Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Clerihews

I'm a tiny bit obsessed by Clerihews at the moment, so I thought I'd do a few Christmas/New Year's themed ones, to keep myself busy during that weird Crimbo-Limbo period.

In case you're new to them, a Clerihew is a silly pseudo-biographical rhyme that takes a well-known person and imagines them in a completely different - and preferably ridiculous - light.

Clerihews are supposed to have an AABB rhyme scheme, a varying meter and a lot of forced rhymes, which makes them perfect for a little bit of seasonal silliness:
 
Santa Claus
breeds dinosaurs.
All the reindeer ran away –
now the raptors pull the sleigh.

The Krampus
has Sky Plus.
So when he's out eating babies
can you record Match of the Day, please?

The Queen
is completely green.
But she isn't a lizard, like Ike says,
she's just glued herself into some baize.

Jools Holland
likes eating pollen.
His mother was one quarter bee,
which explains the strange way that he speaks.

Krampus (not Jools Holland)

Saturday, 26 December 2015

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS - 2015 In Review


I know how much of a cliché it is to do a 'Year in Review' post (in fact, I said as much last year). But it's happening and there's nothing you or I can do to stop it, so we'd better just ride the wave of nostalgia, all right? Get your memory surfboard, coz here we go:

January // February // March
2015 got off to a pretty exciting start when I did a supporting slot for Luke Wright at the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam in Cambridge. I helped judge the Cambridgeshire regional Poetry by Heart competition, performed at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, and my second pamphlet was published by Stewed Rhubarb Press. I also took part in the first ever Cambridge Anti-Slam, and Lunar Poetry folk interviewed us about the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards and Fen Speak (check out the interview HERE).

In February, I wrote sonnets with  Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and Andy Bennett, for our forth sonnet writing challenge, 28 Sonnets Later. I also performed at Trinity College, Cambridge, did a workshop with Y13s at Kimbolton School, and got the chance to be part of the judging committee for the Fenland Poet Laureate awards!

March was another busy month: I performed at Beasts and Bards, Listen Softly London, Espresso Library, and the Cambridge Speak Easy, and we announced the winners of the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards.

Beasts and Bards

April // May // June
In April, I did NaPoWriMo with some awesome poets from Cambridge, Norwich and London, and we each managed to write thirty poems in thirty days. I took part in Poetry to Go at the Cambridge Literary Festival, recorded some poems for the Peterborough Green Festival (podcast here), and did some poems at Rhymes with Orange in London. I had a poem published in Poems for Peace, featured at Tapas and Tales in Suffolk, and did a gig at Queen Mary University London.

My favourite gig in May was the Poetry Rivals Slam in Peterborough, and in June, I did poems at the Strawberry Fair in Cambridge and at The Chocolate Poetry Club in London town. I also travelled down to Camden for the first ever National Anti-Slam. Before we moved away to the East Midlands, I did my final Fen Speak show. And cried. A lot.
 

Chocolate Poetry Club

July // August // September
In July, I did Forget What You Heard (About Spoken Word) in London, as well as loads of poetry workshops as part of Arts Alive in Cambridgeshire. I also when down to Essex to perform in Colchester with Martin Newell, and did some poems at the first ever St Ives Discovery Day.

August is always a month of festivals, and this year I performed at the Colchester Free Festival in Essex, and Folk East in Suffolk. We also started exploring Nottingham, and I did some open mics with the DIY Poets and Poetry is Dead Good.

September was another busy month: I performed at the Superheroes of Slam competition in Leicester, and at the Nottingham Playhouse Open Day, as well as was the Stuff of Life Festival in Hedley Villas Park. I also got my poem published in the Fenland Reed, a publication created by this Year's Fenland Poet Laureate Jonathan Totman, and his partner Mary Livingston.

Stuff of Live Festival

October // November // December
In October I went back to Cambridge to take part in the Festival of Ideas and to do a workshop and performance for Allographic: Other Voices. Then in November, I did some poems at Word Drop at the Hop Hideout in Sheffield, and helped with some stewarding at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Finally, in December, we had our first Crosswords gig in the caves under Nottingham, and I performed at Heard of Mouth in Leicester, and Speech Therapy and the Nottingham Poetry Festival.

Cave Poetry

Damn! That's a lot of stuff to get through. Congratulations if you managed to read that massive post! You win ten Cool Points (not redeemable in any shops).

Seriously though, it's been a fantastic year and I hope you've all had a good one too! Next stop, 2016!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

MONDAY NIGHT NEWS - Rave in the Cave


On Wednesday night, I spent the evening underground.

I wasn’t pretending to be a badger – Ok, maybe I was just a little bit! – but I was also hosting the very first Crosswords spoken word night at the Malt Cross in Nottingham.

It was the first event I’d organised since moving up to Nottingham, and I’d fallen in love with the quirky subterranean venue a few months’ previously at a heritage tour event. I wasn’t sure if it was a little too soon for me to be getting stuck in on the Nottingham scene, but if someone asks you to do poetry in a cave, it’s actually very hard to turn them down!

So I booked a featured act, put some info on facebook, and waited to see if anyone would turn up.

Thankfully, the prospect of underground poetry was a big draw, and we had a full house, with loads of people coming to watch and to participate. We had seventeen fantastic poets on the open mic, some of whom I’d seen before, while others were completely new to me.

We had poems about caves, poems about politics, poems about relationships, and poems about travelling. There were dark supernatural tales, poems about music, stories of families, and even poetry about poetry. It was a real mix of voices, and the variety and quality of the writing was undeniable. An open mic night is only as good as its volunteers, and I have to say that at my first event in the East Midlands, Nottingham did me proud!

So thank you to everyone who came along to participate in the open mic: Andrew, Andy, Chris, Orla, Claire, Martin D, Martin G, Stephen, Peter, Michelle, Sam, Patric, Sam, James, Phil, Jeff and Frank. 

And a massive, massive thank you to Hibword, our fantastic featured performer, who came in like a whirlwind of energy at the end of the night. When I first saw her at the Leicester Superheroes of Slam, I knew that I had to get her to Nottingham! Her poetry is utterly mesmerising, a beguiling mix of rhythm, rhyme, syncopated beats and dazzling imagery, and her performances fresh, exciting and completely frenetic! I couldn’t take my eyes off her for one second, and from the raucous applause she received at the end of the night, I know the audience felt exactly the same way. It was a total honour, and a great way to round up a brilliant night!

