Ian McMillan reviewed by Patrick McGuckin

This review was written by a member of the Ilkley Literature Festival review team. The Review Team take part in a special reviewing workshop at the start of the Festival before attending Festival events.

Ian McMillan has been coming to the Ilkley Literature Festival for over 30 years. First of all as a punter, but for several years as a speaker. I have seen him more than half a dozen times at different venues in Ilkley. This time he was on stage at a packed Kings Hall.

Ian McMillan is best known for his poetry. We learnt that he has been Poet in Residence for the English National Opera, Barnsley Football Club, and Humberside Police. Anyone who has seen him before will know that whilst his poems are funny and entertaining, it’s the explanations and introductions to his work that make one belly laugh.

This evening there was no poetry at all. He was here to discuss his book, Neither Nowt Nor Summat. The evening proved to be the best performance I have seen him do.

He has a deep Yorkshire voice and is often called upon to talk about Yorkshire. At least to talk about Yorkshire if Dickie Bird and Michael Parkinson are already booked, he joked.

Ian McMillan told us the touching story of how his parents met through writing letters. His mum was in the WAAF his dad was in the Navy. A scheme that allowed service men and women to write to each other brought his parents together in World War II. McMillan feels this may be why he has such a love of words and letters. They married having only met one another twice. His mum going AWOL for 48 hours whilst her friend ‘distracted the sergeant’…

We were regaled with stories of his times and travels in Yorkshire. As poet in residence for the Humberside Police he travelled to nightclubs with the constables. He persuaded the drunk ladies of Hull to make up impromptu poems for the camera for a programme for Yorkshire TV. ‘I like beer, I like wine, I like having a real good time’ was the result.

Ian McMillan is undoubtedly a people person. He is also a prolific tweeter. He rises early each morning, goes for a stroll and tweets the world about the things he has noticed. He travels on public transport and often tweets overheard conversations.

He explained that his book on travels around Yorkshire ends in Ilkley. He also explained that it needed to be on the 21.18 train otherwise his wife would kill him. As I joined the queue to have my book signed I worried whether he would catch it. He had a conversation with each and every person who lined up. I’m looking forward to reading the book and looking forward to his next return to Ilkley Literature Festival.

Patrick McGuckin has lived in Ilkley for 18 years and attended Ilkley Literature Festival for most of those years. Since attending the Review Writing Workshop a few years ago on a whi his has regularly reviewed events for the Festival. Patrick also reviews performances at Ilkley Playhouse for Ilkley Gazette.


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