Category Archives: Room 204

Flashback Autumn (Nov)

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November finally saw a return to work after 8 months, an anxious time but also a great relief! It was a busy month on and offline. I had more medical appointments and another hospital appointment. But the balance was a month packed with Poetry / Literary Festivals!

At the end of October and beginning of November I enjoyed Dodge Poetry Festival and the packed programme of poetry. I shared a sea theme poem at Wirral Poetry Festival at an evening featuring Philip Gross, watched Andrew McMillan at Todmorden Book Festival, saw Padraig O’Tauna read several times. Watched Sandwell Stories, enjoyed Ankh Spice back in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, HAY had a WINTER Festival Weekend. I joined the final weekend of Culturama.

I had the opportunity to watch Heidi Williamson in action again at The Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Worcester University have also brought part of the Creative Writing Readings online and I managed to catch Hannah Lowe in action (it has been many years since I last saw her read). I caught an event at the Uni of Oxford with Rishi Dastidar on The Craft – a book he wrote a few years ago.

I enjoyed the tail end (dog pun) of Matt Black‘s Book Launch – ‘Sniffing Lamp-posts by Moonlight’ A fundraising book of dog poems.

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I did a workshop with Lansing Poet Laureate, Laura Apol, I attended more Creative Conversations at Glasgow University, I enjoyed events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, continued with Ledbury Poetry Festival workshops, Poets in Motion and Food for Thought and Grief workshops, we had an open mic to celebrate the end of the Hybrid Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle – a relaxed and fun affair!

I did a Nevada Hall of Fame workshop and a personal highlight of the month was the George Szirtes workshop thanks to Artful Scibe, Mayflower 400 Celebrations in Southampton.

I got involved writing for the Rebellion series with Sheffield Libraries and Nik Perring and started work on his Dear 2020/21 project in association with the BBC/Novels that Shaped Our World and Sheffield Libraries. More news to come. Room 204 provided a special workshop with Thomas Glave, in which we reflected on 2020.

I forgave myself for the deadlines whizzing past and focussed on the successes.

I was a featured poet at Virtual Voices Offa’s Press (10th Nov.) alongside Kenton Samuels, Keith Rogers, Santosh K. Dary and Jeff Phelps. I read at the Reimagine Festival (USA) as part of Redwing’s Poetry for Healing group.

I was one of 11 poets in the Royal British Legion’s 11/11 Challenge for The Poppy Appeal – organised by Leena Batchelor, Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Find out more here https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/2020/12/16/wpl-poppy-appeal-continues/.

I ran a series of Workshops for The National Star Centre, my gratitude to Ruth, Paul and the team in Cheltenham and to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. These were rewarding mornings where inspiration travelled in both directions!

I was published in the BLER Light Anthology (Black Light Engine Room), had two poems published in Corona, an Anthology of Poems – Edited by Gayl Teller in USA (more on this soon), I had a Renga accepted for a collaborative project in the US, I had two poems published in Geography is IrrelevantStairwell Books http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/geography-is-irrelevant/. This anthology includes International Poets who were active online at events in the UK during 2020. More on this soon and a poem accepted for the Dear 2021 Pamphlet produced for the Year of Reading/BBC/ Novels that Shaped Our World with Nik Perring.

Like many of us I wrote about the pandemic in the end (resistance was futile, especially as I self-isolated and had a limited palette of outside life experiences) -not that inspiration was lacking, with all the workshops and 5 notepads of ideas… anyway, I wrote Covid poems and didn’t submit them to any of the Lockdown projects or websites collecting such things. I am grateful that there were a few options left at the end of the year, places to to share them. Now, like the rest of 2020 they can be released!

Flashback Summer (June)

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For some reason I attempted Yoga again this month, Lockdown has made us all a little crazy, I think I did a fusion of Yoga and Pilates, basically the warm up and then filled in most of the class with exercise my back could manage.

I saw my first human being other than my mum and Mr G. since the beginning of Lockdown. It was my eldest nephew’s birthday. I stood in the garden, he stayed inside. It was the hardest not-hug to give/not give. Delighted I saw him. He couldn’t believe he was only the 3rd person I had seen since the end of March! By the end of the month I shared garden coffee with a few friends.

My actual travel/ life may have diminished to something which resembled 2019 (without the pain) but my screen life was exploding. I stretched my Zoom poetry wings further into Australia, out to New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, America and Coventry – if you have ever driven the route from here you will understand why I include that UK destination in amongst my international travel. Other local events found the wonders of Zoom and FB and moved events online. Library services also extended online content.

Poetry and writing has gone Global this year, writing is also (like baking, making sourdough, planting, painting and photography) one of the hobbies/ escapes people turned to. Even people who never appeared online have probably scribbled journals or feelings down at some points in this Lockdown. There have been wonderful local/ national/ international community projects popping up all over the place. Letter writing has become fashionable again, or at least it did before people realised the dangers of post. The world has creatively adapted. We have held each other (metaphorically) up in a year that made us all feel like we no longer had bones!

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The other thing which began to take seed was the funding artists had applied for through the Arts Council. With this emergency funding came a flurry of projects and workshops. Funding was also received from other revenue sources.

PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) celebrated the Black Country/ Lockdown and isolation with Stay Up Your Own End – which offered people both a microscopic and magnified view of their locales as seen through the eyes of people with pens. It encouraged people who had never written before or never openly written before to pick up a pen and write. It was set up as a round of competitions, prizes included a video film produced & £25.

The judges/prompt writers for each round were local favourites of the Black Country poetry scene Richard Archer, Rick Sanders, Roy McFarlane, Kuli Kohli, and Heather Wastie.

PPP were commissioned by Creative Black Country to run a series of online poetry activities across the region.

