Post C-19 Part 1, The Learning

Hello Lovelies. It is a strange time, and we are all learning allsorts, from tech, to baking, to our neighbours. There have been a lot of firsts for me in the past 6 weeks, and I want to share a couple with you. I, like a lot of people, have started to zoom, all over the place! I hosted my first couple of on-line music and poetry gigs, alongside – but 3 miles apart from – Martin Grey. First we had a DIY Poets readaround, then the first virtual World Jam with music and poetry from around the world to our sofa’s. That happened to co-incide with my birthday, so I had my first lockdown birthday with a screen full of talented friends. Dixie cat didn’t make me a cake, but luckily a friend did, and another delivered it on their daily exercise. Thanks Ness and Nancy!

Then, I read to the largest audience I have so far, the WSO Isolation Festival had 25,000 viewers! There was a huge talented and diverse group of performers and we raised a whopping £27 THOUSAND pounds to help those suffering from austerity. That was quite an event – sharing the experience with so many, even though I was sat alone with just the cat and a couple of bears. Amazing how these electronic connections are nurturing in these odd times.

Having a little more time to use as I choose, I had a go at making a film to go with my poem Babushka’s gift, The Matyroshka Doll, which began it’s evolution during an improv workshop with Activus 6 years ago. I was honoured to have Iryna Muha create the soundtrack and original music to accompany it. It had it’s debut at the WSO Fundraiser for Mesopotamia, a local Nottingham charity looking out for people in need, particularly at the moment.

Re-alignment

These are odd days, so I’m going to post the odd poem, short story or snippet here for you at odd times. Here’s your first. It is a short story, set circa 1989. I hope you enjoy it.

Re-alignment

You know how it is when you think you know where you are going but then the unexpected occurs? Not a complete derailment, more a realignment, a slight adjustment to your trajectory. That’s how it was with Simon and me.
We were part of the same crowd that hung out after school. We all went bowling, ice-skating, playing football together. At the end of 2nd Year people started pairing up, going out with one another, then breaking up and being a bit awkward in the group for a week before everything carried on as before. It was part of the normal teenage behaviours. Normal for here, anyway.
Except Shelly and Kevin. We all knew they would be together forever. Since we were 11 they had been going out, and never once broke up. Shelly and Kevin 4ever was carved into every tree, desk and porous surface around.
The rest of us just bumbled about, mostly just a pack, sometimes in smaller divisions, but a mixed group of friends. By the 4th year I had a huge, never voiced crush on James. We, and Simon and Jenny walked home the same way. We were a close group. I never told anyone how I felt about James, but one day during the last summer holidays ever, whilst Jenny and I were sat on the grass verge, watching the kickabout, she asked me out of the blue.
“So, are you going to do anything about James?”
I stammered a denial whilst I felt myself flush the reddest red ever. Jenny just looked at me.
“OK.”
That was all she said, and I thought I’d got away with it. I don’t really know now why I felt it was such a secret, why I never admitted it, but I didn’t.
Two years later, at the local, Jenny came and cornered me by the Ladies.
“I just want you to be prepared, in case you don’t want to be here. We have an announcement.”
Then she was gone. I stared over at the group I’d grown up with. They were all there; Tommy, Bill, Sharon, Sam, Simon, Billy T, Shelly, Kevin, Chris and Christine. And James. James, looking flushed and a bit scruffy with half his shirt hanging out, Converse laces undone. Suddenly he was calling me over and tapping the side of his pint with a spoon.
I was frozen. Then Jenny appeared at his side and flashed her hand around and everyone cheered. She glanced over at me, with a look I’ll never forget. It said so much; I gave you a chance, I warned you, I feel sorry for you, I won. Only, I had never realised the game was on. I wasn’t entirely sure when it began, or if I’d been playing. But, that I had lost was clear.
Still rooted by the loos, I suddenly became aware of Simon at my side, and his arm around my waist. I let him manoeuvre me to the end of the bar, away from the others. I wilted. That’s the only word for it. My legs buckled, and I felt like I had exhaled all the breath that had been holding me up for the past 20 years.
Simon caught me and edged the stool over to me. As he did I looked at him. He was quite good looking, in square, office type of way. Why was he here with me now? He was always nearby, now I thought about it. It was usually the two of us that brought up the rear when cycling, the slowest at skating, the worst team at bowling. This was something I would think about a lot more, over the next few weeks, and months.
“How did you know?” I stuttered. He smiled and ordered drinks for the group.
“I have been waiting. Waiting for you to realise. We’ve all seen the way you watch him, have always watched him. I never knew why you let him slip through your fingers. No-one was more surprised than Jenny that you never made a move. I think that’s why she waited all this time, she’s been so worried about how you’d react. “
At their wedding, Jenny found me, and whispered into my ear on the edge of the dancefloor. As she walked away I turned and pulled Simon up, dragging him into the middle of the crowded floor. She was right, again. Only this time I was going to do something about it.

