As I am gearing up for Australia I am winding down other poetry activities apart from the desk-bound art of actually writing.
There are however, a few events still in the diary and the end of July saw Poetry Bites, a workshop in Stratford-Upon Avon and a Stanza meeting before it ground to a halt – where I had blanked out days to ensure that all my paperwork, adventure shopping, packing and performance/workshop preparation is in place.
I thoroughly enjoyed Headlining the bi-monthly Poetry Bites event in May and was looking forward to seeing Holly Daffurn and Jonathan Edwards perform.
It was a wonderful evening in a packed out Kitchen Garden Cafe. I am always delighted when friends discover poets I know and hear/see how good their work is.
As a Costa Award Winning Poet Jonathan Edwards wowed the room. (Some of us already knew he would.)
Holly Daffurn Headlined with a POWER set! She went on to win the Oooh Beehive Slam at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham a couple of nights later as well.
It was a fabulous night and my final open mic before I whizz off around the world.
Matt Nunn and Elaine Christie have done a sterling job taking over Poetry Bites from Jacqui Rowe. It is always lovely to see the venue full and this evening certainly pulled the crowds in.
The evening ended with Holly Daffurn Headlining.
It was definitely an action packed poetry evening, sometimes it can feel overwhelming listening to this many acts, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Following this event my next was a workshop where we looked at Travel – an apt theme, especially as I plan to work on a book during my 20 hour lay over! Which is fortunately on the return journey. That’s the thing with travelling so far you lose 4+ days just getting there and back!
I finished my poetry diary with a Stanza meeting which was a great evening. Lots of exciting news to come from this.
The final, FINAL poetry outing is the 4th August for the Cat Rescue Anthology Launch. Then Australia… I am coming to see you!
July – the season of Festivals. Ledbury Poetry Festival (30th June – 8th July) kicked off with a weekend of events I had hoped to manage. Work has been exceptionally busy and I have grabbed any time I can at the weekend to just recoup a little. My Ledbury Saturday (which was also a reason I couldn’t make this year’s National Writing Conference) was much diminished.
Sunday saw the morning at Evesham Festival of Words and Polly Stretton’s final Poetry Walk Event. It was lovely that she acknowledged those of us who have managed all three of these. It was also great that I had time to stay for the extra reading which takes place in the Almonry Gardens after the walk. http://www.almonryevesham.org/
I booked events for the Autumn and promoted several current projects. I also started firming up plans for Australia and the Perth Poetry Festival in August.
On Tuesday I went to Ledbury to the Homend Poets – who were launching the 11th anthology and a small collective of PoARTry poets promoted the Launch (11th) by reading some of our exhibited poetry. It was a great night – slightly soured by the M50 slip roads being closed for Roadworks and adding time onto my journey home. I had recorded the match (World Cup) and had to avoid using the radio and sadly, the 1.5 hour round the rigging route home meant I was met by revellers leaving the pub and rather giving the result away! I did witness an amazing sunset with the Malvern Hills which I would have missed if the roads had been open.
I managed to secure at least one musician for our Launch event. Bonus.
Much as I wanted to go to Ledbury for Pascale Petit and Tishani Doshi* I had no energy after work for a mid-week jaunt across for an hour. *Tishani was part of the inspiration behind one poem in my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’.
I also wanted to go back the following evening to see Martin Figura –Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine. I spent a few days buckling down promoting events and organising shows and magazines from my desk in the evenings.
The week finished with a rehearsal for our poetry show 30-40-60. Which was brilliant and made the three of us want to do this show again. None of us can quite believe it has been a year since the premiere event at Worcestershire LitFest 2017!
Much as the first week of the month work kept me busy with report writing and assessments. I received an exciting invitation for November, more news on that once plans get firmed up.
My main focus was PoARTry at Ledbury. We had our launch night on Wednesday 11th July (another England World Cup game… this time slightly given away by the raucous cheers from the pub next door)!
