She Grrrowls does Edinburgh PBH Fringe Free Festival 2017

After my first fringe run, it’s hard to know what I’m feeling, but, I’m so glad that I’ve done it. I viewed it as a learning experience, and wanted to sell some of the 100 books that were delivered to my hostel. I could just about fit the 50 books that were left in my suitcase, so I feel like I did what I set out to achieve. In celebration, I also got my first two tattoos: a heart on my wrist, because that’s where I wear it, and leopard print on my shoulder, to symbolise She Grrrowls.


In terms of learning, I think I could have flyered better in terms of exit-flyering more rigorously. I did well with the Wee Blue Book, but the people taking them weren’t necessarily my audience, and I feel like people who would have liked it weren’t always reached. I tried to pace myself, but as a lone wolf, I saw more shows than people, and could have put myself out there more in terms of meeting other poets etc. Tim Wells bumped into me flyering and stressed the importance of networking, but it isn’t my best skill. For this, I was grateful for people like John Osborne who invited me to hang out at the Book Festival, which I didn’t know much about. Sadly, coming down with a cold meant I had to propose getting well again, but towards the end of the month I was also able to hang out with Tyrone Lewis and Jake Wild Hall from Boomerang Club, and met a few people through them. It was actually BC, along with Joel Auterson who inspired me to take She Grrrowls to the fringe having seen they did it the previous year.

The Fringe is so expensive to attend, even with a free venue, and so I wasn’t expecting to make a profit, or break even, but just hoped to have some money to help me get by. It had put me out of pocket for many months when working in Spain, and it was thanks to a week of teaching work in Wimbledon that I even had money to buy food. I have no savings. The only thing to alleviate the stress what when I secured a couple more weeks of work for September, and started to do interview for tutoring jobs from my hostel kitchen. I was paying over £800 for a mixed 6-bed dorm,  and although this resulted in many sleepless nights due to snoring guests, the location was perfect, and it was pretty clean with a well-equipped kitchen. Doing a solo show I think I’d need something better, but I managed to survive it.

Initially, I was nervous about flyering, and not too excited to have to host the show. I found I surprised myself in both these areas. Flyering was okay when I could be myself, and there were hundreds of others doing the same. Hosting each night felt like I was training a set of muscles. However, there were a few times sexism reared its head. Once a man spoke to me about my event then asked to shake my hand. Except he brought it to his frog-like lips and kissed it. I felt violated. Then there was a time when a guy walked past, whipped a flyer out my hand only to throw it to the gutter – normally, not much to think of, except it seemed a deliberate reaction to the word “feminism” emboldened on the flyer. Just after this a group of guys I recognised (possibly fellow poets) approached me. At first they seemed friendly, but what they said to me was strange, hostile and intimidating. I doubted they would behave the way they did to a man, so regarded it as an act of sexism. And it wasn’t just me: Fay Roberts wrote an account for this problem here.

I did a few feature sets at nights such as Raise the Bar: Poetry Versus and That’s What She Said. Another thing I would have done would be more features and open mics, but this required more planning than I had realised, and I wasn’t quite sure where to look.  I did suffer from “fringe flu” at one point, which was when the wonderful Jane Bradley, host of TWSS, gave me a lovely bag of goodies like grapes and tea and lozenges. When I wasn’t flyering, seeing shows, or doing shows, I was writing reviews for The Norwich Radical (one, two, and three), and applying for tutoring jobs for when I returned to London. This means I’m going to soon become self-employed when I start taking on tutoring clients.

I saw so many incredible shows that it would be impossible to list them all, but I will try now, and did try to tweet about them all during the fringe (categories may cross over).

