Friday, 10 December 2010

Widsith and Deor Present...

A good Christmas radio show (less errrr....s) as of course the topic was much more straightforward than abstraction! which was last show's theme). Deor did brilliant and moving versions of Hild, Queen of the Elves - an old Icelandic folktale set at Christmas, and Dicken's 'The Chimes'. The latter is one of those social comment / searing indictments that unfortunately don't date, as news and social policy cycles come round again! So he did it as an excellent then/now part contemporary interpretation, with all Dicken's critique of his own time and its latterday parallels. It's a less well known Dickens' Christmas story than 'A Christmas Carol', but it always has me sniffing into a hanky! We played some wonderful Medieval music, including salterellos, ancient and modern, and also an artist recently featured on Radio 3 - the amazing Cecilia Bartoli, who amongst other projects has released an album of C18th Baroque castrati music called 'Sacrificium', as she sings their roles! Girl sings boy in pretending-to-be-girl roles... Her voice is superb and her projects both historical and sensational as well as seriously worthwhile, bringing neglected music out from under the floorboards and breathing life into it.
   I read/live edited/slightly extemporized a story of mine with a folktale structure called 'Coppelia' which I once told at the Storyclub as a folk story, and hence set it in winter, which seemed to work, so told that variant. Lastly, I read half of Michael Alexander's translation of the extraordinary Anglo-Saxon poem 'Dream of the Rood' from the point of view of the Cross which bore Christ, which also seemed appropriate for a Christmas special. We talked a bit about the history of Christmas / winter festivals, and how even before Christianity, evergreens, lots of food, drink, fire and lights were a common feature, and all in all, I felt it went more smoothly than some, (despite taking over from 'Myriad' the automated system, on arriving, and the lights being so dim it was hard to read!). It's been uploaded to YouTube and is available to 'listen again' at the 'Widsith and Deor Present...' google site (links to the right) for anyone who missed it and would like a listen.

To hear samples of Cecilia Bartoli, see video, order music, etc., check out;
http://www.ceciliabartolionline.com/cms/homepage.html

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Poetry at the Blue Walnut

Last night was Poetry Island night at the Blue Walnut Cafe hosted by storyteller and performance poet Chris Brooks and with Matt Harvey as headline, support from Liv Torc and a host of poets from the Exeter, Torquay and surrounding scenes including Clive Pig, Jon Freeman, James Turner, and Tim King from Taking the Mic. The cafe was packed, and cold as it was outside (it was sleeting at one point), the venue got so hot, that windows had to be opened! Everyone was on flying form, although it was hard not be biased in the view that the Taking the Mic crew were really pulling out the stops (although I'm sure poetry isn't really like having football teams...?!). James' poem about God and the Devil, Clive's singing, Jon's love poem and Tim King's letter based Bob Cobbing style piece were all very memorable. Liv was just before Matt Harvey (there were two intervals as so many were performing), and mastered the space at once with her usual show-womanship, doing poems contrasting lust with love to great effect, before Matt Harvey did his set. - And really, however many times one hears some of his pieces, they just get better. He also broke into a hilarious comic 'true story' about Torquay vs. Totnes 'hooligans' which had the audience rolling in the aisles, and as well as doing many favourites, he did recent ones such as poems written for his residency at Wimbledon Tennis Championships, and as well as being funny, charming and full of a very humane empathy (suited to the creator of 'Empath Man'! his Radio 4 series from which he did a brilliant sketch), they were also clever with language and rhyme/rhythm/assonance and quietly subtle in the deeper points which many of them make.
   All in all it was a really good evening, Chris and his sidekick 'Clipboard' doing the honours, and getting everyone involved with the clapping for his 'The cow is the mother of the milk' opener which most of the audience knew or quickly picked up, and a wacky competition for the Poetry Island advent calendar - which involved everyone writing a preferably rhyming short sentence to fill the empty days, of the festive variety. Incredibly, my rather obvious spur-of-the-moment entry (sitting on the holly is an act of folly) drew the most laughs, and I won a kid's advent calendar from Poundland, plus some Belgian chocolates! I was startled (never having been one to win raffles etc.), but it certainly added some extra laughs and audience participation to the evening.
   It was an excellently put together evening, and I was interested in the contrasts and similarities between it and Taking the Mic...both having committed and energetic hosts, both having an emphasis on performance (rather than just read) poetry, having other acts (eg; comedy, music, etc.) and which are intended to be an evening's entertainment selling itself to people who want a good cheap night out rather than a writer's circle or poetry group/open mike for readers. But the Blue Walnut perhaps has a little more of an emphasis on comedy/comic poetry? Just an impression. It was certainly a big hit with the audience, and while there were poets there who I recognized as previous headliners etc., a lot of the audience seemed to be just that - audience rather than poets. And, just as with Taking the Mic, that's a really good sign of a night that really reaches out to people!
   The Blue Walnut itself as a venue is a charming cafe (if small when coping with larger audiences!) with a tiny nickleodeon cinema at the back with delightful vintage upholstered seating. They serve excellent fairtrade coffee ('Origins') complete with star shaped shortbread biscuits!

   Thanks to Chris for organizing it and putting everything together so well and making things go with such a bang, to Matt Harvey for a great performance, and to Liv and all the supporting poets too, for making up a high quality night of performance poetry. 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Namesakes

It's always good to check that titles to your books / chapbooks/ pamphlets / CDs / etc., either haven't been used yet, or alternatively, have been used for something else that they won't get mixed up with. 'The Book of Contentions' hasn't really any exact namesakes that I could find - but interestingly, there IS a monograph called (and in other editions just 'Strife between the') 'Al Maqrizi's Book of Contention and Strife concerning the relations between the Banu Umayya and the Banu Hashim' - now, whilst I know nothing about the latter two clans, it appears (from cursory Google research) that they are Islamic tribal peoples, AND that Al Maqrizi was an Egyptian scholar 1364-1442, and so seeing as 'The Book of Contentions' starting point was the Occupation of Iraq, that seems itself something of a serendipity.
   'The Book of Indictments' also has some interesting connections - again, there isn't (so far as I've found) an exact match, but what there is is fascinating - 'Officium clerici pacis: a book of indcitments, informations, inquisitions and appeals...with large additions of modern indictments' !!! about which it says; 'The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. Now for the first time these high-quality digital copies of original 18th century manuscripts are available in print, making them highly accessible to libraries, undergraduate students, and independent scholars. This collection reveals the history of English common law and Empire law in a vastly changing world of British expansion. Dominating the legal field is the Commentaries of the Law of England by Sir William Blackstone, which first appeared in 1765. Reference works such as almanacs and catalogues continue to educate us by revealing the day-to-day workings of society.' Fantastic! for a history fanatic, anyway. Plus, from 1618, more court records - 'PROCESS REGISTER BOOK OF INDICTMENTS. VOLUME. I. f. 122. James Scutts and George Richardson of St. Martin's-in-theFields for burglary; both at large.' Perfect!      
   For 'The Book of Offences', I made it into a feature, citing it on the back cover, the fact that the Swedish law codes were codified in the Code of 1734, divided into two parts - The Book of Offences, and The Book of Punishments! Absolutely classic. As it says in the back cover blurb; 'Not to be confused with the Swedish Book of Offences of 1734, and undoubtedly not its companion, The Book of Punishments...'

   Finally 'The Book of Convictions' also appears to have no exact namesake, the nearest being 'The Book of the Beliefs and Convictions' a phrase in a book of 'Medieval Jewish Philosophical Writings'. So, also historical, and not without a kind of resonance. 
   It was really interesting to find oneself trawling through places like the National Library of Australia online catalogue to find out about the texts with 'names like..' - I recommend it! 

The Book of Convictions

The fourth in The Books of...Trilogy / series is now out, 'The Book of Convictions', and it was odd how new pieces kept on getting themselves written, and then how another Book shaped itself out of the majority of them - themes emerging, following on from the previous Books, deepening and broadening the notions explored, in some cases. At last I managed to decide on a title (from the various options), and a cover image - another from the brilliant Banksy. 'The Book of Indictments' having the scissors cutting out a section of wall, 'The Book of Offences' having the famous barcode as gaol bars, and 'The Book of Convictions' having the wall built by the Israeli government in the West Bank with the image of an opening in the wall looking out onto palm trees etc..
   In a sense it is still a Trilogy, as 'The Book of Contentions' can easily act as Book Zero, as it's quite different in character to the other three. It certainly starts the ball rolling, but being 150 odd aphorisms all in sequence, it's a different kettle of fish to the others with their 'chapters' each often self-contained as poems. The project appears now to be ongoing! But then there is an awful lots of news...bad news, and stuff going on all the time... Like a satirical cartoon strip, it seems that there's no lack of material for such a series.
   There are plenty of other pieces, some pasted up as 'Indictments of the Month' on the Cartwheels Collective website, some that just didn't fit the feel of one of the Books, some I just don't like very much! Having to write about something, especially something unpleasant, doesn't automatically make one like a piece of work! Even if you think it has 'something to say'.
   But I think I'm pleased with how 'The Book of Convictions' hangs together...and it's rather a nice shade of green...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

