Saturday, 17 April 2010

Street Poetry - Random Acts of Art

Just had a great time at the Street Poetry Workshop at the Spacex Gallery, run by the inimitable Liv Torc, and part of the Random Acts of Art project. It was a beautiful day for it, (the sky a literally cloudless blue) and ideal for checking out the nearby streets in search of words.
Having done five years of degrees all told with writing workshops forming some of one and a great deal of the other, and being a workshop host myself, AND being really busy, I don't often actually get to writing or poetry workshops. Which is a pity, because of course, they give one space in order to create that can be really refreshing and a context break away from the way in which one usually ends up working. And so it was!
The aim of the workshop was to write a collaborative poem about and inspired by the West Quarter, the historic and alternative/independent shops area of the city which is home to the Spacex Gallery.
We started off after an exercise involving commenting on each others shoes etc. (i.e. finding words inspired by them) and all trying to be scrupulously polite! with a drama-like exercise/game, all making up characters for each other, as makebelieve residents of the Quarter - and much hilarity and inventiveness ensued, including with a one-eyed glassblower, Roman re-enactor, Somerset settler, bouncer, dodgy gangster overlord and gangster's moll! Short pieces were written about chosen characters, and following that, haikus, some funny, some serious, inspired by the portraits of residents of the Quarter by Lady Lucy, one of the artists in residence for the whole Random Acts of Art project. We then all dispersed to find inspiration and words out of doors, into the West Quarter itself. And how magical that was - because strangely, as both an admirer and sometime practitioner of found text, concrete poetry, site specific text and art and related forms, and someone who loves the West Quarter, it had always been the kind of thing on my 'must do at some point' list. I.e., something I'd love to do, even mean to do, but would never get around to. So it was a real joy to just wander around places like Fore Street, looking in windows, jotting down words from posters or signs, half-catching sentences by passers-by, adverts and cards in windows, menus and labels...and really looking at some of the shop fronts and interiors, really paying attention to the lovely old architecture like that of Tucker's Hall with its fleur de lys railings, and the hidden stream on the other side, down below...absorbing the lively mixture, and so many details I always rush past and mean to make time for but never do. The luxury of legitimately dawdling and going in and out of all the corners and alleys, of spending time in shops I'd always meant to have a look in but hadn't the time to, and all the looking at little things and the delicious finding of random words and phrases that at any other time would be just playing, and almost as out of bounds as getting involved in an addictive computer game! It was seriously fun. I kept bumping into other participants, and we grinned as we crossed each other. So much so that at one point a man stopped me, and asked quite bluntly 'What are you doing? There's loads of you at it.' I explained it was a poetry workshop, and once I'd finished listing the places one could look for words etc., he just said 'Cool!' and walked off. By then I had so many fragments, it was time to get back to the Spacex and choose and order them! Which I did. It took surprizingly little time to order the found texts - a heard sentence, card in window, poster, signs, ads, and they seemed to make the five required sentences in a way I liked. We then wrote them in large letters on big paper strips, and finally Liv decided on an order - the tough job! and stuck them together in a large train like a huge snaky poster. They looked great, as everyone had different writing of course and had chosen different colours (green in my case). Liv then bravely mounted a ladder to stick it to the wall, and then read it aloud with great aplomb. And it sounded really good! Everyone had come up with some excellent sentences, and while all in different styles, it hung together really well, and even had some rhythm. We all had great fun and came up with a piece all were pleased with, with laughs, and much tea, coffee and biscuits too. All in all a really lovely afternoon. And I even met a delightful subscriber to Spoken/Written! - Anna Trussler of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen's Gallery in Bovey Tracey who was kind enough to keep us all in the tea and coffee. Big thanks to Liv for being such a great workshop host, to Anna and all at the Spacex for having us, and to Chris, Kevin and Marcus for being such good fun to work with!

