So, I’m currently decompressing after the Living Record Festival finished on Monday! As well as taking part in the festival myself, I also completed a total of 11 show reviews, pretty much all in the last week of the festival. These mini-reviews will be published on The Norwich Radical soon, so you can find out some artists to follow.
Here are some final images from listeners… though rather unusually, two printed with a black background, and one listener, unable to print, drew her own version. Next, I’m hoping to record a binaural version with the Living Record, and potentially put out a more permanent version of the audio. Watch this space!
I still have over 25 copies of the illustrated poem available in book form from Burning Eye Books, signed directly from me on my Big Cartel shop. Meanwhile, I’m looking to begin a new schedule realistically by the second week of March, which will allow me to carve more space for creativity.
It’s the penultimate week of the Living Record Festival, so you have until listen to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram. I would love to see them! You just need to print out the design and colour with pens, pencils, felt tips – whatever you have at hand!
Last night, I recorded the live Zoom event, which is now available to watch back when you buy the ticket bundle, which is £5 for the ‘Circles’ audio, PDF activity and Zoom video download. I discuss the journey of ‘Circles’, and read some new poems about my late grandad and processing the grief. I also still have just under 30 copies of the ‘Circles’ book (Burning Eye Books) available to post. I can sign your copy with a dedication of your choice when you buy it from me directly.
Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Is it just me, or is it impossible to ignore? Tonight I plan to drink some F*ckboy Tears whilst watching the ‘Queer Heart Breakers Ball’. It features Jenny Foulds, Desree and Reece Lyons, who are all amazing! I also have heart-shaped meat pies and, having to work today, I’m very much looking forward to it!
I’m also hoping to attend Worst Date Ever on the day itself. I’ve seen both shows live before and they’re sure to make an excellent Valentine’s weekend, however you’re feeling about it! I think avoiding social media and attending events like this will be best as I already saw a post about someone’s boyfriend giving them thoughtful little pre-Valentine’s gifts, and it’s really hard to compare, even when you’re feeling happy before you see it! Will I be able to follow my own advice though? Let’s see…
The third week of the Living Record Festival has come and gone, with nearly 10 tickets sold so far, and some kind words from Sally Proctor, the Community Director at Slung Low. I hope to see some more colourful pictures in the final week. Please listen to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram.
Last week was also my grandad’s funeral; it was and is surreal and sad, but the sun shined that day. I’ve been watching films like ‘Saint Frances’ and ‘The Book of Life’, and have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to be kind to myself, but still not fully giving myself what I needed. I listened a lot to podcasts like ‘The Good Grief Podcast’ with Alex Di Cuffa, and Griefcast with Cariad Lloyd.
On Friday, I tried to be kind to myself, knowing I had She Grrrowls on Instagram Live in the evening. I took myself off for a walk to my local park to make the most of the sunny weather, and as my grandad also had a sweet tooth, having eaten some lemon curd biscuits in his honour on the day of the funeral, before She Grrrowls, I made myself a hot drink to have with some shortbread biscuits and a blackcurrant and apple pie.
I was glad I didn’t cancel She Grrrowls, as with nine acts on the open mic, it was a full house. I read a poem about Yorkshire that my grandad had written, and a poem I’d written for him as part of his eulogy. In speaking of death and grief, I’ve also shared one of my favourite books on sadness: Sad Book by Michael Rosen.
As I write now, there is a flurry of snow outside my windows, and I’m safely inside after a long walk to Greenwich yesterday, covering 19km. Any sun soon turned to cloud and then rain. Exhausted, I had an array of Korean dishes for dinner, and played the ‘7 Wonders’ board game a couple of times. It is the unbelievableness of the situation that allows me to enjoy these moments, but at other times I lean into the grief, allow myself to feel the shock and sadness of such unexpected loss.
It’s the second week of Living Record Festival, and after just five ticket sales, I’m being reminded that it’s better than nothing, and to hold on to the reasons why we do this, why we create and put it out to the world. It’s not the number of connections, but the connections themselves. So, I’m holding on to this lovely comment I’ve been given permission to share from Jodie Adams.
I’ve reached out to family members, which has been encouraging. After over a decade in poetry, it gets harder to ask for support from friends and family. A part of you thinks, shouldn’t you have an audience by now? Shouldn’t you not need them anymore? These kinds of thoughts can lead to a bad spiral, so sometimes it’s best to just ask directly, appreciate those who give the time, and understand those who don’t.
