It’s been a long time since I wrote my poem Paradise, and nearly a year since I won first place in the Poetry Rivals competition. The poem was inspired by the No More Page 3campaign, placing judgement on society, the newspaper, and not on the models.
Thanks to all those involved with Poetry Rivals, including host and mentor Mark Grist, judges Hollie McNish, Mixy and Tim Clare. A massive thanks to those at Poetry Rivals HQ who have had to put up with my emails, drawing out the filming with ideas of parks, fish and chips shops and newsagents. There was a moment where my local newsagents from my childhood may have been involved, but to my relief, they stopped responding (more on that when I write my one woman show!) Thanks also then go to the Roundhouse for being able to film the poem there. Lastly, a big thanks to Guy Larsen for his fantastic filming.
If you liked this poem, please buy a copy of my poetry pamphlet from Nasty Little Press. There are other poems too, and you might like them. It’s signed, limited edition and just £2. Themes touch on topics such as multiculturalism, education, love, the pursuit of happiness and having a digitally native childhood. Or else come to a gig; my next performance is at the Festival of Ideas as part of Open Generation on Saturday 11th April. I’ll bring some books along so you don’t have to pay P&P.
1. So, I guess number one has to be my performance… even if I do say so myself, haha! But seriously, after Latitude my nerves had calmed and I actually managed not to spend the three days leading up to my performance stressing. I really enjoyed my time there and could definitely have gone on longer!
2. The lake – the first thing we did was go boating in the lake, and on Saturday we picked the perfect time to brave the water and take a dip. There was a funny moment when a dog jumped in, but it got annoying pretty fast – luckily the owner got it back eventually. It felt so good to swim around as the morning sun shone down on us.
3. More than music – my favourite parts of the festival were the randoms little things that went on. As well as the lake, we hula-hooped, joined the community choir, held snakes and chameleons, painted with watercolours, did some shiatsu and meditation, and watched an impromptu acrobatic show. There was also the “Dave Off”, which was silly and hilarious. We also had a bit of a dance to some African beats as our campsite neighbours got chatting to us and got us to come down to the Feast of Fools where they were playing.
4. Favourite performances – fellow poets Emma Jones, Amy Acre and Amy Blakemore performed in Poetry Period on the same stage as me. I didn’t know they were going to be there until the day (let alone any other poets other than ‘Dead Poets’ Mark Grist and Mixy who we saw a couple of times). The last night we shared a second Roaming Rotisserie meal, plus some churros, and settled at The Amphitheatre where we saw a great range of acts including an open mic final with an incredible beatboxer and freestyle rapper (he managed to deal with the horrible audience-given topic of ‘Hitler’ perfectly), a hilarious comedy show from Le Pain (I think that was the name), and an energetic musical performance from Classy-Cool.
1. The laid-back, chilled vibe of the festival meant that there was a slight issue with the organisation of everything. My set was cut in half, and it’s not that I would have minded having a half an hour set initially, but having prepared an hour of material, it resulted in me missing out all the more light-hearted poems and only realising the tone of my set afterwards. Still, two people who weren’t my boyfriend said they liked it. I had told someone earlier that there was a clash of the dance workshop and me on the board, which I’d also mentioned at the start of the festival as I wasn’t in the programme, and although the times on the board were changed, the fact of the matter wasn’t realised until just before I was due to go on, resulting in the cut of time. Although I thought they could have cut 5 minutes off everything and made up an hour of time, I didn’t want to appear The Diva – I was merely a competition winner after all.
2. Stage communication – in line with the organisation side of things, I felt like it would have been better to have poetry in one place. I didn’t realise there were a load of poets on the Forum Stage (I think) and that space would have probably been more better to host poetry, as it was very difficult to compete with the loud music from surrounding areas, children and drunk/drugged-up people running around and not knowing whether people further away would be able to hear. Those in the Poetry Period had a lot more to contend with in that respect.
3. I didn’t sell any books, therefore I don’t really know how much people liked me. I want to be liked. LIKE ME!!!
& The Ugly
1. The toilets. Having just come from Latitude, the SGP toilets were lacking in comparison. Mostly, there was a lack of toilet roll, but I also preferred Latitude’s type of port-a-loos with a lever-pull, but maybe they just needed to clean them up because they piled up way too high, and there were a couple of occasions where vomit and excrement were in places they shouldn’t be.
