Tag Archives: Roger Robinson

Hay Festival Digital 2020 The Outstanding Moments

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I am delighted that Lockdown has brought Creatives out in force, there have been so many festivals, workshops and opportunities and it is also a way of supporting each other (those millions of self-employed, some of whom are artists) and a way of rallying together to lift spirits and improve people’s mental health during this isolation, during this fear of the pandemic, during this strange time that none of us have experienced before. And this week was the turn of Hay.

HAY culturewhisper

The Hay Festival is one of the world’s top literary festivals, staged in the small town on the Wales-England border. ©2011 BBC 

It is well known to be a particularly pricey festival, it is epic and brilliant if you have a chance to experience it in real life – I have always loved Hay-on-Wye (famous for all the bookshops – Richard Booth is credited with transforming the town into a global attraction for second-hand book lovers after opening his first shop in 1962) and I love the Hay Festival, the tents, events, atmosphere, joy and buoyancy you will experience there cannot be compared to many things other than a sugar rush! Some others have said it more eloquently!

Memorable quotes at the festival: “The Woodstock of the Mind” – former US President Bill Clinton.

“In my mind it’s replaced Christmas” – former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn.

“One of the finest, most thought-provoking literary gatherings I’ve ever attended” – Junot Díaz, Dominican-American writer and creative writing professor. © BBC

HAY BANNER

However, it is not one I can afford to attend every year. I fully expected the events to be ticketed so waited expectantly for the programme to be released and was OVERJOYED (Yes! I’m shouting) when they provided it all for FREE! That in itself is astonishing.

I know they all wished it could be happening as normal, but let’s face it – there is not much that is normal anymore. I honestly didn’t feel like I was screen bound and experiencing a digital festival. It had the real Hay feeling. It helps that they could use the HAY music and screens that would have been playing in the tents as we found our seats. Although HAY is a HUGE festival, the tents don’t take 100,000 visitors and they had an international audience of over 10,000 at the big events and on average I was watching with around 5000 other people, some of whom will never experience Hay and so have had a true blessing to get a little of the 2020 action digitally. Hay has over 250,000 during the course of the week, but I think data for this year will sky rocket that!

I know a whole team was involved in decision making but using Crowd Cast was a good move, chat can be turned off and the screen can (as with the entire internet) be full screen, our lounge furniture is infinitely more comfortable than auditorium seating (although it’s not bad), refreshments were free and MOST importantly sessions were short (suiting the human attention span) and there were intervals between. Perfect.

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I missed some events I wanted to see but hope to subscribe to the Hay Player later in the year when I have a cash flow that can be spent beyond mortgage, household bills and food.

The events I saw were well worth it and because the programme was open and unlimited I attended talks I wouldn’t have chosen, extending my learning and experience//field. It was a most enjoyable week, a busy one already – but busy right now, is good!

I had some particular favourite events and moments from the week. Some real highlights and gold-dust and I realise how subjective this list is – but here it is anyway, in chronological order because trying to do an actual Top 10 is an impossible feat and those who read on will notice it is a less-than-Top-10-Top-list!  The dates link back to the AWF blog reviews:

MY GOLDEN HAY

Friday 22nd May

Wordsworth 250: A Night in with the Wordsworths

ALL STAR CASTintroduced by Shahidha Bari with readings by Simon ArmitageMargaret AtwoodBenedict CumberbatchMonty DonLisa DwanInua EllamsStephen FryTom HollanderToby JonesHelen McCroryJonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave.

 

 

 

Saturday 23rd May 

Jonathan Bate

THE POET WHO CHANGED THE WORLD: WILLIAM WORDSWORTH AND THE ROMANTIC REVOLUTION

 

 

 

Sunday 24th May 

Without hestitation…

Inua Ellams

AN EVENING WITH AN IMMIGRANT IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC – OR AT LEAST A HALF HOUR

and watching this multiple award winning poet win another one – The Hay Poetry Prize – was a very special treat! I love that he had no idea and thousands of people watched his expression of shock and felt his words of gratitude.

The film itself is amazing and another book for the birthday wish list. I am delighted that he was honoured/recognised by Hay, much deserved for this immensely hardworking poet.

 

 

 

Wednesday 27th May

Jackie Morris

PAINTING THE LOST WORDS

 

 

hAY JACKIE MORRIS HARE

Thursday 28th May

Claudia Hammond talks to Guto Harri

THE ART OF REST

 

 

I got a chance to try it the next day (which was extremely busy) I had 10 minutes of absolute rest and it powered me through a whole afternoon’s list of To Do.

 

And another absolute gem. The deliverer of gold-dust himself, Roger Robinson. I think if there was a Top 10 there would be a joint winner!

