WORDS WEEKEND REVIEW: Chris McCabe, Peter McCarey, Katrina Porteous @ Sage Gateshead (08.12.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Half of the world’s 7000 languages are expected to be lost by the end of the century. A scary statistic. Chris McCabe reminded us at his Poems from the Edge of Extinction event just how important regional accents and dialects are.

Dialects and accents are usually what we remember about people (and in some cases what we take the piss out of them for!), but they are so much more than that. Within dialect and accent emerges a whole world of colloquialism and local folklore, all of which create character and history. Local stories told in local dialects not only sound better, but they bear so much more impact, as we were reminded by Chris’ rendition of his own poems in his brooding, whispering Scouse.

Alongside Chris were Scots expert Peter McCarey and Northumbrian scholar Katrina Porteous, both of whom gave rapturous and heart-felt performances of some of their own and favourite poems. To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea what they were saying, but I somehow found myself in awe of these foreign sounds and phrases. They were meaningless in terms of definition, but in terms of phonetics and sounds, I somehow knew exactly what the poet was trying to convey.

Katrina read a Northumbrian poem written about the fishermen of Beadnell, and I could feel the swaying of the boat and the heaving of the nets with every inflection of her voice. Peter growled a humorous poem about family relations and I found myself laughing at jokes I couldn’t even translate.

In the discussion at the end of the event, Chris made the very important point that dialect is important because it distinguishes one place from another. All of our languages are different, none of us speaks the same or uses the same phrases or mannerisms. And wouldn’t the world be so much less interesting if this weren’t the case?

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