MIXTAPE: Rowan McCabe | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: Rowan McCabe

Hiya, my name is Rowan McCabe and I’m a poet and general gobshite from Newcastle. In 2019 I went to 12 places around England as the world’s first Door-to-Door Poet. Knocking on stranger’s doors, I wrote bespoke poems for 30 people, for free, on any subject of their choosing. Some of the places I went to included the UK’s ‘Most Divided Town’, a village with the highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners in the world, and an isolated island with a population of 28 people.

In November I’m going to be bringing a show all about it to ARC Stockton (Wednesday 24th), Arts Centre Washington (Thursday 25th November) and Live Theatre, Newcastle (Wednesday 2nd February). It’s a mixture between a poetry show and a play. There’ll be some chit chat, some poems, but there’s also bits where I act out scenes on the stage.

I’m hoping it will make you laugh and that you’ll enjoy hearing about some of the eccentric folk I met. It’s also a show about identity, the rise of nationalism and the social and political issues which have stayed with us throughout the build up to the pandemic and beyond.
Music has always been a big passion of mine. One of my favourite things to do is come up with a mixtape to play as house music before my show starts. I think the show begins the minute the audience walk in the room. If the house music is good, I usually know I’m in for a good night.

I’ve been having fun picking out songs on the theme of ‘England’. Here’s some of them:

The Waterboys – Old England
I only used to know The Whole of the Moon, which is unfortunate. What a surprise to learn that the vast majority of their stuff is actually loads better.

PJ Harvey – England
When I visited an anti-fracking occupation camp as part of my Door-to-Door project, I borrowed the title of this album to write one called ‘O England, Don’t They Fear the Way You Shake?’ I read it out at a demonstration on the side of a motorway in the snow. This always brings back memories.

Billy Bragg – New England
I saw Billy Bragg on the day the Brexit results came out. Me and, let’s be honest, all of the liberal, lentil sucking crowd that were there were properly gutted. But being with thousands of people who felt the same made it feel a little bit better.

Steeleye Span – Hard Times of Old England
I don’t know anything about Steeleye Span. But their name reminds me of Spam and I like this version of the song.

The Smiths – Panic
I’ve got this idea right, so long as nobody ever gives any money to Morrissey ever again, maybe it’s OK to listen to The Smiths. Sometimes. It’s a bit like a band with Hitler on vocals and John Lennon on guitar. Would you completely stop listening to John Lennon just because Hitler is on vocals? I’m not sure. I might need to get back to you on that one…

Vera Lynn – White Cliffs of Dover
Someone who knew a lot about Hitler was Vera Lynn. Although she definitely wasn’t in a band with him.

The Clash – Something About England
Sandinista! is such an underrated album. I love the way this one man’s story sums up everything that’s wrong with the nostalgia of nationalism.

Babyshambles – Albion
Whether you love him or hate him, Pete Doherty was one of the reasons I got into poetry. Sometimes you’ve just got to stick your winkle pickers on and go back to your roots.

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