Sunday, 20 August 2017

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017


Last week I finally got my bum in gear and made it all the way up to Scotland to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

Proof!

In case you've never heard of it before (And if that's the case – where have you been for the last seventy years?!) the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world's largest arts festival, with over 3,000 shows taking place in over 300 venues across the city throughout the month of August. There's comedy, theatre, dance, circus, cabaret, magic, music and children's shows, but it probably goes without saying that I was there for the spoken word.

I went up for five days, basically to have a look around and see what what all the fuss was about, and also because I haven't had a proper holiday since I was eighteen and I needed a good excuse for a little bit of 'me time' (surrounded by tens of thousands of other people doing the same, naturally).

This is not a pic of me, I just thought it was cool #artiscool

I went up on my own, which had its advantages and disadvantages. The main up-side was that I could do whatever I fancied whenever I pleased – which is nice – and meant that I could go and see all the shows I wanted without being dragged along to anything I didn't fancy.

It also meant I spent a lot of time on my own, which I don't normally do, and all in all it was a pretty positive experience. However, it would have been nice to have a Fringe buddy to hang out with, and when I go next year, I'm definitely going to drag a few friends with me, whether they like it or not!

Also, I am terrible at selfies and shouldn't be in charge of documenting my own holidays...

See..

...what...

...I mean?

But what about the shows themselves? Well, I saw some fantastic stuff that really moved me, made me laugh and made me think, and overall I was really impressed with the quality of the shows on the Free Fringe. I did see a couple of things that I didn't enjoy, but that's the joy of the Fringe: there's something for everyone, and not everything is going to float everyone's boat.

Pictured, my boat, not floating

That being said, this is my 100% objective (totally subjective) top five favourite shows that I saw at the Fringe:

Door to Door Poetry by Rowan McCabe – Rowan deftly weaves a tale of positivity, humanity and humility with wit and compassion, focusing on what happens when we choose to interact with strangers on a personal level. Moving and profound, this was definitely my pick of the Fringe!

Two Little Ducks by Matt Abbott – Matt tackles big political themes in his show, taking on immigration, political instability, working-class identity, and Brexit in a show that weaves three narratives into one and makes a forceful argument for mutualcompassion without ever becoming preachy.

My Cloth-Earred Heart by Melanie Branton – Ostensibly about her inability to find a boyfriend, Melanie's show examines societal norms, media representations of love emotional violence, and obsessive behaviour. But despite these heavy topics, the show is funny as well as deeply thought-provoking.

Anxiety and Animal Gifs by Hannah Chutzpah – How can young people ever hope to be happy when there are no decent houses to rent, jobs are few and far between, and it costs more to live in London that it does to bring up a whole herd of baby elephants? That's the bleak question raised in this wryly funny show about how millenials are totally screwed right now. Hannah's on-stage presence is completely charming, and the show was named one of the top queer pics of the Fringe too!

Circled in the Radio Times by John Osborne – John Osborne retells the story of his grandad's life through old copies of the Radio Times found in his shed (in which his favourite shows are circled). John uses this simple premise to tell a heart-warming story about family, life and interpersonal relationships, all through the prism of eighties and nineties TV. This is nostalgia used as a force for good, and I'm not ashamed to say that I cried twice during this one!

I also saw some great stuff from Ben MacPherson, Jimmy Hogg, Rob Auton, Gecko, Dominic Berry, David Lee Morgan, Loud Poets, Raise the Bar and Milk Poetry, plus some very good improv from the folks at Spontaneous Sherlock, and some very cool exhibitions in the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Surgery, and the National Gallery of Scotland, and some incredible views of the city from the top of Calton Hill!

It was a very busy week!

As for me, I managed to wangle a few guest spots at different shows during my time up in Edinburgh. I did a slot at the very marvellous 'That's What She Said' a show organised by the wonderful Paul and Jane from For Books' Sake, which featured Sabrina Mahfouz, alongside poet Lydia Melville, novelist Stella H Birrell and playwright Annie George. The room was completely packed and my set went down really well (I even sold some pamphlets!)

