10.10.15 – You Press presents… One Story Our Voice: Voices of Redemption

 

 “As somebody who comes from a deprived London council estate with a background in gang violence and uneducated until 17, and have been to prison 6 times (a route that I managed to redirect over the last four years), I can safely say that this has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.” 

This event will build on the success of its first that took place in June this year at Park Theatre in Finsbury Park and has been designed by the group to showcase their hard work and perseverance. We will also be launching the collaborative project album that has both been produced and created by the group. With the aim of reaching a wider audience, the support from this event will not only help the next generation of artists achieve their potential but also continue to allow ex-offenders to articulate their voices.

Join the event here. Buy tickets here.

Norwich Love – from Art in My Mouth to the Waterfront

I have spent a few days with my boyfriend in Norwich. I read and wrote, and memorised and recorded poems. On our day off we went for a Chinese buffet, and went to an art gallery and to see a band. Here are some photographs from Moosey Art’s exhibition at Stew Gallery, Art in my Mouth. I really recommend checking out all the artists and the work is really affordable, so I really hope some people get behind these guys.

IMG_2561IMG_2567

 

Funnily enough I saw someone post something on Facebook about the coins above. Check out the Tales You Lose page to find out more and see some of the other designs.

These pineapples are only £30 each! I really want one… but then, you can’t really just get one can you? They look so scrumptious, I’d love them to go up in my house, if I ever move out of my parents’ house! The wall below was completed as part of the live art they had at the opening night. IMG_2563 IMG_2566

IMG_2573

That evening I had booked tickets for Annie Eve the day before. I felt like we were a bit of a rubbish audience, as everyone seems too shy to come forward and lingered at the edges the whole night. Matt’s house is quite a walk from the city centre, so we were quite happy to follow suit and sat on the floor for the gig. Matt spoke to the support act that we saw, and so we think this was Norwich lad, George Cheetham (and not Harry Edwards, whose name was also on the line-up). He was a great support act, with loop pedals and tricks up his sleeve in the form of a harmonica and melodica. He was a bit too self-deprecating at times, but he mostly appeared confident and friendly.
IMG_2576

Whilst Cheetham had fully enunciated his words, my only criticism of Annie Eve would be for her to open her mouth wider so we could hear her beautiful lyrics more clearly. Cheetham’s words were very clear, but with lyrics such as ‘she’s as drunk as a skunk’, they didn’t have the emotional depth of Annie’s. Still, I think it’s great that he played both old and new material, and with tales of working in shops and taking five years to make his album, he seemed like a pretty inspirational guy. So, with that in mind, I felt like my ears were straining to make out the words Annie Eve was singing, which hindered my enjoyment a bit. However, I was really glad to see her live, and she can only grow as a performer, which her change between acoustic and electric shows. Maybe with time and more confidence and experience she will sing more clearly, as I really think her lyricism is a big part of her appeal. I’ve given a few hints to Matt to get me her album, so hopefully he will take note – and hopefully it will contain lyric sheets (my main reason for still wanting to buy CD albums). Click below to view her song ‘Ropes’ on YouTube.

WOW (trigger warning: rape)


100_3584I have been very busy these past few months, but on Saturday 9th March I went to something that meant I had to get back to typing at these keys: WOW Festival. For those that don’t know about this, WOW stands for ‘Women of the World’ and is a series of events and discussions at Southbank, in London. But first, a quick catch up. 

I went to Barcelona during my half term holiday. I stayed with my friend, Laura who is working there at the moment. I also saw my cousin (who was on an exchange) and paternal grandfather (who is Spanish and lives there) and ate out with my parents who holidayed there too.

100_3528It was really relaxing and enjoyable, with the rain holding off and excitement at a glimpse of sunshine.

In other news, I have had a poem accepted into Brittle Star magazine. I’m pretty sure I have been rejected from there before, which makes my achievement even more special somehow.

100_3527
I went to see Tim Walker’s exhibition at Somerset House, after the V&A exhibition of ‘Hollywood Costumes.’ The latter was interesting, but honestly, too crowded to enjoy properly. It was like being on a conveyor belt, rather than walking around a gallery. And I was disappointed to see that the red shoes and pinafore from the Wizard of Oz were both replicas. On the other hand, Tim Walker’s free exhibition was fascinating. Showing that fashion is not an inferior art form through his photography, amazing pictures lined the walls of rooms where large objects brought them to life.