Comedy

KMT by Athena Kugblenu

Elsa by Isobel Rogers

What Women Want by Amy Annette

Sticky Digits by Pamela DeMenthe

Galpals

The Lol Word

Adele is Younger Than Us

Hurricane Katie by Katie Pritchard

How to be Good at Everything by Next Best Thing

The Conscious Uncoupling by Rosie Wilby

All KIDing Aside by Christel Bartelse

Molesting the Corpse of Traditional Masculinity Since 1987 by Henry Ginsberg

London Hughes: Superstar

Shit! I’m in Love with You Again by Rachelle Elie

 

Poetry

Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea by Jemima Foxtrot

Circled in the Radio Times by John Osborne

Frankie Vah by Luke Wright

Anxiety and Animal GIFs by Hannah Chutzpah

My Cloth-Eared Heart by Melanie Branton

Neil Hillborn

That’s What She Said

Porky the Poet

Fifty Grades of Shame by Sophia Blackwell

An Evening with an Immigrant by Inua Ellams

No Rest for the Lizard by Gecko

A Matter of Race

Struggle With Purpose by Patrick Shand

Loud Poets

 

Theatre

This Really is Too Much

Happy Hour by Jack Rooke

Socially (Un)acceptable

Brutal Cessation

Show Me The Money by Paula Varjack

Jane Doe

Quarter-Life Crisis by Yolanda Mercy

Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon

The Vagina Dialogues

Side Orders

Syd & Sylvia by Claudia Jefferies

At the end of the run I had a couple of nights still, catching the rest of the shows I could, and trying to do some non-fringe stuff. Having had a picnic for dinner on Calton Hill the night before, I treated myself to a lovely meal at MUMS after climbing Arthur’s Seat on my final day, and had my first try of haggis with a Full Scottish Breakfast the next morning (I spread it on toast and finished it, but I’m more of a hash brown girl). After cooking for myself everyday, aside from exactly two portions of chips and gravy, for the whole month, it was a worthy reward. I’d also been veggie the whole time, so meat was quite a treat.

Now it’s onto the next chapter – the book launch at The Five Bells in New Cross on Wednesday 20th September!

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Hypocrite

I was at primary school when I first learnt what the word ‘hypocrite’ meant. I remember because I recall shouting it at other players during after-school netball games. I say shouting, but I’m quite softly spoken and so maybe I wasn’t all that loud. But I remember one friend laughing at me as I said it. Those who get close to me will learn this strange mix of vehement-quiet-girl still exists within me (why I’m so excited for the Shy Radicals book).

It was when I was a teenager, that I began to see my parents – and adults in general – as human beings. With flaws. One of those flaws being that they were massive hypocrites. As a child who had school reports detailing my strong sense of right and wrong, it was only natural that I developed this idea that being a hypocrite was not something I wanted to be, and with that I found it hard not to be overly righteous in defending my views. I never believed that I would become a hypocrite.

But maybe I was wrong. If I am to analyse the details of everything I do, I regularly go against what I believe in. I can do a lot better. And although I’m taking steps towards doing better, there will always be things I do that don’t live up to my ideal version of myself, especially when it comes to making money. For example, my current day job is teaching English as a foreign language. It can be a very rewarding job, yet, a big part of me is also uncomfortable about the fact that there is so much demand to learn English. It reminds me of how privileged I am to have been born where I was. Such a small country, such a widespread language, such a horrible history of colonialism.

And here I am, post-Brexit, living in Spain, not able to speak the language – because if you know English, why bother with any other language? Even the one of your heritage. My plan, to return to the UK, hopefully better acquainted with Spanish, and focus on my career as a writer. I feel I haven’t given myself the chance to properly try to live my dream. For a dream, I know it will seem less of that in reality, that it will be a struggle. But then so is working full-time and trying to work in the arts as a second job. It’s time that I make it a priority.

And in doing that, it’s likely my morals may be called into question. I might still be a hypocrite, and I might face dilemmas. Except maybe the money will be too much of a temptation, because I already auditioned for an advert for Transport for London because it paid more than my annual wage at the time (I’m now earning about half that annual wage, but my mental health is a lot better and I’m living in my own apartment instead of with my parents). And this dilemma is if I am lucky. Whenever I have seen other poets at Buckingham Palace, or on adverts, I have been excited for them, knowing that (despite the moral implications) I would be honoured to be asked and can’t imagine doing anything other than accept it. Even if I did feel uneasy about it.

