This Friday, 15th December, the rabble-rousing Bard Company quartet play a festive show at the licensed Snug Coffee House across the Salford/Wigan border in Atherton. The venue is a keen supporter of local causes and has recently had a sleep-out to raise money for a homeless shelter.
The Snug also uses its wall space to showcase local talent; and one of the exhibitions features portraits of Manchester's homeless by Salford born artist Michelle Szkilnyk. It's a good fit for habitual activists Bard Company given that they regularly perform at fundraising events for local charities.
Bard Company is a four-piece made up of 'men of a certain age' who entertain their audiences with poetry, comedy and songs. Each member of the quartet has a solo spot before they all come together to form an unlikely, anti-establishment boy-band.
The songs are great parodies that often mock the idiocy of current politicians. One of the musical highlights is the song Theresa May, which puts the Prime Minister under comical scrutiny to the tune of Yesterday by The Beatles.
Bard Company's line-up consists of Broughton poet Gordon Zola, Boltonian MC Jeffarama, rock n' roll entertainer Ian Whiteley and Swinton's very own Tony Kinsella.
Tony describes how he became involved: "I co-wrote The Unbroadcastable Radio Show at Manchester Comedy Store for about six years - a monthly satirical show - but only occasionally performed in this" he recalls "Vard Company has given me an outlet to continue writing group sketches and song lyrics alongside jokes and poems."
Tony is a welcome addition to the crew; his material has a warm, self-effacing quality. He's Salford to the core, having been born and raised, "around Regent Road in a tower block that's now a Sainsburys". He proudly states that he hasn't really ventured too far from his roots, having "lived in Brookhouse, Eccles, through my teens and in Swinton all my adult life.
"Apart from three years at Leeds University, I've always lived within a couple of post code digits of my birth place including spending three decades of my working life lecturing in English at the local FE college" he adds.
Tony's act is difficult to define, as it fuses poetry, comedy and nonsense in equal measure... "I'd call myself a 'performer' as I have done stand up comedy and poetry for a similar period - since the late 1990s" he explains "I taught classes for about twelve years before I stood up in front of audiences."
He proudly wears his influences on his sleeve and elements of some of greats are clearly visible. On his heroes, Tony confirms, "undoubtedly John Cooper Clarke and Hovis Presley, though I'm also a huge fan of Hollie McNish and Kate Tempest in the current poetry world, and always enjoy reading Philip Larkin".
There's an undeniable love of language in Tony's lyrical routine. Comedy-wise, there's a Python-esque silliness and lashings of daft, deadpan sarcasm. On his comedy heroes Tony cites, "Bill Hicks, Stewart Lee, Doug Stanhope, Jack Dee, Steven Wright... I love James Acaster and Holly Walsh. I suppose I was weaned on the alternative comedy of Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Alexei Sayle who still remains my number one comedy hero, though my own work bears no relation to his genius."
Catch Tony and the lads for a random evening of varied entertainment and a raffle. It promises to be an eclectic, festive night out. Get along and enjoy the performances, or even take part in the open mic slot...
Christmas Guitar n Verse with Bard Company
Friday 15th December 7pm
The Snug Coffee House
67a Market Street
Atherton, Wigan M46 0DA
£2 entry. For further details see the Christmas Guitar n Verse with Bard Company & Open Mic! Facebook event page – click here
For an open mic slot contact Jeff Dawson via his Facebook page – click here
Words by Ian Leslie