More Radio Show Adventures

You turn up and the previous DJ/show host never turned up...but at least there is light in the studio this time! Albeit that of a bedside lamp mended with stripy safety tape...however, things generally seem to be working, and your co-presenter figures out how to switch off 'Myriad' the automated system, and you can begin! The show dealt with the idea of critique - i.e. those looks at or steps back from, the mainstream, the orthodoxy or dominant culture which often surface as satire, personal choice to 'make a difference', historical throw back or call on a historical event, figure, movement, period etc.,  and suchlike. As well as a chance to look this multi-faceted theme, and cue for some interesting discussion (and finding some great historical tracks!) it was an opportunity to showcase some Stand Up Philosophy and The Books of...Trilogy, from our respective solo shows. Deor performed the justification for a 'Just War' by Thomas Aquinas, complete with Tony Blair impersonation! and Kant's 'What is Enlightenment?' a splendidly ambiguous text - revolutionary or reactionary? And I performed work from 'The Book of Indictments', 'The  Book of Offences' and the latest in the 'trilogy', 'The Book of Convictions'.
   We felt it went well, and didn't have the terrible feedback in the headphones that thankfully, the person after us last time showed us how to switch off! But it was still despite no one turning up once it went 10 either! and so having to mix carrying on with impromptu performances while ringing numbers on the noticeboard to ask how to put the automated system back on again...to not leave silence! which was all rather stressful. At one point I just read from the posters - 'this is Phonic FM, 106.8 FM, Exeter's sound alternative - no adverts, no playlists...no training for the DJs...' afterwards I wished I hadn't! but one does strange things under stress...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Halloween Shows

Halloween is almost always a busy time for storytellers, and this one was no exception - we were booked to do some Halloween storytelling as part of the Halloween celebrations at the Sharpham Estate run by the Sharpham Trust near Totnes, which came hot on the heels of our Halloween Radio show on Phonic FM. For the latter, we had some wonderful classical music from the likes of Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, and Bach, haunting tales from Old Iceland and Devon, and fabulous classic poetry from Robert Frost, Ben Jonson, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Causeley, Harold Munro, John Masefield and others.
   For the former, we arrived at the Sharpham Estate in the afternoon after a beautiful journey over the Haldon Hills and south of the Moor, and found that the Estate in no way brought an end to the dazzling Autumnal experience - the views over the Dart Estuary, the woods in all their glory and many different vistas and plenty of visual interest greeted us. Volunteers came to collect us, and show us to the Quarry which is where the pizza oven and big fire, seating areas etc. were. We were led in through a door, and out past a very attractive vegetable garden, and then through winding paths with lovely views up into the forest, and finally round to the quarry, and then up to our changing space and prop storage venue - a dry warm yurt with sofas and LED lighting. The quarry space was welcoming with some delightfully carved pumpkins on the bar area - one with a huge smile, and another with a tree and bats silhouette, cobwebbing over wooden structures, and a powerful but subtle LED spotlight for our performance space, plus a ring of lanterns made by people earlier. We were brought pizza and tea, very kindly and once everything was ready, and most people had finished eating or queuing for food, we began - we didn't do our most frightening tales as some of the audience sitting around the campfire were rather too young, so as well as trademark tales 'Molly the Dauntless Girl' from Norfolk, and 'The Girl Who Gave a Knight a Kiss of Out Necessity' from Sweden, and the creepy but high energy 'Tipingee' from Haiti, we did the tale of the Chinoo - a Native American heart warming tale with an unusual twist, and (to suit the lantern making and procession) a Chinese New Year story. Everyone seemed to enjoy the set, with lots of applause and a good 'ahhh!' at the end of the Chinoo story. Organizers, volunteers and audience all thanked us afterwards and 'brilliant' 'wonderful' and 'awesome' were words that warmed our hearts. So despite having left the shoes I had been intending to perform in and so jumping about in the mud on an October evening, and getting lost once the lanterns were put out in the pitch dark wood in deep country with a maze of paths and only a couple of torches and starlight at one point! we felt it had been well worth it. We were also very fortunate with the weather - it had been raining and misting earlier, fine for walking, but not good for sitting about or costumes and masks, but it dried up to be a beautiful warm evening, and the paths were a little muddy but not bad at all. All in all it was a really good gig - the Sharpham Estate more than worth a visit - they do lots of courses and events, and the whole Halloween evening went with a swing. And it was all rounded off for us by a party at a friend's house in Dartington.
   Big thanks to Dani for booking us, to Jenny, Sarah and the rest of the volunteers for being so endlessly helpful, and to Jade for recommending us!

Check out; http://www.sharphamtrust.org/  

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Writing & Sound Workshops

Tired but glad to have seen the amazing Mid and North Devon countryside on the way there and back, we've just finished another set of sound and writing and storytelling by sound workshops for a Science of Sound Week at a school in Woolsery near Bideford. The workshops went well, although the age group which mine was aimed at didn't seem to get the hang of it as well as the last class with whom we hosted the workshop. However, for the soundscapes part, some participants did come up with some very poetic suggestions - sounds that reminded them of time travel, museum exhibits coming alive at night time, roundabouts moving by themselves at midnight, zombies emerging from the grounds of a haunted house, the stars twinkling, going cosmic in worlds dancing, and other striking visual images called up by the sounds. The maximum number of words collected was 85 - and mighty pleased with themselves that participant was! very justifiably. Deor's workshop was something of a triumph, as while tailored for younger pupils, it was not intended for those who could not yet read nor write! so when some six year olds came in, he had to think on his feet! But we found ways to help them along, and out of the groups creating sound tableaux, 'when dinosaurs roamed the earth' was an absolute winner! I had had no idea what they were going to try and recreate the sounds of, but guessed from the large creature noises followed by the chopping and cracking of bones as they ate small mammals! Also brilliant were the group that chose 'inside a volcano' - the rushing lava and explosions were just great. The other thing that probably impressed me most was the distinction between normal footsteps and the sound of footfalls on stairs!
   Both these workshops run risks - the noise based one that of descending into cacophony, if everyone starts making their own noise without regard to others, and/or gets sound confused too much with movement and so thinks that acting or movement will do just as well. The sound words one, always risks the participants using films, serials, videos and readymade imaginings instead of using their own inner eyes. But we each think that these risks are worth running, because - as well as managing to keep in check both the 'not listening to others becoming too obsessed with one's own noise' and the 'giving readymade visuals as examples without using one's own brains' phenomena - when participants do come up with incredibly clever and convincing sound tableaux or beautiful and unusual poem-sentences or descriptive fragments/quirky word suggestions, it's very rewarding, and you can see it expanding their conceptual base when it comes to new ways of looking at sound, whether for communication, paying attention to the world around them, or for literary, accuracy of terms and making better definitions to identify the world around them and the ideas which it evokes and inspires. So another successful day's work - and the trees on the way, all gold among the still deep greens, and blue washed sky with grey smear flying saucer clouds and a delicious bronzy gold antique old masters long low slanting light of sun, reminded me of nothing so much as our colours workshops...

Thanks to the Head teacher for finding us such an excellent speaker for the sounds, our workshop assistant and most of all to Yolande of Bideford College for booking us yet again.   

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Word Command at Epicentre Book Cafe

It was a really good night at the Word Command spoken word evening held at the Epicentre Book Cafe, hosted by Bryce Dumont. We were headlining, and so did something ambitious - i.e. tried to showcase a whole range of different genres and styles that we did. Well, when Bryce chose publicity images, he chose one of each! So we started off with storytelling, doing one of our trademark tales for an adult audience, with cloaks, helm, staff, tricorn hat etc., and then followed with a narrative poem of mine. For our second set, we mixed contemporary American fiction as monologue, Stand Up Philosophy and performance poetry. The Stand Up Philosopher doing Marx, followed by a new piece from the forthcoming 'Book of Convictions' (by me) then an early geometric poem (both referring obliquely to the pieces before and after - as the first Philosophy piece referred to Martin Luther, and the poem to Martin Luther King, and the second piece was from Spinoza, and so written as geometric proofs!). And finally condensed axioms from Ethics by the said Spinoza. Having started off with a contemporary American story (see a previous blog on 'Performing Contemporary American Fiction') performed by myself as a monologue, to begin with. So were showcasing; storytelling, stand up philosophy, monologue, and three types of poetry - narrative/monologue/confessional (though I don't exactly like that term, but it conveys something) speech style, satire/declamatory and literary/geometric. All performed, the last with movement as part of the poem. Several different 'heads' were involved! which I always find strangely difficult, but it paid off, they all went down well, and we got a lot of laughs for the storytelling and prose fiction, and many kind compliments. 'Beautiful', 'wonderful', 'fantastic' and 'brilliant' mainly, which made it feel definitely worth the effort!
   Also performing were the excellent Susan Taylor with a new collection concerning Pixies! Simon Williams being very witty, and the fluid Jennie Osborne with a mixture of compelling words and movement, among others. Bryce served hot soup, coffee and cakes, and the Epicentre Book Cafe is a lovely venue - full of books of course, knitted cakes (!), pictures, it's bright, airy and friendly. Bryce got everyone to contribute to a group sound poem, which once finished, he performed really well to both laughter and acclaim. Also tributes to poets whom he had admired and who had recently passed away.
   I had to buy a lovely travel journal with a cover of antique maps, and all in all it was a really good night.
   Huge thanks to Bryce, for inviting us and hosting the evening with such aplomb, and cooking for everyone! and to Susan, Simon and Jennie for being so good to perform with - long live the Epicentre Book Cafe! It deserves the rave reviews which its gathering.

