Sunday, 25 May 2014

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - She Grrrowls and Ideastap at the Roundhouse

This week, I had some time off to go visit the Big Smoke and I had a marvellous time! London has such a vibrant Spoken Word Community, and after spending a few days down there and soaking it all up, I'm more eager than ever to get involved with poetry in the Capital!

That being said, I could do without the awful traffic jams on the M25!

Still - despite being over forty minutes late to the party - I managed to find my way to the The Gallery Café in Bethnal Green to guest host She Grrrowls: Lost and Found on Monday night. It was a great show, with poetry provided by Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson and Sabrina Mahfouz, comedy from Mia Lane, and music courtesy of Mama Tokus. 

And it was really good to see so many talented women on stage in a single evening. I had such a cool night! Thanks to Carmina Masoliver and the She Grrrowls team for inviting me, and for making me feel so welcome! 

You can check out my full review here.

Then, on Wednesday I was invited down to the Roundhouse in Camden to take part in a performance poetry networking and development day, hosted by awesome poet and writer Debris Stevenson

The event, organised by the wonderful people at IdeasTap, gave forty competition winners the chance to participate in a programme of workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities. We were also invited to the launch of Debris Stevenson's first collection, Pigeon Party.   

It was a really fantastic day, and I was really pleased to be able to meet and chat with so many interesting and enthusiastic emerging poets - all gathered together under one roof!

During the day, we were given a tour around the facilities at the Roundhouse (It's pretty state-of-the-art, you guys!) and we all took part in a really useful writing workshop, hosted by Debris herself. It was a great class, and the prompts we were given totally lifted me out of my comfort zone. Debris has a really warm and inclusive teaching style, and the advice she gave during our Question and Answer session was incredibly useful too. 

There was also a panel discussion, featuring Bohdan Piasecki, Margaret Meyer, Joshua Idehen, and Niall O'Sullivan, which focused on the different career paths available for writers.

Sneaky photo of the panel discussion

There was some lively debate about the merits of conventional page publishing versus newer methods of exposure - like youtube videos, audio upload websites and webzines. But ultimately, the panel seemed to agree that a published collection gives legitimacy to a writer's career. It was all pretty interesting stuff.

Although I wasn't able to stay for the performances, I did manage to pick up a copy of Pigeon Party, and I can confirm that it contains some absolutely beautiful poetry! You should definitely get yourself a copy - and you can do so via the Waterstone's website

We also received a lovely goody bag, filled with exciting spoken word goodies!

Hashtag Swag

I really enjoyed the day and I hope to be able to keep in touch with the people I met. Maybe we'll be able to foster some new and exciting collaborations too! Watch this space! 

Also this week, the fantastic people at Mardibooks published my short story, Frank Smith and the Embarrassing Mix-Up, in their latest collection for YA Readers. The collection is called Hide It! and it features funny, fiery and fearless tales by loads of talented writers.

And at only £4.12 for the ebook, you'd be silly not to get yourself a copy! You can download it here. If you do get yourself a copy, please let me know what you think! 

Finally, I'll be heading up to Norfolk next week to review some theatre, with my favourite amateur dramatics society! The Watlington Players are performing Oh What a Lovely War and I can't wait to check it out! 

Tickets are still available but demand is high so, if you want to come along, take a look at their facebook page for booking details. See you there!

The Watlington Players ready to perform next week!

Friday, 23 May 2014

REVIEW - She Grrrowls at the Gallery Cafe

Last Monday, I spent the evening in the company of some very talented women at She Grrrowls: Lost and Found in London's fashionable East End. I was invited to guest host the show, which takes place at The Gallery Café every third Monday of the month. 

This month's event was filled to the brim with wonderful poets, comedians and musicians, and I couldn't wait to get down there! 

In fact, let me tell you all about it:

Lateisha Lovelace Hanson
Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson was first to take the mic, reciting a superb collection of poems illustrating the concept of 'Lost and Found'. Lateisha's poetry was incredibly engaging, and the themes associated with identity were articulated with an eloquence and maturity that really impressed the crowd. 

Lateisha had a commanding stage presence and a great rapport with the audience. A trained actor, her poetry was strengthened by her confident performance, and I really felt like I was watching someone on the cusp of great things.

Next up was the fantastically funny Mia Lane, whose comic timing and strange, tangential musings had the audience in stitches. Mia's comedy is self-deprecating, without being depressive and whimsical, without being twee. A perfect balance between dry, deadpan wit and surreal silliness. Her interaction with a bespectacled member of the audience was inspired, and her thoughts on human taxidermy (post-mortem, obviously) had me sniggering into my reasonably-priced drink. She's a great talent, and one to watch out for in the coming years.

