Ian Waller enjoys a grown-up night out in the presence of genius…

I was genuinely excited. For people of a certain age – generally about 14-73 – John Cooper Clarke is a legend. Poet, musician, comic, raconteur and now TV comedy panel show regular, he’s been treading the boards for more decades than I can remember – in fact, I first saw as a student in London back in the 1980s and he was pretty established then.

And here was was on the opening night of his new tour at the always wonderful Pound Arts in Corsham, complete with a new book, an excellent support act and material fresh and well-loved to enjoy.

Pound Arts is sometimes seen as an overlooked jewel of a Wiltshire arts scene, regularly hosting exhibitions, gigs, comedy shows and regular classes for children and adults, plus a funky cafe that serves decent tea, lunches and a very nice range of cakes. The things is, if it is overlooked, I didn’t see any proof last night, with Dr Clark (he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Salford) attracting a sell-out audience, as indeed have the last couple of events I’ve attended there.

We’d turned up in time to enjoy a local beer from the bar and chat to the ever-friendly staff before the show itself. Dr John’s support act for the night was Mike Garry, a wonderfully inventive and skilled poet who delivered works on subjects as diverse as the plight of immigrants, relationships and his mum. There was an incredible depth and poignancy to his work, generating both thoughtful silence and genuine laughter from the audience. As he regaled us with each new tale, all performed without written prompts, the incredible rhythm and timing, along with the creative and often comic language, were a joy to hear.

Following a short intermission, it was then time to see JCC, who according to my maths must be about 72 now. To be fair, he didn’t look a lot different from that student gig 30 odd years ago, still stick thin (despite his jokey protestations that he’d been piling on the pounds) and still with his shock of wild black hair, even if was had been cajoled into the restraints of a natty tweed hat.

The rest was just wonderful, with a mixture of newish material to classics such as the wonderfully profanity laden Evidently Chickentown and every sales rep’s favourite, Hire Car. Yes, he’s got a few years under his belt now but the energy and fun are still there, and he genuinely appeared to be enjoying the gig, apparently his first in 20 months. In between the poems were reminiscences and a few old school stand up jokes, plus the chance for just a little audience feedback too.

After the main performance, we queued patiently to meet the doctor with copies of his new book, I Wanna Be Yours, for signatures and greetings, each accompanied by a genuine smile and thanks for coming along.

What a great night out at a wonderful local venue. I’ve never had a bad night out at Pound Arts and with plenty of great looking events coming up, I’ll be back soon.

poundarts.org.uk