August has been full on. After a small launch party in Brighton for the summer special issue, it was up to Blackpool for the Rebellion Festival and an appearance on the literary stage (thanks again to John King and Dom Warwick), then a train back down south to get a day off before a flight up to Edinburgh on the Wednesday ahead of the launch night at Word Power Books on the Thursday night, followed by the legendary raffle and PUSH CUP in The Pear Tree. I have to thank East London Press, Word Power Books and Brian who runs The Pear Tree as without their help and support this great night would never have happened.
The launch was part of the Edinburgh Fringe, and as anyone who has been up to the city during this cultural event, everyone is competing, clambering over one another to get people off of the strees and into the venue where they are performing/putting on an event. To put into context, I was told an American best seller was on before the PUSH launch and had an audience of two. Mark Thomas was on the next night in the same venue and I am pleased to tell you, like Mark, we had a full house too. To illustrate this point, the photos below - J. Currie reading 'Locked Up' from PUSH Summer Special (and straight from work and making his live reading debut) and Mark Thomas the following night.
The PUSH readings were perhaps the best mix yet. I did an introduction, albeit a nervous one as this wasn't the usual set up. This was a proper book launch! Anyway, I was glad I hadn't selected myself to read as I had a superb line up. No one let the side down. 8 writers of conflicting styles and backgrounds, grabbed the mic and the limelight (or Limelite Bar, Meadowbank, as was the case with Michael Pederson!) and I was told by many afterwards that this was one of the strongest line ups/good nights seen on a literary stage. There was even the press at the back of the venue, keeping check. Dickson Telfer opened with a superb and powerful reading of 'Nose Art'. As I had already mentioned the raffle and the line up of teams in the PUSH CUP (Hibs, West Ham, Scotland, Forfar Athletic), he gave an emotive preamble about how Forfar had denied his team, East Stirlingshire, a famous moment in history. This was countered by the final act, Kevin Williamson. He spoke about recent Hibs nightmares. And that is all I will say for now. But trust me, the drama after the readings were to continue. Dickson was followed next by Michael Pederson, Craig Gibson, and J. Currie. All delivered.
Next up was Robert Chalmers who made his debut in PUSH Summer Special. His story 'Hot Dogs With Everything' has been the most talked about, most controversial story even, to have been published in the mag. He was up for reading on the night, but not too keen to read the extract I had recommended. Well he did read that extract and now even more people when they hear the word cucumber, will project a thousand yard stare, all thanks to Robert. Boy done well. Following Robert was Joseph Ridgwell, who read poetry from both PUSH books and then Dean Lilleyman ensured that the drive and momentum of the night was not going to dip.
To close the readings, was Kevin Williamson. A deliberate and fitting choice. I mention Kevin in the introduction to PUSH 2 and he read the two poems that had been published before in issue 6 and issue 15 respectively, the latter How Come? was originally published in his own magazine Rebel Inc and is about the late Leon Brittan and even more relevant now perhaps, then when he first wrote the poem. It also features in the book. Kevin rounded off a great night of readings.
Before I report on the raffle, I would like to thank the eight readers on the night as they all delivered their work with genuine conviction. So thanks to Dickson Telfer, Michael Pederson, Craig Gibson, J. Currie, Robert Chalmers, Joseph Ridgwell, Dean Lilleyman and Kevin Williamson. I would also like to thank Jim Gibson (has a poem and story in the book but didn't read, but I'll get him up next time) who had driven up and camped the night in Edinburgh along with girlfriend, Sophie Pitchford. Nice one Jim and Sophie. Now it was all about crossing the road to The Pear Tree where not only the raffle awaited but what was the best PUSH CUP to date.
Now the raffle is self explanatory. It is a raffle with prizes connected to the mag; football. literature, music. And as always, I include in the raffle my own vinyl and books. For example, the first printed UK paperback of The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, original hardback copy of Man At Leisure by Alexander Trocchi, plus Jupiter Books paperback original copy of Trocchi's Cains Book, plus Albert Camus, Iceberg Slim, John Fante and more, There was also 2 Deluxe PUSH collectors copies, DVDs included The Firm, Red Road, Sweet Sixteen and The Sweeney strarring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. There was much vinyl too. The 1978 Scotland World Cup single being one of the much sough after treasures: there was also vinyl from the likes of The Skids, Altered Images and a rare white label Teenage Fanclub 7 inch.
