Freelance Reflections #5

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve actually had a bit of time where I’ve not been working that much. I tend to make a big thing of birthdays, and my friends aren’t in one big group, so I did lots of different things for that – a night out north of the river, dinner and Francesca Beard‘s incredible show ‘How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse’ at Battersea Arts Centre, Ballie Ballerson (which I found overrated), and Draughts board game cafe (which I love). I even added an extra picnic on the end the following weekend. On my actual birthday on 14th May, I went out with a fellow freelancer, and we had a DIY breakfast at Jack’s, and explored some galleries.

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Another highlight was going to Liverpool for the first time with the same friend. It was a lot to take in as we spent a lot of time at the International Slavery Museum, before going to a talk about Shy Radicals (Hamja Ahsan) and Shrinking Violets (Joe Moran), then exploring the Tate Modern and the Yoko Ono & John Lennon exhibition, and other galleries. I felt like there was obviously so much more to be seen as one can fit into a couple of days.

In terms of work, I’ve continued with content writing, tutoring, and exam invigilation that is now closer to home. Being freelance means always being on the hunt for more work, I find. I recently had an induction for remote minute-taking, and I’m due to have some training soon to become an assessor for an A-level English Language exam.  I’m also in the process of setting up some workshops in a school, which will be about shyness/quietness/introversion. I’m currently still in the middle of my workshops at Spread the Word, ‘The Femme Canon‘, and I’m loving it. There are still a couple of places available for just £10 this coming Saturday.

I’m constantly questioning what I’m doing, with part of me nervous about the future, and conscious I’m not doing EFL teaching as much as I’d like at the moment. I worry that if I want a job in the future that it will look bad, but then I figure the world is my oyster in that respect and I could go abroad again to teach. The one thing that is making me consider moving out of my parents’ house again is the amount of travelling in London I’m doing on an almost daily basis. I know as well that I would be happier being more independent, but it’s all a matter of perspective and I could probably last another year here. It’s best to take things a day at a time, I guess.

Currently, I’m getting up at 6,30am, and I’m travelling over an hour (walking) to and from my exam invigilation job in the morning. Thankfully I have some time in between, where I’ll either do some marking, planning, or content writing. I’ll leave at between 2.30pm and 4.30pm to tutor in the evening. The idea then is to still have some time to go to poetry gigs and things. For instance, tomorrow I’m going to a workshop put on by Apples & Snakes after my student.

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I had a week off for my cousin’s wedding in Mexico, where I was a bridesmaid and also read a poem written especially for the couple. This week away from work meant not getting paid two Fridays in a for content writing. Technically, I paid for the bulk of the week in Mexico with my compensation from donating my eggs. I’d not had much time to do any of the content work the week before either, so only got £15 from that before I went away.

The wedding was perfect, but so surreal at the same time – being on the beach in Mexico! I wished I had been able to explore more, but sadly I’m no longer with my fellow explorer, who I travelled through South East Asia and lived in Vietnam with. Instead, I was with my parents, who weren’t as keen on getting away from the resort as me. I was thankful to eat some incredible chimichangas in Playa del Carmen, and went to Tulum and Coba to learn about the Mayan ruins, climbing near (but not quite) the top of the 137 feet pyramid of Nohoch Mul. I made the mistake of looking down too soon, but the view was pretty incredible. I also read some Mexican authors whilst relaxing on the beach and by the pool. Carmen Boullosa‘s ‘Before’ was beautifully poetic as a novella, and I enjoyed Chloe Aridjis‘ ‘Book of Clouds’, since it was set a lot in Berlin, where I had my last trip away abroad. I’m in the middle of Carmen Maria Machado‘s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ and this collection of short stories is incredible.

The last She Grrrowls featured Laurie Ogden, Danielle Allen and Leon Craig. The audience numbers weren’t as high as I would have liked, but the three of them were so lovely and embraced the whole evening and we were in the upstairs room, so we could ramble on as long as we wanted in the Q&A!

On reflection, I need to have more gratitude for what I’m doing at the moment, and stress less about stuff. I’m such a type A. It has it’s pros and cons. I’m slowly making more time for creativity too, and with proper goals and deadlines for these kinds of projects, I’ll be able to shape things into a life with a good balance between making money, and everything else I want to do.