Check out the website at;
http://www.epicentrebookcafe.org.uk/books.htm

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Second Radio Show

Corks! (as they say in old teen novels of the 1930's) I don't vouch for this morning's radio show, as it was one of 'those' experiences. We got into the building (thnakfully the doors were open), and entered the right code to get into the basement studio...but when we got into the space itself, half the lights were off, and the headphones I was going to use were dead, so I couldn't tell if any of what I said could be heard - or indeed if the show was coming out as static or silence! And there was no one there - just the automated system, called, I believe 'Myriad'. It was scary! Meanwhile, Deor the unflappable went ahead and figured out how to turn the latter off, and told me to begin, meanwhile not being able to get the CD player to work... I fought the desire to say aloud that I thought no one could hear, etc., etc., instead saying my lines abstractedly, and writing a note to say the headphones were down... The hour seemed LONG, without being able to break it up with music, and especially in the semi-dark and not knowing at all how it sounded (if audible at all). Of course you can sit and press buttons randomly, but without a manual or advice, the dangers of doing that...struck us as not worth it. The next DJ arrived at the dot of 10, just as we were wondering how to put 'Myriad' back into action, and he showed us at least the CD mistake, and commiserated about the headphones, before taking over, much to my relief.
   If it sounds a bit ragged therefore, the reason is that seven minutes being shown buttons by one person who wasn't expecting you during their show followed by five minutes refresher instructions by the person on just before you, doesn't equip one all that well if things have all been switched off, rather than taking over something already running!
   Oh well, you live and learn...and hopefully that will be one of the hardest shows we ever have to do - speaking non-stop for an hour while trying to figure out what's wrong!
   And we did still manage to discuss storytelling and tell some tales, do two more poems and another riddle from the C10th Exeter Book, Episode 2 of 'Porlock the Warlock', and John Masefield's 'Sea Fever' - so it can't be all bad!

Meter 10 at the Exeter Poetry Festival

A busy Saturday getting a Spoken/Written and CC Press stall together for the networking meeting held by Apples & Snakes and Cyprus Well as part of the Exeter Poetry Festival (the city's first). The evening went well, with lots of folks I knew there, and we were given a good BIG table for the stall, and covered it with signs, leaflets, books, chapbooks, sign up book, posters, laminated info sheets, past editions, information file to look through, cards to take away, Viking wristbands (free with each copy of the 'Porlock' novel), Widsith & Deor badges...! There were brief addresses from Rachel McCarthy of Excite (the country's biggest Poetry Society Poetry Stanza), Gina Sherman of Apples & Snakes S.W., and Tracey Guirey of Cyprus Well, and then people mingled. Subscribers who I knew came and said hello, poets signed up who'd not yet done so, some folks dug into their pockets and paid their subscription fees there and then! And it was lovely to meet some subscribers who I'd only known through e-mail beforehand. Met also some other really interesting people like the guy running the Waterstones stall, and the guest poet of the evening, the both riveting and utterly charming Dorothea Smartt, who did a compelling set with her lovely voice making sure you heard and paid attention to every word she said, to round off the event. I especially liked her line - (something like) 'denial is just a debt with interest that's yet to be paid' (on the issue of slavery/denying responsibility for past wrongs), and her powerful list of names/things to call someone - from son and father to dissident or rebel to criminal or slave, and so on. It was very evocative and telling.

   All in all, it was worth carting boxes and files of stuff on a Saturday evening into town, and I don't think it could really have gone better.
Special thanks to Alex and Gina for all their organizing and making it - and indeed the whole Festival! - go with such a swing.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Hectic End of the Season

Chaos! Trying to rehearse for a headline spot at Epicentre Book Cafe's spoken word evening Word Command next week, hosted by the cultured and intrepid Bryce Dumont, sorting out next week's radio show, the Storyclub tonight (which we'll be trying to record some of), preparing for the writing and sound workshops the week after next, trying to get the next Edition of Spoken/Written off by the end of the week, attending the Apples & Snakes / Cyprus Well hosted network meeting this weekend, and hosting Spoken/Written stalls before some of the evening events at the Exeter Poetry Festival this week and weekend...! Plus it happens to be the time of year when all the props and gear needs sorting out and mending after a full summer of hard use, and then of course the fact that the garden needs attention and things could be tidier in general having hardly been here until this last week and a half! All this and 'The Book of Convictions', the fourth in The Books of...Trilogy of serial poem chapbooks is being put together even as I type! When will I get a moment to e-mail the friend I most want to catch up with, finish making the Cabinet of Curiosities and continue with the other craft projects in hand? As for sitting in the garden to eat a meal - in this amazing late summery weather too! but there's just not the time... Writing more of 'The History of this House in Twenty Objects' will just have to be squeezed in at random stolen moments...isn't most writing?

II

This is the time of year when Majical Youth (theatre and production company who work at many festivals including organizing areas in the Kidz Field at Glastonbury, the craft area at the Beautiful Days, the Kid's Field at the Buddhafield Festival, stuff for Tewkesbury Medieval Festival, and others) invite all their crew and others who have worked with or for them over the season to come to their base in West Wales for a big party/small festival, which also involves renovating their kit from carnival stuff and costumes to craft gear and vehicles... What a great idea. I sometimes wish I could arrange the Collective to all come and spend a weekend at HQ doing the same! But as we're a rather smaller operation, guess who most of the clearing up and clearing out falls to? Yep....

III

But at least the storytelling van is now emptied and swept (ready for wood collecting duty and tip runs - if you share space with artists there's ALWAYS more stuff to throw away!), and most of the props are about where they should be or will live until needed...most of the craft gear sorted...still some of the fabric and leather to go...garden mostly cleared of random willow annoyingly lashing you as you try to get to the compost bin...most of the costumes put away, homes still needing to be found for the new things... And there's a pterodactyl covered in red wax standing outside waiting to be let in...(the less said about the goblin falling asleep against the wings of a green demon, the better...)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Phonic FM

Just when I wondered if I could be any busier (never wonder that!) I get persuaded into co-hosting a radio show on Phonic FM! Called 'Widsith & Deor Present', it will feature culture, arts, storytelling, poetry, history with local links, local food mentions, Medieval music / Early music, and maybe some philosophy as well. Plus any 'curios' we think might be interesting especially if connected to Devon and Exeter, and interviews with folks doing, researching or performing interesting things. Currently it also features episodes of the 'Porlock the Warlock' novel (by yours truly), but I think that's a bit crazy, just because of how long it would take to read it all in a fortnightly show! However.
This morning was our first show, and Dan the DJ before us very kindly ran through the controls with us (we had been shown once for about ten minutes by a kindly DJ from last week's morning show called Luke, previously, and that was it! You do get thrown in at the deep end), and then the clock struck 9 and it was time to begin! We had been guests on BBC Radio Devon before now, performing work from the C10th Exeter Book, (and once my own work), also Exeter FM, and been featured on previous Phonic shows 'Waves with Words' and 'Loudmouth', but never presented our own show before. It was quite scary, and we were glad to have run through/sorted out the topics to cover and pieces to feature/perform, as well as the songs, beforehand.
For music we played tracks from the amazing Daughters of Elvin, THE Medieval dance music and circus specialists, spoke about the Epic of Gilgamesh, Icelandic Sagas and Exeter Book, told a story from the Epic of Gilgamesh, and performed ancient poetry from the Exeter Book, Gilgamesh, Egilsaga and Elder Edda. As 'Porlock' is about how the Exeter Book received its three famous marks of damage in antiquity, and weaves its destiny with that of the Epic and features Vikings, we ended with Episode One of 'Porlock'. Pieces included the Song of the Sybil, The Ruin from the Exeter Book, and some of the Flood story, as well as a couple of the famous Exeter Book Riddles.
Other topics included the other hidden treasures in Exeter Cathedral Library, and seasonal food tips! Mercifully, it sounded alright through the headphones, and the music seemed to come on when it was meant to, and we managed not to say 'er' or 'like' or 'y'know' i.e. those stopgap phrases that are the mark of thinking what you're going to say next on radio in my experience! And it seems that the equipment set up to record it as podcasts also was working, so hopefully we will have a podcast archive or listen again feature for the show as well.
It's early days, and while 7.30 is my usual time to get up, and yet 6.45 seems to put me in a foul temper! and the weather and days aren't getting any lighter or warmer, still it felt worth doing - not least because, on getting back to the computer, an e-mail had arrived already from a listener who had tuned in by chance and was full of kind praise for both stories and music! And that was as unexpected as it was welcome.
So...the first show has been a success...whatever next? Well the next show on Wed. 13th Oct. I guess...

Dates of the shows;
http://www.phonic.fm/phonic-fm-schedule/wednesday/

'Widsith & Deor Present' show website with podcasts / listen again feature at;
https://sites.google.com/site/widsithdeorpresent/
(and yes I haven't had time to proof it as it was set up without me...but I will...)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Spoken/Written Bulletin S.W. - A Crossroads

