Category Archives: A Writers Fountain

Writing Book Reviews – WMRN Reader in Residence

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This summer I had the exciting opportunity to apply to be a Reader in Residence, my application was successful and Warwickshire Libraries now have me in role at Rugby Library. The position started in September and runs until March 2018.

Following meetings on site, emails and team meetings I spent a month planning and promoting the first workshop ‘Writing A Book Review’.

wmrn review writing workshop

My group comprised of talented, experienced writers. It was lovely to watch the enthusiasm during the session as people relaxed and got to know each other. One of the great spin offs from this event was the networking opportunities. I am certain some of the participants will keep in contact with each other and explore what the county has to offer.

I was happy with how the workshop went, after spending several days tweaking plans and making sure the massive amount of input could be covered in the time we had available. We did just fit it all in, the most important elements were given as a handout at the end.

I opted for a very informal evaluation, but was too anxious to read people’s feedback straight away.

It was very positive and useful. We plan to repeat the workshop next year with some members from the various Reading Groups associated with Rugby Library – and the general public, so if you missed it and you fancy learning some Top Tips and insights, look out for further promotion in the Library and on Eventbrite.

https://librariesblog.warwickshire.gov.uk/2017/11/24/meet-our-reader-in-residence/

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Feedback: 

An amazing amount of interesting information in an hour and a half. 

An inspiring afternoon.

I found this afternoon encouraging for my writing in the future.

I love getting together with people who love to read!

Enjoyed the workshop, you have a calm, free-spirited air about you. 

Overall, extremely enjoyable and more importantly, informative.

The ideas mentioned are going to be really helpful.

Lovely atmosphere.

Informative and useful.

Great to meet like-minded people.

It inspired me to write and read more. 

Really well structured session with great tips.

Relaxed atmosphere, I really enjoyed it. 

rugby Lib.png© Rugby Library 2017

It was a relief to know everyone had enjoyed it and the information helped and inspired them. I can now pass all the good news onto the team at Rugby Library.

The team were very supportive today, huge thanks to those involved in ensuring this event ran smoothly, for taking photos, bringing us more hot water for a 2nd round of caffeine -much needed as we were whizzing through at a great pace! For the biscuits/refreshments & setting up the space.

Thanks to Ann Brine (Manager Rugby Library) for coming to evaluate and debrief. The session went really well and I am now ready for my next Reader in Residence mission, watch this space!

Thanks also to Roz Goddard at WMRN.

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November Review

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November – one step closer to the end month! Where did 2017 go? It is true, the older you get the more time flies. Most of this month’s review will read like a gig list.

I am delighted to have started creating again, writing beyond commissions. I have also submitted poetry for the first time since the Spring (although three poems made it out in September).

Exciting news landed in my inbox about awards & festivals, on the back of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project (WPL) I have started collaborating with a local artist, Stephen Evans and after a fallow period of being very busy but feeling disconnected, I feel better. Gliding rather than flapping towards December.

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Week 1 

Started at Bottles, Worcester for Uncorked without Holly Daffurn this month, but the reigns were taken by Joe. It was an enjoyable evening and I got to sit on a table with two journalists from the Local Paper – we had some great conversations about poetry.

I knew only half of the Headliners, I always enjoy it when I do not know the acts. I hadn’t seen Glyn Phillips a.k.a Armitage Spode for ages so it was good to catch up with him and I have never seen him perform with a Beatboxer, Fred Hanbury was AMAZING! As I left the gig I was about to tell him as much, but he disappeared swiftly on a skateboard (of course), I have never felt so old!

Melanie Branton was great, I loved her language play. Scott Cowley a.k.a Rusty the Goat Poet, I have had the pleasure of watching at Spoken Trend, great to hear a whole set from him and Raja Khan blew me away. I discovered later he is fairly new to performing his poetry publically – which is something I would not have guessed. The depth of his work was eye-opening to a world I do not know well.

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MELANIE BRANTON

Melanie Branton took up spoken word in 2014 at the age of 46. She won the 2015 Bristol regional final of the Hammer and Tongue slam and the 2017 Bristol regional final of Superheroes of Slam, has appeared at WOMAD, Bristol Harbour Festival and Cheltenham Poetry Festival and took a one-woman show about not having a boyfriend to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Her debut collection, “My Cloth-Eared Heart”, is published by Oversteps Books and her mixture of comic verse and serious confessional poetry has made her a popular headliner in the South West. She still doesn’t have a boyfriend. “When I first saw Melanie perform a set in Bristol, I was laughing out loud and leaning in on the edge of my seat intently to hear more all in the space of 20 minutes. A fantastic poet with a great mix of dry humour and real-life heart and emotion.” – Harry Baker “Melanie Branton is an unexpected poetry slap. The kind that makes your face tingle and your eyebrows sky rocket. She is funny, clever, ironic, dry, gripping, needed and you won’t see her coming until she is standing in your face.” – Liv Torc

RUSTY THE GOAT POET

Scott Cowley (aka Rusty Goat the Poet) Born in 1972, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. He began to meander south at an early age (hence the lack of northern twang) His poetry touches on subjects relating to Life, Crisis, Love and Discovery. He finds the whole experience of writing and performing his poetry very cathartic. Scott tries to scratch pen across pulp on a daily, if not weekly basis, and will continue to do so until the ink runs dry.

RAJA KHAN

Raja Khan is a poet, philosopher and entrepreneur from Pakistan who came to the UK 4 years ago and has been writing poetry for the past 12 years, but only started performing 2 months ago. The melodic poetry that Raja performs is tightly composed and revolves around social, religious, cultural and political issues. Most of the inspiration for structure and rhythm is drawn from the classic poetry as that of Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth and Auden etc. Raja is direct in his admiration for the human spirit and progression, while highlighting his disdain for dogma and regressiveness through employing metaphores and a strong narrative style.

ARMITAGE SPODE

Armitage Spode describes himself as “part-time poet, half-time hedonist and full-time philanderer”. Mrs Spode describes him as “a very silly man who ought to get a proper job if he knows what’s good for him…”. With his ribald rhymes and saucy odes Armitage brings his old-fashioned Music Hall style of verbal entertainment to Worcester for one night only. Which is just as well – the good burghers probably won’t let him back through the city gates after this. With singalong choruses, a moustache large enough to make a grown woman weep and more innuendos than you can stuff inside a burlesque dancer’s corset, Armitage Spode will salaciously expound upon such subjects as Britain’s baked goods heritage, the British love of pets and why moustache wax is the new Viagra. Mary Berry and Barbara Woodhouse would most certainly not approve. Salvador Dali and Terry Thomas probably would. Armitage Spode: utter filth, served with finesse . . . Huzzah!!

© Uncorked

DAlma© Deborah Alma

 

I spent an amount of time with event background work this week. I received running orders from Peter Sutton for the Elgar Poetry Event, worked with the Jinney Ring in attempting to secure a reading of Sculpture Workshop work and discussing the exhibition and working with Rosie Philpott organising the Art side of the Hanbury Hall Poetry reading. I also had two Talks to prepare.

On Monday I went to Worcester University to do a poetry talk to the Creative Writing Society. This was my second talk and I have to say they are an enjoyable experience. With a teaching background I am not phased by public speaking. As with all these bookings there is lots to do in preparation and of course I got lost on Campus. I had a good evening and it brought back memories of oh, too long ago! As WPL I was impressed to receive at least one student submission on the back of this meeting. I wish CW Societies had existed when I was at uni.

