Summer Shakedown

It’s been on my to-do list all summer to write a little blog about each lovely thing that happened, poetry wise. But summer for me is always a grass stained blur of fields and tents and walkie-talkies and hearing poems over the distant rumble of the bass from a nearby reggae soundsystem and glitter and working more hours than I sleep and perhaps, the occasional cider. So in the few days I got to spend at home in between festivals (and running some super fun workshops for Take Art in Somerset) I was mostly desperately trying to claw back some sanity and rest form the depths of my duvet, or doing laundry.

As such, here is a quick round-up of Summer 2014, if for no other reason than I can look back and remember what happened.

I was booked to perform at Glastonbury Festival for the first time, on the Poetry and Words Stage. It was a real honour to be asked. I jumped up and down in a café on Stokes Croft when I got the email. The thing is about the Poetry and Words Stage is that they take open submissions to from potential performers, so they are never booking poets from one particular scene or city. As such, I got to meet, spend time with, and watch perform, some amazing poets that I hadn’t previously had the pleasure, such as Stephen James Smith, Molly Case, Abe Nouk, Jess Green, Antosh Wojcik and Victoria Shineman, and ones I don’t get to see perform half as often as I’d like, such as Scott Tyrell, Sara Jane Arbury and Marcus Moore. There was also a whole host of friendly faces and poets that I already adored to the very bottom of my socks, so I left feeling proud of my craft, and to be part of such a diverse and talented community. There’s me on the Poetry & Words Stage, looking like a flower pot man! (Photo by Matt Gillet)

glastonbury matt gillet

Fellow poet Scott Tyrrel made us all into owls for the publicity!

Fellow poet Scott Tyrrel made us all into owls for the publicity!

Me and Nuala did one of our last ever shows of ‘Folly’ at WOMAD Festival, and I did a few solo sets as well. We were performing as part of the Hip Yak Poetry Shack, headed up by the endlessly talented and capable Liv Torc, with a little help from Chris Redmond and Jonny Fluffy Punk. It was so nice to be made welcome into another poetry family, and the weather was so glorious all weekend that sometimes whilst dancing bare foot to Senegalese music, it was genuinely difficult to remember that we were just in a field in Malmesbury. I was nervous about performing Folly outside in the open air for the first time, especially with the nature of audiences at festival’s being quite transient and fickle (and the show being an hour long), but it was real pleasure. By the time we performed on the Sunday, all the brilliant poets that had been performing as part of the Hip Yak Poetry Shack over the weekend had built up a happy and comfortable audience which were really friendly and welcoming to a watching a whole show, and it was lovely performing in the sunshine. We were in the arboretum so all the trees were swishing above us.

Performing at the Hip Yak Poetry Shack at WOMAD 2014

Performing at the Hip Yak Poetry Shack at WOMAD 2014

Then came the magical washing machine of taking our beautiful Wandering Word Stage to Boomtown, and then to Shambala Festival, in August. I could write an entire blog / poem / opus / book about what a pleasure it is working for Wandering Word, welcoming new poets onto our stage and welcoming back poets that we are already privileged to count as part of our family. Maybe I will write that, but for now I will say- it was an emotional, sleepless, hard-working, harder-playing, glitter and words-fuelled jumble of joy, and it makes me so proud to be presenting a stage which champions poets and spoken word as a form of entertainment and engagement as a natural part of such party atmospheres as the music festival scene. As a stage, we are open for 48 hours over the course of Shambala weekend, and of course some of that time is taken up with brilliant bands and DJs, but the majority is spoken word, drawing crowds of up to 250 hundred people. It makes my heart sing with pride. As an organisation, we are ten years old this year, and it is so exciting to be going from strength to strength.

Compering on our beautiful Wandering Word Stage at Boomtown 2014. Photograph by Duncan Stokes

Compering on our beautiful Wandering Word Stage at Boomtown 2014. Photograph by Duncan Stokes

Our newest piece of decor, by treasured artist Anna Higgie, marking ten years of Wandering Word poetry with quote from some of our favourite poets from over the years.

