Friday, 23 June 2017

FRIDAY NIGHT NEWS - Festivals, Workshops and Not Getting My Dream Job

Jeez – it's been a long time since I last did a proper post, hasn't it? Since we last spoke back in May, I've performed at three festivals, facilitated two creative writing workshops, hosted an open mic night, gained an apprentice, and I almost landed my dream job – but didn't...

I also did a bit of voting in the General Election (My team didn't win – boo!) wrote a ten minute play for an immersive audio project, had a go in a sensory deprivation tank, and rode a segway (although not all at the same time).

Sensory Deprivation ftw!

So it's been a pretty eventful month here at poetry towers, all things considered.

Performing at Badbury Rings Rewind Festival on the second May Bank Holiday weekend was absolutely glorious, and I have to say a massive thanks to Myriam San Marco for inviting me down to Devon to get involved.

It was a really cool, chilled out festival, and it was really lovely to be part of such a friendly and welcoming group of poets too! Special thanks to Danielle for being kind enough to hang out with me for the afternoon and wise enough to know that, even when it's cloudy, you can still get sunburned!

Check me out in all my burnt face glory!

I was surprised and delighted to win the festival slam on the Saturday night, and I can't wait to get down to Bournemouth in September to play a full set at the regular the Wordmakers and Silence-Breakers collective poetry night! Plus, I can now say that I've performed poems on an iron age hill fort – and how many people can say that?!


On 10th and 11th June, I gathered up a gaggle of DIY Poets and we headed down to the Gate to Southwell Festival for poetry, spoken word and a bit of storytelling at this folk and roots music event.

It was our second visit to the festival, and I think we did a pretty good job this time around. The festival slam was particularly good – even if I do say so myself – with a sizeable audience in the tent and a great mix of performers and festival-goers vying for the ultimate prize: the title of Bard of Southwell 2017.

In the end we had two winners, Hazel Warren and Shaun Moore, who each scored 28 points out of 30, and will have to negotiate some kind of job-sharing arrangement in order to fulfil their esteemed ceremonial duties. (Luckily for them – especially Shaun, who lives in Glasgow – the crown and its associated burden of duties are entirely imaginary at this point!)

Thanks to all the poets who came along and participated in the slam and the showcase – you really did a fabulous job!

Some of our lovely DIY Poets at Gate to Southwell Festival

Then, on Wednesday 14th June, I popped down to the caves for another excellent subterranean spoken word spectacular at Crosswords Open Mic.

Our plucky poetry patrons gathered underneath St James' Street for an incredible featured set from the wonderful Geneviève L. Walsh. Geneviève's set was funny, poignant and well-observed, brimming with cheeky asides and affectionate digs at her home town of Halifax.

We also had some really powerful performances on the open mic, with a couple of poets sharing some really intense experiences and feelings with us through their work. It was a really honour to hear these poems, as well as the more light-hearted stuff, and I'm really glad that people feel safe enough to share stuff with us!

Crosswords will be back in the caves on Wednesday 12th July when our featured artist will be the fantastic Neal Pike. Check out our facebook events page, or our brand new Twitter page for more details!

The marvellous Neal Pike

(We've also gained an apprentice at Crosswords in the form of the very lovely and talented Jake Wildeman. So that's exciting. And it'll mean I have someone to help me set up the chairs of an evening too! Hoorah!)

Then last week, I hot-footed it down to Cambridge to take part in the second annual In Other Words Festival – a fringe-like weekend of poetry and performance curated by the lovely folk at Allographic. I gave a poetry workshop on funny writing, in which some very ridiculous and creative writing was accomplished, and and AND I also did a lovely poetry performance with my good friend and former Fenland partner in poetic crime Elaine Ewart!

Elaine! (Photo by JS Watts)

Elaine is a brilliant writer, and it was wonderful to hear her perform some new stuff, as well as some of my all-time favourites. (I'm looking at you, 'Llamas'!)

