Monday, 30 November 2009

Why Should Spoken/Written Charge?

Why should anyone pay for Spoken/Written? Because of all the lateral searches the Editor does on your behalf. Hours spent trawling through newsletters that most people give up on as junk mail or spam, looking for the nugget that’s an opportunity. Combination word searches in dozens of different mixtures through Google to get what can be found out there on the vast and ever-expanding web. Going through huge websites with a fine tooth comb seeking the news that’s of relevance to the South West or writers of this or that genre. Choice zines from the plethora of stuff. As many competitions that are free or via e-mail as can be found so you can enter them with maximum speed, minimum hassle. Trawling through what gets sent in and then standardizing its format. Keeping pace with an inbox where you can hardly keep up with where to put e-mails in folders so they're where you need when you want them...hoping you neither miss something vital for the Bulletin, nor other work coming in. Checking entries for dead links or dodgy small print. The work that I would have liked to do for myself if I had the time. Except that I don’t. And neither do you. Which is why the Editor has to be paid. And why if you value what makes this service different, I’m requesting you send some money. Being Editor, it’s amazing how many times I think – I must chase that up – and then with time so tight, and the last edition out of the way, rarely do. Efficiency is what some people know me for, yet when trying to go for five things from a couple of editions, early in the year, an application to one was found all filled in, stamped, unposted, too late. Another arrived five hours after the deadline to be rejected. I looked up editions from this time last year to check whether some event was still running in December – couldn’t believe the things I hadn’t gone for in it. There’s never time. And with Spoken/Written taking up a third of all working time in a year, and the last six months yielding half the amount in sub fees etc. that four days workshops work brought in…That’s not something the Editor – however much I care about this service – can afford to keep up much longer unless MORE PEOPLE PAY SUB FEES. At;

I hope this explains the position of Spoken/Written a little better. Massive thanks again to all those who have contributed, you are high in Spoken/Written and its Editor's esteem. Bless you all.

Spoken/Written Bulletin S.W.

Four days after the 50 page proposal and form and supporting material were sent off...they came back. The application was ineligible, due to having downloaded a dead link from the website. Mercifully, they had sent a new application back in with the package. So that was all of Thursday. Taking the opportunity to put in a word about something I'd forgotten (the whole Spoken/Written network is surprisingly complex, once sitting down to write a proposal for what is essentially a service that can be summed up in a few words) - an important 'partnership' aspect. And some potentially critical feedback, that I'd not put in the right folder, and then remembered once the package was posted. So while Thursday was gone (mostly filling in a 40 page A5 form rather than the 25 page A4 one), and Friday morning, by Friday lunchtime it was a better application than it had been. And I thought that was the end of it for now. But that meant being really behind with the next Edition, which I'd hoped to get off by Friday. Sunday or Monday were the very last days, and with The Vibe coming up time to make anything new to sell. And then writing the Endpaper - what to say about the position of Spoken/Written? It's so complex, and could end up in so many different avenues. I am (perhaps stupidly) still committed to trying to carry it on somehow. It could carry on as it is, for which it needs money. It could carry on as two or three newsletters covering all the arts (like the old Arts Council newsletters) for which it would need R&D time. It could become a paying only service - but then some of the levelling aspect that many so value in the Bulletin would be lost. (Although six to eight pounds for a year is still not prohibitive to the majority of people). It could remain free, but become part of another organization, - thereby losing its independence. It could ask people to pay, not enough pay, and thereby as in duty bound, carry on a service for those who have paid or contributed until summer, and then fold... It could become more commercial taking a deal more advertising but losing some space for opportunities. And who knows which of these are actually possible avenues, until they are tried? Hence the outcome being still clouded in uncertainty.
One thing is clear. I as its Editor have a love/hate relationship with the Bulletin. It both allows me time to do the other things I need to do and is closely allied to my main branch of the arts. But it also stops me doing things I need to do, and obviously as things stand, does not bring enough return...But ultimately its future is not up to me alone, nor to the Arts Council, but to its readers...
I don't know why it was so strangely hard to finish this last Edition of the season.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Check out The Vibe!

The last show of the season...? Followed by a mad dash to put together a 50 page case for six months of funding for Spoken/Written, which has just been sent off this morning...but rather than catching my breath, it's time to refresh one's knowledge of Dark Age Anglo-Saxon poetry, specifically that of the Exeter Book, for an interview tomorrow with BBC Radio Devon, then as soon as that's done, the last Edition of the year has got to be off by the end of the month, i.e. preferably the end of the week, and it's preparing new posters with the edition of the second cover and latest reviews for a stall at The Vibe Extravaganza on Monday the 30th of November - where I'll be having Spoken/Written stuff, Porlock the Warlock novels, The Books of...Trilogy of serial poem chapbooks, and craft stuff like Viking braids, willow wreaths, and anything else I and fellow Collective member / storyteller Deor can make in the meantime! Not to mention rehearsing as we're performing there too, and after that it's more cutting local willow and dogwood as yesterday we got a booking for Evergreen craft and storytelling workshop-sessions for people with mental health issues at CCANW in December! Meanwhile, just as I'm reciting 'The Ruin' (beautiful ancient poem) and glancing at history notes, while trying to work on the next Edition, an e-mail arrives from a festival interested in the 'Porlock the Warlock' show, (talk/storytelling/workshop event for the adventure novel - see the website if interested, links to the right or click the 'Porlock' cover) for next year, with a host of questions to be answered about venues etc.!
Time to write a second Porlock or time off? Not any time soon. Time to make cards will be tough enough! How busy can you be?