I've said this before, but it was really hard to put together Edition 50 (although on the plus side, I always hoped Spoken/Written would make it to 50 editions). A testament to how hard it was, was how late it was. Mid way through the month, not just before it began. Still, it's done and been sent off. There really was no time before, and this week is the first time I've had longer than half an hour at the computer, i.e. was back at base.
It's a tough one. One of the inferences of recent conversations I've had is that no funding body wanted to duplicate services. And Cyprus Well was either going to be interested in taking Spoken/Written under its wing or not...turns out it wasn't. They have a blog and a calendar and these it seems may be intended to 'replace' Spoken/Written, as they have replaced the Literature S.W. website. They want to build a 'community' of S.W. writers/words folk, and so you can upload your news and events...rather than send them to something like Spoken/Written. Cyprus Well's brief then, seems to be that of a 'one stop shop'. But (thinks Spoken/Written) wasn't that meant to be what Literature S.W. was? and they still had Spoken/Written as their official bulletin. And there was always stuff they didn't cover on ArtsMatrix (never mind the myriad of other sources from global to national to local). Also - does that mean Literature Training is redundant for S.West words people? I doubt it! It's one of the country's key resources. And as for specialist stuff - well, it's early days for the Cyprus Well blog, but there's news that KEAP (Kernow Education Arts Partnership) has featured that it hasn't. There are it seems, too many artists, too much going on in an area the size of Denmark, and the scene is too fragmented for one single body to ever encompass, manage and cater for all of it. And what about the specialists like Critical Network or formerly The Place? None of this stuff has yet featured in a Cyprus Well newsflash.
What Spoken/Written offers is a convenient - I hope - digest, of global, national and local opportunities that are out there from the vast web and numerous newsletters, which could be of use to poets, writers and others in the S.West.
Moreover, what big organizations like Apples and Snakes, Cyprus Well, etc. feature are things that other - usually organizations - send them, or that they hear about in meetings. What Spoken/Written offers is original research. I.e., the reason you got turned down by the new S.West zine starting up was because it was featured on all the usual websites...the reason you got published in that cool Canadian zine was because Spoken/Written told you about it and you were one of only a handful of UK writers submitting, and they wanted a dash of internationalism....you get the picture? In a tough market with hundreds of writers fighting to gain any single space from any one of the dazzling array but still finite number of quality zines, anything that gives you information that everyone else doesn't have, is important. It's like the fact that it's only logical (if you actually want to win one, and weren't 'born lucky') that to win a competition, your chances are much better if you enter a lesser known one. And if you're a struggling writer, a free one at that. Spoken/Written looks at things from the artist's point of view. Whether you're a poet, performance poet, writer, novelist, storyteller, text artist, spoken word performer, short story writer, editor, zine editor, proof reader, writing tutor, writing scholar - because Spoken/Written's Editor has been or is still all of these things, so Spoken/Written has been there, got the badges, the t-shirts, the tattoos and the scars, and works for you with - the intention has always been - all the critical wariness and thoroughness that you would put in for yourself, if you had the time.

Hence I believe Spoken/Written still to be unique and to provide a service that no other regional service quite does. Believe indeed that it does or did deserve to be funded. And it certainly earns every penny of the subscriptions and donations that it has received. Please do donate at the link to the right, or e-mail thoughts you may have about the future of Spoken/Written or its value to; bulletin-editor@blueyonder.co.uk .

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Porlock the Warlock Show! at Porlock Arts Festival


Back on Monday, unloading the stuff from the Bunkfest shows, and a huge amount of things people had given us, inexplicably, from a new performance cloak to a pack of card for the printer, and a heap of other stuff, to then frantically design a programme (which normally would have been done in good time, but there just hasn't been any!), and marshalling a whole other set of props and a big book stall for an indoor performance, plus getting together stuff for a workshop that we hadn't done for months, catching up on a bit of admin, a desperate attempt to stop the prop store and craft studio devolving into absolute chaos (I'm usually or rather was - very organized, and like knowing where things are...but have been so busy this summer that it's descended into - where is that again? and hunting for lost things...) answering e-mails for fresh bookings for both performances and workshops, and then it was off again on Friday. To Porlock, for the Porlock Arts Festival, where we were doing none other than the Porlock the Warlock Show! Plus a Name the Colour Workshop at St. Dubricius School in the afternoon before the two shows.
We arrived having packed the van (for what seemed like the nth time) and hunted about, but soon found the school. We bolted down some lunch, and went in and delivered the workshop. Strange to do so without Yolande - the Primary Science Co-ordinator for N.Devon schools, and a really good egg, introducing us and making us feel at home, but the school was lovely - small and homely with a really fun garden full of interest and flowers like a large hurdle cone and various levels.
Then we went to have a look round Porlock - and one always finds something new of interest - last time it was the delightful garden behind the information centre, full of public art like an upturned boat sculpture fountain, ship shaped weather vane (no pun intended), fan cut stairs, fancy dovecote, swirly pebble paving, armillary sundial and riot of split level flower beds, followed behind by a lush grassy space peppered with shady trees, including apple and pear - in which the Poetry Picnic was held, by the avant garde poet and tireless poetry champion Tilla Brading. This time it was the Dovery Manor Museum where we were performing, and its glorious herb garden with willow bee hives, staircases and a bridge that led back into the upper floor of the small and very atmospheric and idiosyncratic C15th building that was the Museum. One could hardly have asked for a more charming venue - wood panelling, gothic cut windows, a steep stone spiral stair, lovely old furniture including a delicious old oval table for the book stall/signings, and a fireplace with a pink flame as part of our backdrop! The curator made us tea, coffee and gave us biscuits, and some people had kindly cleared out the Solar as our performance space earlier in the day. David of the Festival Committee met us and kindly helped us set up, and showed us what choices were to be had in lighting. All in all, they were both a tremendous help and support, and at 6, the first show was ready to begin. It had been a beautiful sunny day, with mist that gave a fine rain that was only really mist and for which one didn't need a coat, just creating a rainbow, and then clearing up for a fine golden evening. The venue was almost full, and the first show went very well, and afterwards I dashed down the stairs to take up position and sell and sign books.
The historic space looked even lovelier in the fading light, and our props seemed to blend in completely - the dagger with the axe on the wall, the trefoil wooden chest with the trefoil window frames, cloak and staff, drum and crystal ball, drinking horns and sheepskins in keeping with the old oak and stone, vaulted ceiling and iron clad doors. Hearing people tell Deor how much they'd enjoyed the show and selling Porlock books is always good, and fortified by these, after everyone had gone I ate as much as I could and drank copious amounts of water, needing energy for the next show at 8pm - just forty minutes later!
The second show was slightly less full, but still with an attentive audience who applauded warmly at the end, and we got much kind praise for our efforts, and had pulled out a stop - serving Anglo-Saxon sweetmeats and Persian stuffed dates, and showered the audience with confetti as well as everything else! David was pleased, and we all packed up, the curator made me some more tea (although she must have been longing to get home!) and after many more thanks and goodbyes, finally everything was gone from the Solar and the Museum kitchen and entrance hall, and we made our way back to base...returning, exhausted and worn out at midnight. Workshops in schools are usually enough to take the stuffing out of me! But followed by not one, but two shows...!

However, the Dovery Manor Museum and Porlock Festival were worth it - and there was a nice feel to the place at it put on its festival colours and frills - posters on railings everywhere (including for ourselves!), and their cheerful purple signs. Porlock itself is worth visiting at any time, with its attractions and shops - including selling almond croissants in the corner shop! HUGE thanks to David and the Festival Committee for having us, to the Curator for all her kindness and patience with us invading her lovely museum for an evening, and to Chris Blazey of St. Dubricius School. And as ever, to all those who bought books, we hope you enjoy them!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Bunkfest


Next came a whirlwind of museums - the British Museum just before the Poetry Cafe, then the Ashmolean Musuem, and History of Science Museum in Oxford, and some van hassles (mysterious leaks, driving round like a headless chicken trying to find a friendly garage, etc.! the usual shoestring stress), and then our performance at the Bunkfest in Oxfordshire. The Bunkfest is a really charming three day festival with an unusual mixture of big rock festival quality stalls and food and hordes of folks, (and of course lots of music), contrasted with a town festival - with events happening in parks, pubs, the main square road-blocked and given over to entertainment surrounded by stalls and peopled with happy pedestrians - and the social mix was almost greater than at some much bigger festivals, because representatives of every community in the town turned up seemingly as well as a heap of visitors, so there was a real community feel to it too. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the weather was lovely. As soon as we walked along the Saxon walls - very wonderful they are too, and hidden by trees and hedges around the perimeter of the park - we saw marquees and some of the usual suspects at festivals with banners flying in the breeze below, and went down into the fray. The stalls were of extremely high quality (so much so that I had to break a resolution not to buy anything!), and the atmosphere buzzy - we checked in, and were given our wristbands and welcome packs and free programmes, and then into the town centre and square where dark Morris dancers were being dramatic, followed by a splendid African dance and singing and drumming group called Zulu - there was a wonderful continuity between the two acts, and it seemed to me that different countries in far flung continents had come up with remarkably similar ways of expressing celebration and ritual. The stalls were some of the best food/farmer's markets I'd seen all summer, and the almond croissants were not to be missed! to say nothing of the goat's cheese, olives, and other treats. There were antique and vintage junk stalls too, and all in all it was surprisingly hard to tear oneself away to gather the props and set up in the venue.
The courtyard of the George Hotel was a delightful space to perform in, and we shared the three hour performance time with Tim O' The Oak, surrounded by black wicker sofas and chairs with deep white cushions (reminiscent of French cafes) and smoked glass tables. Each set went really well, and our audiences were attentive and rewarding, joining in or cheering at the right places, and Tim bought us drinks very kindly. We were sorry to leave, but had to be off back to Devon to prepare for the Porlock Festival. It's hard to pin down why the Bunkfest was so special - perhaps its mixture of everyone coming out to have fun, serendipity for those not expecting it, large number of free events and generally taking over the town yet being a 'proper festival' was hard to beat, and I was surprised how much fun one could pack into a single day.
BIG thanks to Dave for booking us, the whole Bunkfest team for putting on such a great show, Tim O' The Oak for being so good to share a venue with, and telling such verve filled tales, and the staff at the George Hotel for being so accommodating, and our lovely audiences!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Poetry Cafe

