I’m currently typing up notes from BARcademy, a writing and professional development week with Burn After Reading that took place in August 2014. That was 6 months ago. There’s a little indication of how my life is going.
So, I think it’s about time to have a look at the previous year and what I’m currently up to. One of my greatest achievements of 2014 (and my life) was being published by Nasty Little Press, and this was followed by an incredible summer of performing at a total of five festivals. I performed at Latitude, Secret Garden Party, Camp Bestival, In the Woods and Bestival. I also managed to fit in a sneaky four day holiday to Spain. I was ill for at least three weeks because of all this activity – just in time for the new term at work. I graduated from the Roundhouse Poetry Collective programme and formed Kid Glove. We now have a logo too – designed by Matthew Dickerson. We’re currently working a Twitter and a website… and on a show about adventure! This will be scratched at the Roundhouse’s Last Word Festival on Sunday 31st May at 1.30pm. Tickets are free, so book yourself a spot now. We’re resident artists at the Roundhouse this year, which is really cool.
This year has seen a bit of success so far (though I would like to be booked for more features, please). I am delighted to have had a poem accepted into Popshot Magazine! This will be available from 1st April and I’m thrilled to be in it after a lot of submissions in the past. I have also filmed my ‘Paradise’ poem with Guy Larsen, and I’m currently waiting to see it and show it to everyone, which should be by the end of the month – exciting! I will also be working with Joelle Taylor to produce a political poem in the run up to the election, which will be performed at the Festival of Ideas 2015 as part of Open Generation on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th April.
This time last year I was performing at Larmer Tree festival, and now I’ve just come back from Latitude Festival, where I performed as part of the New Voices. It will be the first of five festivals that I will be performing at this summer, and considering how nervous I was and how surreal it seemed, it went really well.
So, Friday I arrived at the performer campsite after taking a mini-bus after my coach and a nifty little buggy (wasn’t quite so swish on the way back). In the glorious heat, I put up my tent and made my way to the poetry stage. I got there in time to see Charlotte Higgins, another New Voices poet. I loved the way she conveyed such powerful words in her softly spoken manner, and I felt this was even stronger on her Sunday night performance as her passion permeated the audience. Next up was Talia Randal and as she spoke of journeys through London, I immediately wanted to book her for She Grrrowls.
I stepped out to watch the end of Kelis and then Crystal Fighters. I was on my own and feeling a bit lonely and anxious of what lay ahead of me. I ate a Twister lolly that was more expensive than my book, but whilst I have employment, I don’t need to worry about that. Bohdan Piasecki was next up and, being the leader of the Roundhouse Collective, I then felt at home. I stuck around for Peter Hayhoe, Raymond Antrobus and Rosy Carrick’s impromptu set (which I was really happy about, so thanks George The Poet). I saw Andy Bennett, who also made me feel at home, and he gave me his food voucher, which I later spent on chilli with Ray and Hollie McNish. My anxieties were fading away fast.
I was told that Two Door Cinema Club were replaced by Lily Allen, who had already had a secret show slot. I waited too long to find out that the rumours were true. She even did a cover of a TDCC as I was walking away. I used to like her, and I liked ‘Hard Out Here’ as a song, but I don’t think her reaction to racism criticism was positive. Also, I find the rest of the album as a whole a tad boring. But, I do kind of feel I cut my nose off to spite my face and probably would have enjoyed the set. I just feel that as horrible as it is to hear accusations of racism, it is important to engage with that criticism and be open to it,because the complexities of race are just as complex as gender and we all need to learn. Just because someone does something wrong, doesn’t mean that can’t redeem themselves. Anyway, I went back to the poetry tent and watched Andy Bennett and Attila the Stockbroker, ending with Page Match, which was all amazing fun!
Saturday I slumped on a sofa to watch Josie Long, who was brilliant, and I then headed to the Poetry Stage to catch Rebecca Goss. It was incredible to hear her poetry since reading Her Birth. I watched John Osborne‘s New Blur Album for the second time and next it was Luke Wright before me. I was hoping he would do his garage track and he did! I was next up and after expecting to see the crowd dissolve, Rosy had done a lovely job of bigging me up, and there were more people left behind than I expected. The crowd was lovely and I left the stage feeling happy. I sold two books, though when I finally managed to meet my friend despite the lack of phone signal, I was told I forgot to say exactly where I would be. This meant I didn’t meet my friend straight away; I watched Richard Marsh’s show, Wing Man, as I was compelled by the subject matter and wasn’t sure whether my friend was also still in the crowd. I made my way back to my tent, meeting Peter Hayhoe and Dan Cockrill along the way. I shall blame them rather than my brain for not seeing Conor Oberst, who I was told did Bright Eyes songs to and is one of my all time favourite musicians. Still, this is part of the whole surreal experience of Latitude as a performer.
After catching one song from Conor, I watched Chimene Suleyman and then tried to contact my friend, managing to finally get through in time for First Aid Kit. We hung out with her boyfriend and brother (who bought a book – thank you!) and we watched a bit of Bombay Bicycle Club and Catfish and the Bottlemen, who were particularly great live. We saw a bit of Damon Albarn and parted ways. I returned to watch fellow New Voices Ben Norris and Tommy Sissons, Mark Grist and Dizraeli. Ben was on form and the crowd showed their appreciation with a massive queue for his Nasty Little Intro. I had seen Dizraeli years ago, but he was truly phenomenal and his time on stage whizzed by. Beat-boxer, Reeps One ended the show and I left in the middle as the rain started to fall, and after being up talking to poets until 4am the night before, I wanted an early night (in comparison) before my Sunday set.
