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.
I’ll write a proper update soon. Things are busy. I got ill for four weeks… that didn’t help. I feel like I have to sit down and write a big long post, like, settle down, let me tell you a story with a cup of tea.
Anyway, speaking of stories, while you wait for another long post (because our attention spans are so great, and you love me so much), have a listen to this podcast on Tell a Story. It features myself alongside two other members of the old (old!) Roundhouse Collective, Joel Auterson and Sophie Fenella – and we’re now called ‘Kid Glove’! I hope you like it, because it was a long process.
It also features Kate Tempest,Tim Clare and Scroobius Pip. I wasn’t very good at it; I’m an INFJ (which I just got a book on) and maybe that has something to do with it. I need to be briefed and have time to prepare… hence I’m not on it much! Oh my god, that was literally the only vaguely good thing I came out with.
Not quitting the day job just yet folks. At least I’m educating a few young people on the way.
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.
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.
Last Thursday night LitSoc put on an event with CWS… though actually I think only one of our collaborators was there. Anyway, this is possibly the last event we’re going to put on, but I’m hoping to put on another one. I really want to pay the performers but I don’t think we have enough money… maybe on the next!
Anyway, we had to host as a committee (apart from Helen because she doesn’t like public speaking) because our host pulled out last-minute… very unprofessional haha. We started off with a CWS open mic but the only member that came had to go away for something and so there wasn’t really any of their input but whatever. I was the “sacrificial poet” first in the open mic and we had a decent number of people get up to read.
The night consisted of Catherine Woodward, followed by Grenouilles, and I was meant to go on then but I cut my set out so the night would run more smoothly (hence why I did the open mic instead). Then Greta Healy and Hannah Walker gave us some poetry, and Robyn Comfort began with poetry and moved onto music.
Ending the night was Russell J Turner, Ashley Johnston, and Tim Clare. I was really happy with how the evening went down, but I think I’m getting a bit too comfortable in my university bubble because I had rather too much wine to drink. I stupidly left mid-way through Tim Clare’s set because a couple of friends were going out and apparently it was a “now or never” situation. I feel really stupid and guilty for leaving and really regret it. It’s something I’d be totally against when sober and if Captain of the Rant saw me that night, he’d be saying “now who’s rude? now who’s the dickhead?! hmmm?!”
I guess I got what I deserved. I ended up at “Nowhere” and somehow was dancing on my own, wondering where one of the people I came with had gone but figuring I may as well just enjoy myself until we were reunited. I had an urge at the beginning of the night to do a cart-wheel but we were busy setting up so I didn’t. You better believe repressed urges will come out. I decided to use an empty space to do a cart-wheel. Now, this is something I would do sober as well, and have memories of doing it at kid’s birthday parties in my childhood, so I don’t know if I can entirely blame the alcohol for… maybe I can blame the club, or the dark lighting.
Anyway, I did the cart-wheel and I did it on a load of broken glass. My hand got cut first and so I fell onto the floor and hurt my knee. I was really embarrassed and rushed to the bar where I told them my hand really hurt and that I “thought” it was bleeding. I looked down and there was blood going everywhere (including my lovely dress… it’s okay guys, it came out in the wash, thank god! It’s vintage you see). I was taken to the back room and they got the first aid kit out and bandaged me up, but the guy said that if I cared what my knee looked like I needed to go to A&E. I remember being quite casual about it because I didn’t think that I needed more than what he’d done, and I didn’t really want to go but him saying that obviously freaked me out… I didn’t really want a deformed knee.
So… memory blank… somehow I got there. Taxi I guess. I waited for 3 hours and had nothing to do. I had left my poetry and my iPod at the LitSoc event. I wasted loads of texts and even tried calling my dad, and a friend I’d planned to call at the weekend. It was past 2am so I didn’t get through. I bought some crisps and a cookie from a machine. I felt so depressed and lonely and just sat there for hours until I got so frustrated with everyone being seen apart from me that I started crying. Not noticeably, just silently to myself. I just wanted my parents there but they are in London and I am in Norwich.
Eventually I was seen and it was revealed it was a complete waste of time. I didn’t even need stitches. They just washed my hand (which had been previously glued) and then put these strips on my knee (which my dad said were butterfly stitches, but still… not proper stitches). I got an expensive taxi home for £8 and when I arrived at mine at like 5am, the guy wouldn’t stop talking about how Shakespeare doesn’t exist. I mean, bless him, but at 5am I just wanted to go to sleep before attempting at my busy day whilst being all tired and hungover.
It’s my housemate, Kristy’s birthday today so we’ve just made her fairy cakes and put them on this amazing cake stand we got her from Notty Green. I’ve been listening to Funeral for a Friend’s new album Welcome Home Armageddon and it’s great! More like the old stuff, wooo! It’s been sunny and I’ve been wearing pink jeans and been in a good mood considering my preoccupation with a guy that doesn’t feel the same as me and general loneliness that creeps over me sometimes. And random waves of panic about my life in general. Anyway, before I start getting too personal and bitching about other stuff that’s annoying me, I’ll end.