Our newest piece of decor, by treasured artist Anna Higgie, marking ten years of Wandering Word poetry with quote from some of our favourite poets from over the years.

In between those festivals I had the absolutely terrifying pleasure of finally getting to perform at Tongue Fu, an amazing poetry night in London where they get you to perform with an incredibly talented band of improvising musicians. I haven’t had stage fright like that for years, but it was such an amazing experience, once I was able to breath steadily!

I also wrote a commission for an arts project called ‘Unpacking a Potted History’, which you can read more about HERE, and was lucky enough to be involved in Somerset-based charity ‘Take Art’s ‘What Change?’ project, which ran throughout the summer in Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea. I love seaside town, so getting to run poetry workshops in seaside towns was basically my dream job. You can read the more about the project, and about Take Art HERE, and I suggest you do it you are based anywhere in Somerset, they do fantastic things!

Lastly, at the beginning of September, Nuala and I took our show ‘Folly’ on a mini tour of our last EVER three shows, in Bristol, Brighton and London. It was so very emotional to be performing our beloved show and knowing it was the last times we would ever perform it. We worked so hard putting Folly together- in our bedrooms, with no funding or come to that, no money at all! And never knowing if anyone would ever book us or think it was any good. Having then had the wonderful opportunity to take it to the Adelaide Fringe, and be funded by ACE and the British Council makes me very proud and grateful, and it was real sad to be putting to bed a show that has taken us on such a journey. But we knew it was time, and we are SO keen and eager to get to writing something new and exciting together! Thanks so much to Hammer and Tongue for hosting our final Folly’s! It was an honour and a privilege, and the audiences were so supportive and responsive and kind.

brighton folly

So, good bye Folly and good night summer… what’s next?

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Last ever three performances of FOLLY

HEY INTERNET! (Specifically people on the internet who live in BRISTOL, BRIGHTON and LONDON).

Me and Nuala Honan are doing THREE more shows EVER of our beloved ‘miserable poetry musical’ FOLLY, the one we took on tour around Australia and to the Adelaide Fringe.

THREE more shows ever, and then we’re putting her to bed forever. So you should come to one of these if you want to see it!

BRISTOL on Tues 2ns Sept @ Live in the Lion’s Den @ The Golden Lion, Gloucester Rd. Its kind of a warm up / run through so we’re going on early. Come down around 7.45 if you want to catch it cos we’re NEVER doing it in Bristol again!

BRIGHTON on Thursday 4th Sept @ Hammer & Tongue, Komedia, Gardener Street, Brighton. With support from the brilliant Steve Pottinger and an open poetry slam! £5/£6 https://www.facebook.com/events/803874579657820/

LONDON on Monday 8th Sept @ Hammer & Tongue, Green Note Cafe, Camden. With support from Abbas Maysam Z and the Hammer & Tongue Camden regional slam final! https://www.facebook.com/events/668194913262932/?fref=ts

We are so sad to be doing out last ever Folly’s. but it is TIME, so please come and share our last hurrah! To read more about Folly, click here, and to read our reviews from the Adelaide Fringe, click here.

brighton folly

Home and Away

I called this blog post ‘Home and Away’ because I’m home, techinically, home, as in, back in Bristol, but I’m away a lot with gigs and stuff at the moment. So I’m home and away. Also, I’ve just got back from Australia, where the TV show Home and Away was set. It’s funny, see?

I was in Australia for three months, touring our show ‘Folly’ at The Adelaide Fringe with my co-conspirator, troubadour and original South Australian babe Nuala Honan. We had a little home scattered with props-in-the-making and promotional paper aeroplanes and flyers and avocadoes and an army of ants and, I’ll be honest, makeup and dirty dresses and rinsed-out swimwear and bobby pins. We sweated, toiled, chatted-up, blagged and drove for miles to makes gigs happen in Adelaide and Melbourne. We nearly melted. We dipped in and out of the sea like it ain’t no thing. We owe an eternal debt of gratitude to the skills, kindness, hard work and generosity of Iggy, Marg and Liam Honan, Mark Fitzgerald, Chris May, Sim and George and The Grace Emily Hotel staff, Leigh and The Deli staff, the choas and delight and welcoming that is the Melbourne poetry scene, the brilliant and hardworking and SO friendly Adelaide Fringe, and Arts Council England and The British Council who gave us an Artist’s International Development Grant. Then we were home in England and it was rainy mid-March, and it felt like we might have dreamt the whole thing. But we DIDN’T, we DID IT, and we are better and braver and more consumate performers and artist for the experience. What a wonderful experience.