Read more about it here: https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk/stay-up-your-own-end/

Louise Stokes provided bi-weekly writing classes under the ‘Let’s Write’ project. http://www.louiseland.co.uk/

I did workshops with Anna Saunders, Adam Horovitz, Liam Brown, Zena Edwards and joined Malika Speaks and Poets In Motion. I went to Book launches including The Estate Agent’s DaughterRhian Edwards (Seren), Wild PersistenceKatrina Naomi (Seren), Pack of LiesRoz Levens (Black Pear Press)

More Festivals and Events: ART IS… Festival, Trim (Ireland), Own It! Online Festival, Wirral Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Kit De Waal Creative Writing Wonder Women, Ledbury Poetry Salon with Philip Gross & Lesley Saunders. Sarah L. Dixon moved The Quiet Compere online and created a series of reunion shows. I made video poems for Wordcraft, PASTA, performed at Fire & Dust, 42, That Poetry Zoom, Perth Poetry Club, Poets’ Cafe and watched Dear Listener. Oooh Beehive, Run Your Tongue, Yes We Cant and others. Room 204 continued to support us with opportunities.

Personal highlights for the month (other than braving the company of friends) were:

A reading for the end of Writing to Buoy Us – Reading to Buoy Us with Cath Drake. The courses drew both established and new poets in from across the world.

Read all about it at Cath’s website here.

It was an uplifting event which featured both class groups and Australian poet Mark Tredinnick as the Guest Reader.

Writing and creativity are how most of us are continuing to process this pandemic 6 months later, the connectivity shared at this time was invaluable. It was special.

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Mark Tredinnick
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Poetry Film Live Relaunched their website and featured one of my animated Poetry Renewed Films ‘Tailspin’ to Launch it. Like every business Elephant’s Footprint have adapted during this pandemic and shifted their courses online.

Exciting talks started with the committee about moving WLF online, we were holding off in the hope the postponed annual festival (mid-June) could be pushed back to early Autumn, by this time it became apparent that Covid was going to be with us for some time.

I took part in my first online SLAM (I don’t really do the SLAM poet thing but this was in Australia and I couldn’t resist). My poems appeared in the keepsake gift book the Art Is Festival released.

I wrote down submission opportunities and promptly missed the deadlines. Seems like I have the horse ready but a little unsure of getting back on!

Flashback Spring (May)

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If I thought April had been a whirlwind, I wasn’t quite buckled in for May!

I was enjoying off screen time in the garden, had already taken photos of the blossom and enjoyed the early Spring flowers.

You know it is easy to misremember how it was? I closed the last flashback with the realisation I had not travelled more than 1.5 miles from my home – actually my perimeter was a lot smaller in April. I hadn’t started walking outside of my home and the supermarket is not that far away so thinking back, the frame of my life was caught in a circle of 3 roads, just one small block of life!

This was the month it expanded to 1.5 miles.

I do remember I stayed in, if I wasn’t in the garden I was in the house. Most of the street were out in the back gardens, enjoying the sun, building new sheds, cabins, garden furniture, slides and swings whilst I was indoors fighting the good fight for Furlough or burying my head in the sand of a writing world that became my Narnia.

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May started with more festivals: Avon Book Festival, Stay at Home Fringe Festival (organised by the Students/graduates of Glasgow Uni), The Urban Tree Festival and of course HAY (which I managed to blog in a timely fashion). Huge gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to give creatives access to platforms and festivals at this time.

Big gratitude to Julia Webb for the prompt/course she ran this month. To Kim Moore for braving the online world of workshops and furthering my year of learning. To Carys Hannah who started a Golden Girls Watch Party, which reminded us what laughter is and made us all hope we get to grow old.

To Anna Saunders and the team at Cheltenham Poetry Festival for delivering a feast of poetic pleasure with numerous events and a great line up of poets. To Seren for creating a series of reading events, AWP for giving us a night with Joy Harjo (Poet Laureate of USA). For the universe for keeping my neighbour safe the morning she climbed up on our conservatory roof to clean and I couldn’t stop her!

Thanks to Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for events at the Butchery and to Jinny Fisher for her Poetry Pram Party. Thanks to Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press for videos, live readings and Book Launches, to Emma Wright at the Emma Press for Book Launches and webinar readings/Q&A. To Phillipa Slinger and Chloe Garner who moved Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Salons online.

This month I also enjoyed the Saboteur Awards and Book Launches for The Unmapped Woman by Abegail Morley (Nine Arches Press), Dorothy by Briony Hughes (Broken Sleep Books), Apple Fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond (Against the Grain).

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And I finally realised online events meant we could travel after all… and travel I did, first stop back to Australia. I headed back to Perth and Freo. Thanks to all at VoiceBox. I reunited with some of the Perth crew at Zoomouth, which was brilliant!

I finished the 6 weeks Writing to Buoy Us course with Cath Drake and writers from Europe and Australia. I started a Hybrid Experimental course with Tawnya Renelle https://tawnyaselenerenelle.com/ , who I also met through the Stay at Home Fringe Festival. And who also needs a huge shout out of gratitude. I was glad to help where I could at the beginning and have loved watching the take-off!

I completed work on the animations for Poetry Renewed with Elephant’s Footprint and wrote lots in journal form and a few poems. Covid had crept into the writing and I was attempting to not write about it in the beginning. And the BIG conservation started about the artists place in all this, whether it is our job or not to almanac the times (which is what a lot of writers/artists do). I believe most of us do, but also agreed that writing books about it probably wouldn’t even make it to the slush pile, of course I am sure there will be some, there already are. But I’m still processing last year and things which happened at the beginning of this one (pre-Covid).

May was the month: I realised my back can’t manage Yoga and gracefully I saluted the sun for one last time, started to walk in nature, used my walking stick for the last time (hadn’t needed it for 3 months), I blamed the yoga but looking at this it was more likely all that sitting at the desk! It marked the milestone of my first submission in 5 months! I have been very slow to get back on that horse!