But, it wouldn't be right for the whole thing to go without a hitch, and sure enough... I spent most of the night snapping pictures, only to find that my phone had corrupted the files overnight. (Perhaps it didn’t like being so close to the earth’s magnetic core?) So sadly, there’s no photographic evidence of the event – except for this one blurry photo that I uploaded before all my files disappeared.

This is why I'm a poet and not a photographer...

So yeah, you’ll just have to take my word for it,that we had an excellent night!

And so, the follow-up plan is to see if the Malt Cross are keen for more poetry, with the possibility of starting up a monthly event. Fingers crossed, wish me luck and watch this space!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

POEM - The Kakapo

This poem was inspired by a conversation with Nottingham poet Martin Grey, who asked me to write something about the Kakapo, everyone's favourite endangered antipodean. Kakapos are beautiful flightless birds who live in New Zealand and almost suffered a similar fate to that of the Dodo. So here we go, this is a poem about the Kakapo:

The Kakapo is large and slow
And isn't scared of strangers.
A friendly bird. From what I've heard,
He doesn't notice danger.

The Kakapo has scaly toes
And undernourished wings.
He can't fly or climb so high,
But he's good at other things.

The Kakapo sings loud and low
Just like a baritone.
He wakes at night and doesn't bite;
His habits are well known.

His plumage gleams yellow and green
To help him camouflage.
And he's adapted to be rapid
When he's on the march.

The Kakapo, that so-and-so!
That feathered optimist!
His island home was overthrown
By human colonists.

The Kakapo wanted to know
The visitors' intentions.
So, curious, he caused a fuss,
And garnered their attention.

The colonists could not resist
A birdy so delicious.
The Kakapo was awfully slow –
And not the least suspicious.

This twilight owl was not a fowl
Who lived by trepidation,
And mariners did not discuss
New Zealand conservation.

And thus and so, the Kakapo
Is pretty much endangered.
And that is why, if you can't fly
You shouldn't talk to strangers.

Source

Sunday, 6 December 2015

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS – Upcoming gigs and projects


When we moved to Nottingham from Cambridge a few months ago, I was really excited but also massively anxious. A new house, new job and a new city all in one go?! Yikes!

And while I *was* worried about whether I’d like my new office job, or if we’d find a nice house to live in, it turns out that my main concerns were poetry-based. (As usual!)

After all, I’d met such an incredible bunch of people in the last five years poeming across East Anglia, and there’s no way I could be that lucky a second time around. Right?

Well, I can tell you that this is one of the only times in my life that I’ve been happy to be proved completely wrong! The poetry scene in Nottingham is so bloody vibrant! And inclusive, and egalitarian, and welcoming! And the scene in next door in Leicester? Excellent. And the scene over the border in Sheffield? Amazing!

I feel really grateful to have landed in such an awesome place!

And I’m really excited because I’ve managed to meet some fantastic people already, and get involved in some really exciting gigs and projects, the first of which is due to start next Wednesday, when I’ll be hosting my first open mic night in the city!

The event is called Crosswords, and it’s a collaborative project with the Malt Cross Pub, a refurbished Victorian music hall and community charity on St James’ Street. They’re always looking for new ideas for creative ways to use the space, so when I suggested a spoken word night, they were more than happy to help out.

The first show is happening in the caves underneath the pub – which is probably the coolest place ever to do poetry! We’ll have a guest set from the fabulous Hibword, as well as loads of open mic slots for poets, writers, and storytellers – and the whole night is totally free! How amazing is that? We’re so lucky that the Malt Cross are giving us the venue for free, and I can’t thank them enough for their generous attitude to spoken word! Arrrrrgh! I’m so excited about this one, you guys!

If you want to come along and strut your poetic stuff, you can sign up to the open mic from 7:30pm, and the show starts at 8pm! It’s going to be gloriously terrifying, and I can’t wait!

As well as doing a bit of compering, I’m also going to be performing a couple of sets at various events over the next few months. I’ll be in Leicester at Heard of Mouth on 17th December, and after Christmas I’ll be doing House of Verse on 16th January (also in Leicester). The, in February, I’ll be doing a featured set at the DIY Poets’ gig at the Maze on 11th and sharing a couple of poems as part of Poetry is Dead Good on 16th. It’s going to be a busy start to 2016!

On top of all this, I’m starting a new project, writing lyrics as part of a collaboration with a musician called Ian Baggott. I have never written a song before in my life, but after Rob Green’s song-writing workshop at Book Off last month, I thought ‘Why Not?’ I’ve also got a couple of top secret poetry schemes up my sleeves, so look out for those in the New Year too! So that's all pretty exciting!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

THURSDAY NIGHT NEWS - Nottingham Poetry Festival

I’ve got so much to tell you - I don't know where to start! This is what happens when you leave it so incredibly loooooooong between posts!

The last couple of weeks have been really hectic, and there are some really exciting things coming up on the horizon, but I’ll save those for a later post… (I am such a tease!)

So, what’s been happening over the last few weeks? Well, the first ever Nottingham Poetry Festival has been running in town over the past fortnight, and it’s been fantastic!

The main festival events were organised by Nottingham-born poet and TV producer Henry Normal, and featured some big name talent with the likes of Luke Wright, LemnSissay and Attila the Stockbroker all performing in the city. But the best part about the festival was that it publicised all the year-round grassroots spoken word nights as part of its programme, giving Black Drop, Poetry is Dead Good, Speech Therapy and others a chance to engage with a wider audience. 



One of the first festival events was Book Off, on Sunday 22nd November, which took place in the awesome performance space upstairs at Rough Trade Records in the Creative Quarter.

The organisers, Ben and Sobhian, are aiming to start a monthly event to bring together local writers, performers and workshop facilitators to create a brilliant interactive programme based around literature in all its forms. And if they carry on like they did at the first event, they’ll have no problems at all! (Hint: it was awesome.)

As part of my evening with Book Off, I attended a song-writing workshop, performed in a poetry open mic, watched a Q&A with three novelists, and enjoyed a sketch show by a local all-female comedy troop called ‘Major Labia’. (And honestly, how can you not love them with a name like that?!) I also saw some brilliant poetry from the Mouthy Poets, Black Drop and the marvellous Ben Norris, as well as some amazing Hungarian folk music, and two poems about pubes!

Suffice to say it was an eclectic and incredible night, and I can’t wait for the next one!


On Tuesday 24th November, I performed a short set as part of the DIY Poets show at the Lofthouse in Hockley. 

The Lofthouse is a really quirky little venue, accessed via a buzz release door and up four flights of stairs (Just one floor below a pole-dancing school!). Once you find your way to the right place, it’s a gorgeous little bar, all decked out with fairy lights, candles and plenty of rum!