 

© Worcester University

 

Week 2: 

Started with a treat, HOWL. It has been too long since I made it over for this event and Sophie Sparham (who has a book launch soon) had 2 nights of gigging in Birmingham. I missed Stirchley Speaks the night before and WAS NOT going to miss her again. I first met Sophie when we both Headlined Howl on the same night (still one of my favourite gigs), she is amazing, her work has more depth beyond the depth and she speaks honestly and openly about many topics that don’t get the word-time.

Joining her was Hannah Swings, a poet I have heard lots about who I had missed out on since my lost time in Birmingham, I used to be connected to the circuit more before they started digging up all the roads and building on my parking spaces. That and being a PL of an entire county which is some 35 miles away and not being able to afford petrol/train fare… the list goes on, but Birmingham, I miss you!

Ben Fagan was celebrating his birthday – so we all ended up wearing party hats. His work treads that fine thread balance beam from being so sad you almost cry and making you laugh and whoop loudly. It was a brilliant set.

I left this night feeling like I haven’t felt in a long time. I was electrified. The atmosphere of Howl is amazing. Roller coaster adrenaline all the way home and into the next day!

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Ben Fagan

Ben Fagan is a spoken word poet and producer from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently based in London. He is a TEDx performer and organiser, and has shared his work across the UK, USA and NZ. Ben has taken two poetry shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and tweets for Apples and Snakes. Alongside UK Slam Champion Sara Hirsch, he won the Edinburgh Fringe Anti-Slam and came second in the national finals, making them the second-worst poets in the UK.

Hannah Swings

Hannah Swings is a noun, not a verb. She is a writer, teacher, artist and lover of anything vintage. Born and raised in Birmingham, she’s currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at UoB, but has a background in community theatre and likes to dabble across all artistic platforms. When performing, Hannah’s ‘haunting yet hopeful’ storytelling spans themes such as identity, relationships and mental health, exploring her inner narratives through ephemeral, witty and illustrative visions.

Hannah spends her days teaching secondary and sixth form students that it is okay to be messy. Her handmade poetry postcards have recently celebrated the power of the everyday; something she’s fascinated by, and she continues to facilitate workshops surrounding this. [She can also quote the whole of Mean Girls and finds it fundamentally strange if someone is not a dessert person.]

Hannah has performed with Tongue Fu, featured at Stirchley Speaks and Upstairs at The Western, and at BOM, the Old REP, REP Birmingham, Derby Theatre, Oxjam Fest and mac, amongst others. She featured on BBC Radio West Midlands discussing the power of community when creating art and is an alumnus of both the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and Beatfreeks YSC cohort 2017.

She believes good things come to those who make.

Sophie Sparham

Sophie Sparham is a performance poet and writer from Derby. Represented by Tom Ashton, she is currently editing her second young adult sci-fi and fantasy novel.

Her poetry mainly focuses on political and social subjects, such as depression, LGBT and women’s issues. She has performed all around the UK; including festivals such as Y Not and the Opera House Stage at Rebellion, the UK’s biggest punk festival.

Sophie’s work has appeared in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, as part of the exhibition ‘Loitering with Intent’. Last year she was featured as one of the UK Young Artists with her collection ‘Dead Air: If they won’t place us in the history books, we’ll write our own stories’. This allowed her to perform poetry in unusual places from market halls to libraries, educating people about forgotten revolutionary figures from history.

© HOWL

SE JEFF AMY

The following evening I went to SpeakEasy, Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill were Headlining. It is unusual to have two headliners at SpeakEasy and it was fabulous.

I love watching Amy and it has been so long since I saw her in action. It was a pleasure. Heartfelt and humorous, another performer who balances well.

Jeff Cottrill is from Canada his set was lively fun to watch. I always enjoy the work of International poets and try to catch them when I can. It’s a big world out there!

Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill are two celebrated poets and authors with distinctive styles and work that really packs a punch – and this month you have the chance to see both of them. Amy and Jeff will both be delivering a 20 minute performance each on the evening so for a chance to see two stellar poets in action, come on down to SpeakEasy and settle in for an evening of crackin’ entertainment. 

© SpeakEasy

It was certainly crackin’ and entertaining! Lots of great open mics too and I managed to bag a 6 minute slot, although I had to pretend to be Steve… this was okay, I had taken my moustache poem, it deserved an outing, last performed at Kieran’s Kings & Queens of Comedy night back in January.

 

 

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Friday saw my 2nd talk of the week, this time for Worcester’s U3A group. It was an honour to be the first guest speaker and I felt relaxed talking about all things Laureate. The questions from the groups were focused and I hope my answers were too. I also did a quick write exercise using juxtaposition which produced some wondrous poems. I also heard some of their writing too. A valuable experience and as a bonus I walked away with a few new ideas of my own.

 

 

Saturday saw an Elgar Poetry Event at the Elgar School of Music. What I really loved about all this that despite all the shared emails, we did not see each other’s sets. It was joyous to listen to them and Peter Sutton deserves lots of credit for his skillful weaving of our work. The flow was there between Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Elgar, Alice, Youth, Old age, Death and interwoven insights from Peter and works of Elgar’s contemporaries. Michael’s reading of W.H Auden nearly sent me over the edge. Moving. Dramatic. Fun. Delightful. A true experience of an evening and as a fundraiser it was successful too.

Read more about it here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/elgar-poetry-event/

Peter Sutton, Lesley Ingram, Nina Lewis and Michael W. Thomas.

 

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Sunday I spent time producing WPL Remembrance Anthology to mark Remembrance Sunday. This was my hardest editing challenge yet. Submissions reached over 3 figures, the maybe pile was towering and I only had a couple of days between the deadline and production of the work.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/remembrance-anthology/

I am happy with the result and so are the poets who found their work had been placed. It was heartwarming and sad to read all the tributes to family members and unearth the war stories. I was delighted to have had such a response, this was truly an International collection. We have former soldiers, grandchildren/children of the Remembered, heartache, hope and truth blended here.

Here are just some of the things that have been said about it:

What a lovely and extremely moving Remembrance Anthology.

Such wonderful and meaningful poems.

Some lovely poems here. Beautifully put together with images.

It is a beautiful anthology.

 

 

LtR

Monday saw the biggest crowd ever at Licensed to Rhyme with Spoz & Maggie Doyle, standing room only, 17 open mics and Kathy Gee in the Guest Spot and headlined by Ash Dickinson. It was an incredible evening. It was a delight to see the new venue had indeed brought Birmingham people in. The previous venue was technically only 4 miles further out but not close to the stations. I also know how relieved I am when I make the journey the other way and the venue is in the outskirts rather than central city. I also believe we had audience from the village itself, I hope they come again too. I would if it was my village (not smarting at all that my closest venue has decamped)! It is a cracking evening wherever they host it and I do like the new venue.

Ash Dickinson is a performer I have followed for years and I am so delighted he is busy on the circuit, although how he manages it – I think he has wings! His set was a delight. Thoroughly enjoyed by everybody in the room! A blinding night!

 

AWARDS

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Tuesday saw amazing news in my inbox, my publishers are shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. I shall be keeping my fingers crossed on the 12th December.

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/michael-marks-awards-shortlisting.html

V. Press is very very delighted to have been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award…

The pamphlets that V. Press had in for this year are: Alex Reed’s A Career in Accompaniment, Nina Lewis’ Fragile Houses, David Clarke’s Scare Stories and Stephen Daniels’ Tell Mistakes I Love Them.

