Friday, 31 October 2014

NEWS - November Gigs

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a pretty busy November planned. As well as my normal 9 – 5, I’ll be doing loads of gigs this month, visiting Cambridge, London, Norwich, King’s Lynn and Milton Keynes, as well as hosting our regular Fen Speak event.

It’s going to be hectic, but I’m pretty excited about going to some new venues and see some great poetry!

On Sunday 2nd November, I’m heading down to the Speakeasy Poetry Slam at the ADC Theatre in Cambridge, to watch performances from Michelle Madsen and Rachel Long. I’ve seen Michelle a few times before, and her work is always really impressive. I’ve heard great things about Rachel Long too, so it’ll be fantastic to finally see her perform. I’m also going to have a go at the slam.

The Speakeasy starts at 8pm and you can get your tickets in advance from the ADC Theatre Box Office.

Then, on Tuesday 18th November, I’ll be at the Amersham Arms in New Cross for the ‘Utter!’ Spoken Word show, hosted by the very lovely Richard Tyrone Jones. I’ll be performing alongside featured acts Sophia Walker, Rose Drew and Daisy T-G and it's going to be a fantastic gig!

Daisy is an incredible emerging talent, and Rose performs with a wit and warmth that I’ve rarely seen on stage before. Sophia Walker is an amazing poet, with a host of awards and prizes under her belt, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her perform live.

For more information, and to buy your tickets, check out We Got Tickets.

Then we'll be back at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum on Wednesday 19th November for another Fen Speak open mic night, showcasing the best writers and performers in Cambridgeshire. We’ll also be launching this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, so look out for lots more information on that coming soon!

On Saturday 22nd November, I'm going up to Norwich, to perform as one of the support acts for Attila the Stockbroker. Attila is one of the UK’s great punk poets, and it’s going to be awesome to share the stage with him! I’m not sure what his fans will make of me though! (You can find out more about this gig at the ents24 website.)

Then, on Friday 28th November, I’ll be performing alongside my fellow Fenland Poet Laureates, Poppy Kleiser and Elaine Ewart, as part of the Fen Speak on Tour show at the Friends' Meeting House on Bridge Street in King’s Lynn. The show starts at 7pm, and there are plenty of open mic spots available - watch this space for more details.

Finally, on Saturday 29th November, I’ll be travelling across to Milton Keynes to take part in the Christmas Light Switch On Celebrations in Stony Stratford. I’ll be heading down with a group of Cambridge poets, led by excellent writer and events organizer (and former MK resident) Fay Roberts, so I’m really looking forward to spending some time with them, checking out the local scene, and showing Bedfordshire just how awesome Cambridge poets are!

So, yeah, it's going to be a pretty busy one this month. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

NEWS - Utter! Issues in London

Last night, I popped down to London to watch some spoken word poetry at the Green Note in Camden and it was fantastic!

The event - Utter! Issues - was hosted by Richard Tyrone Jones and included sets from Hollie McNish, Kayo Chingonyi, Laurie Bolger and Alan Wolfson. Richard kicked things off with some excellent poetry from his own back-catalogue, before introducing Alan Wolfson, whose poetry wittily illuminated the perils and pleasures of growing old disgracefully.

Laurie Bolger was thoroughly excellent too, giving the audience a mixture of old and new material, and performing all my favourites, including her poem about shitty Shoreditch nightlife and some wicked new poems written for her new role as poet in residence at her local pub.

After the break, Kayo Chingonyi took to the stage, and his moving, lyrical poems really blew me away. Exploring themes of racism and identity with a insightful, thought-provoking set that few could match, he completely captivated the audience.

Finally, there was a set from the very lovely Hollie McNish. I've seen Hollie perform a lot now, but her poetry is always fresh, innovative and engaging. And last night was no different, with some fab poems about everything from family and motherhood, right through to Megatron and Optimus Prime!

Utter! events also include the traditional 'paid gig contest' - a mini slam for budding performers, with a paid gig up for grabs as the prize for the winner. Of course, I thought I'd give it a go!

The competition was fierce, with six of us jumping up on stage for our three minutes of fame, and there were fantastic performances from Dominic Stevenson, Ernie Burns, Tracy Starreveld, Paul Wady and Fikaye. At the end of the night I was completely delighted - and more than a little surprised - to be announced as the winner!

Which means I'll be doing a set at the next Utter! Spoken Word show, on Tuesday 18th November at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. I'll be supporting the likes of Rose Drew, Daisy T-G, and the BBC Edinburgh Slam Champion Sophia Walker, so it's going to be an amazing show.

So if you're in London on the 18th November and you fancy coming down, it'd be awesome to see some friendly faces in the audience! You can get early-bird tickets here.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Workshops, Competitions, and Publishing News

I've had a bit of a hectic one this week, with lots of planning meetings, Skype discussions, and many a frantic email. Still, it's all good fun, and it means there's lots of exciting things on the horizon!

We've started planning for the launch of this year's Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, plus the Fen Speak team are looking forward to celebrating their first anniversary next week! I've also been doing more workshops and judging a competition, all whilst working on my next poetry pamphlet.

It's all very exciting! 

On Tuesday I skipped down to the lovely town of Chatteris to host the second of my National Poetry Day workshops, in partnership with the Cambridgeshire Library Services.

