Last Wednesday we held a Reading to mark the Launch of the Connect Dudley Exhibition. It was a pleasure to have some workshop participants with us in the audience and to hear their reactions to the poems. Before the exhibition all the participants received copies of their own poems but hadn’t heard the others. Our source material was deeply personal and it was a true honour to work with the letters produced over 8 weeks of workshops during Lockdown 1.
It also served as a reminder to all about how challenging that time was. Such restriction imposed on our lives (and with good reason), a global narrative, the ins and outs of everyone as they experienced living diminished lives and loss and all the time an undercurrent of gratitude for still being here. For community. For the rallying of strangers.
The UK is currently in the 3rd Lockdown with the hope of gradual reopening over the next few months.
This project began in 2020 with Rick Sanders, it was his idea to bring the community together through writing. The bid was successful and Creative Black Country commissioned the work. A series of online workshops with a Lockdown related prompt were facilitated by Rick. The participants wrote letters to their future selves. The idea was to keep them and open them a year later. In the light of the fact we are still in Lockdown, those envelopes may remain sealed for a little longer! The letters created during this project also work as a social record of that time.
Rick wanted to connect people with an Artform too, so the 8 letters were used to compose bespoke poems as a gift for each participant. The original exhibition idea was to be held in real life. The project has been cleverly adapted to make it feasible during this 3rd lockdown. And as a result has reached over 300 people!
Rick and I were interviewed by CoLab last summer about the process and the outcomes. CoLab also interviewed the participants and lots of their feedback appears in the reported evaluation of the project and on the Launch video and exhibition posters. I was so glad to have this opportunity to work within such a rich community project. It has been a pleasure from start to finish.
I enjoyed the Q&A last Wednesday night, it was great to hear Rick Sanders talk about the other elements of the project. A video is available from Creative Black Country channel where you can find out more about the fantastic work they do.
If you are local to Dudley there is more to come so keep your eyes peeled and in the meantime, take a socially distanced /correctly protected walk to the High Street and have a read or a listen (QR codes – thanks to Overhear) for yourselves. There are 10 poems, so this display will change at some point over the next month or so.
In lockdown #1, Connect Dudley held a creative writing programme over 8 weeks, connecting people through the arts across the West Midlands. As well as writing for themselves, the group had two professional poets respond to their writing with poems.
This was a fantastic Community Project in the 1st Lockdown, back in Spring/Summer 2020. It was an honour to read the letters generated by the workshop group Rick Sanders facilitated and then to collate the ideas and emotions into personalised poetry for the attendees.
These poems along with QR codes to scan for audio versions, are currently exhibited by CoLab Dudley at 201a High Street and here is your invite to take a virtual look at the first exhibition being held in this space.
On February 24th from 7:30pm, Nina Lewis and Rick Sanders will be sharing the Connect Dudley poems with you, together with a preview of the exhibition and details of how CoLab Dudley is working to shape the High Street of the future.
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.
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.
In 2017 Rick Sanders organised the first PoARTry Gallery event in Cradley Heath. Back in March 2018 he asked me to be part of his next PoARTry venture in Ledbury at the Artistree Gallery and I was only too happy to oblige.
I am a fan of Art and had I not pursued Drama, Art may have become my forte. I have always enjoyed working with artists, writing ekphrastic poetry and getting my work out there in installations and other creative means. The aspect of this project I found most exciting was how our words would inspire new artwork and new art would enable new poems to be created.
Read about the initial meeting & the Cradley Heath project here.
Leena Batchelor and myself took on the role of organising a Launch event with readings and talks by the Artists.
We launched on July 11th. It was a magical evening and a special night as the gallery is only open during the daytime usually. Not all artists and poets could make it and the exhibition showcased more artists than feature in this review.
I was lucky enough to meet Ken Calvert at the Homend Poets event during Ledbury Poetry Festival and booked him to come and play to welcome people into the gallery, to lead into the interval and to round the night off at the end.
Following a brief introduction from Rick and I we started our Gallery Tour/Launch.
Poet Nicky Heatherington burns her work into wood. This creates Art on its own. Nicky collaborated with artist Val Randle.
They also bravely went first.
Artist Kate Culling partnered with poet Bill Thomas.
Poet Bill Thomas explaining how the work of Kate Culling inspired his writing.
Kate was kind enough to allow one of her artworks to be used on the event promotional material. I thoroughly enjoyed her dynamic explanation of the work.
Artists from all disciplines worked on the project – a glassblower Ken Howell incorporates the poem into his artwork.
Marion Steele was teamed with Leena Batchelor.
Marion Steele kindly allowed us to use her artwork on promotional material.
Alan Richardson partnered Rick Sanders. I think their humour complimented each other well.