2. The drugs. I know that alcohol can be worse in many ways and I do drink a bit, but drugs still scare me a little; behind straw-bales and in the hidden sunflower field there were people lying on their own, near-dead to the world around them. This could also be to do with that the music went on until 6am and was really close to the campsite. I used to be pretty hardcore when it came to yearly trips to Reading Festival, but I just can’t hack that anymore.
Looks like the good is the winner here! As someone who usually goes to festivals for the music, the many adventures that were to be had at Secret Garden Party meant that I was more relaxed and happy to go-with-the-flow. The chilled out vibe must have had an effect on me as I was more calm about my performance and despite the distractions, I managed to get into my set and would have happily carried on and on and on…
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.
It has now been officially announced that I am the winner the 16-25 category for the 2013 entries for Poetry Rivals. I first entered four years ago, when my hair was much shorter! I performed a piece which is now part of my 15-20 minute poem ‘Circles’, which was inspired by my university dissertation text by Sarah Kane.
I came back and I wanted to win (I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive etc…). The prize is amazing – a performance poetry package with Mark Grist, a professional recording of a poem and a paid performance at a UK festival. I have worked hard to get to a position where I stood a chance in winning, and I would have been disappointed if I didn’t. I attend slams but hadn’t felt that same desire to win before. I guess all the nerves and adrenaline paid off!
I hung out in Peterborough for quite an unnecessarily long time and so I had time to rehearse my poem, though I already knew it well. I know my age and experience may have given me an advantage within this category (I’ve just turned 25), but this certainly didn’t make me complacent. I was really impressed by the quality of the poetry from everyone else who competed. The standard was much higher than when I had been before (in my opinion) and I’m sure that if those in attendance keep writing and getting out there, that they will win another year.
Again, I thank the judges Hollie McNish, Mixy and Tim Clare. It was great to watch them all perform. Hollie, I hadn’t seen since I started out seven years ago, and I connected to the way she made the personal political, and entwined her poetry with story telling. Having not ever been placed first with my poetry performances, it was about time!
Having returned from a much-needed break in Corrèze, France, visiting my Gran, I have now found the time to write a about my latest poetic adventure (though not the time to go through emails just yet). Over the last few months I’ve been taking part in a series of workshops with different mentors, through The Writing Room with Apples & Snakes. This culminated in a group performance on 13th August.
The Writing Room Showcase sort of felt like the coming together of a dysfunctional family, including some family members you never knew existed. Some pieces were created through workshops with the mentors, some throughout the last few months leading up to the show, and some just days before the event, but through the process we learnt a lot and came together as a group – the room filled with support for those that take on the risky path of the art world…
Ben Jacobs – for the ups and downs of the process, sharing in the strangeness of not making the cut for Young Poet Laureate for London, and the hope for the future. Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson – for her words of wisdom and loosening us up for the performance, making me laugh and taking me out of myself when all I could think of was trying to remember my poetry. Reminding us that we need to “own” our words. Kes Gill-Martin – for a piece that spoke volumes about what we’re all trying to do, which I need as my mantra when I’m struggling with the ideas of ever having kids and a mortgage. Rachel Long – for writing so many beautiful and varied poems I want to hear them all again, including a really witty piece about the Megabus that I could really identify with. For her warm smile and hugs. Sarah Ball -for the way her voice and beautiful words resounded through my mind throughout the weeks we were preparing our poems for the showcase. Temi Lateef – for letting his guard down and speaking of love and its complexities in a way we all know, standing out for what he believes to be good and true. Ruban Nathan – for expanding our horizons, telling untold stories from his travels, and for making me feel better for my splurge in Beyond Retro after seeing his bag at Roger’s session.
Lucy Jackson – for writing and performing a great piece, and then acknowledging that a writer’s work is never done – the struggle and enjoyment are one. And for, like me, eating a proper dinner from Thai and Lao at Boxpark (yum!)
Kareem Parkins-Brown – for his amazing imagery and figurative language, making my jaw-drop from the first session we were together in, with Joelle Taylor.
