I am very excited, packing a bag and heading down to London. Earlier this year I was published by Paper Swans in an anthology called ‘Schooldays’.
We were invited to read at the Book Launch in London which is taking place this Saturday 3-5 pm at The Poetry Café, Covent Garden, London.
This will be my second reading in London, last time it was in North London and people kept asking if it was at the Poetry Café, well now it is! Special wish ticked off my non-existent grid sheet of goals I want to achieve.
As an extra bonus I will get to see friends and family down South too.
I will be travelling with my poetry notebooks in preparation for my next headline gig, HOWL – Leon Priestnall’s excellent Spoken Word night at The Sun at The Station, Kings Heath – Birmingham.
Leon books three headline acts each month, I will be performing alongside Carl Sealeaf & Sophie Sparham.
It is also David Calcutt’s FINAL workshop in Caldmore Gardens as his residency comes to an end. It is not the end of projects which have come from the 12 months of workshops though and many writers are busily working away on several things I hope to tell you about in the future.
Unfortunately it falls on the same day I am travelling home, so whether I make it in time remains to be seen.
I love August – I think I told you last year, bound to love my birth month, the time when every LEO feels their inner Leo and connects to the warmth of the sun.
I have never been one for the Horoscopes, although birth maps and star maps always seem to correlate closely to the human in question and as we were all made from stars, the path cannot be that far off.
August IS summer (despite the UK weather), it is FREEDOM (why I chose a career path with every summer off), it is SPIRIT, time to connect and reconnect…
I have become (temporarily I hope) one of those people who doesn’t socialise as much as I used to (denying it is an age thing right now)! My birthday will be time to reconnect with all those friends I hold in my heart and don’t often see.
Before that, August whirled in with a full diary and bountiful booty in the form of poetry to enrich my life!
- I have: booked tickets for events in August and September.
- finished work on a project which is now out there, cast in the submissions net.
- been asked to read at a book launch
- asked to do a set at a gig in a Nature Centre – which sadly I am double booked for
- I have planned my trip to London
- to read at THE POETRY CAFE!
- I have just come home from the first poetry event of the month for me at P Café, Stirchley Speaks.
- I have a workshop booked with Claire Walker when I get back from London
- then later the same day I am headlining at Howl along with Carl Sealeaf and Sophie Sparham
- I have tickets to see Liz Berry perform – finally!
- A stanza meeting.
- A reading at a Book Launch for Paper Swans in Oxford.
- Poetry Launch for Margaret Thatcher’s Museum by Antony Owen.
- Word Up with Not a Silent Poet
- Poetry Walk with Roy Macfarlane at Croome Court
- other possible open mic/ KAF festival events
- workshop with Angela France in Stratford-Upon-Avon
- Drummonds 42 – an altered states theme ^ which after all this writing activity I may well be in!
- To celebrate the end of the month I am going to the Poetry Picnic organised by Apples and Snakes.
September is already bustling in the diary stakes, with workshops, performances and book launches, not to mention (oh, go on then) my new role as Lead Writer for the Writing West Midlands Senior Writing Group, in addition I am booked for training on a new venture and to improve my media savvy skills (ready for next year’s Pangaea Slam – which I intend to complete), I have tickets for a friend’s post Edinburgh show and a wedding (not mine – yet)!
October is already brimming with Poetry Festivals and we will celebrate National Poetry Day, more book launches, performances, writing jobs and workshops are already lined up in the diary.
I look forward to this new season of events and will rest at Christmas!
I am currently working on two large writing projects which I hope will come to fruition and I look forward to telling you more about them in the Spring. In the meantime, they have resulted in an idea for an article on Motivation and several practitioners I hope to contact and blog about – inspirational people that I consider myself blessed to know.
Keep Writing x
Amazing Poetry Theatre created by the minds of Spoz (Giovanni Esposito) and Lorna Meehan. Fascinating, a should NOT be missed show. Which so far has been performed twice at the MAC and hopefully will continue to develop and grow.