I wasn’t sure what projects would present themselves once I poked my head out of the jet-lag duvet, but there are exciting things afoot for the summer… The programme for the Wandering Word stage which I help to programme at Boomtown and Shambala festival is shaping up to be as beautiful, original and treat-spangled line-up of poetry and music as you could wish to see on one stage. We can’t wait for August!

I’m booked to perform at WOMAD and Glastonbury festival which I’m SO excited about. I’m also going to be working with a brilliant and innovative project in MEXBOROUGH (an ex-mining town in South Yorkshire, really near where I grew up) which is going to combine Mexborough’s history as a centre for potteries with some amazing contemporary potters / clay scupltures who live and work there now, and the stories and tales that we can pursuade the good people of Mexborough to tell us about their lives and history! I am going to be a sort of poet-in-residence, producing work based on all of these things. Its going to be so wonderful to write about somewhere so close to my childhood and learn all these new (but old, but new) stories and mould some fresh new work out of them all. I’m so proud and pleased to be involved. More on that soon! There’s a little info about it here http://rightupourstreet.org.uk/blogs/blog/mexpac-making-unpacking-potted-history

The month of May is going to be really full, which feels like I’m officially back to real life and work. I’ve been working really hard to set up TWO May editions of the variety / cabaret-type mixed arts night that I run with some friends at The Attic in Bristol, Phantom Laundry.

The first edition is on thurs May 15th and features a brilliant, multi-genre, collaborative bunch of wonderful bands and musician called High Cross Society. Their stuff is truly joyful and original, and they will be supported by beautiful poets Rebecca Tantony and Toby Thompson, with DJ Dad leading us all to the dancefloor afterwards like some kind of silver-haired, killer-records-wielding Pied Piper.

And even before those two events which I’m curating, I’m going on a little mini-tour for Hammer & Tongue next week. Hammer & Tongue have events country-wide, and they also are great because they have an open slam system which feeds into a bigger national slam in London once a year, so its a really great way of uncovering new, brilliant poets and sharing them with the nation! I did a set at Hammer & Tongue Bristol this evening, and the depth and contrast of the slammers was sooooo brilliant. I love hearing new poets and poems, its so exciting! Next week I’ll be in Camden at The Green Note Cafe on Monday, in Oxford at The Old Fire Station on tuesday, and Cambridge at The Fountain on wednesday, then thursday back to Bristol for Phantom Laundry at The Attic! Woah, busy week!

So that’s it, unfortunately no longer basking in the South Australian sun, no longer gallavanting around being an international artist on the other side of the world. But one adventure finished to make room for more to begin and, perhaps if I approach May as an ‘adventure’ rather than thebusiestmonthever, then I’ll be less frazzled by the end of it! Adventures. Planes, trains and megabuses. Exciting.

 

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Reviews for Folly at The Adelaide Fringe.

I’m gathering these reviews all in one place, place partly for posterity and partly so I can link to them all at once. We’re half way through our fringe run, so if you’re an Adelaidian make sure to catch Folly at one of the following dates, before we have to fly back to rainy old England!

Wed 26th February – Grace Emily Hotel (8pm)
Thurs 27th February – The Deli (9pm)
Sat 1st March – The Deli (9pm)
Sun 2nd March – The Deli (9pm)
Tues 4th March – Grace Emily Hotel (8pm)

Here’s what the rags said…

RIP IT UP MAGAZINE
http://www.ripitup.com.au/lifestyle/article/folly-a-miserable-yorkshire-poetry-musical

‘In this hour-long prose poem set to music, English poet Sally Jenkinson and Australian guitarist Nuala Honan combine their considerable talents to take the audience on a trip of escape and self-discovery to the first world.

