The London International Poetry and Song Festival

(Clockwise from top) David Amram, David Amram mingling, Frank Messina, David Jay, Richard Deakin, Amram and Pete Brown, Arthur Brown and (opposite) Beatie Wolfe, John Hegley, David Amram and Carolyn Cassady, (bottom:) Frank Messina conspiring with Richard Deakin, Jeremy Hardy, Pete Brown in full flight, Naomi Foyle (bottom left) and finally

(below left) Ron Whitehead, poet and LIPS performer, and the late great Hunter S. Thompson,

playing with guns and fire... (LIPS concert photos by Richard Wolff)


The LIPS  FESTIVAL was featured in an extensive item on BBC TV LONDON NEWS before millions of people on Friday 9 November 2007.  David Amram and myself were also interviewed on the ROBERT ELMS SHOW on BBC RADIO LONDON. LIPS was CRITICS CHOICE in that weekend’s (Saturday 12th Nov) EVENING STANDARD.

    LIPS is a poetry and song festival taking as a focal point POETRY backed by music as first brought to New York by LIPS stalwart DAVID AMRAM and JACK KEROUAC in 1957.  In bringing my old friend  DAVID AMRAM (see to Britain, we were also celebrating the 50th anniversary of Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD.  Poets such as London’s JOHN HEGLEY and DAVID JAY and POLAR BEAR, and Brighton’s NAOMI FOYLE and BERNADETTE CREMIN rubbed shoulders with  Amram and ace New York performance poet FRANK MESSINA and beat muse and biographer CAROLYN CASSADY as well as MICHAEL HOROVITZ and many others.  The audience clearly enjoyed tthe special atmosphere created by so many people, young and old, under the spell of the ongoing tradition of the Beat Generation in the presence of two of its last survivors.

   CAROLYN CASSADY read an epic unpublished letter from her legendary husband (hero of ON THE ROAD) NEAL CASSADY.  ARTHUR BROWN (FIRE!) and PETE BROWN (lyricist  of sixties supergroup CREAM) and JETHRO TULL’s drummer BARRIEMORE BARLOW  rubbed shoulders with younger bands such as TMANDRAKE and TIN CUP COLLECTIVE, jazz maestros PETE WAREHAM and SEB ROCHFORD, and chanteuse-songwriter BEATIE WOLFE. The joy of ARTHUR BROWN and the other old masters recognising and playing with each other  for the first time – with BROWN and AMRAM hugging onstage, was a delight to behold. 

   PETE BROWN, LIPS co-organiser, who wrote the lyrics for some of the most famous songs of the 20th century – SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE, WHITE ROOM, I FEEL FREE etc. – did a magnificent set with his band on the Sunday on the same night poet JOHN HEGLEY led a musical walkabout off the stage to the bar and had the whole crowd singing along.  On Monday JEREMY HARDY provided welcome comic relief, with DAVID AMRAM  getting a chance to perform his own music as well as brilliantly backing the poets.

   We look forward to the next LIPS in 2011 which will add a FILM element to the connection between music and song and poetry.  As David Amram put it when interviewed on BBC news for the first LIPS in 2001, “Music and poetry have gone together since the time of Homer.  Jack and I were just trying to revive that ancient tradition.”

   With thanks to ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND

for making it all possible...and especially

Charles and Gemma.