Do come along to The Vibe Extravaganza at the Picture House on Bartholomew St. West in Exeter - it should be good fun! The Vibe is a networking group of artists from every and any discipline which usually meets once a month at the Picture House in the Cafe Bar, with the aim of hearing news, working on projects, and putting on regular mixed arts showcases, of which this is the first. It features stalls selling affordable art, books, CDs and crafts for Christmas - including popular artist Brenda Lambert's jewellery and cards, and yours truly's books and stuff! Free gifts for anyone who buys a book (or pays more than six pounds for a sub fee!) There'll be various kinds of music, storytelling by Widsith & Deor Storytelling Theatre, performance poetry, acting - allsorts! It starts at 7pm, and goes on till 11pm. The Picture House Cafe Bar serves a great range of cocktails, beers, wines, juices, coffees, teas, hot chocolate, cakes, sometimes pies...all in a chilled venue with a great ambience, sofas, and regularly changing art exhibition on the walls. (All this and an arts cinema just underneath!) And it's free entry!
(And hey, it all stops me having time to worry about the proposal and form!)

Check out; The Vibe at;
Picture House at;
Brenda Lambert's Art at;

Friday, 6 November 2009

Halloween Play Day

The Halloween show is over, as is the Play Day at Beaminster, another edition, and a whirl of other things making up one of the most hectic weeks of the year. The weather was good at the Play Day, and after we put up the Pavilion, people started arriving. Collection of all the willow and materials and leaves from the vans had to be done at once, and the interior set up. I hung up the leaf mobiles I'd painstakingly made (having got the idea from something Sonia of the Collective made ages ago) and started making a headdress. Over the other side, my fellow storyteller and maker of many craft objects showed people how to weave themselves a crown and decorate it with Autumn harvest. In no time the place was filled with boys looking like woodland creatures, girls like faery folk, and even some adults looking like a picture of carnival! Others wanted to make pumpkin wigs, many wanted to combine the two, giving themselves crowns with trains or veils. A few opted to make the leaf mobiles, as they were rather more complex. One small child did really well, and made one mostly by themselves, tying the string onto the leaf stalks rather than piercing the leaves, but I judged it was much better for them to do more and do it their own way than have someone else do it for them. Another older child merely needed to be shown how to do it, and then did everything themselves, even getting the leaves balanced and at different heights, only needing a little help with the hanging string. Couldn't have been done quicker by an adult. Another participant was a lad with either learning or socialization difficulties attended by a carer. After working out together that he wished to make a mobile, I tied the string around the top but then encouraged him to choose the leaves himself. He chose the first by accepting or rejecting leaves shown to him, but then was choosing them properly, clapping with the fun of it. I asked him what length each should be, and then the attaching of the leaves - the really fiddly bit - I asked him if he'd like to do? and showed him how and then he did all the rest himself. It all took some time, but he made a fine-looking mobile, all perfectly balanced, and was so proud of it - as I was proud too, if one can be proud of an action or an event or even someone one doesn't know. It was an amazing moment, seeing him walk away with the completed artifact, and one I don't think I'm likely to forget. Someone said they saw him later looking at leaves, considering, as if he would make others in the days to come. It was a rewarding day, and (while I missed getting pictures of all those wonderful crowns because I was too busy showing people how to make things, or being surrounded by fabric) it was strangely special. The wings and swords in the second half went down a storm as always, and Deor did some fantastic storytelling - despite having a cough! with bodymasks, to much appreciation. Another good moment toward the end of the day was seeing one of the grown ups swanning out of the pavilion wearing a crown, trailing a train, with wings, and an armful of withies tied as a Christmas decoration...
The organizers were delighted and told us so. Apparently their screensaver is the Collective's Pavilion - with one of the organizers standing outside it wearing wings, arms outstretched! and she wanted a bundle of wings for a forthcoming party, so Wayne obliged. People have them over their beds as well! (It has to be said, I've seen some really beautifully decorated ones, the imagination can really run riot during a workshop! when I thought about it.) I hadn't had time to set up a book stall, and had also wondered whether many of the participants might be of too early a reading age, but then the organizers all bought copies once the book and other workshops we offer came up in conversation at the end of the day! And then we took down the pavilion, cleared up the debris, took pictures of the remaining leaves, like paint on the green grass canvas, and then met up at a pub in Bridport with another Collective member, having a laugh and debriefing before coming back to HQ, where Wayne requested the pavilion be stored over the winter. Much shifting of stuff later, it was done.
This job is full of surprises and new skills. Despite having to be in a 'craft head' instead of a 'storytelling head' (new material/lots of props etc.) three days before the show! which I found hard (not having been a craftsperson long! and having to concentrate, with my head full of newsletter admin and rehearsals) it was really worthwhile. And still so strange to be one of those who make things that people (adults) came in saying - 'that's lovely!' and 'oh that looks too difficult for me'. I longed to coax them into making one themselves, but many were mainly there to oversee their children making something, and so wouldn't have a go. Something I made or 'designed' drawing praise? Being coveted even? Once being an 'oh how complex! I couldn't make that' person, it's so good to be on 'the other side' - one of those who make.
After a misty start (that part of Dorset is always misty!) the day turned fine by the end, and the sun set the leaves on the trees on fire, and I too saw those leaves in a different light, as I think all those who came to the workshops did, by the end of the day...
Huge thanks again to Carol, Anne and Sarah of Playplus for having us yet again, and to all the participants who made such great stuff!