Sabrina Mahfouz by Naomi Woddis
Sabrina Mahfouz is one of the best young poets working in the UK today, and I was really excited about getting the chance to see her perform live. She's a prolific writer of poetry, articles and fiction, with a number of award-winning plays under her belt.

The work she performed at She Grrowls was deftly written, thought-provoking and affecting. Sabrina's poetry is so well constructed that it feels almost conversational, and she writes about big issues in an incredibly accessible way - never shying away from giving a well-crafted opinion or packing each line with beautiful, and sometimes brutal, imagery. If you ever get the chance to see one of her shows, please go! You won't be disappointed.

Mama Tokus
Finally, the musical entertainment was provided by Mama Tokus, a funky, funny feminist songwriter, poet and musician, who performed a fantastic set to round off the evening. The audience were soon jiving along her catchy tunes - and though it might have been unwise to sing about cannibalism in a vegan café - Mama Tokus styled it out with aplomb. 

She's a regular favourite at festivals in the UK and abroad, and has played everywhere from the Burning Man to Big Chill, and Madame Jojo's to the Barbican International Jazz and Blues Festival. Her fresh and feisty lyrics got us all nodding along in agreement, and my favourite song of the evening was definitely her tongue-in-cheek Eminem parody. Amazing! 

If that wasn't enough, there was some absolutely cracking talent on the open mic too! With a real mix of styles and genres, we listened to some beautiful poetry, a fantastic piece of composed spoken word, some great comedy, and an incredibly graphic true story from a lady called Chloe that, for reasons of taste, will not be repeated here.

All in all, it was a fantastic night! My hosting skills are still not as polished as I'd like, but I'm getting better!  I only mispronounced one name this time, and won my wrestling match with the dodgy mic-stand. Plus, I read a few poems that seemed to go down fairly well, so I'm counting it as a positive overall! 

Practise makes perfect, as they say!

Seriously though, it was an absolute pleasure to be involved in such an inspiring event, and a massive thanks to Camina Masoliver for inviting me to take part! I strongly suggest that you check out the next She Grrrowls event, which is on Monday 16th June at the Gallery Café, in Bethnal Green.

See the She Grrrowls website for more info.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - The London Times

I don't know, you wait for a gig in London, then three come along at once! 

To kick things off in style, I will be guest hosting She Grrrowls: Lost and Found on Monday night, at The Gallery Café in fashionable East London! 

The She Grrrowls nights are run by Camina Masoliver - a brilliant poet and incredibly hard-working events promoter. The shows themselves seek to provide a platform for fantastic female performers, and they're proving to be a massive hit! In fact, I've been meaning to head down and catch She Grrrowls for a while, so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night's show. It's going to be a lot of fun, but I'm a little nervous, because the line-up is so incredible!

I mean, just check it out for yourself! 

We have comedy from Mia Lane, music by Mama Tokus, and poetry from both Sabrina Mahfouz and Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson! There'll also be six open mic slots up for grabs on the night, and I might even embarrass myself with a couple of poems as well!

It's going to be a fab show, so if you're in the Capital and fancy a great night out, come join us at The Gallery Café, 21 Old Ford Road, E2 9PJ. Doors open at 7:30pm and the fun starts at 7:45pm!

Then, on Wednesday night, I'm heading down to the Roundhouse in Camden to take part in a performance poetry networking and development day, hosted by Deborah Stevenson! 

The event has been organised by the lovely folk at IdeasTap, and will include a performance master class with Deborah and the Mouthy Poets collective, as well as a panel discussion on publishing with loads of poets and industry insiders, and performances from Jacob Sam-La Rose, John Berkavitch, Joelle Taylor and Deborah Stevenson. 

They'll be plenty of tips on performance and advice on how to make a career out of poetry, as well as loads of chances to meet new people and share ideas. 

I've dusted off my business cards, and I'm ready for action! I'll let you know how it goes! 

Finally, I'm really thrilled (and a little bit terrified!) to say that next month, I will be competing at the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam Finals at the Royal Albert Hall!


I know!

We'll be performing deep beneath the main building, in the Loading Bay, a fantastic space that's only slightly less nerve-racking than playing the enormous main hall! 

I'll be competing alongside the winners and runners-up from the regional finals of the Hammer and Tongue Slams in Cambridge, Oxford, Camden, Hackney, Bristol and Brighton, and we'll all be slogging it out to win the coveted title of UK Hammer and Tongue Slam Champion 2014! Plus, there'll be a featured set from Kate Tempest, and Group Slam, in which the six 'cities' battle it out to be crowned Group Slam Winners for 2014. 

It's going to be a really tough competition - and I must admit that I am more than a little bit freaked out by the prestigious surroundings - but I'm excited too! 

But mostly just nervous!