Thursday saw Ben Banyard Headline SpeakEasy in Worcester, a poet (from our 52 gang) who I wanted to meet and hear in person. It was a great evening in a new venue and the first time this event has been hosted outside. The garden was set for a wedding the next day and was beautiful. It was a fun night! Read more here.
Friday saw a staff meal (nice to be invited) and then Saturday there was a workshop I wanted to attend in Walsall but after a full week of work and 3 nights out on the trot I needed a breather before Charley Barnes’ Book Launch in the evening.
I was delighted to be a Guest Poet alongside Claire Walker, Sarah Leavesley and Holly Magill. As it fell during Droitwich Artsfest they advertised it as an Artsfest event. It was well attended and an exceptional evening. A pleasure to welcome Charley to the V. Press family. Read more about this sparkling evening here
I had the day off on Sunday – except I didn’t – I spent 6 hours sorting and editing film for our 30-40-60 performance. As well as working on a current Stanza project, sorting Issue 4 of Contour and organising paperwork for the trip to Australia.
On Monday night I spent another 5 hours in the cutting room, editing the new film for our event the next day.
On Tuesday 17th July Kathy Gee, Claire Walker and myself performed 30-40-60 in St. Andrew’s Church as part of the Artsfest. We had a small but mighty audience, it was a wonderful evening and lovely to hear people on the Open Mic and see poets visit Droitwich for the first time. Lots of people commented on the venue and of course the show.
One of the exciting things about an International Guest Poet is I get to attend plenty of workshops throughout the festival. I have had the schedule for a few months but now the programme is out was able to book into them. I am as excited about this as I am about being part of Perth Poetry Festival!
I also had more exciting news – again under wraps for now.
Work finished – another splatter of excitement after a 3 month lock in! It was lovely working with such a great team. As everyone met in the pub to celebrate I stayed in and got an early night because my weekend was a wild one! Poetry WILD that is!
ArtsFest traditionally have a poetry day and for the past 2 years I have had the honour of organising it!
We started at 2 PM with Poetry in the Square – my guests this year were John Mills and Liz Mills, two poets I met through 52. They put me up for the night before Stafford Festival – it was a welcome return to Stone for me – I lived there for a few years – and we have been friends ever since!
They are also brilliant poets and between us we managed the 2 hour stint in town.
Then I rushed off to Worcester to Guest Poet at Kieran Davies’ Book Launch for Legacy, published by Black Pear Press. Which was a great event, a true celebration – read more about it here.
Then back to Park’s Cafe for Poetry Extravaganza and the first UK reading of ATOTC. It was a delightful evening of poetry.
At this point my diary suggested (because I pencilled it in – in May), taking the first 2 weeks of my summer holiday off from poetry events and prepare for Australia… to a certain extent I have missed events I would have otherwise attended, but as always there were some which slipped through that I couldn’t possibly miss.
The week started in Ledbury collecting work from the Exhibition. PoARTry was a great project and I know I will be staying in touch with my artist, Molly Bythell.
I got everything organised for my trip except money and mini-toiletries! It took a while to find cabin luggage small enough for the airline restriction and a while longer after that to choose just 1 piece! I also invested in a large but extremely lightweight suitcase… mine date back to when wheels were first introduced and the handle extends only 6 cm from the corner… they work like a supermarket trolley with a wonky wheel and have mainly been used for storage. Travelling with soft bags and backpack ever since! However, I am not backpacking and the last time I used that on Long Haul it caused a few problems, so decided to do the respectable suitcase thing!
Tuesday saw Poetry Bites at the Kitchen Garden Cafe with Jonathan Edwards and Holly Daffurn headlining.
Thursday I was in Stratford at a workshop and Friday I went to Stanza, where there was even more exciting news.
This weekend I received my copy of Hex – by Jennie Farley, published by IDPIndigo Dreams. Jennie was kind enough to ask me for an endorsement. It is the third book I have endorsed and it was a pleasure reading it. It is a mesmerising collection and I look forward to the official Launch in December!