It’s been a delight to publish these pamphlets and V. Press is very very proud of all its authors – the press is its writers, readers and all those involved with it, including our fabulous poetry covers from V. Press designer Ruth Stacey.

The Awards will be announced at a dinner at the British Library on Tuesday, 12 December, where Sarah Leavesley will be giving a three minute presentation about the V. Press 2016/17 pamphlet list.

© V. Press

Do check out the V. Press website on the Awards link above, they are offering a generous discount on the pamphlets they had in for this year. Read more here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/shortlisted-michael-marks-award/

This wasn’t the only AMAZING news in my inbox. I was also invited to be an International Guest at a Poetry Festival next summer. Of course I started dancing around the room and looking into funding straight away. Then I received a follow up email with the application process. Fortunately most of the CV is up to date since applying for the Reader Residency in July.

The 5 day wait for the committee decision was agonising… my booking was confirmed.

Celebrate the World

All this good news hit my inbox on the same day as the Hanbury Hall Poetry/Art event.

I spent the whole day feeling like a child at Christmas counting down the minutes to my Hanbury Hall Poetry & Art event. Especially after the fortnight’s preparation. Another cracking night, another packed cafe!

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This time for the 2nd part of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project. Nine poets who took part writing ekphrastic poetry based on the DAN Art Exhibition at Hanbury Hall in October came to share their poems at a special reading where (thanks to Rosie Philpott) we were able to show images of the artwork alongside our poems.

It was a fantastic evening and was even better than I hoped. It was also my last planned event as WPL for 2017. Read more here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/final-wpl-event-of-2017/

 

 

Week 3

The following night Kathy Gee, Maggie Doyle and I journeyed to Cheltenham to Smokey Joes for Poetry Cafe Refreshed. It was lovely to see Sharon Larkin again, it has been too long.

It was an enjoyable evening with a rich variety of poetry and even a few spoken word spots. Kate Noakes shared her incredible poetry and I wish I hadn’t spent my funds on milkshake and wine because I would have treated myself to her books.

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It amazes me that I haven’t come across her before her biography and back catalogue both impressive. I will certainly have an eye out for her and her poetry in the future. I particularly admired the concept of her Tattoo collection.

Her first collection Ocean to Interior, was published by Mighty Erudite Press in December 2007, whilst I was still very much stuck in a full-time teaching career and poetry was way off my radar.

Here latest collection is published by Eyewear and is all about Paris, where she now lives most of the time.

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https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/paris-stage-left

 

The following evening I hit Birmingham – for Hit the Ode, which was celebrating 7 years of amazing Spoken Word and Poetry. This special anniversary addition included Birthday cakes, poetry open mic and Regional – Roger Robinson (Northampton), National – Shadè Joseph (London)  and International – Penny Ashton (NZ) Headliners as well as an amazing raffle, no one envied Jack Crowe taking that huge heavy bag of books home, well – we all did a bit!

I was looking forward to seeing Roger Robinson again, my first time witnessing his magic was at Ledbury Poetry Festival. Shadè Joseph & Penny Ashton were new to me and I enjoyed both sets. Shadè’s heavily influenced by music/musicians and Penny’s was humorous, rude, sexy and delightful! I also owe her big time for finding my fiver and train ticket that had fallen out of my pocket earlier in the evening. (Mr G. reminds me to use my purse, I have at least 10!)

It was (as always) an immensely fun evening, the rock world of poetry in my opinion. It was also the German Christmas Market outside so the streets of the city were very much alive at the beginning of the night but had all packed up by the time us late-night Poets made our way home.

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From London, Shadè Joseph
Shadè Joseph is a 23 year old Writer/Musician from East London.
She has been writing/performing poetry and producing, composing and accompanying musicians singer/songwriters and poets for the past four years and worked alongside the likes of London Symphony Orchestra, Ayanna Witter -Johnson, Caleb Femi, Tolu Agbelusi, Tshaka Campbell and Buddy Wakefield. When she’s not doing all of that good stuff she’s probably somewhere laughing or dancing or eating plantain chips or giving someone a hug.

From Northampton, Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, INIVA and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was an associate artist.

He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and is an alumni of The Complete Works. His New and Selected Poems is soon to be published on Peepal Tree Press.
He released two albums with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound on Ninja Tune.

From New Zealand, Penny Ashton,
Penny Ashton is New Zealand’s own global comedienne who has been making a splash on the world stage since 2002. She has performed over 600 solo shows and has sold out from Edinburgh to Adelaide to Edmonton. She has represented both New Zealand in The World Cup of Theatresports in Germany, and Australasia in a Performance Poetry Slam Tournament Tour of the UK. She has also performed poetry by invitation at The Glastonbury Festival, her solo musical Promise and Promiscuity at The Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has reported from the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas. 

© HTO

© Penny Ashton Womad, Roger Robinson Twitter, Shadè Joseph You Tube

 

Sparks YW group celebrated Mickey Mouse’s Birthday with a session on Comic Strips/Graphic Novels.

I had the rest of the weekend off with Mr. G.

Monday night saw the V.I.P Launch of the Verve Poetry/Spoken Word Festival. I was invited last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year was just as wonderful. The evening included performances from Sean Colletti, Casey Bailey & Liz Berry, who are all featuring in the 2018 programme, which I also got my hands on. Workshops have been booked and I have a festival pass request in with Santa!

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I spent the night whizzing around Waterstones, twirling into people, briefly conversing, hugging & generally enjoying the atmosphere.

My glittery lipstick went down a storm too, although having forgotten the application, I wondered why people were staring at my mouth.

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Read all about it here

I have my tickets booked already and suggest you do the same! The Liz Berry workshop SOLD OUT within 3 days, so glad I bagged my ticket.

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This week also saw a new project get off the ground for WPL. An idea first floated back in July to The Basement Project for some community workshops. I am delighted after meeting the team this morning to have these booked in for Spring 2018.

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The Basement Project is run by volunteers who do very important work and provide support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Find out more about them here.

 

Week 4:

I mainly worked on submissions and balancing my time with life offline and out of poetry books/events. I was sad to have to cancel my radio slot with Tammy Gooding on BBC Hereford & Worcester this week.

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Thursday night saw a superb event at Waterstones, Burning Eye Book Launch. Having had less than a week of work this academic year, my funds are definitely in the red and with Christmas Shopping to do I have cut back on both travel and events for December, starting this week. I also feel the need for balance and time at home. I need to re-energise and with this in mind, I was not too gutted when my Friday gig was cancelled.

I finally started to fill in the blog gaps, with my review posts of Poetry Swindon Festival (October).

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/swindon-poetry-festival-2017/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/poetry-swindon-festival-day-1/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/poetry-swindon-day-2/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/poetry-swindon-day-2-evening/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/poetry-swindon-festival-day-3/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/poetry-swindon-festival-day-4/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/poetry-swindon-day-4-festival-finale/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/poetry-swindon-day-5-farewell-brunchfast/

 

I also wrote some Guest Blog posts for Warwickshire Libraries for my Reader in Residence role. My first workshop is next week.

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https://librariesblog.warwickshire.gov.uk/2017/11/24/meet-our-reader-in-residence/

I was saving all my energy for Saturday – and I certainly needed to.

Saturday saw a day at Croome Court for the official Adam Speaks NT project event that I have been involved in with Room 204 since May.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/adam-speaks/

Events started at midday with the official speeches at 3 and the grand opening 3:30 PM

I arrived at 1:30 with plenty of time to take in the events, the Tree House and catch up with people working on the project. I am writing a full review early next week and will add the link back here. There is so much to say about today. A wow day indeed!