Without stopping to catch breath it seemed, it was off immediately after the 'Activity Report Form' to the Arts Council was finished and sent, to London catch up with various folks and do slots at the Poetry Society's Poetry Cafe night in Covent Garden, 'Poetry Unplugged' hosted by Niall O'Sullivan. Neither I nor the Stand Up Philosopher had been before, nor our friend who lectures in Politics at Royal Holloway and lives in Soho either. The place was packed and it was a warm August night, so rather steamy as well in the basement below the Cafe where the event takes place. We were glad to have signed up not long after 6, as at 7.20 we were lucky to get seats, as latecomers were standing in front of doors. 35 poets had signed up to deliver work, so the usual five minutes had to be cut. The quality of work was pretty high, and the styles diverse - from the literary to the comic, free verse to rhyming, moving and quirky, some slightly intellectual. The poet who ended the first half (a host of another London night) a physical poet too, although I was behind so many people I could hardly see the 'stage' most of the time!
The Stand Up Philosopher went down really well - people coming up to him afterwards to say things like 'the star turn of the night', 'you should have an agent', and 'incredible intensity' - which was excellent. I didn't bother with new work, but (knowing the difficulty of tight schedules), simply did an old piece I knew very well and delivered with speed (as it suits the poem/rhythm), which came in at under two minutes.
A quality night with lots of folks who had never performed there before - big thanks to all the other poets and audience - a pity there wasn't a board with everyone's names! and to Niall O'Sullivan for hosting it with finesse, especially having to shoehorn in so many in both time and space, and to our friend Nathan who was such a rock!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Beautiful Days


For the Beautiful Days Festival, we had a crew of five from the Collective - ourselves Widsith & Deor, Andi and Mandy of Freeplay, and Liz of MerryMaker.co.uk (individual website under construction). Working for Majical Youth, we had a marquee in the Craft area and slots in the Storytelling Circle in the 'Under the Redwoods' performance space between 6 and 9pm each evening.
At first I must confess to thinking (having been back home for all of three days) 'oh no, not another one', but actually... Andi and Mandy arrived for a quick cup of tea and to kindly take some of the supplies, and - after a while as her train was delayed - we picked up Liz from the station (as she had come up from Penzance), having packed the storytelling van full of leather, sheepskins, cow hide, tools, carnival heads and posts, bodymasks, fabric, and cooking gear - i.e. all the necessary stuffs for storytelling, workshops, event decor, and being out of doors for days. Plus books in case we got a chance to sell. Then fitted in all Liz's gear, and off we went.
Thursday was marquee decoration and Freeplay did a splendid job, the place a palace of drapes and cut bunting, finished off by their big fabric sign and our carnival heads on poles. It rained a lot in the night, and we were allotted a parking space on a steep slope and not given any blocks, so it was a struggle whenever the back doors were opened not to let the sleeping bags shoot out onto the floor! But on the other hand, it was a great spot in other ways - because it was right at the back of the crew camping, with access to the tea tent over the way, two vans away from the rest of our own Collective crew, and right next to a secret back entrance into the field with the main arena, so within five metres, one overlooked the main stage!
The workshops - a lunchtime session on Friday, and two mornings over the weekend - went very well. Mandy offered peg loom weaving as folks made their own rag rugs! Some taking hours, others just making something small to sit on. Adults were addicted, and children amazed at their own handiwork. Andi showed folks how to make 'magic wristbands' - leather strips that wove into themselves without cutting off the end, like a mobius strip, I showed them how to make simple classic Viking plaited leather wristbands, fellow storyteller Deor (whose original workshop the whole leather one was) showed them how to make gauntlets and masks, and Liz kitted people out with carnival masks from paper, card, sequins, feathers, glue and other things. We catered for every age group, the smallest children preferring carnival masks, to middling ones wanting animal masks - mixing cardboard with cow hide - and tails! to teenagers making anklets to adults making full face creepy animal head masks, guitar straps (from rags) and one person a furry stole, and another a miniskirt/belt complete with cash pocket! Needless to say, people were very appreciative and some didn't want to leave - 'I haven't cleaned my teeth yet or anything - I just got a call from my daughter saying 'Mum, you've got to come - there's a leather workshop - you'll love it!' ' - high praise from someone who works at heaps of festivals for a living, as the latter was a comment from a stallholder who provides food at all hours to wasted festival goers throughout each summer.
Our storytelling went equally well, the host being teller John Row who organizes the storytelling tent in the Kidz Field at Glastonbury and has done for some years. We told in a circular fire space under tall trees, a twenty minute to half hour set each evening, and to my delight, we started off with people sitting in a semi circle, and as we performed, it became a full circle, and by the end, concentric rings - always a good sign.
Unlike the Buddhafield we had excellent support in the rest of the Collective, other friends were there, and we even had some time to enjoy ourselves. Meals were also Collective, and I was surprised, pleased and relieved as ever at how well we all work together. On Monday we weren't so shattered that we just had to leave (unlike some previous festivals, and despite the torrent of rain on Sunday night) so we went 'tatting' as Mandy calls it - seeking for anything useful amidst the piles of rubbish and junk left by festival goers. I know a number of people who gather tents and allsorts of stuff at the end of events and sell them afterwards. And sure enough - a green heavy duty waterproof jacket, a small foldaway umbrella (working), piles and piles of bread rolls still wrapped in plastic and packed in boxes - we asked and the hot dog place said they didn't want them, we told the kid's crew, and their caterers collected box loads! an air bed, tarpaulin, pristine pillows scented only with washing powder, solid clean bucket with handle, wooden stakes, pink organza, tableware, yellow tutu...the list went on. We each took a few useful things and shook our heads with wonder at the rest - the things people throw away...
Pleased with how our part of it went, that we were a good team, that the weather even at its worst had cleared up and been basically reasonable, and at the festival itself, we parted in good fellowship. Huge thanks to Andi, Mandy, Liz, Sam and Alex for being such a great crew and so talented/helpful, also to Bicton Ben and lovely Kate for providing extra amusement, Jackie Brown of Manic Organic, and to Helen, Jo and Majical Youth for booking us again, John Row for hosting us, Ruth for telling such great tales, and all involved in putting on such a nice and relaxed festival.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Performing Contemporary American Fiction

Storytelling Written Fiction...

I love storytelling - I love it not least because it frees one from all constraints of how literary work 'should be done'. When I first became aware of it, it seemed to be some strange branch of theatre, but one I didn't understand as while lots of movement and emphasis and voices were in order, the lack of props, costumes, sets and lighting phased me. And of course the extremely stripped down cast... That was then. It's long since I've seen it as an amazing artform - fluid, dynamic, spontaneous - with room for both the polished drama of a speech in the mouth of a hero or powerful narrator, to pocket or full length play all created by one person, sometimes with only one 'voice', and minimal or no props... An artform as old as mankind, that harks back to some of the most vital parts of our 'intangible heritage' - oral history, myth, legend, folklore, folk tales. An art that automatically combines words with performance, and uses movement in gesture, asks, as the scops did in the Dark Ages, for music, and that can be very visual and even use dance. An art that carries its history on its sleeve from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Viking Sagas to Medieval fairytales, and wears its erudition lightly, taking ancient clay tablets and obscure global heritage and fashioning it into something for your ear in the local pub. An art that crosses continents more effortlessly than most, as storytellers from all over the world tell tales from the other side of the world. That somehow, never having been to Sweden or Bulgaria say, I can bring them closer to me, the farmer/peasant culture of turnip tales from the 1600's or Sly Peter the fool figure whose first recorded mentions are also from 1600-1700 by telling those tales. I feel these cultures and past times are suddenly closer at hand, and can be conjured for others to do the same for them too.

The other magical thing about storytelling is its sheer flexibility. And so when I wondered about the relationship which there could be between written literary/post-mass literate society literature and real storytelling, I didn't come to any conclusions but instead just natural occurrences. (No conclusions that is, except that's its bloody hard to write a real fairytale with a true feel of the originals, and that many attempts to construct latterday folktales for oral telling instead of purely literary tributes, had fallen into the numerous pitfalls attendant on such an attempt. And that it was a lot harder than it looked! to retain the simplicity and wisdom of the real thing.)
Instead what happened was this; There were days when the next Storyclub would suddenly come up, and catch me completely unprepared. (For some reason I have never told the same tale twice at the Storyclub unless a second tale is called for - some fetish I suppose.) At which point I would glance round in trepidation, and my co-storyteller would ask me - well what story DO you remember? And it would be something which I had read - either recently, or in one case, years ago - while trawling through e-zines to make sure they were of a good enough quality to be of interest to readers of Spoken/Written Bulletin to be worth their while submitting to.

In every case so far, the stories which I have (in haste) recollected and then retold, have all been from contemporary American fiction. And very splendid examples they have been of them too - hence being so damn memorable that when it came to re-telling them, I could remember the plots and characters, give them all their voices, and fill in any missing details with the storyteller's 'spontaneous adaptation facility' (otherwise known as 'making it up as you go along') - despite sometimes having read them some time ago.

The Stories Themselves...

The first one was a startlingly memorable sci fi/fantasy story called 'Our House' by Paul Di Filippo. It has a repetition structure perfect for storytelling - there is a house with three floors (which all have their features), three couples live there, and each of the two main characters have two encounters apiece - it's also wacky, striking, and the kind of story that's so 'well of course', that you wonder why you hadn't written it yourself. But that of course, is its genius - to capture something that's parallel to what so many understand as being past/present/future, and also the problems and pleasures of shared house living...
The first time I performed it, the audience came to be in hysterics especially on the "Mrs Ab! We've only just met...!" line...it's just a case of getting the timing right on this most generous and perfectly put together of tales. I was thanked very kindly for telling it, and people said they could see why I had remembered it for so long!

Another amazing and completely different story is 'Requiem' by Joshua James Wilson Mattern. It's an incredibly powerful monologue of one man trying to decide what to say - or indeed whether to speak at all - at his estranged father's funeral. At the behest of his beloved sister Sherry, he decides he has to say something...it's a brilliant exploration into that mixture of love, hate, pity, anger and duty that runs through difficult family relationships, and his eventual resolution is, bizarrely both shocking - as is the first line - and 'right'. When I did that one, I felt (probably from drama training) that I became him, and when I stood at the end, I knew the whole audience was with me - it was cathartic, and people were very kind - one person coming up to me and saying 'that was incredibly powerful, and you are an amazing storyteller' afterwards. Just putting on one of my American accents (from drama) and getting lost in the wonderful writing of Joshua Mattern, it was more his triumph than mine, and I e-mailed the magazine afterwards to let them/him know. It was no surprise that they were nominating him for the Pushcart Prize! And were glad I had got in touch.