So far, my maternal grandmother and one of my cousins have sent me pictures of how they listened. I love how my gran has put her margarita inside the circle as something she loves, and how both of them have created such a nice space to give themselves that 15-minutes to focus on listening and colouring.
When you buy the audio stream of Circles, for £5 as well as the audio and the Zoom Q&A, you get a copy of this black and white PDF of the book cover to colour in and draw inside, following the instructions. I also had a go at it myself and just about got the flowers coloured in by the end, finishing with this new doodle that was inspired by an exercise my friend Natalie Cooper (who illustrated the She Grrrowls anthology poems). I have often doodled and actually, as someone who is more of a conceptual artist (when it comes to visual art, this is always what I say, tongue-in-cheek, having illustrated my ‘Circles’ book myself), this is something I’d love to do more in an active way. After talking to someone else about their art therapy, which sounded like it incorporated similar techniques, I find it fascinating how doodling allows the free flow of moment without a plan, in a way that is so opposite to how I often work and live.
Lastly, I also want to recommend the film ‘Soul’. With everything that is happening in my life and other people’s lives at the moment, it was just so heart-warming and appropriate. I also recommend the short film on Disney + that goes into the background of the film.
I think writing these reflections on a weekly basis should allow me some time to actually pause and think: what have I done this week? Often I make being “productive” a priority and aside from the daily grind and socialising (even if it just video calls and walks in the park for now), I often don’t feel creatively fulfilled. Aside from the importance of certain issues going on in the publishing world right now, I’ve been thinking about the idea of six-figure salaries being made through art, or even salaries close to the mark. It feels so far removed, and as much as I want to shake off the idea of the “struggling artist”, the idea of money and art is something that gets even more messy in my head when you start to combine it with ideologies like feminism, as well as subject matters like grief. Yet, here I am below, promoting my piece Circles for the Living Record Festival, trying to act like I’m talking to someone in the bar. I can be a pretty awkward person sometimes, so maybe it is realistic enough!
Being born into capitalism, valuing ourselves does seem to be linked with monetary value. Even as I’m writing this, I feel like I’m not valuing myself enough. I’ll use self-deprecating humour as a defence mechanism. I worry that I’m not putting the time into my art and creativity partly because of capitalism and chasing after the money (even if it only pays 3p per word), but also because I’m not believing in myself enough. I like my work, and I think it’s also getting better, yet even receiving compliments on it feels surprising.
Circles is new to the world, but for me, it’s something I’ve been holding onto for a long time, and this is part of me letting it go. I want to give myself the time to work on my other creative projects, whether they see the light of day or not. I’m slowly working on a new collection of poems that I feel is pamphlet length, a kind of memoir that even if I published under a different name would still contain too many identifying features, and a spoken word show that has been way too long in the making.
For now, I’m going to try my best to promote this show, as a celebration of what I have created, knowing that however many people it touches, it is important to someone else other than me. I remember reading the piece when I supported Sabrina Benaim at London’s Bush Hall. It was incredible to see the mass of people watching live poetry, but also felt great that audience members also appreciated my work, whether they bought my book or cried during my piece, hopefully allowing them to heal a little. In me letting this piece go, I hope others will be able to let go some of their own pain, whether from grief or lost love.
The Living Record Festival is why we do what we do. The creative work is why I have pursued the path of being self-employed. At times, I can lose sight of that, so it always feels good to be a part of something that nourishes the reasons for our being.
Tomorrow, Living Record Festival officially launches, and you will be able to listen to my audio for ‘Circles’, and use the PDF to print and use as you listen. You can buy tickets now and listen every day from tomorrow until 22nd February. I’ve also included a Q&A session for free, which will take place on Zoom on Friday 12th February 5-6pm. Tickets to listen cost just £5, and there’s also a link to buy the book, which I can sign and dedicate to you.
I’ll probably continue to bang on about the festival throughout it. As well as my own show, I’d recommend checking out Maria Ferguson’s ‘Alright, Girl?’ reading her book (which I’ve read) published by Burning Eye Books and Leanne Moden’s Skip Skip Skip (which I’ve seen live at Edinburgh Fringe Festival). I’d also like to recommend Elian Gray’s show as he kindly helped me when recording my piece, and it sounds exciting! With the national lockdown, it’s the perfect time to support artists and listen to something different each day, perhaps using the money that may otherwise be spent on your lunch break!