The Hammer and Tongue Slam Finals are on 21st June 2014, from 1:15pm till 10:30pm, at the Royal Albert Hall. You can get tickets here. Come down and support live poetry, if you can.

Monday, 12 May 2014

POEM - The Proposal

This month, I've been writing a couple of commissioned pieces of poetry for various people. One of these commissions was a poem for a friend's wedding. Somehow, my first attempt at marriage poetry quickly became a ditty about snails. 

This is probably not the romantic expression of love that my friends were searching for. 

I figured this poem was probably not right for their big day, but I still kinda liked it. Maybe I'll save it for my own nuptials. (Actual wedding TBC)

The Proposal

Snails are judicious creatures,
But they aren't monogamous.
Luckily we are not snails,
So this can't relate to us.

After all, they're gastropods –
Molluscs who don't mate for life.
What I'm trying to say, my darling:
Is would you please become my wife?

Snails are hermaphrodites –
And each one has all the parts.
I can't boast such grand equipment,
But you'll always have my heart.

Plus, snails mate for twenty hours
(After which they both lay eggs).
Thank the stars, we are not snails.
How about it? Let's get wed!


Sunday, 4 May 2014


Phew! April is over, and that means that my first NaPoWriMo Challenge is over too!

At the beginning of the challenge, thirty days felt like a really long time, but the month has flown by and I've managed to write thirty poems! That's more than I wrote in the whole of 2013!

And I know that most of it wasn't my best work, but there are a few poems in there that could - with a bit of work - be good pieces. And that is what May is for!

Anyway, you can see my final three poems by clicking the links below. The last poem, Anything Could Happen, was a collaborative piece, written by all seven of the Cambridgeshire NaPoWriMo poets. We each took one stanza, and I think the finished piece is really awesome!

See if you can work out which stanza is mine!

Day 28 - Spoilers
Day 29 - Head First
Day 30 - Anything Could Happen

Huge thanks to Daisy T-G, Russell J Turner, Elaine Ewart, Emma Ormond, Fay Roberts, and Nikki Marrone for helping me through my first NaPoWriMo! Same time next year, guys?


Last Sunday night, I popped down to Cambridge for a special Fenland Poet Laureate addition of Allographic: Other Voices. Elaine Ewart and I were both featured poets, and it was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed hearing some of Elaine's NaPoWriMo poems, and there were some fantastic poets on the open mic too! 

I'm also really pleased that the Allographic Edinburgh Fringe Show, Other Voices: Spoken Word Cabaret, has been shortlisted for Best Spoken Word show of 2013 at the Saboteur Awards! The Saboteur Awards are a REALLY BIG DEAL on the performance poetry scene, so it's fantastic that Allographic have been recognised in this way! Fay Roberts, who runs Allographic and orchestrated their show in Edinburgh, is a fantastic poet and a tireless promoter of local performers, so it's really wonderful to see her hard work being rewarded!

You can vote for your favourites from the Saboteur Awards here. The winners will be announced on 31st May. (Vote for Allographic!)

Also this week, my piece of writing, responding to the theatre show Domestic Labour: A Study in Love, was published on the Cambridge Junction Theatre Writing Community blog. I really enjoyed the show - it was beautifully staged and the main theme really made me examine my preconceptions and prejudices - but I actually found it really hard to write my response. In fact, I've just spent a bit of time reading the work written by other participants, and it seems I may have completely misinterpreted the show.

Confirming my long-held suspicions that my brain works on a completely different wavelength to everyone else!

Ah well, maybe I'll have better luck when we go back for the final workshop in a few week's time. We'll be watching and responding to Igor and Moreno: Idiot-Syncrasy, which is a bit of contempory dance. The trailer looks pretty interesting, so it should be a good evening!

I also found out recently that my short story, Frank Smith and the Embarrassing Mix-Up, is going to be published by Mardibooks, in their latest collection for YA Readers. So that's all very exciting!

I'm actually really surprised that the story was chosen, because it is a very, very silly Harry Potter parody, and very much geared to my own *unique* sense of humour! Still, I'm absolutely delighted that the team at Mardibooks chose it - along with twenty excellent short stories by other writers - for the anthology. I'll keep you posted on publishing dates!

A Shakespearian aside: I realise that I have titled this blog post 'A Quieter Week' and then rambled on about loads and loads of stuff! Colour me ironic, I guess. Anyway, we're nearly at the end of this one, I promise!

This weekend I've been working on a super-secret proposal for a project coming up in the summer. It's really exciting stuff, and I hope I can share it with you soon, but for now, I'm afraid it's all a bit hush-hush.

By way of apology for teasing you with Exciting Mystery Projects, here is a photograph of my wonderful cat face shoes. I think you'll agree that they are, by far, the world's best shoes. They even meow when I walk! (This is a lie.)