Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Word Command Winter Panto!


Time for Christmas shows and the Epicentre Book Cafe had a special Word Command last Thursday - the the Word Command Winter Panto! Hosted by and starring Bryce Dumont (as Bing Crosby, he was modelling it on past television specials!), Lucy Lepchani, Chris Brooks, Robert Garnham, ourselves Widsith and Deor Storytelling Theatre and others. Everyone had a Christmas twist, often comical, (Chris's classic audience-join-in rhyming was extended to bring in the festive season!) often thought-provoking (Lucy reminded everyone that the elderly are simply folks like everybody else who have lived longer - and had some asking for drugs of the illegal variety as a present!), and sometimes outre (Robert's surreal 'Wardrobe Man' and flashing-lights-with-antlers hat!). It all made for a delightfully seasonal mixture, as Bryce read out apologies of various Hollywood folks of the 'Golden Age of Cinema' to add to the fun.
   We did our new adaptation of Charles Dickens' 'The Chimes', one of his Christmas stories (but one which is told less often than 'A Christmas Carol', with some of our latest bodymasks. (Deor has been busy the last two months!). So Mint the Mouse Troll was Chief Goblin, Nosferatu acted as the Prime Minister, the King of the World played a merchant banker, and so on. I just played the one character - Toby, the poor message runner whom the story circles around. It was about fifteen minutes long, but due to those who unfortunately couldn't make it (the weather wasn't pleasant, with a lot of spray, rain and sleet on unlit roads), we did have time for it. And it went down very well! Folks were extremely kind about it, and we were very pleased with how it went. It's always so nice to have the opinions of fellow professionals who see a lot of acts and performances! So it really means something when they give praise. Big thanks to Bryce for having us, organizing it, hosting it all and making great coffee! And to Lucy, Chris and Robert for being so great to watch and saying such nice things! A Merry Christmas One and All!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The End of the Line?

   Spoken/Written is in real financial difficulty. With so little money coming in, it hardly makes sense to spend the time putting it together which could be spent trying to work in other ways. For the sake of those who have paid, Spoken/Written will probably carry on until around next Easter. But after that – if it continues at all, it will be a reduced version. If Spoken/Written continues, it will just have to feature more news about the Collective – the arts network which hosts it – in order to have a reason to be. and to evolve as one of its early models – the Spiel Unlimited newsletter – evolved.
   My initial impulse, years ago as Editor was to run Spoken/Written Bulletin S.W. – as it was funded by the Arts Council through tortuous grant applications until July of last year – as some sort of Public Service Information station. Anonymously – I thought it would be somehow a trifle tacky to tell people it was actually edited by a poet, writer, performer and proof reader, themselves on the look out for gigs and freelance work. I imagined this to be somewhat self-serving and tawdry, so it was issued as if by magic like an automated system, with the aim of benefiting as many people interested in words as possible. After much nagging from people who were surprised to discover that I edited it, or that I still had the illusion that it was like the BBC, I gave in and started writing Editorials. At first with the idea of communicating things of interest which I had found out in the course of putting an Edition together. I suppose I thought people would feel gratitude for or desire to help something or someone so disinterested and virtuous (!). I have always suffered from too much C18th/19th century novel reading. (Whom did I think I was? Monsieur du Pont from The Mysteries of Udolpho?!)
   But I have learned a lot since then. That unless you ask for aid, no one will give you it. That people think that because something ought to be funded, that means that morally it must be in some meta-sphere, and hence no one need bother. That generating goodwill is about more than providing a service, even if people say they value it. In fact that that it is often about selling yourself and your lifestory or quirks as a 'brand' (something that I at least find hard as the words 'brook, spirit and bear' spring to mind - although if I could grit my teeth, I suppose I ought). And 'getting your name out there'. Something that people can feel a 'personal loyalty' towards.
   Finally, as Spoken/Written earned so little this month and has had no feedback for months, I must assume that some things also run their course. That, for a mixture of reasons, the main one of which is probably technology, that it is no longer as needed or as useful to folks as once it was. I have also learned that some kinds of idealism are just plain dumb, and that if no one understands what you’re doing or why, then you won’t get any credit for it and so really should not expect any. I guess I am just feeling 'disenchanted'. But then working on something for six years, founding it, nurturing it, getting a feeling of worth from it, and then looking at it coming to an end was never going to be easy. I've learnt a lot, got better at admin, got published in an anthology and a few zines, including my all time favourite, 20x20 Magazine, and been offered the odd gig, all as a result of Spoken/Written. I've also gained some much appreciated freelance editing work and grants consultancies. Three Arts Council grants (though stretched too far and perfectly reasonable pay has been drawn out to pittance). And a lot of experience in research, 'the scene', how internet searches work (invaluable) and all kinds of work skills and confidences arising out of them. It's been a ride. And perhaps most of all, I've had some very kind praise from subscribers and donations from those willing to dig into their pockets to support something they considered worthwhile - a zine which I created. And that has been very moving. I just wish I could have (as it's a remote-working job done almost all via e-mail) met more of those lovely folks in person. Well, I guess Spoken/Written says 'Thanks for the fish' guys. Take care and good night. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Exeter's Duckaroo Club

Last night's Duckaroo Club at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter was an intimate affair. (Its predecessor was the Exeter Catweazle Club and was held at the Speakeasy upstairs at Oddfellows, but for some reason many of the branches of the Club were closed by the organizers of the original Club, and so the Exeter branch metamorphosized into the Duckaroo Club, and is now held at the Bike Shed Theatre.) It's on after the show in the auditorium every Thursday night, and actually the format really works! Far from starting too late, it has a 'from 8.30pm' informal get-together in the stylish yet comfy bar of the Bike Shed, and once everyone's had time to relax and have a drink or something to eat, and actually catch up with each other (which one so often doesn't! having so many folks to say hello to at such events) properly, and then roll in at 9.30 to the stage and actual theatre. To my amazement, the set from the play was still there - well, thinking about it, during a run, of course it would be. But it meant that the thoughtful and theatrical designer backdrop was all ours for the evening, not to mention the lighting. I've been to cabarets and slams in the same theatre with bold lighting that was just functional - but this was warm, atmospheric and elegant. And, as performers, it seemed to me that all of us responded to having a proper 'stage environment' to perform in, by pulling out an extra stop. Despite clashing with two other popular events (the Blue Walnut in Torquay's Performance Poetry night and Uncut Poets at the Exeter Phoenix, which would always be the case with a weekly format) and so there not being many of us there, there was definitely the 'pin drop' ambiance for which the original Catweazle was famous. The host, gifted musician and singer Kimwei Westbury started the evening with a 'Symphony for Happiness' on guitar (which she plays as percussive as well) and started with a bang! A beautiful piece, hypnotic, absorbing, and like much of her work, neither rock/pop nor contemporary/classical but a wonderful and engaging mixture of the two. Arty, modernist, yet also accessible, harmonious and brilliantly danceable, it, like Bjork's music (the only comparison I could think of) is seriously intelligent acoustic pop, (I wouldn't describe it as folk) and doing something different and genuinely experimental whilst being really melodic. We then had the treat of the classically trained Stephen Yates on guitar, which was just spellbinding. He gave a wonderful mini-lecture on Paganini and the history/beginnings of the rock star cult/ure, in whose legacy we live, and it was so enthralling, I felt as if I was re-living the kind of experience which I had at the marvellous Medieval Music course I once went to at the WEA. He plays technically challenging and virtuoso pieces with terrific skilful dexterity and it was a real pleasure to listen to him, especially as he had chosen something wonderfully creepy and off-kilter in honour of it being close to Hallowe'en. During David Heathfield's story (a Katherine Brigg's tale of the Moon falling into the snares of the marsh creatures), both musicians extemporized which was magical, and after Katie Moudry telling a tale with her poetic turn of phrase and well-toned voice, Kimwei and Stephen finished the evening off with a joint improvisation! Which was, with two such gifted musicians, and improvisation-chemistry added, really something not to be missed. An evening stuffed with treats in other words.
We (Widsith and Deor) did a section during the proceedings, of our 'Carnival of Monsters', giving the full introduction to the invocation, summoning of and speech by the Diabolo figure. We thought it went very well, and it was great to have a chance to do the whole thing, as of course at noisy drunken festival venues, you move swiftly on to the next monster to keep the pace of the evening. (But during festivals and cabarets it's best to perform it as cabaret, and not as the full theatre-experience which we are developing the full Monster Carnival as.) It was nice to shoot it past such an appreciative audience.
Big thanks to Kimwei for organizing it! It was, as said, 'pin drop' magical.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