I'm always a little nervous before hosting a workshop, in case people don't turn up, or in case the people who do turn up don't enjoy their experience. Luckily I had a blast in Chatteris, with nine wonderful participants all eager and willing to share their creativity with me. Just like my previous session at the Wisbech Library, this workshop was structured around the theme of memory and - with the help of old photographs, prompt cards and objects from a junk shop - we soon had the creative juices flowing!

Junk Shop Memories

In fact, the participants wrote some genuinely beautiful poetry, and the reflective nature of the topic really allowed people to focus on those moments and memories that were important to them. The exercises I put together went down really well, and it's definitely a topic I would revisit in future workshops.

I've even been invited back to do more sessions next year, so keep your eyes peeled for further details coming soon.

Also this week, I've been helping to judge the 'Perspectives' Community Poetry Competition, ready for their prize giving event next month.

The competition - which was hosted by The Field Theatre Group and funded by the East Cambridgeshire Community Fund - gave local people the chance to write a poem to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of WWI.

The competition winners with be announced at a special event on Saturday 15th November from 7pm at the Littleport Village Hall. Prizes will be presented by the current Fenland Poet Laureate, Poppy Kleiser, and commended poems will be published in a special anthology, which will be launched at the awards ceremony. 

Next Wednesday is the first anniversary of the launch of the Fen Speak open mic nights, and to celebrate we're holding a special birthday-themed event! There will be lots of open mic spots available for writers, poets and storytellers, as well as balloons, party hats, and even a Fen Speak cake! It's going to be a great night, and we'd love for you to join us!

We'll be at the Babylon Gallery, Waterside, Ely on Wednesday 15th October. Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 7:30pm. There's no charge for entry, and no obligation to perform - although we always encourage you to give it a go! They'll be wine, good company and fabulous entertainment - what more could you ask for?

This week I have been listening to: a selection of fantastic EPs by Andy N. Andy is a Manchester based musician and poet, and his series of beautiful instrumental piano pieces have been the soundtrack to my week. If you like atmospheric soundscapes, then this is the stuff for you! You can find Andy's music on his bandcamp page.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - National Poetry and the Hammer and Tongue Slam

Hello stranger. Long time, no see.

Listen, I'm sorry that I haven't written in a while. Things have been crazy busy here at Poetry Towers over the last couple of weeks, and I just haven't had the time to sit down and catch my breath! But I'm here now. And I've got so much to tell you!

Firstly, I expect you're keen to find out how I got on at the National Final of the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam? Well...

The Venue

It was an incredible day! The show included twenty four fantastic poets and performers, all vying for the title of Hammer and Tongue Slam Champion, and they were all amazing! I particularly enjoyed Torrey Shineman's witty commentary on sex and body image, Tina Sederholm's wry advice to the parents of poets, and Sara Hirsch's wonderful poem about explaining her work to people at parties. (She's a children's entertainer - NOT a clown!)

Other highlights included Stewart Taylor's performance piece, which detailed the perils of the 'deep web', and Miko Berry's beautiful alternative love poem. Justina Kehinde - my fellow Cambridge Hammer and Tongue winner - was brilliant too, and her piece about black female identity was particularly stunning to witness. 

So who won in the end? Well - for the first time in Hammer and Tongue history - the final produced two joint winners! Vanessa Kisuule and Leyla Josephine were both really worthy recipients of the prize, and I'm really excited to see what they each do next! 

Doing my thing on stage
As for me? Well, I managed to remember my poem all the way through, and I think I gave the best performance I could. Unfortunately, I didn't make it past the quarter finals, but I'm still pretty pleased with how it went. After all, it's not every day you get to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in front of five hundred people! 

It's also been a busy week for poets up and down the country, as Thursday was National Poetry Day! Hoorah! I celebrated the occasion by hosting the first of my National Poetry Day workshops, in partnership with the Cambridgeshire Library Services.

I spent the afternoon with a fantastic group of people, exploring the themes of memory and remembrance through a series of poetry exercises. I even brought along some props to help get the creative juices flowing, and spark ideas for writing!

Poetry Props

It was a really lovely way to spend an afternoon, and the workshop produced some genuinely great poetry.

In fact, I think the theme and the structure of the workshop would really suit as an activity for retirement homes, and I'm definitely considering expanding these workshops into these spaces in the future. 

My next National Poetry Day workshop is taking place at the Chatteris Library on Tuesday 8th October at 2pm. There are still a couple of spaces available, and it would be truly lovely to see some of you there!

Then on Saturday, I trundled off to St Ives (the one in Cambridgeshire, not the one in Cornwall) to participate in the St Ives National Poetry Day open mic event. The evening was hosted by the current Poet Laureate for St Ives, Mr Chris Morgan, and myself and Elaine Ewart had both been invited to give short performances as part of the festivities.

It's always a little nerve-racking, performing in an unfamiliar town, but luckily for us the show was well-attended and the audience was warm and enthusiastic. I particularly enjoyed hearing Elaine perform from her Fur, Feather and Fen collection, and I was really impressed by the wonderful selection of poems performed on the night.

In fact, I had a fantastic evening, and I hope to be back in St Ives again very soon!

This week, I'm working an exciting new project, which I hope to be able to tell you about soon. Keep your eyes peeled for updates!