Flashback Spring (April)

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April was Napowrimo and those of you who follow this blog will know I have done it every year since I discovered it existed (2014), this year – for the first time ever – I was home every day of the prompts and managed it without falling behind. As is tradition, by the end I was left with about 5 decent poems and another 5 to work with. Lots of new notes and scribbles, I did write 32 poems over the month but some are no more than a warm up exercise, you can whittle on after April and collect yourself a good batch of 30 decent poems, but as with all workshops some prompts will speak louder than others. There were some areas I continued to research and develop and other scrap poems I abandoned. Nothing wasted though.

Napowrimo was also the last time I was properly active on the blog. The Stay at Home Lit Festival continued (it was a glorious 2 weeks). I continued to enjoy events which moved online more from the PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) team, as another of their brilliant nights Yes We Cant happened online and PASTA (usually at the Wolverhampton Arena Theatre). 42, Worcester and Run My Tongue were other open mic events I joined.

I signed up to Caleb Parkin‘s Napo group and enjoyed weekly sessions with other poets (some of whom I knew) doing Napo. These groups were great fun. Huge gratitude to Caleb for creating such a pleasant space to create from.

Another huge gratitude bundle goes to Cath Drake, who I discovered at the S@HF. Her first collection The Shaking City (Seren) was launched in April. https://www.serenbooks.com/author/cath-drake.

Cath started a writing course for poets in Australia (her homeland) and UK (her home). It was incredible and again I will be posting separately on Writing to Buoy Us.

Discover more about Cath and her work here https://cathdrake.com/.

April was the start of crazy, for me it was a coping mechanism and also I was coming from that post-book release-writing-slump https://ninalewispoet.wordpress.com/books/, which followed on the back of the medicated break from writing, which I was convinced (at the time), had broken the camel’s back, so a certain amount of my packed scheduling was a liberation, a dance with words. It was also a sure fire way to bury my thoughts from what was really happening for a few hours most days. I was also trying to get over having to cancel all my real life bookings for a 2nd year running.

I read a lot, every writer should. But I have to say 2020 has opened me to more new writing and new to me poets than any year so far. So readily accessible at a touch of a button. The whole world at my writing desk.

Sarah L. Dixon needs another shout out of gratitude, she started to run workshops online, which were always fun and successful for me – as in I would always have a nearly completed poem by the end of it – I may have even submitted some of these out to the world and I have barely submitted anything anywhere since 2018.

A big shout out of gratitude to Zelda Chappel too – who it has been a pleasure to reconnect with. She offered a series of wonderful prompts which in the beginning refreshed my love for this gift of writing and over the weeks gave space for some different writing.

A big shout out to Mab Jones too who created Lockdown Writers’ Club and provided us all with in depth prompts and created a creative community.

I went to the book launch of Play – by C. S Barnes, The Shaking City by Cath Drake and Mutton Rolls by Arji Manuelpillai.

I started doing Yoga with Allison Maxwell who is another gratitude shout out, I helped people and artists learn how to use Zoom effectively, we celebrated the first birthdays online, never expecting we would still be doing the same by the end of the year! I started doing my pilates classes at home.

I finally joined INSTA as there were poets I admire doing things on this platform. My INSTA account is still nothing to shout about and I probably won’t be joining the INSTA Poetry movement anytime soon, but it is a great platform for short video/ workshops and has been fun exploring this year.

I took opportunities offered by Room 204 on developing characters, huge thanks to Stephanie Hatton for letting us be your guinea pigs, I hope the roll out went well. I enjoyed the National Ballet online, a workshop with The Poetry Business and started recording video performances for events. And I discovered the Cuirt Festival of Literature AND more importantly an Irish poet I had read in my teens, Michael Gorman – it was like being reunited with an old friend.

I also had the pleasure of watching Kei Miller and Carolyn Forché with Poets House and Roger Robinson with Writing East Midlands, all poets I have read and admire. I’m lucky enough to have seen Kei and Roger in action several times. These three poets started the pack of recurring poets who became a big part of my lockdown.

I was also working hard completing an animation commission from Elephant’s Footprint for the Arts Council funded ‘Poetry Renewed Project’. I wrote a poem for Rick Sanders PoARTry/ the digital version of his project. My ekphrastic poetry response was based on an artwork created by Alan Glover. I watched most deadlines zoom past and wrote covid and non-covid journals.

It was an action packed month which taught me: I was happy we’d had haircuts the week before the news of Lockdown, the forever-wanted GHDs probably weren’t going to be the most used Christmas present, that I was unlikely to run out of notebooks for a while, that the world is trying to hold itself together, that a smile goes a long way, that facetime and online platforms are a great way to stay connected, what it feels like to spend 5 weeks travelling no more than 1.5 miles from your home.

March Review 2018

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This month I got stuck into two new projects, missed several events due to the snow, submitted poems, sent proof copies/edited Special Edition Contour Magazine in preparation for the next issue launch (April) ATOTC, organised a poetry exhibition at the Jinney Ring & a Hanbury Reading for the Sculpture Trail Poets, facilitated 1 community workshop and 2 school workshops, dressed as Little Miss Splendid for World Book Day, worked on a special celebration of poetry to mark International Women’s Day, finished my Reader in Residence residency at Rugby Library with WMRN, did Poetry on Demand for Mother’s Day, organised my official WPL remit World Poetry Day event, took my WWM Spark Young Writers group through the editing process, attended the final Room 204 17/18 cohort meeting, a Book Launch, celebrated Earth Day and worked pretty much full time as a one week contract turned into 3 weeks!

I now feel and look about 10 years older!

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Week 1: The Snow

I missed Images from the Past at The Hive, due to snow and a workshop and oakley’s Book Launch for the same reason.

I was booked for an exciting event as part of the Anchor Gallery in April and asked to do Stablemates – which I would have loved, but the date clashed with my appearance at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

I facilitated the 1st of 3 workshops booked with The Basement Project, a charity in Bromsgrove. The first community workshop (in WPL role) was Arts & Words where participants created their own canvas. It was a successful morning and gave me a welcome break from the classroom. The snow meant we were thin on the ground, but those involved had a good time.