PowWow Litfest


This weekend it was off to Birmingham to support Deor as Matthew Hammond the Stand Up Philosopher. We arrived in the morning to catch up with good friend Robin (an artist/musician and mental nurse), and then set off for the venue. We parked nearby the capacious pub with its varied areas. The Prince of Wales in Moseley has an old world feel with leather settles with brass studs, bits of stained glass, is quite dark but in a Victorian railway kind of way, has moose head over one of the mantles and generally has the tobacco stained look on dark polished wood. However the function room is more cosy with jacquard cushions, and the larger garden another world! Under a roof, there are many antique-style tables and chairs including a very large octagonal table with classic motifs, colourfully upholstered on carved wooden dining chairs, with icicle fairylights. Then there is a kitchen (the only food?) only staffed at suppertime by folks who come in to cook vegetarian Indian 'street food' which looked authentic, a little shed that was a winecellar (!) seeling only wines, and advising on bottles looking French with bit of raffia attached and a little cart, and then a dodgy-looking pink lit lounge and then a large marquee with a tropical themed cocktail bar! Complete with bamboo, shells, cocktail bartenders in flowery shirts with loads of cocktail shaking going on, huge colourful drinks with endless straws and parasols, and the occasional flambe of said drinks, some of which looked like they were about to set the bamboo on fire! Plus a mixture of benches, ancient upholstered settle in a corner, red leather Chesterfield sofas (a feature at lit fests it seems! Velvet or leather, red or green!) and classy stools and modern solid pine benches, picnic tables and 'proper' tables, rectangular or bistro circles...all in all an extraordinary mixture of a pub!
   The Litfest was held in the garden, and the speakers and performers in the tropical area. There was a well stocked book stall, amusing comperes, representatives from both agents and publishers, plus a publishing debate, and creative work from authors including the organizer, novelist Andy Killeen, plus music and all in all a really buzzy atmosphere. The slam was a very interesting one, involving composing short pieces of fiction during intervals with the three heats spread out over the evening! Which explained the earnest-looking folks surrounded by sheets of paper in the corners. Much of the day and evening and the venue was packed, needing the steward and hand-stamp system employed for order and entry.
   Matthew Hammond the Stand Up Philosopher was at 9pm, and I went on to introduce him and the idea of 'stand up philosophy', also to mention the books and website (as that can really break frame when performing! when does one mention them?) and he then did four pieces, all of them brilliant - a thought provoking Foucault, still with the power to make one start with revelation, a timely, telling and funny rendition of Moore's fabulous fantastical satire 'Utopia', the searingly scintillating '3 Minute Marx', and to finish, Nietzsche's barbed but side-splitting critique of Kant, done as storytelling. Books were sold, hands were shaken, and folks said some lovely things. 'That was brilliant!' 'Highly entertaining' and 'really unusual' being some of them.
    All in all, it was a great weekend, with as as well the buzzy LitFest and storming set, a lovely afternoon wandering round parks and city streets with old friend Robin, stopping at the MAC arts centre for coffees, dodging the heavy showers by some miracle, and going round beautiful historic Worcester on the way up and hearing the organ thundering as the keyboardist was practicing at the stunning Gloucester Cathedral on the way back...with the Saxon ruins of the original building all picturesque just nearby...So ends the summer season of festivals - big thanks to Andy for making it end with a bang!
   And affectionate thanks to Robin and Clare for making it so extra special.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Then the Bunkfest!

The following weekend, it was the Bunkfest, billed as music, dance, steam and beer! With storytelling, as last year in the lovely courtyard of the George Hotel and with Tim o'the Oak (from the Forest of Dean), and Tina Blibe (former secretary to the Society of Storytelling). And they were both charming to perform with! The Saturday and we did 2-6pm, taking it in turns, three sets and then a ten to fifteen minute break throughout the day, with a storyteller's corner where we all sat together to watch or to talk and drink companionably in the intervals. We heard some thoughtful tales, some hilarious, and some pretty wacky anecdotes too! And delivered tales and riddles ourselves, which went down well - the audiences we had, as Tim observed, were lovely! And built until folks were standing at the back with nowhere to sit, having come specially. The latter was very kind after a rendition of 'Tippingee' - 'I wish someone had been filming that, it was magic!' We used fabric to drape over the audience at various points, and it seem to work pretty well. Shucks.
   Lastly, that night, at the aptly names 'Late Night Club' event held in the sports centre (it doesn't start until 11pm!), we did - after a very long day wandering round the stalls and attractions, watching dark Morris dancers, and missing things as usual as we were either on at the same time or getting ready to go on! - our Carnival of Monsters (a short version for a late night and very drunken audience). After carting in all the monsters earlier and storing them under a large pool table, as directed, we then had to arrive and fish them all out again, plus signs, liaise with the host, and when I found out we were going to be on last! before the open sessions, I promptly went back to the van to go to sleep! asking Deor to wake me twenty minutes before we were on... In a way of course, it's a compliment to be the culmination or finale or whathaveyou of the evening... On the other hand, late nights are not my thing, as I tend to like to get up earlier in the mornings than that time pattern would permit.
   However at quarter to one in the morning, I was woken up, and in a terrible temper which I strove - and I venture to say managed - to master, I got up, got into costume, assembled the props, and then waited near the stage, until we were introduced, and I walked on, taking the microphone and announcing 'Welcome to Widsith and Deor Storytelling Theatre's one and only Carnival of Monsters!' or words to that effect. They were a rowdy crowd, of course, some there for the late bar and all mainly for music and dance, but they listened, shouted, and when the Diablo came forward, when I (as Il Vappo the Ringmaster from Old Venice) had summoned up the Devil, the place went silent, just for a few moments, and then booing and hissing as folks recognized 'who it was', and then joining in the banishing incantation at the end... It was a success! Rowdy, noisy, a bar and music environment, wholly unexpected as we were, we caught their attention, engaged their senses, and evoked their responses...afterward there was much praise, folks stopping Deor and requesting to take pictures of him as various monsters, and a lovely comment from the host 'Absolutely wonderful - I've never seen anything like it before.' That's what we like to hear!
   In the middle of the night in the alcoholic haze, I wondered (as we took the monsters back to their table to await being picked up at 8.15am on Sunday morning, and went back to the van to change and get some much needed sleep) how many would look back and wonder if it was a dream...it certainly seemed like one to me!
   Big thanks to Dave of the Bunkfest for having us again, and to Tim and Tina for being such good comrades in tale telling!

Poetry Unplugged

Three days after returning from the Beautiful Days, it was time to be off again - to catch up with friends and family in Oxford/Oxfordshire and London/Surrey, and Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden and then the Bunkfest in Wallingford.
   Niall Sullivan hosted with his usual aplomb and humour, and there were many quality acts, many newcomers having learnt their pieces and reciting/performing them with remarkable confidence and verbal dexterity. One performer even making the comic but time worn subject of essay deadlines (he was a student) more than engaging - moving, meaningful and rather original as well as involving the expected laughs! No mean feat. Another had a poem about the big cosmic stuff of the origins and size of the universe, mixing science, awe and some emotive/evocative strands about our place in it and what we should make of it. Most performed well, but those were the two (I haven't had time to write this blog as swiftly after events as I would have liked) at this distance that I recall most clearly. Matthew Hammond as the Stand Up Philosopher was scintillating as ever, and I think my set (I got it over with first as then I could relax, and no one else was volunteering to kick off proceedings!) went well. Folks certainly seemed to be listening, and fully engaged/interested as I handed them tiny presents with words in as part of the piece/set.
 Thanks to Niall for having us again and being so accommodating, and to our friend Nathan for coming along to support us again, and for a lovely day in Soho cafes and at the British Museum!

Beautiful Days


After the Big Chill, had a few days to get our breath back, and pack up a less monster-filled and more craft based pack, and then it was time to be off for the Beautiful Days! This time there was storytelling gear to take as we were booked for storytelling and then the whole group (us and Andy and Mandy etc. of the Collective) for craft workshops; a couple of monsters, smaller ones generally for storytelling, a giant unicorn head (for the parade) and a heap of willow and fabric and leather for the workshops. Plus of course signs including our lovely new hand-painted ones (thanks Steve!) and book stock. It was really nice not to have to pitch a marquee, and we managed to negotiate space in Crew Camping at the top of the hill so that we were parked right by Andi and Mandy's big truck and they had space to put up their big awning as a chill out zone for all of us, which was good. The weather on Friday? morning was terrible - the rain poured down and found every tiny hole in the tarpaulins or joins, and every channel in the floor to make streams in! But with a mixture of desperation and ingenuity, they found ways of securing it to keep us all dry. And thankfully, that was pretty much all it did! So like the Big Chill, while it did rain, it soon dried up and I didn't even have to wear wellies, as it drained so well... The moon rises and sunset were (like the Big Chill) beautiful as the site is Escot Park, and like Eastnor Deer Park, it's rolling countryside with views across the bowl of the main site in the vale below, echoing Glastonbury.
   The storytelling part (6-9pm daily) went down well, thanks to Ruth for hosting the sessions! We built audiences and some people (to my amazement) came to every single session!! And we got lots of applause and some lovely comments including 'Your badinage is wonderful.' Deor was part of the Majical Youth parade to open the attractions as the giant unicorn, accompanied by an old friend dressed and masked as Mr. Punch (one of the 'monsters' from our Monster Carnival). And the craft workshops were rammed most of the time, Andy and Mandy's lovely driftwood mobiles and dreamcatchers going down brilliantly, Deor overwhelmed with folks wanting wristbands, headbands, hair plaits and a host of other things that can be made with leather, and to my faint surprise and relief, I remembered what Andy had taught me the night before and showed folks how to make willow dreamcatchers! As well as willow and fabric mobiles and headdresses. Ages ago Sonia (of the original Collective) taught me how to make dreamcatchers, but I had totally forgotten how! - Only retaining the all-important knowledge that I knew I could do it. Always vital.
    The festival was (oddly, as the bands last year were more to my taste!) better this year, I felt, with more visuals etc.. But perhaps it was partly because we were properly booked for performing first and not craft, and knew what to expect... However, it is a danger with festivals (as with anything) - although I remember when I first spoke to folks who worked habitually at 'the festivals' it was so, and could hardly believe them! - that one gets jaded as there are definitely similarities, not least as in a summer many of the same acts or attractions tour, like oneself. So what was amazing the first time, novel the second time, can become 'oh it's those again' the third time. (I recollect last year thinking that if I saw those red lotus street lamps one more time...!) But actually they've all been great, and all different. So to still be fun (with us working four hours each day not including lugging, set up and take down time), after the larger festivals we'd been to, all I can say is, it must have been good!
   Thanks to Andi, Mandy, Sam and Alex for being such a great team! And to Majical Youth for booking us yet again.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Big Chill 2: The Art Trail

