Friday, 25 March 2016

FRIDAY NIGHT NEWS - Spring Projects and Summer Festivals

Well blimey O’Reilly!* I’ve been having a right old busy couple of weeks! I’ve been up and down the country doing workshops in Schools (well, one workshop in one school) and I’ve been doing a lot of exciting organisational planning stuff too!

(I realise that ‘organisational planning stuff’ doesn’t sound *that* interesting but, if we’re lucky, the organisational planning stuff will lead to exciting events and opportunities!)

So that’s all good.

I had a nice day out last Thursday when I went down to Kimbolton School in Huntingdonshire, to facilitate a poetry workshop with their sixth form students. We played around with a series of exercises, writing loads of poems using ourselves as the inspiration. I even had the Head of English taking part, which was both excellent fun and ridiculously daunting!

My favourite exercise that we did was a new one that I’ve just started using in my workshops. It’s a small warm-up game, where you ask the participants to get into pairs, and interview each other about their likes and dislikes. The participants then use this information to write a haiku based on their partner.

The results were really funny and/or insightful so, I’m definitely going to do this exercise again with other school groups!

I always try to take part in the exercises alongside the students whenever I do these kind of workshops, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a partner for my haiku. So – being the incredible narcissist that I am – I wrote one about myself:

Leanne writes poems.
Some of them are good but not
this one. I'm sorry.

I am just as disappointed as you are. But the students produced a huge number of really great pieces of writing, so obviously I will take full credit for that!

In other news, I’ve been organising the FENLAND POET LAUREATE AWARDS over the last couple of months, which are happening on Friday 8th April at March Town Hall in Cambridgeshire.

Last year's finalists for the 10-17 year old category

I’ve been involved in the Fenland Poet Laureate Programme since 2013, and I’ve been helping to curate the competition and the awards ceremony since 2014. This time around, we have a grant from Market Place, via Arts Council England's Creative People and Places Initiative - which is *so* wonderful because it means we'll actually be able to pay our judges and our headline act!

Who is our headliner? (I hear you cry.) Well, it's only blumming John Lyons! And we’ll have performances from our twenty shortlisted poets, plus some excellent live music, and we’ll be announcing the winners of this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate and Young Fenland Poet Laureate Awards on the night too! 

If you fancy coming along to see the show, you can buy your tickets in advance! They're £3 each – which is an absolute bargain, considering we have an internationally-renowned headline! You can grab your tickets via the ADeC website here.

I’m also speaking to the organisers at the Southwell Folk Festival about a possible poetry stage at the event! Which is very exciting indeed! If we manage to get it all off the ground, it will be my first ever go at producing a stage at a festival, so that’ll be a laugh! Watch this space for further details on that one!

As well as that, I’ve been chatting to the staff at the Museum of Cambridge about a possible collaboration for their Summer Half Term. At the moment, this is just an idea that I’ve pitched to them but, if they take it up, I reckon it’ll be a really fun project to work on!

I’ve also been getting a slow and steady trickle of offers for festival performances this year. Doing poems for a festival crowd is one of my all-time favourite things, and I’m lucky to have been asked to do a couple of new places this year, as well as a sprinkling of invites to return to a few of my very most favourite music and literary festivals too!

Festivals are cool (even in grey drizzly British Weather!)

In fact, I’d probably better go up to the loft and dig out my wellies!

*I am trying to bring ‘Blimey O’Reilly’ back as a phrase. 
I’m not sure if it’s working yet...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS – Caves, Chaos, and International Women’s Day

Blimey O'Riley! It has been a super-busy week for me! I managed to book three events in three consecutive evenings this week, and I’ll tell you something: I am knackered!

On Monday night, I went down to the Orange Tree on Shakespeare Street, to take part in Too Deep for a Monday, a female centric evening of spoken word.

