8pm, 6 & 8 Manor Road, N16 5SA London
A free night of music, comedy, poetry and dance, featuring:
Carol Prior (compere), Chris Fraser, Carmina Masoliver, Miranda Gavin, Las Pasionarias, JC McFee, Mellow Baku, Alice Denny.
We will be raising money for The Penny Beale Memorial Fund, which has been created to preserve and protect the physical and mental health of persons who are or have been victims of domestic violence and to advance the education of the public, including local authorities and voluntary bodies, by the provision of information, advice and training programmes into the causes, remedies and prevention of domestic violence. Charity No. 1110528.
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).
KMT by Athena Kugblenu
Elsa by Isobel Rogers
What Women Want by Amy Annette
Sticky Digits by Pamela DeMenthe
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
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
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
This Really is Too Much
Happy Hour by Jack Rooke
Show Me The Money by Paula Varjack
Quarter-Life Crisis by Yolanda Mercy
Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon
The Vagina Dialogues
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!
I’ve written more detailed reviews for The Norwich Radical on shows by the Kitten Killers, Luke Stephens, Kate Smurthwaite, Pole and Hannah Chutzpah. Here I’ve included some smaller reviews to give you a flavour of some of my other many highlights.
Satirical, character sketches and comedic speeches on gender, Ford switches between characters to connect comedy to more serious issues. We get a cool, informative zine on the way out, and a badge.
There were moments I wasn’t sure about: the mention of ‘political correctness’, jokes about fat people, and Jewish people, and the upset at the mention of the girls who left Bethnal Green Academy. I work at the school down the road, and it’s something that directly impacts on the students I teach, but perhaps the point was to create discomfort. The theory that they went “for dick” seemed sadly poignant once the laughter died down and we were told that “epilator, knickers and body lotion” were on the top of their packing list. This is a slightly longer review, because I’m interested to see where the show will go, because, although funny, the ending – a commentary on Islam and so-called “ISIS” was momentous and powerful.
There were at least three acts who mentioned the tax on sanitary products, but Christie suggested the ingenious idea of sending bloody knickers with “END VAT’ on them to George Osborne. In this show, she gave an ironic definition of what being a Feminist means and turned to politics in the UK and USA, with an intersectional focus on race issues.
I disagreed with points made about “manspreading”, which is simply indicative of patriarchy, and as much a part of it as anything else, I didn’t like jibes at Beyoncé, and I didn’t like the use of the word “retarded”. However, she also made the obligatory tampon tax joke, and her ability to touch on taboo subjects such as incest, rape and pedophilia was both clever and somehow funny (and not in an offensive way). She spoke frankly of what difficulties in her life, from depression to drugs, and weighed up whether decisions she’d made were brave or stupid. Well, I’d say the brave outweighs the stupid.
He probably won’t want his youth commenting on, but I left Rooke’s show in awe of what he is doing. Not only has he created this wonderful show, which has the perfect balance of comedy and more sombre moments, but he is symbolic of how the personal is political. What goes on with the government directly impacts on our lives, and through The Good Grief Project, he is challenging current changes to the Widowed Parent’s Allowance.
You couldn’t help but smile throughout this show, as Baker took us through his life prior to university to now through his poetry, which can be found in the book of the same title by Burning Eye Books.
An intense show about revolution and communism, Morgan’s voice kept audiences captivated through his ways with words and the beat of the music he played as a backdrop.
A show about shame that started with not letting an old lady sit down, and inevitably went on to talk about drunken behaviour, bad dreams and sexual antics. With songs and a flute, Chesney Hawks, and a serious note about shame and self-harm, what’s not to love?
I gave this show a standing ovation. I’ve never been made to cry from watching dancing before this. I bought the play text, but I wish I could relive the experience as I read. Bryony Kimmings and her real-life partner Tim Grayburn use comedy, dance, and spoken word to speak about mental health more honestly than I’ve ever seen before. It was incredibly touching and I wanted to cry a lot more than I actually did.
An insight into the care industry through a legal battle between the state and the carer. This shows as in with such jobs, there is minimal pay and agency for those who truly care about the individuals they work for, the service users. It was honest and passionate, and so heartbreaking.
No words and a whole lot of audience participation. I was thankful to do no more than eat a Hula Hoop. The best part was their use of pre-recorded material on the screen, and that whilst it felt like each part was a random act, it tied neatly together by the end.
I loved the Feminist angle of wanting to be this confident person, and wanting to be empowered sexually and otherwise. Lyon’s mis-matching accents was especially funny, as well as her use of costume.
