Wednesday, 28 December 2016

WEDNESDAY NIGHT NEWS - 2016 Year in Review

Well, that was 2016. And, as is customary on this blog (and because I fancy myself as a bit of a cool Charlie Brooker type) it’s time for my review of this little corner of the internet for 2016:

January // February // March
2016 got off to a pretty good start when I landed a supporting slot at Cabaret of Cunts, a feminist review in Limehouse in London, featuring amazing performances from Tight Theatre and Pussy Patrons. I facilitated a day of creative writing workshops with Y7 pupils at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London, and performed at House of Verse in Leicester and Steel & Lace in Sheffield. I also got published as part of the Write Minds ‘Madder Than We Look’ anthology (which you can still buy here).

Tight Theatre

In February, I wrote sonnets with Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and Andy Bennett, for our fifth sonnet writing challenge, 28 Sonnets Later. This time around we did ekphrastic poems, so I managed to learn a bit about Art History while also writing sonnets. Excellent! I also performed at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, and Poetry is Dead Good in Nottingham.

The Women Say... Stuff team

March was another busy month: I gave a workshop with Y13s at Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire, performed at Too Deep for a Monday and helped to organise the Women Say… Stuff event on International Women’s Day, with all the proceeds of the event going to Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre.

April // May // June
In April, I did NaPoWriMo with some wonderful writers from London and East Anglia, and we each managed to write thirty poems in thirty days. We also announced the winner of the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, and it was an emotional awards ceremony as we said good bye to Elaine Ewart, who left the team to concentrate on her PhD.

A gaggle of Fenland Poet Laureates!

I was ecstatic to be booked to support Harry Baker at the SOAPBOX Presents gig in Stowmarket in May, and it was wonderful to get out to Derby for my first ever Twisted Tongues show in the same month. I also had the opportunity to record a poem for the Write Lion podcast, which was really exciting! Then, in June, I curated the Spoken Word tent at the Gate to Southwell festival and did some poems at Ouse Muse in Bedford.

With a huge crowd for the first ever Southwell Slam!

July // August // September
I ran a workshop for the Words for Walls project in July, and spent a weekend at Newstead Abbey as part of the Wandering Poets event at the stately home.

The Wandering Poets (staying fairly still for the photo...)

In August I performed at Folk East in Suffolk, and worked with the Museum of Cambridge to create a poetry trail and facilitate some workshops with primary-school aged children (My first ever workshop with this age group!) I also had two poetry job interviews: one for the Cheltenham Literature Festival and another with Writing East Midlands.

Cut up words for the Museum of Cambridge workshops

September was when I performed at Poetical in Nottingham, as well as my first appearance at Green Fest. I also nabbed a featured slot at Verse Matters in Sheffield, and did some poems at the Fourth Wave Feminist Festival in Hackney Downs, where I also heard talks by some really impressive women! (What I was doing at this kind of thing is anybody’s guess!)

Making a 'no seriously guys' face at Green Fest

October // November // December
October was so busy that I’m sort of surprised I managed to do any other work during the month. I performed at: Speech Therapy, Hockley Hustle, The Stanza Newcastle, and Word Wise Derby, and started the weekly poetry workshops with the Write Here Sanctuary Women’s Refugee group, and went out recording poems with DIY Poets for Poetry in the Peaks, and wrote a performed a wedding poem for my friends Catie and Ben at their ceremony in Richmond, and did some stuff at the TEDxUCLWomen event in London.

Behind the scenes filming for Poetry in the Peaks 


In November I performed at the Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival, the Line of Light Art Installation launch and the Southwell Folk Society, and in December I headlined the Poetic Snowfalls event in Bury St Edmunds, and did some poems at the Too Deep for a Monday Christmas party. I also took part in Poetercize (the poetry gameshow) at Poetry is Dead Good – which was amazing and ridiculous and jolly good fun!

