Michael Smith – BCA

On 25th June 2015 Hannah Lowe, Kayo Chingonyi, and Tim Wells read commissioned poems in tribute of Michael Smith.
The 1982 Arena documentary Upon Westminster Bridge was also screened, Anthony Wall introduced his film.

001
Anthony Wall and Roxanne Escobales

Red Tam Hat
for Mikey Smith

Haven’t thought of you in years 1981 is history, but near enough to touch
Mikey, in your green tam hat Brixton looks like Brixton, just. You breeze
I danced to your music in in from Kingston in a red tam hat – posing in
my shabby college bedroom the shadows of a railway bridge, singing for
lights down low, the bass the TV camera, up Electric Ave – yam, cassava
soft-bouncing & your voice like a thunder-scent of a petrol bomb perhaps
clap. Didn’t know music could hurt like that police car sliding like a snake
rise up like that. My old boyfriend loved you on Poets’ Corner. You saunter
held your album like a crown like a prophet, cursing cockroach-landlords
or a halo, pushed it down onto politician rats, unfazed, boom-voiced over
the turntable the rain stick or maracas. Those school kids feign coolness
held back swinging on their chairs but love you Sailor. At night you sway
his breath; spun to the flugelhorn or saxophone in the hallowed lights of
the vinyl the studio stage. You might be famous Mikey, sometime soon

Hannah Lowe

Version

My girl Jessie is from a family of dockers.
If you’re wondering if she swears like one,
she does. It was from her foghorn mouth
that I first heard Michael Smith,
and you know how it is with teenage lads,
if a girl is passionate you want to know all about it.
She played me ‘Trainer’, from the tail end of an NME cassette.

‘for it was de firs time in me life
a really feel fi seh something
an a couldn bring out nuttin

so a jus walk’

That hard yard voice rumbled from the deck,
so unlike ours, but it spoke to us all the same.
It’s no accident reggae boomed from our teenage bedrooms;
Jamaica was only as far as next door.
When people wake up, they find their own speech.
We were shook awake: no jobs, no money, no future.
Hackney, Detroit, Johannesburg, or Kingston JA.
Both dub slates and police batons have a beat all their own.

As the punks sang
‘tell you the truth I can’t afford to run away, from the UK’
Mikey’s words were fingers balling to a fist,
an incendiary device, the static on the filth’s radio,
braziers on the picket line, piss stains on brutalist concrete,
the look passed from eye to eye at the dole queue.
Not no Shelley ‘Sew seeds but let no tyrants reap’
but he and we knew – forward ever, backward never.

Tim Wells

006
Kayo, Tim and Hannah

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