And the DIY Poets had a trio of lovely ladies as their featured acts (A way to balance the lack of female poets in the main poetry festival line-up.) and Clare Stewart, Orla Shortall and Lytisha Tunbridge were all fantastic to watch! The shorter sets from other DIY poets were also really enjoyable and the whole night was completely free. You can’t say fairer than that really, can you?

On Thursday 26th November, I popped across to Bar Deux on Sherwood Rise, to take part in my first Speech Therapy open mic night. These events are hosted by local legend Miggy Angel, who’s a really fun and engaging compère, with a real honest and supportive hosting style. 


 And there were so many people on the open mic! I counted twenty four, but I don’t know how accurate that was (Everything started to go a bit blurry after 11 o’clock!) Still, the standard of poetry was incredible, and I don’t think I looked at my watch all evening. A sure sign of a good night out!

I particularly liked Miggy’s ode to poetry ‘this poem is for you’ and Andrew’s political parody of Bohemian Rhapsody,  which had the whole audience dancing in their seats! There was sinister prose courtesy of DIY Poet’s very own Prince of Darkness, Chris Page, and some fantastically bitter breakup poetry from first time open mic-er Tom.

I really like the inclusive way Miggy operates these events, which felt really welcoming and supportive, while also allowing poets to do edgy and subversive stuff, no questions asked. It really is the best of both worlds, and I’d definitely recommend Speech Therapy if you ever find yourself at a lost in Nottingham on a cold and wintery Thursday evening!

So I’ve been to a lot of events as part of the poetry festival. But some other stuff has happened too.

I had a poem published by I Am Not A Silent Poet, the online magazine that speaks out against abuse in all its forms. There’s a lot of brilliant poetry on the website, and I’d encourage everyone in the world to check it out. You’ll be bowled away by the depth of feeling, and the quality of the writing. Trust me. (You can also check out my poem here.) 


And, because the Nottingham Poetry Festival has been on for the last few weeks, the Nottingham press have been really interested in local poets. I’m not sure if I count as a local poet yet, but I’ve been here almost five months now, so I chanced it, and got myself invited along to film shoot with Notts TV, our local telly station.

The shoot was actually a really cool idea: the folks from Notts TV wanted to film local poets reciting their poems, then add these short films into the footage from various other poetry festival events.  

And our poems were filmed in the caves under the Malt Cross Music Hall on St James’ street, so the whole ambience was proper spooky, and looked really good on camera! 


Originally, I was hoping to recite my poem off by heart, but after six failed attempts, I admitted defeat and read it from the pamphlet instead. I was a bit disappointed, but I think it turned out ok in the end!

I have no idea if the finished clip will make it to air, but if you’re within the Notts TV aerial range, keep a look out, just in case!

Then, on Monday 30th November, I spoke to a lovely lady called Jennifer for an article about the DIY Poets for the Nottingham Post. I was more than happy to sing the praises of the DIY Poetry Collective, who have been so incredibly welcoming and generous to me over the past few months. I can’t wait to see the article in print – hopefully it will bring even more people into the DIY Poets fold!

And, if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve also just launched this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate competition! (Yes, I’ve still got my finger firmly wedged in that lovely poetic pie!)


So, if you live, work or study in the Fens, and fancy yourself a bit of a secret poet, please enter our lovely competition! You’ll be in with a chance to be crowned Fenland Poet Laureate 2016, plus it’s completely free to submit a poem. So there’s no excuse not to, really, is there? 

For all the information about the competition (including details of eligibility) check out the Atelier East website here. And good luck! 
 

Friday, 13 November 2015

POEM - Night Climbing


Take my hand
And we’ll rise above all this.
Because you need a fresh perspective
And somewhere near here, there’s a hole in the fence
With both our names on it.

If you need me to, I will lace my fingers together
To build your first step up.
So come on! Feel the footholds worn into the walls and
Grip the crumbling brickwork with both hands.

Kiss every grotesque as you climb but don’t look down –
Instead, heave your body skyward, and watch the stars come out.

Soon we’ll be standing on the shoulders of King’s,
The wind at our Backs as the city tumbles away from us.
An anarchy of rooftops
Waiting to be conquered.

Spires stooped against shopping centres and office blocks.
Each building burst from the ground like a mushroom,
Luminous with ambition, forcing its way into being.

You see, this town grew up from the dirt –
Its foundations unstable.
And everyone said that it wouldn’t last.
But look at us now.

We are an unholy Trinity.
But we’re not in it for the glory.

We just needed a new perspective.

And we’re not looking for anything special,
Shaming St Catherine with second chances
As our lungs fill with chimney smoke.

We’re just luminous with ambition, forcing our way into being.

And while we may not have the Caius to this city
We know how to scale the walls.

So let’s climb every college, leap across the parapets
And claim this fungus town for anyone who has ever
Been excluded.

Because Cambridge is ours tonight
And we can do anything.

"CambridgeTownCentre" by Andrew Dunn
 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - A Bit of a Round Up


Once again, I've left it far too long to post about a lot of things that happened last month, so here's the abridged version of events:

Word Drop at the Hope Hideout: On Sunday 18th October, I went to the Hop Hideout in Sheffield to perform as part of the DIY Poets for the first time. It was excellent. We had poets from Nottingham, poets from Sheffield and even a poet from London all crammed into the lovely craft beer shop, belting out poems. It was glorious! (And we even inspired Jules, the owner of the shop, to write her own poem, which was utterly fab!)

Poetry is Dead Good: Another fantastic night out at Poetry is Dead Good on Tuesday 20th October, with over seventy people crammed into Rough Trade for some superlative poetry from Lydia Williams, Robbert van Dongen, Patricia Gregory and Andrew Lee! 

Cambridge Poetry Tours: Had a poetic mini-break in Cambridge at the end of October, and spent Saturday 24th dong poems as part of the first ever Cambridge Poetry Tours at the Festival of Ideas! You can read loads more about that here.

Michael Brown on the Cambridge Poetry Tour

Allographic Workshop and Performance: After a day of poetry tours on the Saturday, I spent Sunday at the CB1 cafe with Allographic: Other Voices. In the afternoon, I led a workshop on Constrained Writing, and fourteen people came along! That's the most I've ever had at a (non-school) workshop. Plus, everyone who took part was bloody brilliant! Then, in the evening I did a featured set as part of the Allographic Open Mic, and I was so impressed by the high standard of writing and performance from all the poets on stage. It made me feel a bit homesick! Damn you Cambridge!