Freelance Reflections #4

The past couple of weeks, work-wise, I’ve done a mixture of exam invigilation, tutoring, and content writing. It feels like I’m slowly building something with more regularity, but work has taken over a bit from a lot of focused writing time.

The exam invigilation hasn’t really been worth it financially, but I’m going to give it a go at a school more local to me over the next month or so. It takes me 35 minutes to walk there (and just as long going on public transport), so that will tick off my exercise that day.

 

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Artistic Director, Lisa Mead

 

The last couple of weeks have included a lot of arts events. This started with Poetry Pioneers celebrating 35 years of Apples & Snakes, which was incredible – I enjoyed seeing those poets I know and love, as well as The Upper World, fusing music and poetry. She Grrrowls was a success this month, and I also saw 4.48 Psychosis and reviewed it for The Norwich Radical.

 

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Photo credit: Paul Point (Chocolate Poetry Club)

I had the privilege of attending a workshop with The BreakBeat Poets. Sadly, I had to leave early to cover a creative writing workshop for work. The fantastic Jemilea sent me notes on what I missed, so next time I carve some writing time out, I can return to this!

 

The following week, I saw Florence + The Machine at the Royal Festival Hall, went to my wonderful friend Sarah K. Perry’s book launch for her debut novel ‘Let Me Be Like Water’, and have generally commenced with my birthday celebrations, with the big day being on Monday!

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I tried to balance work with sunshine time since we had a little heat-wave, which meant a lot of drinking beer in pubs and parks with picnic food. It also meant I got a lot of my maths revision done. Now, I just need to be careful I’m not burning the candle at both ends too much, focus more time on writing, and make sure I have enough time to do all the paid work I’m committing to do.

Larmer Tree Festival 2013 & She Grrrowls

Before I get to the juicy stuff, I’d like to point a couple of things. Firstly, check out my profile of the Spread the Word website as part of the ‘Spoke’ project to find the first Young Poet Laureate for London, for which I was shortlisted. Yep, I made the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ but sadly didn’t make the cut to the final six. Secondly, I found a link to the Guardian website where there is a picture of me! Gillian Wearing picked my picture as one of her favourites and said ‘I relate to this, having done various jobs myself when I left college’ at my photo, taken in Sainsbury’s uniform with the statement ‘the artist shouldn’t be stacking shelves.’

The major news is that I’ve performed at my first proper festival, you know, with fields and camping and stuff. The festival was Larmer Tree in Salisbury. I went with my friend Natalie and we had an amazing time! The weather was perfect and made me so very happy. I hope to come back the next year and for the weather to be as good! I saw such a range of music, including the lovely Saturday Sun, and a boy playing a pop-up gig who was around 10 and incredible (who was later gutted to miss my performance of ‘Circles’ which was nice to hear). We also made things like insect brooches, necklaces and mosaics. We learnt some hula hoop tricks and now I really want to take it up! I also hope to take up the ukulele, re-inspired by the band there.

I saw some great poets, including Angie Belcher, Edson Burton, Nichol Keene and Toby de Angeli, Joelle Taylor, Poeticat, Scott Tyrrell and The Antipoet. My first performance had been extended to half an hour, which meant that I ran out of material (oops) and had to read from my book. It actually felt good to take my time and read like that, and people got to listen to pieces which I don’t do as much. I probably should have taken my time earlier. My second set was ‘Circles’ the epic-poem I produced with Apples & Snakes as part of the ‘Word’s a Stage’ project. I had memorised it but didn’t quite know it well enough to avoid looking at the paper stuck in my prop (the Metro). I also ran a workshop which I thought went well as most of the participants were lovely and one told me that I should be confident in what I do. Honey, if I knew how to do that, I’d be a more successful poet by now.

Just kidding, I know I come across as a bit shy and softly spoken… but well, I am. I’m growing to accept myself this way and believe I can still be successful being who I am. I lack confidence now and again (don’t we all?) but some people can see my inner-confidence. I’ve been having a bad week so far. I’m not sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve been in a bad mood and felt like I work so hard and don’t have much to show for it. Typing away at a laptop all the time when it’s sunny outside can be a tad depressing. Especially when videos won’t upload. This video by Jodi Ann Bickley helped a bit and it is inspiring to see her work with one million lovely letters. And here I am, still writing this and not knowing if anyone is reading it and if any of this will amount to anything.