The Art Trail itself (an established feature at the Big Chill) was stunning, and it was a truly lush setting for the Illuminated Tipi (or rather, Haunted Tipi in this context). Our fellow Trail attractions were mainly exquisite light sculptures by Saatchi artists including some wonderful green lightning in the form of a static shape of rope light (?) stretched in angles over wire under a tree, florescent neon tubes in beautiful colours hanging from trees in a glade, in purple, red, blue, etc., and a fantastic tall sculpture made completely from found objects/recycled materials intricately put together as a tower and then lit with a circle of solar lights, and with threads tied all around it to form a sort of cone - which all looked amazing when lit up at night. We were opposite a yurt with a delicate shimmering projection of images sensitive to movement inside, and along the trail were two video projections, although we only caught one set of films - of flocking birds and old piers, atmospheric and eye catching. There were some funky love seats, big wooden benches with heart shapes and spray painted in striking colours and designs. The performance acts were some performance art of the durational/endurance variety involving what looked like space suits, some corde lisse aerial movement from a tree, and occasional music under the neon tubes in the glade - the first of which we missed sadly, as we were of course all on while the Art Trail was open from 9pm till 2am! - And ourselves in the Haunted Tipi.
    Whilst the area (behind the Enchanted Garden) was ambitious to put anything in - brambles, ant hills, nettles, thorn trees, and tucked away in the wood as well as hard to light even with powerful architectural lighting on some of the trees and installations (including the recycled sculpture and ourselves) and small spotlights studding the path, it was very beautiful and crazily atmospheric. To our surprise, hordes of folks trekked up the path and found us all, so whoever decided to locate it there was right about intrepid the festival-goers were likely to be! So while the space was somewhat of a challenge - the big pvc floor tarpaulin did save us the thorny ground, but it also was a fun surface for rugs and cushions to slide about on when folks came in to sit down and a few of the unwary went flying over an ant hill on a surface not entirely unlike a frozen windswept sea! And of course lugging everything there and back from a nearby field, and then finding things in the dark, as oddly, green and coloured lighting aren't nearly so easy to find objects in as daylight-colour light.
    However, despite all that, the setting was so striking and so picturesque that we fully understood why it had been set there, and the tipi all lit up at night on the hill, seen from below and from the path itself above, behind it a wonderful panorama of the sea of lights that was the rest of the festival site, looked so amazing that it made up for the bother.
   We just wished on Monday that we (all those on the Art Trail) had made an effort to have a drink or something together afterward! As we had all faced the same challenges and delights, and there was such a great deal of talent on the Trail. Thanks to Katie and Liam of the sculpture tower (artist Katie Surridge), for being such lovely company and to Lizzie Jordan of the yurt opposite for sharing our travails! Also to the love seat folks, and the green lightning and neon tube artists for making such lovely things to look at, ensuring that we didn't miss everything as some of the best stuff lay on the path to work! Also to Kelly of Festival Republic for booking us! It was a big success and a fabulous festival.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Big Chill


After the Big Chill it was just one long pack for the Beautiful Days! So this is a slightly less fresh impression than it might have been. I/we hadn't been to/performed at the Big Chill before, and I must say I was pleasantly impressed.
   But not before we'd turned up on the Tuesday and been shown whereabouts to pitch the tipi...up a hill that might be thought a trifle steep for drunken revellers especially in the dark, then into a wooded track, very pretty but full of very large anthills to negotiate, and finally we came to spaces where glades had been hacked out of bracken on the one side (the poor folks pitching the yurt said there were ticks when they'd done the festival before! as the site is a Deer Park) and a bramble hedge on the other...ours was the bramble bush. We were speechless and at first just looked at each other in disbelief. Deor was the first to come to his senses, and he said he'd give it our best shot. When I quizzed him as we carried the 14ft poles up hill and down dale through the anthills, he said he thought we should at least try and see it was possible...hours later, and to the left of the place initially indicated, and on the slope without the usual circular clearance space, to my amazement we had pitched it! The site had been changed twice already by whoever decided these things (not the curator who had commissioned us!).
   We were commissioned to perform ghostly and supernatural tales in the Haunted Tipi, illuminated with our theatre and outdoor lights on the Art Trail, with shows on the hour at 10pm, 11pm, 12am and 1am. Which meant that we (being once the public were let on site camped/parked a mile and a half away) were there pretty much from 8.30 or 8.45pm until 2am, as of course there was set up/opening up time, changing into costume, and afterward shut up time/pack up time. Being on as the one interactive attraction on the Art Trail was both rewarding - we got hordes of audience, almost every show was completely packed, and we were 'one of the lit up things happening in the middle of the night' that people (or at least I do) go to festivals to catch; And also exhausting - as the flip side was screwing up one's sleep pattern, trying to get up later (which took getting used to) and then rocking round again once the festival was over. It also meant that pretty much everything that was happening that looked good, from the Electric Hotel to the Chemical Brothers was on the same time as we were, so we didn't get to see much in the way of acts. And finally, we found out why areas like Shangri La in Glastonbury are full of bouncers! It was a big compliment that folks wanted to come in and just soak up the visuals between shows, as they really liked the way the tipi was illuminated and decorated. It was also nice that we had big audiences, that they often didn't want to leave, and that they applauded often riotously and were so put out when they had missed a show or were willing to come back (being quite a trek in the dark, despite the path being lit up - there were still dark patches, and still nettles, brambles and very lumpy anthills to negotiate!). What was also nice was how charmed they were when we allowed them to sit in the venue (not while we were changing!) when swapping props, or performed ancient Anglo-Saxon riddles for them when they came at the wrong times, (Deor was especially heroic, hating to leave anyone disappointed unless they were really roaring drunk/with no manners at all), and also to try on the masks supervised - which many people also loved to do.
   What wasn't so positive was when they bayed like hounds and packed the place out so that one had to start half and hour early! - or put on in total 4 extra shows! Or when they crowded both venue and tarpaulins outside, blocked entrances, wanted to try on masks and bodymasks when they had been left unattended for a few moments, liked stuff so much that they made off with two small masks, a giant blue hand, a big straw hat and a balaclava (how anyone could even see that in the dark, I can't imagine!). And finally, how - despite our tales and especially The Monster Carnival at 1am being scary, on Thursday night it was we who found the crowd a bit scary! People were of course, drunk, off their faces, up for fun, and shall we say some were determined to get every penny of their money's worth, and in their relentless pursuit of entertainment, did not quite manage to maintain the manners one might expect in the normal course of things.
   One nice thing however at having done Glastonbury a few times etc., was that while we would have loved some security folks up there or stewards with more experience than the ones we had, on the other hand, we were able to deal with the crowds well enough that we made the artist opposite us more comfortable. She had a beautiful installation in the yurt over the way, which involved expensive equipment, and had trouble getting people to go in one at a time/in sensible numbers for sensible time slots, and encountered careless and reckless people whom she soon started to deflect and close her venue to. We agreed that it was bedlam from time to time up there, and about the more 'out of it' members of the festival goers. She had said a few well chosen words to someone who thought it funny to 'mooney' at her and others on the Trail, and had sent him away with a flea in his ear! But very nicely, she said it was good to have some more experienced folks on hand across the way (meaning ourselves) as it made her feel more secure! So glad to be of use.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Creative Collective and the 'Life of Art'

When the Crew left the country for the Continent in May, they were off to travel...and of course being the Crew, what should they do but find - completely by chance, Patrick Dougherty the renowned Land Artist, in Brittany engaged in one of his European projects? He was looking for people to work on the project - another of his architectural willow constructions - and so the Crew (i.e. Melina and Wayne of the Collective) got involved. Apparently he said that a ball on top of a pillar was the hardest thing to do...and then was so impressed with their ability that he just let them get on with it! It being the centrepiece of the work. He also ended up giving them a free signed copy of his expensive new art book, writing in it that he couldn't have done it without them, and promising them a corking reference should they ever need it... So in addition to studying with Serena de la Hey of M5 Willow Man giant Millennium sculpture and many others fame, they have now worked on a large project in France with Patrick Dougherty. Time surely that Melina Hubbard Design Associates (as 'Whistling Willow' used to be called) was requested to embark on another major project! In fact, just having returned from Cornwall, and having gone to see her project at Longrock again, and seeing the living willow of the tunnels and dens was growing well, I was struck again by how gifted she and they are. The whole structure is like a maze, but one you won't get lost in and really does that have that 'element of surprise and delight so essential to art' to paraphrase Michael Alexander.

   Also in Cornwall, last Saturday was Lafrowda Festival day in St. Just, the most westerly town in Britain, and Liz Tyrrell (of 'MerryMaker') another member of the Cartwheels Collective, was accompanying one of her giant carnival floats in the big parade. The town was packed, a field on the outskirts commandeered as a car park, stewards and closed roads, the whole centre pedestrianized with stalls, food, music and acrobats, and an amazingly colourful carnival parade! Including a red warrior with turning head and menacing sword, lovely peacock (put together by a local school), elephant highly decorated and ejecting water and confetti, and of course Liz's tall dancing figure, like a Brazilian carnival puppet. Deor donned the Widsith and Deor top hat, complete with roses, and helped animate the figure by taking the pole for one of its arms, and off they went, me taking video and trying to do justice to its sheer size and clever dancing movement. Liz has done some amazing things including a beautiful dual carnival float of two playing card queens in 3D, a huge Spanish style flamenco dancer, and was working on the Lafrowda float (plus community workshops) inbetween her work for the Golowan Festival involving record-breaking numbers of folks dressed up as pirates! and making giant pirates, and soon she'll be off to Cardiff, decorating festivities for the Cardiff Carnival.

