Melbourne, Victoria. Late January 2014

Melbourne is a beautiful city.  It reminded me a little of Bristol in so much as there are multiple small suburbs or areas just outside the city centre which seem to have their own personalities and stories to tell. As a by-product of finding my way to various poetry events and places to stay while I’ve been here, I’ve had the chance to explore around the city. I also heard a poem read by Melbourne-based poet Ian McBride… I can’t find it anywhere online, but it describes Melbourne (I’m paraphrasing) as a girl sleeping, curled around the bay. The poem describes the city as many other things besides. It does a much better job of describing Melbourne than I could, so I will keep trying to find it.

I’ve seen some brilliant poets. I bought a collection called ‘This Skin, A Net’ by Andy Jackson, who I saw read at Passionate Tongues in Brunswick. It’s uncommonly beautiful and unusual, whilst also being really communicative and easy to dive into. Andy has a website- amongtheregulars.wordpress.com. Have a peek at it, he’s great.

I also can’t recommend highly enough that you look up poet Randall Stephens. Happily, he’s just released a spoken word album which you can download NOW, and I suggest you do. He’s a robust, alarming, funny and sharp performer. See hear… https://randallstephens.bandcamp.com/

In all the poetry events I went to, unfortunately I didn’t see any female featured poets (apart from myself). This isn’t to say that this is common in Melbourne, I wasn’t there long enough to judge, but I would have like to have heard more from some of the amazing female poets that I heard in the open mics, especially from Loran Steinberg, who’s poem about being bothered by aggressive Neanderthals of public transport was articulate, scary, relatable and also funny. Having said that, there was an all-female poetry night called Mother Tongue, which I couldn’t make it to. So this is not to say that women are not represented in the Melbourne Poetry Scene or anything, just that I would have liked to have seen more.

I have found the Melbourne poetry scene to be friendly, welcoming and supportive. Thanks to Passionate Tongues, The Dan Poets, and Muses, Musos (despite venue troubles!) for having us. It was a real pleasure.

I’ve got to say, it was Australia Day while I was in Melbourne. The day which marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British Ships on Australian soil. It was really interesting and eye opening to hear and witness the various reactions and responses to the occasion. With people re-dubbing the day such things as ‘Invasion Day’ and ‘Survival Day, and celebrating in every way from Aboriginal Hip-Hop nights, to strong and active opposition of the day existing at all, to drinking all day, wrapped in an Australian flag , and subsequently vomiting all over  the last train home. To a certain extent, people in any metropolitan city will choose to celebrate public holidays differently, no surprise there. But it was more than that. Australia is Going Through Some Shit with regards to its attitudes towards its history, and treatment of its native people. Not one person, whether they were celebrating gently with friends, going wild, or purposefully not marking the day, didn’t have something to say about the whys and wherefores of if / when / how Australia Day should be marked.

The ins and outs of this delicate and complicated issue are not mine to pass comment on really. But I just found it really eye opening, interesting and affecting to see a city so deep in discussion with itself. The issue and the history are still recent enough that the end result is still being shaped, attitudes are still changing and the debate is still in full force.

Incidentally, we spent the first part of Australia Day at a BBQ with friends, and the second part at Muses, Musos- a poetry and music event which was supposed to be in a pub, but due to venue issues ended up being held on the pitch at Victoria Park (a well kept, but disused football stadium). In the end, we couldn’t have asked for a better venue, it was beautiful to hear and share poems in the open air and the hush of the stadium. And for my part in Australia / Invasion / Survival Day, I read Robert Burns’ ‘My Bonnie Mary’ with a glass raised to the sunset and the empty bleachers (it was also Burns’ birthday the day before). A final note on that event; what a pleasure to share the bill with this very talented woman, check her out. http://www.philemonmusic.com/

Whilst in Melbourne we stayed with old friends, new friends, friends with beautiful new babies, and our respective families, and made super welcome everywhere. I’m really grateful to everyone for looking after us, especially since while I was in MeIbourne, I got the sad news from home that another of my wonderful Grandads, Sid, had passed away. To lose two men who you loved so very much only six weeks apart is really hard, especially being so far away from home and not being able to support my parents and family properly in their grief. But both Jack and Sid were great adventurers in their time, and hard workers too. So the only thing I can do is determine to be a bold adventurer and a hard worker myself, while I am here.

