The WLF Team have been busy organising the first online Worcestershire LitFest – we launch on Sunday 13th and as we are hosting events on Zoom – the whole world is invited!
This year Kate Garrett embarked on a new project Bonnie’s Crew. Kate tells us more about this in our final interview.
1) Can you tell us a little background on Bonnie’s Crew?
Bonnie’s Crew was originally just going to be a little A6 print anthology, put together from work sent in by my friends in the poetry community, and sold via JustGiving to raise money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund. Leeds Congenital Hearts – which is funded by the CHSF – saved my daughter Bonnie’s life when she was born, but they did it without surgery (so far – she does have a condition that often requires surgery later in life). Other babies, children, teens, and adults need the unit’s help in much more complex ways. Our time on Ward L51 opened my eyes to congenital heart disease and made me want to do something to help.
2) At what point did you realise poetry was your way of giving back?
Almost immediately – it’s where my own heart lies (aside from my family unit of course, but even then my husband and closest friends are poets too!), and poetry is where my people are, where the community is for me.
3) Please tell us about the Bonnie’s Crew anthology and webzine.
The Bonnie’s Crew anthology is fiftyish pages of poems, mostly by poets in the UK, printed in A6 size with beautiful original cover art by Marija Smits. The poems range from those written just for Bonnie to suitable reprints, and everything in between.
The webzine has become far wider-reaching – poets from all over the world submit to Bonnie’s Crew! For both mediums, I wanted poems touching on hearts and hope, above all else, but also hospital experiences, grief, loss, love (romantic or otherwise) – as these are all very universal things, we all have a body, we all have emotions, and when we experience health issues, or loss, or family problems, or anything that moves us deeply, it’s good to have a place to express those things and find solace in other stories.
Sometimes our poems are inspired by news articles that aren’t even about human beings, but are relevant to our moral dilemmas (I’m thinking of Jude Cowan Montague’s brilliant ‘the sadness of the experiment’ https://bonnieandcrew.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/poem-the-sadness-of-the-experiment-by-jude-cowan-montague), and sometimes the poets themselves have been in hospital for heart conditions. It varies, but the writing is always beautiful.
We currently publish two poets a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but from February 2019 we will be publishing in a web journal format every other month. BC #1 will be released on 9th February – and there’s still space for more work. To read what we’ve published so far, and to submit your own work, visit http://bonnieandcrew.wordpress.com
4) How many poems have been published on the zine?
I’m not exactly sure! Over 150, or around that… at the time of answering these questions there have been 105 posts published or scheduled, and quite a few of those include multiple poems. We’ve been publishing since the first week of February 2018.
5) How did it feel to hit your fundraising target?
Amazing, unbelievable. And I was so moved by the fact that through poetry we were able to raise over £1,000 in 6 months. We’re still going, and still have anthologies left to send out, so if people are interested, our JustGiving page is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bonnieandcrew and if people would like an anthology after donating (£5 minimum for a book, but even a £1 donation helps!), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to raise £2,000 by the time Bonnie turns one in January, or at least by the time the print anthology turns one in May.
6) When did you decide to include visual art?
When I decided to change to a bi-monthly web journal format. Our webzine has been characterised by me pairing public domain images with the poems we publish, and people always remark on the lovely combinations. I’d like to carry on the visual aspect when we change to releasing work in issues, but I wanted the art to come from submissions instead of public domain resources.
7) What have you enjoyed most about this project?
What haven’t I enjoyed! It’s honestly the most rewarding bit of editing and publishing I’ve ever done. If I had to stop editing/publishing everything else tomorrow, I would not be able to put Bonnie’s Crew down. It’s made such a difference to people, not just the heart unit, but regular people who come across the poems and feel soothed by reading them.
8)What is the future for this project?
Well, as I say, I’d love to raise more money (which means selling the remaining anthologies), hold an event in Leeds with readings, and see where the new web journal format takes us. I’m accepting creative nonfiction articles and essays now as well, alongside the poetry and visual art. Bonnie’s Crew’s tagline has always been ‘poems helping hearts of all sizes’ and it’s grown to helping hearts in both literal and figurative ways. It would be lovely to keep that momentum going and reach even more people.
