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.