    The Collective might not always work in the same place at the same time or even on the same projects, but we keep in touch and up to speed with what the others are doing, and it's delightful that they're always so impressive!
   Closer to home, on returning to HQ, there are two artists/musicians living upstairs, and (while not members of the Collective - folks usually join if they're going to after they've left/cemented things) the drummer and toymaker/wood and ceramicist asked us storytellers to dinner! Along with the painter/keyboard player/guitarist also upstairs. And a merry meal was had by all. The former we hadn't talked with a great deal, as he works opposite hours and so we often don't see him. So it was news to me when he said he'd made a huge dog figure with moveable nose and ears for the Phoenix for a Quirk Theatre production! As well as, (in his native Slovakia) having sold his wonderful toys in markets until the ridiculous hike in stall space rental drove him out of business there. Interested in the carnival float footage, we discussed moveable and mechanical art for theatre and carnivals/festivals, and he was even more gifted than we had thought! (As well as gratifyingly appreciative of Wayne's welding and other skills.) But, like the painter, what he really needed was affordable workshop/studio space... It made me very sad, when I think of the many things Liz has made and had to destroy because there's nowhere to keep them, and that the same thing happened to the giant puppet made for Quirk Theatre! And that really talented people are being hamstrung and having to work in low paid jobs not as stop gaps or top-ups (if the employer is honourable and the work decently paid, stacking shelves or cleaning are not beneath folks' dignity) but as a replacement to the arts and skills they should be doing and being paid for! And that IS a crime. Likewise the Crew talking of fruit picking work - after what they've just done? I wish I could wave a magic wand give the amazing artists I know studio and workshop space, and contacts with the those whom I KNOW must be out there who want to commission their fabulous skills! 'A life of art'? to use Burne-Jones and Morris's phrase. It's easier when you've got Kelmscott Manor at your back... Thank God for HQ, but even with it and masks and props everywhere, and earlier in the year Wayne welding in the shed and Mel weaving willow in the garden, and the many folks who have made and mixed music and sound and painted and made things here, there's still only so much it can do... An idea for a website called 'Undiscovered Genius' should perhaps be built on - where one nominates amazing folks in various disciplines who haven't had the recognition they yet deserve? Well, it's an idea anyway...


Patrick Dougherty's artist website;
http://www.stickwork.net/

Sunday, 3 July 2011

'Disabled Art'

Had a conversation recently with a visual artist who doesn't have much time for what he considers 'minorities' and their 'preferential' treatment from time to time. We were talking about disability arts, or the practice and idea of an organization such as Kaleido (which by the way, recently lost all its funding in the Arts Council cuts) putting on an exhibition in association with a mainstream gallery, including visual arts created by disabled/differently-abled artists. All different art mediums and all different challenges, eg; wheelchair users with varying mobility, MS sufferers, deaf people, blind people, etc.. He took issue with the the idea that just because the artists were disabled and created art, that didn't mean that their work should necessarily be shown in galleries because what gives you the right to exhibit is 'being any good'. So I tried to make some distinctions. There is the art that under 'normal circumstances' might not be considered all that great, but what's so impressive in the context, is that say, it was painted by someone who couldn't see. A friend used to send me cards printed from paintings by folks who could only use their mouths or feet to paint with. What struck me first was the fabulous use of colour and the wonderful striking images and bold style. It was only when I read the backs of the cards that I realized also what an achievement they were as well. But they were undoubtedly very fine paintings whoever had done them.
   However, I have been to exhibitions and sometimes seen work that I didn't think was up to much. (But then I could say exactly the same of non-disability arts exhibitions!). It was the idea that no extra effort should be made to accommodate folks with extra obstacles in their way that I wanted to explore with him. So then a gifted artist I used to know sprang to mind. And I said - well, there was this truly wonderful artist who created amazing paintings of trees, and collages of moss in book form, and hundreds of tiny object-based collages, and who, as far as I know, usually exhibited in disability art exhibitions and forums, although they were easily gifted enough to be shown anywhere and everywhere. In that case, he replied, they should get themselves a better agent! Ah but, I pointed out, what can you do when someone gets a commission and then honestly can't be doing with making another huge artwork just then because their doctors have insisted they go in for another three operations in a row? How can you give the time and effort to insisting you should be entered for this or that competition when every day involves wall bars, drugs to take, the sheer grind of getting into your specially adapted vehicle and out again, the making sure you've got someone around to carry the pictures, the... He got my drift. Gifted as they and others like them are, you won't see their art in 'ordinary' exhibitions any time soon. Should it never see the light of day? Aren't we all poorer for it if those works don't get out there? Should we cut all extra provision for disabled artists that makes it possible that the gifted aren't just wasted? Or should we get off our backsides and go to their exhibitions and plays and suchlike to check out the amazing stuff such artists have been doing, and make sure we don't miss out!
   Like every other sector of society and art, 'disability arts' has some chaff...but plenty of wheat in it too.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Nice to be wanted

Strange to think of the events we can't do or have had to turn down this season... the Leamington Peace Festival wanted us to perform, as did Strawberry Fayre in Cambridge (my first ever festival as a student!) and the Acoustic Festival of Great Britain. Exmouth Festival hosted the wondrous Edge of Chaos improvisational/experimental event that I love so much in May, but I couldn't go... the Dumnonni Chronicle's Outlore big LARP Dark Age bash and battle in early May in Okehampton...and typically enough they had the marvellous Daughters of Elvin playing! Groans all round to miss that! And had an army issuing out a tunnel no less...sounded amazing. (Although on the other side of the coin, we were offered the Buddhafield Festival again this year, but after last year sort of swore never again!)

   Every season has it's clashes, as the Exeter Respect Festival on the Saturday meant we had to leave the Hay-on-Wye philosophy festival just after the Friday evening gig! And Glastonbury was so hot on the heels of the N.Devon Festival's Summer Science Day, we nearly didn't make the latter... And we've just had confirmations of the Nozstock and Big Chill Festivals...one after the other, and also the Beautiful Days (which always clashes with the Sunrise OffGrid). But this season it's crazy. We were accepted for the Exeter Fringe, but then couldn't do it because it was right over Glastonbury! Argh! For the first time since doing it, we can't make National Play Day at Playplus in Dorchester because it's between Nozstock and the Big Chill, and we'll be in Herefordshire all week... What is going on?

   The only way in the end to choose, is to pick the ones that you can make or move things for, that offers the best commissions and/or for the most money. But still you have to turn down some well paid gigs or gigs on which your heart hangs, and with folks with whom you have built up a mutual loyalty...hard choices. But summer is only three or four months long, and every weekend there are dozens (nationwide hundreds) of events clashing with each other. I guess the only good thing is that more people seem to want us at their event. And more wanting us for performing and not (much as it's wonderful to have and transfer practical skills) craft workshops. So perhaps (despite the being drawn between the pillar and the post, and the heartache of missing things you'd like or disappointing nice organizers - though thank goodness for being part of a Collective which means you can find replacement workshop hosts at least!) we're kind of going in the right direction...?

Glastonbury Festival - there and back again

Last year it took a week to get things and oneself back in order. This time there wasn't the intense heat (although it was pretty hot on Sunday) but lots of now-famous mud. I returned Tuesday afternoon, and still today - Friday - until lunchtime you think you're doing well and all the stiffness (from marquee pitching and unpitching, packing and unloading and then packing and unloading again, a full Transit van of stuff) has gone - until you realize you're practically falling asleep, everything seems soporific, and all you can think of is closing your eyes - the fight to stay awake till nightfall has begun. But it was worth it.
   We did a whole variety of things this time. We did Monster Walks (walkabout performance as the name suggests) where Il Vappo the Ringmaster took out different monsters for a stroll. It raised a smile with almost everyone we passed, many taking photographs and some following us with video. The Il Vappo mask on an old Venetian design is rather wonderful - long beak like nose, and frowning forehead in dark red, originally it was the kind of mask used to scare away plague! And I wore it with top hat and tails. Deor played the monsters, so the green faced Master of the North (from the Finnish Kalevala cycle) or the Hobyer/Hobgoblin all red and copper sparkles, all complemented with a flowing green cloak (an Anne Laverick, the historical costumier). We told plenty of Anglo-Saxon riddles by the large campfire in the Tipi Field, and people were (as always) amazed and delighted to be hearing and being performed poetic puzzles from over a thousand years ago. Deor got me doing Egil Skallagrimsson's (Iceland's greatest warrior-poet) 'Head Ransom' as a rap a few times to different sets of campfire audiences. It was nice that they all joined in the clapping, and many seemed to really get into it, so much so that I could leave off the clapping and just perform the last four verses while they kept the rhythm. Some looked bemused to be told that it was by a poet who lived from 910-990 AD, but most were just astonished and interested. Deor got countless people photographing the masks, bodymasks and sculptures arrayed outside the tipi (whenever it wasn't pouring with rain), asking him how they were made, admiring them, trying on their favourites, and asking whether or when he was holding workshops? It was good to hear the monster clan and Deor's making skills getting so much praise! Sometimes he hardly seemed to come into the tent for a bite of lunch, so many people were asking and talking to him about them. Oh and I did a unicorn dance/mime at one point. Our main scheduled show on the Ancient Futures Stage on Sunday (despite lots of folks who'd said they would come or wanted to, of course being too wasted/asleep/across the other side of the site by then) went really well. The audience wasn't large, but we gave it 'welly' and folks yelled, clapped, laughed and got into the spirit of things - again, amazed passers by who'd come in on the 'roll up roll up!' call, and just weren't expecting...well any of it! We were billed as 'Extreme Storytelling' (I think because of the physicality, energy, bodymasks etc. in our performance style) and I think we lived up to it!