I also approached Guest Writers for this year’s INKSPILL online writing retreat and both have confirmed (exciting), so I spent a little time on this promotional film to encourage you to book it into your diaries NOW!
This Spring/Summer I have organised the poetry element for this festival. This is my 2nd year working alongside the Droitwich Arts Network team. The events happened in the final week of the month long festival which covers the whole spectrum of the Arts and has an extensive full programme. This year saw the introduction of Dance to the festival. It has been a pleasure to see it grow in success year on year.
30-40-60 …a three-woman poetry-show complete with multi-media elements galore.
Moving through the complexities of womanhood and a female life at varying stages, Lewis, Walker and Gee combine their works seamlessly, borrowing from each other’s works wonderfully to breathe a new life into many of their respective poems. The vocal delivery throughout was clear and concise while the poems were shared out across the three separate voices too, allowing the collaborative feel of the show to really come through. All three performed with care and control over their work and indeed each other’s, showing just how much time, effort, and synchronisation has gone into the planning of this.
Having read the three collections that the show is made up from, what struck me as particularly wonderful is how these poems are made new by this new-style delivery, complete with musical and visual accompaniments – thanks to Lewis’ film addition to the show.
… empowered, well-put together, and downright inspiring, thanks to the strong feminist themes and defiant tones that come through from the off – and the authors themselves don’t ease off that pedal until the final music plays.
A well-polished and thought-provoking collaboration…
…reminding listeners what stunning writers they all are in their own rights…
I was delighted when Artsfest booked our 30-40-60 Poetry Show as part of the 2018 Programme. It has been a year since Kathy Gee, Claire Walker and I performed this work… so as soon as we had news of it being accepted we organised a rehearsal.
The rehearsal was great fun, the run-through was barely problematic and we found the right cables for all the equipment.
Unfortunately, due a Windows 10 update I lost some of the original files and with one glitch on the film (it is a media show/performance), I had no choice but to start the process of film-making over again. This was a lesson in backing up files but actually, as some of our audience had seen the 2017 performance at Worcestershire LitFest, I was happy we had new media to entertain them, with deeper connectivity to the script.
It took a whole day, but it is backed up!
Kathy worked hard on producing new programmes and Claire took over the social media drive and promotion.
Fast forward into the following week and we all met excitedly in St. Andrew’s Church, Droitwich to set up the media, lights and sound for our show, with help from Rhys Jones.
With the stage set and an introduction from Rhys Jones, we kicked off with open mic sets from: Janet King, Nigel Hutchinson, Ian Glass and Charley Barnes and then performed the show.
It was a great evening and an appreciative audience.
I approached Kathy and Claire with the idea in late spring 2017, I had the idea before Fragile Houses was published. We worked on the show for several months. It was quick and easy to compile as our work complimented the themes and was easy (ish) to structure, the time consuming side was rehearsals and technical work.
We hope to do more with this show next year. If you are interested please let us know.
We received great feedback again this year and even bagged a review!
Sometimes in the writing world you have to keep secrets, occasionally even official embargo’s are placed on you. I knew Charley Barnes was joining V. Press and I was delighted (but wasn’t allowed to announce my joy)!
So when Charley asked me to be one of her Guest Poets I felt doubly honoured. During the evening Claire Walker and I discovered just how influential we had been supporting Charley’s dive into the publication of poetry. It is wonderful when you realise the impact you have made on someone’s writing goals. I am in debt to those who have helped me realise mine and know how it feels. There were nearly tears!
So let’s backtrack a little. Charley has just published her debut collection with V. Press ‘A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache’ and it is a fabulous pamphlet, full of life, love, difficulties and lessons.
It was released on the 11th July and the Book Launch took place on the 14th. Charley’s Guest Poets were myself, Holly Magill, Claire Walker and Sarah Leavesley.