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/
Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/evesham-festival-of-words/
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)!
© Rick Sanders
It was a great event, mainly the Artists and Poets attended but some of us brought guests so there was an audience. The Exhibition itself did really well.
A more detailed review can be found here.
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.
© Kathy Gee
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.
Read more about it here.
Also if you missed it – there is a review here. With thanks to Mad Hatter Reviews.
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.
© Rhys Jones – Droitwich Arts Network
Read about it in full here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/artsfest-2/
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 IDP Indigo 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!
Find out more INKSPILL 2018.
I am now spending the rest of the month working on 3 writing projects, editing and organising myself ready for Perth!
Leena Batchelor and I have been busy for the past fortnight arranging this special event. We have plenty of poets and artists who are gathering together for this special Launch. The exhibition runs from 10th – 22nd and the gallery is open during the daytime for members of the public to come and marvel at the Artwork and read the poetry for themselves.
On the 11th July the gallery will be open in the evening for a celebration, you will have a chance to hear the artists talking about the collaboration and the process of their creations as well as hearing readings from the poets.
It is a free event and will be a wonderful evening, so do come and join us if you are free.
Ledbury Poetry Festival kicked off this evening, we had originally hoped to have the PoARTry Exhibition during festival week (10 days), you can hear some of the poetry, a sneak preview during the festival. A selection of PoARTry poets will be celebrating their collaborations on Tuesday 3rd July with Homend Poets 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Icebytes.
On Friday night I had hoped to make it to Birmingham Waterstones for the Verve Poetry Press Book Launch of Leon Priestnall and Nafeesa Hamid’s Debut collections.
Sadly I was up to my eyeballs with assessment data/report writing and test marking at work and by the time 6 PM arrived I was asleep on the settee. I have heard it was an incredible night and I was looking forward to reconnecting with the city and seeing these two perform.
Some photos from the evening.
Leon Priestnall is something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. In his work, he isn’t setting himself up as any kind of answer – he is as wrong as he is right, behaves badly as often as correctly. Often too confused to be able to move – beyond lighting another cigarette, taking another drink, running for the door – or speak. Often trapped inside the circle of his thoughts, which are a riot of possibilities and recriminations, what-ifs and why-nots.
© Verve Poetry Press
Learning that your mind and body have been taken hostage is one thing. Learning how to take them back is another. What if those that are returned are different to the ones that were lost?
Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming.
© Verve Poetry Press
I am sure they will both be busy on the circuit promoting these fine collections, I am still not forgiving myself for missing the launch. I am sure I will, eventually.
If you ever get a chance to see either of them perform grasp it with both hands and be ready to stomp your feet!
42 is a regular monthly feature of the Worcester calendar, featuring prose, poetry and everything between. Currently run by Polly Stretton and hosted by her and a range of Guest MCs, it is normally held on the last Wednesday of the month at Drummonds.
The festival special last year was one of the most popular nights – featuring The Antipoet. They are back again for 2018 and we are delighted.
The theme for open mic sets was Bewitched Worcestershire Inn and despite a tiny bit of research after last night’s event at the Museum, I did not have a chance to pen a poem in advance. So after a whistle stop agenda between work and the gig I managed some scribbles. One of the scribbles turned out okay.
The Antipoet performance was stupendous (as expected)! They entertained us for over an hour and they were also there for the Launch of their book! Yes, a BOOK this year rather than an album. A book with 2 FREE DVDs.
If you have never caught their show, I urge you to do so – they are phenomenal!
© Damon Lord
More photos to follow.
The story of the first ten years of The Antipoet, told in the inimitable style of Paul Eccentric. Published by Black Pear Press.
The 2nd half was packed with 42 performances (as in ’42’ the night and not forty-two performances)! Stories and poems based on the theme and beyond.
There were a couple more performers – more photos coming soon!
It was a superb night. Thoroughly 42!
This gallery contains 16 photos.
Originally posted on Poet Laureate:
Following the news of the death of Stephen Hawking in March, I decided that we should have a collection of poems focusing on Science & Maths. As poets we are naturally curious which is something Stephen Hawking encouraged his students to be. I hope you enjoy these poems, huge gratitude…
The end of my Laureateship is 2 days away which means it must be time for the Launch of Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe 2018!