So, we had our pilot event for She Grrrowls at Kingston’s Ram Jam Club at the Grey Horse as part of IYAF. How did it go? It was a bit of a disaster but I think we pulled it off. On Thursday night the headline act pulled out, on my return from Larmer Tree on Monday, another act was forced to pull out, and whilst the event had started, another act pulled out. Only two out of our five acts actually was able to make it. Luckily, we had Sam Neele replace our headliner for the music, who gave a lovely other-worldly set, and I filled in with some poetry. Bisha Ali gave us some hilarious comedy, and I’m gutted I can’t show you a video or tell you some of the jokes but we will definitely have her at She Grrrowls again. Andi Michael gave us extracts from her novel, proving her not only to be an amazing writer but one with a unique style that makes use of poetic language. In addition to the line-up we had on the spot performances from Hannah Rose Tristram, Becky Dennis and Cherry Godiva, who were all amazing. We hope to see everyone again at future She Grrrowls events.

Which brings me to the next point on the agenda. Dates.

Number 1: Wednesday 11th September. The She Grrrowls Spoken Word Launch at The Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green. Future events every first Wednesday of the month.

Number 2: My next gig will be August 8th at Red Door Studios, 120 Masterman Road East Ham E6 3RW. I will also be delivering an all-day workshop there on Saturday 14th September.

Number 3: August 13th at RichMix in Shoreditch I will be performing a show as part of a writing group through Apples & Snakes.

I think that’s about all anyone’s brain can take in this heat.

xxx

Podium Poets Unite!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be in the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ in the competition to eventually become London’s first Young Poet Laureate. As I write, the panel of judges are making (or have made) their decisions on who shall make the cut to the final six poets! All of us now eagerly await the result, sat with laptops or smart phones, freshing our email inboxes. With around sixty applications, everyone deserved a massive pat on the back for making it to this stage, purely on the basis of the quality of our poetry.

And quality it was! Apparently there were people there who didn’t normally perform… this was incredibly difficult to tell. Everyone was so amazing on every level; I certainly would find it impossible to narrow down to the final six. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and whichever way the wind blows, be proud to be part of the Podium Poets. I had such a great day and I also have to be enormously grateful to my work for granting me leave (as I work at a school, non-holiday leave is quite tricky!)

It was really cool to meet other poets and also pretty unbelievable that we didn’t already know each other – an indication, if anything, of how much talent is in London. Here are some of their details so far: Deanna Rodger (who I know from when I started out and who is pretty much a poetry celebrity), Ben Jacobs (who I’m working with at the Writing Room), Sarah Perry, Bridget Minamore, James Massiah, Rosie Knight, Warsan Shire, Sophie RobinsRobert Somynne, Sonority Turner, Mary Akin, Dizz Tate, and Nik Way. We’ve been trying to get in contact via twitter but I’m yet to find some of them.

Anyway, during the beginning of the day we got to know each other, played games and did different exercises. In the afternoon, nerves were distracted by lunchtime conversation, only to return once the judges stepped in the Red Room, at The Albany. We relaxed playing games, and once we got started, I was engrossed in each performance, and my own went by all too-quickly. I was sandwiched between two of my favourite performances (Sarah and Wasan) but I hope that I managed to stand out. Below is a two-part limerick that I wrote during the morning.

Limerick Part I

In Chelsea, there’s a lady of class,
Who evokes etiquette of the past.
But one day whilst complaining
That decorum was flailing
The wind blew and uncovered her arse!

Limerick Part II

This lady, she let out a gasp
When she felt that sudden air blast.
She heard many sniggers,
For she’d forgotten her knickers!
That lady from Chelsea with class!

The Albany is becoming a regular haunt – and I should probably visit Apples & Snakes to get a copy of my Word’s a Stage performance soon! Tomorrow I’m actually heading there for a Writing Room meeting, so that may be a good time. After the day was over, I went to ‘Kid I wrote back’ as planned. I performed ‘Paradise’ again, as well as a few others. I got speaking to David Marshall, and a young girl who I encouraged to take to the mic the next time. It was also good to see Kayo Chingonyi again, as I didn’t realise he was featured. All in all, I wished that every day could be like that day, and maybe if I managed to become Young Poet Laureate for London, that dream could come a reality sooner than I thought.