The evenings are hosted by Sarah Crutwell, and the event blurb says that they’re intended as a supportive and friendly space for people to express themselves creatively. That sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? And the nights are loosely based on issues that affect women, but all genders are welcome to attend and perform.

This time around, we listened to poetry from Afrah Yafai and Charlotte Hodkinson, and comedy courtesy of Helen Knott and Sarah Johnson. There were also some fantastic open mic performances, including poems about depression, female identity, street harassment, lost love, and even a piece about a women with antlers! We also got to hear a fantastic a cappella performance of ‘Dance with my Father’, which was absolutely beautiful.

Making a pretty weird face while doing poems

All in all, it was an absolutely lovely evening, and I’m very much looking forward to the next one.

Check out the Too Deep for a Monday facebook page for details, and I’ll see you down there on Monday 4th April!

Then, on Tuesday evening, I helped out at the Women Say… Stuff event at Rough Trade. The event was organised by some of the female members of the DIY Poets collective, to help celebrate International Women’s Day, and all the money collected on the night was donated to Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre, and POW Nottingham.

We were completely overwhelmed by how many people turned up to watch, with around one hundred poetry fans packed into the event space above Rough Trade. It felt very much like a form of organised chaos, and despite a couple of technical hiccups – including a wonky mic stand, and CD-based difficulties – our featured acts absolutely shone on the night!

Emteaz Hussain was first on stage, and her frank and funny monologues about growing up really resonated with the young audience. After Emteaz, we had a set from Michelle ‘Mother’ Hubbard, who really got the crowd going with warm and witty words about every topic under the sun, including a great poem about boobs!

Our final performer, Panya Banjoko, was absolutely marvellous. I really enjoyed her whole set, but her final poem, about her personal experience of racism at the hands of customs officers, really shocked me, and Panya conveyed her shocking treatment with incredible dignity. The imagery in that poem will stay with me for a long time.

We also had an open mic, but, due to the closing times of the venue, we were only able to squeeze in six of our twelve open mic participants, but those who did get a chance on stage were really inspiring. We had some really brave poems about the issues of emotional abuse and eating disorders, as well as powerful poems about identity and defiance.

In the end, we raised £251.58 for our charities, which is amazing!

Thanks to Lytisha, Hazel, Clare and Orla for all their wonderful organisation skills, and to Panya, Emteaz and Michelle for their wonderful performances. Thanks as well to everyone who attended, performed, and gave us some money towards these fantastic causes!

The DIY Ladies after a job well done!

There's a brilliant review of the show on the Left Lion website too!

Then, on Wednesday, we had the second ever Crosswords open mic night, in the sandstone caves underneath the Malt Cross.

This is steadily becoming one of my favourite events to host and promote. The location is just so cool, and the space is really suited to small, intimate gatherings, which makes the whole thing a real pleasure to organise.

This time around, we had an excellent crop of performers: Trevor, Ashley, Sam, Jeff, Jacob, Helen, Martin, James, Clare, T.C. and Steve. And, because we had fewer performers than usual, everyone got the chance to read a few more poems than usual, which was really nice.

Plus, we had a fab featured act in the form of Sez Thomasin, a gender-queer, autistic poet from Sheffield, who came all the way down to do some poetry for us. Their poetry was witty, fast-paced and engaging, while packing a huge punch on issues like misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and autism.

You can catch Sez on their website or on their youtube channel for more poetry goodness!

So yes, it definitely was a very busy week indeed.

Next week, I’ll be giving a poetry workshop at a school in Cambridgeshire, and I’m really looking forward to it! I’m planning to do a bit of sonnet writing with them – so we’ll see how that goes!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Write Minds, Poetry for Girls, and Fenland Poet Laureate 2016

It's been a few weeks' since my last post, and I've been pretty busy:

The 28 Sonnets Later project finished at the beginning of this week, and I have to say I'm feeling a little bereft without it. Adam, Andy and Russell wrote some incredible sonnets during our month-long challenge, and I even managed to write a couple that I'm quite pleased with!

