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Letter: 'Gerard Benson and the Barrow Poets were electrifying'

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I first encountered the fabulous Gerard Benson in the very early 1970s when the Barrow Poets played in a scrubby basement in the Sir Christopher Wren pub in the old Paternoster Square, by St Paul's Cathedral in London, when I was barely old enough to buy a (legal) drink. While other young things were into Genesis or King Crimson, I was gripped by their spectrum of poetry and music, from their own compositions to Purcell, Byrd, Blake, Keats, Stevie Smith and lots of Anon.

With the endlessly energetic Gerard, small and roundish, reciting, singing and playing kazoo and saw, the visually contrasting William Bealby-Wright, tall and thin and slightly lugubrious, on the homemade cacofiddle once described in the Guardian as "a kind of DIY, cymbal-augmented double bass, seemingly built by the Clangers" and the other wonderful musicians and poets, they were electrifying. Later they played in grand venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, but nothing could match the immediacy of the basement bar.

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