Peter Frankopan and Roger Robinson

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE

 

 

An additional joy of this event was the feed – people who have never read Roger or heard him talk/read. Reading their reactions was like discovering rain has turned to gold. Such a rich experience. And I knew, having met the man, spoken with him, read him, I was buckled in and ready!

 

Saturday 30th May

Allie Esiri, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West

SHAKESPEARE FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

 

 

 

This event, Inua Ellams and Roger Robinson were all re-watched. They just had to be!

 

What an incredible week of Digital Hay 2020 it has been!

 

RELATED LINK:

Hay Festival Blog

Hay Festival Today

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There is something incredibly special about catching events live at the Digital Hay and that is exactly what I was able to do (in part) today. I spent ages booking tickets when they were released but you seem to be able to rock up and get in – so do not be put off if you haven’t heard it’s on until now, just go along and see. The tents are huge this year!

This morning I caught the first event on the livestream on You Tube, part of the overflow. The next scheduled event had really wonky connection and I ended up on You Tube again to follow that and I am about to see the master himself, Mr Roger Robinson!

Excited!

The unfortunate technical issues mean that at some point in the next 24 hours I need to find 2 hours to watch these teatime events again. I know that sounds pretty crazy on Lockdown, but my diary is bursting this evening and I have a deadline I am working with too. I WILL find the time to listen to them again because they are in my TOP EVENTS list of 2020. I feel incredibly lucky to have a bit of Roger in my life, I met him at Ledbury Poetry Festival and saw him read earlier on in Lockdown, around the time he won the Royal Society of Literature Prize. He is generous of spirit and inspirational as a documentary poet of our time. I could listen to him talk about his work for hours, so much passion, empathy and love.

 

I caught some of this event on the overflow You Tube channel. The theme of today’s Hay seems to be Death – which is something I can’t face at this time, but this one was obviously meant to be heard by me. Especially as it was full and appeared on the You Tube channel.

David Jarrett talks to Guto Harri

33 MEDITATIONS ON DEATH: NOTES FROM THE WRONG END OF MEDICINE

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

What is a good death? How would you choose to live your last few months? How do we best care for the rising tide of very elderly?

In a series of reflections on death in all its forms: the science of it, the medicine, the tragedy and the comedy. Dr David Jarrett draws on family stories and case histories from his thirty years of treating the old, demented and frail to try to find his own understanding of the end. And he writes about all the conversations that we, our parents, our children, the medical community, our government and society as a whole should be having.

Profound, provocative, strangely funny and astonishingly compelling, it is an impassioned plea that we start talking frankly and openly about death. And it is a call to arms for us to make radical changes to our perspective on ‘the seventh age of man’.

 

HAY THURS

The second event I was looking forward to was worth the wait – although I found the  lagging frustrating (I know I have mentioned it already). I knew some of the research behind this book and it is essential that the world begins to realise the importance of rest. It was a great event and I look forward to listening again soon.

Claudia Hammond talks to Guto Harri

THE ART OF REST

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The Art of Rest draws on ground-breaking research Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken. It was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

Claudia Hammond is an award-winning writer and broadcaster and Visiting Professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Sussex. As the presenter of All in the Mind she is BBC Radio 4’s voice of psychology and mental health.

 

Then one of my sought after events. I am delighted to have Roger Robinson back in my life, I met him at Ledbury Poetry Festival years ago. This is the 2nd event that I have managed to catch him at since Lockdown. He is so genuine, generous and giving – his list of poets you should read was huge – and sadly was also just as I lost internet connection, I made it back to watch end Hay credits! The internet/connection and lagging was still an issue, but it didn’t totally spoil it for me.

The Royal Literature Society were also there and among many links and comments they posted this:

winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize Roger Robinson said: “Winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize is great on many levels. Gaining wider recognition for the political issues that are raised in A Portable Paradise is one of the most important things for me, alongside more people reading about the struggles of black communities in Britain which hopefully creates some deeper resonating empathy.” RSL

 

To be honest just like some of my other top events, I would have re-watched it anyway! Certainly no hardship. I could post a lot more but I encourage you to go and WATCH it, see HIM.

If this is not a man/poet you have discovered yet, do your life a favour right now!

 

Peter Frankopan and Roger Robinson

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The chair of this year’s jury, Peter Frankopan, interviews the winner of the 2020 Ondaatje prize.

Roger Robinson is a writer and educator who has taught and performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, BBC, The National Portrait Gallery, V&A, INIVA, MK Gallery and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was associate artist. He is an alumni of The Complete Works. His workshops have been part of a shortlist for the Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries and were also a part of the Webby Award winning Barbican’s Can I Have A Word. He is the winner of the 2019 TS Eliot Prize and his latest collection ‘A Portable Paradise’ was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize, The Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen. He is the lead vocalist and lyricist for King Midas Sound and has also recorded solo albums with Jahtari Records.