Ten Letters is a new piece of intergenerational poetry theatre about Birmingham starring the best in local poetry talent. Produced by Giovanni Spoz Esposito and Lorna Meehan and incorporating multi media and live music, Ten Letters celebrates, procrastinates and immortalises this city we live in through a group of unique voices aged sixteen to sixty.
A cross generational show from 16 to 60 bringing together poets who all know Birmingham in their lives. Poems about the great and grime of the place, of memories and hopes.
Incredibly powerful and moving – I did not expect to be reduced to tears or goose-bumps, but with every voice I felt connection, my own memories resurfaced of trips to the Science Museum, the life-size dinosaur, suburban streets, black and white photos taken by grandparents in front gardens. It was all there buried away inside.
Particular highlights was watching the audience reaction to Maggie Doyle’s letter to Birmingham, the generational memories and Mexican wave recognition going on amongst the middle seats of the auditorium.
Lorna Meehan who wants to stab at your emotion buttons with her letter recalling divorce and the role of the city in her dual living experience, cut deep with parallels and reduced me to teary eyes – thank goodness I was sitting amongst poets.
The passion of Spoz’s letter that was uncensored and raw.
On the Night
This is what I wrote when I got home;
Ten Letters… Has to be summed up in 17 letters…
A Birmingham for everyone! Great show/ media content and live music. Performances that have emotional bite, I ran the whole gauntlet – tears of parallel hurts, tears from laughter, goosebumps! Everything and some unexpected memories came flooding back. Birmingham you are amazing in the skins you have given our lives! Amazing – as were Spoz & Lorna in conceiving this project. Take it to the nation, Birmingham – because you’re bloody brilliant!
There were stunning performances from the entire cast and the whole show was an amazing feat for Birmingham, a love letter, letters of thanks, hidden praise until twisted recollections – a triumph for poetry theatre and the city.
I am SO GLAD I didn’t miss it.
There are plans to move further with it, it was a crowd funded project and incredibly well produced.
Photography by Nigal Goodship © 2015
Top to bottom Performers: Casey Bailey, Maggie Doyle, Joe Cook, Aliyah Denton & Aliyah Holder (A Squared), Lorna Meehan, Jasmine Gardosi, Luci Hammans & Sipho Eric Dube (Unhindered Reign), Spoz, Carl Sealeaf, Emma Purshouse, Callum & Melissa Bate (Prime Poetry)
The Quiet Compere Tour was a great success for Sarah Dixon in 2014 and what started as a tour of poets in the North of England spread as far as the Midlands. Following her success Sarah applied for a 2nd Arts Council Grant to continue the tour across the UK this year. We were booked prior to funding and kept our fingers crossed. It is my longest awaited gig and due to funding, poets were paid – something that doesn’t happen often enough and is always a pleasure!
I was incredibly excited and worked on what would be part of my set for some time. This tour stop was one in which I knew all my fellow performers and we knew a lot of each other’s work, so it felt a little different to my first exposure to the QC back in 2014, watching the 10 magnificent performers at the MAC.
It was incredibly exciting to be part of the tour and I was delighted when fellow poets mentioned statistics from my interview with Sarah in introductions to their sets.
Ten minutes flies by when you are part of a collective set, most of my headline slots have been 15+ minutes and the pressure of those feels a lot longer than the extra 5 minutes.
My first spark of excitement came when I saw our names in The Hive programme.
Before I knew it the day arrived – I knew it was a mistake to take work on the day, but needs must – so I spent the whole day run ragged by 4 year olds and arrived home in time to get ready and grab some food and GO! No time to feel the pressure, after my Poet Laureate experience, I decided this was for best.
Sarah is exceptionally professional, kind and always seems magnificently calm! On the day she had to deal with a change if line-up, sadly missed was Hayley Frances, I was particularly looking forward to her set because although I saw her a lot 2013/14 I have only seen her perform at the Poet Laureate final, Birmingham Literature Festival 2013. Clive Dee bravely stepped up to the mark… well once you have performed on the same night as John Hegley!
