Daily Archives: October 13, 2014

Birmingham Literature Festival – Naked Lungs Urban Nature

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BLFest This year a call out for poets was announced by Naked Lungs (Joe Whitehouse & Christopher Baker) for a collaborative project and performance at Birmingham Literature Festival.

80 people applied to the initial advert and although Naked Lungs didn’t interview all applicants, it still feels special to be picked as one of the four poets. The brief was intentionally loose to give artists room to interpret and play, we met up and visited the Community Garden in Digbeth for some extra inspiration and to spend some time together.

I really enjoyed meeting new poets, Hannah Graham is a local poet performer and Amanda Hemmings works with young people writing at the MAC, Aysha Begum, is a poet I already knew, we have performed at the same events and I have enjoyed some of her projects, like Bridge the Gap. She recently won the Oxjam Slam in Birmingham.

The whole project was individuals working privately on the commission and then coming together to unite our words and ideas. I really liked the fact that we wrote in the dark and then discovered the elements of synchronicity.

Unfortunately due to demonstrations *that I am not going to give promotion to*, one of our performers was prevented from arriving safely at the library. This situation was fully understood by all of us and I think if it had been any of us in that position we would have done the same. But at one point we were potentially half the cast down Hannah and I thought we might have to fill the whole half hour together. A daunting prospect!

This would have been a challenge on timing alone. We had been asked to write for 7-8 minutes worth of material, due to differences in the way we all work and the poetry we produce, not every artist fulfilled the timings brief. This meant that we were already short of the specified performance slot.

Everyone wrote amazing poems and performed them brilliantly. We all work differently and I am sure everyone put their all into the work for this performance, certainly in the time spent learning their poems, which is something I didn’t have time to do – as they were only completed 4 days before the performance and I had 2 days of work and 2 events in that time.

We needn’t have panicked though as the extra time allowed us to introduce the project and the poems and contextualise some of our material. It was a worry but needn’t have been, we were just a few minutes short of the 30 and no-one seemed to mind.

It was a great project to be involved with and great fun performing in the foyer of the Library of Birmingham. We had quite a good crowd of people watching, along with our own supporters and everyone did really well. I still can’t believe that Amanda hadn’t performed for a year, what a brave way to get back into performing! Hannah Graham is amazingly talented and I look forward to watching her in the future.

I will continue to seek out future opportunities as amazing as this one.

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2nd Week of October – A Birthday Event, An End of Festival Party and Performing at BLF

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I spent the beginning of the week with 2.5 writing days, I was working on the Naked Lungs commission as well as an on-going project for October. I am enjoying filling my new poetry book with poems.

WLF&F logo concepts On Thursday SpeakEasy celebrated its 1st anniversary/birthday, with cake, poetry and TWO Headline acts, Antony Owen and Spoz. I was delighted to perform at this special event too and took 3 new poems with me, including one I wrote especially for the SpeakEasy team, which went down well. It was an epic evening! Speakeasy OCT

 

Lots of talented poets took to the mic including; Heidi Murphy, Charley Barnes, Leena Bachelor, Mike Alma, Polly Robinson (who also did a special Birthday poem), Heather Wastie, Michelle Crosbie, John Lawrence, myself and Mogs. As well as 4 open mic-ers, there were some open mic-ers who hadn’t been before, both good poets who I am sure we will see again.

the-year-i-loved-england Antony Owen brought some poets from Coventry to read some of the poems from his latest book, ‘The Year I Loved England’ – it was a great set. I bought the book at his launch in Coventry earlier this year, but nothing beats watching him reading his own poetry. © 2014 Antony Owens

Spoz, as always was thoroughly entertaining, he did his Jeremy Clarkson poem which I love and also treated us to a special effects housefly poem from his book of kids poems. BL spoz RH

I left on a real high.

On Friday I went to Digbeth to celebrate the end of the Poetry, Performance (and Everything Else!) Festival, with the cosmic chill out party. It was a brilliant party upstairs in a pub, there was a proper stage and sound system/board and technician, like real bands get! I had to follow Swingerella and Kate Bush! Who were both brilliant and massive crowd pleasers with their entertaining acts. I was worried approaching the stage with just my book of poems – thank goodness I had planned to perform the Moustache Poem! It was the toughest crowd I have had – thank goodness for stage lights – I couldn’t see the audience – I could hear them all talking though!

The end of the festival landed on World Mental Health Day, which is the main reason for the festival – raising awareness and fighting against the stigma of Mental Health. I had rehearsed a set which included some poems about my own experience. I decided during Swingerella’s act not to perform these. I had 3 funny poems, but still they talked.

Half way through the ‘Adjective’ poem I felt the audience with me – as there was movement on the stage as well as funny words. They wanted props and SHOW and I am so glad I packed my moustaches! I won them round on this final poem – especially as I needed a volunteer to hold the mic – there was audience participation and Swingerella and I bantering back and forth when she came up to the stage to help with the props!

It felt great! It also gave birth to the idea that I may collaborate with Swingerella in the future.

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On Saturday I had to get my Writing Job covered and it was the first day of my new mentoring role as I was at the Library of Birmingham for the Birmingham Literature Festival performing a collaboration for Naked Lungs.

Last year I went to the festival and spent most of my days there, I had just re-embarked on a life as a poet. This year, I was not able to make much of the festival, but I was performing in it.

This was a busy weekend for poetry events and I missed a Slam at Malvern Cube, the 20th Anniversary/Leaving party of the Cheltenham Slam and Ledbury Poetry in the Orchard.

I have written a separate post about Saturday Birmingham Literature Festival