This is for the same reason that I accepted my first job offer after I finished my MA and stayed there for 4 years. Because I have been taught that things are so bad that I should be grateful for whatever I can get. But right now, I have taken a risk and applied for Edinburgh Fringe Festival and booked to stay at a hostel for a month. It’s nearly double my current rent. I’m trying to save, but I am worried about being able to afford it. I thought about applying for some extra work that would ease these worries – £1000 for a month’s work online – but in the end, I wasn’t sure I would be able to commit to it on top of my full-time job teaching.

So, to imagine the fee that comes with doing adverts, such as the Nationwide ones, knowing that it could enable me to live my dream. It would be too good to refuse. And as another poet pointed out, it is the system that is the problem, and most of the time we are just trying to live. I’ve worked for minimum wage for WHSmith, JD Wetherspoons and Sainsbury’s. It doesn’t mean I agree with what they stand for, so if I was asked to pen a poem for those same companies, would it be any different? Perhaps it would, being that you are publicly associating your own brand as a poet with their brand, therefore it is a kind of endorsement that isn’t as true being a sales/bar assistant, which carries with it an element of anonymity, of being part of a uniformed mass.

In the midst of debate around the Nationwide adverts, although admitting he respects the poets in the ads, poet Luke Wright sparked debate with his poem Renegade Poets, which I think is what was intended. It is not so much the poets in the ads being targeted, but rather opening up a discussion about what it means when we accept these opportunities, especially for those of us who write political pieces and are vocal about things like Feminism and Capitalism. ‘McGough is doing Waitrose, and Clarkey’s doing chips…’ Wright says, while acknowledging it’s not about one specific case, and that it’s not new.

He laments about the art that is lost, the compromise you have to have, when selling your work in this way. One line that struck me was: ‘if nobody wants to see your show, it’s probably not good enough’, because part of me thinks there’s more to it than that. For example, with She Grrrowls, the audience can vary widely in numbers, and sadly I think being a feminist night, featuring women, this makes it more niche. Then again, there’s also music and comedy, which are arguably less niche than poetry. I have also had a promotor basically tell me that I don’t bring enough audience to the show. Whilst that may be true, I would never say that to one of my acts. It’s rude and patronising.

Nevertheless, the sentiment harks back to that line in Wright’s poem. If you are familiar with Wright’s work, you’ll see that at least in this sense, he practises what he preaches. How do you make something good enough? You work hard at it. At the night Homework, as well as in his solo shows, you can see the effort that goes into creating quality pieces, and the poem Renegade Poets is a great poem too, with an ending that really drives the point home.

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The point being to think more about making these decisions, instead of doing what I imagine I might do – just see the money and and say yes. So, yes it’s important to think about this topic, but at the moment, I don’t think I’m able to make a decision. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong in all contexts, but something that comes down to an individual company and what they stand for, and the person making that choice.

When I did my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship five years ago, part of me thought that if I had the right tools I could be successful in the arts. I grew up with two teachers as parents and they worked hard in their field and have been able to provide me with a good life. I have become slightly disillusioned since graduating and working, that although we were taught that the “struggling artist” cliche is a myth that doesn’t have to be fulfilled, I still fear know that by taking a risk later this year, I will living on the “cabbage budget” and may never see the “champagne budget”.

Disillusioned, but only slightly. I still hold on to my dream, and feel I have to give myself that chance. On another  related note, Roxane Gay recently pulled publication of her next book How to Be Heard after ‘alt-right’ Milo Yiannopoulos received a $250,000 advance from Simon & Schuster. It is an act of protest. She has been able to stand by her morals and principles, but she has also been quoted by The Guardian as saying ‘I can afford to take this stand. Not everyone can. Remember that.’ Whether these moral choices are something we can do from the start of our career, or whether it is something success enables us to do so is still up for debate. I may be a hypocrite now, but I will try to push myself and do better.

The Last Word Festival

The Last Word Festival is a week-long annual festival of spoken word events at The Roundhouse. In addition to  the scratch show for ‘Dear Adventure’ with Kid Glove, I watched ten other shows. You can find five of them reviewed briefly here, and another five reviewed on The Norwich Radical website.