I found out at the weekend that Luke Wright, John Osborne and Tim Clare were going to be performing at this Creative Writing Society event. I’d recently been told An ex-boyfriend I still care (too much) about has a new girlfriend and was half wanting to read a whole set of poems about him and half wanting to read nothing to do with him, prior to finding out that these poetry celebrities were attending. Oh hiya, curator of Latitude poetry stage… I think I might think a bit more about what I’m going to read now. So, I thought vaguely thematically and did a couple I read quite regularly; The Mirror and Space Station. Plus, two I’d never read before; Ghosts on Stairways and 90s Kidz. Okay, so two poems about the ex, but they were good choices, I think.
The Mirror has been published in the Poetry Rivals 2010 anthology, and as I was disappointed by the standard of the other poetry included, I’m hoping I’m in the top 100 that get to perform. I’d read afterwards warnings not to enter the competition, but seeing as I know half of last year’s judges, I thought it can’t be that bad… apart from the paying for your own copy of the book instead of actually getting paid!
Anyway, acts that stood out that I hadn’t seen before to my knowledge, were Amanda Gosling and Leo Hunt. Both prose acts, which is a more difficult task than reading poetry, and yet, they stood out the most. The Aisle 16 members obviously stood out like a sore thumb and I felt stupidly starstruck, as I am shy at the best of times. I was happy with my own performance, but obviously looking back at the video is never as good, plus I stumbled on a couple of lines (once in Space Station, which I know of my heart, but then again I had zero time to practice!) I was comforted by the professionals’ own stumblings though.
So, the next event will probably be 22nd November at the UEA Hive, which is an event I’m putting on for LitSoc with poetry, comedy and music. Also, Aisle 16 are doing a birthday gig for FREE at the York Tavern which is across the road from me, yay!
So, I didn’t make it to any more poetry events the week before returning to Norwich, for three reasons:
1. Monday: kept up by snoring at a friend’s house, went home at 5am, took two hours, had three hours sleep.
2. Tuesday: went round to friend’s house, mum didn’t want anyone staying round, was home by 2am.
3. Wednesday: goodbye drinks, ended up going clubbing with one mate, everyone got chucked off the bus, got home at 5am and was hungover all day.
Anyway, back in Norwich, I went off to the NAC to see Tim Clare headline at Word of Mouth. Andy Spragg was up first, who I know from previous Soapbox events and the Poetry Choir. I really liked his poems and would have liked to read as well as hear them, which I got to do later on! Although confident, he was a bit shaky – which is what I’ve been doing recently at events and know how annoying it is, like… why is my leg shaking. A bit like Will’s arms on The Inbetweeners (which I watched the next day on 4od, very funny!)
The Anti-Poet I had performed alongside at Speech Motion, at the Horse & Groom pub in London. They were even better than the last time! I really want my own music stand and one of those microphones; it’s the perfect solution to my bad memory, and well, the microphone just looks and sounds cool.
So, the headline act, Tim Clare, I had seen at Latitude but couldn’t hear that well, and was chatting to a uni mate I bumped into and was pretty pissed off that I couldn’t get back to where I was sat as it had gotten so crowded. Also, it seemed to be more comedy and music than poetry… so I didn’t know what to expect this time. It ended up being… AMAZING! Tim’s act wasn’t so much comedy but just him being himself and rambling on about his night drinking Cocktails, and reciting Tom Cruise’s “poem”. He was really quite endearing; what a charmer. I loved his poem about loving crazy women and the epic “9-minute poem”.
The After Hours Club was a scary ‘Swap Shop Special’ which involved putting our poems in a bag and picking three different ones. I knew some people had put in awkward poems, so I was lucky enough to avoid any of that, PLUS I got my very own ‘Cinderella’ poem. I didn’t record the event as I just wanted to enjoy it for what it was… wasn’t really about me haha. It was weird seeing Tim Clare in the audience. I hoped he thought I was good. It’s cool when the bigger names come to the open mic bit. Though I would probably judge them badly if they didn’t to be honest!
There was a bit of drama with the LitSoc Vs. CWS. It turned out to be an issue of improving communications and never using the term ‘open mic’ for LitSoc events to avoid confusion for the Student’s Union in terms of the distinctions between the societies. Anyway, after some passionate and persuasive arguing from me (I did get an A in that at GCSE) it seemed to be all sorted, and we should be able to work together the way I had intended, rather than against each other. And I avoided crying – yay!
So, everything ended up being okay, and in a few hours shall be seeing a lot of the same faces for HEADcrash Cabaret at The Birdcage with some friends coming along.