If you haven't yet managed to read all of last week's poems, here's the links for you. Go on, do a bit of sonnet gorging!
#22 – Moon Babies by Adam Warne
#23 – Eww (or Bath-etic) by Andy Bennett
#24 – Nan and the Dentist by Russell J Turner
#25 – The 'Undeserving' Poor by Leanne Moden
#26 – The Great Wave by Adam Warne
#27 – Biggles gets the Giggles by Andy Bennett
#28 – l'ange de l'assassinat by Russell J Turner
#29 - Pareidolia by Leanne Moden

They're all worth a read (but if you're scared of clowns, maybe give number 27 a miss). I particularly enjoyed Adam's poem about the Great Wave off Kanagawa, because it's one of my absolute favourite artworks!

Blimey - that *is* a Great Wave!

I can't wait till next February for more sonnet-writing goodness! But there's always NaPoWriMo to look forward to!

I also managed to get out in the real world this week, with a gig at Das Kino in Nottingham to celebrate the launch of the Write Minds 'Madder Than We Look' poetry collection.

Write Minds is an organisation that helps people affected by self harm and suicide, by allowing them space to express themselves through poetry. 'Madder Than We Look' is their first collection of poems, and the poems in the book were chosen by Write Minds director Hayley Green and by guest judge Joelle Taylor.

I was lucky enough to have one of my poems published in the book, and it really is a stunningly powerful collection. All proceeds for the sale of the books will further support the work of Write Minds, so you should definitely buy a copy here.

And here's a picture of my looking super-awkward on stage, having just forgotten the words to my final poem:

Totes Awks

Nice one, Leanne! Anyway, it was a really good night, and you should buy the collection. Go on!

Also this week, we announced the twenty short-listed poets in the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition!

I wasn't involved in the judging process this year, but I'm really proud of the way we do things at FPL: we anonymise all the entries before sending them through to our panel of judges, who choose their favourite poems based on quality alone.

This usually means that we end up with a fantastic list, containing some familiar names, and some that are completely new to us. It's the absolute best way to be, and I'm really looking forward to the prize-giving ceremony. It's happening at March Town Hall, at 7pm on Friday 8th April. Tickets cost £3 each, and you can buy yours via the Babylon Gallery.

We've also been bidding for some financial support for the Fenland Poet Laureate Programme, and this included me writing my very first grant proposal form! It all feels very grown up! The deadline for applications is tomorrow, so cross all your fingers, toes, and other extremities for us!

Next week, I've got a monumentally busy few days lined up!

On Monday night, I'll be down at the Orange Tree in Nottingham doing some poems as part of Too Deep for a Monday, a new spoken word night that loosely themed around the issues that affect women. There'll be poetry, prose, monologues, storytelling and comedy from their featured acts, plus there are open mic slots available too! I might even crack out a few new poems, so that should be good fun!

Then, on Tuesday night, I'm help to host an event at Rough Trade called Women Say... Stuff. It's a show that I've been putting together alongside Lytisha, Clare, Orla and Hazel from the DIY Poets in celebration of International Women's Day. We'll have headline sets from Michelle 'Mother' Hubbard, Panya Banjoko and Emteaz Hussain, plus open mic opportunities for women, girls, and anyone who identifies as female.

It's going to be a pretty excellent night, and all donations will be going to Nottingham Rape Crisis and POW Nottingham. Two incredibly worthy causes! I'm really looking forward to it!

Finally, on Wednesday night, I'll be down at the Malt Cross in Nottingham for the second Crosswords event in the Caves under the pub. We've got poetry in the form of the fantastic Sarah Thomasin, plus loads of open mic slots too. So if you've ever fancied doing poems in a slightly unusual place, then Crosswords is the night for you! Doors open at 7:30pm and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are £2 on the door, and all the money raised goes to pay our featured performer. Should be fun!