Lft
3.4.20


2020: Part 1 Pre C-19

This was not the blog I thought I’d be writing. To be honest, I’ve put off updating you because I felt in a kind of suspended animation. But there have been so many good events I’ve been involved with this year it doesn’t feel fair to let the current situation to take anything away from them. So, here’s a round up of January to mid-March 2020.
So, the year began cheerfully enough on 8th January with a gig at The People’s Museum, Manchester. I read some poems at Meet We Shall Overcome event organised by Matt Hill, featuring the WSO work of Pauline Townsend, and celebrating all the WSO volunteers around the country.
Saturday 11th January saw poets from World Jam reading from their anthology at Five Leaves Bookshop. We had poems shared in several languages, and Sherry performed some verses from Rumi, the Persian poet.
January 31st Refugee Roots Take Over at Sobar. This great event featured the ever fabulous, and talented Jude Winwood playing her kora, soothing, energising and relaxing all in one set. This was followed by Two Seda performing a great set, if I do say so myself. The evening was rounded off by the enigmatic Obi Rudo who had us up on our feet dancing. Check out his music page, or you might catch him busking near the Market Square if you are lucky.
22nd Feb was a house gig collecting donations of food and clothing for WSO where we heard from Joe Solo, the motivating heart of WSO, Pixie Styx, Paul Carbuncle, and many others, including myself. Several boxes of goods and a wedge of money donated to local causes.
Then came scary Thursday! I joined Leanne Moden on the sofa at Ey Up Notts! Live magazine programme on Notts TV. It was my tv debut! Well, apart from crowd scenes and vox pops… Oh and that film.. Anyhow, we were there promoting Women Say Stuff 5, which was organised by some of the women of DIY Poets. The event itself, on International Women’s Day was fabulous. Three hours of women saying their stuff in poetic or short story format. Always great to hear new voices, and familiar ones. The featured acts were Maresa MacKeith, Sara Awayes, and myself.
I also attended and performed at two book launches, Genevieve Carver’s at Scarthins Bookshop and Kevin Jackson’s Loves Burn launch at City Arts. Both great books that I highly recommend.
From mid March my diary changed to a series of crossings out, cancelled events, and life became very home-based. Some of that has changed now with On-line events and festivals – lots of exciting news about them to come in the next blog. For upcoming events, don’t forget to check out my gig listings.

2020 – here we go!

I know it’s virtually February and I haven’t told you all about the marvellous things that occurred in the rest of December, but I’ve just got back from a week away in the sun, after the 5 week horrid cold & cough bug that left me voiceless for 17 days. I know! I bet you are speechless too.

So, January. Lots happened, happening, about to happen. I’ve updated my events page with all the future dates that are inked in, and there is much to look forward to. However, one of my resolutions was to spend more time crafting my poetry and less gadding about. So, if you see a bit less of me sharing my individual poems out there, it’s because I’m busy scribbling here. With #DixieCatNottm on my knee. Also, Mina and I will be looking to do more Two Seda gigs, so do look out for us, or better yet – book us!

So that’s the plan. Fewer gigs, less chocolate, more gigs, more excercise, and more writing. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and Two Seda will be at Sobar on Friar Lane this Friday, 31st Jan for the Refugee Roots take over. Good cake, good entertainments, good times, good excse to catch up. See you there before you go funking with Fat Digester?

Hockley Hustled!

