Andy Roberts, Willy Russell, Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGouth on stage during WORDS ON THE RUNwords on the run banner

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The bootleg tape from the Words on the Run tour

Wonderful songs and poetry from five gifted and resilient Scousers - Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Andy Roberts and Willy Russell (not quite - Andy was born in Harlow and Adrian was born in Birkenhead!) - that revive the true spirit of the fringe: anarchic, subversive, cheeky and genuinely sentimental. Observer


Listen to Willy reading
"I Hate Poems" from the Wellingborough Bootleg

There have been several versions of Willy's poem over the years. A musical version was performed during The Singing Playwrights tour of 2004. You can read the words to 'I Hate Poems' here

Return to the PLAYWRIGHTS page...


The Reservoir Poets step forward in their black suits and sharp ties, their ammunition a barrage of streetwise language, their arsenal a stash of sawn-off verse. Thirty years on from Merseybeat, the Liverpool Poets have lost none of their down-to-earth charm, their inhinged way with a word, or their child-like ability to celebrate with imagination.

With decoration from Andy Roberts's folk-blues acoustic guitar, Words On The Run presents a vivid collage of scouse sensibility. There's Adrian Henri and his social commentaries, Brian Patten and his humanist heartbreakers, Roger McGough and his urban surrealism, and Willy Russell and his comic vignettes.

All life is here. The feelgood factor is back - even if, sadly, you've missed these few performances for this year. HERALD

Five gifted Scousers in dark suits held us enthralled and in tears of laughter... Michael Coveney - Observer

Words on the Run...

With poets Adrian Henri, Brian Patten, Roger McGough and musician Andy Roberts, Willy puts together Words On The Run, a unique evening of prose, poetry, song and music which toured Britain throughout the autumn of that year. When the show toured again in 1997 an 'official' bootleg tape of the show, called The Wellingborough Bootleg was produced.

A showcase of imaginative mind games - sheer class...
Peter Grant - Liverpool Echo

Words on the Run leaflet

This is the essential Fringe. Five friends decide to put together show without regard to any conventional format, but which they themselves will enjoy. And the result of the collaboration between the poets Robert McGough, Adrian Henri, Brian Patten, the guitarist/composer Andy Roberts and the writer Willy Russell can only be described as brilliant. It has all the energy and excitement of a late-night jamming session, but the rough edges have been polished away to show up a true gem.

It may be 30 years since the original Mersey Sound broke over the airwaves. It may be that those voices have since found space within the literary establishment. But despite time and success, Liverpool's Fab Five have studiously avoided growing up.

It is that persistent childlike warmth in their work which makes it so endearing. That, and the way they playfully stretch the most ordinary things in the world into poetry.

Words on the Run

There is no attempt made to reconcile the distinctive voices assembled here. The lyricism of Brian Patten's Minister of Exams jostles with McGough's topsy-turvy Cat's Protection League, and with sight of Russell on lead guitar singing Tupperware Girls with Henri, Patten and McGough jigging as backing performers.

If this was the performers' dream, it certainly left an audience satisfied on a surfiet of inspiration, laughter, and innumerable combination of the two.

These must be words to catch as they pass through. SCOTSMAN

words run publicity

Cavalier Spaniel Steals the Show

Could there be a more relaxing and agreeable way of spending an hour than in the company of five middle-aged tearaways from Liverpool?

Poets Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri, who were accompanied by singer-guitarist Andy Roberts, are seasoned Fringe performers and they delivered their warm, witty and wise verses and devastating one-liners with accustomed aplomb - but it was playwright Willy Russell who stole the show.

With his Cavalier Spaniel hair style, the author of 'Educating Rita', 'Blood Brothers' and 'Shirley Valentine' was making his first Fringe appearance sine 1972.

The Philistine's poem that ran "I hate theatre, I hate ballet, I hate art galleries - but I like arts council' They say No'!". Shirley Valentine's recollection of her son's uproarious apperance in the school nativity play and an extract from one of Russell's two forthcoming novels were delivered with a breezy confidence that matched any of the Fringe's excess of stand-up comics.

But the abiding memory of 'Words On The Run' is of these five grizzled geezers - "Our combined age may be 273, but we're still singing animals!" - shuffling off and returning after the interval still singing about Tupperware Girls with lovely hair who drink German wine and don't think much of Wittgestien but like to do the Hokey Cokey in their underwear.

They're a class act that must tour - and make a record. THE INVERNESS COURIER