Gerry Potter

The poet on his new show Son of Liverpool, part of Homotopia

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My new show Son of Liverpool is a collection of performance pieces I like to call theatre verse, detailing an almost familial connection to my beloved home city. Liverpool’s a crazy place, whirlwinding a flagrant firestorm of imagery from the instantly pop-cultural to the eternally gothic. I firmly believe we’re all brought up by experiences and surroundings that are not just about immediate family. We are educated and nurtured by our streets, alleyways, chippies and yes, even architecture. The late sixties, early seventies Liverpool I knew was a near fully employed, gloriously chaotic place. I clearly remember streets marching to the sound of what felt like armies of shift workers. Shift workers responsible for an almost airborne clattering/chattering ambience, urgent and joking at the same time. As a kid my locale felt very safe to me, a ribald, palpably wordy comfort blanket of vibrant, involved community. As the seventies strode limply on, this “working” communal life energy would soon be snuffed out and laid dramatically to waste. I was brought up in an intensely industrial docklands area, and would weekly witness factories, pubs and shops brutally shut down. Being experientially weaned on both the roaring fires of ancient industry, then the smoking ache of their too quickly vacated remains, wasn’t at all easy, but  profoundly poetic.

I feel I belong to a generation who helplessly witnessed the wholesale slaughter of their communities and, in the same way familial grief might impact, I think the calculated murder of our once constructively working environs can do something not too dissimilar. I was moved by the unforgivable crimes of rising unemployment, then by what seemed the constant demolition of everywhere I had lived and known. I saw three of my council-built family homes violently smashed into rubble and schools and churches gone. It violates the soul to see so much of who and what you were/are so viciously destroyed, in the name of progress. Seems to me progress is a lot more savage than the near full employment it so sociopathically replaced.

Liverpool itself constantly carves and reshapes its past, present and futures

Son of Liverpool is also about the beguiling misty joy of nostalgia. I’m out and very proudly nostalgic. Not, I must add in a cloying way – it doesn’t dominate – but I’m happily defined by the sometimes comforting walls of memory. I dearly love my memories, love that they’re entwined within so many other people’s memories. For me memory is the psychic Gordian knot that ties, binds and paradoxically sets us free. Like memory, experience is also a multi-faceted beast, and as age creakingly moseys ever onward I feel we can own our memories/experiences more, perhaps even the difficult ones.

Liverpool itself constantly carves and reshapes its past, present and futures, a city full of blag ’n’ jangle, careering wittily around in every competitively told too-tall story or bawdy joke.

As a poet/writer I’m of course attracted to all aspects of the human experience; as a working class poet/writer, I tend to very much write what I know. Son of Liverpool is just that – a chronological poetical journey of life most certainly lived; and not just my life but the lives of the peoples and streets shaping me.

I’m not hopelessly bound by the cult of individualism. I’m very happily individual but instinctively aware I’m not just made from me (I think you can only say “I am” a very few times before it begins to sound like so much lumpen porridge). So many peoples, good and bad, have added essential flesh to the bone, blood and body of my life. From dead hard scally girls, church, best friends, family, clubbing, grief, theatre and the guttural star-shine of my red-brick high-kicks and mortar, I’m gloriously infused and enthused by them all – even the difficult ones.

Son of Liverpool is part of Homotopia, international LGBT festival in Liverpool, 1-30 Nov. Read our interview with performance artist David Hoyle in Big Issue North, 23 Oct

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