A story that was totally different again was a retelling or rather a latterday Southern folktale from the Deep South - I was looking at the web resources searching for tales for that month's theme, when I came across a great site called the The Moonlit Road. I flicked through and at once came upon a tale I liked the look of - 'Deal with the Devil'. It read so well and so classically like a folktale, that it was only after I had read it to learn it, that I realized it actually had an author and was a modern 'folktale' by David Hirt. It's very hard to write like a 'real' folktale, and I would class books like Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' firmly in the literary tradition. To write and capture the old oral mores and tensions in a story is really a lot harder than it looks. (I only have two short stories which I think come anywhere near, and one I'm not so sure about. The other I modify a lot when telling aloud, as well as cut down.) - So I was much impressed by 'Deal with the Devil' which has all the slow richness of a genuine tale from the Deep South - and I had the joy of using another American accent. This one also went down really well with the audience, and I think they thought it must be a 'folktale' without an author till the end, too.

Why do I tell American fiction? - perhaps it's the sheer number of e-zines out there to cater for the many writers of a vast country (but writing in English), or perhaps the strong 'voice' that we in the UK (or at least those of us raised on old films!) can really 'hear', but whatever it is, there's some true gems to be found and told. It's a pleasure to tell them, whether sci fi, monologue or folk story.

To check out these great stories;

Our House by Paul Di Filippo, published online at;
http://www.theedge.abelgratis.co.uk/ourhouse.htm

Requiem by Joshua James Wilson Mattern, published online at;
http://www.sleetmagazine.com/selected/mattern.html

Deal with the Devil by David Hirt published online at;
http://themoonlitroad.com/deal-with-the-devil/

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

National Play Day


Another Play Day - our fourth for the play association based in Dorchester. Having done willow wings and swords, leaf mobiles, harvest crowns, leather wristbands and gauntlets, this time we were doing mobiles, head dresses, willow rattles/corndollies, dragonflies and building a Viking boat! And of course, storytelling.
Leaving really early, to set up the Pavilion by 9.30 for a 10am start...after coming back from Cornwall on Sunday, was not ideal...but we were all ready to go on time, and offered dragonflies, mobiles and helping build a willow boat sculpture. The boat turned out beautifully - it was made of willow panels, with a mast, rudder, figurehead of the unicorn carnival head, and peopled with masks like the green goblin and grey wolf. It looked splendid, and by the end had arches set in the decks...
The mobiles and head dresses were popular, and I was pleased to see that folks of all ages and genders were interested, and the mobile I made to set the ball rolling drew much praise. (Still a kick, having only been any kind of maker relatively recently.) As ever, some smaller folk decided to make the willow rings themselves, while some teenagers and adults bottled out and requested to have pre-made ones or us to make them - never predictable who chooses to or not. Some made wonderful trailing head dresses, and others fairy crowns. Some from organza fabric, and others from curling ribbon. As ever also, by three o'clock, I felt I had been cutting up fabric forever... However much stuff ready cut up you go with, people always tear through it, and as fast as you make more, they vacuum it up, like (as said in a previous blog) guests at an endless feast, some calling for beer, and some for cake, and all for cheese and biscuits...(again, to use the same book as analogy as in a previous blog -) like Bilbo in 'The Hobbit' when the dwarves come visiting...
Willow rattles/dollies/torches or whatever one wants to call them went down well in the afternoon, small children to adults taking up the challenge, but for the faint hearted of every age, we still offered mobiles and crowns, and got a couple of people wanting wings. And of course a few desperate for swords, again, as always.
Perhaps we should, as Wayne pointed out, review offering an interactive boat sculpture however, as every time we've done it so far, the weather has tipped it down! The weather was distinctly changeable - luckily dry when we set up, and sunny on taking down and clearing up! but grey and misty during parts of the day, and pouring with rain twice. The Pavilion of course was packed, and Deor performed the Inca flood myth as the rain pelted down. We also did Bulgarian and Swedish tales which made everyone laugh, and then Deor finished with a dark but haunting and beautiful tale of 'when King Hal shall ride again'.
I didn't even have time to stop for lunch, as folks came in wanting to make things as I took my first bite of the burgers being handed out to those working there, and didn't stop till after every other attraction had finished either, as folks kept wanting more! The very last being a couple making a mobile to hang in their baby's nursery...

We all lay about on the grass dazed and in my case confused as well, after the last bits of fabric and willow were gone, the camera's charge exhausted and the Pavilion packed away...and were paid promptly (always pleasant!) and praised a great deal - 'we think you're wonderful' said the organizers, 'so flexible!' They loved how popular we were, how we offer things both simple and complex for every age and competency/confidence range, the sheer number of things we offer, how we entertain folks when the weather's foul, and generally how we always think of something. At one point it rained hard enough that only two things were still going on! Of which we were one. They were pleased and impressed with us as usual, and said things like 'another reason you're amazing is -' which always goes down well!
Tired but pleased to be appreciated and glad to see some of the wonderful rattles and crowns and mobiles folks had made, as well as marvelling at the lovely boat, we all trundled back to Devon to have supper at a pub we knew, before the others made their way back to Cornwall, and ourselves to the city, and me to bed!

The last thing that was REALLY nice was that Ann of PlayPlus, who had bought a copy of 'Porlock the Warlock' last time, had read it and so said 'I loved your book' and had also lent it to her daughter who also liked it a lot - it's always so great to hear when people have enjoyed it.

BIG Thanks to Ann, Carol and Sarah of PlayPlus for booking us and all involved in setting up the event!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Hatherleigh Festival


Another week, yet another festival... this was rather special though, as I was going to support Deor of Widsith and Deor Theatre in his other aspect as Matthew Hammond The Stand Up Philosopher. We had performed at the Tally Ho! pub before, a couple of years ago - a storytelling show called 'North and East and Down the Road' in the gardens, after a willow workshop by other members of the Collective. From that, I knew it was going to be very crowded! As it proved. Arriving early in the beautiful July evening, with an amazing golden light over the moor and shafting into the churchyard, there was a marquee in the square opposite the pub, and the two armchairs by the fireplace were free, so that was where we had the book stall. Liv Torc (slam winning Wondermentalist and host of Taking the Mic) turned up later, and the show began - she braving the packed and rowdy pub crowd to do the first set and introduce the next. Not the easiest of venues and audiences! And she did well despite the obstacles.
Then it was the Stand Up Philosopher's turn, and he started with Kant's 'What is Enlightenment?' - reactionary or revolutionary? It was amazing, and he did actually capture the attention of at least half the pub! with the rest dipping in and out (although as an essay is a narrative, it seemed a pity in the sense that with philosophy, it's good to catch beginning, middle and end! as one rather leads to another!). However, after that, he performed Marx (and one of his trademarks is to perform to some degree AS the philosopher/writer in question). As Kant was stuffy and a trifle cross, but thunderous about how emphatically he meant it, Karl Marx on the other hand was done (as Matthew likes to surprise people) as a young man, full of passion and yelling into the microphone in a way that actually caused moments of silence (in a pub as as packed and full of drinkers and diners as that!). It was hugely impressive, and ended as a call to arms.
After that, came a singer, Nicola Clarke, who did well, (though I reflected, it was an easier environment for music than spoken word). Then after the interval, the three acts in the same order. Again, Liv started the second half, managing against the wall of noise to be heard and to entertain. The second Stand Up Philosopher set comprised Cicero and Aquinas. Cicero was lordly and earnest as he told us of how he had lost his life in Ancient Rome, and of the ideals of the Republic, how it had paved the way for our latter day constitutions, and exhorting us not to turn our backs on our own systems lest anarchy prevail! And Aquinas was done as a duologue - as Tony Blair requested of Aquinas exactly what was involved in the mythical 'just war'? and so showed how it was that Britain ended up invading and occupying Iraq - just what the philosophical and historical 'justification' of that action was - again, parts of this - as well as making folks laugh at the banter between the two characters - made the pub go silent. The show ended with another excellent set of music from Nicola, and all in all, how could a show set in such an environment (the opening of the Festival, hordes of noisy people up for fun and piling in after the Silver Band) have gone better?
The crowd even requested encores! as at the end of the Stand Up Philosophy (and as they do make you think), Matthew (having begun with a couple at the start) asked if anyone wanted more Anglo-Saxon riddles (from the C10th Exeter Book in which are also found the poets Widsith and Deor) and 'YES!' came the roar of reply. So he told two more, and finally - all impromptu - said 'My colleague here does them properly!' (meaning only that I stick to the word order of a single translator generally, rather than improvise on the original) and so I got up sheepishly and performed the celestial Riddle whose answer is thought to be (and almost certainly is) the Sun and Moon. I could see the link - as people had to give thought to what they were listening to with philosophy, and had to listen to the riddles in order to think up what the answer might be, but was surprised and pleased the mixture worked. Hats off to the Stand Up Philosopher!

And all power to Liv Torc who also did a tremendous job in a tough brief having come straight from work in Somerset and like ourselves, hot on the heels of festival work, and in her case one of them hundreds of miles north! It's harder work than it looks, being performers.

Big thanks to Jamie for booking the Stand Up Philosopher, to Daniella and all the Hatherleigh Festival team for their hard work making it happen!