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Read more here.

 

Week 2: Planning, Poetry on Demand & New Projects

All of the final proofs from ATOTC were sent.

I planned my next workshop, this one at a school in Worcester. Gathering the resources and researching the subject matter. I missed Stirchley Speaks with Cynthia Miller as work is exhausting and I am busy online for most of the evening when I get home, mainly with ATOTC – now in proof reading stages with copy flying out to 46 poets.

I was booked as part of an event for this year’s Worcester LitFest alongside the new Poet Laureate (my time finishes on 10th June).

I attended an exciting meeting in Ledbury with Rick Sanders as he unveiled the 2nd PoArtry project. I have been buddied up with Molly Bythell – a talented young artist and cannot wait to make a start on this.

I missed the MeToo Anthology Launch in Birmingham because I was asleep before 6:30 after a particularly bad end to an otherwise good but tiring week of work.

On Saturday I had my WWM writing group and ran a workshop (at their request) on editing and we wrote about mum’s too with Mother’s Day being so close.

From Worcester I hot-footed to Rugby for a job as Poetry on Demand for Mother’s Day. I wrote bespoke poems and made lots of people very happy.

It was an exhausting but fun day!

 

Week 3: Workshops, Interviews & Book Launches

The week started with full days of work (a one week temporary cover  turned into 3 weeks full-time, with a day off for good behaviour/ I mean pre-booked workshops)!

On Thursday I filled an entire day with poetry to make up for all the poetry I had missed from being too exhausted after work!

My School Workshops at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College in October were postponed. I was delighted to offer new bespoke workshops to fit the work they have been doing on Monsters. It was a fantastic, fun morning and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

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You can read a review here

From there I hot-footed across to BBC Hereford & Worcester for my radio interview with Tammy Gooding, where I was able to promote WPD.

The evening saw 3 clashing events. I went to Math Jones’ Book Launch of Sabrina Bridge published by Black Pear Press. This was the 2nd collection I was asked to endorse and it is a magical read. It was wonderful to watch Math breathe fire into his work in a stellar performance. Being an actor helps! It was great fun and an opportunity to see Suz Winspear, Jenny Hope, Polly Stretton and Keleigh Wolf perform too.

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I missed Stanza but spent the evening prepping for my next school workshop next week, creating film clips and found poetry texts. I also wrote copy to promote World Poetry Day.

I had the final Room 204 Cohort meeting on Saturday at The Custard Factory, crazy to think nearly 12 months has gone already, the new cohort will be announced mid-April, exciting to think they already know who they are.

This was followed by a new project with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, encompassing two weekend workshops and a performance at BMAG – and involves using their digital archive. None of us really knew what it would entail but I am always up for an afternoon in a Museum/Art Gallery, notebook in hand.

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Wikimedia © 2018

It all sounded intriguing and I had a fun afternoon filling myself up with artefact inspiration.

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Birmingham Museums Trust © 2018

Sunday – a day of rest? No, Mr G and I are expecting some much needed work on the house and we spent the day clearing spaces!

 

Week 4 Workshops, World Poetry Day and Earth Hour

How is it the last week of March already? The week started with my Inter-School Gifted & Talented workshop at Bromsgrove School with the theme of Nature. nature-3231651_1920

Where I had prepared a film element in case our Nature Walk was eradicated by weather – the snow and a mini-beast storm was forecast over the weekend. It certainly rained!

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It was an action packed afternoon and great fun. A full review can be found here

I spent the beginning of the week (3 days) preparing for World Poetry Day, this was an evening event and the only official task I had to undertake in my WPL (Worcestershire Poet Laureate) remit.

WPD FLYER 2018

After months of preparation Wednesday 21st arrived and I spent the day with high alert butterflies and every organiser worst worry – will there be an audience?

It was a fabulous night! People came and enjoyed and all the performers were exceptional. A full review can be read here.

 

On Saturday I had the 2nd workshop for the BMAG Rebel Uncut Digital Archive project. This was my first ever Hackathon and a long day 8-6pm – on site from 10-5. It was fun working with techies and writers and seeing our initial writing inform a digital archive. Having opportunities to play with VR and AR. We all worked in teams and there was a series of presentations at the end of the afternoon, a constant flow of refreshments and lunch thrown in too.

I love opportunities for writing beyond the page and stage, it was a great experience to be part of and the last mark of this year’s Room 204 cohort.

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I followed my hour bus journey home with a power nap which meant I missed the first half of Earth Day. I made it to Worcester just after 8 PM which isn’t bad considering I got in after 6PM, had a power nap, prepared my poems including one written especially for this year’s Earth Hour Event and one I wrote on the bus journey in the morning, filled the car with petrol and made it to Worcester (can take up to 45 minutes).

Earth Hour was a brilliant event, as always. Organised by Martin Driscoll and in Support of WWF and Earth Hour. It was held at Cafe Bliss and the food (which was included in the ticket) was exceptional. Traditional Belize. Amazing, I can taste it now over a week later writing this blogpost!

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The Final Week 

Was mainly work. I didn’t get the writing done I had scheduled. I missed all of my end of month targets, I could kick myself… but I am choosing to go easy on myself. I have had a full-on month and do not want to submit substandard work for the sake of ticking off a deadline. There will be writing time in the future and until then I am writing bare bones and noting ideas.

I missed the 8th Birthday at 42, as I had been to the ROH Ballet the night before with mum *a Christmas gift from Mr G. We both had a thoroughly enjoyable evening but with a full week of work, I arrived home exhausted on the Wednesday and was asleep by 8:30 pm.

I managed some work on the Art Poetry PoArtry Project for Ledbury, Molly Bythell (my partnered artist) and I have started laying out groundwork for our collaboration after exchanging artworks/poems. Her painting inspired by my poem (published by Silver Birch Press Me In A Hat series)

hat-cover2 has been added to her website and I am currently scaffolding a poem based on her work ‘Flower Gel’.

