The Glass Aisle is a unique collaboration between acclaimed poet Paul Henry and singer-songwriter Brian Briggs, frontman of the band Stornoway which is touring festivals and venues throughout 2017. The Glass Aisle will be performed as part of a broader event featuring Henry’s poetry from his acclaimed collections Boy Running and The Brittle Sea. With great audiences at The Oxford Literature Festival and The Bath Festival , The Laugharne Weekend , Paul and Brian will be touring this autumn with dates including Kenilworth Arts Festival, Caught By The River stage at The Good Life Experience with more dates to be announced.
Funded by a Creative Wales Award from Arts Council Wales The Glass Aisle is a long poem with songs created by Paul Henry and Brian Briggs, set on a stretch of canal above Crickhowell.
Two presences loom in the poem: Marconi, who conducted his experiments for radio on this particular part of the canal, and an old union workhouse, now converted into houses. The two come together in the shape of a telephone engineer who is trying to connect a broken telegraph wire across the water, to the site of the old workhouse.
The line to the old workhouse is down.
The telegraph pole is inside a tree,
the engineer wedged like a sacrifice
inside the branch’s latticework …
Voices of workhouse “inmates” start to speak in the engineer’s earphones, including Mary Thomas, a lone parent abused by the Master. Their roll call crosses the narrative of a man who has left his family. Then there’s the ghostly John Moonlight, a poacher who walks the frozen canal in winter …
With its songs composed ‘out of the poem’, and brought to life in Brian’s clear tenor this work breaks down the borders between the poem and the song lyric while offering a haunting elegy to the displaced.
As song lyrics interweave with poetry, as acoustic guitars and percussive (garden) instruments twist and fall amid vocals, Henry and Briggs have created an astonishing, moving piece that, alongside Henry’s other poems, will captivate live audiences.
The Glass Aisle and Other Poems – Tour Dates
Saturday 1 April 2017, 8.15pm – Oxford Literary Festival
Sunday 9 April 2017, 8pm – The Laugharne Weekend
Saturday 20 May 2017, 6.15pm – The Bath Festival
Saturday 17 September 2017, 3pm – Caught By The River stage, The Good Life Experience Tickets
Sunday 18 September 2017, 7.45pm – Kenilworth Arts Festival Tickets
Listen to extracts of some of the songs from The Glass Aisle here
Brian Briggs is the singer/songwriter for the band Stornoway. Stornoway were the first unsigned band to appear on Later… With Jools Holland and have subsequently toured worldwide and enjoyed main stage appearances at festivals including Glastonbury, Latitude and Isle of Wight. Stornoway’s three acclaimed albums and three EPs combine Brian’s two great passions of music and nature and their most recent, 2015’s Bonxie, entered the UK Charts inside the Top 20 and featured the songs of twenty different species of birds.
“Stornoway’s best work yet: big music, which deserves the largest stage”
– 5/5 Guardian (on Bonxie)
Paul Henry came to poetry through songwriting and is the author of eleven books of verse, including The Brittle Sea: New & Selected Poems and Boy Running. A Writing Fellow at the University of South Wales, he has read and performed his work at festivals across Europe and also in the USA and Asia. He has presented programmes for Radio Wales, BBC Radio 3 and 4. http://www.paulhenrywales.co.uk
“The Brittle Sea … marks Henry’s quiet rise as a major lyric poet.”
– The Poetry Review
“An obsessive look at time and all the loss it carries… Henry’s rich, wise and regretful poems should be better known than they are and this is a good place to begin.”
– The TLS (on Boy Running)