Photo0464In the world of poetry, I have been notified of my acceptance to perform at a festival, but I cannot reveal just yet which festival that is, so watch this space!I’ve also been busy organising my latest project: Poetry&Paint. I’m so pleased with the responses I’ve had and excited to launch the anthology at Craft Central’s space, ‘The Showcase’ on Saturday 30th March. There will be performance and discussion from Selina NwuluDaniel Lehan, Greta Healy, Robyn Comfort and Bill Vine. The exhibition is from 3pm and the evening event starts from 7pm.

I have also been working where I am employed, very hard.

Photo0465
Yet, I have also been organising Photo0467 something else. On Thursday 7th March, myself and Emily Prichard kicked off the International Women’s Day celebrations with the first ‘She Grrrowls’ Feminist Group meeting. We made some promotional hearts out of card and have scattered them around London.

I must also add that I treated my Mum to seeing Bridget Christie at the Purcell Room in Southbank on Friday. I felt very privileged to be attending her biggest show thus far, and both my Mum and I enjoyed her Feminist comedic commentary on our society, including a hilarious physical display demonstrating why we females should be so thankful for the Bic pen ‘For Her’.

The great shame for my Saturday activities at WOW was that I had no company. Not because I didn’t want to be on my own, but because none of my female friends were their for their own interest.

I have managed to visual document the presence of Ruby Wax, one half of Feminist men duo who co-wrote ‘The Guy’s Guide to Feminism, and Bidisha with Lisa Appignanesi. There were such a range of amazing events, but alas, I could only be at one place at a time.

The introduction to Saturday’s WOW was called ‘The Keys to the Castle. One of the most interesting speakers for this section was space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I immediately thought how great it would be for her to talk to the students at my work (I work at a school). It was really inspiring and I even learnt things that I didn’t really know about space. Well, 96% of space is undiscovered, so there’s a lot of work to be done in that field!

Next, I went to Michael Kaufman’s talk on The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. He read extracts from the book he co-wrote with Michael Kimmer, and commented on these extracts in an interesting and amusing way. Part of this intention must have been to promote the book – an easy-to-read A-Z of Feminism for the male reader – and it certainly made me want to get it for any male friends and the boyfriend! I highly recommend it, and I haven’t even read it yet.

The next talk that I went to was so powerful and emotive that nothing to follow could be more important to attend. This talk had the simple title: Rape. Chaired by Southbank’s artistic director, Jude Kelly, it began with Joanna Bourke’s revelation of shocking facts and statistics surrounding the subject matter. These things included:

1/ Marital rape was only made illegal in Scotland in 1989 (the year I was born).

2/  The rest of the UK followed suit in 1992.

3/ 1 in 3 films contains rape.

4/ Also reported by The Guardian: “one in three people believes that women who behave flirtatiously are at least partially responsible if they are raped.” (2005)

5/ There are more convictions of rape nowadays but 85% of rape cases go unreported.

6/ 1 in 5 females will be raped in their lifetime. If you know over 5 females, you do the maths.

7/ Some myths about rape: ‘no’ can mean ‘yes’, you can’t rape a resisting woman, some rapes aren’t serious, women ‘ask for it’ and women lie. Do not believe these things.

8/Research into false accusations shows a risk of just 3%, which is in line with all other crimes. 

9/ We need to talk about rape and educate young people about it.

10/ A woman’s biggest risk of rape has little to do with stranger danger. Most rapists know their victim; they are either friends, boyfriends, family or work colleges. This is why men need to speak out about things like rape jokes, and casual misogyny. If you don’t, you just placate those that do and normalise rape, deeming it acceptable. If you are male, you can make a pledge to fight against violence towards women through the White Ribbon Campaign.

whiteribbon

The audience then listened to the stories of real victims of rape (although none of them like to think of themselves as victims). One woman sent her story by email because after nine years she did not feel ready to tell it. I was shocked not just by the horrific atrocities these women had suffered, but the poor state of the legal system, where visible physical injury, and an eyewitness lead to a judge telling the jury to consider if they wanted “to ruin this young, talented man’s life” before making their decision, then to be acquitted of the charge. It also pained me to hear journeys they had been through to come to this stage and their determination not to let this incident define them.

One major point to come out of this discussion was the need to talk about rape and to educate young people about it.

After this harrowing topic, I contemplated a talk with teenagers about the term ‘Feminist’ but then decided to go to ‘Aint I A Woman’ which saw a panel of women discussing black women and popular culture. Speakers included Hannah Pool (chair), Kieran Yates, Angelique Kidjo, Miki Turner and Shirley Tate. It was really interesting, and I found Kieran Yates to be particularly on point throughout. The statement that sparked off the talk stood strong to the end: the struggle to end racism and the struggle to end sexism are intertwined. Although this is something I like to aim for in my brand of Feminism, I feel that, as a white women, the involvement of other races is necessary for Feminism to truly reflect the experiences and problems of all women.