As the great adventure unfolds, this true-life recounting of a sometimes chaotic search for greener grass provides contemplative, funny and stirring moments.

Jenkinson’s words offer many lyrical highlights, painting some appealing and vivid images along the way. It would probably work in isolation as a spoken word piece but the addition of the musical score augments the poetry and makes this a performance that audiences of all types will enjoy. Honan’s inspired playing ranges from the lightest of touches to driving rhythms that match the vocals for power. It’s also quite lovely to look at; inexplicably visually lush.

All up, Folly provides a delightful night out for the eyes, ears and mind.’

ON DIT MAGAZINE
http://www.lifeoncampus.org.au/blogs/Entry.aspx?EID=13

Review: Folly – A Miserable Yorkshire Poetry Musical

Words: Daisy Freeburn

‘In the little back room in the Grace Emily, in the corner of a small stage, stood a bare tree lit with warm light. It was a small show – only about 20 seats. When the two performers, Sally Jenkinson and Nuala Honan, got up on stage, they could see every single one of our faces. I love this, the feeling of knowing the performers somehow.

Nuala’s gentle acoustic guitar set the mood of the play as a down-to-earth experience, with just the soft strumming of the guitar and Sally’s poetry being the only sounds. With each new part of the story, a token of sorts would be hung on the tree, gathering in the end to be a symbol of the show as a whole.

Toy aeroplanes, beer bottles, ferns, wooden beads accumulated as Sally told tales of travels throughout South-East Asia. At times, I was befuddled by whether she was mocking the typical white travellers who go overseas to poorer countries to make themselves feel good, or whether she was in the same boat as them. Nevertheless, her gorgeous prose and storytelling, paired with Nuala’s music, moved me. Especially the bit about aeroplanes. I, like Sally, hate aeroplanes.

I was confused about what they were trying to say to us in certain parts of the story. However, the overwhelming sense of homesickness and cyclone-in-your-mind feelings while travelling, conveyed so strongly through the show, is what I felt as I watched. With that, I could empathise.

See it for the beauty of words and the feeling of music. You might get something completely different out of it than I did. But that’s what’s so good about poetry and music.’

KRYZTOFF MAGAZINE
http://www.kryztoff.com/RAW/?p=8001

FRINGE – Folly – 4K
by rupert hogan turner

‘Folly is a forlorn tale of travel, lucid poetry describing the trials and tribulations of being a first world traveller in the second and third worlds. The show has the feel of picking up a travel journal half way through and peering deeply into another travellers mind. The performance was warm and cosy, the performers genuine and enthralling. There is a visceral sense of authenticity which draws the listeners further into the world being described to them.
The show is a culmination of the spoken word poetry of Sally Jenkinson and the soft blues guitar of Nuala Honan. Emotions run wild as the audience follows Jenkinson’s tale of traversing foreign shores. Jenkinson’s soft voice and beautiful accent heightened the audience’s attentions. Jenkinson speaks with emotion but at points seems erratic and anxious. The anxiety was clearly a portion of the role but at times seemed overdone.
Honan’s exemplary voice and melodies coupled Jenkinson’s emotive phrases. Her adroit strumming and resonant voice captured the emotions of Jenkinson’s spoken words. Honan’s tunes harmonised with Jenkinson’s poetry to create a moving atmosphere.
The soothing guitar and soft spoken words inspired a diverse range of poignant emotions; from the erratic unease of boarding the initial flight to the light-hearted humour and intense affection of a holiday romance.
The show accurately portrays the diverse array of emotions one is subject to when travelling, particularly when travelling alone. The language is eloquent and the delivery is affecting. The show leaves you feeling calm, almost meditative, but also with a prominent desire to travel. Anyone who has travelled the world can relate to the apprehension and uncertainty; to be home among the places you recognise and the people you love.’