It was a fantastic celebration of life and poetry and all took place (as many V. Press launches do), at the wonderful Park’s Cafe in Droitwich. It was made extra special by falling into the Artsfest and being advertised as part of the Festival programme.
Which also meant Rhys Jones (Droitwich Arts Network) was in attendance with his camera to capture some spectacular moments throughout the evening.
After an introduction which nearly made me blub I was the first Guest Reader. I had compiled a set which was my own A Z-hearted Guide through heartache and hoped that Charley enjoyed it. I did think (afterwards) that I should have done some of her favourite poems of mine. Hindsight…
My set included a brand new poem and some I had not performed before.
Next was Holly Magill who treated us to a set from her own debut pamphlet, ‘The Becoming of Lady Flambé’, published by IDP Indigo Dreams. Another strong collection of Poetry.
More information here. The book was published in June and Holly’s official launch happens later this summer.
Then Charley treated us to poems from her NEW book!
Before an interval of book sales and signing! Although I had plenty of opportunities to buy the pamphlet, I made myself wait until the launch. It is a bit like waiting for Christmas and is something I tend to force myself to do whenever possible!
You can buy a copy for yourselves here and can also read a sample poem from the collection.
“The poems in A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache will make you re-think your relationship with pizza, garlic bread and your mobile phone. These sharp, sad and wry observations – on the reality of living with mental illness and disability, the heartbreak of the everyday, and perseverance despite everything – capture what it is to be twenty-something, in love, and healing through food. This is an exciting debut pamphlet from a new and honest voice.” Jenna Clake
“In her debut pamphlet, Charley Barnes examines the reality of heartbreak and its different forms, highlighting how aspects of modern society can play – often brutally – on our insecurities: the wish to be prettier, more popular, more lovable. These poems deftly explore the bitter, lasting sting of loss and how it shapes us. Yet there is also the tenderness of possibility at play – a sweetness to offset the sharpness encountered by a young woman trying to navigate her way; a knowing, self-deprecating humour that shines through, even in dark experiences. There is a wisdom of the importance of nurturing here, accompanied by the will that, whatever happens, ‘you have to keep going, don’t you?’ (‘The lie my mum told me’).” Claire Walker
Then came the second half of the evening with Guest Poet, Claire Walker. I always enjoy listening to Claire’s work and those hindsight fairies made it to her door, as she delivered a set including some of Charley’s favourite poems.
Additional treasure came from her recount of the love her girls have for Charley… or Charley Barnes as they call her.
‘It all starts with an acorn‘, a poem in Charley’s pamphlet will reveal a little more to you.
Sarah Leavesley a prolific poet in her own right and editor/publisher at V. Press was the final Guest Poet. It was good to hear some poems from her latest collection again, having recently enjoyed her own launch of How to Grow Matches – published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.
This collection was shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Award 2018.
The evening concluded with another wonderful set from Charley, who had mainly shared her more lighthearted work in the first half and waited for the end to take our breath away with the more serious poems in her book.
A true gift of an evening. Thoroughly enjoyed by us all, as captured here in this group shot!
Back in 2014 I was invited by Jo Bell to take part in her 52 project – a poem for a week, for a year. Aside from being a marvellous project to be involved in (my publishing record is about 50/50 rejection/acceptance… every 52 poem I have submitted carries a 100% success rate), it was a year where over 500 poets formed friendships and connections.
It gave many people the confidence to call themselves poets and saw established poets (and famous ones) working alongside emerging newbies and early career poets. It was a medley of talent and made us all READ a lot of good poetry, poetry that differed to the our tastes and both those factors are heavily recommended for any writer! It was also a great platform for learning how to edit and critique. I think we all improved over the 12 months. Certainly lots of collections followed.
Along the way I have made virtual friends with a lot of the poets involved in 52 and July’s SpeakEasy featured one of these poets. Ben Banyard – who says 52 was the turning point for him taking his writing seriously.
I was incredibly excited to meet him and hear his work.
