Judging the Battle of the Bards: Intercollegiate Poetry Slam, The Meadows, Bush House (8th Floor)
Friday 23rd November, 18:30-21:30
Judging the Battle of the Bards: Intercollegiate Poetry Slam, The Meadows, Bush House (8th Floor)
Friday 23rd November, 18:30-21:30
It’s been a month since I’ve written, and another busy one at that! My room is a mess with big stacks of papers, I’m behind on my record keeping for finances, and I haven’t had proper dedication writing time towards the three main projects I want to focus on in what feels like an age, so this weekend I plan to do a lot of that boring admin stuff, as well as a bit of personal writing today (including this blog!) I’ve worked five days already this week, yet it’s still difficult to reassure myself that doing this today is worthwhile, and I’m going to take some time to de-stress by going to a swimming class after writing this.
I have deadlines looming over me for content writing, and last night I did a last minute job working with a university student from Malta to help with their English. I have an almost full time table of students, which includes a couple of days where I’m out 2.30-9.30pm, including the travel time. It means I’m able to get into more of a routine, but planning and marking takes so much time at the moment that it’s quite difficult to fit in the content writing and meet the deadlines. On top of that I’m doing events and tour management and yesterday I did a big chunk of this once I’d finished my lesson planning.
There are now only two tour dates left for the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour! In October, we went to Norwich and Cambridge and both dates were lovely. The next two are in Bristol and London. I’ve also been trying to run some informal workshops, but because the tickets are free, I’m getting a lot of dropouts on the day. The workshops are called ‘Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better’ and I managed to meet up with a poet who is local to me called Rachel Sambrooks, and it was honestly so refreshing to actually talk about our work. We both found it incredibly valuable… now to find the time to go back to those poems to make those edits!
Last month’s regular She Grrrowls event went really well again, and I’m so happy to be at The Poetry Cafe. It ended up being a rather northern evening, featuring Sophie Sparham, Fran Isherwood, and Sarah Crutwell. It was particularly enjoyable to see Sarah Crutwell as I had never seen her before and I could really relate to her poetry, plus she gave me this cool POWER pin! I can’t believe that it’s just over a week until the next date and soon enough it will be over! Amongst all the work, I’ve also found time to have fun socialising, plus go to Spanish lessons and salsa classes!
As of last Wednesday, it has officially been a year since I registered as self-employed. I’m in a much better position than I was a year ago when I started. The main battle is with my mind, to stop questioning myself and live how I want to live. I have regular work to keep me going Monday to Wednesday, which spills a little over into Thursday. This means I have between 3-4 days to focus on other things.
The challenge is to stick to this routine and give myself permission to do the necessary creative work, and remember that this is a legitimate use of my time, as well as the work that I’m being funded to do for the She Grrrowls book tour. Yet, there are also times where other things come up, the routine gets disrupted… usually with work, but also with other things like seeing friends and family.
Most recently, I went to Leicester for the She Grrrowls book tour with Joelle Taylor and Esther Poyer. It was a great night and from there I went to see my grandparents in Yorkshire, and my cousin in Nottingham. Last week, I did a week of TEFL work and it was intense. I taught 9am-1pm, had a nice lunch break before leaving to tutor 2.30pm-8.30pm, then did my planning for more tutoring sessions after a quick dinner, leaving just enough time to squeeze in a bit of Spanish and Netflix before doing the same again. It was also National Poetry Day that week, meaning I had an excuse to show a video of Joelle Taylor to the most advance group, tell them about Rallying Cry, and make them do some of their own poetry.
Things eased up towards the end of the week, but as anyone who’s freelance knows… there’s always more work to do be done, so I filled my time with all the other necessary tasks. I ended the week by hosting She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe. It was so busy, I was regretfully having to turn people away or there wouldn’t be room for people who had booked tickets in advance… something I’ll have to think about in future in case of no-shows. A much better problem to have than being in a cold room in New Cross with just a handful of people.
I took a train to Norwich with a friend, where we celebrated with a group of our uni friends as it has been 10 years since we started at UEA together. I came home to find that poet and artist Scott Tyrrell has completed his map of poets. I managed to wrangle my way onto the East Anglia section, which I’m not sure I am entirely deserving of, but I am proud to be there. Although back in London, Norwich was where I really grew as a writer, studying it in a couple of modules at university, but also being part of the local scene of live lit events thanks to people like Amy Wragg and Russell J Turner. I got to support acts like Francesca Beard and Kate Tempest, and gradually made connections with poets from Aisle 16 like Ross Sutherland and Luke Wright, that saw me getting into working with young people, getting my first pamphlet published by Nasty Little Press, and performing at Latitude. For these reasons, my poetry career has a deep connection with the East of England.
