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!)


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.


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!