Sophie Rose

Quiet Violence

I hadn’t seen Sophie Rose perform, and this ending up being of of my favourite shows of the festival. Rose had a natural quality to her performance, as she moved from narrative story-telling to poetic details, successfully blending humour with more serious moments. The ‘quiet violence’ began with high heels, which made me think I should get rid of mine, dusty because they look so much better in my wardrobe that on my feet, where I’d eventually be stumbling and sporting some of the ankle-protection shown on Rose’s subtle costume. The concept of the show appeared to me as a unique one, yet it was so relatable that it was both hilarious (who knew bags could be so funny?) and, dare I say, life changing. By the end, it encouraged the audience to do what makes them happy, rather than what they feel obliged to do, to find the people who would make them soup when they’re ill, and to change what they don’t like rather than simply put up with it. Sophie Rose wants to know, what’s your quiet violence?

Producing Your Own Poetry Show

Throughout the festival there were a range of workshops offered. Having seen Sophie Rose’s show, I was curious as to how this would also work with a workshop about how others could produce shows. Rose made the room a comfortable space, where we worked individually and as a group to discuss different aspects of making a show. It was difficult to contain in the hour slot, and she generously offered extra time, as well as the space for collaborative discussion under her direction, and gave everyone detailed notes and the offer to contact her. One of the useful tips I picked up was about distilling your show idea down to one word; my word ended up being ‘self-acceptance’, which isn’t what I expected, but shows an idea of what the audience should get from it as well as the artist.

Luke Wright

What I Leaned From Johnny Bevan

Poetry veteran, Luke Wright, previewed his new show amongst many emerging artists. With many shows already under his belt, I was excited to see what this one would bring. Sitting in the audience, I was already excited by the music playing, and as the show began, we heard crafted guitar twangs (from Art Brut’s Ian Catskilken) to a backdrop of changing scene sketches. I was filled with nostalgia of my own early twenties, that were often filled with drinking in council estates with mates and days spent in my first years at UEA, locations both featured in the show. Yet this nostalgia also gave a sense of timelessness, a dystopian feel, which the tale of Johnny Bevan represented, that we remain to the social class we’re born in, and that just as previous governments reinforced these class divisions, so will the current one. With the election results still fresh, the poetic narrative of Johnny Bevan painted a bleak future, but perhaps, in this gritty reality, it is a reminder as to why it is important to keep fighting. Essentially, this is a story, but the poetry of the show is not merely due to the use of rhyme, but the depth of meaning behind the words.

Poetry Reincarnation

I didn’t know what I had let myself in for at the time – Poetry Reincarnation started at around 7pm, and it was stilling going past the scheduled end time of 11.15pm. I had also attended part of the earlier programme of events, with a panel discussion on poetry and, essentially, its importance in our lives creatively and politically. The evening event kicked off with Malika Booker, giving a somewhat unspoken progression this world has made beyond the Beat Poet generation of white men, and its unmentioned allegations of pedophilia, and support of the NAMBLA. Since finding this information out, I now always feel uneasy about this kind of worship of poets such as Allen Ginsberg. There were around twenty poets, so I’m going to focus on my favourites. Booker was one highlight, having recently read ‘Pepperseed’ and she was followed by Cecila Knapp, who represented the under-30s and did a stellar job all weekend. Libby Houston was a poet from the older generation of poets performing since the 60s who impressed with her poetics, humour and wide smile.

Kei Miller reminded me that I want to buy his collection, and poets such as John Hegley and Elvis McGonagall brought excitement to the event in the form of rhyme, rhythm and comedy. Music was used effectively throughout the show, breaking up the mass of spoken word, and including more experimental and psychedelic parts that were evocative of the 60s, yet Gwyneth Herbert was a powerhouse in this respect, with a voice that ranged from soft and subtle to loud and proud. Janaka Stucky was a poet I was unfamiliar with, and coming from Boston, it felt a privilege to see him perform his work. Salena Godden, recently mentioned by Hannah Silva at The Place for Poetry, was even more of a delight to watch after hearing this analysis. Francesca Beard was a poet I recently argued at She Grrrowls, and I saw her do some of the same, as well as new material, and again, she left me wanting more, with every word layered with meaning, yet also dishing out a dry, witty humour throughout her set. I sadly missed the end of Dr John Cooper Clarke’s set, and leaving after a couple of sexist, tired wife jokes, I was disappointed with what I did see, but hopefully I’ll be better impressed when I see him again in July. The way poets such as JCC are often held on a pedestal, it seems almost sacrilege to dare say his jokes were sexist, and as much as I want to suggest that perhaps I just couldn’t keep to the the speed of his speech, I can’t deny that these cliched wife jokes just don’t tickle me. And surely, if we want our poetry to be truly revolutionary, I can’t be too scared to say something is sexist. What this event did showcase, as well as the non-programmed event simultaneously taking place in the Made in Camden bar, of which I was meant to be a part, is the vibrancy and variety of contemporary poetry today, and the importance of learning about poets who came before us.

