open a doorway into his world.

Between readings and whilst finding the correct page in the correct book for his next offerings, his anecdotes to fill the gaps show us a gentler and funnier side to this deeply creative man. Other pieces we are given are A Sad Donkey and A Fat Man Smiling, She Wasn’t Knitting and Island Life.

With his books now cleared to one side, it is time for the musical side of Mr. Childish to get an airing. In true blues style, this is one man, one guitar and one amp, and for me, the highlight of the evening. His mastery of playing and singing is second to none as he launches straight Baby Please Don’t Go.

When we get to The Bold Fusilier/The Rochester Recruiting Sergeant, he has to remind himself of how the song goes. This is common place at his gigs, but is to be expected when you have as many songs as this prolific songwriter has. The same happens again during the start of Thatcher’s Children, but nobody here cares in the slightest.

Without a string plucked, he belts out the haunting John The Revelator which sends shivers down your spine. As the time draws toward midnight everyone is spellbound throughout Upside Mine and Hollis Brown and all too soon his set is over.

Simon Zaccagni

‘Accidental Editor’ None of this was planned; I’ve never been in a band, never been part of the ‘music scene’ and never expected to be the gaffer of a music website with loads of dedicated music loving writers. I bought my first record when I was 8 and haven’t stopped buying since. I love crate digging for bizarre and weird stuff, but equally happy ploughing through press releases looking/listening for something I’ve never heard before.