Back in early 2016 Ben’s first pamphlet ‘Communing’ was published by Indigo Dreams Press (IDP).
Fast forward 2 years and Ben’s first full collection ‘We Are All Lucky’ is published by IDP.
More information can be found here. This is the collection we enjoyed in his Headline set.
As if all that was not exciting enough – SpeakEasy was in a new venue – Wayland’s Yard – a lovely Coffee Shop (although it is really more than that), near the station, handy for visiting poets/audience.
To top it off we also had the WLF Slam Winners for Poetry and Flash Fiction primed to perform.
The first post-festival (WLF) SpeakEasy is always brilliant. Suz Winspear was our MC for the evening, this was her first night back in that role, it has since been announced that Charley Barnes is stepping down from hosting.
For the first time EVER we were outside and it was a warm summer evening, the outside of Wayland’s was dressed for summer (well actually, a wedding) and it was perfect! Pom poms, fairy lights and bunting!
Ben’s poetry was life-affirming and I loved a lot of his work. ‘Pineapple as a metaphor for life’ was a particular favourite of mine. It was a joy to hear his set.
‘What strikes me most about Banyard’s poems is his affection for humanity, grounded by his wry humour. His imagination allows him to empathise with people he encounters. He has the gift of finding pleasure in the everyday, in all its seediness and tawdry beauty. He has the true poet’s gift of noticing details others miss.’ Angela Topping
‘Ben Banyard writes accessible poems about the real world, with its triumphs and disasters, tragedies and comedies. I like them for their humanity and warmth, for their sense of humour, and for the way Banyard often pins down just the right details to bring a piece vividly to life. This is an enjoyable collection.’ Geoff Hattersley
‘There is an impressive range here and, whether writing about childhood memories, being a father, cataracts, spit hoods or Birmingham, this poet displays a sureness of touch and an ability to precisely capture a vanished world or the exact tone of a voice. Ben Banyard is a poet with a sharp-eyed yet affectionate view of the world. I very much enjoyed this confident and varied collection.’ Carole Bromley
SpeakEasy was a well attended event with plenty of audience members as well as performers and an enchanting one at that!
I had the joy this week of approaching two writers to feature as this year’s Guest Writers at INKSPILL – our online writing retreat. They have both said YES!
As I am due to fly out to Australia as an International Guest at Perth Poetry Festival, I thought it would be fun to find a 3rd Guest Writer whilst I am out there and that will complete our set for 2018.
Here’s a promo film to whet your appetite!
If you have never been involved before (where have you been?), the retreat runs from 9:30 AM to 9:30 PM on both Saturday (27th October) and Sunday (28th), it involves a range of activities, workshops, interviews, motivational posts, tips and is a chance to give yourself some writing time.
If you are not around in real-time the posts remain on the blog and can be accessed after the event. It is always popular and many writers gain a lot from it AND it is FREE!
In 2017 Rick Sanders organised the first PoARTry Gallery event in Cradley Heath. Back in March 2018 he asked me to be part of his next PoARTry venture in Ledbury at the Artistree Gallery and I was only too happy to oblige.
I am a fan of Art and had I not pursued Drama, Art may have become my forte. I have always enjoyed working with artists, writing ekphrastic poetry and getting my work out there in installations and other creative means. The aspect of this project I found most exciting was how our words would inspire new artwork and new art would enable new poems to be created.
Read about the initial meeting & the Cradley Heath project here.
Leena Batchelor and myself took on the role of organising a Launch event with readings and talks by the Artists.
We launched on July 11th. It was a magical evening and a special night as the gallery is only open during the daytime usually. Not all artists and poets could make it and the exhibition showcased more artists than feature in this review.
I was lucky enough to meet Ken Calvert at the Homend Poets event during Ledbury Poetry Festival and booked him to come and play to welcome people into the gallery, to lead into the interval and to round the night off at the end.
Following a brief introduction from Rick and I we started our Gallery Tour/Launch.
