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)

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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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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).