The penultimate event I attended was Ruby Wax’s ‘Out of Her Mind’ which was the perfect blend of tragedy and comedy, about a topic that interests me: mental illness. The importance of communication was expressed again. Wax concluded that now at her dinner parties, when asked how she is, she explains ‘the same as you: dealing with heartache, death and loneliness… Hors d’œuvre?’

Lastly, I listened to women such as Bidisha and Lisa Appignanesi read extracts from ‘Fifty Shades of Feminism’ (another must-have read). I then rushed home for a nice big dinner and discussed the day with my Dad, who talked to me about all the topics, giving me some historical background (being a history teacher) and revealing that he is a Feminist… though not in those exact words, the conversation still had me beaming with pride to have such amazing parents. I then re-told and re-discussed with my Mum on Mother’s Day over a game of Scrabble.

xxx

Carmina’s Poetry Tease

 

Less than a week away now! I’m excited about the event and a little bit nervous. I think it should run smoothly but you never know. I’m probably more nervous about socialising and performing myself rather than all the other parts. My worries over audience have subsided slightly as I know a few people are coming but I would love for people I don’t actually know to turn up and enjoy the evening.

I’ll be at the venue from 10am trying to tempt people to come back for the evening. There will be a visual display so if you want more time to enjoy that aspect of the event then I’d recommend coming between 6.30pm and 7pm. Performances will start at 8pm sharp, allowing time at the beginning for drinks, nibbles and mingling. Performances are from Rosy Carrick and Catherine Woodward and I’m most looking forward to what they will be doing! After the poetry there should be some time for more of that, as well as buying anything – I’ve got badges, books, stickers, bookmarks, CD’s, t-shirts and paintings!

I’ll keep this update short and sweet as I’m at a crucial stage of my MA and have lots of work to do. I also noticed I haven’t updated July for artist of the month, let alone August!

xxx

 

Pussy Riot and the Power of Art

I’m going to begin this post by writing about my Gran’s 70th birthday, otherwise it might appear a little tame compared to the titled news. I went to Margate with my family and loved being near the sea, as well as the second-hand furniture shops and vintage stores. We stayed at the Walpole Bay Hotel which I would have liked to look more at as it is a living museum, giving it an eerie quality. Whilst in Margate I got to see Tracey Emin’s new work at the Turner gallery in ‘She Lay Down Deep Beneth the Sea.’ Emin tends to polarise people, but having seen her exhibition at the Hayward, I am ever the more passionate about her work. I feel that she is more of a writer than a visual artist, which some people may think is strange, but as she has said herself, she doesn’t care if she’s not the best visual artist in the world because ‘that isn’t my job.’ That’s not to say she’s not very skilled at the visual – she can make embroideries that look like paint! But, to me, it’s about more than just the visual, it’s about the story and the emotion.

The exhibition was free but I would urge anyone who sees it to spend the £2 for a headset so that you can really explore the work. What I found especially interesting, which you would be able to gather without the headset, is the inclusion of JMW Turner and Auguste Rodin alongside Emin’s work. Erotic nudes are displayed in a corridor-like room and seeing as the work shown was from the 1800s to the early 1900s, it makes me wonder what people find so crude and shocking about Emin’s work. There is a juxtaposition of gender here. I’m not sure I can offer any insight as to why Emin depicting her own body is so controversial. Perhaps people see it as self-indulgent, or cocky, but surely, writing and painting what you know best is the most natural thing to do? What I remember hearing Emin say through my headset, and what I believe also, is that although you are creating from yourself, once placed in public, the meaning transcends so that these bodies become not just Emin, but every woman.

Photography Copyright © 2012 Paul Singer – streetpix.co.uk

I recently bought these pictures and some footage (which I’m still awaiting) of my performance at Finger in the Pie. I realised that I had forgotten to mention that after my feature slot for IYAF and when one audience member stated he was ‘too critical’ to give an opinion, I pressed him for one. The first comment her made was that ‘it was very… feminine.’ He said a bit more and ended with something about being myself, but this comment stuck in my head. At the time I was a bit taken aback, but the more I thought about it the more it annoyed me. I reflected on the poems I had read, and a lot of them were autobiographical ones, or else ones about female characters ‘Cinderella’ and one quoting Sylvia Path with ‘the woman is perfected,’ plus another based on a Russian film called The Mirror. So, I can understand that someone would then make the comment that they were feminine.