Blooming June

First for some exciting news that I’ve been bursting to post about… I’m performing and giving a workshop at Larmer Tree Festival! I’m pleased to be just one of former MACE students (that’s the MA in Creative Entrepreneurship dontchaknow) as Andi Michael will also be there talking about her new book, Wine Dark, Sea Blue, which I am itching to read after/during my Proust mission.

I’m also happy to be involved with Kingston’s International Youth Arts Festival. This time, I’m giving a workshop ‘From Page to Stage’ on the theme of Loss, at Studio 22 on Saturday 6th July. The hour-long workshop is just £10 – with a half price option for students/JSA/OAP. Members of the group will also get the opportunity to perform their work with some food at Las Iguanas. I’m also managing the spoken word event this year, which will be an off-shoot from the She Grrrowls Feminist group, featuring a lineup of female talent, and an open mic’ section for everyone! Entry for the event is just £5 and it will take place at the Ram Jam Club at The Grey Horse pub on 22nd July from 6pm.

she grrrowls flyer juneShe Grrrowls Spoken Word will feature Tabby Farrar, Nikki Marrone, A.L.Michael, Bisha Ali and Robyn-Astrid. There will be poetry, prose, comedy and music a it’s going to be amazing! Book your tickets now either online or by phone: 020 8549 2120. The She Grrrowls team are currently looking for venues and artists for future events, so please come along to support female talent in the arts and make this first night increible for everyone! All ticket sales will be divided by IYAF, the producers and directly paying the artists performing for you.

For those that missed out, I did a set at the new arts night S.W.A.M&P – a night featuring spoken word, acoustic music and poetry (geddit?) I had the pleasure of getting to see some amazing performers intimately, had the chance to chat to them as well and some clever lady shared a bottle of wine with us. Taking us from darkness towards the light of the stars was poet Paloma Heindorff, and there was some beautiful music from Tonia Thorne and friends. Closing the night was Chalie Dupre who gave us a solo rap battle history lesson about Shakespeare and Marlowe, plus a retelling of Macbeth through the three witches.

I’m also taking part in Apples & Snakes’ Writing Room, where I’m workshopping a piece in a pair and performing it after being put through my paces by a series of mentors. The piece came out of my first session with Dead Poets: Mark Grist and Mixy. I’m thrilled I can make the dates it will run for and excited to be able to work on the piece I’ve developed with Ben all those weeks ago. I also got to sit in and help out at workshops with Kayo Chingonyi at the school where I work, which was a pretty cool perk! The last thing I need to mention is that my poem ‘Ladybird’ is in ‘Words for Wide Skies’ which is being launched on 21st June. All profits will go towards the conservation work at WWT Welney.

To wrap things up, here are some events I’m hoping to get down to over the next couple of months:

Friday 28th June – Come Rhyme with Me

Friday 5th July – The Tea Box, Poetry Jam

Monday 8th July – Kid, I wrote back

Tuesday 16th July – Poetry Unplugged

Oh, and one more thing. The second issue of Poetry&Paint is out now! You can buy your copy of the ‘weather’ issue as ahardcopy or in PDF format. It is recommended to buy the full-colour version, but for those wanting to save some pennies, you can now buy Poetry&Paint in black and white. All copies of Poetry&Paint are available through the Lulu website.

What’s Wrong with the Youth of Today?

Nothing. There’s no more “wrong” about the youth of today than anyone else. Although people can draw evidence from the likes of last summer’s riots, it depends what you pay attention to… and hey, guess what, there were older adults involved in the riots too. Just under half of rioters were aged 18-24 according to The Guardian, and although that age group (which I am within) is considered “youth” this is a key stage in everyone’s life where you after effectively a young adult. It’s just way too generalised to tarnish everyone with the same brush – which was shown by the aftermath of the riots. Now, moving on to more positive things… I’m going to be writing about the great talent and activity of the youth of today and why we, as society, should nurture and develop those under 25, in order for them/us to progress into successful adults.