   It was of course all hard work, not because we did a fair bit of performing, but in the trench-like conditions of a mud-filled Glastonbury, the vast site (the size of the city of Bath), the 175,000 people creating people-jams at major junctions, the reeking (if excellent, well-managed and miles better than they used to be) loos, the sinking into the mud twice in the dark and having to be rescued by strangers! the pitching the tipi the Friday before (left at 9, on site by 11, didn't leave till 4.30...in wind and occasional rain, if still lucky we got it up in a dry spell). The carting the stuff (a full van load) of masks, carnival heads, carnival poles, fabric, rope, canvas, camping gear like chairs, big iron pots and pans, the new brazier (made by Wayne of the Collective) gas cannisters, petrol and petrol cooker, book stall stock, signs, props, costumes, ladder (you need one to put up the door etc. in a tipi)...to the pitch, off the pitch, and taking the whole structure down again on Tuesday morning...in between being smoked out of the tipi (twice) by reeking charcoal, having to crawl in and out of the tipi for days on end (too damp to let the door be wide open most of the time), and just the sheer physical challenge of it that justify the 'I survived Glastonbury 2011' t-shirts folks were buying.

   We were however, lucky - lucky that Sunday was scorching (27 degrees C?) and windy enough to dry out most of the site, lucky that we met an amazing guy just as we'd were starting to despair of getting the Transit van out of the muddy hole in the Dragon Field Crew Camping we were parked in, as the wheels whizzed round to dig further mud marks. He looked at the route we were thinking of taking, saw the problem, insisted we take away the planks we'd thought of putting under the wheels, told us he thought it was possible to get out without the aid of a tractor or similar, and that he'd been doing this for thirty years! He had the missing teeth and accent of a Clash fan, it seemed to me, and the friendly street-wise smile and spiky hair, and we warmed to him. 'But,' he said, 'D'you mind if I drive?' 'Be our guest!' we said, and off he went, driving the van like a slalom, zig zagging over the mud, and around the ditches and trenches, until, to my amazed and delight, there stood the van on the hard road. We shook his hand and thanked him mightily - and despite him 'not being on the internet', I would like to thank Bertie, the trumpeter from the Powersteppers with green painted nails, publicly and with all my heart! A man who would have made a wonderful rally driver! I wish we'd caught one of his sets. What a hero.

   Other folks that need thanking are Mike the face/body painter from Cambridge who made us tea when we were at the end of our tether on the previous Friday pitching the tipi! And who was pitched opposite us and a charming neighbour, Clive Pig the Storyfella for coming to the Tipi Field to be our guest star for a short show - and who was as amazing as ever! A superb tale brilliantly told, with wit, wisdom and wonderful balletic movements for the character of the Wind! And Tara of Hearthworks for having us once again.

   Also to all those engineers, technicians, artists, performers, lavatory builders and emptiers, mud shifters and builders who make the whole thing possible! Especially to the Arcadia team for another night of bliss, and AnugreenDesigns of Cork for their exquisite 'Portach' metal and LED bog garden / cave sculpture chill out zone... Also to the folks from the church in Bristol who design and staff the Elemental tent for the best sofas and most welcoming chill space on site, and to The People's Front Room for the best open mike idea and one of the best 'surprises'. Lastly to the coolest walkabouts, the black Star Wars-style robotic stilt walker, the Anubis effigy stiltwalker and the Magritte Men! And the company who staged the divine 1920's Pimms' Party by the central campfire... And of course the Eavises for going through all the headache of permissions, legal requirements, pollution issues and the stupidly huge clear up operation just so that everyone can hold a massive art party on their lovely fields once a year! We love you all.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Festival Season...Again

Back from the North Devon Festival's Summer Science Day at Tapeley Park, the day after having gone to the Glastonbury Festival site in mud and rain (though mercifully it was dry when we actually set the thing up) to pitch the tipi in the Tipi Field; complete with juggernauts, scaffolding, empty fields, the skeleton of the to-be Ribbon Tower, the structure of the Pyramid and other stages, and general swearing, cursing and losing of tempers.
   Then off in, after getting something to eat and drink in a supermarket, what turned into driving rain to North Devon, to spend the night with Collective members Andi and Mandy (wood/cob/willow artist/maker and fine all-round practical skill-master, and wondrous costume/felt/textile/blinds/bags/felt maker and peg loom weaver) - who between them host more imaginative craft workshops than you can shake a stick at, in their company 'Freeplay'. The best part of the two days was undoubtedly having supper with our charming hosts who served up a delicious meal, and you know when things are going well when all four of you end up shouting news and opinions at each other, each agreeing or disputing in a friendly constructive way, and all yelling drunkenly but still making sense! Grown ups in an adolescent-style bonding session in other words! It may sound hell to those who don't do ebullience when they relax with some of their friends, but to us storytellers (habitually shy and often reserved!) to have folks you can let rip with from time to time is simply heaven, and we did. Indeed I do even have a quiet restrained and self-disciplined friend who finds it funny when I or we relax with her and go up a few decibels and run amok in the pub, even though it's not something she does herself. Anyway, it was great to have such an evening after a pretty 'urgh' day and preceding the worst attended event we'd ever been to at that much-frequented venue, all because of the weather. So many of the stalls and attractions didn't turn up, let alone the public. But still Freeplay's fantastic driftwood mobiles sculpture and fishnet aerial collage went down a storm, and our tales as Widsith and Deor drew what appreciative crowds there were to be had in the dry spells.
   But to hold a stall in such weather was disheartening to say the least - you can't sell things and draw folks in when you're rescuing paper based stock like books from downpours coming in at the door and what feels like a gale blowing everything to kingdom come... I couldn't help thinking of all the performers I know of who turn up with a suitcase full of book stock and dump them in the foyer or site office, stroll in, take up the mike somewhere dry, do the performance, stroll off to somewhere dry to sell books...  Oh to get less hassling gigs! I guess the problem was going for the festival market as part of the Collective? Doing workshops as well as performing? I thought it would open doors, not trapdoors! I have learnt a deal doing this kind of work, and got some gigs and a lot of experience I would not have got otherwise... And best of all I've worked with some truly amazing and gifted people - the Collective, and had some good fun with the extended network. But perhaps the time has come to rethink the strategy. Branch out in all directions that you can, yes, learn new skills apace, yes. But if there's something you intended to do and not stray too far from, and levels of hassle beyond which trying to earn a living becomes too much stress to handle, then that's the time to refocus and think again. Approach different venues or events for work for instance, not just rely on the usual channels. I know the weather and times when you hoped and needed to make money and didn't, can knock you for six, especially in the arts. But the inimitable Hope Clark would say, and I agree with her - what can you learn from this? And how change it to become what suits you better and is a better way of promoting your work?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival

Back from a whirlwind few days as I was privileged to go to Hay-on-Wye to support Matthew Hammond the Stand Up Philosopher, performing at The Globe Stage in the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival of philosophy and music (which runs pretty much at the same time as the Hay Literature and Arts Festival). The weather was amazing - almost too hot! And the bustling town of Hay was alive with folks attending both festivals, and packing the teashops and market stalls stacked up old stairs on the way up a steep slope to the castle remains... The attractive clock tower had signs all round it, and the colourful shops full of antiques, books of course for which Hay is famous, gifts and whimsical objet, made a wonderful backdrop to the festivals. As did the bridge over the beautiful River Wye, untamed and wide like a river in France, and the whole nestling by the foothills of the Black Mountains.
   The main venue for the HowTheLightGetsIn was The Globe, with its extensive grounds and split levels and many bars, and the thing that impressed me was just how much like a manageably scaled summer rock festival it was! The grassy spaces were studded with quirky interesting stalls, one selling sheepskin rugs, one selling vintage hats and a whole section calling itself ' Beautiful Rubbish', lots of places to eat with local suppliers well in evidence, cafes, a tea tent decorated like a posher version of one of the famous cafes that do the rounds at festivals like Glastonbury, places to sit outside with many octagonal wooden table and chair sets, well kept marquees, and because of the split levels and causeways, it all felt bigger than it was, and one could find unexpected corners. The Globe itself had a main hall, and underneath that, a lovely chill out zone bar selling excellent coffee and cakes as well as the usual bar drinks fare. The Stage marquee was lush - a cocktail bar at the entrance, replete with many martini glasses, neon sign and all, and a wonderful vintage red velvet ornately carved sofa, looking like something from a decaying country house. The stage area had crimson drapes, and was a really nice space. As a ticketed event, Matthew had to wait until the audience arrived before starting, so in the meantime to get people in the mood for thinking, he told them Anglo-Saxon Riddles from the C10th Exeter Book (a speciality of Widsith and Deor Storytelling Theatre of which he is course, one half), and at one point he kindly invited me up to tell my favourite riddle - the Sun and Moon! His show when it did commence was brilliant as ever, and the feat of remembering all the philosophical ideas detailed in each piece, the performing as if we were hearing the philosopher in question hectoring his contemporaries, whether Kant, Aquinas or Marx, the turning philosophy into theatrical monologues, and the hearing-the-thinking occur as in the piece on an idea by the modern French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, all of it was as rich, enthralling and (as a poet at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden remarked last summer) 'incredibly impressive', as ever. As he observed to the audience (eliciting some laughter) they needed to be drunker! but it was early in the evening... However, the show went down a treat and the organizers/stewards and technicians who had hosted and aided with it all were all pleased and complimentary, and all in all, it was a triumph.
   I just wish I could have made many more of the events listed. With talks and discussions on drugs, 'When China Rules the World', the 'Old Gods of England', the concept of the self, and allsorts of aspects on technology, politics, and everything in between, plus loads of music, and even circus, I recommend the Festival as one to get to! It had a lovely mellow vibe, and was about as far from stuffy or quiet (as some people might assume a festival about thinking might be) as could be imagined.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Astrolabe and the Heart