We’ve got a Great Ocean Road to drive down, and when we get back to Adelaide, a beautiful fringe show to produce and perform.  There’s nothing like bereavement to remind you not to waste your time on this earth, so I’d better do it properly.

Brunswick East, Melbourne

Brunswick East, Melbourne

 

Adelaide, South Australia. January 2014

Now seems like a good time to write a quick blog update, because I spent most of today schlepping around beautiful Adelaide in the 29’C heat, buying props for our show, Folly, which myself and my good friend (musician and co-conspirator Nuala Honan) are here to perform at The Adelaide Fringe. Because we were lucky enough to secure funding from Arts Council England and the British Council’s ‘Artists’ International Development Fund’, we’re able to afford to buy all the props we need and the show is going to look really beautiful. I’ve found props in toy shops, op-shops, bottle-o’s and markets. Hippy shops and factory second stores, and even a park after a storm (we needed a fallen down tree for the set, and we found the perfect one!).

We visited our two main venues this week (The Deli in Thebarton, and The Grace Emily). Both are really great venues and are going to bring something different to the show. I nearly squealed with delight when we saw the space at The Deli for the first time- it is in a garden filled with tropical plants, lanterns and bamboo. I couldn’t have designed a better back drop for Folly!

I’ve also been making forays into the Adelaide poetry scene, meeting poets and popping into open mics. The types and styles of poetry seem to be as diverse as in Bristol. I wondered if I might encounter a certain ‘type’ of poetry, but all the poets I’ve heard so far have been as different from each other as you can imagine. Here’s a brilliant poet that especially caught my ear who I think is brilliant…http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4vEpGYg1zEA&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D4vEpGYg1zEA
The SA poets I’ve met so far have also been super friendly and supportive, in every way from info about poetry events in the area, to offering us lifts to the more hard-to-reach venues.

Our promotional banner for the fringe website was finished this week (see below) and the posters and flyers are almost ready the be printed and flung around the city. Poster, flyer and banner all designed by our good friend and multi-talented artist / poet / international woman of mystery Liz Greenfield. When me and Nuala saw the poster, we both said it looks exactly like we hoped it would, except better. There’s the benefit of being able to pay a real artist to design real quality art for your promo… You get what you hoped, except better. Im feeling very lucky.

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We head to Melbourne this week to do a few shows, which I’m really excited about. If email communication is anything to go by, the Melbourne poets seems as friendly and welcoming as the ones here in Adelaide. I’ll post an update of how the shows go (dates below), and the highlights that we find from the Melbourne poetry and arts scene.

In other news… The landscape of South Australia continues to take my breath away. It’s hard to describe, but basically it’s BIG. The sky is big, the sea is big, the horizon is big. As soon as you get even a short way out of the city, the landscape stretches away from you in a kind of long sigh until it hits the edge of the world. I feel like a runaway in a 90s indie film, every time I look out of a train window think there should be a Neil Young song playing in the background.

Also, we’ve been eating a lot of feta and making up a lot of high quality feta puns. I found a giant furry huntsman spider on the curtains and I totally dealt with it like a pro, no screaming. We’ve also become tragically addicted to ‘South Australian Fruit Cup Cordial’. If we don’t come home, expect to find us rattling from too many sugar highs, barricaded into our flat behind thousands of empty bottles of the stuff, with our teeth rotted out. But that probably won’t happen. Probably.

Right, I’m going to make some lunch. Things are getting feta all the time (sorry).