Yesterday I was part of the International Youth Art’s Festival (IYAF) in Kingston. It was the opening night at the Rose Theatre. As I got there, it was like walking into a madhouse/maze and I didn’t know where I was meant to go and wasn’t given a wristband so was dashing about a bit before the start, but I trusted the staff would come to get me when I was needed and just relaxed to enjoy the first half.

I am part of this massive festival!!!

I was truly blown away at how talented everyone who performed was and felt so privileged to be a part of the opening night, and the festival as a whole. The stage opened to multi-coloured neon footsteps and hands dancing in pitch black. This was ‘The Celtic Colleens’ and instantly I knew I was in for an amazing night. Snow White gave a funny twist to the traditional tale, aimed at children from 5+ but fun for all. The Tiffinians were suited up and gave a range of songs, including a rendition of ‘Postman Pat’ – though my favourite was the first be-bop style song.

Forest Gate performed an extract from the play ‘No Exit’ and I’d say this was for an older audience as I had to engage my brain a bit for this one! ‘The Dreaming’ delivered Shakespeare with a really amusing and musical take on it. Definitely one to see the whole of, ‘The Big Wheel’ had a selection of people from the mass of 300 people doing drag runs and cartwheels in a circle – sure to be quite a sight, especially from an aerial view!

‘The Gods Are Not To Blame’ saw a group coming from all the way in Nigeria! I loved the drumming in this, as well as the amazing dancing and traditional costumes. ‘Robyn Mae & The Impressionists’ made a smashing closing of the first half. I was wowed by the front-woman’s (or front-girl?) confidence and her voice had a great quality. It was really powerful, but I especially liked the softer tones as the vocals were so silky-smooth at those points. She covered Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ and exceeded the original. The only critique I would have of it was that her voice sounded best when you could hear her good ol’ English accent and if she hadn’t done what Jessie does and use a faux-American accent for words such as ‘dance’ she would have stepped it an another notch. And secondly, it niggled me that she stated her cover of ‘Valerie’ was by Amy Winehouse, when it’s by The Zutons. However, her rapping along to JJ’s track and her incredible stage presence more than made up for that.

I was first up in the second half and I was so nervous I was shaking… and I’m not usually like that. However, I think I came across confidently and I was very pleased with my performance – hopefully Tuesday at The Cricketers will go just as well x6. The Kingston Youth Big Band were next and I caught a bit of it and it made me very jealous that I can’t play an instrument but sounded fantastic that these young people have had the opportunity to learn how to play and then dedicate such time and effort to it.

‘Little Cauliflower’ gave a great show which took me back to my days of the Little Angel Puppet Theatre I went to a lot when I was younger. IYAF has also put an album together by lots of talented young people, and one of them was featured at this night. I can’t remember the name of the guy, but he was just 19 and beat-boxed so well he rivaled Intensi-T. He was so confident and his performance was so skilled, entertaining and witty.

‘Eddance’, I believe, did a really intriguing dance routine that seemed to merge genres. I loved the expression and the narrative style to the dances. Jaz Delorean then took to the piano and amazed me. He brought so much emotional intensity that I laughed, I cried and quite frankly, went a bit crazy. Lastly, there was ‘Circus Suburbia’ which was an incredible mix of puppetry, dance and acrobatics, and just magical.

To see any of these acts, just go to the IYAF website and check out the programme. Afterwards I got a couple of compliments but wanted to get home so gave a few flyers out before leaving the rest with the Rose Theatre. I even got a husband and wife who weren’t into poetry saying they enjoyed my set, commenting on the performance piece ‘Cinderella’ which I noticed I got a few laughs from in the audience, yay!

This post is getting rather long and I’m tired and have work tomorrow, so… moving on! Shake the Dust Final!!! Another incredible day with so much talent.

So, Jacab Sam-La Rose did a fantastic job as host and the Peer Mentors (including Catherine Woodward who’s featuring at my event on August 22nd) gave a great opening to the show. I’m just going to summarise because my head was filled to the brim with poetry. The only photo I took was of the opening slammers, representing Yorkshire. I guess you could say, I knew they were the winners! Everyone was amazing but I totally agreed with the judges decisions for the awards. London got the best performances and Sheringham got best line (brap brap for the East).