Young People's Poetry Workshop: On Wednesday 4th November, I pootled down the A1 to Sawtry Library for my final creative writing workshop. It was really good fun, and the girls who came along were all so creative and talented. They really were a pleasure to teach! I really hope we get invited back again next year!

Stewarding at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival: The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is probably my favourite poetry festival OF ALL TIME! And it's even better when you get to go along for free! I had an awesome time stewarding the Pond Gallery at Snape Maltings with Lucy and Graeme, seeing some truly epic performances throughout the three days of festivities! Hollie McNish was excellent, as always, and Jack Rooke's debut show Good Grief is a must-see too. Performances from Miriam Nash, Kei Miller, Helen Mort, Rebecca Watts, and Kim Addonizio were flawless, and I really enjoyed an extended set from DIY Punk Poet supreme, Attila the Stockbroker. In fact, it was so good that I've already volunteered for next year!

Waiting for the show to begin (Aldeburgh)

So, now you're pretty much up to date. I've got a couple of exciting projects coming up in the next couple of months, and some good gigs too! But I'll tell you about those in another post... (I'm such a tease!)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

POEM - Pretty Fly (for a poem)

Oh goodness - I've done another one! That's two in one week! Hashtag productivity.

It's another sonnet I'm afraid. This one's a re-imagining of the classic Offspring song Pretty Fly (for a white guy)...

Pretty Fly (for a poem)
While many men are stylish and urbane,
The subject of our tale has no such flair;
And everything he tries, he tries in vain!
His aspirations sunk without a care.

He’s drawn a thirty-one upon his flesh,
And bought the music of Vanilla Ice.
For all that work, he’s still not funky fresh!
He’ll never be a journalist for Vice.

I beg you, darling, give me what I'm owed –
Or I will count in Spanish till I'm paid.
Most ladies think me charming, even though
My countenance is much too pale a shade.

Sometimes distinction comes to those who wait.
(But you can always go on Ricki Lake.)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

POEM - Pop Sonnet #4


Pop Sonnets is still one of my favourite blogs on tumblr, and whenever I get writer's block, I have a go at writing one of my own pop sonnets to try an get my creativity back.

I should explain: in order to create a pop sonnet, you need to take the lyrics to a famous pop song and transform them into a sonnet, written in Shakespearian-style language.

I've written a couple of these now, and this time round I decided to write about No Scrubs by TLC. Because Why not? And, having loved this song *so much* when it first came out, I was massively surprised to realise how materialistic and codependent the lyrics are! This counted as 'Girl Power' in the nineties? Yikes!

No Scrubs

I will not give my love to reprobates;
Those gentlemen without the means to pay.
So, if you own no carriage or estate,
Then I will grant you leave to go away.

My digits will remain a mystery –
And neither will I bid you give me yours.
I have to say, you're just not right for me.
In fact, your very being I deplore!

I will not give my love to ne'er-do-wells;
Those gentleman who shout from passing cabs.
I know that you suspect that we would gel
(But I suspect that you might give me crabs).

To scallywags and scamps I gift no love;
I cannot build my life upon a Scrub.

'Coz I'm looking like class and he's looking like trash...'

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

NEWS - Cambridge Poetry Tours at the Festival of Ideas


On Saturday, I was one of a team of poets who facilitated the first ever Cambridge Poetry Tour, as part of the Festival of Ideas at the University of Cambridge.

And we had an awesome time!

The tours were devised by local writer Michael Brown, and featured poets Robin Lamboll and Nikki Marrone. (All three of whom are bloody brilliant!)

For each tour, we visited famous landmarks around Cambridge - and snuck into two of the best private libraries in the city - all the while learning all about the history of the colleges and the famous poets who lived and worked in them. We we performed a selection of poems by well-known Cambridge alumni, as well as a few of our own poems, which had been written especially for the event.

The whole thing was such a great idea, and the people of Cambridge were obviously keen because both tours were totally sold out!

Autumn Leaves

On our first tour, we took our little crowd of people across the Sedgwick Site, passed King's and into Trinity College. Inside Trinity, we learned all about Lord Byron's time as a student, including the bizarre company he kept while in Cambridge. (He brought a bear to live with him in his rooms, supposedly because he wasn't allowed to keep a dog. What a cad!)

After hearing reciting some Byron, we took a look around the Wren Library. And I have to tell you, this building is so old and majestic, it made my toes tingle!

Completed in 1695 and designed by Christopher Wren - the same guy who designed St Paul's Cathedral - the Wren Library was so breath-takingly beautiful, and one of the highlights of my day!

As well as being a lovely old building, the Wren Library is also filled with a ridiculously excellent collection of rare books, including a signed copy of Das Capital by Karl Marx, a beautiful hand-written Quran, and one of the first folios of Shakespeare's plays, not to mention Isaac Newton's actual notebooks, alongside his walking stick, a first edition of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica and even a lock of Mr Newton's own hair! (Weird *and* creepy! Hoorah!)

It's amazing to think that academics and students still use this library as a place to study. Imagine revising for finals in the same library as Byron! And Isaac Newton! And Isaac Newton's disembodied hair! Amazing!

The porters wouldn't let us take pictures in the library, but I did get hold of a postcard, so here's a picture of that postcard.

B&B Bedsheets Bonus!

It really doesn't do it justice.

But seriously, it really is an awesome library, and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Cambridge. You can find visitor's info here.

After the Wren Library, we took our tour group up to the 'O' bridge (Why is it called that? Answers here.) for a group rendition of Cambridge by William Wordsworth, complete with cyclists rushing past us, while punts glided underneath us. It was all *very* Cambridge!

Then, we headed to Heffers bookshop for a short poetry performance to conclude the tour.

Nikki doing poems at Heffers

I managed to speak to a few of the tour-takers on the way round, chatting to a retired professor, a Chinese Postgraduate and a German lady now living in Cambridge. Everyone I spoke to was really enthusiastic and engaged with the performances, and loads of people came up to us afterwards to say how much they enjoyed the tour - which was really lovely to hear! I also sold six pamphlets, and made enough money to have two sausage rolls for my tea. What more could a poet ask for?

For our second tour, we had a much larger group, and we took them on a different route, from the Mathematical Bridge at Queen's to the Ted Hughes Library at Pembroke College.

I was particularly impressed by the beautiful stained glass windows in Pembroke Library, each one depicting one of Hughes' nature poems.

The Ted Hughes window at Pembroke Library

The bloody hand print is my favourite part. Very in-keeping with Hallowe'en...

We also got the chance to wander the courtyards of Pembroke, which I really enjoyed. I am, by nature, massively nosy, and any chance I get to go somewhere people are normally allowed is like heaven for me!

