Feeling inspired listening to Mingus this Saturday morning after hearing John Kelly read from the wonderful Notions (Dedalus Press, 2018) at the Fermanagh Live arts festival in the Waterways Ireland gallery last night. Where’s Eric? No, not Slowhand, Mingus – whose son Eric living in west Cork is a friend and inspiration of the Enniskillen poet’s. A sold-out audience, poetry who knew, in the roomy Gallery by the banks of the river Erne packed full of friends, family, Fermanagh folk and visitors to the county, there to John’s left and right the music and musician-inspired Irish Resonance paintings by Julian Friers (present in the audience) including one of John himself and luminaries such as Derry jazz icon Gay McIntyre and there too the Gene and the Gents/Macca Wings period guitarist Henry McCullough. In his witty and often wryly observed chats to the audience, the evening also included an interview portion when Séamas MacAnnaidh (Fermanagh’s own Myles na gCopaleen last heard on Culture Night reading alongside Carlo Gébler from their darkly compelling Fermanagh Folk Tales) who introduced the evening and turned the tables on the Mystery Train presenter, John mentioned as just one example of his humour how on watching Top of the Pops on TV at home in Hillview when Wings came on, his mother exclaimed “there’s Henry!” to John’s general consternation. “No, it’s Paul McCartney” he corrected. His mother of course was right. 

Notions cover

One of the great traditional Irish musicians, Gaby McArdle played later and sang liltingly accompanied by fellow Blakes of the Hollow resident musician Jim McGrath on guitar and accordion. ‘The Banks of the Clyde’ was a highlight of an evening of poetry and song as too was ‘Monea Castle’ redolent with its low gracenotes of the pipes, a McGrath composition.

Coming up: hear the Mingus Big Band at a very special time and place in the run-up to the Ronnie Scott’s 60th. Curated as ever by Charles’ widow Sue Mingus. Excuse the Notions licence, “from Frith’s Alley to Frith Avenue” (‘In the National Gallery, Oslo’) through the front door and in on Frith Street.
Stephen Graham