I arrived to find that the ‘Green Room’ was the Oasis Room, which was great as this is the new venue for Writing West Midlands, ground floor and very yellow! They are never green. Sarah Dixon and Steve Wilson (Arts Officer) who I met properly for the first time at the Worcestershire Poet Laureate finals in June greeted me and after some time in the Green Room, I wandered off to find the other poets were all having coffee and cake in the café of course, others were playing in the library, there are some great kids spaces in the walls, small nooks to read books, appreciated by the poets small enough to make use of the spaces.
Sarah Dixon, introducing and performing her own poetry too, including some great words about Frank and from Frank (her young son).
Always a pleasure to listen to, and since her return to theatre last year, someone who I don’t get to see perform as often as I would like, she performed at Ledbury Poetry Festival this year too. A perfect start to the evening!
Mike has written about the war and shared his war poems since 2013, he and I talked of books in my early days and I am delighted he chose to self publish his collection ‘Fragments of a Great War’.
He performed a set of some of his best poems, about butterflies, twin brothers and war. He performed Letters to a Soldier at the Front with the help of Moira and using two voices made it a powerful reading.
Then it was my turn.
I performed some of my favourite poems and am here with my eyes closed because the lines;
‘ I watched your face as you played,
breathing through that silver saxophone …’
always make me want to shut my eyes.
Highly energetic – always whether hosting or performing, I love watching her perform. She treated us to a dark and thought provoking set. I especially liked her Night Club poem. https://www.facebook.com/JasmineGardosiPoet and @jasminegardosi on twitter
Another strong force in the world of music and poetry, someone else who I don’t see nearly enough of. He shared as we hung on every word. A man who is a master of humour, wordplay and talking about allotment produce, whenever encouraged.
The Very Grimm Brothers https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Very-Grimm-Brothers/193869703992330
Another performer I don’t see enough of, her subtle humour is delightful and her set was quietly spoken and well received. It is amazing what we learn about each from our poetry…
like Myfanwy comes from a long line of ‘Windmills’. https://myfanwyfox.wordpress.com
My dear poetry friend who has her first collection/pamphlet coming out this Autumn.
Claire’s pamphlet The girl who grew into a crocodile is available in Autumn 2015 here; http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/our-poets.html
Another favourite of mine, I met him back in early 2014 and had not seen him for ages until I went to Jasmine Gardosi’s OPUS CLUB night and we were reunited. He is an amazing bloke and a great ambassador for Poetry.
He shared some incredibly strong poetry, words we needed to here. Crisis and our part to play.
Poignant poetry – I used to love his Haikus but nowadays without the brevity of word count he can pack the same punch!
It was a fabulous night and we all left on a real high. Thanks Sarah for asking me to be involved.
Keep track of Quiet Compere Tour here
or on twitter @quietcomperemcr
The Quiet Compere Tour is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
I made it to Ledbury Poetry Festival this year for Poetry and Cider with Ruth Stacey, Lesley Ingram and Sarah James
From the brochure;
Three poets based in the West Midlands celebrate the launch their new collections. Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress gives voice to every English/British queen from Anglo-Saxon times to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Lesley Ingram’s Scumbled is ‘A haunting collection (which) explores the brackishness of human relations, the kinship we crave with the non-human, and our desire to trade flesh for something less encumbering’ (Damian Walford-Davies). Sarah James’s The Magnetic Diaries takes the form of a narrative in poems, loosely based on the characters and storyline of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Sarah James also has a collection plenty-fish with Nine Arches Press.
Ledbury Poetry Festival Programme © 2015
It was a wonderful evening in Burgage Hall, which was packed out with poets supporting these three great women. A great atmosphere and touching readings. What was particularly special was the gratitude Ruth showed Ledbury Festival, over the years she has gained lots from being involved in the programme and appreciated the input from workshops and coaching she has had, as well as previous opportunities to perform at the Festival. It is lovely and authentic when poets take a moment to acknowledge and thank people, for what they have done and how they have influenced and helped.
