THE MUSICIANS:- Harp: Savourna Stevenson Guitar: Rod Paterson, Bernard Wrigley and Nick Dow Bass Concertina: Bernard Wrigley Percussion: Jim Sutherland Fretless Bass: Neil Hay Whistles and Harmonica: Jack Evans Fiddle, viola and cello: John Martin Synthesizer and accordion: Phil Cunningham
VALE Les Barker
Les Barker, 75, a poet, author and musician of global repute, was found at Park Hall, Oswestry on Sunday morning, January 22, 2023 after collapsing the night before.
He will undoubtedly be remembered as a man who made people laugh with his poetry and his friendship.
He performed on a number of occasions at The National and at Humph Hall in 2010.
Humph Hall convenor and owner, Wayne Richmond, said “I have the concert on video” and posted it on his weekly FolkMail, a What’s ON newsletter on behalf of the Folk Federation of NSW, as the ‘Video of the Week’.
“I also hosted an online session with him called ‘An evening with Les Barker’s Breakfast‘ in January, 2021”, Wayne said.
Jacey Bedford, his agent, said: “Though the scruffy, cardigan-wearing idiot was his stage persona, in real life he was a scruffy, cardigan-wearing gentle genius who wrote not only side-splittingly funny poems, but, serious ones, too, bitingly political or searingly beautiful.
“His stage performances, reading his poems from one or more of his numerous books, sold said books, and CDs, in fistfuls after each show.”
Alan Gough said: “Sorry to hear of the death of Les Barker, a very inventive and very funny man.
“I last saw him perform at Bromyard festival in September, 2022.
“He was a unique poet with a great deal of creativity and with a list of titles that would be hard to match.
“Everybody had their favourite poems.
“Mine include ‘news of the iceberg’ and ‘Cosmo, the fairly accurate knife thrower’.”
A short biography from the age of three until nearly teatime.
Les Barker writes strange poems and comes originally from Manchester and was an accountant before he became a professional idiot. He’s written 77 books in English and one in Welsh, which sell in large numbers at his gigs because people don’t quite believe what they’ve just heard. His poems have spawned a number of folk heroes: Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower, Captain Indecisive and Spot of the Antarctic, to name but two.
Les began his career as assistant to Mrs Ackroyd, a small hairy mongrel who lay around in folk clubs, bit people and became famous. Mrs Ackroyd was the only dog ever to own her own record label. Since her sad demise, Les is mainly a solo performer, though he has taken to working with humans from time to time. The Mrs Ackroyd Band gradually evolved from an ever-changing who’s who of the folk scene into a tightly knit, well-rehearsed group.
Les has several solo albums to his credit: ‘Dogologues’, An Infinite Number of Occasional Tables’, ‘A Cardi and Bloke’, ‘Up the creek without a poodle’, ‘Arovertherapy’ and ‘The War on Terrier’. He has travelled the length, breadth and height of Great Britain, as well as Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and – both solo and with the band – the United States and Canada, and has won prizes at the National Eisteddfod.
The Mrs Ackroyd Band – supplemented by guest members such as June Tabor and Martin Allcock – has released five albums;Oranges & Lemmings’, ‘Gnus & Roses’, ‘Tubular Dogs’, ‘Yelp!’. and ‘Dark side of the mongrel’.
In addition there are five highly acclaimed albums of his serious work; the folk opera ‘The Stones of Callanish’, ‘Some Love’, ‘The Wings of Butterflies’, Airs of the Dog’ and ‘Twilight of the Dogs’, all involving a galaxy of talent. His serious songs have also featured on albums by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, and by June Tabor. June invariably includes a smattering of Mr Barker’s serious and comic songs in her live performances. The Kingston Trio and Tom Paxton have also recorded Mr Barker’s songs’.
Les and the Mrs Ackroyd Band burst furtively onto national radio with a series of six programmes for BBC Radio 2 entitled ‘Mrs Ackroyd explores up her roots’. A new, and much larger audience were led in ever decreasing circles by Mr Barker’s strange mind. A growing number of radio programmes worldwide are featuring his recorded work. Dr Demento has included the Mrs Ackroyd Band’s performance of ‘Dachshunds with erections can’t climb stairs’ on one of his compilations, and ‘Will the turtle be unbroken?’ on another; and ‘Reinstalling Windows’ on the next one.
There is also a double CD of Mr Barker’s work performed by a vast number of TV & radio personalities, ‘Guide Cats for the Blind’ and a sequel, ‘The Missing Persians File’File’, and a third ‘Top Cat, White Tie and Tails’. And a fourth, ‘Catnav’.
And ‘The Mrs Ackroyd Occasional Table Book’; a collection of his greatest hits (up to about 1998) mixed with a selection of his photographs taken on his travels, followed by ‘The Mrs Ackroyd Periodic Table Book’.
What else can one say about Les Barker? He was Old York Victoria’s footballer of the year in the season when they finished top of the Altrincham League. He has run a marathon in two hours forty one minutes; but he was younger then. He’s very difficult to describe. But there’s only one of him. Go and see him (and buy some of his CDs).