Plus, I'm ashamed to admit that in all the years I lived and worked in Cambridge, I never once went on a guided tour! Isn't that awful? Hopefully I've rectified that woeful error now!

Again, our tour ended up in Heffers bookshop, where we rounded off the event with another performance of our own poems.

This time around, I got chatting to some Malaysian graduate students, who were really friendly and told me all about their PhD projects. And in fact, everyone I chatted to was really great, interested not only in the history of the Colleges and the famous poems that we performed, but also in our own work too, which was really lovely!

Cambridge, you beautiful bastard!

I was also pleased as punch to hear performances from Nikki, Robin and Michael - with Nikki's poems being especially poignant, given that she's moving away to Europe soon!

Anyway, in case you're interested, here's a list of all the famous poems performed on the tour. Each one has embedded links, so you can check out the whole poems, if you like:

I give to you these verses by Charles BaudelaireI'm Leaving Cambridge Again by Xu Zhimo She Walks in Beauty by Lord ByronCambridge by William Wordsworth Archaeopteryx by Gillian Clarke The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes All the Dead Dears by Sylvia PlathThe Epitaph by Thomas Gray
Thanks again to Michael for organising the event, to the Festival of Ideas for hosting the poetry tours and to Trinity and Pembroke Colleges for letting us in to their secret places. Thanks to Heffers for hosting our performances, and to everyone who came along on the tours - you were all excellent!

Michael reciting a poem

Same time next year?

Monday, 26 October 2015

POEM - Taramasalata

This is probably one of the silliest poems I've ever written. And that's really saying something!

I wrote in for a competition, the theme of which was 'food and drink'. I had no idea what to write about for my submission, so I asked my other half, and he jokingly said 'taramasalata'.

For those of you who don't already know, taramasalata is a weird pink blancmange type substance made of mushed-up fish. It is in no way my favourite food...

That being said, I do like a challenge, and finding nine rhymes for taramasalata certainly *was* a challenge!

I didn't win the competition - and I think that's probably for the best, all things considered. But, if the Taramasalata Advisory Board are reading this, then I am very open to future fish-based commissions. Drop me an email, and we'll talk.


Taramasalata

Some folks like a salad
Or soup to eat for starters,
But I just can’t be sated
Without taramasalata.

It’s almost an addiction.
I’ll admit I am a martyr.
But heaven knows what I would do
For taramasalata.

There’s no restrictions on its use
In any social strata.
It makes your breath smell like the sea,
Does taramasalata.

It’s full of fish and vitamins –
I think it makes your smarter.
I’ve gained two PhD degrees
With Taramasalata.

If I could pass a Public Law,
Decree, or Royal Charter,
I’d get them to protect the fish
(For taramasalata).

And when there’s none inside the fridge,
I beg and steal and barter.
It can’t be helped, I’m really stuck
On taramasalata.

I want to buy the world’s supply;
I’ve put it on KickStarter.
(The gift you get for donating
Is taramasalata.)

And, when I’m seeking payment –
Either full-time or pro rata –
I’ll ask them to consider
Giving taramasalata.

If climate change kills all the fish,
It would be a disaster.
There’d be no sea diversity
(Or taramasalata).

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Saturday, 17 October 2015

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS - Workshops, Rhymes with Orange and the Fenland Reed

Blimey! It's been a good few weeks since I last posted! Sorry about that, but it's been a busy month.

I know I've said it before - and it's a massively boring and over-used simile - but I really do feel that poetry projects are a lot like buses: you wait for ages and then three come along in quick succession!

Whenever a load of lovely things happen all at once, it always reminds me of a positive version of that Alanis Morissette song 'Ironic'. Although, neither a busy month of poetry, nor the lyrics to that song are actually ironic - which is kind of ironic in itself, when you think about it...

Anyway, it *has* been a busy couple of weeks, and I've been traveling all over the place doing gigs, workshops and other stuff.

On Saturday 10th October, I trundled down the A1 to Sawtry to give a creative writing workshop as part of the Arts Alive in Libraries initiative. The project, funded by Arts Council England, gives rural libraries in Fenland and Breckland the chance to book a number of different creative workshops, in order to engage local communities with the arts in libraries.

The list of available courses is massive; from opera to manga drawing, and everything in between!

I'd already given a couple of workshops at the Sawtry Library, and both had been really well attended, so I was pleased to be invited back to do a few more sessions.

This time around, I had a small group of enthusiastic participants, and I was really impressed by their creative talent, and their willingness to get stuck into all the exercises!

I used the session to take the group through some writing games, including a few new exercises that I hadn't tried before. I was particularly pleased with how the "write a haiku about the person next to you" warm up game was received by the group. It's a great way to introduce participants to one another, and it really fires up their creativity too!

One of the things I like best about doing workshops is the sheer variety of the writing produced. Give a group of six people a writing prompt, and you can guarantee that each person will interpret the inspiration differently, and everyone will write in their own distinct style. It really reinforces my belief that writing is a fundamentally brilliant form of expression - but then, I might be a *little* bit biased.

What I'm trying to say is that I had a fab time facilitating this workshop, and I'm looking forward to my final visit to Sawtry library on Wednesday 4th November!

Last Thursday I braved the commuter train from Nottingham to London to take part in the Rhymes With Orange spoken word night at the Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch.

Waaaaaay back in April, at my last visit to RWO, I'd taken part in the Orange Crush Slam, and won a ten minute slot at a future gig. Unfortunately, the June RWO clashed with Andy and Allie's wedding, and the one after that was in Scotland, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so it's taken me about six months to be able to grab my slot on stage!

I'd like to whinge and say that I wish people would stop getting married, but in reality I love Love and all that junk, and I'm a sucker for a good wedding! (Especially if there's cake and a disco, because I am secretly an eight year old child.)

Anyway, Rhymes With Orange are this awesome collective of poets, writers, comedians and performers, who run events, do workshops, organise retreats and generally champion new writing in London. Many of the performers have drama and comedy backgrounds, and much of their work focuses on the funny, the bizarre and the surreal. As you can imagine, going to their shows always fills me with a deep and powerful sense of belonging.

For Thursday's show, the theme was 'Pop', and most of the regular performers had written new material to fit in with that theme. From a brilliant, yet slightly melancholic look into Harry Style's future, to a truly bizarre and wonderful poem about Jurgen Klopp, via yogurt-stealing children, friendly stalkers, and the creepiest birthday party ever, the performances were fun, funny and engaging.

