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Bringing Spike's poems to life

Spike Milligan once lamented that the Goons would be seen as his only achievement, leading his obituary to read: “Wrote the Goon Show and died.”

Nowadays he’s arguably just as well known for his poetry, which retains its ability to delight people of “very all ages” decades after it emerged from his pen.

This is clearly evident at concerts arranged in January and February by Young Voices. This is an organisation that arranges children’s choirs and concerts in venues around the country.

It’s a truly joyful experience judging by the feedback and video snippets, a sample of which can be found on YV musical director Craig McLeish’s Twitter feed.

One of the songs featured in the shows through January and February is a “Milligantics Medley”, as performed here by children from Staynor Hall Primary School in Yorkshire.

Alongside rehearsals and performances, McLeish and his team have also been celebrating Spike Milligan’s poetry with their own Poetry Odyssey through his works. There are some wonderful and imaginative takes on Spike’s poems, and I’ve linked to them all below.

  • Craig McLeish himself recites ‘Sea Fever’, with props

  • The Swans’, read by Laura McLeish

  • Violinist Anna Phoebe reads ‘Fiddle Faddle

  • Alligator’, read by sound engineer Gavin Tempany

  • A quite superb musical take on ‘My Sister Laura’ by the thousands of children who performed at London’s O2 Arena on 20 January

  • Can A Parrot’, performed by Thomas and Tim Hart

  • Possibly my absolute favourite – children from St Peter’s School in Norwich sing ‘I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas’ while walking backwards at the same time, at no extra charge of course

  • The Ying Tong Song’, as summarised neatly by drummer Phil Crabbe and Craig McLeish

  • A quite brilliant take on ‘Onomatopoeia’ by Beatbox Collective

  • Smile’, a lovely poem, appropriately performed by singer Hattie Whitehead

  • Edser’, performed from a horizontal position by Ed Coleman

  • Okay, this might be my favourite – ‘You Gotta Have Knees’ expertly demonstrated by dance troupe Urban Strides

  • The caterers advise that ‘You Must Never Bathe In An Irish Stew

  • Keyboard player Tim Oliver presents ‘Trousers

  • Poem Called Sophia Loren Of Leeds’, courtesy of the film crew

  • Singer Otty Warmann and the Young Voices choir perform ‘Bad Report

  • Bananas’, eaten and read by Paul Lewis

  • A British Sign Language version of ‘Granny’ by Sarah Gatford

  • ‘The Ning Nang Nong’ with full percussion accompaniment by Simone Rebello

  • More Jam’ enjoyed deliciously by the Young Voices office team

  • An a capella, barbershop quartet version of ‘Rain’ – also my favourite

  • Spike gets the last word, with ‘Have A Nice Day

Congratulations to everyone involved. What a super tribute and a great way of celebrating music, poetry and performance. I can’t imagine much that would delight Spike more than his poems entertaining people – especially children – so much.

Find out more about Young Voices on the organisation's website.

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