Ben Norris explores his relationship with his father through a hitchhike through all the places his dad had lived, proving an interesting story that explored masculinity as a whole and was sure to connect with many men in the audience.
I loved this and was laughing constantly. She had good accents and I liked the reclaiming of ‘girl’ as a word of complexities, and there were slight political points, but worked in a subtle way. Again, this was about confidence and owning your own “shame” (her being in this heavy metal pirate video)
A show about flaws, obviously, and lacking self-esteem, mental health issues and turning to alcohol. Watson is such a warm character that you can’t help but warm to him (unless you were one of the three women who left after fifteen minutes).
A really interesting piece, as well as in terms of subject matter – the idea of changing your identity – but also in terms of how this was done visually – mixing front performance, through the camera and on screen.
Another show with no words spoken aloud, but written on white boards, using props and dance to illustrate the story of Hannah’s dad, dealing with his death, and her friend David helping her to tell this story. There was laughter, and many, many tears.
‘I can’t rhyme you,’ Hirsch proclaims, asserting why she can’t write a poem for her then-boyfriend, in the middle of what is almost a long love poem to the ex in question. But it was also a love poem to herself, and for everyone out there searching for love and the meaning of life.
Beautifully intricate language, so poetic and mixed in, as the title would suggest, with a’cappella song. Foxtrot plays with humour and the unexpected in this wonderfully crafted piece.
I couldn’t believe this comedian was just 18 years old. It wasn’t only her grumpy persona that made her seem mature, but her confidence and comic timing.
Michael Burdett: Strange Face – Adventures with a Lost Nick Drake Recording
Really interesting true story of… well, it does what it says on the tin. There’s a book with lots of people, including well-known people, photographed whilst listening to the a rare recording of ‘Cello Song’ with their stories.
Mark Stephenson: Amsterdam
A hilarious story about an absent father, a beautiful marriage and selective mutism. Or it is? Very much recommend.
I find it difficult to create characters that exist beyond binaries of good and bad, yet Izzy Tennyson managed to do this in the creation of ‘Brute’. In the classic conversational style of Tennyson, she embodies a teenage girl to tell a story that is familiar in the sense of going to a single-sex state school, but looking into why girls can be bullies, exploring the complexities of a psyche so often dismissed.
Reading poems from his Burning Eye Book, Applied Mathematics, Simpson attempts and admittedly fails to get to the heart of an emotional provocation. But at the end, it’s okay, as the audience enjoy his playing with language, from puns to extended metaphors. I bought his book in hope of some poetic inspiration!
Renkow was knowingly provocative in his comedy from the onset, warning the audience that his record number of walk-outs is nine people. However, I was most offended by the implication that, in telling an anecdote to illustrate negative attitudes to disability, his erection was due to the woman’s “fear”. There were certainly other moments where I questioned where he was going, but you didn’t have to wait for long to see that he was mocking injustices he sees in society.
So, it was pretty much all amazing…
There were some I enjoyed more than others, but the only show I was completely disappointed by was Tony Law. I’d seen him before, but a majority of this improvised show I didn’t find funny, and on top of that I was worried about him, especially when he started to drink a pint after telling the audience he’s quit drinking. I hope he’s okay…
She Grrrowls is settled into its new home at Apples & Pears – it’s crazy to think that half a year has gone, and 16th July will be the last event before the summer break (all being well, returning in September). Check out what you missed last week:
In other news, I’m currently working on an anthology of ten poets from the She Grrrowls alumni after receiving funding from Ideas Tap to commission some new poems. I just need a publisher now! I’m hoping to get it out for December to have a launch event.
Speaking of radio, I’ll be having some poems featured on Audio Book Radio. Tune in on Friday 26th June at 2pm, 10pm and Saturday 27th at 6am.
I have spent a few days with my boyfriend in Norwich. I read and wrote, and memorised and recorded poems. On our day off we went for a Chinese buffet, and went to an art gallery and to see a band. Here are some photographs from Moosey Art’s exhibition at Stew Gallery, Art in my Mouth. I really recommend checking out all the artists and the work is really affordable, so I really hope some people get behind these guys.
Funnily enough I saw someone post something on Facebook about the coins above. Check out the Tales You Lose page to find out more and see some of the other designs.
These pineapples are only £30 each! I really want one… but then, you can’t really just get one can you? They look so scrumptious, I’d love them to go up in my house, if I ever move out of my parents’ house! The wall below was completed as part of the live art they had at the opening night.