I also got the chance to catch shows from Hannah Chutzpah and JS Watts, so that was really lovely as well! I only wish I'd been able to stay longer and check out even more of the fantastic programme but unfortunately I'd eaten something dodgy at some point in the day, and my guts were no longer my friends. Hooray for sensitive stomachs!

But seriously, massive well done to Fay, Nikki, Emma, JS, Mark, Ups, Owain and the rest of the team for their incredible organisation of the In Other Words Festival, curating shows and wrangling poets and audiences across three days and a load of different venues – you lot are bloody inspiring!

Finally, this week I got the chance to hang out with an amazing group of young refugees and asylum-seekers as part of the Writing East Midlands Write Here: Sanctuary Project phase 2.

Working alongside excellent poet and educator Andrew 'Mulletproof' Graves, I helped to facilitate a poetry workshop at a youth centre in Nottingham that primarily caters to teenagers who have come from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

Andrew Graves (aka the Mulletproof poet)

It was a really brilliant session, and I was overwhelmed by the boundless enthusiasm of all the young people we worked with. Despite a few difficulties with language (us not them) we wrote some really strong group poems, and I also learnt a lot about Eritrean foods, the colours of emotions, and also the Urdu word for happy, which is 'Khushhali'.

I also really loved the fact that all the kids were so clued up on Nottingham dialect. In fact one of them explained to us that, in Nottingham, you don't say 'hello', you say 'ey up'.

I tell you what, he's not wrong!

It was a genuinely lovely workshop, and I can't wait to head back and work with this group again soon!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - Interpretations, Other Languages and Representing Nottingham

Hello lovely people! Just a very quick one today, to let you in on an exciting piece of news that I’ve just received. ***excited face***

The excellent folks at Nottingham City of Literature have been sharing the video we made together, featuring my poem, No Such Thing as a Bacon Roll. Their friends at Ljubljana City of Literature in Slovenia saw it and liked it, and are going to translate the poem into Slovenian for an article they’re running on their website!

This is Slovenia - innit gorgeous? (Picture by Michael Gabler)

I think this is the first time my poetry has been translated into another language – that I know of anyway – and certainly the first time it’s ever been translated into Slovenian!

I absolutely cannot wait to be able to share it with you!

On a related note, the lovely Matt Turpin from Nottingham City of Literature has been testing out the automatic subtitle feature on youtube, using my poem, and it seems that the subtitling algorithm has a very different interpretation of what Nottingham is all about…

I don’t know whether this speaks to my terrible accent, or the fact that machine-learning is not as advanced as youtube would like to think, but either way, the new version of the poem makes for interesting reading:

No such thing as a camera you guys
Choose a cop
Huber Canal, she’s slender
Market Forrestfield
Be fair the market
Where stone lion
And nothing in life
Choose walking through the arboretum on a warm summer’s evening
Or vomit rear and hook
On the back of the base fee
Morning vintage stuff
Even broken cocktail
Or try in vain pepper theorem
To the castle that isn’t even a council
Recorder more
Recorder more hours
Choose the rebels and the underdogs
Choose DH Lawrence Brian Clough
At law Byron!
Nailed win
And Super Life Heidi –hi!
Alan Sillitoe and Torvill and Dean
Shoes, Paul Smith
Choose some of the best inventions of the 20th century
An fMri machine
HP thought and supermarket sweep
Choose trem fridge and Meadow lane
Choose the most appoint arena and the City Ground
You will be stumbling out of the ocean at 4am
With no idea where your sugar bright
Green chance pics are Robin Hood
Absolutely everywhere
Which is friendly conversation with
Strangers on buses
She’s taken a mick and not get the marble
Choose I
Choose the pump


There’s something bizarrely beautiful about it, don’t you think? My favourite bit is definitely “Morning vintage stuff / Even broken cocktail / Or try in vain pepper theorem”.

Why not check out the original video here, and see if you can read along?