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!

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