But most folk were wanting to win tickets for the semi final of the PUSH CUP and the atmosphere when the team buses turned up was even greater than the one in Word Power Books.
So the raffle went well. And thanks to my raffle co-host and the other half of Hand Job magazine, Sophie Pitchford, who helped keep order as the intense crowd looked on and at their strip of tickets. To sum up, the prizes got won and then it was down the the last four. Not only a chance to win a Subbuteo team, but also entry into the semi finals of the Edinbugh PUSH CUP. This is when events became lively. The semi final draw was Hibs v West Ham and Scotland v Forfar Athletic.
Dickson Telfer had opened the readings earlier by talking about how Forfar had broken his heart one time in a play off final versus East Stirlingshire. The tensions rose when Kevin Williamson took to the stage to close the readings and began bemoaning how Hibs had suffered more. I could see it all kicking off and had the PUSH stewards on red alert. A contrast of bragging rights for suffering was in full flow and this all resulted in a seriously bizarre twist.
In the Subbuteo play offs, the first ticket was to win the team and play for Hibs. Guess who had that ticket? Yeah, you know. Not Kevin Williamson but Dickson Telfer. Would Kevin - having not drawn his beloved - now draw West Ham and face Dickson in the first semi? No, that was because Martine Lilleyman would be West Ham on the night. West Ham have played in all PUSH CUP's, obviously, but have been both beaten finalists and semi finalists. 'I'm very competitive,' Martine told me, straight-faced. I had a good feeling about how this would all turn out.
Clare Archibald, who has previously been published in three issues of PUSH, won Scotland. It was now all down to who would be Forfar; the team that once broke Dickson's heart. Well, you couldn't have made it up. Kevin Williamson would be Forfar.
A potential final with Dickson Telfer's Hibs v Kevin Williamson's Forfar Athletic had talk radio phone-ins and online forums going into the kind of mania meltdown that only comes from argumentative poppers binge folk stuck on a fairground rat wheel of death.
While all that exterior business was happening nationwide, Hibs and West Ham took to the pitch. Hibs v West Ham. Dickson 'I want to meet Kevin in the final and settle our differences' v Martine 'I'm very competitive.' It went to 6-6 on penalties, Martine then scored and Dickson had to score to stay in the competition. He missed. West Ham beat Hibs 7-6 on pens.
Dickson was inconsolable, as you'd expect but not as gutted as Clare Archibald. Clare realised she had to exit pronto to make the last train home to Burntisland in Fife and in a new twist of fate, Dickson's partner, Lucinda Allen, took her place and played Kevin's Forfar in the other semi. All of a sudden social media and The Pear Tree was fever pitch again as Scotland and Forfar took to the stage. How would Kevin deal with facing his national team? He supported Hibs not Forfar from League One.
Now in the previous semi, only one penalty was missed. This time the first 4 penalties were all missed; I think Kevin had serious issues taking a penalty against Scotland. And then the following course of events followed. Quickly. I gave a goal that the crowd all said went over the line. A Forfar player in old skool Subbuteo style, got both legs snapped (but refused to get in the air ambulance), Scotland missed a penalty when the player missed the ball and flew out of the beer garden but Kevin allowed the kick to be retaken, and me the ref did a u-turn, while two pitch invasions almost threatened Brian the landlord of The Pear Tree to demand the cup was abandoned. But I think this had more to do with the Forfar player down who refused to leave the pitch than the crowd trouble.
But at sudden death, despite a superb effort by Lucinda's Scotland, it was Alan Rough, drafted in on loan via a text message by Kevin who made that crucial save to crush Scotland's PUSH CUP dreams. Forfar marched on into the final to meet West Ham.
The Final: West Ham United v Forfar Athletic
To sum up. Martine said from the start, 'I am very competitive.' Kevin said afterwards, 'She was very competitive.' It was a close final and when it also went to sudden death, the stump of the injured player (while the body remained checking out the night sky) took a penalty for Forfar and scored what could have been the winner. That stump deserved to be on the winning side. However, West Ham held their nerve, scored to make it 5-5 and then Forfar missed. West Ham stood up to the spot and scored and were champions for the first time. Well done Martine.
The game over, the players are left standing while we all carried on drinking.
Everyone's a winner.