There is no greater feeling for the poet than to know you are supported and mentoring and guides are priceless treasures.
The event was a great success, it was lovely to hear Lesley perform her poetry and Sarah James too. I enjoyed sharing the moment with Ruth Stacey and her glee was mesmerising and contagious! I don’t think I have ever seen her look so happy. A magical night in Ledbury.
You can buy your own copy of this great collection from the following places;
- Direct from the publishers Eyewear http://www.eyewearpublishing.com/products-page/books/queen-jewel-mistress/
- Or order your copy here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Queen-Jewel-Mistress-Ruth-Stacey/dp/1908998458
Now it is my turn to thank Ruth for one of the sweetest messages I have received at a signing. Thank you.
If July was a race it would be 100 metre sprint, if it was weather it would be a full on 30 degrees (I am from the UK), July was like the best day ever groundhogged over and over!
Busy, full and delightful.
Was it all Roses?
There were a few dips, loss of confidence in my writing but I am learning that self-belief isn’t a constant and that all artists feel this way sometimes. So, rather like my illness in the early days – I am choosing acceptance. It is better to admit defeat, say this is the way I feel today, so what can I do that will create more time for writing another day. Anything from the TO DO list, which is huge this summer, as I am attempting to unpack the house (finally), deep cleaning as I go.
I am a firm believer in this action and I DO. Even on a dip day some writing will have been created – that is how a dip day is spawned, it doesn’t come from not writing. Besides I had 10-15years of not-writing. If you want to be a runner, you may have a day when you do a quick power walk and some pilates, but I am sure you wouldn’t stop altogether. Even on the non-training days they are devouring everything they can about their chosen goal.
LET IT GO
I have talked about Elsa moments before on this blog. I missed a few submission opportunities this month because I couldn’t key into what the writing required. I am currently working on a big project and that is taking the focus when I am working – and so it should. I have tried to make submissions with work I have already collecting dust.
I was still on holiday, basking in heat and oceans at the beginning of July. As soon as I was home the run of poetry events kicked in.
Magnetic Diaries A wonderful Poetry Play at The Courtyard, Hereford.
Rhyme with Reason A great open mic night in Birmingham.
Poetry Lounge A fantastic night in Ludlow.
Ledbury Cider with Poets Ruth Stacey Book Launch
Quiet Compere Tour Worcester Stop 6 A great event to be involved in, 1 of 10 poets.
Then after this run of events I found myself exhausted. I was working full time too. I spent the whole weekend sleeping and unfortunately missed the 52 Picnic and reading in Stratford-Upon-Avon at the Poetry Festival. A great shame as this was something I was looking forward to for a long time.
The Pangaea Slam a wonderful poetry competition I discovered in 2014, this year I posted a video in WEEK 1, unfortunately since then I have been busy with writing projects and life and have not managed to complete this event. It is now on my hit list for next year.
After a weekend of sleep, I was ready to go again and as it was the last week of term, I had less work to do and more energy to play (all my poetry work is play).
Ten Letters was an amazing experience, Poetry Theatre at its best. A wonderful collective.
Walsall Caldmore Community Garden Workshop with David Calcutt. This workshop was great, the tools of the job was our starting point, due to the weather we spent most of our time writing in The Bakehouse, a wonderful artisan café in town. There were some interesting pieces that came out of this workshop, not to mention the gorgeous food at The Bakehouse and the help yourself bookcase!
In the evening I went to Mouth & Music where the theme (thanks to Gary Longden) was inventions that never made it – the hardest theme I have ever had to write for. I tried to write a poem in the hour I had between the workshop and M&M, it was still in scratch stage but will be developed. It was a great night.
At the weekend I was heading to Shropshire for Writing Down the Dingle, a writing workshop facilitated by Jean Atkin. I had to pull out of this workshop as we had a college reunion the same day – a group of Drama students that haven’t seen each other for 20 years, which was fabulous and a great start to the summer holidays.