I wanted to see Michael Rosen, but despite being up hours before, I didn’t leave early enough and the tent was full by the time I got there. Instead I watched Eric Lampaert and Sophie Wu on the Cabaret Arena and I was glad I saw them because I loved them both. I watched RSC: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again after seeing a bit of Selena Godden. I enjoyed bits of it, but I was insanely tired after having four hours sleep, and had my prescription sunglasses on, so I nodded off now and again. I heard other people saying they didn’t quite understand it all, so maybe it wasn’t the brief few seconds I missed before I jerked awake. It was interesting and quite poetic in its expression. I wanted to see The Molinogroup, but I ended up needing to swap signed copies with non-signed copies of my Nasty Little Intro. On my way back I caught some of the film about Amanda Palmer, which I enjoyed as I’ve loved her since The Dresden Dolls. I then saw Andy Bennett and was excited to hear some of his epic poem, to be published by Nasty Little Press. Luke Kennard was amazing to watch; at first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was just as entertaining on the stage as on the page. Next I saw the lovely Deanna Rodger before heading off to watch Parquet Courts who were great. So great, in fact, that a drunken man came on stage thrashing a chair to the floor, jumping around in joy, and left waving his cock at the audience. I wished I wasn’t on my own and tired and standing on the edge rather than in the mosh pit. Oh to be young. I felt very old looking at all the teenagers, despite being told on my return at Tesco in Wimbledon that I looked sixteen.
I walked over to the poetry stage via Woman’s Hour, annoyed at my disappointing noodles, but happy to catch some Roger McGough. I watched Haim who were incredible live, and got ready for my final set whilst watching Lemn Sissay and Jonny Fluffypunk from backstage. I felt nervous again, and I think I built up my expectations and left the stage not feeling as good. I didn’t get a big queue like Ben, but I hold on the the moment where one of the audience members asked for a hug, saying thank you in a way in which it was clear something I said had moved him. I clung onto that to make myself feel better about not selling as many books, not realising how much I wanted people to like me and my poetry and validate me by buying my book. I told myself that this hug was what poetry was all about (and not because he fancied me, Ben!)
I didn’t bother coming out for The Black Keys, and watched James Grady, Tim Clare, Charlotte Higgins, Ben Norris, Raymond Antrobus and Scroobius Pip. I hadn’t seen James before, so it was great to see him. I had seen part of Tim’s show, but seeing a whole hour was fantastic. I got a bit emotional at one point… strangely identifying with Tim’s anxiety but in a very different way as he is more extrovert and I’m more introvert. I’ve said Ray was one of my highlights from that day because he really stepped up the the pre-Scroobius slot and it went perfectly. We all stood up for the final act of the night and enjoyed the familiar spoken word until he was played out with ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.’ I failed miserably at talking to Scroobius Pip, unsure how to say ‘remember when I judged you at that slam…’ a story I regularly drop into conversation when the man in question comes up. Instead I spoke to some merry Northern poets, introduced myself to John Cooper Clarke, and hung out with Ben and Bodhan until I couldn’t face dancing awkwardly anymore, and had an early night at 2am.
I ended my time at Latitude with a 40 minute trek, with my camping gear, trying to find where to get my bus from. The directions were very very poor. I should have waited for a buggy and told it to take me there. I set off at 7.50am and didn’t get on the bus until 9.35am and being the last one on, they weren’t even sure if there was room. ‘Er, that’s my coach, I am getting on,’ I thought. The journey back was fine and I nodded off a bit, unable to read Caroline Bird’s beautiful poetry as I had intended. Overall, it was a brilliant weekend and couldn’t have gone much better! I was so tired each night, I even managed to sleep through thunderstorms. I am truly thankful to Luke Wright and Tania Harrison for putting me on the bill, as well as all the many poets who made me feel part of the family.
Head over to the Nasty Little Press website to buy my Nasty Little Intro for just £2, or save on postage and packaging by catching me at a festival, gig or She Grrrowls event. There are just 200 copies and both Hannah Jane Walker and Sye Sanders have sold out, so snap them up fast! I highly recommend all the others on offer as I have read them all.
On Friday I’m off to Latitude Festival to perform as a New Voice on the Poetry Stage. I’m extremely excited, and rather overwhelmed at the surreal feeling that I was at Larmer Tree Festival last year and now I’m at lots of different festivals. Teenage Carmina would be proud. Being a strange concoction of introvert + shy girl + quiet one, all my joy is naturally bobbing along with a undercurrent of nervous anxiety. Poets are generally lovely though, so hopefully I’ll be okay and not have to rely too much on the magic fridge I’ve been told about.
I did a gig at The Birdcage. I tried to do my set off by heart. I’d practiced intermittently the last couple of weeks. I stumbled a few times but I did not reach for my paper (not concealed in my boots this time, I admitted that it was the poems that were peaking out of my cardigan pocket). Host, Andy Bennett, compared me to Dockers MC which was cool. It’s actually the second time that’s happened, so I’m thinking of starting to market myself as “a posh Laura Dockrill” or “a shy Laura Dockrill”.
Ben Smith eased us into the night with laughs that played on prediction and expectations, leaving me to be the filling in a comedy sandwich. It was a fine evening of entertainment, including comedian Alex Holland who I could really relate to with his tales of walking through groups of teenagers in fear. I was excited to see Lewis Buxton who I’d heard was similar to Luke Wright and I could see why people would say that; with his confident manner, his way of delivery and use of narrative and skillful use of rhythm and rhyme.
Adam Warne wove between poetry and comedy and appeared very naturally, taking away the microphone and telling us of Facebook anecdotes in between sonnets. John Osborne read us some lovely new poems about seaside towns and afterwards I got a nice message of compliments about my set which made me very happy. To round off night night, Cielo performed with a female violinist to add to the mix. It was a great set and my boyfriend loved it to so I’m glad he saw them, especially as they have some motivational songs, which he’s always on the look out for!