On Sunday 21st December 2008, around 1am, I got back from a 600 mile round trip
to Prenton Park, Tranmere, where I'd just seen Brighton lose 1-0 to a goal
scored in the second minute of injury time, having seconds before been
denied a penalty so mind-numbingly self-evident a lobotomised, blindfolded,
myopic terrapin could have given it with its eyes NAILED shut. As a result,
we'd just sunk into the relegation zone for the first time this season. I
was knackered, rather pissed, and even more rather pissed off.
Much to my surprise, when I got upstairs my wife Robina was still awake.
'I'm afraid I've got some sad news' she said. 'Adrian Mitchell died last
It was one of those moments when everything else fell away, including -
especially - the temporal inadequacies of my football team. Three days short
of the sixth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death, another lifelong
Immediately I thought of the last time we'd seen Adrian, his eyes glistening
with emotion as he received a standing ovation from a packed tent at last
summer's Latitude Festival. It was a fitting memory, a moment we will never
forget. What a life, and what a hero of poetry.
When I was in my teens, Adrian Mitchell showed a rather cynical John Baine
that a contemporary poet could be relevant - could talk about the things
that mattered and inspire those who listened. When, in 1980, I took up the
gauntlet as Attila the Stockbroker, his immortal slogan "Most people ignore
most poetry because most poetry ignores most people" became my universal
rallying call, and is to this day. It's in the front of my new book, on my
myspace site, engraved on my DMs, and was recently turned into a T shirt by
the Philosophy Football people. Mark told be that made Adrian very happy.
Poems like ''Victor Jara of Chile' 'On the Beach at Cambridge' and 'Tell me
lies about Vietnam' - to name three of many - roared (in Adrian's modest,
quiet, understated way) against unspeakable evil. Other poems, like 'Human
Beings' and 'Song in Space' celebrated our common humanity in a simple,
moving way. And that, really, was what he was about: celebrating humanity,
and raging about the unspeakable things human beings do to each other.
Adrian reached out to people. He cared about people. He was a pacifist, and
a really good bloke. I was privileged to do quite a few gigs with him over
the years, and when I started the poetry/music series I ran for ten years
here in my home village of Southwick, he was the first person I booked.
At the end of the Latitude gig I shook his hand as, surrounded by well
wishers and overcome by the moment, he disappeared towards the book signing
tent. Afterwards I emailed to congratulate him and promised him a spot at
our Glastonwick Festival next year. He emailed back to say thanks, and that
Latitude had been one of his best gigs for years.
A fitting goodbye. I shall read some of his poems at our festival, and shall
be organising a memorial gig in his honour here in Sussex.
Not Fleeing but Flying!!
Adrian Mitchell reading Tell me lies about Vietnam