I started to focus on writing, I am still editing a collection and now have a couple of new projects to work on from Walsall. I started working on my 1st poetry sequence for 42 for ‘Island of Lost Souls’, I started with black out poetry based on a page of HG Wells. From there I edited and extended the sequence, keeping the archaic language of the original text. In the end the sequence was 5 poems long and following positive feedback I might make it a flash fiction piece.
It was also the Walsall Festival this week, originally an event that was planned got cancelled but I did get to a workshop at Walsall Arboretum facilitated by Jimmie Rennie and David Calcutt, which was great fun.
Photography Janet Jenkins © 2015
Followed by a reading at The Bakehouse. It amazed me how different all of our writing was from the stimulus of the lake.
In the evening I performed at The Sun at The Station for Arts All Over the Place at the Madhatter Charity Fundraiser. Rachel Green booked me for this event a month ago, having opened the festival for them last year. I was delighted to be asked, although I wasn’t sure which poems to perform. It was a great event and well attended – a great fundraiser, such a success that they are considering making it a bi-monthly event.
Rachel Green © 2015
Howard Atkins © 2015
I took some bookings for August Headlines, diary is now booked up to October.
I had an amazing night at Shakti Women Womanly Words event. Lots of great performances and a touching experience. It was the first of a schedule of events planned for this summer.
42 Drummonds was a great event, my sequence of poetry went down well and we all got to say goodbye to Math Jones, who is off to the smog of our Capital City.
And since then I have chained myself back to my virtual desk to continue writing.
I have sent 4 submissions this month, I am waiting to hear the results and keeping my fingers crossed as always!
It has been an amazing month. Made more spectacular by the fact that my (unpaid) summer holidays started 2 weeks ago and since then I have been in my poetry skin and I still have 6 weeks to go. This is my holiday, being my poet self!
Nadia Kingsley & Keith Chandler at The Poetry Lounge in the Sitting Room with Jean Atkin, Ludlow – 7th July
Still catching up with blog posts for events in time past – so a couple of weeks ago (7th July) I went to Ludlow to see Nadia Kingsley and Keith Chandler headline at The Poetry Lounge – with Jean Atkin, in the new home – still in the Sitting Room – it was quite funny imagining the venue with legs trundling across town.
A lovely new venue it is too and as we have the upstairs room we have less ambient noise to contend with than before. The Blue Boar was fairly easy to find, central and is a lovely pub.
© 2015 Shropshire Star
Nadia Kingsley was headlining back in January and sadly wasn’t well enough back then. She was on top form on Tuesday night though. I was invited to headline in her place, back in January (my first headline slot) with Bert Flitcroft, so I was doubly glad I managed to catch Nadia’s performance.
It was also great to discover Keith Chandler, I am almost certain I have come across him on this Poetry Odyssey at some point. I bought his pamphlet, ‘The Grandpa Years’, published by Fair Acre, a gorgeous little publication that Nadia said reminded her of the sort of pocket size books some granddad’s carry around with them. I had a brief conversation about Poetry with Keith and I was grateful because there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to him.
It was a great night! Shropshire oozes talent and I hadn’t been able to get back up to see people for so long that on a social level alone it was a phenomenal night and the following evening Jean and I were both going to Ledbury Poetry Festival too. I always get that ‘Christmas Eve’ feeling when there are back to back events with the same poetry friends, almost like the pre- sleep-over excitement of a child. Guess I am still a child!
Here’s what Jean Atkin said about the Guest Poets;
We’re so pleased that Nadia Kingsley will be reading for us as a Guest Poet. Nadia has performed at Wenlock Poetry Festival in 2011, 2012, and 2014 – and is published in the anthologies of each of these years. Her poetry has been published in Orbis magazine, Poetry Cornwall, the environmental anthology We’re all in this together (Offa’s Press), and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She managed and wrote poems for the fabulous show ‘Expanding the Universe’ which has been touring the West Midlands this spring.
She’s won prizes for her flash fiction and short stories and her photography, textile art and brick sculpture have been exhibited in the Cotswolds, Birmingham, Brighton and London.