Cecilia Knapp

Finding Home

In case you’ve not noticed, Cecilia Knapp has been a regular feature in The Last Word Festival. This scratch was presented almost in full, stripped down against a backdrop of a blue moon sinking behind a horizon. We saw the first half, where Knapp delivered her usual poetic narrative, mostly in free verse, that lulled the sold-out audience into her world, painted so beautifully with her words. I felt there was a danger of romanticising things here, but this was possibly because cigarette references personally jar with me. I know this criticism is probably unfounded, and otherwise that I would struggle to find any room for improvement here, because however beautiful the language, this is her life. ‘Finding Home’ is a piece that manages to be both autobiographical, and I found that I could relate to the words, and I was taken on a journey, so that by the end – or the half-way point – I wasn’t ready for the lights to come up.

Latitude 2014 – New Voices

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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.

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Fellow New Voice: Charlotte Higgins

Some of my highlights from the festival include…

FRIDAY:
Poetry: Charlotte Higgins, Talia Randal and Page Match
(I didn’t see much else but poetry this day)

SATURDAY:
Music: Catfish and the Bottlemen
Poetry: Dizraeli
Other: Josie Long

SUNDAY:
Music: Haim
Poetry: Luke Kennard and Raymond Antrobus
Other: Eric Lampaert and Sophie Wu

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reasons to Live in Norwich

1.
My boyfriend, obviously.

2.
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!

3.
Ross Sutherland – Comedian Dies in the Middle of Joke

4.
Molly Naylor and The Middle Ones

5.
John Cooper Clarke

6.
Latitude Poetry Club

7.
Again, nights at The Birdcage. Clunge Collective the other night, and headCRASH – where my next gig will be on June 20th.

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.

It’s Friday, I’m In Love

Since Tuesday I’ve been out every night.  For the first time I was able to go to Norwich Poetry Club at The Bicycle Shop.  I was wearing small heels but inside was so dimly lit I had to be careful down the stairs and it took Hannah Walker a while to recognise me.  She was the only person I spoke to as I was feeling shy for some reason.  I also spoke to a woman briefly who I’d asked to sit next too.  I noticed she left before the last act and Luke Wright sat next to me.  He was hosting the show and although hosting is not a job that goes hand-in-hand with performance poetry (I am not so good at it!) he does it well.  He read a lot of new poems and they reminded me of old poems I’d read as a kid, a kind of naughty children’s poetry, and I mean this as a good thing (I’ve studied Children’s Literature after all).

Hattie Grunewald was the first feature for the evening, and although I already know and like her poetry I learnt about her successes so far – she has been taught by Caroline Bird after winning awarded withe the prestige of being a Foyle Young Poet, and had her poetry on the Underground, and as you can see on the link I’ve placed on her name, she has published books out there!  Slightly jealous if I’m honest.  I get annoyed at myself for not remembering details so I made a note of a couple of expressions I liked – the idea of someone tasting like a newsagents and eyes that rust.

John Osborne was next, promoting his new book.  Now, I’m far too promiscuous to state as Luke did, that he is my favourite poet, but he is up there.  He told a poem about a surprise party his girlfriend had organised and nobody turned up, which I related too… until he said it wasn’t true and “I don’t have a girlfriend, so the joke’s on you”.  This blend of fact and fiction inspired a poem I wrote that night, called Circumstances, which was also influenced by a poet called Tao Lin who I’ve been reading and I hoped for a kind of dry humour combined with a bleakness.  Anyway, back to John, and other favourites from the night include a poem about a guy that didn’t pay his pound into a syndicate at work the week they won, called ‘that money would have turned you into a bastard anyway’, and a heart-warming poem about a break-up.