Poet Nicky Heatherington burns her work into wood. This creates Art on its own. Nicky collaborated with artist Val Randle.
They also bravely went first.
Artist Kate Culling partnered with poet Bill Thomas.
Poet Bill Thomas explaining how the work of Kate Culling inspired his writing.
Kate was kind enough to allow one of her artworks to be used on the event promotional material. I thoroughly enjoyed her dynamic explanation of the work.
Artists from all disciplines worked on the project – a glassblower Ken Howell incorporates the poem into his artwork.
Marion Steele was teamed with Leena Batchelor.
Marion Steele kindly allowed us to use her artwork on promotional material.
Alan Richardson partnered Rick Sanders. I think their humour complimented each other well.
More music from Ken before the interval.
During the interval people had time to mingle and view the exhibition at their leisure. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other better and as poetry circles tend to be fairly tight knit/small it is always a pleasure to get to know new people.
My partner was artist Molly Bythell and I enjoyed hearing all about her work and meeting up again as we based our collaboration online.
Molly Bythell kindly let us use her artwork on promotional material.
Molly and I used 1 existing work chosen from each other to create 1 new work each and then used those new works to create another new work. Three pieces each. I displayed 5 poems but wrote 20, including a sequence of 11 about Dementia. Here I read three of the poems, one not displayed.
Angela Davis partnered Maggie Reed.
Angela Davis kindly allowed her artwork to be used on promotional material.
Bill Denny partnered Brian Graham.
Tim Stavert talked about his collaboration with Paddy Hannigan before sharing his poems.
And finally Hilary Davies and Myfanwy Fox shared their work.
The evening closed with a couple of songs by Ken Calvert.
Huge thanks to the Artistree Team for helping Leena and I make this Launch a success. Special thanks to Marion Steele, Bill Thomas and Kate Culling who helped with logistics enormously.
It was fascinating hearing from the artists and the poets about where the muse came from and how they collaborated together. Another aspect of the evening was some pairs meeting each other for the first time and a reunion for the March meeting group. Seeing what other collaborators had come up and listening to how the various pairings worked together was insightful and enjoyable.
The work was all exceptionally high quality and a number of artists sold their pieces.
I think it was a successful mission for everyone and was definitely an exhibition enjoyed by many visitors to the gallery.
Back at the beginning of July I was fortunate enough to be part of the Poetry Walk for Evesham Festival of Words.
The Festival runs from 29th June – 1st July and this event was on the final day of the Festival Weekend. The team behind Evesham Festival of Words run events throughout the year under the umbrella of the Festival and then the main programme covers the final weekend in June.
This was the final year for Polly Stretton who has organised the event for the past 3 years, she is stepping down and allowing the festival to either find someone else to take the mantle or to substitute with a new event from 2019.
The Poetry Walk is always a pleasant couple of hours, walking at a gentle pace around a route with many beautiful spots to stop and listen to a set of poems. In previous years we have attracted a few people who have joined us and listened alongside the group and there are always public listening in at points during the walk, especially if we happen to stop by an area where they have already settled on benches.
The one year I did it, we included parts of the town on the route (Evesham is a beautiful place). We have also had access inside the Bell Tower before.
This year we took a pleasant tour around the Abbey Park before heading back to the garden at the Almonry to carry on our poetic feast.
There were several performances before this one from Suz Winspear, but getting sun lotion out was more important than my camera. I also have no photos of my own performance.
In previous years I have been unable to stay for the final read around at the Almonry – so I was delighted to catch it this year.
Popular local poet, Polly Stretton, was back once again to lead the Poetry Walk through Evesham’s most scenic sites around Abbey Park. With poems performed along the way, the Walk culminated in the beautiful garden of the Almonry. Our wish for sunshine certainly came off!
Congratulations and gratitude to Polly Stretton who has organised the Poetry Walk event for the past three years and herded countless numbers of poets around Evesham and safely back to the gardens at the Almonry. A job well done and a thoroughly enjoyable poetry experience.