I also had communication with the Festival team in Perth, Australia. My trip is in planning stages and I am excited to find out more about the festival programme. I know I am able to attend as much as I can manage.

Hopefully will be fully over jet lag during the pre-festival. Last time I went over (2005) my jet lag there was almost non-existent – cancelled out by adrenaline. It was coming home I faltered. I was talking to my friend who did the airport run and just fell asleep on my rucksack mid sentence and on the lounge floor. I do have a 20 hour lay over, so hoping that will help the lag if I play on GMT/UK time.

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Then I had the Easter weekend off with Mr G. to catch up with family, enjoy the warmth of our house – new boiler fitted this week after 3 months without heat or running hot water! Glad to be back in the 21st Century with that one.

I have an exhibition to organise that I am a week behind on, due to working.

In April aside from NaPoWriMo (now GloPoWriMo) – I have the Special Edition Contour magazine to edit and compile for the ATOTC Transatlantic Poetry Project, I may have a talking paper interested in some work on that and have future plans for performance and publication. It has been my main project as WPL and has been a steep learning curve tinged with fun!

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I am also getting a smaller European project off the ground with new poetry partners between Twin Towns next month. Our Suffragette Collection will also go live. The rest of the month is a packed schedule of  workshops, festivals and performances.

 

So I took a very deep breath over the holiday weekend and have plenty of chocolate eggs in reserve.

Oh, and I am going back to work full-time, a temporary measure to cover summer living (as there are 3 months a year I don’t earn any money) and this year had a record 10 days over a 3 month period, so this just plugs the first term being so bad.

Onward!

 

February Review 2018

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Week 1: 

I started the month with my editing hat on. Submissions closed for Contour (digital WPL magazine), the 2nd Issue – ‘Love’, scheduled for release 4 months after the 1st Issue ‘Place’. My plan was to have 3 to 4 magazines during my tenure. I will successfully manage that, there is a Special Edition coming in April for the ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ Project and then in June on the day I hang up my Laureate crown and watch the new Laureateship launch, I will release the final issue.

It has been a steep and brilliant learning curve and a real pleasure. It has been a great opportunity to discover talented poets on a National and International level too.

Whatever else I think, I can rest soundly knowing that I promoted poetry and offered abundant opportunities for writing during my year. I have 3 months (I like to say a quarter of a year because it sounds longer) left, but already the competition is open to find the next Laureate and the feelings of being bereft are already settling. I shall find ways of dealing with this. Such as embarking on International Poetry Adventures and writing my first collection. But I am sure it will feel a little strange.

I also spent an incredible amount of time on the ATOTC project, which again has been a huge bite to chew, but I have loved every minute. It has certainly taught me a thing or two. The Response poems are coming in and it is wonderful to read the interpretations of the Call poems. I am slightly worried that the whole project may total over 200 pages… certainly enough reading material to keep you busy on a rainy day!

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ATOTC is my main WPL project and it has certainly been the biggest. I am incredibly excited by the next stages of the project and the plans I have for it beyond that. It is going to be magnificent!

I edited some poems which had been waiting patiently in the wings and finally started working on my own response poem for ATOTC. I wanted to get it cast to paper before the weekend as I have a chance to edit it.

Things are intentionally quiet on the performance front with most of my attention set for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival in Birmingham, mid-February. Other than this I am busy with desk tasks and workshop preparation.

This week I prepared for a meeting for a Gifted and Talented Workshop I am doing, I am excited as it involves multiple local schools.

I also prepared for my final session/workshop at Rugby Library as the Reader in Residence.

I attended an editing group at the weekend where my ATOTC was fine tuned and is now a strong pastiche of Linda Warren’s poem. Look out for the Special Edition Contour in April to read our Call & Response poems.

I took a booking for National Poetry Day. (4th Oct.) after which I will be heading off to Swindon Poetry Festival.

 

Week 2

A very busy start to the week editing Issue 2 of Contour Magazine, working out the running order and formatting. It took an inane amount of time (roughly 3 days), lots of difficulties on the technical side of desktop publishing – but the results were worth it.

 

I had a meeting regarding school workshops booked for March, which was fabulous. I am very excited about this workshop.

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The following day I drove to Rugby Library for my final Reader in Residence workshop. It was a small group but a wonderful morning and those in attendance enjoyed it.

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I am writing a Guest Blog Review for the library and will link it back to AWF. My Residency finishes in March and I hoping for one last trip to the library for something special, more on that soon.

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I planned my Suffragette Workshop for Saturday at The Hive, started work organising the poetry events for the summer ArtsFest in Droitwich, sent emails to successful contributors of Contour and took a booking for Brum Stanza.

I also started prep for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival (15-18th Feb.). This year I am the Official Festival Blogger, last year I blogged about most of the events and attended pretty much the entire festival (which is no mean feat – with a packed 2 day weekend programme, workshops and events on the preceding evenings), worth the exhaustion though and I also wrote a full review for Sabotage Reviews. This year, I have arranged to write the review for them again and have booked my workshops (one of which I won by coming 2nd in the Haiku Slam at Grizzly Pear) and have my new Kindle Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Christmas present) all ready. Look out for lots of updates, I shall be sharing from the Verve official site.

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Thursday I went to SpeakEasy which was Headlined by the wonderful Jenna Clake and I enjoyed her set from Fortune Cookie, which won the 2016 Melita Hume Prize for Poetry . It was a vibrant evening of poetry and even though I was shattered, I had a great night. I shared a couple of city poems and it was good to catch up with Jenna before Verve.

JENNA SE Watch out for an Interview with Jenna Clake in the Contour Issue 4 (June).

You can buy a copy of this award winning debut collection published by Eyewear here.

jenna clake FC

Friday it snowed (which is as exciting as anything writing related), I was working in a school on the hills and was slightly concerned about getting home, but it had melted by then!

