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.

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