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© 2017 Nina Lewis 

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/adam-speaks-the-project/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/adam-speaks-tree-house-launch/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/adam-speaks-chris-alton/

I also sent lots of submissions this month, finally back in the saddle after 5 months of WPL/Events Management/ Performance work. So far, the inbox has amassed a collection of rejections, I was shortlisted for one anthology, sadly have since found my poems won’t be included. This is the way it goes sometimes. I am okay with that. I am just happy I have started writing and submitting again.

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I also FINALLY started to gather ideas for the next book. I was beginning to think this would never happen. It has happened, it has started, 3 pages of notes and a trawl through current files has set it well on its way.

I missed several events due to lack of funds, time and energy and you know, I am beginning to learn the gentle act of forgiveness for such things. I knew I wanted to wind down a bit in December – necessary as I need to give time to home and family.

One event I did NOT want to miss was Jacqui Rowe’s final Poetry Bites. She has been organising this bi-monthly event for years. She has encouraged over 500 poets in floor spots and 70 Guest Poets too. She has hosted Poetry Bites for over 10 years.

Antony Owen and Jacqui Rowe were the featured poets with 17 floor spots. It was great to hear a whole set from Jacqui, whose collection ‘Blink’ has just been released by V. Press. Antony’s set brought me to tears several times. I would urge you to buy The Nagasaki Elder (V. Press) too. Put them both on Christmas lists, these are books which need to be read.

© Roz Goddard

Poetry Bites will be continuing, in the capable hands of Elaine Christie and Matt Nunn. It will still be the fourth Tuesday of January, March, May, July, September, and November at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath.

This week I also secured a school poetry workshop that has been in development since the beginning of October. It will happen in March 2018.

I also took a booking for an event at the Birmingham Midland Institute for May 2018. I really need to get my hands on a new diary, I have a special one on my Christmas List. One I have wanted since 2014. A special Mslexia Diary.

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I also secured  some exciting opportunities for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival. 2018 verve v stickis going to rock!

 

Week 5

Started with clashing events – Spoken Trend in Kings Norton had Casey Bailey and Theo Theobald as the Headliners, but I had already committed to 42 in Worcester. These events always clash, so I try to divide my time between them.

42

42 has been hosted by Polly Stretton for a while now and this year she introduced guest hosts to MC. I have known who the November MC will be and I promised them months ago I would be there. I also wrote my ‘Haunted Castle’ themed poem a month ago too, although having left it to rest I know it needs a bit of editing work.

It was an enjoyable evening after I managed to get there for the 2nd half. The Victorian Christmas Fayre is in town and the car park closest to the venue is fully fun fair! I knew this, I didn’t like to use a multi-storey and as I entered every other available car park I either found them to be full or one car sneaking into the last space. After several circuits of the city and resisting a turn back home, twice(!) I finally parked miles away, with a 20 minute brisk walk back to the venue. It was worth it though. I dusted off ‘The Stanley Hotel’ with newly recorded soundbites too.

Thursday 30th saw me deliver my first workshop as the Reader in Residence in Rugby.

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Which despite finishing planning and researching in October, I used another 7 hours prepping a few days before. This meant end of month submissions were tight. It was a great workshop – blogpost soon.

I also had the opportunity to go a special reading/recording of a new pamphlet, terribly exciting both the anticipation of the launch/book (next month) and also this recording. Claire Walker’s 2nd Pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ published by V. Press Launches on 9th December. Yesterday she invited some of us to a closed reading as part of her interview with a BBC Online Journalist. Unfortunately it happened whilst I was out on the road after the workshop*.

Why do so many brilliant things always have to clash? I have had many whole weeks with no work for months since July and now it has finally started to trickle in this happens!

Frustrating. But great that there is so much going on.

*I don’t want this to become an angry blogpost about the state of the roads – but my journey across took over 1hr 40 mins today and parking was once again a problem. Next workshop I am setting out super early!

deb alma xmas© Deborah Alma

December was meant to be a month off but the amount of events in the diary already prove that this will not quite be the case. I am going to start working on my next collection and take at least 10 days off completely just to do Christmas things. Mr G. and I both get a fortnight off work so that should be feasible.

It might take 10 days to get my room Christmas ready!

 

Adam Speaks – Chris Alton

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adam speaks launch invite

I feel fortunate to have been a part of Adam Speaks this year. There is something incredible about embarking on a 5 month project. Our input was minute compared to the work Chris Alton did as the Lead Artist on the project. Chris won a bid to be Croome Court’s Artist on the Adam Speaks Project back in Spring.

He had no idea what it (Art) would be. I love this part of the commission process myself, even when I take a commission with a structured brief, I have no real idea of the end result. It is an exercise in creative trust.

After the Launch of the Tree House on Saturday (25th November), I became curious about the Art side of this project. The work Chris had done. As an artist I know all too well the length and depth of the unseen elements of our work.

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In February Chris Alton was named one of the outstanding young artists to look out for in 2017.

https://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/arts/exciting-young-british-artists-to-look-out-for-in-2017-a3457561.html

In April he shared the news that he had been selected as the Artist on Adam Speaks. He started planning the workshops in May.

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His first creative session was at Kimichi School (6th June) where they designed costumes.

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June 23rd Chris runs his workshop at St Barnabas School.

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July 1st and Chris came to see Room 204 at WWM in Birmingham for our Creative Session.

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Chatting ‘Adam Style’, Neoclassicism and ‘British values’ for at

What are the values inherent in our objects? From Robert Adam fireplaces to USB sticks

In July (28th) Rachel Sharpe and Kiki Claxton met with Chris and Hew Locke at Hew’s studio.

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In August Chris meets with the Heads of Departments NT at Croome Court to find at how the property functions, what Croome’s priorities are and what goes into the day to day running of the park and court.

Chris researches Robert Adam.

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In September Chris is in the Studio working on the project.

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 He also visits Croome Court and works on site. On the 5th September he is at Croome picking a tree. This thought never even crossed my mind that he had to select where the Tree House was going to be created.
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September the 10th Chris visits Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA) as they start the new year for the final Creative Sessions.
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They discuss what it could be. 10 days later we get the call for writing. Poems that stand as the starting point for the BITA dancework.
By October Chris has started on the production of his Tree House.
In the workshop making the pre-fab modules for with Mewies Design.
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Walls are created.
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Prefab pillars.
By November more pieces of the Tree House puzzle are created.
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Chris now realises why he promised himself he would never create art bigger than he could carry, alternative storage methods for the larger parts.
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One of the most spectacular features of the Tree House are the Neoclassical columns, they went into production in November.
Custom CNC’d columns going together in the Mewies Design workshop.
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Ply skin was added.
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10 hand routed balusters.
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Then the logistics of packing up all the pieces and building his Tree House.
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Art Jenga. Or more accurately ‘Tree House Tetris’ as Chris states.
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Mid November and it arrives on site.
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The walls go up (Nov. 15th).
November 16th the build continues.
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It is amazing how bigger that tree looks now it is inside the house!
November 21st (just 4 days until the launch) sees the last parts of the artwork being created.
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And just in time for the Launch…
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Ta Da!
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Adam Speaks Tree House Launch

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In September it was revealed Chris Alton had decided on a Tree House for his artwork. The Room 204ers was asked to submit poems on this theme by the end of September. We had 10 days which is not long to write, settle and edit the work. I submitted mine on a phone from London, born from visual memories not notes.