I also had Stanza where I took my Contour Love Poem for some editing treatment, it was a lovely evening, filled with poetry and critique. It was good to reconnect, I missed our December meeting due to being too tired after work and January from ill health. It was good to be back. Also a new exciting opportunity was discussed.

Saturday was a busy writing day, I had my WWM group in the morning, who used the Royal Society of Photography Science exhibition to inspire Science Fiction writing.

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This was followed by my Suffragette Workshop in The Hive, Worcester. The workshop was attended by 11 people and I was happy to see a mix of friends, strangers & people who have followed my WPL projects online. It was an informal, whistle stop creative session of just an hour (which worked particularly well for those who left partners in the Hive’s cafe). It was fun and I have already started to receive work for the anthology.

The exhibition runs until 23rd February and can be found on Level 2.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/open-submission-suffragette-poetry-exhibition-workshop-the-hive/

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Mr G. and I went to see Cloudbusting (Kate Bush Tribute band) again, the 4th time I think, this time they had a full stage with Media show, which we had not seen before! The next day I was busy editing Contour Magazine – YES! For the WHOLE day!

 

Week 3

My first full writing day in over 2 weeks and I planned a whole list of writing tasks (none of which were actual writing)… however, I spent another whole day on the magazine. It was finally live by the evening.

With a reach of over 600 readers already (in less than 24 hours). Issue 2 has a fine collection of love poetry, a load of Interviews with Pete The Temp, Jeff Cottrill, Amy Rainbow and Sharon Carr and a list of Top Poems voted by the public and is well worth a read.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/contour-issue-2-love/

Please share the link.

Contour Issue 2

I also booked my flights to Australia – where I am an International Guest Poet at the Festival in Perth (August), this made it very real! I also shared this news, which I have been sitting on since November.

I shared the next stage of the Suffragettes Poetry Project with workshop attendees and attended a Worcester LitFest Committee Meeting. There have been many changes to the team since I took up the Poet Laureate post, it was an agenda packed evening. It also helped me finalise plans for World Poetry Day (21st March) my official Laureate remit event. It should be great.

I have since worked on publicity and marketing but as ever with organisation, need to wait for one confirmation before I can go live!

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I have been busy working through Response Poems (ATOTC), dreading the proofing stage with over 40 poets… but we have a good stock of coffee and I plan to use Half Term to get the majority ready.

I received my copy of mind anth a wonderful book, brainchild of Isabelle Kenyon. I have yet to read it in full. I have dipped in. A great collection of poems and funds raised with be donated to MIND – Mental Health Charity. I will be writing a full blog post soon to promote this project.

I had my BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio Interview with Tammy Gooding and this month it was a slightly extended recording due to us discussing love poetry and the work of Pablo Neruda! It was fun and I shared the love poem recently published in Contour.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p05vtpj5

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All performers confirmed World Poetry Day & marketing & promotion was set to GO!

WPD FLYER 2018

The deadline for ATOTC response poetry was 15th February & knowing what a huge undertaking it is the proof copies are already leaving my inbox… about 10% proofed & approved in 2 days.

I finished my 3rd book endorsement and am very excited to read a bound copy of this collection soon.

And then there was Verve!

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Verve Poetry Festival (with links to my official blogs)

I spent 5 glorious hours in Waterstones, 15th Feb. then 6 hours writing & editing the official blog reviews.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/verve-ready/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/verve-day-1/

After very few hours sleep I was back at the Festival on Friday night

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/verve-day-2-friday-16th/

And then spent my entire weekend there.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/verve-day-3-saturday-17th-am/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/verve-day-3-saturday-17th-pm/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/verve-day-4-sunday-18th/

Since this wonderful festival full of verve… I have been busy writing the official blog reviews which are being drip fed onto the official blog.

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Read more of them here

Week 4 

Started with jet lag, which is the only way to describe the post festival haze of Verve. Wise to this, having attended the full programme last year too – I made sure the diary was empty and the bed was full! I slept, I ate my first meal for 5 days and I hit the desk.

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Writing Verve Reviews, sending proofs for ATOTC, working on bids, sent promo for an event I am part of at the end of end of April, Bohemian Voices organised by Steve Soden and slept some more!

Fortunately it was half term this week so I didn’t have to juggle work into the equation. I mainly worked on proof copy for ATOTC Special Edition Contour magazine and had meetings.

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Starting with Room 204, one of the main attractions is the 1 to 1 mentoring with Jonathan Davidson. It was a productive and useful meeting and I have come away with a page of tasks to incorporate into my work and gold-dust that I needed to acknowledge.

I met with Carolyn Baldwin at the Jinney Ring to finalise the exhibition of our sculpture trail poems from the workshop in September. The poems will be on display in the restaurant for the whole of April. Wonderful news AND even better news for me I have secured future Sculpture Trail workshops. So there will be a new one in September! Carolyn also sent me home with a generous portion of cake! Always a bonus – perfect meeting requirements I would suggest.

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On Thursday I met with Stephen Evans, one of the DAN artists involved in the Hanbury Hall event. My poem has been displayed alongside his artwork in exhibitions in January and now this month too, so far it has been part of Maltstones Exhibition, an exhibition in the Library and now in Parks Cafe.

Stephen showed me a family album from WW2 at the reading event for Hanbury Hall Poets back in November. I used it as primary source inspiration and managed to write 4 poems or so but it is a precious object and I feel much happier now he has it back.

Thursday Night I went to support Claire Walker who was headlining at The Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley. Ian Glass and I found ourselves unwittingly signed up for the slam. I don’t Slam.

It was a fun night and a great little cafe to be in on a cold night. Ian smashed the slam and won! He goes back in April to perform a 10 minute set.

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He also won the Xylophone of Mirth, but as he had driven us all to Dudley he wasn’t able to play it all the way home!

