Resident L2F poet Ben Macnair’s take on last years’ L2F


They’re singing the same old songs, that old, toothless men sing in pubs.
When they finish their interpretation of some one else’s song, there is polite acknowledgement.
Not a rapturous eruption of applause,
but strangers with a quietly contented look.

Outside, buskers are playing,
jigs on violins,
reels on melodeon,
an unsteady, unwatched beat on Bodhran.
It is complicated, moving in out of focus, like a kaleidoscope.
There is no reaction.
If they were playing the same music in a concert hall, for money,
there would a rapturous eruption of applause.

On the X Factor, singers with more ambition than talent
are singing the same songs, that cloth-eared media experts decide.
There is no shift of the paradigm,
No story.

Toothless old men will always sing the old songs in pubs.
Musicians will always want to play, with and for each other.
It is just the context that changes.
If we pay for it, we applaud,
If it happens for free,
If it happens spontaneously,
It is ignored.

This Be The Chorus

(With Apologies to Philip Larkin)

They deafen you, your rock and roll bands,
They always mean to.
They give you all the notes that jazz had,
And a bit more ego, just for you.

But they were deafened by folk,
anger louder than bombs,
all the righteous indignation,
of wanting to change an indifferent world.
Acoustic guitars set to stun.
Banjo’s more eager than paint-stripper.
None singers putting their own poetry to the same three chords.

Sitting in smoky pubs,
drinking beer, smoking wood-bines,
all the bad things,
all of the time.

Man hands on Music to Man,
all of those smoky pubs, no good for your health.
Start playing as soon as you can,
and learn that sixth chord for yourself.

Don’t mess with the Morris Men.

They play with heavy sticks, and swords,
for fun.
They wear uniforms,
as fearsome as any Rugby scrum.
They perform dances of fertility,
to the soundtrack of audience indifference,
loud derision, and accordions.

Don’t mess with the Morris Men.
They spend hours,
bashing seven shades
out of sticks.
They wear bells around their feet,
and draw attention to themselves.

Don’t mess with the Morris Men.
They do all of this in public.
Their look was passé,
until Hipsters thought it would be cool.
Nobody likes Hipsters,
with their artisan bread,
their cereal restaurants,
their maintained beards,
and steam punk.

Don’t mess with the Morris Men.
It is a tradition handed on from Father to Son.
A proud tradition of hard graft, and sweat.

Don’t mess with the Morris Men.
Don’t mess with the Morris Men

Real Ale

Real Beards

Real Men


They say that electric guitars shouldn’t be let near Folk Music.
It is a bad influence.
All of those strangulated sounds, weird noises and off notes
shouldn’t be on the same stage as Mr Fender’s finest creation.

They say that drums should not be let near folk music.
They are a bad influence.
That loud banging, ear shattering volume,
shouldn’t be fronting a regular beat.

They say that young people shouldn’t be let near Folk Music.
They are a bad influence.
All of that youthful energy, inquisitiveness, and willingness to break boundaries,
shouldn’t be let near music that is only for the few.

They say that change shouldn’t be let near folk music.
All of that tradition should be kept under glass, and only some self appointed
professor of a none existent time gone by knows how to sing it, properly.
Folk Music is for everyone.

It’s how it grows, develops, changes, survives.
It is not for schools, or conservatoires, or intellectuals.
It is for singing in pubs, for playing with strangers on a night out.

The only enemies of folk music

are the people who don’t understand what it needs,

and stand back in disagreement at everything that it has become.

The Punk buys an accordion

There was a time when he was all mohican,
and trousers with more holes than cheddar.
There was a time when he was all piercings,
and a face with more holes than the ones he was born with.
There was a time when he was all tattoos,
future regrets etched on his skin.

Now the Punk is becoming what he most feared.
Next to Marks and Spencer, which sells his favourite corduroys,
is a music shop, with a shiny Marretti in the window.
One of those fancy Italian jobs, where more has been spent on
the outside, than on the inside.
It is more than he paid for his scooter in the 1970’s.
One of those fancy Italian jobs, where more has been spent on
the outside than on the inside.

It is a Diatonic in D/G.
Full bellows.
Suitable for folk, Cajun, and blues.
Not really for Bossa Nova, Jazz, or classical,
but being a Punk, anything with more than three chords
is not for him.

The Punk buys an accordion.
He joins another tribe,
with beards, instead of tattoos,
a nice cup of tea,
instead of alcohol,
and goes out into the street,
looking to cause trouble,
playing for men with big sticks.