Doing poems at That's What She Said

I also performed with the lovely folk at Allographic: Other Voices (in the most haunted pub in Edinburgh) and She Grrowls, which took place in a weird empty office block behind a pub, which had been converted into venue space for the Fringe. Both shows were excellent fun, and I was particularly impressed by the high quality of performers on the open mic, as well as the colossal talents of Fay Roberts and Carmina Masoliver (who host Allographic and She Grrrowls respectively).

Finally, I joined York-based poet Henry Raby for his show Nerd Punks 3D, which was a fast, funny and politically-charged look at whether punks and nerds could harness their collective power to save the world!

All in all, I'd definitely recommend going up to Edinburgh Fringe if you can – the people are friendly, the shows are entertaining and Edinburgh is just beautiful. I'm already planning my trip for next year!

See you next year, Edinburgh!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

THURSDAY NIGHT NEWS - WOMAD 2017


Last weekend, I went on a little adventure down to Wiltshire to do a bit of mud-wallowing, field-dancing, and shouting at strangers about my lady bits.

Just another Saturday afternoon for me tbh…

Ok, perhaps I’ve slightly misconstrued the content of my weekend for comic effect. (I’m such a card!) The actual reason for my epic voyage cross-country was to take advantage of an amazing opportunity to perform at WOMAD Festival 2017!

Impossible to photograph this sign without a million people on it

In case you've never heard of it before, WOMAD is an absolutely beautiful music festival, set within the gorgeous greenery of the Cotswolds in Wiltshire. The festival was set up by old-school rocker Peter Gabriel and his chums in the 1980s, and it provides a platform for loads of amazing artists and performers from across the world, all doing fantastic, genre-bending stuff!

We arrived on Saturday morning, and the festival was already in full swing. The whole site had a really relaxed and friendly vibe, and it was great to see groups of teenagers dancing side by side with festival-goers of a slightly more mature vintage, while families with small children cheerfully toddled through the muddy puddles between the big stages.

The mud was pretty intense though...

It was such a cool experience, and I'm really grateful to Liv Torc for inviting me along to perform! Liv programmed three days’ worth of epic spoken word at the Hip Yak Poetry Shack, and it was a genuine honour to be part of it.

I saw incredible performances from Hannah Teasdale, Anna Freeman, Liv Torc, Maxwell Golden, Rebecca Tantony, Zia Ahmed, Melanie Branton, Jenn Hart, Shagufta Iqbal and Damian O'Vitch, and managed to miss the likes of Chris Redmond, Jonny Fluffypunk, Inua Ellams, Lydia Towsey, Hannah Lowe, Chloe Jacquet, Grace Cohen, Elvis McGonagall and John Hegley!

John Hegley brings all the festival-goers to the yard

I can’t imagine being part of a better group of poets, and it was so lovely to have such a diversity of words and voices on stage. Liv is truly a master events programmer!

The audience were bloody lovely too – very warm and appreciative – and I even managed to sell a pamphlet, so that paid for my dinner on the Sunday night!

Me next to the WOMAD sign (I'm the one dressed as a ghost from pacman, obvs)

Much as I wanted to sit in the poetry tent all weekend, I’d promised my minder (and/or boyfriend) that we’d go see a bit of music as well. I tell you what, it was a good job we did! We managed to catch some post-industrial hardcore – with Tunisian Sufi Trance vocals/percussion – from Ifriqiyya Electrique; some deliciously smooth electronica courtesy of UK producer Rival Consoles; and some intense dance music infused with African sound recordings from 1930s-1970s from South London collective Beating Heart.

We sung a Queen medley in the rain with the Spooky Men’s Corale, and marvelled at the hugely impressive beatboxing skills of Grace Savage and Bellatrix. I also had a look round the Large Hadron Collider in the Physics tent (via a VR heads).

This is what a sense of wonder looks like (similar to gormlessness, as it happens)

Plus, I spent my first ever night in a tent! Talk about a baptism of fire! (Or should that be a baptism of rain?)

As for my performance, I think it went pretty well. There was a good crowd in the tent on Sunday afternoon, and the audience responded well to my stuff, which was very kind of them.

Well, that dress is much shorter than I imagined...

I snuck out into the crowd after my set (to watch Rebecca Tantony’s pitch-perfect performance) and it was really nice to see people enjoying the poetry.

Hope to see you again next year, WOMAD, you magnificent bastard!