Roger McGough: ‘Glad to be back’

Photograph by Will Wilkinson.
Photograph by Will Wilkinson.

Poetry titan Roger McGough is delighted to be returning to the Wakefield Literature Festival this autumn.

On October 2, the man that Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy nicknamed “the patron saint of poetry” will close this year’s event.

Also an acclaimed playwright, children’s author and broadcaster, the 78-year-old shot to fame in 1967 with The Mersey Sound – a celebrated anthology of no-nonsense verse put together with his Liverpool peers.

Speaking to the Express, McGough said: “It’s very, very nice to be asked back. I enjoyed it last time. I like Wakefield.

“What I like about the festivals is that if you are lucky you may meet other writers on the circuit. And it’s just a good audience.”

They also allow him to try new work out – some of which may never be performed again after Wakefield, he said.

And McGough, who is now a grandfather, said these types of events bring together young and old audiences.

“A lot of people will remember The Scaffold but a lot of people will not.

“You can’t take everyone for granted, you can’t swarm in expecting warmth and appreciation.”

The Scaffold was the comedy, poetry and music trio Roger formed with Merseyside pals John Gorman and Mike McGear – Paul McCartney’s younger brother – in 1966.

In November 1968, the group reached number one with Lily the Pink.

But McGough recalls soberly the political and economic climate of the 1960s.

“At the same time as The Beatles were playing, Liverpool was closing down, the docks were closing down.

“There was poverty and hardship everywhere.

“This was followed quickly by the 70s and the three-day week.

“It may have seemed like a dream time, but a lot of people were desperate.”

McGough was born in Litherland in 1937. He later attended the University of Hull where his interest in literature grew.

The Mersey Sound was published by Penguin in 1967, including work by McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten.

McGough said: “When it came to writing poetry, I wished I was in New York or California or San Francisco. But they started doing it in Liverpool.

“You had someone to try for – you had an audience.

“I didn’t want to just write for myself and my English professor, which some seemed to be doing at the time.

“You would have never considered that a generation earlier.

“Working class people didn’t do that. You get on with it, you don’t draw attention to yourself. But I was drawing attention to myself.”

While McGough still creates poems based around old themes such as love, he said new material includes subjects such as terrorism and Fifa corruption.

And while many have tried to label him over the years as a Liverpool or Beat poet, McGough is happy to just be called “a poet”.

An Evening with Roger McGough will take place at Unity Works from 7pm on October 2.

Tickets are £14-15. Visit www.wakefieldlitfest.org.uk to book and get more information about the events.