Line of Light Installation

Blimey! What a busy year! And here’s to an even busier 2017!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

WEDNESDAY NIGHT NEWS – London Interviews, Poetic Snowfalls, and Christmas Gigs

All right there, everyone? Ready for Christmas? Got your New Year’s eve plans all sorted out? Me neither. But honestly, this winter break can’t come soon enough for me – I’ve been rushed off my feet these last two months. Time for a bit of Xmas relaxation, I say! (You can tell I don’t do the cooking on Christmas Day, can’t you?)

Hashtag Christmas Cheer 'n' shit

Anyway, it’s been such a busy few weeks that I had to write myself a little list in order to remember everything. Here’s the round-up; I hope I don’t miss anybody out!

On Wednesday 7th Dec, we found ourselves back in the Malt Cross for a very festive Crosswords Spoken Word Open Mic. Our November event was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances (the caves were under water due to some kind of burst pipe affair) so it was lovely to be back in December! We had some fab talent on the open mic, and a totally brilliant headline set from one of my favourite poets of the moment, the superlative Dan Clark.

Dan’s stuff is funny, and philosophical and thought-provoking, and he delivers it in this brilliantly engaging and slightly dishevelled style that feels really inclusive and welcoming, while still having this razor-sharp wit that I absolutely love. The Crosswords audience seemed to really enjoy his performance too, and it was a great way to end our first year at Crosswords!

Dan Clark looking majestic in the Ipswich Star

Now, I’m busily booking guests for next year’s events, and I have to say that booking poets is actually one of my favourite things to do! I feel properly privileged to be able to showcase great talent at Crosswords, supporting emerging artists and taking poets that I love and presenting them to the audience like “Ta-Da! Look how great these people are!”

It makes me feel all tingly inside!

And speaking of awesome poets, our featured act in January is the very lovely Hazel Monaghan, who was our winner of the 2016 Southwell Slam. Hazel is an actor, director, performer and spoken word artist, and her poetry is just superb. It really is worth catching her when she performs on 11th January! Check out our Facebook events page for more details on that one.

That's a good looking press shot, Hazel Monaghan!

Then, on the 8th December I snuck down to that London for a cheeky job interview with Apples and Snakes, at the Albany in Deptford.

Apples and Snakes are one of the top spoken word organisations in the UK, and I was interviewing for an emerging writer in residence position at the SPINE Festival 2017. SPINE is this incredible free poetry, storytelling and live lit festival that the Apples and Snakes team organise in London Libraries, and I was SO NERVOUS about the interview that I very nearly didn’t go!

Luckily, I didn’t give in to the urge to hide under the duvet at home all day, and the interview itself actually went really well. I think I did the best job that I could, and although I didn’t get the role in the end (Boo!) it was really exciting to even be considered. It really boosted my confidence to know that I’d actually built up a lot skills in these last few years of messing about with words, and it was also pretty lovely to be at an interview related to something that I’m passionate about (Not that I’m not deeply passionate about University administration, you understand…)

The feedback from the Apples and Snakes team was also really encouraging, and I think the main thing that let me down was a lack of practice in doing creative interviews, so hopefully this is just the start for me…


Then, on Thursday 15th December I took two very crowded trains down to Bury St Edmunds to take part in the Poetic Snowfalls event, hosted by Dray Zera and Geneviève L. Walsh.

It was a total mission to get down to deepest darkest Suffolk (Especially considering I had exploded my car the week before!) but I was so glad to be there because the line-up was shit-hot! There were some brilliant performances from the likes of Robin Lamboll, Nikki Marrone, Nathan Smith, Dan Clark, Charley Genever, Piers Harrison-Reid, Geneviève L. Walsh, Christine York, Matt Annis, Thomas Ford, and Jayd Amber Green – and all for a fiver entry fee. Now that is poetic value for money!