There was even a poem about copulating hedgehogs!*

The open mic was also really great this time too, including a really thought-provoking poem about racism, as well as a great anti-cheating poem containing the line "you lying cheating bastard", right through to a beautiful, heartfelt piece about the death of a parent.

But my favourite open mic-ee was a chap who did a poem that re-imagined St Paul's letters to the Corinthians, in the style of Eminem's hit song 'Stan'. The whole thing was pitch perfect, thick with puns and brilliant references to both the Bible and old school hip hop. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, it was genius!

I did a couple of 'pop sonnets' during my set, and they seemed to go down pretty well with the crowd. I'm keen to go back to RWO as soon as possible, so fingers crossed that I can make it to their Christmas Extravaganza on Thursday 3rd December!

Also this week, I received my copy of the Fenland Reed. The magazine - created, curated and printed by Ely poets Jonathan Totman and Mary Livingstone - is a celebration of East Anglian landscapes, people and stories, and the first issue has some fantastic pieces of writing in it from a collection of really impressive poets.

I've also got a poem in the first issue, and I'm disgustingly honoured to see my writing in such an awesome publication.

If I've piqued your interest, then check out the Fenland Reed website for more details, subscribe to the magazine, or submit your own poem for Issue two! The theme is Lost & Found.

Next weekend, I'm heading off to Cambridge to take do some poetry tours as part of the University of Cambridge's Festival of Ideas, followed by a workshop and performance with Allographic: Other Voices. I am looking forward to all these shows SO MUCH and I will let you know how I get on in the usual delayed blogpost manner.

Happy Sunday everyone!

*It wasn't really about hedgehogs shagging, but that was the central metaphor, and it was inspired!

Monday, 21 September 2015

MONDAY NIGHT NEWS – Superheroes of Slam and Nottingham Playhouse Open Day


Hello! This week I've been doing a little bit of poetry-based travelling...

On Thursday evening I ventured out of Nottingham, motoring down the A46 to take part in the Superheroes of Slam competition at the Attenborough Arts Centre at the University of Leicester.

Having booked myself a doctor’s appointment for the same afternoon, it was all a big of a manic dash to get to Leicester on time. But, after getting to the doctor's fifteen minutes late, and going the wrong way round Leicester's one way system, I still somehow managed to get to the gig with five minutes to spare! (And without resorting to speeding! Result!)


In case you've ever heard of it, I can tell you that Superheroes of Slam is part of a national slam poetry competition, which seeks to uncover the best performance poets in the UK. Each of the eight heats produce one regional winner, and those winners then compete at the grand final in Manchester. The overall winner gets to take home the the Dike Omeje Slam Poetry Trophy 2015.

It's kind of a big deal. 

The Leicester heat was organised by the inimitable Carol Leeming, with the very excellent Rob Gee as host on the night. With nineteen poets competing, four expert judges doing the judging, and about fifty poetry-lovers in the audience, it was a really great atmosphere! 

We were each given three minutes to wow the judges, who marked us on our writing and performance.

I was really impressed by the standard of the poetry in the first round. The competition was fierce, with loads of great performances on a wide variety of topics and in a hugely varied number of styles. Many of the performers were really polished, and although it was clear that many of the poets really wanted to win, everyone was incredibly friendly, which really helped to calm my nerves!

After the first round was over, and everyone had performed their first poems, Rob Gee kept us in suspense, waiting until after the intermission to announce the six finalists. Everyone was on tenterhooks to find out, but the six poets who made it through were Tony Le Tigre, Jenny Hibberd (Hibword), Andrew Lee, Shruti Chauhan, Toby Campion, and me!

So that was exciting!

The other finalists were all pretty incredible, but in the end Tony Le Tigre’s brilliant ode to toast came third, and Shruti Chauhan’s hilarious lovelorn ‘Why Don’t You Like Me?’ came second.

But it was the animated performance and pitch-perfect rhyming of Jenny Hibberd that won the most points from the judges. Jenny’s poems fizzle with excitement, and her dramatic and engaging performance style really impressed the audience. She was definitely the right choice to win, and she goes on to represent the East Midlands in Manchester in October.

Knock 'em dead, Jenny!

You can get tickets to the final of the Superheroes of Slam HERE.

I came fifth overall, and I’m pretty happy with that. I didn’t forget any of my words (which is always a worry for me) I met loads of really awesome poets, and got to hear some pretty incredible spoken word poetry!

What more could you possibly want on a Thursday evening?!

Then, on Sunday afternoon, I was invited along to the Nottingham Playhouse Open Day to do a set as part of their live music and poetry showcase.

I actually met Henry (who was curating the day’s events) at the Stuff of Life Festival earlier in the month, when he and his partner came to watch the DIY Poets perform in someone’s back garden as part of the festivities.

It's a small world!


Anyway, the Nottingham Playhouse Open Day attracted nearly five hundred people over the course of the seven hour day, with oodles of live music, magic and science exhibitions, face painting and theatrical make-up demonstration throughout the day, as well as backstage tours and theatre workshops and performances.

The theatrical make-up seemed especially popular, with lots of small children running around with ridiculously realistic looking wounds and scars. It was all very Friday the Thirteenth!

I performed my poetry in the courtyard in front of the Playhouse, in the shadow of the Sky Mirror sculpture by Anish Kupoor. (Such an awesome place to perform!)

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Despite the stage being on a busy thoroughfare, the gig still went pretty well, with a good sized audience and some lovely feedback at the end of the show.

In fact, I really enjoyed watching all the programmed acts, especially Tash Bird and I Am Stars, who were both absolutely brilliant!

There were also some great quirky things going on, like wheely bin painting and a human fruit machine, as well as a tricycle ice cream stall!

All in all, it was a pretty awesome afternoon out, and I hope I can go back to the Playhouse again soon!

I've also been chatting to the lovely folk at the Malt Cross this week, to discuss the idea of running some spoken word events in their beautiful nineteenth century Music Hall. Watch this space for more information, coming soon!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

POEM - The Owl & The Pussycat (went for a curry)


With apologies to Edward Lear.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to eat
At a beautiful restaurant.
They took some Naan, and plenty of yarn,
Wrapped in a French croissant.
The Owl looked up to the menu above,
And sang (for he’d brought his guitar)
“O lovely curry! O curry, my love,
What a beautiful curry you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful curry you are!”


Pussy said to the Owl, “You indolent fowl!
Please, pass me the chutney, I pray!
Too long we have wasted! This food must be tasted!
Stop singing. Let’s hit the buffet!”
And so they both dined, quaffing plenty of wine,
‘Till they grew almost too fat to stand.
And, when they were finished – their hunger diminished –
The bill came to over a grand,
A grand,
A grand!
Yes, the bill came to over a grand!