The new season is well underway now, though blogs and other things have been being neglected whilst two members of the Collective turned up and parked outside HQ for months! From late in January on and off until this week, they have been around, coming in and going out, making things, offering things, mending things, weeding the garden and painting their big purple truck, making it ready for serious travel (rather than a large, comfortable, but rather stationary affair), bestowing on it a motorbike rack, welding, creating, chopping wood and generally being the hive of activity they usually are. It's been strange having them around again for so long. The Collective was born (as I'm sure has been said in previous posts) of various people/artists living together in the same space, either at the same time or sequentially, and knowing one another through that, and coming together to form an artist's collective on the strength of - if you live together, then perhaps you can work together. The original eight members were all folks who lived at HQ (including ourselves the storytellers - writer/poet/actor/collage artist and philosopher/maker/historical cook respectively) and six of us kind of at the same time, which provided the initial impetus for forming the group. Sadly, two of these core members moved to New Zealand a while back, the jewellery and clothes maker, and the roundhouse/eco-builder/wood sculptor/musical instrument maker. Known collectively as 'The Crew', those four all went to Bicton College and met during the now-legendary Environmental Arts and Crafts course, save one, who went to Dartington and was partner of one of the three.
   Since then, the Collective has expanded into friends-of-friends, as the two remaining of the original 'Crew' introduced two of their fellow students from Bicton, or rather one, (cob/wood/willow artist) and his partner (costumes/textiles/banners/rugs/weaving), an artist they met from one of their own projects (carnival floats/public art textiles/large scale banners) and another from their circus days (juggling/fire juggling). Meanwhile two of the early members have fallen away - the issues that evolve over time after having lived together sometimes straining as well as cementing bonds! So music is now under-represented.
   However, incredibly, what with two of the original members moving to NZ, it still meant that we had eight active members, who worked together and in combinations at festivals and events! Quite an achievement, we felt, given the potentials for trouble, what with friendship / housemates / couples / singles / money / relationships / art / egos / work / stress / weather! and heaven knows what else, all mixed up in a heady cocktail. Others with whom the Collective are allied and sometimes work are a pair of stilt walkers (also from Bicton) and an environmental artist (Bicton).
   So for the last three months or more, to live with two folks with whom you have lived twice before, with whom you have done so many workshops and festivals, whom you have been with in good weather and bad, for whom you have cooked and who have cooked for you, who have given you many things and whom you have given many things, with whom you've gone to dinner at dodgy beach bars and danced the night away at parties in questionable venues...with whom you have been through and done so much, and who have brought you through bad times, and find themselves doing it yet again: With whom you have lived in a seemingly endless gift and favour exchange economy where one always needs what the other has to give, storage space for some plastering, willow for electricity...with whom you have unwittingly forged and fashioned something uncomfortably close to a family. Who treats you like a hotel, but in the nicest possible way. With whom you have the ease of ideal flatmates, work colleagues, helpmeets, fellows in some cause...good friends. - Has been strange. Strange because you think that eventually you must get sick of the sight of each other! And yet it doesn't happen, despite the fact that you all have edges or points of non-contact, and come up against them from time to time. Despite (from my own perspective) the endless mug-finding, mug-rinsing, floor-sweeping, the lack of parking outside, the fur on the carpet, folks around getting in the way of admin. and work and making one late...but none of it matters, ultimately. What price the always-chirpy greeting, the friendly smile, the ever-readiness to help, suggest, be positive, cheer up, the know-how to draw upon, have pleasantries with...folks you can get drunk with, without worrying if you'll make a fool of yourself in their eyes.
   And of course, why they were here for so long was to get everything sorted and ready to go to the Continent - perhaps for good. They will stay Collective members. Just as if someone offered thousands of pounds of work to build a house, the eco-builder might return from NZ for a time, so they could perhaps post some of the smaller items which they make, and so will stay with their projects online. But it does mean that in effect, and for now, we storytellers are the only original members of the Collective available for work and working collaboratively now. And that IS strange. The Collective was five years old. Is this the end of an era? Who knows.
   But as of yesterday, they caught their ferry and have gone, having spent from January's end until Easter, then meeting in Easter in London in glorious summery weather and going boating, them surfing behind on the river, and other crowded scenes, almost adolescent in their colourful intensity, and then parting there, only to have them return a week ago...
    And so all this explains why the recent Spoken/Written editions have been late, why e-mails arrived after they were meant to (although there have been server issues too!), and why this blog has been neglected for a while. This wasn't what I intended to write, but perhaps it's only once written, that the business of this blog or online journal can commence.
   Although the Crew and Collective are of course or have been intertwined inextricably with work - until now.....................

   On a lighter note, HQ has been somewhat transformed, with new licks of plaster and paint, much weed and bramble cut away, impetus to get me tiling (an intention which had never yet materialized into action!), thrown away rubbish and junk left by many upstairs, and inspiration to sort spaces that had turned into lumber piles...and perhaps most startlingly of all, their parting artistic tributes to the Collective. A heart shaped hurdle fence with a chandelier crystal set in the centre, and a huge metre and a half high astrolabe sculpture made from cast iron rings...I won't forget this last three months. Bon Voyage, mes amis.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Live at the Bike Shed Theatre

What with everything that's been going on, I also haven't had a minute to write about the gigs we had at Cabaret Oasis in Torquay, nor the Sunday Funny Sunday cabaret night at the Bike Shed Theatre, the latter being after an invitation we (Widsith and Deor Storytelling Theatre) got to perform because the organizers had heard our comic tales on the Phonic Drama Show! They were both brilliant, and the latter was rather special as a couple of other members of the Cartwheels Collective came along, who happen to be staying at HQ at the moment. They helped take in our gear on a lovely warm April evening, and we all piled into the delicious bar of the Bike Shed Theatre, with its wonderful dark red painted corners, outsized stencils in classic designs, ostentatious mirrors, luxurious sofas, fairylights and generally charming atmosphere, hiding away down a back street reached via an unlit flight of stairs into a basement! It really is a fantastic venue. Our set went well, us telling the trademark 'Girl Who Gave a Kiss Out of Necessity' from Sweden, and a new story, premiered at the Storyclub called 'The Four Liars' (which I'd changed quite a lot) originally from  Cambodia. But much of the fun of the evening was having along fellow Collective members whom we call 'The Crew', as they played ping pong in the bar, and tried on our hats (tricorn, straw, and helmet), and generally made us laugh... It's a treat to have such supporters whether in the the audience or in the bar...
    Thanks to Chris of Poetry Island, Andy of Monkeys with Puns, and the Crew for making it all happen!
 

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Phonic Drama Show

Since mid-February (and so much has happened that I haven't had a chance to write about it - but that's another story involving the Collective!) Deor of Widsith & Deor has begun a second radio show on Phonic, a Thursday morning weekly slot - ambitious given the time constraints? Certainly, but he's managing very well, and I have been recruited as the Associate Script Editor, reading the scripts that come in and assessing them for broadcast. It's been another rollercoaster, as squeezing it all in with everything else is just madness, but to my surprise (although there are scripts waiting to be read even as I write) it is proving possible.
   The Show alternates between dramatic storytelling by Deor, storyteller/solo renditions of classic plays, so far Greek tragedy! and plays sent in by playwrights, so far ones with access to their own recording studios and actors, which is brilliant. We have been amazed and delighted at the quality of the work sent in, and as the Phonic Drama Show swings between experimental and Exeter's answer to Radio 4, so the fortnightly 'Widsith and Deor Presents...' has been making occasional stabs at being the city's reply to Radio 3...no comments on how it's been going, we have no producer but ourselves!
   The solo Greek tragedies, Euripedes' 'The Bacchae' and his (almost unwatchable and unlistenable in the grim stakes as well as so loaded that it was banned by the Greek colonels in the 1960's) 'Trojan Women' have both been performed by Deor. I have to admit I wasn't sure it could be done, as both have quite a number of characters! But was astounded, as ever by his versatility. 'The Bacchae' is one of the most beautiful plays ever written, with incredibly poetic language, and one of those tragedies that is, for me, like Macbeth - there are times when you want to cry, but, like the opera Carmen, somehow everything is as it should be, and the gods or the witches or the cards have their way, and strangely it seems right in that context. The Trojan Women by contrast is one of the grimmest and possibly finest, and certainly earliest known, of anti-war plays ever written. It deals with war from the what-happen-to-the-civilians? view - the women after the city is captured. Enough said.
   In the storytelling shows, Deor has been doing epic cycles from the Finnish Kalevala, and this morning's show was of Viking myths of the gods, but told as a series, with background techno/dance tracks to up the tempo and tension. It was powerful stuff - well, I was moved, and I've heard some of them many times before. The interpretation took up the usual mantle of blood-thirsty gore and comic book slapstick of the Norse gods' tales and turned them into a well-forged blade, dipped in ironies and laden with extra depths, multi-faceted, bringing out the real tragedy and the dark politics involved in a way that I've seldom heard done with Nordic retellings. A heady brew!
   Once a month at the moment there's a 'Storyclub Special' where whatever we've managed to record from that month's Storyclub gets played on the show. I say 'managed' as Michael Dacre must've put a copyright spell on his tales, as the machine never plays back his brilliant tellings!
   More new plays are in the pipeline, including a political satire by the author of our first featured play the tragi-comedic 'The Rose Garden', Simon Jackson a professional writer and film maker based in Edinburgh. We are also looking for Devon and Exeter based playwrights, so if you have something, and especially if you can produce/record it yourself, we would be interested to hear it! Just e-mail it to me, the Editor at the usual e-mail.
 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