I also did my second ever AirBnB that night, staying with a lovely lady called Sylvana in Bury town centre. And even though I was only in the house for about six hours in total (what with all the travel-based chaos and all) it was another really nice experience. Sylvana was incredibly kind and welcoming, and her house was pretty beautiful too! We also had a really good chinwag about her undergraduate thesis, and I would’ve loved to have stayed around and chatted longer if I had the time.

This week, I’ve been drumming up Fenland Poet Laureate publicity on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (Check me out here – we’re 2.5 hours into the programme!) and performing at the fantastic Too Deep for a Monday Christmas Party, where I shared the stage with a veritable pride of incredible women including Sarah Crutwell, Sophie Sparham, Bridie Squires, That Welsh Woman, and Midnight Shelley!

My most serious face (or it could just be wind...)

Finally, my last gig of the year was the Poetry is Dead Good Christmas Party, during which time Chris McLoughlin, Joshua Judson, Bridie Squires and I dressed in our finest sportswear to battle it out for glory in Poetercize – the Poetry Gameshow!

Poetercize is kind of like a cross between Poetry Please and the Krypton Factor, with physical and mental challenges galore, lots of exotic wordplay, and even a bit of dancing thrown into the mix! The game’s hosted and devised by the mighty Stephen Thomas, who basically tortures poets for a living – making us wear our most outlandish trackie bees while sweating it out in front of an audience to win nothing but book tokens and bucket-loads of glory!

But not this type of Glory

This particular event was a rematch – Chris and I were reigning champions, having won our last battle in October at Hockley Hustle, while Bridie and Joshua were took on the role of plucky underdogs in round two.

Well, it was a close-run thing: Chris and I won the French poem round (with an educated guess that turned out to be right on the money), while Bridie and Josh excelled in the interpretive dance and ‘boobs or balls’ segments of the show.

In the end, there was just one point between us, and it all came down to the final – a frenetic word-hunt obstacle course and poetry slam! We each gave 110% and really made it our own, but couldn’t quite match the lyrical dexterity of our worthy adversaries!

Stretching our Poetry Muscles at Hockley Hustle in October

Joshua and Bridie emerged victorious, and although I am totally magnanimous in defeat, I reckon we was robbed! Nah, it was a brilliant event though, and really good fun too. But, we definitely need to do best two out of three to determine the ultimate winner in 2017!

Next week, I am mostly going to be eating turkey sandwiches, smelly cheeses, those weird little shrivel cocktail sausages, and all the other marvellous left-over Christmas food. I’ll also be doing a few Christmassy posts, and hopefully writing a few new poems (Chance would be a fine thing!)

Also, there will be Christmas Dinner

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and blumming wonderful New Year, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Projects, Projects and More Projects

Hello there! I know this is a ridiculous cliché, but the month has really flown by, hasn’t it? I can’t believe it’s December already!

And, after my far-flung adventures in October and early November, I thought it was high time I spent a bit more time closer to home. So, a couple of weeks ago, I took a carload of poets up the A612 for a Folk and Poetry event in Southwell.

There were four of us in my little Corsa – Trevor, Hazel, Clare and me – and as we drove down the abandoned-looking dirt track towards the spooky building the sat-nav promised was our destination, I couldn’t help feeling like this was the start of a horror movie: four poets lost on the way to a gig accidentally end up at the remote home of a serial killer in the remote Nottinghamshire countryside! Dun dun dun!

As it turned out, it was actually a pretty swanky place!

Luckily, that stuff was all in my imagination, and we actually made it to the venue in one piece: a fantastic barn conversion that housed music and dance events, and residencies for performing artists from across the UK.

It was a really cool place to perform and – considering most of the audience didn’t know there would be poetry ahead of their Headline act – I think we did a pretty good job! Lots of people stopped us afterwards to ask us about our stuff, and it was so lovely to be part of something a bit different too.

Then, last week, I popped along to West Bridgford Library to check out Poetry Aloud, a fantastic event curated by graduates from Nottingham Trent University’s MA Creative Writing Course.