“I’m not paying this!” The Owl swung his fists –
And smacked the poor cat in the neck.
It was accidental, but Pussy went mental;
The parlour was thoroughly wrecked.
Then they were barred, and thrown out in the yard
With nowt but a runcible spoon.
Now each one agrees that he favours Chinese,
Or a pint down the old Wetherspoons
The spoons,
The spoons,
Or a pint down the old Wetherspoons.


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Sunday, 6 September 2015

NEWS - Ouse Washes, Colchester Free Festival and Stuff of Life Festival


Poetry submission acceptances are a lot like buses. You wait for one for aaaaaaaaggeees, and then two come along at once!

Or one ultra-long, bendy one. (I'm not sure this still relates to poems...)

This week, I got a lovely email from the folk at the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership to say that they'd like to publish my poem 'Instructions for Happiness' on their website.

I wrote the poem while sitting on the riverbank in St Ives, in between performances at the St Ives Discovery Day back in July, and I'm really pleased that it's going to be displayed online.

You can check out 'Instructions for Happiness' here, alongside a beautiful poem from Fenland Poet Laureate Jonathan Totman, and two great poems by organiser and Mayor's Poet Chris Morgan.

A view from the riverbank at St Ives

Last week I also received an email from the The Fenland Reed, confirming that my poem 'Night Climbing' had been chosen to appear in the first issue of the magazine.

The Fenland Reed is a brand new literary magazine, based in East Anglia, and the first issue comes out in October. It's the brainchild of Ely-based poets Mary Livingstone and Jonathan Totman, and is already highly anticipated as a great new avenue for local writing!

The magazine launch night is on Wednesday 14th October at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. It's going to be a brilliant event, with special readings by featured poets, and your chance to get hold of your copy of issue one, before anyone else!

I'm really sad that I can't get to the launch, but I'm really looking forward to getting hold of my copy of the magazine! (Squeal of joy!)

The Fenland Reed

So that's all quite exciting! I've also just entered a local poetry competition in Nottingham, so fingers crossed for that. The theme of the competition is 'food and drink' and I have written a loose ballad about taramasalata. I think it might be a bit too weird for the judges, but we'll see...

Actually, I really enjoyed the challenge of finding things to rhyme with taramasalata! It's got quite a tricky rhythm - and a tonne of syllables - which makes it a lot harder than it sounds!

Here's some Taramasalata recipes from the BBC

I've also been to a couple more festivals this month.

Last weekend, I popped down to Essex for an afternoon of spoken word and drama, courtesy of the Colchester Free Festival.

It was a pretty long drive from the East Midlands, but the four hours in the car were totally worth it!

The Festival itself is in the grounds of Colchester Castle, and features music, theatre and spoken word from across Essex and beyond! Add to that a huge variety of street food vendors, and hundreds of stalls, crafts and workshops, and you have a recipe for a pretty good festival.

And the best part is it's all free!

I really enjoyed watching all the poets and performers on the spoken word stage. Kim Johnston's poetry was really brilliant, and David Canning's poem 'Zombie Dad' really made me smile. Gerry McGee's character poetry was excellent and Martin Newell was superb, as always. I'm always really impressed by his cheeky, Essex Gent persona, cracking jokes and chatting with the crowd between poems in a way that puts the audience completely at ease.

I find the between-poem banter quite difficult, so it's always nice to see a total pro at work. 

After my set, I made the mistake of sitting in the front row, and unwittingly became part of mime artist Holli Dillon's act. I won't recount the story here, suffice to say it ended in the two of us wrestling!

Massive thanks to Darren Gooding at True Love Tours for inviting me to perform at the festival. I hope to come along again next year!

Colchester Castle - looks nice, doesn't it?

Then yesterday, I stayed a little closer to home to check out the Stuff of Life Festival in Hedley Villas Park. This community festival is organised by local people, and includes a vast range of foods, crafts, music and art.

Highlights for me included the outdoor art gallery, the Gamelan orchestra, home made food from right across the world, plus some traditional Bulgarian folk songs, sung by the most adorable little girls (and their mum).

As usual, I spent most of the afternoon at the spoken word stage (which on this occasion was in a gazebo in someone's back garden). I heard some great extended sets from some of the DIY poets, including Lytisha, Chris Lewis-Jones, Orla Shortall, Phil Deakin, Andy Szpuk, and Chris Page. 

I particularly enjoyed Orla's Irish Patriotism Poem, Phil's poem about hope, and Andy's satirical piece about British manufacturing ('At least we still make guns'.)

Thoroughly 'Modern' Leanne

In a couple of weeks' time, I'm heading down to Leicester to take part in the Superheroes of Slam competition at the Attenborough Arts Centre. The winner of this competition gets  place at the National Finals in Manchester - which would be brilliant! 

So yeah, if you're in Leicester on Thursday 17th September, come down and say hi!   

Saturday, 22 August 2015

NEWS - Poetry is Dead Good and Folk East


Hello stranger. Long time, no speak. This is entirely my fault and I can only apologise.

The thing is, I've been in the process of moving house, starting a new job, and doing all kinds of exploring in our new city.

It's been hectic, but I think we're getting things settled now.

Nottingham is a lovely city, and I'm really impressed by the relaxed and friendly atmosphere here. Everyone seems keen for a chat, and the Nottingham accent has a subtle northern burr that I really love.

And there are so many cafés that run open mic nights, and nice pubs, and independent records shops, and interesting museums. I'm just really looking forward to exploring them all!

I've started checking out the local poetry scene too. (Of course I have!) I've joined the Nottingham Writers' Studio and signed up to be part of the DIY Poets Collective, plus I've also applied to join Mouthy Poets - which might be a bit of a long shot, because they're demographic is 16-30 year olds, and I'm very much at the upper end of that spectrum! Still, nothing ventured nothing gained, as they say!

So last week, I went down to The Maze in Nottingham city centre, for my first experience of East Midlands poetry, at the DIY Poets summer showcase.
 
I was completely blown away by the range and variety of the poetry on display, and the writing talent on show was just incredible!

There were funny poems, sad poems, thoughtful poems, poems about relationships, poems about politics, poems inspired by literature and poems inspired by hip-hop. And they were all absolutely brilliant!

Rather than feeling intimidated, the show was very welcoming and inclusive, and I was itching to get involved! Hopefully, I can take one of the slots at their next event in November - Fingers crossed!

Then, on Tuesday of last week, I popped along to the Jamcafé to take part in the open mic at Poetry is Dead Good

 
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The show is a mix of featured performers and open mic slots, and the featured acts were superb. 