'The Ruin of Britain'

This morning's radio show on Phonic FM - having been thinking about King Offa in the previous show but one about Geoffrey Hill's 'Mercian Hymns' - circled around Gildas the Monk's 'The Ruin of Britain' from the C6th, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The discussion was about different aspects of a historic conflict, that of the wars and battles in Britain between the Welsh/Britons and Scots/Picts, and Roman Empire and then leading on to the Angles/Saxons/Jutes. The invasion of Rome, the rule of Rome, Roman and Romano-British Britain, and the way that Gildas' account - deeply political, a polemical sermon basically, favoured the Romans. Then the way that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle charted successes and less of the failures, the way it was written often long after the events it details, in many places, even though it's written in the form of an annual diary...the way that Gildas refers to things which 'everyone knew' and yet as one of very few records, of course, now we don't know! The gaps and the missing names, the obvious partisanship of historical texts...and we ended with 'The Ruin' poem from the C10th Exeter Book, as a classic re-imagining of the Roman times from a Saxon poet. It was really interesting - or at least, as topics and periods which we ourselves have discussed many times, it was great to actually try and structure a discussion to explain to folks who Gildas was, why these texts matter, why it is that they're so interesting, and of course, most importantly, what they can teach us now - not only about our own past, the past of the places we call or think of as home, but also about current conflicts. How things have very different versions depending on who is doing the telling! It's a point that's always worth drawing attention to, and more timely than usual just now.
    One can argue for ever about whether one can or cannot learn from history, when technology changes even if humans don't, when history repeats itself but not in exactly the same way...but what is true, it seems to me, is that history can illuminate situations as well as give context to a geography.

   It sometimes seems quite amazing to be given the opportunity to present a show where the whole kaleidoscope of arts, history and culture are available as subjects. Well, with a finite knowledge base, given shoehorning time for research into the day's tasks somewhere, anyway... My co-presenter always remembers his various and varied areas of knowledge, in a most impressive way. Whether post modern philosophy, the history of philosophy, the history of the English Civil War or the history of maths, he can lay his hands on the key names, dates and facts in a few moments... I on the other hand can read dozens of C19th novels, or study C18th garden history, philosophy, have a detailed knowledge of follies and folly landscapes or Tudor banqueting, Icelandic Saga facts, and then...after a while, it all becomes rusty. I know that I have known whatever it is, but can I recall it quickly or without preparation? Sadly not. Whether Expressionism, multimedia theatre as documented by Richard Kostelanetz, concrete and code poetry, the English Civil War, Anglo-Saxon poetry or Anglo-Saxon kings and culture, Surrealism or theatre history, sundials, astronomy, hydraulic automata, all of them passions and hobbies at different times and still. But could I now tell you the plot of Fanny Burney's 'Camilla' as distinct from 'Cecelia' and 'Evelina', or the names of other key characters? Or the actual difference between Trollope's 'Can You Forgive Her?' and 'He Knew He Was Right'? Disraeli's 'The Election' or 'Sybil'...? Errrrrmmmm.....

   I know I have known these things and read them, but... However, luckily, whatever the faults of this morning's show, at least Deor didn't do what he often does, which is ask me a question the answer to which I can no longer remember, will remember much later, or couldn't possibly remember on only the one cup of instant coffee I've had time for! Doesn't matter what you know or how much, radio is a strange beast and a tricky medium...I'm much less inclined to criticise presenters on most stations now. Whatever I do or have known, nine times out of ten I sound like an idiot at some point on these shows, and if not 'erm', then radio picks ups your stopgaps and stock slang like nothing else. 'Wow', 'absolutely', 'I mean' all get picked up and stick in the ear. Ouch! That and sounding like you've got brains made of spaghetti. But these topics are so worthy of the attempt - it's worth it.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Philosophy Show

It's always really good to do something which you've been meaning to do for some time, and this morning's  installment of 'Widsith and Deor Present...' on Phonic FM on modern philosophy, was just that. Philosophy is a passion of mine, if in a hobbyist/slacker way. I love the history of ideas, the way that philosophy forms the backdrop to most if not all other disciplines, the way in which it critiques assumptions and looks at the scaffolding of language and culture that most of us take for granted. I love the way it makes you look at the world in a whole new light, and can make you change for the better. And I love the crazy quirky tales of how some books were written or recorded or lost and re-found, the wacky lives of many philosophers, ancient and modern, and just the whole way it seems to light up art and literature.
   So it was great to do a show just devoted to discussing it. We talked of how modern philosophy was probably to be charted from Nietzsche; Foucault's remarkable and eye-opening take on how the idea of sexuality has changed with technology and conceptions of what society's all about, from hanging to health care. Of Heidegger's Being and Time; of the difference between the Continental and analytic (or ordinary language as it used to be called) traditions in philosophy; of Deleuze's idea of the Event, very fruitfully I thought, and of course, of how the Stand Up Philosopher's performances came about! And we played one recording (a great piece, though the sound was a bit echo-y), and Deor performed the other. The show, punctuated with wonderful music from Debussy, Bizet and Britten, went all too quickly. We could have discussed just Foucault for a whole show, and we didn't have time to talk about the book I'd brought along, Foucault's beautiful and dynamic homage, art/criticism, work of philosophy 'This is Not a Pipe' - about (of course) Magritte, one of his favourite artists. There was also a lot more that could have been said about what it means to turn the history of thought and philosophy into theatre, but we did touch on the fact that of course, once philosophy was essentially oral, and changed its character with the printing press and so on. We could have gone on all day! But apart from anything else, it's in the nature of radio to have bite sized chunks of subjects. When you present a show, on any kind of radio station, it gives you some insight into why presenters and DJs sound as they do, and why programmes get studded with music or are only certain lengths.
    However, we also managed to record it, so it should soon be up on the 'Widsith and Deor presents...' site (link to the right).


    The Stand Up Philosopher will be appearing at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival of philosophy and music in Hay-on-Wye, which runs during the same period as the Hay Literature Festival (26th May - 5th June) and the show is on the  on the 3rd of June, so do come along if you can!

Check out the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival of philosophy & music at;
http://www.howthelightgetsin.org/