Check out the videos at;
http://www.cartwheels-collective.co.uk/Performance_Philosophy_.html

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Buddhafield Festival


The picture is of Deor as Troll, in the Majical Youth Theatre opening ceremony parade to open the Buddhafield Festival (before the rain started!).
Another week, another festival...this time a much smaller one. And talk about work! When Widsith and Deor started off doing festivals with the visual arts and crafts skills based members of the Collective, years ago, mostly right at the beginning because they said 'do you want to come to...?' at first we told tales to workshoppers to keep them amused while they were making things, or told tales to folks waiting to be shown what to do, or to parents waiting for their offspring to finish making whatever it was, then soon sold ourselves as a sequential package, with folks doing a workshop and then wearing and brandishing their theatrical items during a following performance....we considered ourselves a great team sharing and preparing the Pavilion in good turnaround time over and over again, as we learned to pitch and unpitch in less and less time, and of course all about all the clearing up that goes into getting the site back to normal once it's all over. Over gigs, we also picked up how to help in the workshops themselves. Whether cutting up fabric in the right way, or being shown how to tie the wings onto participants...next how to weave willow and actually help make the stock. Then about how to decorate it, then making something to start off with in order to show folks that something was going on, as much as how to make it...then one started showing people how to from scratch...then doing so much that one had to cut one's own willow, learn about the growing season, about how to soak it and the different types...then setting about storing the fabrics, and how much was needed...and at last having ideas for our own workshops (leather) linked to our storytelling gear and costumes. Then having our own structure (the tipi currently), and now, (due to the visual artists pulling out of this assignment), we now have done everything ourselves, from start to finish.

Our gallant helpers did their best at stepping into the breach, but one was a juggler not a craftsperson, and who had two children under five to boot! and no transport so was reliant on trains and a tent (including in torrential rain and the charming force 8 gale which blew away one of the music venue marquees on Thursday night!) and the other was double booked in any case, doing her wonderful tree people on stilts act elsewhere on Saturday, dependent on a lift to get there, and meanwhile having had her van broken into so having to leave early... Lastly, Circus Ben (it was so good to see a friendly face not long after we arrived!) helped cart stuff up to the craft area, and looked in from time to time, and did sterling work pushing the corners of our marquee upward to let down some of the heavy rain in the downpour which threatened to set the marquee awash at one point! but after all, was there working for Swamp Circus, and so again, was only there when he could spare a moment.
So we pretty much did the bulk of it all by ourselves. And I can definitely say that six hours craft workshops daily in willow and leather, storytelling out of doors (against the usual festival racket), carting loads of stuff up hill and down dale, cleaning up afterwards for over two hours (around 24 hours in total over the five days not including preparation, set up and take down), coping with a near flood, bailing out water, and taking up the floor for the organizers whose tent it was afterwards, is utterly exhausting. We offered leather plaited wristbands, gauntlets, eyemasks, pirate eyepatches, willow wings, crowns, headddresses, mobiles, flags, swords and then den and tipi building as well as our usual storytelling...including a flood tale as the rain lashed down and the wind rocked the marquee, and folks cheered as the story ended along with the worst onslaught...AND (as the organizers were crew short themselves) even hosted a painting session as well (not something I'd choose to offer - paint all over the floor - visions of purgatory...).
I can also say it's the world's worst way to sell books as the weather made even getting them out of the van out of the question, until day 3 when I was far too tired to even think of trying to do anything else at the same time, and the idea of a pitch in the middle of the lower field when the sun came out after clocking off past five just appealed about as much as a mud shower... There must be easier and better ways of doing this...I thought.

But if nothing else, we've proved what a long way we've come...from working with artists of other disciplines to absorbing their skills to replicating (in common work areas anyway) their competencies... And that must mean 'one can do anything', surely? I remember when I thought that folks who could make all this stuff and/or teach it were just amazing...and here I was doing it all my/ourselves... But spare a thought for the folks who work at the festivals if you are going to any but not working at them this summer! It's very far indeed from Bilbo Baggin's 'pony rides in May sunshine'...I just wish that such work, (as he wished about adventures), was!

Big thanks to Circus Ben, Trees on Stilts Sadie, Lizzie the juggler, Crafty Clare in the marquee next door, Cecelia the facepainter with whom we shared the marquee, and Helen and the Majical Youth folks for wanting us there. And lastly to the participants who made such amazing things - especially all those who made such fantastic gauntlets, wristbands and masks! Wow.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Oxford Professor of Poetry


Having waited on tenterhooks to know who would be appointed Oxford Professor of Poetry (after Geoffrey Hill's name was mentioned as a candidate), it was wonderful to hear that Geoffrey Hill had indeed been appointed. What can I say? at seventeen I did some things my fellows did, like hang round the city centre at three o'clock in the morning spray painting walls and throwing bottles at plate glass windows, sleeping on doorsteps and generally living the teenage urban life. But while other A Level students were off to the pub, sometimes I would just go to the library and pick out any interesting looking books I 'hadn't read yet'. A crazy aim, as I had read so little - but more than most people I knew, who weren't adults so it wasn't quite as stupid as it sounded. The poetry section particularly attracted me (having been raised on Keats, de la Mare and others, and having written since 11, non-stop since thirteen). One day I came across a slim black volume with silver script in an unusual style. 'Mercian Hymns' it said. Well I certainly enjoyed hymns, was probably the half-baked thought, and so I opened it. I was at once struck with how beautiful and strange the language was - 'wergild', 'marl', 'gleemen' - I was at first intrigued, and then enchanted. Not long after I bought a copy - not that you could buy a copy of the book by itself, but I bought a 'Collected Poems' - which had plenty more wonders in store. I knew from the first that I was only skimming the surface of everything the collected books had to offer, and another poet was my 'favourite poet'. But I also realised, even then, that more would be made plain later. That with more reading, a better grasp of history, and simply growing up, that I would comprehend better the jewels within, as well as merely marvel at their sparkle. Within two years of graduating, it was proved true, and he became and is still, my favourite poet.

I never felt wronged, even then, as some writers or critics seem to, in not understanding everything at once - when I first discovered 'Mercian Hymns', (shameful or incredible depending on mood, as it seems now) I had very little but the vaguest notion of who Offa was. But it didn't matter - I still caught the general atmosphere, the juxtaposition of past and present, the time synch nature of the book (reflecting classic fantasy like The Dark is Rising sequence), the brilliance of the language, from the quirkiness of 'moldywarp' to the beauty of 'vertebrae of the chimera' to the startling and wonderful dropping in and out of modern colloquialisms or expletives to ancient words long unused, the archaeology and fauna and flora and geology all weaving past and present as much as the near-visions of the past or ghosts or whatever manifestations they are, with the identifications of the modern landscape 'overlord of the M5' and the present family of the 'staggeringly gifted child' the one 'always sick on outings'...(also redolent of fantasy serials). All bound together in a delicious and sophisticated yet obtainable tapestry.

After that 'Tenebrae' especially delighted with its 'Splendour of life so splendidly contained'. It rewarded and wove with a growing love of modern art as it filled in and expanded the 'colours of the mind'. 'Canaan' seemed to speak to me alone (of course it didn't, but as much great poetry, felt as though it did) as a 'constrained spirit'. Waiting for the 'strange legends to begin' (and reading of 'Praise and lament' at my Father's ashes scattering) at last came 'The Triumph of Love' (took me years to appreciate that one properly), 'Speech! Speech!' of which the most apt review was 'this will blow your head off', 'The Orchards of Syon' (I think one needs to be at a later stage of life perhaps not to find it depressing though?), 'Scenes from Comus' - pure masqued perfection! 'Without Title' which I've yet to get to the bottom of and 'A Treatise of Civil Power' which I love. It helps that he seems to choose some of the historical backdrops I love best as canvas to the poem's paints - Milton's light fantastic of the masque and Inigo Jones' set design being one of my hobby horses, also Stern Oliver (Cromwell) and the English Civil War, (Offa and Dark Age Britain now of course it goes without saying).

So it is that he is the poet whose books I look forward to and get as soon as they appear. I am now looking forward to 'Oraclau/Oracles' to be published by Clutag Press later this year. I can't think of anyone who writes so consistently work of such beauty, interest and endless fascination that rewards reading, re-reading, reading around the subject, chasing up allusions (I would never have read any of Disraeli's novels had it not been for a quote at the beginning of a poem!), reading aloud and generally growing up and maturing, than Geoffrey Hill. I am so pleased and delighted that he has been made Oxford Professor of Poetry because it seems to me such works cannot be given too much recognition, even in our 'diminished age', in a country however beloved with 'so many monuments but no memory'.

To order, got to; http://www.clutagpress.com/

Friday, 9 July 2010

Spoken/Written Comes to the End of its Funding

I - Spoken/Written

Just one thing after another (and of course all one really wants to do in weather like this is go and sit in the Sea! to cool off). Now that Spoken/Written has come to the end of its funding, it was time to contact the Arts Council, as the funding was in part to cover the period of changing landscape and uncertainty in the regional lit scene. Many things have happened over the six months since the last smaller award was granted; Arts Matrix was bought by Plymouth College of Art, Cyprus Well got a new director (Tracey Guiry of the former organization) and started up its blog and calendar, the Literature South West website was closed/archived in favour of the aforementioned; and all in all, the scene changed a great deal. It was now time to see what the funders thought, and whether or not Spoken/Written still (as I believe it has) a place worth preserving on the lit scene. But the Literature and Visual Arts Officer was away on maternity leave - the one who had seen and been aware of Spoken/Written from its inception...my heart sank. Especially when central office said that there was no one who had yet been appointed with her caseload... However, mercifully, they were wrong, and my calls through to an answerphone message with a name I hadn't recognized (before asking at central office) were replied to! So I rang back in turn, and there WAS someone who had taken over the role! Thankfully, I explained where things stood...and heard that meetings were to be held over the coming month, and that things might be clearer after that.