However, the thing that annoyed me about this statement was that it was pitched as a negative. I am capable of writing poetry that is neutral or genderless and as I have written less of the autobiographical, this is more so the case, but there was an implication in the comment that feminine is the opposite of masculine. The context appeared to deal with those pesky binary oppositions that equate the masculine with right and the feminine with wrong. It begs the question, if my poetry is feminine, then what poetry is masculine? Or is masculine the elite poetry and feminine poetry just the Other? Can a man write feminine poetry? This idea was bothering me. However, much of the time I want my poetry to express my views, and some of what I write is as a Feminist, an activist, and… guess what? As a woman. So, if someone sees my poetry as ‘feminine’ I don’t mind. My problem, as I said before, is the assumption that ‘feminine’ equals ‘bad’.

I think it’s an incredibly loaded statement to describe someone’s writing is feminine. In some ways feminine writing has a lot to do with modernism, stream of consciousness and writers such as Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. Some say that this style can also been seen to be adopted by James Joyce, a man. If I am counted alongside these writers, I won’t complain!

There are also writers such as Dorothy Parker who I love. But just because Parker writes as a woman, and as a feminist, does this mean her writing is feminine? Is feminine writing lady-like? Does it wear lipstick? A quote on the back of her collected works by Peter Ackroyd says ‘she managed to express her real feelings in stanzas which snap and glitter like a Chanel handbag,’ which I like. But this idea of emotional writing, as well as writing from the body, is synonymous with feminine writing.

In a discussion I wrote about during Poetry Parnassus, women writers discussed our place in literature today. The consensus seemed to be that women should do more than write from the body, especially as they pointed out, that some publishers (referencing Africa) will put a body on the cover of a book by a woman, even when unrelated. I agree that women can and should write about everything, but I don’t think that writing from the body should be excluded. If it feels natural for you to do so, then by ignoring that desire surely you are placating to a patriarchal idea that the feminine writing is ‘wrong’?

‘Oxymoronic writing: perhaps, but it’s reality that is oxymoronic.’

This criticism has made me want to rush through Hélène Cixous essays. Perhaps the critic at the event wanted my performance provide a more bisexual offering? But then, as a woman on stage, perhaps anything I could have said would have heralded me as ‘feminine’. As a Feminist, part of me would like to think I can write whatever way I chose. However, I also acknowledge that there is a difference, to write as a woman. And I would rather embrace it, play with and experiment with it, than ‘function within masculine thinking [and] restrict [myself] to the range of its logocentric vocalizations’ (Elmer G. Weins).

Moving on… Pussy Riot are a group of Feminist using art and music to protest against Putin. The group has over ten-members, anonymised through colourful balaclavas, and grabbing attention in miss-matched tights and dresses. I read about it on The Guardian website and found out that three members have been arrested and the rest are in hiding. One member, referred to as Squirrel, states Putin is ‘scared of girls’ which gives the article a punchy ending. However, these young women are incredibly brave and serve to remind us of why women around the world should be Feminists and support struggles such as those the population of Russia currently face. As Poetry Parnassus reminded us, free speech is often taken for granted in countries such as the UK. Maybe that’s why I’m not ashamed to be a ‘feminine’ writer – because we still have a reason to fight, and we have something to say about the feminine experience of the world.

xxx

May the Birthweek Commence

Yesterday I handed in my latest four pieces of coursework, including my interview piece with Benjamin Zephaniah. I met with my Gran at the Tate Modern, where we started our day with the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.



I first came across Kusama whilst studying my art foundation at Central Saint Martins and I became fascinated by her use of polka-dots and her use bright colours, and her poetry. I bought a book of hers which I sadly lost in a photocopier (or so I suspect). I did write down this quote:

“A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm Round, soft, colourful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots can’t stay alone; like the communicative life of people, two or three polka-dots become a movement.”

I was also inspired by use of cherry blossom depicted in the poem below, which I used in my paintings in order to symbolise the conflict between childhood and adulthood.

I want to eat cherry blossoms.
I want to kiss their pink colors.
Their scent that would have reached the universe dissipated in my youth.
Remembering that, now tears roll down my eyes.
Scattering cherry blossom petals on the path of my faint love, I will be facing death someday.
When that day arrives, all the love that I have had in my past, I will enwrap life.
On that moment, the flower path of cherry blossoms will envelop the whole of me without fail.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms.
They explore my life and death.
Dear Cherry blossoms, I thank you


I first saw her exhibition at White Cube, and so this exhibition was interesting in terms of exploring the variety of her work, of which I loved every bit.