The headline was Thick Richard, but if I’m honest, he wasn’t my favourite part of the evening.  He had a bit of a death theme, and I do like a theme, but still, I wasn’t impressed.  The crowd seemed to like it though, laughing where I couldn’t muster a chuckle.  The poem I most liked was something like ‘why don’t girls who like men like that like me?’ about seemingly nice girls going for bad guys.  He’s a chef though so maybe he could win my heart through my stomach.

It ended a bit past 9pm so I got to pop to The Birdcage for Lucy Day and The Knights’ EP release!  Inlay flaked out of supporting but the other acts, Blanche Ellis and Drew McDonnell were really great.  Before Lucy came on, I noticed the girl next to me put out some burning paper, and I was like fuck!  I smelt it and wondered what it was but didn’t even realise it was right next to me.  I think she only put it out because I turned my head and saw it, weird!

The gig was amazing and I’m so glad I went along!  I’ve listened to the collection of songs from Lucy a few times and had a few running around in my head.  I loved Forsaken and the lyrics have made me think about my own pursuits.  Sometimes I feel like I agree with the song, something does have to be forsaken.  For me, I’m so sucky at relationships, at times I think it’s just not meant for me – the happily, or not-so-happily married with kids life.  I could deal with the current patterns of my love life if only it meant I could be a success in other areas, namely my career.   We get told we can have it all, but maybe we can’t always.  I have this need and desire for love and for faithfulness and matrimony but I know the reality of this is near impossible, and that even if I did get married, it just may be a more serious example of how things end in tears.  It can be frustrating to have this desire but I guess it’s as much a part of living, to go through those kinds of ups and downs, as all the other elements of life, and should be embraced as such.  I think that since finishing my university work I feel a bit weird, like there’s so much I want to do that I don’t know where to start or if I have enough time.

Anyway, Wednesday I had a gig at The Birdcage myself.  I wore this dress with birdcages on it from Topshop, and an hourglass necklace from Urban Outfitters. Oh! And these cute bird earrings from UO as well.  I teamed it with green tights and my vintage Charles shoes.

My friends Helen and Laura came to watch and we went for a half-pint at spoons afterwards.  I knew all of the performers so I didn’t much feel nervous or anything, though I was a little unprepared as I kept switching my mind about which poems to read, and I did the new one, ‘Circumstances’ though it probably needs a lot of work, and I don’t know if people got the humour, or if I delivered it right.  The rest was okay, and I did a few by heart.

So, the list of performers… Bethan Williams, Jennifer Grey, Imogen Steinberg, Andy Bennet, Catherine Woodward, me and, headlining, John Osborne.  Jenny said she was nervous… in fact, so did Catherine and Andy!  Jenny always gives a confident reading though and was fine once she was up there.  Andy’s was really interesting and amazing considering he’d written them in the past 48 hours!  I knew why Catherine was nervous once she was up there, she gave a very different performance – all by heart and even including a cheeky lip-licking and winking!  After that, I was scared to follow her but think it went okay.

Last night I was a volunteer at Hannah Rose Jone’s Independently Fashioned.  I was on the door so met everyone and sorted out tickets (which turned out to be inking people’s hands) and all the stuff like that.  It was stressful at times, but I got used to it and it was actually really refreshing how lovely everyone was.  The only embarrassing thing was when one of the designers gave me £40 and I counted on my fingers to work out 40-25 to get her change.  I get so stressed when doing the simplest mental maths that my mind just goes blank.  I was to say ‘I’m not stupid, I got a B for GCSE maths, it’s just the pressure or something’ but I just end up looking a bit silly, oh well.  I should have done my research about the designers because it was a bit embarrassing not knowing know they were.

I didn’t get to see much but it did look like a great show, plus there were musicians Jordan Jackson and Cielo – most people at the end were asking about the band!  It was funny because one of the members asked to put some flyers on the table and said Jordan was good but that Cielo were a bit pretentious haha.  I had a good night, and Hannah even gave me a free headband for it, which I put on straight away and shall be wearing properly tonight!

xxx