Well! After Sunday I feel well and truly Hustled – in the best possible way. The 2019 Hockley Hustle in the Hockley district of Nottingham is an annual event involving over 350 artists on 30+ stages in and around the clubs, bars, streets and other ‘venues’ in Hockley. Artists, musicians, poets, dancers and stage promoters come together to create an event that raises funds for charities and organisations supporting Nottingham’s most vulnerable.

I was involved in a couple of ways this year. I was delighted to perform with Two Seda, a multi-lingual trio who perform original poetry in Farsi and English, accompanied by Portugeuse music. We have had a short break from performing since Easter, but we have been busy writing and it was great to perform our new pieces, along with a couple of older favourites on the beautifully decorated Acoustickle stage, managed by the multitalented Parisa East.

Then it was over to Emmanuel House were I was hosting the We Shall Overcome stage for the Hockley Hustle. It was a fabulous line-up with many lovely. supportive and talented people – if I do say so myself! We had, aside from four brave open micers, The Rise singers with songs from Iceland to Africa, via The Flying Pickets’ song, Only You. We had top poetry from Katy Gearing and myself. We had the constantly fabulous King of Rome, including their new song Blind Eye written especially for the volunteers that go out and support the street homeless in Nottingham on a Sunday. We had Pixie Styx joined by the Bluesberry Jammers, Blue Vulture doing an acoustic set, the incomparable Marc Block leading us all in singalongs. Northern Monkey trekking over from NE Derbyshire especially to perform for us and rounding the day off leading everyone arm in arm in a great rendition of We Shall Overcome. A fabulous day’s entertainment, and all raising money and supporting the amazing work Emmanuel House do to support people suffering the effects of austerity.

After all that I barely had the energy to manage the three hours of festivalising I managed – though mostly sat rather than dancing like a lune. Nottingham, you are so good at pulling together for those in need. It’s one of the reasons those of us passing through stay. Nice one.

November is a quieter one – just the two gigs from me on the horizon –

Though you are likely to find me at Poetry Cocktail on the 15th November hosted by Gail Webb as it’ll be a good one, featuring Leanne Moden and Sue Allen – two of my favourites.

I am featured poet at Poetry Undercover on Tuesday 19th November at Ludorati. There are still a few spaces available for this, I believe.

DIY Poets quarterly showcase is Thursday 14th November and features the fine poet Kevin Jackson, you’ll find me listening to all the great diy voices.

Then on Saturday 23rd November I will be one of the chapters of But I Know This City. Find me at Nonsuch 4 – 10pm.

A book launch, a fundraiser and a reminder

Phew, I did warn you October was a busy one and we are not at the end yet!

I am delighted to report that my latest pamphlet was launched on Friday 11th October in a joint event with the fabulous poet Hazel Warren. The event, Backpack to the Moon, launched not only my A Backpack on his Backpack, but also Hazel’s To See The Moon which I can’t recommend highly enough. We were delighted that Frank McMahon, who has been instrumental in getting both of us to perform our poetry, was able to deliver a featured set, plus we had an amazing quality open mic to complement our readings. Kthtrnr has created the video below of my performance of Backbone from the event.

We began the month with Poetry Funfair at Nottingham Playhouse as part of the Quite Enormous Poetry Event hosted by the inimitable Ben Norris. Madame Poetica shared poetic truths with her customers, which was heaps of fun, plus the headliners provided an amazing poetry showcase.

Next up was We Shall Overcome awareness and fundraiser at Emmanuel House which I curated on Sunday 6th and a reminder we have an even bigger one as part of the Hockley Hustle on Sunday 27th. All proceeds and donations form this event go to Emmanuel House; and they are also one of the nominated recipients of the proceeds of the 2019 Hockley Hustle too. If you have never been you have been missing out the past 12 years! It is a one day festival in the Hockley area of Nottingham. Wristbands are purchased and allow entry to all the venues. There is music, poetry, art, street theatre and much more. You can hear orchestras, RnB, beatboxing, choirs, protest singers, balladeers, folk, rock, country and world music all right here on your doorstep. See you on Sunday 27th at the Hustle where I will also be performing with Two Seda, multilingual poetry with music!