FRED’S THE LOCAL POET FOR LOCAL PEOPLE, who has gone international following his epic attempt in May 2011 to become Britain’s most north-west poet, on his bicycle camping poetry tour of Sutherland in NW Scotland. Fred’s a legend in Gairloch, but now he’s back home, and down your street.
Who’s that guy on the street corner, reading out loud his shopping list, or ranting about bus drivers, to nobody in particular? Maybe it is Fred Slattern?
Fred’s the leader of his one-person “I saw this and I saw that” school of poetry, shamelessly dropping in local people, place names and brands to keep the attention of his audience, as the self-styled “Colchester’s slum poet” unfurls his “accountant on EPO” portraits of local life.
With his tales of ageing, isolation, fear and loathing, he speaks about “Love, Hate and Prettygate”. Slattern introduces each of his (usually mercifully short) pieces. At Colchester Free festival he described his procrastination in a mordant ditty that he claimed he wrote at a “creative writing for no-hopers” course a few years ago, his only formal training. Fred clearly fancies himself as the people’s poet, as he slips into his brief political pieces, firing a blunted lampoon as he doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
Fred’s most popular pieces show his appalling wordplay. Clearly Slattern had problems concentrating at school, or indeed at any other station in life. But Slattern’s sessions aren’t all about lampooning of the authorities and the media, he’s more about celebrating Colchester, with pieces about the town’s people, history and open spaces.
His banter between pieces is well received by his audiences of mainly rural folk, and a warm ripple of applause usually greets the end of the show, maybe from a sense of relief, and also because these ordinary folks had, at last, found someone to blather on their behalf – a fanfare for the common man or beast.
At the post-recital throng his adoring audience tell him how much they love his beard.