Interview: Murray Lachlan Young, ‘The real secret is adding joy and gratitude’

Acclaimed performer, writer, children’s author, screenwriter, BBC 6 Music Poet in Residence and Radio 4 regular – Murray Lachlan Young is one of the best-known poetry voices in Britain. Murrray takes readers and audiences on a delightful satirical romp into the bizarre facets of fame, fashion, politics and rock-n-roll reverie from acclaimed performer. A hybrid mix of hilarious stand up, verse and song, flamboyant, punchy wit, brooding subtext and empathetic humour. Expect a charming dip into much-loved work from Murray’s recent hit anthology ‘How Freakin’ Zeitgeist Are You’

Murray came to prominence during the Brit Pop era of the mid 1990’s, when he became the first poet to sign a contract worth £1m with EMI. His work echoes the great rhymers Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Gilbert and Sullivan, along with more alternative influences such as Grandmaster Flash, Tom Waits and Ian Drury.

In addition to regular touring, recent summer festival appearances have included WOMAD, Henley, Latitude, Festival No 6, Cheltenham Festival of Literature, Cornbury, Edinburgh Festival and Glastonbury, where he returns to play the Poetry&Words stage this year. We found out from him what it’s like to be back.

Q&A with Murray Lachlan Young

What’s it like to be returning to Glastonbury for this year’s festival?

It’s always a great pleasure to return to The Pilton Pop Festival! 

So much of my adult life has been punctuated by visits to Worthy Farm. From wandering around as a twenty year old to finding myself at the centre of media attention, bringing a six week old baby, relationships beginning and ending and always freaky Glasto stuff happening with many lessons to learn. Some harder than others. 

Being a festival regular, what is it about Glastonbury that continues to draw you back?

Glastonbury feels like such a part of my life it feels impossible to miss it. 

You’ve played across various different stages at the festival – what can we expect from your Poetry&Words set this year?

I think I’m only one of only two poets to have played the main stage (the other being Heathcote Williams) but the poetry stage is always a very honest place to find oneself. It has really heavy sound-bleed from other stages, so keeping concentration and flow is of paramount importance. Last year a rap band on another stage was so loud that I had to perform to their beat as the only way of avoiding a potential car crash. It’s also great to see new performers being given the opportunity to add Glastonbury gig to their CV. This year I’ll do a version of my humorous Covid diary – with poems like – Jogging and Baking, Garden centre and The secret hairdresser. Beyond that I will try and add some new material to see how it goes down. 

Does playing to a festival audience change how you approach your performance?

Festival audiences vary – there are people specifically there to see a single performer, there are those spending an immersive period checking out a few hours of gigs and then people just wandering past. It’s easy to get caught up in the mental dynamic of this situation. The simple answer is to focus on what is directly in front of oneself. Anything else will lead to a loss of flow and a dropout of concentration. The real secret is adding joy and gratitude to the experience.  

Will you be checking out any of the other acts over the weekend and is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing?

To be honest I haven’t looked at the lineup. I tend to allow the whole thing to unfold in that magical Glastonbury way, stumbling across odd moments in offbeat situations. I rarely go near any of the big stages but this year I might make an exception for Elton John.

Murray Lachlan Young plays Poetry&Words on Friday 23 June at Glastonbury Festival.

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