The work of Sarah James, Nadia Kingsley, Nina Lewis, Jacqui Rowe and Louise Stokes was then used as the basis for the dance choreographed and performed on the launch day by BITA (Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts) and the Kimichi School. Some of the words from the poems are performed as they dance.

The five poems can also be found on display with the Adam Speaks Exhibition. Who knows, maybe one day they will adorn the walls of the Tree House.

Then official invites were sent out for the Launch 25th November.

adam speaks launch invite25

 

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/adam-speaks/

I was very excited and delighted with what I saw from the top of the hill. The NT have been regularly updating the commission and Chris has tweeted about it and I had attempted to avoid all of it as I didn’t want any spoilers.

I had seen this. 1431791831108-adamspeaksillustrationsection

My excitement mounted as I reached the bottom of the hill and saw the Tree House up close, the Marquee with free cupcakes, blue icing matching the interior walls of the Tree House and my friend Kurly!

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After a quick sugar rush I caught up with Kurly and Chris and headed into the Long Gallery to watch the performances. I caught up with Kiki and Rachel Sharpe and spoke to some audience members who were keen to find out more about the partnerships and creative sessions with Chris.

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I was amazed by the BITA/Kimichi School performance of Adam Speaks. It was moving, powerful and just made me want to dance.

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After this I caught up with Natalie McVey and Chris Alton. Then I went to explore the poetry and exhibition downstairs in the Participation Area. Which is a good place to put it – I am sure children will be very interested in the magnificent tree house and I know this area downstairs has the Croome Court activities, so whilst the children are occupied the parents can take a good look at the display which explains the project and offers some of Chris’s sketches and designs as well as our Tree House Poems.

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Later I was back in the Long Gallery listening to music from the era performed by Musicians from Worcester Sixth Form College (where I studied Theatre/Dance/English many moons ago), people were enjoying the room filled with classical music and Christmas Trees. Again, I spoke to complete strangers about Adam Speaks. Then I was treated to the Performance/Dance again before the official speeches from the NT team, Chris Alton and Hew Locke.

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Chris talked about he thought Adam would have enjoyed this as a child, that childhood dream to have a tree house. He mentioned before he graduated he promised himself never to build art bigger than he could carry… he talked about all the groups participating in this project exercising our imaginations.

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He talked about the wonder of completing it on Thursday, how it was a pile of wood before that. He shared his own influences and experiences of seeing Hew’s work and how he was looking forward to this immaculate tree house weathering.

 

Rachel Sharpe is eager to continue to give artists in their early years a platform to complete work like this.

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Next I caught up briefly with William Gallagher and Jonathan Davidson before heading outside for the Grand Opening of the Tree House, where I had time to catch up with Kurly and Maggie Doyle. We were waiting for it to become a little darker and from the selection of images you can see why.

Chris and Hew cut the ribbon (blue to match) and I loved seeing Chris embellish his pocket with it – visions of weddings/grooms/ important commitment and ceremonies. The artist letting go of his work to the public entered my mind. It had become a celebration, a party. Well there were 700 cupcakes still to be eaten!

 

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I watched an incredibly moving rendition of the dancework – with an ending which was the equivalent difference between The Clockwork Orange film vs. book. Outside the team of 25 dancers were allowed to jump and run (the Long Gallery is original NT property flooring) and the subtle variations in motives and choreography bore new meaning between Adam and this Tree (House).

I also loved the way the sky matched the lighting!

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An amazing day.

I am glad I caught up with Chris to chat about the project. You can find out about some of the work on the NT website and Chris’s own website I will share links in my next post.

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We talked about the board of ideas set up in the Marquee (in exchange for a free cupcake), I talked to him about hopes some of us have for using the space and he explained that was why there is a balcony at the back, space on the ground for seating. He envisaged it being used for performance. There is an intentional stage.

Unlike functional/childhood/traditional tree houses this is not in the tree, the tree is in it and this creates an amazing space to explore. The house contains and mirrors many of the architectural features of Croome.

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He talked to me about his design work and the exhibition downstairs. The work he had done on site. It was lovely that one of the Volunteers came to talk to him about how much she had enjoyed this art unfolding through the process. I get the feeling Chris Alton will be missed at Croome.

Once I got home, filled with adrenaline, I became curious about the process Chris had been through. So my final post on Adam Speaks will explore the work behind the Tree House, retrospectively.

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Quite possibly the world’s first Neoclassical Tree House.

 

 

 

Adam Speaks – The Project

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room 204

Back in April I was accepted onto Room 204, a writer development programme with Writing West Midlands. Just weeks after the official 2017/18 cohort announcement an opportunity appeared for a National Trust (NT) project at Croome Court.

In 2015/16 the NT facilitated the Plumlines exhibition (which has only recently closed), many Worcestershire poets were involved. This was the period I worked on my book ‘Fragile Houses’ and I had no time to get involved.

Working with two poets, Brenda Read-Brown and Heather Wastie, Croome held workshops with schools, writers groups, history groups and volunteers. 

The ‘Plumlines’ exhibition is a collection of real life stories expressed through 188 one-hundred word poems, written by people from across Worcestershire about a female relatives life during the First World War and is on display from 19 November 2016 until 19 November 2018. © National Trust

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© Jack Nelson 

So I was delighted at this invitation and applied straight away (20th April), we were notified on the 11th May of our places on this project.

 

The remit was to visit Croome and get a sense for the place. Then on 1st July we had a day long workshop with Chris Alton – the Lead Artist for Adam Speaks.

Chris Alton Rachel Hill

© Rachel Hill

Adam Speaks – The Search for an Artist

Croome is working with an emerging artist to develop and make new work responding to Robert Adam’s vision and designs at Croome.  

A new art project at Croome

After the success of the Plumlines the team at Croome are embarking on an exciting new co-production project, mentored by national artist Hew Locke. © National Trust

Many artists applied for his position, including international artists.

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© Peter Young

The original artists brief explains our role. We were one of four partner groups whose ideas fed into the work Chris completed.

 

 

Through innovative participation led by the artist, ideas realised in the workshops
with our four partner groups will set the foundations for the artworks. The selected
groups will input into the ideas stage of the artwork before the production/making
stage. The vision for participation will be supported by Croome. 

 

Croome will support the engagement aspect of the project, liaising with the groups
and managing the project structure. Once both artist and groups have visited
Croome, they will explore ideas based on Adam’s designs, through a series of
workshops that will take place at the groups ‘home ground.’

 

The selected artist, supported by Hew Locke, will research Adam’s work at Croome
with the participant groups and develop ideas for the artwork, e.g. what history or
story should be addressed in or influence the work. Looking at and selecting objects
from the collection, the workshops can focus on discussions about the
creative/design/production process, how Adam may have approached it, how artists approach it today. 

 

Why are we doing this?
Through the project, we want to tell the story of Adam (himself an emerging
designer) at Croome in an accessible and interesting way, to introduce new
audiences to his life and work at Croome and make relevant connections to the
impact Adam had on our lives – the ‘everyday’ connections that still exist.

We want Croome to be known as supporting new artists and local communities .We
would like ‘Adam Speaks’ to be a project which is an example of good practice , in its
creative outreach projects and mentoring, helping other Trust properties to develop
further understanding regarding creative collaboration. © National Trust

Kiki Claxton, Creative Programme Coordinator
Rachel Sharpe, Creative Partnerships Manager

Adam Speaks – Chris Alton 

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome/features/chris-alton—adam-speaks-artist

Chris worked with four partner groups: Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA), Kimichi School, Writing West Midlands and St Barnabas First and Middle School.