I don’t get that many gigs to do my poetry, but really this is connected to my ideas of what it means to be a “success”. Really this is a a destination that I will never arrive at, because it doesn’t exist. As a creative, you will always keep striving for more, but really the goal should be continue to make work and do what you enjoy whilst having some kind of stability to enable the work. There are so many ways of doing this, and just because your way is different to someone else’s doesn’t make it any less valid. I want to focus more on creative goals and taking small steps towards bigger things, like the fact I’m going to have two videos from Muddy Feet Poetry in the autumn!
It’s nearly a year on from becoming self-employed, and I’m finally getting a routine together. I have six students across Monday to Wednesday, which takes up about six hours on each day because most of this is travelling. It’s a constant battle in my mind between money and travel. I live at home, so I am able to save, but the sacrifice is time.
It begs the question: what is my time worth?
I figure I’ll stay put for now, and embrace the time travelling by reading, doing any admin I can on-the-go, and sometimes just daydreaming out of windows, listening to music. I’ll be turning 30 next May, so maybe I’ll freak out then and feel the urge to uproot. But at least by then I’ll have saved some more.
My mornings are spent planning lessons and marking. This takes up a lot of time as well, but it’s okay. If I stick at it, the work will get easier with time. The type of subjects the students are studying often means I have to go over each paper to make sure that I not only know the answers, but know how to teach the students how to get those answers.
The students themselves are lovely and a pleasure to work with. The other day, I was doing a creative warm-up game with Rory’s Story Cubes, and we made a story that was so funny that we both got the giggles. It was about dice that wouldn’t stop rolling. It relied on an implicit communication as we each continued the story, the dice still rolling in the story, and whilst it was seemingly unprofessional to laugh quite to the extent I did (barely being able to speak), we bonded in that moment, and it is those moments that will make it hard when the tuition stops.
The last couple of weeks, I have been focusing on trying to get into the routines that I want to continue. Sometimes I question whether I’m doing enough paid work. I have this mentality that I should be trying to make as much as I would need to survive if I didn’t live with my parents. But, how am I going to progress with my writing career if I don’t give it the time it deserves? When talking to fellow creative Daisy Dockrill a few months back, she said to do exactly this, for the reason that I would be able to give myself that time to write more.
As well as planning and marking in the mornings, I do content writing, and I said I wouldn’t do this past Wednesday, but this slipped into Thursday the last couple of weeks. Today I’m going to aim to do at least four hours of writing, but I also have a book tour to organise and there’s still (always) a lot to do for that! I’ve been trying to do bits and pieces to do with it, but as always, it never feels like there’s enough time. I’ve been socialising a fair bit too, but this week has been all work really. I’m looking forward to a couple of social things over the weekend, including Common Ground – a free festival I found out about. Hopefully the weather will be nice!
Last week also saw the first instalment of She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It was really lovely, with the most audience we’ve had in a long time. I didn’t make quite enough to cover costs now I have to pay for the venue as well as the acts, not to mention paid advertising. The features were Annie Hayter, who is a Barbican Young Poet; Anvi, who is on an ACE-funded stay from India; and Good Canary, who is a musician!
I’ve been exercising every day until today. I was really itching to, but I just got a new tattoo, so I can’t wear a tight sports bra over it. I’ve been doing a bit of Spanish, including some reading, but could push myself more with this to get up to scratch. I’ll be starting intermediate conversation classes soon, which is scary! Next week I’ll be in Leicester for the second date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour, and the first outside of London!
Nearly a week has gone by since the I’ve been back from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Having done a week less than last year, I missed not having that extra week. On the other hand, I didn’t get ill this time. Although I didn’t get as much money through the door this time, I had a bit of money from all the crazy months of work I did before, which meant I could have some drinks now and again, and even went out for an Eid meal with Shagufta, plus went back to the same place again on my last day, and had some tapas with Rowena and Amani for a really extravagant last day.