Nadia also runs the very successful Fair Acre Press.
© 2015 Jean Atkin
Nadia is a gem of the poetry world and I always enjoy hearing and reading her work. This set took us through the seasons and plants which play an important role at throughout the year. Segments from a bigger artistic collaboration she has been working on.
Our other Guest Poet for July will be Keith Chandler, who has many awards, accolades and publications to his name, not least being 4th in the National Poetry Competition a couple of years ago. His most recent book is the very well received ‘The Grandpa Years’ from Fair Acre Press. Keith is a very modest poet, so if you haven’t heard him, you’re really in for a treat. It’s fine work, brimming with humanity. And then there is that bone-dry, self-deprecating humour.
© 2015 Jean Atkin
It was a wonderful reading and there was not a person in the room really who couldn’t associate with the resonating emotion and family connections he explored in his pamphlet.
As always there was also abundant talent from the open mic slots shared by;
We managed to convince Jean Atkin to share one with us too.
Photography © 2015 Robert Harper
Miriam Crane Obrey
Photography © 2015 Jean Atkin
Photography © 2015 Adrian Perks
plus a short slot for Helen Barratt, read by John Barratt,
Keith Chandler Photography © 2015 Robert Harper
Nadia Kingsley Photography © 2015 Adrian Perks
Photography © 2015 Robert Harper
Photography © 2015 Jean Atkin
Photography © 2015 Jean Atkin
A superb evening – and of course now I have time to look forward to the next one – where I will (once again) be seeing John Hegley – who I believe has transformed into some sort of bus – having not seen him for 18 years and then 3 times in 4 months!
GROWING POETRY SCENE IN AN ALREADY VIBRANT CITY
In the past quarter there has been an influx of new talent in the city, young, talented and ambitious poets have taken a bite of the poetry scene, chewed it and decided they can also provide a delicious event for the rest of the city to chow down on… and they are not frightened to get everyone involved either, driven by spirit and desire over three new events have practically popped up overnight (of course, this isn’t true, beneath the tip of the iceberg (success) lies all the hard work and decision making)!
This post started out as a review of the Launch of Rhyme With Reason – Nicole Murphy’s new night of Spoken Word, in composing the opening paragraph I realised how much new poetry (events and performers) have sprung up in 2015 and how many of us get the opportunity to share with a new audience because of it.
So in case you are not from this wonderful middleland let me share with you the new gems and masters!
HOWL – Leon Priestnall – The Sun at The Station – Kingsheath
I met Leon in 2014 at Word Up, where he came and supported the acts and shared waffles and drinks with the poets. I remember talking to him about writing the first and second times our paths crossed. For a while he was a poet who didn’t perform (at least not at the events I saw him attend) and he was even existing without social media because I remember one of his first poetry videos doing the rounds in an experiment of exposure over social networking.
Anyway long story short he is a fine performance poet who has filled many Guest Spots this year all over the city and has also started his very own eclectically brilliant, beat inspired, spoken word night. The Sun at The Station first made it onto my radar with there UNPLUGGED nights every Sunday and although I saw lots of the Birmingham poets performing I thought it was primarily a music event and I am never sure how well my poetry stands on those stages, I have in the past – but I feel this time my writing has changed.
It wasn’t long before Leon had the venue pegged and created his own night HOWL Feat – which (due to other commitments) I wasn’t able to make in the early days. I have made it to two events, both superb and am Headlining along with others in August.
Leon Priestnall is a poet, writer and performer based in the West Midlands. Leon’s work battles back and forth between the personal and the observational, the angsty and the humorous but is always accessible. Leon has performed at various venues around the Midlands ranging from music events to burlesque. He was a runner up in the 2007 Spiel Unlimited Solihull Poetry Slam and has released two spoken word EPs in collaboration with musician Dan Hartland. He now runs spoken word night Howl at the Sun at the Station, Kings Heath.
STIRCHLEY SPEAKS – Jess Davies at the P Café, Stirchley.