We went for a quick meal at Mon Plaisir which was nice. The main meal was quite small, but the desert was lovely – a rich chocolate mouse with a passion-fruit ice cream. Then, it was time for my birthday treat – Matilda the Musical! I thought it was good that it was faithful to the story-line but also was not restricted by it, making adaptions, and infusing more magical threads to the narrative. It did feel really magical and I loved the songs, as well as some of the messages they conveyed about being the writer of the story of your life, and although the main star, Matilda, is generally a good girl, that ‘sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty’ when you feel like something is not right to you.

In other news, I’ve had a couple of rejections – the Charles Pick Fellowship and my first application for Arts Council funding. I was disappointed that I’d had to email to ask about the Fellowship and that I would have not been contacted otherwise. I’d had a nightmare about not being accepted for it so it was really gutting that I’d not even made the short-list. Next year I think I’ll reapply with my novel idea, as maybe proposing to write a series of children’s short stories was not good enough, especially as a faculty member at UEA had told of the polarised views of children’s literature by the other staff.

I didn’t expect to be successful for my first arts council application. As I have the money to put my event on from being a Poet Shadow in Shake the Dust, I don’t have to worry about actually not being able to afford it. Though, making a profit will be unlikely. And although you can’t make a profit with Arts Council funding, it does mean the money isn’t coming out of your own pocket, resulting in a loss. Anyway, I emailed for further feedback and got a great response and so have lots to learn for any future applications. Particularly the idea of whether I actually do want to do any more events – do I want to be a writer or a producer? I’d say 100% a writer, first and foremost, but that I would like involvements in events and sometimes enjoy putting on my own events. Also, this pilot project is more about just putting myself out there and learning from the experience, so we’ll have to wait and see!

xxx

Welcome Home

Today is going to be the end of a very social and productive week, before the start of a very busy week to follow (which will also include a bit of socialising). I’m going to my friend Jo’s house for her housemate’s birthday, and I’ve also managed to see my friend Natalie who’s moved to Coventry and Hannah who’s about to move to York! What I wanted to write about is Tuesday. I viewed a gallery space called The Showcase, which is part of Craft Central, as this is where I will be holding an event later this year, on 22nd August. Afterwards I went with Siobhan Belingy to see Gillian Wearing’s exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery.

I’m really glad that we went as it was so interesting. We started catching up with each other but the exhibition was so engrossing and all-consuming. We both have had the experience that the stories expressed through Wearing’s work was so strong that we couldn’t get them out of our head.

As a writer, I found it inspiring in terms of presenting a narrative and the ideas explored between fiction and reality. This was extended further to the concept of public verses private personas.

Wearing’s most well known work is probably Signs that say what you want them to say, and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1997)shown above. As I didn’t know that much else of her work, it was interesting to see everything else – each piece of work stood out and made an imprint on my mind.

In 10–16 (1997) adults lip-sync to the voice-overs of children expressing their fears and insecurities. This results in a disturbing yet sometimes comic effect (I witnessed one woman have to escape the room in a fit of laughter) which shows the strange way emotions can sometimes work in response to tragic events. Her videos depicting familial relationships deal with the ‘expression of both love and conflict so common to most families,’ and sometimes touches on metaphor, asking the viewer to interpret the implied meaning.

In the same room as the sign photographs are three sculptural maquettes of uncelebrated modern-day heroes, which was thought-provoking in regard to the way we put historical figures on both literal and metaphorical pedestals. Her self-portraits were intriguing as the prosthetics looked so real that you could only tell it was a facade from looking at the eyes.

Lastly, the confession booths presented the result of an advert Wearing posted Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry, You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian….(1994) Like the grip of reality television, it was difficult to pull away from this seemingly never-ending reel of different true stories. It was tragic but thought provoking, and made me wonder how much we really know about the people that surround our daily lives.

Although at Sainsbury’s I’m quite aware that nobody knows me that well and I like it that way because I don’t want to enter into the petty problems that can occur in environments like that. I tend to distance myself from others and talk on a superficial level, and back away from questions asking how my long-distance relationship is and how my Valentine’s day was (err… weird, mind your own business cheers). I use the time to focus on the task in hand and sometimes zone out and spend time in my head due to the physical nature of the job.

However, the idea of everyone thinking you’re a great guy at work is turned sinister in the confessions booth as one man reveals his dark past as a murderer. The stories told elicit a response in you, ranging from sadness and sympathy to anger and disgust.

You can catch the Gillian Wearing exhibition until 17th June 2012.