Chris was supported and mentored by Hew Locke. Locke is a world renowned artist with artworks owned by the Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum to name a few.  He specialises in a wide range of mediums which include sculpture, painting and photography, often within Locke’s work his ideas resonates with historical references and sites. © NT

Chris spent a day in workshops with each group.

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1431782527872-adam-speaks-wwm-170701-19-rfw-credit-peter-young.jpg Writing West Midlands

© Peter Young

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Our Creative Session on July 1st was fun and intensive. An initial starting point was personal objects and discussions about society. The panic some of us felt over the art supplies was soon rested, as we had the pleasure of drawing out our thoughts. It was the longest workshop I have ever done and was greatly rewarding.

 

 

© Peter Young

I hope Chris won’t mind me publicly sharing the words he passed onto Jonathan Davidson (Director WWM) after our workshop.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was incredible impressed by the calibre of writing exhibited by the group. There were a number of texts produced on the day that I found to be truly moving. The group were an absolute joy to work with; generous, open and bold with regard to their engagement with the subject matter and workshop format. – Chris Alton

I also thoroughly enjoyed my day at Croome Court (25th June), my notebook is full of glorious observations, sketches and words. Possibly a poem or two.

Once Chris had worked with everyone he then went away and spent time at Croome and in the studio creating his ideas and later the finished design and artwork.

RELATED LINKS: 

Plumlines https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome/features/croome-plumlines-exhibition

Poetry Swindon Day 5 Farewell Brunchfast

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50 poets in 5 days! It was hard to imagine this festival coming to a close, but like all good things it had to happen sometime and here is where it happened… on a Monday morning, like no other!

Day 5 Monday

9th October

To get me over my heartache of losing my roomie, Daljit Nagra had invited me to sit for Breakfast and this was the only day I didn’t have a massive breakfast. Nothing to do with sharing a table with Daljit, more the thought of croissants and bacon sandwiches over at the Brunchfast, that and because the business clients weren’t about after the weekend the breakfast was cooked rather than a buffet.

It was fun and a big, wonderful thanks to Daljit for his generosity on this one.

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I checked out and then it was over to the Museum for a final spot of stewarding, which came in the form of waitressing and cashing out books with poets.

10:00 to 11:30  POETRY BRUNCHFAST & FAREWELL  RJ Museum Tent-Palace
The festival closes with final croissants and coffee and a few last, remarkable displays from our resident artists and poets. Join us for a lively goodbye, some poetry, coffee and free-range laughter as the tent-palace descends back into the van and we celebrate our 5th poetry festival.
Ticket includes continental breakfast, and maybe bacon… and toast

The Brunchfast was a spectacular affair, besides food and coffee/tea we had final performances from Resident Poets Daljit Nagra, Tania Hershman and Jacqueline Saphra as well as Jinny Fisher and Julia Webb.

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It was our final chance to mingle and say our goodbyes.

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And Poetry Swindon 2017 goes from this…

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to this.

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Until next year!

Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer) and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.

 

Poetry Swindon Day 4 Festival Finale

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Poetry Swindon – Festival Finale.

A madly exciting final evening event.

20:00 ‘til late FESTIVAL FINALE RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Mab Jones, A. F. Harrold, Edward Day, Inua Elams, and George Fell.
Tonight we celebrate the power of poetry in performance with some of Britain’s most exciting voices coming together, with fantastic music to polish everything off. Prepare to be dazzled!
Rather than the creator of Death Robots from Outer Space, expect the A. F. Harrold who started in a Blackwell’s bookshop in the late 1990s, before going on to becoming a full-time poet and workshop facilitator in the early 2000s.
Edward Day is a genderfluid poet and theatre maker. Performing in a wild, theatrical style, Edward reimagines daily life in many fantastical ways, from having the powers of a Jedi, to food growing knots inside him.
Mab Jones’ newest collection, Take your experience and peel it, is published by Indigo Dreams. Her first collection, Poor Queen, was published by Burning Eye Books. “Her best poems take my breath away.” – Gwyneth Lewis
Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a cross art form practitioner, a poet, playwright & performer, graphic artist & designer and founder of the Midnight Run – an international, arts-filled, night-time, playful, urban, walking experience.
George Fell has been mesmerizing UK audiences with his instrumentals and arrangements for
almost a decade, originally developing his technique from early Blues and Country recordings,
and the guitar as a solo instrument.

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A. F. Harrold

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George Fell

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Edward Day

I have had the pleasure of watching A. F. Harrold in action before, many years ago when he headlined SpeakEasy in Worcester. I enjoyed his performance immensely.

George Fell is an exceptionally talented musician and it was wonderful to have his set peppered between the poets. I have really enjoyed music being a part of the festival this year.

Mab Jones I first saw in Birmingham, reading from her Indigo Dreams publication ‘Take Your Experience and Peel It’. I was looking forward to watching her perform again after seeing her around the festival for a few days. I enjoyed her performance poetry too. (Like me, she has a foot in both camps.)

Edward Day discovered Poetry Swindon last year and that is where we met. Since then Edward has developed a Touring Show based on Shakespeare and Gaming, it was an excerpt from this the audience were treated too. Very impressive.

Inua Elams I first saw earlier this year in Birmingham and he delivered the same clever poetry – using his document list to find poems on themes chosen by the audience.

It was a fabulous finale.

It didn’t end there, we also had the end of festival speeches and celebrations.

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Maurice Spillane and Mike Pringle, two of the masters behind the festival and mentors of bread cutting and festival prep, invited the team on stage and spoke highly of Hilda Sheehan for curating another amazing Poetry Swindon.

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They announced the Firework display and gave a sparky foresight into what was to come.

The Finale was billed ’til Late and it was! Toast-gate also occurred-  the table was emptied during the interval, so we had to restock the toast station for hungry festival goers, which meant an impromptu bread carving lesson from Mr Mike Pringle.

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The Bar had another late opening too – which is going to guarantee poets staying to mingle and on top of all that there was a firework display!

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The team had reckoned an end of Festival Party, however – due to the series of late nights and people needing sleep, we ended up with no wrap party. This was fine as we had a party to end all parties the night before with Sarah L. Dixon and we had just had the most incredible Fireworks party thanks to Mike Pringle and Tony Hillier, who themselves choreographed a dance in High Vis jackets and bright lamps that rivalled the fireworks display. In fact I suggested for next year they may want to work on this act!

 

Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer) and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.

Poetry Swindon Festival – Day 4

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Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer) and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.

Day 4 

Sunday 8th October

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Sunday… a day of rest? Erm, NO! It was quite a sad day, we had already lost Gram Joel Davies to the dreaded Swindon Lurgy, which was caught by the whole team and some of our resident poets too and Jill Carter the Artist in Residence! Today we had to wave goodbye to Sarah L. Dixon*. We also had to steward on very little sleep and draining energy supplies. So extra holes in the heart were quick to drag us down. But we were picked up by the ever positive Hilda Sheehan in the morning meeting where we scheduled the last full day of the festival.

*I knew I was going to miss Sarah, lots. I managed to sneak a little message and a poem into her suitcase for her to find once she made it home. After having a roommate it was very strange to be in a room on my own.

This was the final day of workshops, Jacqueline Saphra had stepped up to run a workshop as Jacci Bulman was unable to make it and Rishi Dastidar was booked to facilitate a Call & Response Workshop.