Speech DeBelle gave a great performance, and I really enjoyed the combination of music with her rapping. She actually went to Harris Academy, a school where my Dad used to teach. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry as inspiration but it made me want to listen more too.

xxx

Shake the Dust: East Regional Finals

Friday saw the East Regional Finals for Shake the Dust. I was working with the Netherhall School in Cambridge as a Poet Shadow with Ross Sutherland. I had never done anything like this before so was quite nervous but very excited too! For my first workshop, it was going well as I was over an hour early. However, I got the bus from the wrong stop and ended up being 10 or 15 minutes late. Typical.

As soon as I entered the classroom I had to introduce myself and perform a poem. I hadn’t brought any material, but thankfully my memory didn’t fail me and I did Cinderella (which you can preview here from my book/eBook). It feels like a long time ago now but at the same time it went so quickly. It was great hearing the poetry the students generated and as the first workshop was based around autobiography it was nice to feel like I was getting to know what they were like already.

Although it doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was their age, I am nearly 10 years older than them! At the same time, I did feel a lot older than them, especially when I encountered some rudeness from a couple of girls from the non-competing team. All a learning experience anyway! I also didn’t expect how easily distracted they were, especially as the two hour sessions went so fast. That said, they produced their final poems with great timing.

After celebrating turning 23 I was back at the school and the students had mostly memorised their poems, and by the final session were all performing their pieces really well. Ross and I had swapped the groups we’d been working with and so it was amazing to see the transformation of them both from the mish-mashed bits of texts they had started out with when they were forming the poems. I learnt so much from shadowing Ross, and was also given lots of opportunities to share my ideas and work independently with some of the group. One girl had to join the group for the last session and she picked up the poems fantastically, and ended up being given the “Most Changed” award.

The day of the final was a long one, but an amazing experience. the excitement started at 10.30am when we picked up our t-shirts. The schools started to arrive and it wasn’t long before we headed into a studio for the first workshop with half of the students. The workshop I was in was lead by Tim Clare and consisted of different drama games. It was quite nerve wracking due to the fact that being in a position of authority it was vital I showed that I was experienced and confident through the games. It was really fun and useful in terms of my own pre-performance preparations.

At lunch time I lost Ross and didn’t realise I was to stick with the school, who had already headed off to Chapelfield Gardens with their lunch. I managed to find them but Ross wasn’t with them. Still, I sat down and began to eat. However, mid-meal, there was a big ‘SPLAT!’ sound and we all wondered what it was. I looked down at my leg and I had been POOED ON BY A PIGEON! They all freaked out and one girl was sent into a panic that it had landed on her. No. It had landed on me. Yuck. I sat there in shock for a while, then scraped it off with a twig. Still in shock, I stood there whilst the others moved themselves further from the tree. Luckily, it didn’t land in my hair or anywhere else so I just went back to The Garage to take off my tights and wash my hands. Then it was onwards and upwards as I tried to tell myself that it was good luck…

We did the same workshop again but with different people and it was good feeling more prepared about what was to come and hearing what different people came up with on the spot. I spent our dinner time mostly with Catherine Woodward, who I knew from university, who had taken my place as Peer Mentor and was doing a great job. I’d met quite a few great people that day, including Lara who was from the Writers Centre Norwich, and sounded like she had a most enviable job! We had a quick warm-up with Drew Taylor and then took our seats.

The show itself ended up being fantastic. All the pre-show nerves were turned into adrenaline and everyone gave amazing performances. Although The Garage team were not included in the competition, their pieces throughout were inspiring and moving. As were Drew and Tom’s joint piece about the friendship they formed through the project. My team ‘Can Everyone Get Up And Leave?’ did a great job. Though one of the guys berated himself for forgetting a line, he pulled it off so smoothly that nobody else in the audience would have noticed. They went away with the ‘Best Line in Poem’ though the judges (Luke Wright, Charlotte Higgins and Francesca Beard) asserted there were so many great lines they couldn’t really pick just one! We also got inside info from Luke that he was rooting for us to win the competition overall, but didn’t quite make it to first place.

The National Shake the Dust Slam Final is held at Southbank between July 5-7th.