The shortlist was:

Jay Bernard – Surge (Chatto & Windus)

Tishani Doshi – Small Days and Nights (Bloomsbury Circus)

Robert Macfarlane – Underland (Hamish Hamilton)

Roger Robinson – A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press)

Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)

Jumoke Verissimo – A Small Silence (Cassava Republic)

 

 

 

 

Ledbury Poetry Festival – 21 Years of Gold!

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Ledbury Poetry Festival (30th June – 9th July)

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I long for a year where I can book time off work to do Ledbury properly but until I get a little more change in my pockets my approach is: spend time with the Programme, highlight everything of interest, check against diary schedule, re-check total cost, rethink the parts I really wouldn’t want to miss, check schedule again and invariably decide I can only manage 1 day – find the day with the maximum bounty and go!

This year, I kept up to date with events via Social Media and managed the last day. Last days at Poetry Festivals are full of tired people with passion in their hearts, glowing as brightly as it did on Day 1 and the celebratory atmosphere is impossible to miss.

SUNDAY 9th

I set out early and for the first time used the motorway networks (discovered this is a much quicker way of getting there)! I had my programme and itinerary scribbled out. My first stop was a new venue, Muse Cafe and what a gem, strong coffee and a tasty breakfast to boot. The breakfast filled me up all day, I had taken a picnic, not that it was needed as the streets were filled with Food Markets and plenty of choice. The smell was delicious.

Coffee Morning with Malika’s Kitchen – Fantastic Beasts

Malika’s Kitchen is an influential collective of London writers who performed at the Festival on the 8th July. Fantastic Beasts was the theme of this year’s festival. This was a relaxed open mic event hosted by Jill Abram.

I was still up at 1 A.M writing a poem for this event and as I sat there in glorious sunshine listening to a string of fascinating poems I realised that I have plenty of poems to suit the theme, several Mermaid (who hasn’t), one about Udine, The Frog Prince – I could go on. Unfortunately I did not have them with me, having only packed the one freshly inked piece.

Malikas-Poetry-Kitchen

There was a pleasant mix of poetry from an anthology Peter Raynard provided as well. I love this idea, some writers never share their poetry publicly and there are a small percentage of poetry lovers who read it and never write it. Having a dip into book enables these people to take part. Jill encouraged people to use it. I enjoyed hearing Ted Hughes and Emily Dickinson amongst others.

I have not had a chance to upload my photos yet so have borrowed Myfanwy Fox’s instead.  Myfanwy Fox © 2017

20 Minutes with Jack Thacker

Jack is a PHD student who grew up in this rural area. He won the Charles Causeley Prize 2016 (the year after Jo Bell) and completed an incredible set in the Master’s House. I thoroughly enjoyed his reading and his teaching. The link between plough – to plough and verse.

Themetaphor is of plowing, of “turning” from one line to another ( vertere “to turn”) as a plowman does. Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

 

jack thacker Uof Bristol

University of Bristol © 2017

I then had a break – but Ledbury is a festival of poets and by the time I had walked a few metres I bumped into 7 people I knew. I also got to watch some of the events on the High Street – marking the 400th anniversary of the Market House and 21 years of Ledbury.

I got to see Samba Galez you could hear them from the Malika’s Kitchen event!

Before the next event I bumped into Antony & Jo Owen, which meant that I had company at The Master’s House for

20 minutes with Ellie Daghlian, Mel Pettitt, Catherine Choate.

Impressive undergraduate poetry from Bristol University Poetry Centre. It is always refreshing to hear from young voices with old heads and Mel Pettitte’s performance was particularly enthralling.

I then spent some time timing my walk between venues as I had a 10 minute gap between events later on. I caught some of Nick Lovell’s set in the High Street – Ledbury Slam Champion and caught up with Catherine Crosswell.

 

Book Art 17

Before heading off to the exhibitions at Weaver’s Gallery. I was particularly interested in Book Art 17 and hope that Helen Ivory managed to glimpse this when her and Martin made it to Ledbury on Friday. I wish I could have spent more time there immersing myself in this stunning work.

book-05_edited© JohnRose 2016

https://johnnyr66.wordpress.com/exhibitions/

Ledbury used the following image in the festival programme.

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City of Eyes collage © JohnRose 2017

Found images, acrylic background, glue

View more artwork here

I also popped into ‘Fantasy’ the textile art exhibition upstairs in the Gallery. There were some striking pieces adorning the walls and as someone who struggles to sew a hemline, I am in awe of the craftsmanship involved in such endeavours.

 

Market Theatre

It was a particularly hot day in Ledbury and by the time I reached the Market Theatre I looked as if I could make use of a shower for sure!