Random Acts of Art Blog;

Monday, 5 April 2010

CCANW Fundraiser

At last it was the day for the Fundraiser we were hosting/organizing for the Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World in Haldon Forest Park. It didn't rain, although the perennial battle with wind vs. sticky tape for posters had it's first skirmish of the outdoor gig season...! I got there first to set up the body masks, sculptural figures etc. to draw attention to the performance - so the stage was flanked with the moon, a dragon's head, little green goblins etc., while fellow storyteller Deor went to collect three of the performers...and the sky looked grey and slightly threatening...I then began to arrange the book and CD stall, and was glad to be practiced at weighing things down...all the same, I thought - why is it that I seem to hold so many stalls on windy days when I'm convinced there are lots of perfectly still, calm ones?!?
And then Jon arrived, the PA was set up, and not long after more reinforcements came until we were nearly quorate. Then the benches were laid, Chris from the Centre kindly offered us coffee, and we began! Despite the somewhat overcast sky and chilly wind, it went with a bang - Clive Adams introduced the event, speaking of the Centre's past and funding issues, the Hub as it was (shacks in muddy glade!) and how far it had come...then we introduced our first act, and Liv Torc, Wondermentalist, performance poet, comedian and host of Taking the Mic, wowed the crowd with her customary energy, skill, verve and vitality, every inch the professional, and dealing well with the all ages audience! (not least as a lot of her material is of the adult variety). Catch her as poet-in-residence at Exeter Poetry Festival later in the year. We had Clive Pig the Storyfella - see him at this year's Westcountry Storytelling Festival - who tells stories like a one man movie (his sound effects as ever had to be heard to be believed!) stopping folks in their tracks. He was the one who showed that storytelling could be a total theatre experience, and hence inspired Widsith & Deor! Jon Freeman (of Tyburn Jig - catch them at this year's Festival at the Edge, English Heritage properties and at Storyclub) doing his fine performance poetry, and Jade Moon (former Green Woman act at many festivals on the circuit including being a Glastonbury regular and also fire dancer) with passion and movement and appropriately enough, her themes echoing some of Liv's. James Turner, popular poet and author of the 'Forgeries' collection published by Original Plus, proving beautifully that there need be no divide between 'page and stage' poetry, with wonderfully lyrical and intellectual (I mean that in its absolutely positive sense of thought-provoking) yet accessible, pieces and delivered with his trademark mixture of humanity, wit and emphatic-not-dogmatic wisdom. Music was from Gabriel Collins, prolific songwriter (some three hundred original songs in his repertoire), a pianist who kindly brought his guitar instead as of course the piano wouldn't fit on the train! - And we were lucky enough to have David Sawyer (well known sculptor of sound sculptures and artist as well as musician) and Annie Quicke (also of The Surf Messengers), musicians who often play with/in the fabulous improvisational group Children of the Drone (more festival favourites!). David with one of his handmade original and haunting instruments an 'electrochord' and Annie with flute and saxophone filled the Forest with hauntingly lovely yet experimental ambience, as they made unusual and delicious improvised music. Towards the end, James (who is also often part of the Children of the Drone) did poetry while they played, and the effect was simply hypnotic. Finally - having introduced the acts with a short tale or poem, and done one of our spooky forest stories, the event was coming to a close...when Annie and David offered to round off the day by improvising music to a story! It was an offer we couldn't refuse, so we told one of our trademark tales, 'Lady Mary' (also partly set in a forest) and it was fantastic to perform with the music changing mood to the tempo all around - a wonderful experience to end the day on, and a real high! It was hard to express one's thanks - we love the performing with other artists and the each art flowing into the other experience.

Then it was time for more cake (which we'd brought along for all to share), packing up instruments, books, props and all the rest, congratulating everyone on how well it had gone, talking with Clive Adams and Chris Lewis of the Centre about the afternoon and funding wait, (and of course looking in the collections bucket and wishing it had been warmer!) and them thanking us for putting together such a good show (aww shucks). It was all in all a wonderful afternoon, with a marvellously contrasting array of talents. Huge thanks must go to Clive, Liv, Jon, James, Jade, Annie, David, and Gabriel for being so brilliant and coming along to make it happen, and of course to Clive, Chris and Johanna of CCANW for having us and keeping us in tea and coffee! Fingers crossed for their funding re-application...(I know the feeling)...