Kryztoff Rating 4K

Tags: 2014, Fringe, Homesick Productions, Music, Poetry

TALK FRINGE REVIEWS
http://www.adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/folly-a-miserable-yorkshire-poetry-musical/66e23d1c-a16a-4e58-8785-b3ff6a70e494

‘A terrific show with a perhaps misleading by-line. This is miserableness in the tradition of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo). It is a funny and moving show the expertly mixes musical and poetic storytelling. The poetry, from Sally Jenkinson, a Yorkshire wordsmith with an endearingly idiosyncratic style, riffs on the impulse to flee and find ourselves and adventure in exotic locals, and our confused and bemused attempts to explain why we did it and what we learnt. Behind and around it is an impressive and powerful soundscape from Nuala Honan, a dynamo solo artist in her own right. With all the taught energy of a caged musical lioness her harmonies, rhythms and percussions provide an atmospheric backing that conveys all the barely contained emotions of the jilted lover, the lost soul, the wondrous traveller, the jaded backpacker’s despair and the explosive joy of a new resolution. Check it out.’

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

 

What a strange couple of weeks.

This is a writer’s blog. When I write stuff here its supposed to be about writing, or being a poet, or poetry events. But sometimes life and work gets all jumbled up. A few weeks ago, Me and Nuala got the news that we were successful in our application for Arts Council England and British Council funding for taking our show ‘Folly‘ to the Adelaide Fringe. One of the most exciting and overwhelming bits of new I’ve ever got.

For me, the funding means being able to produce the show properly, which means more to me than I can articulate in words, especially after a year of us both working on Folly for no money, begging/borrowing/ stealing favours from generous friends and strangers alike to make it happen. I would have done the same at The Adelaide Fringe- we were coming here anyway, funding or no funding. I would have flyered my way around the city with photocopied posters and done shows to whomever we encourage through the door with no publicity budget… but the funding means being able to buy a little bit of advertising space on the fringe website, it means being able to pay a working artist to design our posters and flyers, and most importantly it buys us time- time for rehearsals and time for publicity. The thing I find hardest about being a self-employed artist (and this is an observation, not a whinge) is making to time to actually create, develop and try to promote your work, in between replying to a million emails, organising and negotiating money and time on behalf of your yourself, and trying to earn enough to feed and shelter your arty-farty little self. So, the grant makes those extra, developmental things possible, and I feel endlessly, overwhelmingly grateful and excited.

Whilst we were receiving and processing this wonderful news, my dear old granddad- a WW2 veteran, butcher, long distance lorry driver and almost demonic winner of dominoes- entered the last stage of his life. I was up and down to Doncaster throughout the month before I left, to see him and spend time with my family. It is not something I can easily or confidently write about, watching someone pass away. So I won’t write about it now. But the process of saying goodbye to my granddad and laying him to rest, of grieving alongside my family, was a sharp counterpoint to the joy and anticipation of preparing for this trip to the other side of the world, for my first experience of being an international writer and performer.

If I got to choose how things work, I would have kept Gramps with us until I was old myself. I would have got right on board with his ‘one (enormous) whisky a night’ rule, sat in a arm chair next to his, watching the cricket and jabbing at things (or people) with my walking stick. But knowing things don’t work that way, I am so grateful that I got to see him cross the bar and laid to rest before I left.

It’s been a tumultuous and unusual time though. Getting this gleeful news about funding for the show, saying goodbye to my lovely gramps in the most final way, saying goodbye to all my loved ones for three months, grieving with my family, soaking up the precious and tempering love and humour of my fucking brilliant friends who pretty much hugged, bundled and giggled me onto the plane (as well as packing my bags for me- thanks Adam, sorry customs) leaving hardly any gaps for doubt or nerves to sneak through.

And now I find myself here. Warm as you like in the South Australian sun. Experiencing an Aussie Christmas with my dear friend (and Folly co-writer) Nuala and her warm, welcoming family. They genuinely barbecued the turkey on Christmas day. There’s this spooky ethereal ring around the sun. The sea is so clear you can see the sand between your toes. I haven’t worn socks for a week. Throughout January, February and March we will be performing our show, Folly, in Melbourne and at The Adelaide Fringe.

We’re here. It’s happening. What a strange couple of weeks.

Photo by Liam Honan

Photo by Liam Honan