Michelle Mother Hubbard's poetry was fun and funny, while Chris Page's stuff was more dark and introspective. Chris McLoughlin took us on a roller coaster of emotion with a selection of autobiographical poems, and Nafeesa Hamid entertained - and shocked - the audience with her frank portrayals of race and family dysfunction.  

The music, provided by local musician Billie, was ethereal and beautiful, and I really didn't want it to end! 

When the open mic rolled around, I performed this poem, and I think the audience really liked it. Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come. Fingers crossed for more positive poetry experiences in the East Midlands!

Finally this week, I trundled down the A1(M) to Suffolk to perform at the Soapbox Stage at Folk East.  

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I performed alongside two of my three 28 Sonnets Later colleagues, Adam Warne and Russell J Turner with Andy Bennett absent but not forgotten. (He's up in Edinburgh doing this show as part of the Fringe. Go see him if you're up there!)

Adam, Russell and I performed our latest sonnet cycle, a collection of narrative poems about the fictional town of Buckley Oak, and it was fantastic to hear all the poems performed as a single piece.

Although Folk East is a family festival, some of the 28 Sonnets Later poems contained some pretty adult themes (for example, this is Russell's poem, The Vulgar Boatman) but I think we got away with it in the end. 

We ended our hour on stage with a short set from each of us, and Adam and Russell both gave fantastic performances. 


I also managed to sell a couple of pamphlets, so I'm pretty pleased with that! 

I really love coming to Folk East, and the Soapbox stage is particularly excellent. I arrived early on Friday morning, and spent most of the day hanging out and watching the other performers, and Amy Wragg and her team put on another epic show!

I also got the chance to actually have a look round the site this year, and I was particularly impressed by all the sculptures on display. I bought *far too many* postcards at the craft stalls, and even had a go at weaving in one of the workshop tents! I also got the chance to see a couple of great bands on the main stage, all while sitting in the sunshine and eating artisan ice cream. 

Ignore my fat, white ankles in this shot...

All in all, a very lovely festival!

Next Saturday, I'm off to Essex to take part in the Colchester Free Festival, which looks like it'll be really good fun. I'll be in the poetry tent from 12 noon,  and I think I'm performing at about 12:30pm. If you're in the area, come along and say hi!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS - A Bit Of A Catch Up


Blimey! Has it really been 23 days since my last post?!

Suffice to say, things have been really really epically busy here at Poetry Towers, what with our relocation Up North and everything.

(Actually, we're only going as far as Nottingham - but that still counts as Up North to me. Hurrah for the East Midlands!)

So, other than finding a new house, getting a new job, moving one hundred miles north, and other general upheaval, what have I been up to this month? Well, I managed to squeeze in a couple of poetry-based activities too!

Hold your breath;* this is going to be a long post:

On Friday 26th June, I went down to Ramsey to facilitate a creative writing workshop as part of the Arts Alive in Libraries and Creative People and Places initiatives. These workshops are funded by Arts Council England with the aim of providing creative opportunities for people in rural areas and increasing participation in the arts in general. It's a really great initiative, and I'm delighted to be part of it!


My first workshop at Ramsey Library was great fun, and the two participants who took part were both really enthusiastic and talented too! We focused on writing exercises inspired by the history of Ramsey and everyone seemed to enjoy the session. I know I did anyway!

(And did you know that when Ramsey's Abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the stone was recycled and used to build parts of Trinity and St John's Colleges in Cambridge? Cheeky!)

Ramsey Abbey Ruins

Then, on Wednesday 8th July, I went back to Ramsey Library to do another workshop, this time with a group of kids aged 13 - 17. At least, that was the plan. In reality, a mixture of unreliable public transport and bad weather meant that only one person was able to make it in the end.

I started the session a little disappointed - but I needn't have worried! As it turned out, the workshop worked really well as a one-to-one session, and we even had time to talk about he publishing industry too. And, it turns out that Harry Potter based-questions are the easiest way to connect with bookish teenagers. I should have known!

A good way to make friends with teenagers

Straight after this, I was invited to perform some poems at friend's wedding, which was completely terrifying! And, if you know anything at all about my usual set list, you'll understand why I had to write a brand new poem, in order to have something suitable to read! In the end, I wrote a love poem in which the central metaphor is snail sex. (You can listen to me reading it here.) This also wasn't suitable, but I read it anyway!

Andy and Alice had booked an incredible line up for their wedding entertainment, including poetry from Martin Figura and John Osborne, music from Jonathan Marriott, comedic compères in the form of Tom Butterworth and Yanny Mac. It was a pretty awesome day! Congratulations to Andy and Alice!

Then, on Wednesday 15th July, I *finally* made it down to Forget What You Heard (About Spoken Word), an incredibly well-respected poetry night in the basement of a pub in Hackney. Rik and Matt run an excellent night, and the standard of performance in the open mic was mind-blowing! Many of the poets used their time on stage to explore some pretty dark themes, and the show was really cathartic as a result. I had an awesome time, and I can't wait to go back to FWYH(ASW) soon!

Gurning at the microphone (Photo by Tyrone Lewis)

On Friday 17th July, I hopped in my car and trundled down the A14 to Essex, to take part in the Lightbulb Festival in Colchester. Oh my goodness! What a brilliant event! Mark Harris' tender, heartfelt poetry about everyday life was beautifully realised, and Martin Newell was the perfect headliner, telling jokes and stories and playing songs in between recitations of his marvellous poems.

I did a few poems too, and the small crowd was really warm and welcoming. I sold five poetry pamphlets and landed another gig in Colchester to boot, so I'm really glad I made it (especially after a spot of traffic on the A12 almost stopped play!).


We're almost caught up now, so prepare yourselves for the home straight!

On Tuesday last week, I made my way up to Sawtry Library for my third workshop as part of the Arts Alive in Libraries sessions. We had seven participants this time, and it was great to experience working with a larger group.

Again, we used local history as a springboard for creative writing, and it was really brilliant to see how the participants interpreted each exercise in a myriad of different and creative ways! I can't wait for the next workshop in the series, which I'll be co-facilitating with Jonathan Totman, the current Fenland Poet Laureate!

Phew! That was a lot of stuff to get through, wasn't it? Well done for sticking with me though! As a reward for your commitment, here's a photo of an impromptu performance I gave in St Ives earlier today. You'll be pleased hear that the crowd were incredibly supportive (if a little distracted by river weeds!). 

An appreciative audience


*Please don't hold your breath - your eyes might fall out.