More music from Ken before the interval.
During the interval people had time to mingle and view the exhibition at their leisure. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other better and as poetry circles tend to be fairly tight knit/small it is always a pleasure to get to know new people.
My partner was artist Molly Bythell and I enjoyed hearing all about her work and meeting up again as we based our collaboration online.
Molly Bythell kindly let us use her artwork on promotional material.
Molly and I used 1 existing work chosen from each other to create 1 new work each and then used those new works to create another new work. Three pieces each. I displayed 5 poems but wrote 20, including a sequence of 11 about Dementia. Here I read three of the poems, one not displayed.
Angela Davis partnered Maggie Reed.
Angela Davis kindly allowed her artwork to be used on promotional material.
Bill Denny partnered Brian Graham.
Tim Stavert talked about his collaboration with Paddy Hannigan before sharing his poems.
And finally Hilary Davies and Myfanwy Fox shared their work.
The evening closed with a couple of songs by Ken Calvert.
Huge thanks to the Artistree Team for helping Leena and I make this Launch a success. Special thanks to Marion Steele, Bill Thomas and Kate Culling who helped with logistics enormously.
It was fascinating hearing from the artists and the poets about where the muse came from and how they collaborated together. Another aspect of the evening was some pairs meeting each other for the first time and a reunion for the March meeting group. Seeing what other collaborators had come up and listening to how the various pairings worked together was insightful and enjoyable.
The work was all exceptionally high quality and a number of artists sold their pieces.
I think it was a successful mission for everyone and was definitely an exhibition enjoyed by many visitors to the gallery.
The experience has obviously been completely different for us all, I am looking forward to seeing the Exhibition this week.
Leena Batchelor and I have spent the past month+ organising the Launch event and I can hardly believe it is just around the corner. We won’t mention the clash with World Cup football – another recorded match for me to watch.
6:30/40 Doors – Exhibition/Welcome Drink
6:50- 7 Ken Calvert Musician
7 -7:10 Intro Rick and Nina – & Leena if she can make it in time.
7:10 – 7:18 Val Randle (A) & Nicky Hetherington (P)
7:18 – 7:26 Kate Culling (A) & Bill Thomas (P)
7: 26 – 7:34 Marion Steele (A) & Leena Batchelor (P)
7:34 – 7:42 Alan Richardson (A) & Rick Sanders (P)
7: 42 – 7:50 Ken Calvert Musician
INTERVAL – 20 mins –
8:10- 8:18 Molly Bythell (A) & Nina Lewis (P)
8:18 – 8:26 Angela Davis (A) & Maggie Reed (P)
8:26- 8:34 Bill Denny(A) & Brian Graham (P)
8:34 – 8:42 Tim Stavert(P)
8:42- 8: 50 Hilary Davies (A) & Myfanwy Fox (P)
8: 50 – 9:00 Musicians
Just need to buy the refreshments now and print my poems. I am very much looking forward to this Launch!
It is the only evening opening for the Artistree Gallery and our exhibition and it promises to be an amazing evening, so if you are not into the World Cup – you know where to head!
PoARTry is the brainchild of Rick Sanders who created a project last year (June 2017) at The Art Yard in Cradley Heath between artists and poets.
Pairs collaborated and created new works which became an exhibition.
PoArtry is a mash up of poetry and art work. The exhibition is the collaboration of artists and poets from across the Midlands, reacting and creating art and poetry in response to each other’s art.
The exhibition runs for the month of July, and many pieces will be on sale in the show. The exhibition is free to enter and the gallery opening times are 10am – 5pm Monday – Friday. Please contact the Art Yard for details.
Fast forward a year to March 2018 and Rick organised his next PoARTy project in Ledbury with the Artistree Gallery.
Budding creatives met on the 8th March at the gallery. After some initial introductions and the over-arching project explained we were paired up – football pools style. I was lucky to be paired with Molly Bythell, a talented graduate who creates oil paintings that dramatically tell their own story. An easy canvas for me as a poet.
Two months later and after collaborating we have completed an exhibition of 3 works each. Two new paintings inspired by my poems and about 20 new poems. Three of which will be exhibited and some have found their own way into my next manuscript (fingers crossed they make the cut). It has been fabulous working with Molly.
A few days after the work deadline, Leena Batchelor and myself have found ourselves organising the Launch/Reading Event for PoARTry.
More details are coming soon – it will be July – it will be in the evening and it will be fantastic and FREE.
The event will be a chance to hear pairings talk about the artistic collaboration, the process of work and hear some of the poems. It will be a celebration – a PoART Party & you will have a chance to see a fantastic exhibition, you could even become a proud new owner of the work.