The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX
The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX
Wow! It’s been over half a year since my last update! Time has gone unbelievably quickly. What have I been doing? Creatively, it’s been a time for things in the pipeline, so it seems like I haven’t done much, but it’s all been behind the scenes for the most part. I’m planning the next She Grrrowls tour and hoping to produce an audiobook of the anthology. She Grrrowls was featured in Time Out (see image above) and Eventbrite, which meant a couple of busy periods where I had to refuse people entry, which was really tricky to deal with, but much better than the opposite problem in South East London. The show was also a part of Attic Arts Club, which also presented a problem audience-wise, but the event had a great vibe anyway, it just sadly meant I lost a lot of money. The risks we take for art. I’ll also be going with my new co-host Ibizo Lami to Edinburgh Fringe, and it’ll be the third time She Grrrowls has been there and at 7-8pm at The Banshee Labyrinth’s Banqueting Hall from 3rd-16th August.
Aside from She Grrrowls, I got to do my first proper headline feature outside of London… at A Lovely Word in Liverpool. I mean, I have performed at different festivals, and abroad in Spain, but this was the first time I was specifically asked to feature. You can listen to the podcast from the event here. I’ve also been writing an essay on spoken word and Feminism for an anthology due to be published in 2020. I’m going to be putting my own work out later this year, with the final event of the year due to be my book launch – watch this space! I haven’t had time to dedicate to my show idea, but I have been putting together a pamphlet for future submissions, which I finished but have been writing so much more that would go well in it that I will likely expand it and then reduce it again.
A big thing that happened in my personal life: I turned 30. This meant that I went with my family on another expensive holiday as my mum also turned 50 (last year my cousin got married in Mexico). My mum has always wanted to go to Cuba, and it was great to read about it before going, and then whilst there I read some Cuban poetry in Spanish with English translation, a memoir called ‘Before Night Falls’ by Reinaldo Arenas, and ‘Generation Zero’, an anthology of short stories. On my actual birthday, I did a skydive for Mind, and at first it was terrifying and then it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I would love to do it again and again. As soon as I came down, I wanted to go back up.
As well as mine and many of my friends’ 30th birthdays, so far this year has also seen the launch of two of my friends’ debut books. I supported Sophie Fenella at her launch for ‘The Rich Nothing’ published by Invisible Hand Press earlier in May, and just recently Tyrone Lewis published ‘Blackish’ with Burning Eye Books. I also wrote my first professional (i.e. paid) book review for DIVA, which should be out this month. The book is by Lucy Powrie, who is so young it makes me sick with jealousy haha, in the nicest possible way… I do run workshops for free at The Albany called ‘Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better’, for a reason.
Other than getting on with my usual work, and having busy periods taking on additional work, I’ve also been continuing and starting up new hobbies. These include boxing, learning Spanish, and salsa dancing.
I got my sixth tattoo this year too. Inspired by a person, a time, many people, many times. Forget-me-not. The past is behind me, but always alive in my memories, whether in pain or joy or in between. As poets, we mine our pasts, but also we must move forward. I also got a new undercut (which I am rubbish at maintaining), and I’m now so old that I forgot I actually had it twice before, and also think I’ve been asked for ID at least twice, not had it and ‘I’m 30’ has actually been good enough.
Judging the Battle of the Bards: Intercollegiate Poetry Slam, The Meadows, Bush House (8th Floor)
Friday 23rd November, 18:30-21:30
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!