10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Call and Response Sun Inn With Rishi Dastidar
We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve been inspired by other poems, maybe visual art too, and then written in response to them. So what happens when we use pop songs instead? That’s the simple premise behind ‘Call and Response’, where some great music will hopefully provide great inspiration for writing poems. Just bring some paper, pencils – and your ears.
Rishi Dastidar is a fellow of The Complete Works, a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. His debut collection, Ticker-tape, is published by Nine Arches Press.

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It was a most enjoyable experience, music really bringing me to waking moments on this tired Sunday morning, full of thoughts of goodbyes and trying to keep a balanced heart, this workshop lifted me out of that head-space. It was fast, furious and fun and a surprising amount of poetry was created. I loved hearing everyone’s takes on the same pieces and Rishi was a fantastic workshop leader. I would not hesitate to workshop with him again!

Over at the Museum A. F. Harrold had it all under control at the Open Mic Talent Show. This was the 2nd event for children, the first took place on Thursday 5th October on the opening day of the festival, whilst we were at Artsite.

10:30 to 12:00 POETRY RHYME TIME RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
You are invited to meet Custard the Dragon, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, and many more famous poetry friends. A fun and animated poetry rhyme time with music and movement for under 5’s, with arts & crafts with Suzie, and poetry.

Events for children is another great element of the Poetry Swindon Festival. Children are no strangers to the Richard Jefferies Museum programme either.

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A. F. Harrold and Milo.

10:30 to 12:00 CHILDREN’S OPEN MIC TALENT SHOW RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With A. F. Harrold
A morning of poetry play and fun for children under 11 years, presented by Milo age 10 and A.F. Harold. With Special Guest Young Poet Sophie Daniels. Come along with a poem, a song or a story – one you have created yourself, or a favourite!
A.F. Harrold is the author of the hilarious Fizzlebert Stump series, the award-winning book The Imaginary and the children’s poetry collections I Eat Squirrels and Things You Find In A Poet’s Beard (illustrated by Chris Riddell). He is well known for his energetic and silly performances where almost anything can happen. Expect poems, jokes, beards and nonsense, and maybe a snippet of his brand new book, Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space.

Back to the Museum for Lunch and an action packed day for the team with three Stewards down. Julia Webb had stepped up to an afternoon reading as a poet couldn’t make it and had some time to go and prepare and of course, we had lost Gram and Sarah. I think this was one of the hardest work days, but all work is fun when you are part of such a great team.

13:30 to 14:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Rishi Dastidar, Jessica Mookherjee & Camilla Nelson
Transgressions and experiments of three daring poets who tread where it doesn’t seem safe or sane, and so manage to open our eyes and ears to the real pulse of the present.
If you were unable to get to Rishi Dastidar ‘s workshop in the morning, this is your chance to hear from his debut collection, Ticker-tape.
Camilla Nelson is a language artist, researcher and collaborator. Her current work is Apples & Other Languages, published by Knives Forks and Spoons.
Jessica Mookherjee is a poet of Bengali origin. Her first collection, Darshan will be published by Cultured Llama in 2018.
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I have heard Rishi Dastidar reading at Ledbury and Waterstones Birmingham and it is always a delight to hear from this collection, Ticker-tape. Nine Arches Press were certainly well represented at this year’s festival.

In the afternoon reading I was so touched by one of Jessica Mookherjee’s poems that I completely unravelled! Which was a tricky situation to be in when there is no-one around as everyone was busy watching the event.

This is the power of poetry.

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A speedy turn around for the last Open Mic event of the festival and one I could finally take part in.

15:00 to 16:00 OPEN MIC – Magic RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
‘I believe reality is approximately 65% if. All rivers are full of sky. Waterfalls are in the mind. We all come from slime.’
Dean Young Can you pull a poem out of hat? Join in as poetry is conjured from every beautiful mind. With special guest readings from Kathy Gee & Liz Mills – once upon a time Kathy was a museum curator, so for quite a while she wrote about ‘stuff’ and what we leave behind. Liz has written and acted all her life but only started writing poetry last summer.

During this event many poets appeared (for the next event) and I really wanted to leave the book stall and go to catch up with them, but I was torn as it seemed rude to miss the open mic-ers and I was also waiting for a slot (names were pulled from a hat). I stayed put.

I enjoyed the ‘Magic’ open mic and this time it was the turn of Kathy Gee and Liz Mills to take the Guest Spots. It was a lively event with some beautifully magic poetry.

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Guest Poet Kathy Gee

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Louisa Davison

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Louisa Campbell

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Miranda L. Barnes

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Susan Taylor

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Shaun Butler

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Iris Anne Lewis

James Harris

James Harris

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I performed one of the shortest poems in the book ‘Linger’.

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Bethan Rees

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Simon Williams

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Guest Poet Liz Mills

A quick stint behind the bar and then it was onto the final afternoon Readings of the festival. I was very much looking forward to seeing Daniel Sluman reading again and discovering the poetry of Alex Josephy, having met her earlier on at the Book Stall. Melissa Lee-Houghton was unable to make it so we had the delight of Julia Webb reading from her collection Bird Sisters (also Nine Arches Press).

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16:30 to 17:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Melissa Lee-Houghton, Daniel Sluman & Alex Josephy
Intense and exacting reading from three of Britain’s rawest readers.
Melissa Lee-Houghton was named a Next Generation Poet 2014 for Beautiful Girls. Her latest book, Sunshine (Penned in the Margins, 2016) saw her shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award, Ted Hughes Award and Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Daniel Sluman is a poet and disability rights activist based in Oxfordshire. He was named one of Huffington Post’s Top 5 British Poets to Watch in 2015. His debut collection Absence has a weight of its own was released by Nine Arches Press in 2012. Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. She has been a student and teacher of poetry all her life and leads a poetry reading group in East London. Her poems have been published widely in magazines and anthologies.

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Alex Josephy


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Daniel Sluman

SPF JULIA WEBB

Julia Webb

Then came the teatime rush and finally the Festival Finale… which deserves a post all to itself!

Poetry Swindon Festival Day 3

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Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer) and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.

Day 3 

Saturday 7th October 

swindon dog

What better way to spend the weekend than at a poetry festival. Full of energy (and hash browns), I was ready in green for another day in the Tent Palace and Richard Jefferies Museum.

Just like Friday, Saturday kicked off with poetry workshops (after morning meetings for the team).

10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Blurred Boundaries RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Tania Hershman
Some poems are also fictions; some stories are also poems. Where does one end and the other begin? We will take a wander through this fuzzy territory, from poem to short story and the weird and wonderful in between.

swindon tania blurred boundaries mf

10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Being ‘Political’ Holiday Inn 
With Daljit Nagra
Some poems can hit you over the head with their political rage, or they can try to persuade you to their vision as the best way ahead. Explore with Daljit some ways in which poetry can deal with contemporary issues but with complexity and subtlety. Participants should expect to have tried to write their own poems of witness in the session.

Knowing it would stretch me – I opted for a 2nd workshop with Daljit Nagra. Another action packed session and more potential poems scribbled in my notebook. A whole sequence on Education materialised.

Then it was back to the Museum for Lunch before the first afternoon event, another open mic, this time with the theme of Happiness and guest spots from Marilyn Hammick and John Mills.