Although I spent most of my time rushing from show to show, trying the write reviews in between, and doing some content writing in the mornings to get some actual income, I did have a chance to go to Portobello Beach one rainy morning. I think we could have got more money in at a different time of day, but with an 11.20pm show that ends gone midnight, people are wanting to spend on booze rather than books. What I loved about this year was not doing it completely on my own. With regular features, flyering and hanging out with Afshan, Shagufta, Celeste, Rowena and Amani, we formed friendships and it felt so good to have a team of poets to promote and perform with each night. Audiences were really lovely each night. The worst was when we had two poets we knew in the audience and nobody else. Other than that, they were small to medium and really positive and supportive. It was also great to meet Helen Black and Liam McCormick who did incredible shows before and after She Grrrowls, all as part of PBH’s Free Fringe.
When I was on my 10 hour coach journey back, as well as reading my new copy of Liam McCormick’s ‘Beast’ and eating lots of snacks, I discovered the above illustration by Scott Tyrrell. I had basically heavily suggested I wanted to be drawn (I said he could put me in Norwich instead of London, just fine), but to actually be part of this project is a dream come true. I was so happy to see it – he’s creating a whole poetry map with pictures and names of poets, and this will be made into posters and then perhaps even tea towels.
Since being back, I’ve been doing a little content writing, but mostly been planning lessons for next week and doing lots for the She Grrrowls book tour and future events. In fact, yesterday saw the very first book date in Sutton Central Library in partnership with Words Aloud host Rachel Sambrooks, featuring Aisling Fahey, Selina Nwulu and Rachel Long. Everyone was really pleased with the turn-out, and audience feedback was really positive, so I think things can only get better and I’m excited to continue with the tour!
I’m currently at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where I’m running She Grrrowls – 23:20-00:20 each night at The Banshee Labyrinth’s Banqueting Hall. The first week has flown by and I’ve seen so many incredible show. Lots can be seen in my reviews for The Norwich Radical. Other shows that have been highlights include Antosh Wojcik’s How To Keep Time, Kit Finnie’s Mabel and Mickey, Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s Love Songs, Jess Green’s A Self-Help Guide to Being in Love with Jeremy Corbyn, and Katrina Quinn’s Individual Medley. There’s also been other nights like mine that I’ve enjoyed such as Listen Softly, and That’s What She Said.
I’ve had the honour of performing at some shows in addition to She Grrrowls, and they’ve all been lovely. I was part of the Loud Poets’ game show. I had so much fun, and although I felt super awkward trying to read a poem imagining I was in strange locations like the moon, it was an amazing event, and I especially enjoyed the painting round. I got to do a 10 minute spot as part of Sez Thomasin’s show This is Awkward, which was filled with incredible poems. Fay Roberts’ Other Voices had the most heart-warming crowd I’ve had so far, and I’m lucky enough to be going back there a few times this month. I’ve read my diaries from 2002 and 2006 to audiences as part of Helen Black’s Dear Diary – this was the most hilarious and fun experience, and Helen puts on a great show, with diaries I could very much relate to! I’ve also wrangled my way into The Full Irish early morning show with some more lighthearted material. Finally, I’ve been featured at Well it’s Woody, which I recommend purely for Woody’s own beautiful voice and music.
Sadly, Jess Green could only feature at the first event as she was hit wit laryngitis for the rest of her run. Afshan D’souza-Lodhi was so incredible to have as a regular feature in this first week, and we had a great time flyering. Being a late show, it is so lovely to be able to flyer with other women and then do the show like She Grrrowls. The last few nights I’ve been working with Shagufta K. Iqbal and Celeste Ramos, which has been great so far! Audiences in general have been small, and mostly lovely… last night was a bit weird, but we had a drink afterwards instead of rushing to bed, which was much needed on the first proper Friday night of fringe!
Of course, calling out at strangers about feminist poetry as mixed responses, with some being really positive, other responses being ‘I’m good’… like, you’ve got enough feminism in your life? The worst have been drunk men bringing up washing up… and once when we weren’t even flyering and Celeste and I got told by two men that we should fuck. This was around midday as well. Tonight we reach the half way point, and it’s Saturday night! Let’s hope for big warm crowds of loveliness!
We need bigger audiences, and bigger bucket donations! We have lots of books that need to go! I can’t carry them all back with me… also I’m having to do content writing in the mornings to try to scrape together some income this month. So please spread the word about the show!
So, I’ve not got around to writing for… nearly two months! I guess that means things have been going well. Although work is still unstable, this is an extremely busy period for some of the work I do. I’ve actually not been doing as much content writing as I would have liked because I just haven’t had the time. As for my own creative writing… aside from a few articles from The Norwich Radical, a couple of writing workshops, and copious amounts of notes in my phone, I’ve not been able to give myself any proper writing time.