So - as things stand, it doesn't look completely hopeless, but having said that, there is definitely no guarantee that the Arts Council will fund Spoken/Written a fourth time. Its vision was always of independence for the Bulletin, and I have tried to persuade folks to contribute a small sum to the service if they value it. But while a number of really public spirited and wonderful folks have given money, and tried to cover the shortfall left by those who have given nothing, not enough people have paid for their subscriptions. Forwarding? as it's an e-mail newsletter. Too many newsletters in the inbox, to remember which ones were the ones that were useful? Hobbyist approaches by those who like to keep 'in the loop' but aren't quite committed enough to bother with paying for it? There are many reasons or possible reasons.

II - Three Roles...

Whether an alternative source of support can be found is also still an open question. And all the while the admin and uncertainty sap energy away from other vital tasks such as research for the newsletter itself (I usually like to pack folks off with a bumper edition for the summer break), and my other jobs - selling our books, doing workshops and performing at festivals and events. (All much harder work than they sound! There's a very good reason why 'everyone' who can write a book or perform a story doesn't publish and sell their books or become professional storytellers!) Just as 'everyone' who has a craft a skill doesn't end up running workshops... No one ever tells you of all the getting there, getting back, packing up, storing stuff, carting stuff, finding homes for piles of materials, some really messy (pva/plaster figures, anything with ivy or holly - ouch!), some that need soaking beforehand (willow), collecting materials (from tanner, cobbler, theatres), writing up evaluations for lots of events and workshops for funders/organizers, loads of admin (for every festival think two forms per person you're taking), phonecalls (nerve wracking if you're a bit shy), dozens of e-mails, thanking, explaining, confirming, requesting, reminding, drawing attention to....setting up stalls, taking down stalls, putting up marquees of various types (with varying levels of stress depending on how many are on hand to help, which one it is, and what the weather's like). I could go on.

Selling books and storytelling theatre, doing festivals and workshops might sound great, but believe me, as most storytellers etc. will tell you - it isn't all pony rides in May sunshine! And stress over Spoken/Written's future sometimes just seems like too much...especially when everything is on such a shoestring. To cap it all, some of the Collective team have pulled out of the coming Buddhafield Festival, and we're having to find other artists to replace them. All the rest of our usual team are busy - two at the Pilton Festival, one at the Golowan Festival, one coming anyway but with Swamp Circus, not the Collective...but happily, we have a great bunch in the Collective, and the folks going to Pilton have found us one replacement artist (another Bicton College graduate!), and our circus member has found a second...now it's just getting all their details to Majical Youth (the ones we'll be working for) in time!

Here's to some time off somewhere near the Sea...

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Who'd Have Thought It?

The things you find in this job! Even more tired and stiff today than yesterday (apparently the adrenalin has worn off) I went back to work on Edition 49 (suspended due to festival commitments) and found some extraordinary stuff...from a wonderful re-use/recycle day in Dorset, where folks bring stuff they don't want, and everyone gets to choose what they do want, with no money involved! What a brilliant way of avoiding landfill. Also, artists are on hand to transform and help folks change any junk into something useful or beautiful...add some storytelling and you have one fun day. Reminded me of the Collective's Junk Carnival crossed with the 'yard sales' they have in America, where everyone sticks their unwanted items in their front gardens, and everyone strolls down the road and chooses what they want. Why doesn't every council or community group in the country hold these events??

- To a day long workshop for 'Invisible Theatre', i.e., where you learn to create a piece of theatre in a public realm (say a railway station) that the public don't realize is an act!! and don't know therefore, that it's not for real...(the possibilities sound quite scary if you ask me). - To a bursary for activist/interventionist art at a climate summit (a bursary?!? Great idea, but I didn't think ideological art ever got funding!). An amazing melting pot of opportunities for all artforms...I just wish I could take advantage of them all...

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts

I - Setting Up and Taking Down / Performances & Workshops

Strange to be back at the computer, indoors, and with a faint buzzing in my hearing that everyone else assures me they can't hear...also not to be covered in dust.
Five of us went up in a convoy of two vans, and after various unavoidable detours and delays, we arrived at last on site last Tuesday (a week ago now, incredibly) to try and pitch a 16ft. high tipi (which none of us had ever done before). So we were already tired by Wednesday lunchtime... We had brought far too much stuff, and Wednesday was spent sorting the camping gear from the storytelling bodymasks, the carnival heads, and all the props and visuals that go with the shows, from the willow workshop stuff from the leather workshop stuff from the cooking gear from the book stall.....then getting the vehicle to the off site car park that had only a short stay pass, making wings and swords for the next day's workshop, and generally being really grateful it wasn't raining or cold, as there was so much to do! (It reminded me why I love doing gigs at indoor venues, because the body masks are great at tearing holes in cushions and sleeping bags, and add a tipi including huge poles on the roof rack, step ladder and lanterns to decorate the venue and you have inevitably got damage. It's so nice when promoters invite you to do an indoor gig and put you up as well...so much less stuff to take.) But this was Glastonbury, and, as the biggest performing arts festival in the country, we wanted to do things properly.
The next day we held a willow workshop and did storytelling at the same time, and in the evening we did a special adult storytelling set (as none of the bigger stages had anything on yet, so it seemed a very good time). We also were lucky, because as well as the four of us and two other members of the Collective who had come working for other areas, Clive Pig the Storyfella was also performing there! and so we hooked up, and invited him as our special guest star to the evening show (which we had been invited to do by the Daylight Studio opposite, very kindly). It was a great success, Clive doing an amazing tale involving accepting people's quirks, and being grateful for what you have, as a useless man swapped places with a buzzard, and soon was replaced when the buzzard married his wife! And we did two of our trademarks tales, ending with a literal bang as Lady Mary let off her blunderbus! In the following days, we held a longer willow workshop, programmed for the Ancient Futures marquee, making swords, headdresses and some folks made amazing wings! and a leather workshop involving friendship wristbands, small gauntlets, and eyemasks. Our performances included a set in the Permaculture Garden adjacent to the Tipi Field, and a walkabout as a Goblin and Troll stalked about and then sat and hobnobbed by the fire discussing the best ways to cook humans... Plenty of folks took pictures of our new unicorn and company (four carnival poles of unicorn, bear, giant bird head and horse's skull) and the two biggest bodymasks, especially the big green Great Dragon Kraa. We were delighted, as it wasn't as if there weren't a hundred other amazing things to look at and photograph! on the site, so we were chuffed to say the least. And we got plenty of kind praise for both the performances and the workshops. By Sunday we were distinctly dazed and confused, as were many if not most other people, in the heat and dust (and fermenting toilets) as it had really got a lot warmer on Friday morning and then built up from there... Everyone smelt and everything was either dusty or positively rancid! But Deor gathered the energy for a stirring closing tale at the central fire/gathering area of a Native American story called the Flying Head, which went down extremely well. Monday morning and we took down everything, dismantling camp, and packing it all up again...

II - Bookstalls Now and Then

And of course between workshops, up to forty minute round trips to the lav, performances, trying to keep any kind of order to know where anything was when based at three sites (tipi and two vans), longer suppers when we all came together to cook and debriefed afterwards, AND meeting up with the other two members of the Collective working at other areas, (never mind going out from 9 till 2 every night trying to see and experience as much as possible of a site the size of Bath) of course I had neglected to bring any kind of outdoor display unit for the books (a table on top of the rest of the pack had seemed like madness, and so it never made it). So much for hoping to knock something up on site... How stupid did that feel? With all those potential customers going past... In my defence I can only say that it's very stressful putting up a large structure never before tackled (the old tipi belonged to one of our members who now lives in NZ, and only one of us had ever tried to pitch it with her! and that years ago), and also - well, it had been some years since I had been there last.

The last time I went to Glastonbury was under the auspices of the late, great, poetry pioneer PVT West, founder and then organizer of the Poetry&Words Tent; the first year I went as a performer, and the second year she had asked three other poets to put together different quarters of the Tent's programme, of which I was one. The poets I asked worked really well together as they were a great variety of different approaches, and we called our sets 'The Lords of Misrule'. 'The Lords' being Matt Harvey (currently Wimbledon Tennis championships poet-in-residence) Nii Parkes (British Council UK writer-in-residence), Farren Gainer (of One Minute Theatre from Canada) Marie Stanbury (a soulful singer who half sings poetry, with her own band) Re;Leaf (a DJ poet/activist/sampler/mixing duo since disbanded) and myself. And the book stall was all ready and set up, where we all took turns to staff it.

III - The End - Thank You & Goodnight!

All in all, it was worth all the dust and heat, stress and shifting stuff miles. The workshops went well, Widsith and Deor Storytelling sets garnered some very favourable remarks, and it was a wonderful coincidence that the two other members whom we would have liked to bring (if we had had a team of six instead of four) had come working for other areas! Liz (textiles/flags/signs/carnival floats of www.merrymaker.co.uk) working in the Kidz Field doing flags etc. workshops and Ben (juggling/fire juggling/hexagonal marquee) in the Circus area. It was really good to be with them all, and to meet up with Clive Pig there too - all dedicated, gifted professionals whom it's always a pleasure to work with.

And then of course, there were all the amazing things to see and do...(but those are in the Performance blog). Huge thanks to Tara of Hearthworks for booking us, to The Daylight Studio for hosting our adult set, Clive Pig for performing with us, and all our lovely neighbours in the Tipi Field! And indeed everyone who performed, curated, created, organized, invented and made possible the marvellous acts and spectacles there to combine in a magical City of Wonders for four days. It was great to be part of it.