©Murdock Ramone Media
Jess Davies, who I first met through the 52 Project 2014 kicked new life off by discovering a pocket of Birmingham starved of words and brought Stirchley Speaks to the P Café. I was delighted to be at the launch night in May, missed June as I was away on holiday and am performing there in August.
Jess Davies is a Midlands based artist who dabbles in both the contemporary arts Scene and the Poetry scene. She was recently commissioned to write a poem for the museums at night tour at the local pen museum. Her writing is personal, heart wrenching, observational, heart wrenching, surreal and humorous. She currently runs Stirchley Speaks at the P Cafe in Stirchley.
LOUD MOUTH – Frankie Ryan, The Bond Co. Digbeth
Frankie Ryan (a.k.a Ryan Murray)
©Murdock Ramone Media
I was on holiday and missed the launch of this event, I have heard good things and it is one for the future diary!
Frankie Ryan is a poet, photographer and spoken word artist. He has performed regularly around the Birmingham scene. His first published piece ‘freedom lament’ launched the Birmingham book club section in Nubi Magazine back in may. July 3rd will see the launch of his own spoken word night ‘loud mouth’ and his first poetry collection ‘beyond your line of sight’ will be available later this year.
RHYME WITH REASON – Nicole Murphy, Alfie Birds, Digbeth
Nicole Murphy’s new night was my initial reason for this post, the launch night was phenomenally well attended and the performers came from as far as Bristol, the audience was a great mix – so many new faces to us all, which is what we hope with poetry events really – that Spoken Word filters out and gets reborn. It certainly did on Monday 6th July!
It was a fantastic night including free cake and raffle tickets (for a Waterstones gift card), great performers and a brilliant venue. It was the start of a busy run of events for me and it was a great start, I left pumped full of adrenaline and was pleased to have met and watched Hannah Teasdale in action, as she headlined Word Up the same night I was performing for the first time in London – I am back there this summer, at the Poetry Café no less!
RWR started on the back foot, I had a particularly tiring day at work, arrived flustered and late in the city, had to park further away than I wanted to – but within minutes of the night kicking off I was there, back in my body and mind and enjoying life. A great first night!
Up and coming poet from Walsall. Her poetry combines humour and powerful emotion. She has been a regular on the Birmingham scene for a while now but has recently started her own night ‘Rhyme with Reason’.
I have been lucky enough to have seen ALL these wonderful fresh blood poets perform around the city and I have tried to make it to the opening night to support them. I missed one launch (sorry Frankie Ryan) as I was on holiday. I hope to make it to more of these events n the future!
Creative Poets on fire!
The Courtyard Theatre – 4th July
I first heard of the Write On Festival when I studied Writing for Theatre with Alan Harris at The Courtyard Theatre Spring 2013. This year Sarah James made an application with her poetry collection ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ and what happened next was a sequence of events which created a wonderful piece of theatre.
I know theatre, it is what I trained in and worked in until I pulled back my ego and found out writing was something I enjoyed better than the lights and action in front of the camera and there is no doubt about it this was theatre.
Sarah made the decision to use a professional actress Vey Straker and Director, Tiffany Hosking.
The set was a multi-use masterpiece and the SFX (Special Effects/Lighting) was used to change the whole focus and feel of the piece throughout. Very clever elements of physical theatre sprinkled throughout the performance kept up the belief of place.
I am certain it was a golden egg for The Courtyard and the Write On Festival. We knew we were watching something special. I always like to read the book before there is a film adaptation, so I was thoroughly delighted that I had managed to do so and was looking forward to making sense through theatre, excited at how it would be approached.
Sarah’s face as it was about to start looked like pure nerves, she didn’t need to be nervous of course, but that’s theatre for you!
What was to unfold on the stage had the entire audience captivated. With a foundation of a strong, emotive tale and the unusual concept of a poetry manuscript, combined in a heart wrenching piece of theatre. One that I believe (from suffering depression) could actually help promote mental health, it is possible that people may be able to learn what it is like for the sufferer. I certainly did, that didn’t surprise me… the book moved me and I have been dancing with the Black Dog since before 2011. Other people in the audience had not come with the same insight to the illness and were still affected by the performance. A strong piece. So how did it all come together?