New goal for September: balance work. Okay, this has been my goal from the beginning, but sometimes it takes you getting near breaking point to realise that you need to reassess things. I’m going to push towards working 3 days a week by simply informing the relevant people that my availability is only Monday-Wednesday, only making an exception to this rule for urgent work, or ad-hoc stuff. Without letting this take over the way it has done the last couple of months.
The additional work I’ve been doing has consisted of making nearly 200 English Language A-Level exam papers, and teaching EFL for two consecutive weeks at two different schools. This is on top of tutoring, so content writing very much took a backseat in this time and was near impossible. On top of that, I found out I was successful in my application for Arts Council Funding! I’d applied in the past, and had two rejected recently for regular She Grrrowls events, so I was very pleased. The news came at a strange time, as I was dealing with the possible loss of 4 years of data as my Mac desktop stopped starting up… a few days of uncertainty and around £900 later, my data was restored and I could resume action on the tour plans, as well as organising a 3 week run at Edinburgh Fringe festival. This meant it was even harder to celebrate the success… which is definitely something I don’t really do anyway. If something goes well, emotionally, I act like it is expected and just move onto the next, never pausing to take-in any kind of accomplishment beyond telling my parents, friends and sharing on social media…
I’ve been working around other events and socialising around all this work, so it means where possible I’ve been getting up between 6.30-7.30am. I also almost forgot that I had spent some of the time prior to exam marking doing exam invigilation at a couple of schools. That was such a challenge for me, because it was very boring. I am used to being constantly active and mentally stimulated and so it was mentally and physically exhausting simply because of the long periods of standing and doing nothing more than looking at the students doing their exams. However, it got me into better habits in terms of waking up early, and I got some exercise in by walking to a local school about half an hour’s walk away.
I thought by tutoring between 4-7pm, it would be perfect for me to then go to poetry events. However, I realised I’d become lazy and when I didn’t see my Spanish exchange partner, I went home to eat with my parents, or just didn’t want to stay out. I booked to see some shows, and tried to go to as many as possible with friends. I’ve realised that I really much prefer going to things with others. I know that I can go alone, but I feel anxious doing so, and sometimes it’s worth it, but sometimes it’s not. It’s hard to gauge. I went to Penned in the Margins’ summer party and saw friendly faces such as Raymond Antrobus and Nick Murray. I bought a book as a Christmas present (planning early is good). The next night I went with a friend and her new boyf to a memorial night for Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison and it was beautiful and healing.
Despite being overwhelmed with work, I took a moment to have lunch in the sun in Deptford, before dropping in at the Apples & Snakes office for table space, cherries, and biscuits for National Writing Day. I used some notes from a poet called Jemilea Baako, who was kind enough to send me details of what I missed after I had to leave the BreakBeats Poets Workshop. It felt good to have some time to cool down and write.
One night I went to an event by Octavia, a collective for women of colour, founded by poet Rachel Long. As well as powerful poetry and delicious cocktails, the event turned into a party and I enjoyed it so much I ended up taking the night bus home. I also went to R.A.P. Party at Southbank, organised by Inua Ellams, which had a similar vibe in terms of its impactful words mixed in with rap tracks. Despite two award-winning poets not being there in physical form, it was another incredible evening of absolute fire.
She Grrrowls has been ticking along, with up and down audiences at regular events. I’m writing this just before the first show at PBH Free Fringe in Edinburgh, trying to keep the nerves at bay with such as late slot: 23:20-00:20 (Banshee Labyrinth). When I return I have less than a week before the first date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour! I had an early start today seeing Antosh Wojick’s show How to Keep Time, and have just seen Rosy Carrick’s Passionate Machine. I have a feeling they will both be firm favourites throughout the festival. I can’t believe it’s just the first day. I’m wondering how I’ll cope with these late night shows. I’m seeing one more show before doing a couple of hours of flyering, having put lots of posters up and stocked up on all my food and toiletries. Perhaps staying up to see ‘Beast’ after She Grrrowls at the same venue will make me less tired in comparison the rest of the run?
Having mentioned Antosh’s fringe show, I think it’s also worth a mention of my fellow ex-Roundhouse Kid Glove poet, Sarah Perry. Whilst celebrating my Gran’s 76th birthday in Rye, swimming together in the sea, eating the most delicious Tuscan food, and drinking lots of wine with my family, I read Sarah’s debut novel ‘Let Me Be Like Water’. Being by the coast, grieving in my own way, the book found me at the perfect moment. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re reading by the British coast.