Les Barker

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Les Barker
Les Barker at the 2010 Ely Festival
Barker at the 2010 Ely Folk Festival
Born (1947-01-30) 30 January 1947 (age 70)
Manchester, England
Occupation Poet and performer
Nationality English
Genre Parody

Les Barker (born 30 January 1947) is an English poet. He is best known for his comedic poetry and parodies of popular songs, but he has also produced some very serious thought-provoking written work.[1]

Originally from Manchester he trained in accountancy before his talent for the written word was discovered. Initially he toured around folk music venues as a solo performer, and later with The Mrs Ackroyd Band (named after his mongrel dog Mrs Ackroyd.) Les is not a singer and the Mrs Ackroyd Band with classically trained vocalists Hilary Spencer and Alison Younger, with keyboard player Chris Harvey have enabled Les's parodies to be performed live to enthusiastic response.

As well as touring Britain he has also performed in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada.

Poems, parodies and monologues[edit]

He has published 77 books to date and has released (either as a solo performer or with his band) 20 albums. His books typically feature a mixture of monologues and comic songs, with a few serious songs. The monologues tip the hat to Marriott Edgar, who wrote many of the monologues performed by Stanley Holloway. Like Edgar, Barker has created several recurring characters and themes, including Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower, Captain Indecisive, The Far off Land of Dyslexia and Spot of the Antarctic. All of these have become trademarks of Barker's work. Both his funny and more serious songs have become standards for other singers such as Waterson–Carthy and June Tabor.

He is also remarkable as being one of the few writers (alongside Stephen Sondheim, with his hilarious parody The Boy From..., co-authored with Mary Rogers) to get the Welsh place named Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantisiliogogogoch into a song successfully (it forms the main chorus of a song of the same name, and is sung four times). Les has now taken up residence in Wales and is fully proficient in that language, producing two books of poetry written in the Welsh tongue.

He has remained firmly rooted in the circuit of folk clubs and festivals where he has a devoted following. Many other folk-poets and comedy writers like Mike Harding, Jasper Carrott, Billy Connolly and Max Boyce have moved into a mass media market, but Les Barker remains one among a few remaining comedy acts that still continue to work the folk circuit. Bernard Wrigley and Keith Donnelly are other examples and Les has recently performed as part of a double act with the latter under the name "Idiot and Friend".

Guide Cats for the Blind[edit]

He also wrote a poem called "Guide Cats for the Blind" which led to an unexpected development. The poem was heard by Clive Lever, a keyboard player and comedy songwriter from Maidstone, who is involved in an organisation called the "British Computer Association of the Blind" (BCAB). The Association runs a program called EyeT4all, which aims to make computers accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Clive got in touch with Les, who agreed to the poem being used as the title track of a double fundraising CD . Les also agreed to the recording of a series of albums, in which his poems and songs would be recorded by artists from the folk world, but also by well known celebrities from the entertainment and theatrical world. Presenters from all five BBC Radio stations featured on the albums and so far between £40,000 and £50,000 has been raised.[2]

So far five "Guide Cats" albums have been produced, "Guide Cats for the Blind", "Missing Persians File", "Top Cat, White Tie and Tails", "Cat Nav", and "Herding Cats". The CDs contain performances of Les's poems by members of the folk world like June Tabor, Martin Carthy, Steve Tilston, Mike Harding and Tom Paxton and well known figures like Jimmy Young, Nicholas Parsons, Brian Perkins, Terry Wogan, Nicky Campbell, Robert Lindsay, Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs.

Recent developments and Poet Laureate campaign[edit]

Shortly after a heart failure in January 2008, Barker began solo gigging again.[3]

He has also, since taking up residence in Wales, become fluent in the Welsh language. In 2008 he was awarded the NIACE Inspire Award as Welsh Learner of the Year,[4] and recited his poem "Have you Got Any News of the Iceberg?" in Welsh at the presentation in Swansea.

In 2009, a campaign by his folk fanbase sought to have him chosen as the British Poet Laureate.[5]


  • Airedale
  • Alexander Greyhound Bell
  • Alsatians to Crewe
  • Bark Odes
  • Bark to Front
  • The Beagle has Landed
  • Beagles, Bangles and Beads
  • Beyond Our Cairn
  • The Boogie Woogie Beagle Boy from Company B
  • Borzoi Ballet
  • The Borzoi's Back in Town
  • The Boxer Rebellion
  • Break the Mole
  • Collieflowers
  • Corgasm
  • Corgi and Bess
  • Dachshunds With Erections Can't Climb Stairs
  • Dog Byte
  • Dog Ends
  • Dog Gone
  • Dog Only Nose
  • Doggerel
  • The English Book of Penguin Folk Songs
  • Extra Terrierestrial
  • Fetlar
  • Get a Dog and Barker Yourself
  • The Green Eye of the Little Yellow Dog
  • Her Master's Book
  • The Hound of Music
  • The Hound of the Basketballs
  • I Camel, I Saw, I Conker
  • I Hear the Sound of Distant Plums
  • Illegal Annual
  • Irritable Bow-Wow Syndrome
  • Jack Spaniel's
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Labrador Rigby
  • Lady & the Trampoline
  • Llandrindod and One Dalmatians
  • The Mabidogion
  • Man and Doberman
  • Mastiff Central
  • Medlock Delta Blues
  • Morocco and Things
  • Mrs. Ack Royd's Again
  • Mrs. Ackroyd's Diary
  • O Camel Ye Faithful
  • The Official Retriever
  • Paws for Thought
  • Pekinese Up Mother Brown
  • Pup Yours
  • A Quite Short Goat and a Pink Dalmatian
  • Red Setters in the Sunset
  • Reign of Terrier
  • Rover the Hills and Far Away
  • Rover the Rainbow
  • Roverdance: The Poems
  • Royders of the Lost Ack
  • Sitting With My Dog on Display
  • Something to Sniff At
  • Songs for Swingin' Tails
  • Spaniel in the Lion's Den
  • Spencer's Dog Rover
  • The First Mutt is the Cheapest
  • The Stones of Callanish
  • The Collar Purple
  • The Ridgeback of Notre Dame
  • A Tail of Two Setters
  • Upper Cruft
  • Vincent Van Dogh
  • Viva a Spaniel
  • Vodabone
  • Waiting for Dogot
  • Werneth Willie Ackroyd
  • Wolfhound Amadeus Mozart
  • 101 Damnatians


  • A Cardi and Bloke
  • Airs of the Dog
  • An Infinite Number of Occasional Tables
  • Arovertherapy
  • Dark Side of the Mongrel
  • Dog 017 Yelp!
  • Dogologues
  • Earwigo
  • Gnus & Roses
  • Guide Cats for the Blind
  • The Mrs. Ackroyd Rock'n'Roll Show
  • Mrs. Ackroyd: Superstar!
  • Oranges & Lemmings
  • Probably the Best Album Ever Made by Anybody in Our Street
  • Some Love
  • The Missing Persians File
  • The Stones of Callanish
  • The War on Terrier
  • Top Cat, White Tie and Tails
  • Tubular Dogs
  • Twilight of the Dogs
  • Up the Creek without a Poodle
  • The Wings of Butterflies
  • Yelp!


External links[edit]