Jean Atkin was facilitating a workshop at the Bishop Castle Artsfest that I had hoped to attend, but our boiler is broken and I had to be home for the engineer. I spent most of the day at the desk writing for Verve, the boiler is still broken.

On Saturday I had a workshop with Angela France, it was a great session and I managed at least one poem and have a page of potential other poems.

On Sunday, whilst writing a poem for a Festival Anthology (more on this soon), I unearthed another line of writing I want to pursue, I have 3 pages of notes to return to at a quieter time (perhaps 2019). The exciting element is they balance something I am already working on.

The Extra Days

On Monday (after turning up for work and discovering I was a day early) I went home and wrote copy for a Worcester News Article promoting the Poet Laureate competition. Jess Charles jumped on it and it was live by the afternoon.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/3769/

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I also worked on my first ever Grants application and booked a workshop in May.

Tuesday work was cancelled, it started to snow (we have no working boiler) and I spent 14 hours completing my application. 14 hours. A steep learning curve – on evaluation I will give myself a month to complete the forms next time!

I took on a temporary teaching position for a fortnight (just in time for World Book Day) and drove in the snow! I went to see the Royal Ballet Live Screening of The Winter’s Tale (one of my favourite Shakespeare plays), a present from Mr. G’s mum for Christmas. It was amazing!

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And a special way to end the month.

 

 

 

2017 Optimus Anno Tamen

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The end of this year marks 4 years as a writer. I still have 10 months to go before I make 4 years as a poet. I originally planned everything from Olympic inspiration, meaning this time next year (or next October) will be my true review.

This post feels slightly egocentric – the initial purpose for this blog was to share such news. It has always given me pleasure to discover what steps poets took to get where they are today and this information – the scaffold of their career is not something widely shared. A glimpse behind the scenes is encouraging for want to be/would be/ emerging writers, so please forgive the ‘I, I, I’ of this 2017 Highlights post.

I can already safely say that I have been blessed with an amazing year. Here are my 2017 highlights.

tree-2904844_1920 January: 

Collaboration: At the end of 2016 Claire Walker and I met to discuss collaborating. We have both had exceptionally busy years and lots of new opportunities, but we started well by submitting and being published in the collaboration issue of Zoomoozophone Review Magazine.

New Learning – Events Management: I organised events for Literature/Arts Festivals this year. I organised a Poetry Collective for Stourbridge Literature Festival – David Calcutt, Kathy Gee, myself and Claire Walker.

I sent an application to Worcester LitFest for a collaborative Poetry Show with fellow V. Press Poets Kathy Gee and Claire Walker.

Performances: Baldy Poems Presents Kings and Queens of Comedy in association with the Worcester LitFest & Fringe.

Wolverhampton Literature Festival – Quiet Compere with Sarah Dixon.

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car-2039180_1920 February:

Festivals: attending a new festival in Birmingham – Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival, 4 days of total immersion, some fabulous workshops with Kim Moore and Sarah Howe and a Festival Review published on Sabotage Reviews.

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Events Management: I began organising the poetry elements for ArtsFest in Droitwich for the DAN team.

Opportunities: I applied for WWM Room 204.

Published: 3 of my poems were published in Nuclear Impact – Broken Atoms in Our Hands – Shabda Press, this labour of love started in 2015. It is a massive anthology and contains 4 poets from the U.K.

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spring-1209086_1920 March

Fragile Houses: received two incredible reviews from Rachel Stirling & Sam Smith.

Opportunities: I got into Room 204 (but was embargoed until April, one of the hardest secrets to keep)! This writer development scheme can be life changing for many writers. For those already embedded in the writing world it is a chance to gain further knowledge, experience and guidance/support.

I was asked to promote Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Festivals: my poems made it to Scotland, they appeared on the High Street for the BIG Lit Festival Stewartry, Scotland.

WLF (Worcester LitFest) my bid for the Poetry Show was accepted.

Applied for Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2017/18

Performance: Manchester Headline Quiet, Quiet Loud with Mark Pajak and Becky Cherriman.

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easter-2110346_1920 April

Challenges: I successfully completed NaPoWriMo, using three different prompts – resulting in 99 poems!

Festivals: Stourbridge Literature Festival Voices From The Middle, an event I organised.

Performances: Poetry Ballroom with Suz Winspear & DanceFest.

Endorsement: I was asked to endorse a new poetry collection, this is the 2nd book I have written an endorsement for.

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tea-time-1035261_1920 May:

Promotions: Promoted Cheltenham Poetry Festival for Anna Saunders.

Events & Reunions: I started the Performance Poetry/Spoken Word scene whilst at uni in Leicester, where I met Rob Gee. In those early days I did some PR for him and watched him become a mega star. Fast forward 15 years and I saw he was doing Cheltenham Literature Festival. Fast forward a few more years and here I am back in the Poetry World and who should be bringing his Forget Me Not Tour to the MAC! We hadn’t seen each other for nearly 2 decades and it felt like we had been together just the day before. Incredible show, A M A Z I N G reunion! One of my very definite highlights of 2017!

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Following my 2nd John Hegley Workshop (Cheltenham Poetry Festival), we wandered into town for an impromptu performance in Waterstones (we did not make it in time for the end of the Open Mic there – but we created our own stage). The looks on people’s faces, especially the kids, when John started his performance was special. This was also my 2nd opportunity to have a real conversation with Mr. H. Such a lovely man. Supportive, genuine and interested.

Book Launches: Book Launch of C.S Barnes, for ‘The Women You Were Warned About’, the first book I was asked to endorse, on the back cover with Luke Kennard. An incredibly dark and fascinating book of monologues/short stories. A really interesting concept and a great read!

Room 204: I started working on the Adam Speaks Croome Court Project with Chris Alton (Lead Artist) & 10 writers from Room 204.

Completed a Screen Writing Course with UEA (University of East Anglia).

WLF: I became a finalist for the WLF Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition.

