IAN McMILLAN INTERVIEW
One of Britain’s best-loved poets, Ian McMillan has been performing poetry since the seventies! Here, in an exclusive interview with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd, Ian chats about what first got him started, his Barnsley F.C. ties, and his latest work with the one, the only Luke Carver Goss…
Hi Ian, how are things, and how has 2016 treated you in general?
Well, it’s been a funny old year for the world, but on a personal level, I’ve been amazingly busy, writing and gigging and presenting “The Verb” on Radio 3. The year has certainly flown by.
How old were you when you first started writing poetry, and what prompted you to do so?
I was lucky enough to go to a West Riding County Primary School in the 1960′s; Sir Alec Clegg was the godlike Chief Education officer, and he believed that all children were creative, and so, in our little school, we sang and danced and painted and sculpted and wrote poems, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
Were you influenced by any particular poets whilst at school?
Not really at junior school, but at secondary school, I loved the work of Ted Hughes and George Mackay Brown, two great poets of place.
What was it like on the live poetry circuit back in the seventies? Where were the best places to perform, and why?
There were gigs everywhere, like there are now, in lots of schools, lots of arts centres, and lots and lots of folk clubs. There was a lovely folk club in a pub called the Corporation Brewery Taps in Doncaster, where they were happy for you to try out new and experimental things, like singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” backwards.
So what sequence of events led to you finding your way onto TV and radio?
I got on radio through being interviewed on Radio Sheffield and making the producer laugh, and then saying “Yes” when he asked if I could make him laugh every week. Of course I said “Yes!” My advice to freelancers is to always say “Yes,” because it can lead to exciting adventures. As for TV, Yorkshire TV were trying out new presenters to make little five-minute films, and they asked me, and of course I said “Yes!”
I take it you’re still the “poet in residence” at Barnsley FC? If so, what does such a role involve?
It’s a life peerage, but I don’t write much for them. I still get heckled by the fans around me, though, telling me to “Write a poem about that!”
Of all the poems you’ve written over the years, do you have any personal favourites? If so, why do those stand out above others?
No favourites, I’m afraid. I’m always keenest on the ones I’ve not written yet!
You’re also well-known as a playwright. Is writing for the stage something that you started doing once you’d firmly established yourself as a poet?
I’ve always written for the stage. In 1982, I wrote a cricket play called “Slow Bowler” for DAC Theatre Company with my mate Dave Harmer, and I’ve written stage and radio plays ever since.
You have been working a lot with Luke Carver Goss just lately. Where and when did you first meet, and what have you been upto?
I first met Luke in Wales many years ago when I was doing a gig there and we got on. Then, when he moved to Sheffield, we collaborated on a musical for an Education Action Zone, and we’ve not looked back since, writing songs and libretti. He’s very talented, and his music complements my words very well indeed.
What are you most looking forward to about performing at East Riding Theatre in Beverley?
I like coming to Beverley because the audiences like to laugh, and I love performing in spaces I’ve not performed in before.
What has been the overall highlight of your career so far?
It has to be my Radio 3 show “The Verb,” which I’ve been presenting now for nearly 15 years; it really is my pride and joy!
Finally, how can people find out more about you and your writing?
Have a gander at my www.Ian-McMillan.co.uk website, or “Follow” me onTwitter @IMcMillan
Ian will be appearing with Luke at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, on 3rd February, 2017
To pick up a copy of Steve’s first book, “Pulse,” click here!