There were some fab sets from my fellow DIY poets Trevor Wright and Lytisha Tunbridge, and a great performance by the very lovely Katy Gearing, as well as some fantastic stuff from Becky Cullen, Jo Dixon, Lucy Peacock, Elvire Roberts, Andrew Taylor and Rory Waterman. It was a veritable feast for the ears! Plus, it gave me morsel of encouragement for possible future MA-related dreams. Watch this space, I guess!

Elvire Roberts reciting her fab poetry at Poetry Aloud

Also this month, I’ve been feverishly plugging the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, which launched a few weeks’ ago.

The Fenland Poet Laureate Programme is a community arts project that seeks to promote poetry in the rural areas of North and East Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk and South Lincolnshire (more commonly known as ‘The Fens’.) The programme helps to facilitate creative opportunities and support writers across the region, and one of the main ways we do this is through the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition!

The competition runs annually, and asks talented local writers from the ages of 10-110 (and older if you like!) to ‘write a poem for Fenland’. The poems are judged completely anonymously and, once our panel have picked their favourites, the shortlisted poets are invited to an awards ceremony, where the winners are announced!

One of the best things about winning the title is that you really can do anything you like with your time in the post: former laureates have set up local open mic nights, edited publications, established literary magazines, written poems for local events and organisations, organised writing workshops, performed at local, national and international festivals, and done loads of other cool things with the support of the Fenland Poet Laureate Programme. It’s a great was of raising your own profile, as well as taking advantage of opportunities, and hopefully giving other local writers a helping hand too!

A flock of Fenland Poet Laureates!

This year, I’m coordinating the entries (and anonymising them ready to pass them onto our judging team) and I can’t tell you how excited I am every time another entry pings into the inbox! Plus, I get to play with spreadsheets to log all the entries – and I do love a good spreadsheet! (Who doesn’t?!)

If you live, work or study in the Fenland area, and fancy your chances at becoming our Laureate for 2017, send us your entries! All the details on how to enter, as well as info on whether you fall under our eligibility criteria, are available on the Fenland Poetry website. I am disgustingly excited about receiving your poems!

Mary Livingstone - Fenland Poet Laureate 2016 - reading her winning poem

I’ve also been having a marvellous time working with Writing East Midlands on the Write Here: Sanctuary project, helping very excellent Nottingham-based poet Rich Goodson to facilitate a series of creative writing workshops with a group of refugees and asylum seekers.

Rich and I have been working with members of the Women’s Cultural Exchange Group at the Refugee Forum in Nottingham, and there are also other poets working with groups in Derby and Leicester as part of the project.

A Write Here: Sanctuary workshop in full swing!

It’s been so amazing to work with so many incredible, intelligent and riotously funny women, and Wednesday mornings are now the highlight of my week! In fact, my favourite part of the project is that, because we have thirteen sessions spread out over thirteen weeks, we’ve all really got a chance to get to know each other, and it’s been so cool to watch everyone’s writing improve and grow of the course of the sessions.

I’m definitely going to a big post about the whole experience soon – so watch out for that – but for now I’m just going to say that in today’s session, Rich taught the group how to write villanelles (which are super hard!) and our participants wrote so many good poems that it actually made me want to do a bit of a happy cry! But I didn’t because I am a professional.

So Professional!

I also managed do some cheeky recording over the weekend, so I have a new youtube video online!

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, so if you fancy taking a look at my very pale and animated little face, you can check out the video here.

Please do give it a cheeky watch, and share it if you think it’s worth sharing, as it would blumming marvellous to get it to over 100 views!

Behind the scenes video photo! (And jazz hands, apparently?!)

Next week, we have our final Crosswords Spoken Word Open Mic of the year, and you should definitely come if you’re in the Nottingham area. It’s downstairs at the Malt Cross pub in the city centre on Wednesday 7th December. Doors open at 7:30pm and we start the show at 8pm. It’s £2 per person, and there’s loads of open mic slots, so we’d love to see you there. Check out our Facebook event for more details.