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Jill Abram has been successfully running Stablemates in London for some time and one day I WILL get there to see it! But when I discovered they were coming to Ledbury this was a factor in making the decision on Sunday being the best day.

It has been great reading all of Jill’s updates from Ledbury and she has certainly been busy!

I bumped into poets in the Foyer, so another event I wasn’t on my own for.

Stablemates Poetry Salon Peepal Tree Press with Roger Robinson, Nick Makoha and Seni Seneviratne.

An incredible hour of poetry from new to me poets.

Roger Robinson, a dub-poet and founder of Malika’s Kitchen. His poetry empowers common man and he tackles extremely real subject matter. I enjoyed his set and the new work he is currently involved with.

Seni Seneviratne performed in the morning at Muse Cafe. Her work is carefully considered and doesn’t step gently around delicate issues of race and identity but rather spears straight into the heart of the matter.

© 2017 Seni Seneviratne. All Rights Reserved.

Nick Makoha is the Director of the Youth Poetry Network. Again a poet tackling hard subjects and inviting us to make better in the world.

It was insightful to have the Q&A with Jill and each poet before they performed. Love the format!

I thoroughly enjoyed my initiation to Stablemates but unfortunately the timings ran over (due to the heat of the venue) and I couldn’t make it to the main event I had planned to attend. I had no idea what the time was. It had already started before Stablemates finished & by the time I made it between venues, was halfway through!

20 Minutes with Ruth Stacey & Katy Wareham Morris

The launch of Inheritance the new collaborative pamphlet from Ruth Stacey & Katy Wareham Morris – Mother Milk Books. One of the main reasons I had chosen this day to go to Ledbury.

I attempted to listen from the window, (which those of you who know my navigational skills/ lack there of… can now amuse yourselves by imagining me clambering around the outside of the Master’s House trying to find the right window)! There was too much ambient noise. Next, (like Goldilocks), I tried the door, which was too thick to hear through, the wall was a little better.

I understand the policy not to let late comers enter, it is disruptive for the readers who perform right next to the door. But in the previous 20 Minutes with… events I went to people attempted to creep in (with the big old door and straight across a poem), I was upset that I couldn’t do the same. Especially as I had been to a previous event and that was the reason I wasn’t seated in time.

inheritance

I managed to get in at the end of the set and buy a copy of the book. Apologise and attempt to explain. I was saddened by this part of my day. I hope to catch other readings, I know they appear at Waterstones later this year and I have an idea in the melting pot too.

Fortunately Suz Winspear (former Worcestershire Poet Laureate) was performing on the High Street with DanceFest and once I realised there was no getting into the Launch I went and caught a moment or two amongst the crowds outside. My own fault perhaps for trying to be everywhere all at once!

I practically ran back to the Market Theatre for my final show of the day, which I not only made in time, but found the Stablemates were still in the foyer – so I got to chat to them briefly and tell them how touched I was by their performances and ideas.

Versopolis: A Celebration of Emerging European Poets

I had heard of this amazing project, 2 years ago, in the first year it ran. The project i a platform that unites 13 International festivals.

http://www.versopolis.com/about-us

I enjoy listening to translated poetry and poems written/read in a different language. This was an enjoyable show in which sometimes the poetry was translated, at other times it was read in the poet’s mother tongue or in English by the poet.

A warm eclectic range of voices and subjects and wonderful to watch Helen Mort in action and discover the writing of Nikolina Andova and Charlotte Van den Broeck, who blew the audience away with the poem about her and her mother. It was good to meet her afterwards – she seemed so unaware of what had happened the other side of the stage. I also got to hear more from Kayo Chingonyi, who I met at Verve Festival in February.

The whole show was amazing and I willed it not to finish. I could have happily sat through another round of words from this group. The poets were Tiziano Fratus (Italy), Charlotte Van den Broeck (Belgium), Nikolina Andova (Macedonia), Veronika Dintinjana (Slovenia), Yekta (France) and the UK counterparts, Kayo Chingonyi and Helen Mort.

VERSOPOLIS POETS

http://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/interview-versopolis-poet-helen-mort/

http://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/interview-versopolis-poet-nikolina-andova-macedonia/

I wanted to stay for Enemies but at this time was still working against poetry deadlines and other writing tasks, which I knew I had to face once home and I was booked for work on Monday. So I missed this show and just read the fabulous reviews. I have since managed to find many of the performances on You Tube. So not all was lost.

It was late by the time I made it home and my writing work kept me at my desk until 1 A.M – which was only possible on post-Ledbury adrenaline!

Until next year!

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RELATED LINKS

Many Podcasts available http://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/series/festival-2017/

and films to watch http://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/festival-films/