 

13:00 to 14:00 OPEN MIC: Happiness RJ Museum Tent-Palace
‘Oh god it’s wonderful to get out of bed, drink too much coffee…and love you so much.’ 
Frank O’Hara
This open mic aims to have everyone leaving the tent palace with a smile on their face. Bring us your joys and your gleefulness. Feel like the sun is shining, even if it’s raining! With special guest readings from Marilyn Hammick & John Mills.

spf how to get published

14:30 to 15:30 POETS & PUBLISHERS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Discussions led by poet Carrie Etter with two prominent poetry editors, Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan. Come and join a discussion about what it takes to get published.
Carrie Etter is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her most recent collection, Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society.
Since 1990, American expatriate Amy Wack has edited Seren Books’ multi-prizewinning poetry list. Her own poems have appeared in various journals, most recently a 12-part poem inspired by feral cats in Spain in Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Jean Chan, from Hong Kong, is shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal.

This was a truly insightful event to attend and some interesting questions were answered.

SPF mad & Glow

16:00 to 17:00 MAD & GLOW RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Mad & Glow are Jacqueline Saphra and Tania Hershman, but they refuse to tell who is who. However, they do promise to entertain you with brazen stories in poem and prose from each and both; a confederacy of words from a world that contains mad mothers and glowing jellyfish, kisses and war, salt, light and a few waterlilies.

This was an interesting event which will appear again next February at the Verve Festival of Poetry & Spoken Word in Birmingham. I feel a little honoured to have been part of the first outing and had a jam sandwich to boot!

AWF PS Me Sarah

 

Another thing I love about Poetry Swindon is the action on feedback. Last year the only thing missing was somewhere to sit. So they created the bar area for refreshments outside, plenty of picnic tables, relocated the Tent Palace and the old tea room/book shop became a whole room to chill out in, with gingham tablecloths littered with poetry magazines. Sarah and I dip into some our poems made it into and some they didn’t.

SPF Christina Battered Moons
Christina Newton – Organiser Battered Moons

19:00 to 21:00 BATTERED MOONS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Malika Booker
Battered Moons 2017 will be celebrating seven winning poets and their poems, with dazzling poet Malika Booker handing out the prizes and reading from her own work. Malika is a Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds and chair of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2016. Her Malika’s Poetry Kitchen has inspired models from Delhi to Chicago.
The evening will include a musical treat brought by the outstanding voice of Caitlin Eastham and her band.

SPF Christina Newton

 

Spf Caitlin Eastham

Caitlin Eastham

SPF Malika Booker

Malika Booker

 

 

A spectacular event (to almost round off the evening) with music, winning poems and Malika Booker (who I first discovered at Ledbury Poetry Festival this year), a woman with a heart as big as Poetry Swindon. It was lovely managing a quick chat with her later in the evening.

SPF bar

The final event of the evening was a musical one, much acclaimed and my late night bar duty.

21:30 ‘til late LATE NIGHT TOAST SPECIAL RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Keith James in concert – The Songs of Leonard Cohen
With a lifetime reputation of performing and an undying love of the ‘pure song’ Keith James gives you a concert of Cohen’s amazing material in the most intimate and sensitive way imaginable, exposing the solitary inner strength of his greatest songs in their original perfect form.
‘Some of the most atmospheric and emotive music you will ever hear.’
The Independent.

You can catch Keith James here.

South-Hill-gig-poster

This event was thoroughly enjoyed by all in The Tent Palace of Delicious Air and those of us outside it. *

After a late night bar, we finished late… later than the night before. The Late Night Special finished later than any other event on the schedule, the start scheduled at the time most events finished. Then there was the bar… then after the last festival goers had gone to bed… the team celebrated Sarah L. Dixon’s pre-Birthday, Birthday! Somewhat of a new tradition having managed to have her big, special birthday on her final day in Swindon last year. There was cake and beer.

 

*This year… Sarah started the celebrations before Battered Moons Event…

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Tony Hillier loves any excuse to dance, after we all went to bed on Friday, he went out clubbing… so two late nights in a row for this man who could teach us all a thing or two about partying!

By the time Keith James took to the stage there was a competing house party in the Museum! And like all good parties it happened in the kitchen, no. The bathroom! Pizza had been ordered and merriment was on the agenda.

party

I had been outside manning the bar, but realising the games were afoot inside and attempting to go and soundproof the venue, I discovered the epicentre of the party on the landing and you know, these are once in a lifetime moments (like sharing barn hammocks with Angela France and Jo Bell in 2014).

SPF anna bath

SPF Anna bath 2

At the officially organised pre-birthday/last night party there was a dance floor, a special mix tape that Hilda had compiled, the Swindon Dog, Poetry Pram balloons and plenty of dancing feet. It was a marvellous, strange, fun night. One that finished just 5 hours before we had to be up again. Sarah herself was having to leave the next day, which had to be an easier exit than workshops, events and stewarding… something to bear in mind when the Dancing Queen pulls this again!

SPF Party dixon

SPF party mf

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SPF dixon

When a party starts after Midnight… we eventually made it to bed with a few hours to sleep before morning alarms!

AAWF Swindon Party

Adam Speaks Launch Croome Court

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Today was the launch of Adam Speaks at Croome Court (National Trust). This is a project I have been working on as part of a team from Room 204, Writing West Midlands.

The Lead Artist on the project was Chris Alton. I will be writing a full blog post as soon as I can. I had a great afternoon at Croome, it was wonderful to see all parts of the collaboration come together and as for Adam’s Tree House (as it is now known), it was an amazing feat of art and engineering! A beautiful space that the NT team at Croome will be using well, I already have the inside line on a few possibilities.

Loved the fact that in the FREE cupcake Marquee there was an ideas board for how to use the art, which will now remain for at least a year.

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To mark the opening of our new Chris Alton Adam Speaks exhibition we will be holding a launch day on Saturday 25 November with a packed programme of activities. The official opening will take place at 3.30pm by Artist Hew Locke.

Adam Speaks Tree House Launch Saturday 25 November 2017

From 12.00pm to 4.00pm, we have a full programme of activities inspired by the Adam Speaks project and its participants.

Church Hill Marquee: 12.00pm – 3.00pm Build a Robert Adam inspired structure and share it with #Adamspeaks

Poetry in the Adam Speaks Tree House 12.00pm – 3.00pm with Kurly McGeachie

Long Gallery Croome Court:

12.00pm:         Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts

12.30pm:         The Sixth Form College Worcester

1.00pm:           Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts

1.30pm:           The Sixth Form College Worcester

2.00pm:           Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts

2.30pm:           The Sixth Form College Worcester

3.00pm:           Formal opening speeches in the Long Gallery.

3.10pm:           Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts performance in the Adam Speaks Tree House.

3.30pm:           Formal opening of the Adam Speaks Tree House by Hew Locke

Words for the Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts and Kimichi School provided and inspired by Writing West Midlands Participants.

Adam Speaks themed cupcakes will be available in the marquee on Church Hill throughout the day. (Subject to availability).

  © 2017 National Trust

Our poems were exhibited along with the Adam Speaks display in the participation area downstairs, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, they’re passed by everyone on the way to the Tea Room.

They also inspired the dancework of the Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts and Kimichi School group, which was a delight to know. Every tree has a strong root foundation, no matter how invisible it becomes. Everything starts with a strong base and I for one am delighted that some of that was our ink.

It was a great opportunity and one I thoroughly enjoyed and Chris Alton’s Room 204 workshop is going down in history as the longest workshop I have ever taken part in. Time flies when you’re having fun!

croome dance

© 2017 Nina Lewis

Immensely proud of my old mobile phone for managing such great shots!

croome dance 2

 

 

RELATED LINKS:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome/projects/adam-speaks