Tribute: Last Monday at Rio

Although it marks the end of a celebrated Glasgow institution we are delighted to feature this farewell tribute to Last Monday at Rio and its performers from its founder, the master of the spoken word and former Federation Makar, Robin Cairns. There can be few on the Glasgow poetry scene who have not been entertained (and often had their complacencies rightly challenged) by Robin’s legendary performances as various characters as well as himself. Read on – the good news is that though Rio has sadly gone, the Last Mondays have not!

Last Monday at Rio

I’ve known the owners of The Rio Café since deep in the last century – when one of them wandered into the shop where I worked and asked me to do a poster for his band. I did, we became pals and admired each other’s careers as he ditched music to build a powerful business empire and I combined scuffling about at the bottom end of the print industry with scribbling down my tuppenceworth and offering it to the world. When he opened The Rio Café ten years ago he asked me to put on a spoken word night.

Operating monthly we’ve given mic time to over a thousand individuals, provided a stage for 120 headline poets and allowed the many who come along just to listen a glimpse of literature out loud.

I’m fairly proud of the way the Rio poets don’t fall into one category. We ranged from 18 to 80 with a mash-up of styles, from dreamily lyrical to foghorn demotic. I’ve tried to be encouraging to almost everyone who comes along (not so keen on those unable to contain their self-love). I value quality of writing above any particular ideology expressed – which has led me to put on stage a fair number of people whose opinions and take on life I consider to be fatuous. In turn though I have had my hard and rocky soul softened by close exposure to other viewpoints many times.

Glasgow has a ripe history of ragged half-coherent notions erupting from odd corners of society. As Scots many of us are “brought up to shut up” and even now there are still vast numbers in our city who have yet to try “self-expression”. As a gatekeeper of Free Speech I feel it is my job to keep the door jammed open.

Last Monday at Rio finishes on Monday 27 March 2017 – but the Last Monday wagon keeps on rolling. The inaugural “Last Monday At Waterstones” starts on Monday April 24 – 7pm in the new café bar on the top floor of Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street. See youse there! (see under Opportunities below).

© Robin Cairns 2017

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