A year ago York writer Steve Nash was nearly killed in a horror smash. This month he won a prestigious award. Here he tells the story of a remarkable year
The room smells of rain. I carefully transfer my pint and books from one quaking hand to the other as I attempt to covertly slip off my jacket. I fancy I look like Goblin King Bowie, gracefully sliding crystal balls around my person, though I know I more closely resemble a drunken bulldog.
Shortly I’ll be up on stage, trying to command everyone’s attention, but for now let me slip like smoke unnoticed among my fellow revellers.
I’m sat in the Eagle Inn’s hidden back room for a guest slot at Evidently Salford, a monthly spoken word event nurtured into prominence by Ella Gainsborough and Kieren King, and I’m nervous.
I’ve always suffered from nerves, but oddly enough I’ve also always felt more comfortable up on stage than within groups of people, friends or otherwise.
Tonight’s different though.
Tonight is my first performance since being shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer 2014, and the truth is any one of a number of the people in my direct vicinity here in Salford may well deserve a spot on the five-poet shortlist more than I do.
My mind flicks back over what has possibly been the upsiest and downsiest 12 months of my wee life, the bizarre white-knuckler that led me to here.
A little over a year ago (about a peanut as my old housemate used to say), thanks to the generous spirit of Stairwell Books in York, my first collection Taking The Long Way Home was launched on my birthday. I was staggered by the number of people who came to support the wee book and myself.
Naturally, not wanting to be insulating our lofts with copies of said tome for years to come, we had a master plan to sell my scribbles.
The plan basically (but in a super masterly planful kind of way) entailed doing as many performances and festivals as I could possibly squeeze my Churchill Dog-alike face into (oh yes!).
But, as Burns tells us, “the best laid schemes of chubby-faced men, gang aft agley” (or something like that).
Sadly, a little more than a year ago, a car-shaped spanner was hurled into the works of our cunning plan to take over the world one little lit fest at a time.
A reckless driver (feel free to insert your own more fitting description of the young scallywag here) collided with a car carrying myself and three friends. This occurred on the appropriately named Skull & Crossbones Bridge.
The driver had taken a corner at a wildly excessive speed (think George Michael spotting a SnappySnaps) bringing him into oncoming traffic.
Due to his speed, he was unable to pull back into the correct lane in time, and he hit our humble little Micra (car gods rest her soul) head on.
I remember flashes of what happened next, and I’m still not sure which parts were real. I remember screams. I don’t know if they were coming from me, or other people, or all of us.
I remember lying on the Tarmac. I was alone. Did that mean I got myself out of the wreckage? I don’t know.
I remember seeing my friend Rob (Pilmore – sterling singer songwriter from Chesterfield, you should check him out) cradling a bloody mass where his fingers should have been.
I remember paramedics. I remember phrases: “punctured lung”, “he’s going”, “head trauma”, “doesn’t sound good”, “Is it Steve?”, “Steve, you must stay awake”, “we need to take you first, now!”
Then I remember morphine, and from there not much until I woke up whilst being X-rayed, blinded by oppressively violent light.
The road back
We were lucky. A chest full of broken bones and a fractured eye socket led to an unpleasant few months sure, but we all walked (eventually) away from a crash that wrote-off two vehicles.
We may all still be in the midst of our respective recoveries, and attending physio, but we’ll get there, and even Rob is back playing guitar again.
As soon as my health would allow, I got back to performing, sometimes with guitar, sometimes without, and despite the months spent hidden away nursing my gnarled ribs, the book sold out its first print run (thanks in no small part to some very favourable reviews).
The second printing is slowly ticking down now, but really it’s the performances that I look forward to the most.
Poetry, to me, is a reciprocal thing, and it needs its reader or listener to feel complete. Otherwise it’s just a message in a bottle, unopened and of no use to the shipwrecked individual who cast it forth into the waves.
I suppose that’s one of the reasons that the Saboteur Awards nomination gave me such a frisson of pride.
To be on a shortlist with poets who are genuinely considered to be some of the finest spoken word performers around was surreal, to win it even more so.
Kieren welcomes me to the stage. The ever-welcoming Evidently Salford crowd cheer and applaud (with the enthusiasm only an audience who haven’t had to suffer a certain poem of mine called Hutch an inordinate number of times can manage).
It’s time to pay back the kindness and belief of anyone who nominated me…
- Steve Nash is a York writer, poet, performer and lecturer at York St John University
- Find him on Facebook here