Sunday, 13 March 2011

'Geometrica' - the chapbook



It's always amazing to see a stage of completion in a long cherished project, and the printing of 'Geometrica' (my latest chapbook) is just that. I would have written a blog about it at the turn of the year, but things have got in the way, and blogs about events seemed more of immediate urgency (if a non-current affairs blog can be urgent).
   However, I have at last scanned the cover! of it. And I must say, it looks to me like the best thing I have ever done. It's always a difficult balance as an artist - what you most wish to pursue, and what 'the market' is most interested in. There are surefire sellers - 'Porlock' being an obvious example. As an all ages historical adventure novel, it caters for a huge range of folks and occasions, and the most recent reason given for buying a copy was a guy who was taking a long plane journey and wanted something to read on the flight! Then there are the slightly niche but still targeted areas of creativity - 'The Books of..' being the example here. Political satire mixed with poetic commentary, the readership is never going to be as wide, but it goes down well at green fairs, respect festivals, and would sell at demos, marches, outside the Leftfield Tent at Glastonbury and suchlike.
    'Geometrica' on the other hand is (and for someone who works compiling information for and attending the live lit scene it feels that way) for the literary few. Written with a seriously unfashionable view that poetry is only sometimes meant for 'expressing shared and common experience'. Evidently 'The Books of...' are meant to make you think - to illuminate the News and the issues which it throws up, in another light. A common experience of the hearsay that is the News, but other takes on it. But some poetry is meant to throw a light on uncommon experience or things from the past that one cannot know, or only from old sources. My ideal (as like many poets I would rather have been a visual artist) is to express in the medium of words - form, colour, shape and structure. In this case, geometric shapes, and/or things expressed through geometry. 'Decagonal' for instance refers to a ten sided shape, or ten pointed star, and is inspired by the beautiful History of Science Museum in Oxford. The Museum is full to the brim with sundials, astrolabes, armillary sundials, and all manner of exquisite historical scientific instruments from a time that looks as if art and science weren't so very distant from one another. Amongst its many treasures, it also boasts a polyhedral sundial and a moondial! The latter as the name suggests, being for making out the time when there is a moon visible, and the former an extravagant 'conceit' of diallists, i.e. a bit of showing off by those who construct sundials, in that it is a three dimensional geometric shape of many faces, each one with another sundial, of slightly different type and function. One exhibit is in a many sided display case, hence the idea for the name 'decagonal'. It seems to be a wonderful way of expressing relationships - a monogon/henagon is a circle, a digon a line between two points, (in 'degenerate and Non-Euclidean' maths) and then things really speed up! Triangle/trigon, square/quadrilateral/tetragon, pentagon, hexagon, septagon/heptagram, octogram, enneagram/nonagram, decagram,  hendecagon, dodecagon...I am mixing up sided shapes with pointed shapes, but you get the idea. (Eg; octagons are eight sided shapes, octagrams are eight pointed stars.) I have always thought that this is a fantastic way to explore relationships in an angled/abstract way. The love triangle is commonly used, but less well trodden are looking at five couples as a decagon, or a group of six close friends as a hexagram. In 'Geometrica' I have not used this in any way as a tight construction/correlation, let alone attempted an algebra of relating! But this was a kind of backdrop, an idea in mind when writing the pieces for the collection. For various reasons, probably to do with a preoccupation with the C17th, philosophy and geometry are intertwined together for me, artistically/creatively, and so many of the pieces were written at philosophy conferences. I suppose the connection for me being that the former attempts to comprehend the world, and the latter to symbolize it, to be horribly simplistic.
   To relate philosophy and geometry in poetry is like thinking of abstract art/Expressionism and architecture as synonymous. But if one thinks of Kandinsky and Feininger's paintings and Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings, and then thinks of when architecture has been portrayed by art in three dimensions by artists in the form of the sets for the film 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', then I hope it makes more sense, or becomes clearer why I would choose to do so.
   However people may prefer 'The History of This House in Twenty Objects' when finished, or other works entirely, still 'Geometrica' is the thing I most care about, and am most glad to see in print. The visual textworks (unfinished yet in terms of enough for an exhibition) come close, but really, this chapbook is my joy and pride. It matters that people like it and buy it, but ultimately, like much art that is made in many of the artforms, it just had to be done. It occurred because it IS the work about which I care most, and because of the kindness of various libraries and resources for putting the historic images which I desired to complement the text, within my reach.
   And so the text is studded with timeless images from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Wentzel Jamnitzer (master of the dodecahedral image), a fragment of the famous Flammarion woodcut, a piece from Andreas Cellarius' justly famous star atlas the 'Harmonia Macrocosmica', sundials and other wondrous things.
   There have been times when I thought it would never be finished - the right images, rejecting many poems originally intended to be part of it, re-writing, editing, changing last verses at last minutes, for some time the stasis of no longer getting to philosophy conferences once many of my contacts in academia had lapsed due to study periods ending at institutions, and might as well have been writer's block, for all that they were surmountable with anything other than persistence and trial. But here it is at last, and I never tire of looking at it, which is (rather than egotistical) I prefer to think, just as well!
   Thinking of not having access to the major manuscript libraries, and more importantly a password for the Humanities Index or Jstor (the resources that allow access to all the latest papers and research articles in countless branches of knowledge, and that ceases to be open to you when you are no longer a member of a university), I am immensely grateful to the University of Heidelburg, George Hart the geometric and polyhedra artist, and others who have permitted public access to their wonderful art and visual culture archives. Sites such as the Gallica Digital Library / Bibliotheque Nationale de France make research into more of a joy than endless frustration, and it's a real privilege to have somewhere I can thank them for making the completion of 'Geometrica' possible, (not to mention a dozen other branches of research for writing and the simple pursuit of knowledge).

Check them out at;

Gallica Digital Library;
http://gallica.bnf.fr/?lang=EN

University of Heidelburg Art History section; http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/Englisch/helios/fachinfo/www/kunst/digilit/architektur/welcome.html

George Hart, polyhedra and geometric artist; http://www.georgehart.com/

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Poetry Island

 Then two days later it was time for a different kind of spoken word evening but one also packed full of excellent performances with amazing variety was this month's Poetry Island at the Blue Walnut (Britain's smallest cinema) in Torquay, hosted by the ever popular Chris Brooks. - Who had very kindly asked us along as guest performers. Headlining was Chris himself with a fantastic extract from his crazy new one man show 'Edward Lear Ate My Goat' - a twisted murder-mystery style poetic tale weaving together unlikely names in an attempt to discover the truth about what links the likes of Tennyson, Lear, and Chris himself, with some insane departures into and remarks on light entertainment on the way. It was definitely a night for tongue twisters as Chris got us all roaring rhymes that ended his lines like 'vexed' and 'texts' as he pieced together a wacky poem along the way, summarising various parts of the journey of his researches!
   Other performances of the night included Tim King (often heard and seen at Taking the Mic and recently at Forked! in Plymouth) who gave a very fine rendition of one of his trademark pieces, the inimitable James Turner doing haiku, (who'll be headlining later on in the season), and Matthew Hammond the Stand Up Philosopher doing a fabulous and hilarious rendition of Nietzsche's criticism of Kant, including more audience participation tongue twisters as we all had to shout 'have you thought the thought that's never been thunk before?' and 'have you plundered the ponder that's never been plumbed before?' I was impressed that everyone managed to yell them correctly - especially the second one! What a night. Despite driving there in a gale, and the latter only having finished work in time to drive straight there, and dinner in the van on the way in the dark, it was a great evening and one to remember. Well done Chris!

Storyclub Strikes Again!

What a week! February began with an excellent Storyclub - despite four of us turning up before anyone else - Jon Freeman of Tyburn Jig, the hard working host, ourselves Widsith and Deor, and Jackie who occasionally tells a tale with a variety of Native American flutes and suchlike. However soon after, Michael Dacre of Raventales turned up, Tracey and Lawrence of the amazing Goliards, and later on David Heathfield, as well as newer tellers and listeners. It was a hugely varied evening with wildly differing styles, which all goes to show you never can say that it's the same old thing at Storyclub! From creepy theatrical monologue to a truly bizarre tale of a duck kingdom told by gifted singer/songwriter Kimwei, to Michael's rendition of an abridged section from the Laxdaela Saga (which should have been called Gudrun's Saga!). I recollected him asking us (after we had done some Egil's Saga tales - our favourite saga to perform from) about Saga tales at a previous Storyclub, and this time we had a hilarious discussion about the merits and claims or otherwise of the various characters! Gudrun was a woman famed in Medieval Iceland for her beauty, wealth, powerful intellect and force of character, and above all, her tragic life and four husbands. But the Saga - every bit a modern novel as are all the best Sagas! if a depressing one - circles around her relationship with the young man she loved best, and yet due to his folly, her pride, and his best friend's duplicity, never marries, but ends up (in Lady Macbeth style) having killed instead. It is a heart-wrenching tale of betrayal, jealousy, love and horror. Michael was more on the side of those that think of Gudrun as Lady Macbeth and Bolli (the lying best friend who ends up marrying Gudrun on her rebound) as understandable and in love. I on the other hand am firmly of the opinion that whatever else she did, she was motivated by vengeance only because of the dreadful betrayal which Bolli by his machinations brought about - and that the one who gets in the way of 'true love' gets what they deserve - or at least, I could see where she was coming from, and felt a deal more sorry for her than for Bolli. It was a noisy and involved, but good humoured dispute! brought to an end only by the beginning of the second half of the evening.
   When it was my turn, I had to apologize that while I had wanted to tell a love story, preferably a stirring and passionate tale of a brave princess rescuing a beautiful prince from a ravening monster, unfortunately what had stuck in my mind all week was a crazy ghost story from the Deep South called 'The Plat Eye'! by Veronica Byrd. Which is a ludicrously wonderful tale of the supernatural which we adapted, and Deor played the parts of all three monsters brilliantly - the eight legged dog wolf, the terrifying dark dryad and finally the Plat Eye itself. He used three masks (all made by himself, the Plat Eye specially for the purpose) to great effect, and it went down very well, considering I had only decided to do that story at suppertime, and we hadn't rehearsed it once! I so love contemporary American fiction - there's a quirky voice I seem keep on finding in the 'zines and sites which I come across, that's just irresistible.
   Deor 's did another from the Kalevala (Finnish national epic), and though he ran out of time as it was the last tale of the evening, like the last one, it went down a storm, including laughter at 'Handsome Hero Lemminkainen's dodgy dealings with the maidens of the Island of the Blessed!

 

Friday, 28 January 2011

Bard of Exeter Contest

Has come and gone - hosted with customary brilliance and aplomb by Liv Torc (who really ought to add MC to her list of job descriptions! as performance poet, comedian and Wondermentalist), and with really excellent performances by all the contenders (no kidding - all of them). Performers/contenders included Clive Pig and Jon Freeman (plus ourselves W&D) representing the Storyclub - Jon doing a mixture of serious poetry and Zen-like story, Clive a wacky poem-tale about crazy neighbours and a full-of-energy song with guitar, from Taking the Mic there was Tim King doing his very clever letters-as-sounds piece amongst others with great assurance, Morwenna Griffiths doing the best performance I've seen of her work, having learnt it all and moving well, Jackie Juno from Totnes fresh from the spoken word night which she hosts there doing an amazing turn for the first slot of the evening, and going for audience participation in an A-Z letters-as-words piece, and the Stand Up Philosopher doing a beautiful rendition of Spinoza's Ethics in seven minutes. It was a tough call for the voting audience, and a good result as Clive and Jackie tied! and a resolution was passed that the new Bard could be a double-headed dual entity! Which was a perfect and ideal result. They then both did storming encores to a packed audience, and then much hilarity ensued as they both wore the single blue robe - which it has to be said, was big enough and mysteriously seemed to have holes in the right places for two - so all was well that ended well! All power to Jackie and Clive in their new roles!