That evening I had booked tickets for Annie Eve the day before. I felt like we were a bit of a rubbish audience, as everyone seems too shy to come forward and lingered at the edges the whole night. Matt’s house is quite a walk from the city centre, so we were quite happy to follow suit and sat on the floor for the gig. Matt spoke to the support act that we saw, and so we think this was Norwich lad, George Cheetham (and not Harry Edwards, whose name was also on the line-up). He was a great support act, with loop pedals and tricks up his sleeve in the form of a harmonica and melodica. He was a bit too self-deprecating at times, but he mostly appeared confident and friendly.
Whilst Cheetham had fully enunciated his words, my only criticism of Annie Eve would be for her to open her mouth wider so we could hear her beautiful lyrics more clearly. Cheetham’s words were very clear, but with lyrics such as ‘she’s as drunk as a skunk’, they didn’t have the emotional depth of Annie’s. Still, I think it’s great that he played both old and new material, and with tales of working in shops and taking five years to make his album, he seemed like a pretty inspirational guy. So, with that in mind, I felt like my ears were straining to make out the words Annie Eve was singing, which hindered my enjoyment a bit. However, I was really glad to see her live, and she can only grow as a performer, which her change between acoustic and electric shows. Maybe with time and more confidence and experience she will sing more clearly, as I really think her lyricism is a big part of her appeal. I’ve given a few hints to Matt to get me her album, so hopefully he will take note – and hopefully it will contain lyric sheets (my main reason for still wanting to buy CD albums). Click below to view her song ‘Ropes’ on YouTube.
I wrote this review on my way home, feeling disappointed at Ben Howard’s performance at the iTunes festival, after moaning with my friend, as well as other vocal fans on the way out of the building. We hesitated leaving as he played just 55 minutes of a contracted 70 minute set, which a commenter told me was meant to include two old songs we had been craving.
However, amongst the commenters who agreed, there were a few that disagreed, and some that we very angry over this post. Although I think the swearing and shouty capital letters were unnecessary, I think it is important to admit where you’re wrong. I watched back at I had been wrong about the trace of narcissism I had initially detected. In fact, this had been a projection of my own frustration at not knowing the songs, expecting to be hearing old classics mixed in with the new, and my height meaning I was unable to see most of the time. When I watched back, I saw that the comments I had thought were rude, were actually bordering on the modesty I thought was missing: Howard’s face looked down as he laughed, as if unable to comprehend the crowd. The importance of body language, eh?
I was also wrong about interpreting him sitting down as lazy. I hadn’t seen him perform and was simply ignorant to his musical technique. In fact, the sitting down was to do with the pedals he needed to press. Other than that, my opinion still stands that the gig would have been better with a mixture of music, and with better audience interaction. So, point number (3) is out, but (1) and (2) still stand for me. Nevertheless, the feeling that I and many others got from Howard could well be to do with what another commenter mentioned: ” If you watch some of his interviews he has tough time dealing with fame and expectations, and that definitely showed last night.” I feel very passionate about mental health issues, and I would hate for my negative words to not be sympathetic to that. Perhaps what we saw on Wednesday was a man who was trying to put his all into it, but was simply struggling, having a bad day.
So, all this got me thinking about the audience, and how reactionary lots of people, myself included, had been after the gig. Some of these points were what other commenters brought up, and others were things that are linked to what I had been saying. During the gig, the audience were standing their like zombies, to the point where I was zapped of energy and was infected with the zombie bug too (plus, with the frustration with my expectations not being met). People nearer the front simply stood there, whilst other areas meant that people talked too loudly, seemingly uninterested with the gig. I think would have enjoyed the gig more had I been sat down in a quiet field with the music blowing through the wind, rather than stood up in building full of bright flashing lights. This happened when I saw Laura Marling at In The Woods festival recently (where I was also performing – yay!) I would have liked to sing along (which I approve of), but people were either silent or talking way too loudly. Music with beautiful lyrics like Marling’s or Howard’s deserve attention. Especially hearing songs for the first time, I want to really listen and take them in.
On this point is the constant need to capture every moment with a camera. I like to have a memento too, but I think after a couple of shots and maybe one recording of a song you love, enough is enough. Put the camera away and enjoy just being there. The most fun I’ve had at gigs is when you immerse yourself in the experience rather than trying to get a photograph that isn’t a big old blur of colours.
So, all in all, I have just three pointers for performers, and four for audience members, because, hey, I can admit when I’m not 100% right, and a gig is, as I said, a mutual relationship between performer and audience. My tips for the audience are as follows:
1.Talking through performances of singers whose music is lyrical and soft. (More so for poetry too!)
2. Constant filming and photography. Remember when you enjoyed just being at gigs?
3. Come without expectations. Or, as I have learnt, you will be disappointed.
4. Remember that performers are human beings, with all their imperfections and complexities.