 

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P1030946.JPG June – Here comes the BIG ONE! 

WLF: I became the 7th Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

Festivals – Worcester LitFest: Performed 30-40-60, our collaborative Poetry Show with Kathy Gee & Claire Walker.

WPL: Appeared as WPL at many of the festival events.

Organised my first event as WPL at the Chateau Impney as part of Salt King 200 Celebrations. A performance from local poets.

Organised a Poetry Anthology/ Collection to mark World Refugee Day. A 48 hour turn around project.

Room 204: Attended the National Writers’ Conference – organised by WWM, the last time I went was back in 2014.

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kupvirag-839751_1920 July:

WPL: Started my regular Radio Slot with Tammy Gooding for BBC Hereford & Worcester.

Had my official WPL T-shirt!

Worked on a European/Twinned Town Poetry Project.

Created Contour the WPL Digital Magazine, submissions opened for poems on Place/Worcestershire.

 

Festivals: Ledbury Poetry Festival

Evesham Festival of Words

Droitwich ArtsFest – Day of Poetry, where I organised & performed in 2 events.

Artsfest Poet in Residence at Droitwich Library.

 

Opportunities: Was asked to apply for Reader in Residence position with WMRN.

 

Workshop: with Helen Ivory and Martin Figura, finally got to meet these two!

 

Performances: Commissioned performance for Buildings Talk – Hospital Histories.

 

Room 204: Adam Speaks Croome Court Project Creative Session/Workshop with Chris Alton.

bbc_radio_hereford_worcesterDAN Rhyslaureatedroitwich artsfestBuildings Talk

 

 

wolfenbuttel-2438812_1920 August: 

WPL: Planned a Transatlantic Poetry Project (initiated in July).

Planned a Sculpture Trail Workshop at The Jinney Ring.

Organised a poetry event to celebrate Salt Day at the Salt Festival.

 

Festivals: Performed at LakeFest.

Salt Festival Poetry Event.

Worcester Festival – Performed at Ben Parker’s Event at Huntingdon Hall.

Booked for Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018.

 

WMRN: Appointed as Reader in Residence at Rugby Library 2017/18

Logo-700ruth 10worcs festivalworcester festival

 

sunset-2805693_1920 September:

WPL: Sculpture Trail Workshop (the 1st workshop I have facilitated for over 12 years).

Headlined SpeakEasy.

Realised I am the youngest WPL!

First talk as a Poet – Evesham Festival of Words Second Friday Stories organised by Sue Johnson.

 

WPL Commission: was asked to write 3 poems for the Unremembered of WW1 Anthology.

 

Commission: Was approached by Liz Johnson to write and perform poetry for Credo.

 

Festivals: Salt Festival

Birmingham Literature Festival

 

Performances: Performed at Free Verse, London’s Poetry Book Fair, V. Press.

 

Room 204: Performed as part of Birmingham Literature Festival Literary Allsorts.

A New Design (5)IMG_20170918_115733TM-Salt-Fest-Web-Visit-Wychavon-Banner-2017Lit Allsorts BLF

 

forest-2165911_1920 October:

WPL: Contour WPL Digital Poetry Magazine Issue 1 released.

Worked on the Hanbury Hall Poets Project Ekphrastic poetry with DAN Exhibition.

Created Mental Health Anthology for World Mental Health Awareness Day.

Created a Halloween Poetry Film.

Children’s Workshop Halloween Event LITtleFest WLF.

 

WPL Commission: Asked by Peter Sutton to write and perform at his Elgar Poetry Event, a fundraiser for the Elgar Festival 2018 at the Elgar School of Music.

 

Festivals: Poetry Swindon – Performed V. Formation.

Birmingham Literature Festival.

 

Workshops: As part of Poetry Swindon Festival with Daljit Nagra and Rishi Dastidar.

 

Room 204: Adam Speaks Tree House poem accepted.

Applied for Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2018.

 

and of course INKSPILL – our online writing retreat right here on AWF and I started submitting poetry again.

 

Poetry Evening Poster 3 v3world-mental-health-dayLitFest Halloween 2017 posterNina taken Julia Webb

INKSPILL SHARE BUTTON

 

autumn-2900166_1920 November:

WPL: Hanbury Hall Poetry & Art Event. (Last physical PL event of the year.)

Having my poem displayed by my artist (Stephen Evans) in his Malthouse Exhibition.

Talk – Worcester University, Creative Writing Society.

Talk – U3A Worcester.

Compiled International Remembrance Anthology – the largest number of submissions yet.

Organised school workshops and community workshops with The Basement Project.

 

Festivals: Asked to be a Guest Poet at an International Festival 2018.

V.I.P Verve Festival Launch Party.

 

Performances: Elgar Poetry Event.

 

WMRN: Writing A Book Review Workshop.

 

Room 204: Adam Speaks Launch & poems in exhibition.

Booked for Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2018.

 

Fragile Houses: SOLD OUT in just over 12 months, a 2nd print run was published.

fragile-houses-best

V. Press were 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.’

Parks 2 HHverve cynthia millerverve 9adam speaks launch invite25wmrn review writing workshop

 

christmas-background-2985552_1920 December:

WPL: Contour Issue 2 opened to submissions.

Radio: Brum Radio Interview/Guest.

Haiku Slam: 2nd place, Grizzly Pear.

Opportunities: Asked to endorse a poetry collection, my 3rd endorsement. I am honoured.

Contour Issue 2 PreviewBrum-Radio-logo-cropgrizzly pear

 

It has been a great year. 2018 is starting in ‘busy’ so I indulged in a wonderful fortnight off with friends & family over Christmas & New Year to finish the year on a high!

Nina taken Julia Webb

 

Happy New Year! 

Dream,

Goal set,

Achieve!

Here’s to 2018 – may it be your best year yet!emotions-2915279_1920

 

Adam Speaks – Chris Alton

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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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croome me

croome sketches

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.

croome speeches

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!

croome dance 2

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