Daisy Dockrill – for doing her job so incredibly well and for her never-ending positive energy!
Sabrina Mahfouz – for getting the crowd going with an amazing poem and inspiring us that if we get out there, we can be a success.
Roger Robinson – for the workshop that shook me up and meant that I memorised my pieces, and for coming along and supporting the show, making me feel good about my writing.
Joelle Taylor, Mark Grist and Mixy – for some wonderful mentoring sessions that have produced pieces I’ve wanted to write but haven’t, and for all the mentors involved for showing us the importance of editing and re-working – Ben and I hope to record a version of our joint piece in the future, when we’ve got it to a place we’re both happy with.
Mary Akinsulire – for sending me a kind message when I really needed it, because despite all this positivity, sometimes you can just feel down.
Our theme began with my idea for the unspoken stories of the many people on public transport, and it became a tale of our personal journeys, with a connection between us encapsulated by five lines I ended with:
During the delay I derailed myself,
escaped onto the tracks.
My emergency was a red light;
the signal failure told me to run,
reminded me of fields and trees and dreams.
First for some exciting news that I’ve been bursting to post about… I’m performing and giving a workshop at Larmer Tree Festival! I’m pleased to be just one of former MACE students (that’s the MA in Creative Entrepreneurship dontchaknow) as Andi Michael will also be there talking about her new book, Wine Dark, Sea Blue, which I am itching to read after/during my Proust mission.
I’m also happy to be involved with Kingston’s International Youth Arts Festival. This time, I’m giving a workshop ‘From Page to Stage’ on the theme of Loss, at Studio 22 on Saturday 6th July. The hour-long workshop is just £10 – with a half price option for students/JSA/OAP. Members of the group will also get the opportunity to perform their work with some food at Las Iguanas. I’m also managing the spoken word event this year, which will be an off-shoot from the She Grrrowls Feminist group, featuring a lineup of female talent, and an open mic’ section for everyone! Entry for the event is just £5 and it will take place at the Ram Jam Club at The Grey Horse pub on 22nd July from 6pm.
She Grrrowls Spoken Word will feature Tabby Farrar, Nikki Marrone, A.L.Michael, Bisha Ali and Robyn-Astrid. There will be poetry, prose, comedy and music a it’s going to be amazing! Book your tickets now either online or by phone: 020 8549 2120. The She Grrrowls team are currently looking for venues and artists for future events, so please come along to support female talent in the arts and make this first night increible for everyone! All ticket sales will be divided by IYAF, the producers and directly paying the artists performing for you.
For those that missed out, I did a set at the new arts night S.W.A.M&P – a night featuring spoken word, acoustic music and poetry (geddit?) I had the pleasure of getting to see some amazing performers intimately, had the chance to chat to them as well and some clever lady shared a bottle of wine with us. Taking us from darkness towards the light of the stars was poet Paloma Heindorff, and there was some beautiful music from Tonia Thorne and friends. Closing the night was Chalie Dupre who gave us a solo rap battle history lesson about Shakespeare and Marlowe, plus a retelling of Macbeth through the three witches.
I’m also taking part in Apples & Snakes’ Writing Room, where I’m workshopping a piece in a pair and performing it after being put through my paces by a series of mentors. The piece came out of my first session with Dead Poets: Mark Grist and Mixy. I’m thrilled I can make the dates it will run for and excited to be able to work on the piece I’ve developed with Ben all those weeks ago. I also got to sit in and help out at workshops with Kayo Chingonyi at the school where I work, which was a pretty cool perk! The last thing I need to mention is that my poem ‘Ladybird’ is in ‘Words for Wide Skies’ which is being launched on 21st June. All profits will go towards the conservation work at WWT Welney.
To wrap things up, here are some events I’m hoping to get down to over the next couple of months:
Oh, and one more thing. The second issue of Poetry&Paint is out now! You can buy your copy of the ‘weather’ issue as ahardcopy or in PDF format. It is recommended to buy the full-colour version, but for those wanting to save some pennies, you can now buy Poetry&Paint in black and white. All copies of Poetry&Paint are available through the Lulu website.