We are just 4 days away from the Launch of WLF 2018 and this year there is a great programme of events, tickets can be booked online and I urge you to attend as many events as you can, fill your boots with words!
This is the 8th Year for the team and a decision was made to reduce the number of festival events on offer. Now, for many festivals this would be bad news but the quality of these evening events (note: new DAYTIME slot for the Launch) mean that there is still something for everyone and plenty on offer.
It also means the WLF Team and Festival Volunteers will not suffer burn out after hosting a packed week of events. It is only fair they get to enjoy the festival too.
After the wild success of this event in our 2017 festival we
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The last 6 weeks has been much harder than the 15 years I spent not writing whilst I focused on my career. A career I gave up on in 2013 after an 8 year slide into depression. I have spent the past 5 years doing what I do best without having to put up with all the hoop jumping, red tape, politics and thankless 80 hour weeks! I also spent the last half a decade saying a resounding NO to any opportunity to work longer than a 2 week period.
However with an International Poetry Festival scheduled I felt the universe was delivering when I was offered a complete term. Here I am halfway through, I managed a whole month and a half back at the chalk-face full time (almost, some pre-booked poetry events allowed me a little time off for good behaviour). It has certainly been a hectic whirlwind working and freelancing simultaneously!
Tonight I am celebrating my 9 day freedom by working on everything in the montage above and more. My poetry skin is slipped back on and I do not need to think about work (or report writing) for a while.
This Bank Holiday weekend I am spending some time offline with Mr. G. as the Bank Holiday at the beginning of May was filled with Poetry Events.
I have a fortnight left as Worcestershire Poet Laureate and excitingly the judging process has begun to find the next one, the three finalists have been announced by themselves across social media, not sure WLF have posted the official announcements yet.
I am planning my penultimate Spark Young Writer group for Writing West Midlands, many of us have been given the nod this year. It is not a forever job, they tell you this at the beginning. WWM like to support as many writers as they can and they feel these roles benefit from fresh Leaders and so, if you are lucky you will squeeze about 3 years out of the deal. I will be sad to lose this part of my writing life, but it has been a fantastic opportunity and left me with a bank of wonderful, creative plans and activities to incorporate into future work/workshops for Young Adults/children.
I have a backlog of Blog posts to come reviewing Book Launches, Festival appearances and interviews.
I am working on Issue 4 of Contour, the final WPL digital magazine and reading submissions to the Science collection. There is still time to submit your work to both, just follow these links:
The Twin Town is going well, the European Project hosts just 4 collaborations, certainly an easier task to manage than ATOTC, with it’s mammoth 23 pairings! Several French/Anglo pairs have completed their poems and the deadline is this evening, so I am hoping to wrap it up before the end of my tenure (10th June). The French work is being translated, a truly bilingual collection.
I am currently organising events for the Poetry Day at Artsfest 2018 and as part of the Poetry Extravaganza in the evening we will have the first UK ATOTC Collective Reading.
A few weeks ago many poets received copies of Bonnie’s Crew, a poetry anthology compiled by Kate Garrett to raise funds for Leeds General Infirmary Congenital Hearts Unit, via the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.
Kate agreed to an interview a few weeks ago, I hope to start promoting it as soon as I can. It is a fabulous collection of poems.
Here is her Just Giving Page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bonnieandcrew
And then I shall have an early night and be bright eyed for getting creative tomorrow.
THURSDAY 10 MAY – IN-CONVERSATION AND POETRY READING WITH NINA LEWIS
The BMI is proudly welcoming Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis to discuss her work. Join Nina for an in-conversation about her life through poetry and listen as she shares poems from her pamphlet Fragile Houses (V. Press, 2016) along with some of her new work.
This will be followed by an Open Mic session – spaces are limited and poets will be invited to read their work for no more than 6 minutes. Please contact Serena Trowbridge at serena.trowbridge[at]bcu.ac.uk to reserve your slot to read!
© 2018 Birmingham & Midland Institute