Micro-interview with Sarah James
- What were your initial thoughts behind sending a poetry entry to the Write On Festival?
I was simultaneously thinking it’s unlikely they will take something so different while absolutely believing it could be something amazingly different and intense to put on stage. I was delighted, yet almost couldn’t quite believe it, when they accepted it!
- At what point was the decision made to use an actress and director?
As with so many arts project, funding was the biggest block to not using an actress and director – because there was no money except the potential of the box-office split. The script I initially submitted was very much based on the notion of an enhanced poetry-reading, a poetry-show if you like, in which I would therefore play the main character, Emma. This meant the amount of acting possible was limited; I was using a lot of props and some stagey movements with elements of physical theatre. This was what was accepted in January and I tentatively started rehearsing the lines.
Meanwhile in February, the festival organiser had put me in touch with actress Vey Straker who played Emma. Through Vey, Tiffany Hosking from Reaction Theatre Makers agreed to take on directing. I think it was around May when it firmly became a poetry-play with actress and director. Throughout this period, I did quite a bit of rewriting and there was some re-ordering to make it more of a poetry-play, to fit with Vey’s excellent portrayal of Emma’s character, the greater scope Vey’s taking on the role allowed and how Tiff envisaged it working best on stage.
- What was the most challenging part of this project?
Probably the ‘producer’ aspects and having to juggle those jobs alongside the creative aspects. I love the creative side, the re-writing, the seeing it through Vey and Tiff’s eyes was fantastic. But in effect, I was also producer as the contract with The Courtyard was in my name. So that was dealing with things like the financial constraints, the marketing, liaising with the theatre. Also the whole finding the line between being involved with the play as writer but not trespassing too far into the director’s realm, which I think is harder if the writer is also part-producer. I was very lucky to be working with an experienced director and actress, so that this was much easier than it might otherwise have been.
But, as we’d still like to tour with The Magnetic Diaries, it could be that I’ve not yet reached the most challenging part of the project!
4) How long did the whole project take?
Well, the original poetry collection that the production is based on was mostly written in the second half of 2013 into the first half of 2014, when I submitted it to my publisher Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Towards the latter end of this period, I had the idea of also doing a poetry-show version, potentially for poetry festivals and did some recordings in advance with my publisher Alec Newman. But I didn’t start work on the actual script until the latter half of 2014, in case any of the collection poems were omitted or drastically edited. In my head, I already knew how I wanted to link the poems and which poems from the collection I wanted to use, so I created the script as soon as the collection contents was fixed. Then I submitted it to the Write On Festival over the Christmas period 2014-2015.
Thanks for taking time to be interviewed and I really hope you secure funding to tour this work, which would work at Poetry Festivals but could stand as a piece of theatre too.
From the theatre website and Sarah’s blog.
A narrative of love, lust, betrayal and depression, The Magnetic Diaries re-envisages the characters and storyline of Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece Madame Bovary in a modern twenty-first century English, poetry setting. The contemporary heroine, Emma Bailey, battles with romantic idealism, illusions about love, a stifling middle-class lifestyle, boredom and depression.
Moving lyrical fragments and crafted poems reconstructed by fictional researchers from Emma’s diary and treatment notes are set alongside the voices of her doctors and emails from her husband Carl. But will modern medicine save Emma and her marriage in the wake of two affairs?
Written by Sarah James
© 2015 The Courtyard – Herefordshire’s Centre for the Arts | Reg. Charity No 1067869
Oh, what a night…last night’s performance of my poetry-play at The Courtyard in Hereford was one of those memorable nights. Actress Vey Straker was amazing as Emma, and with Tiffany Hosking from Reaction Thaetre Makers as director, they really brought The Magnetic Diariesto life on stage. It was a truly exciting evening,enjoying the production, listening to people’s comments and feeling the buzz afterwards.
© 2015 Sarah James