2021 – New Beginning

…although still all on-line for now. Unfortunately the pandemic is still with us and life continues virtually for now.

However, there are exciting events and courses on the horizon.

Lytisha is hosting a series of Lunchtime Lite Bites – hour long creative writing groups at, you’ve guessed it, lunchtimes. These are held fortnightly, in six week blocks for just £40. If you are interested then follow the link here for the Thursday sessions. Delivery is via zoom, so the advantage of this lockdown scenario is that you can attend from wherever you are.

10th February sees the next DIY Poets quarterly showcase, and 8th March brings us to the 5th annual Women Say Stuff event. More about all these events can be found in the Upcoming section.

Well that didn’t go to plan!

As 2020 draws to a close, I think we can all say that wasn’t quite how we envisaged it! The face to face activities in care homes, cafes, bars and theatres of this years first quarter all seem such distant memories. But looking back through this blog I am reminded of all the good things that did happen. World Jam had a reading at Five Leaves – still the top independent bookshop – of their anthology, Two Seda performed at Roots Takeover, I launched A Backpack on his Backpack along side Hazel Warren launching To See The Moon, Kevin Jackson launched his book Loves Burn, plus there were many ‘normal activities’. The recording of a series of poems with Nottingham Trent University alongside an esteemed set of poets was the very last live in-person activity I did before the pandemic hit and we in the UK went into our first National Lockdown. All in The Before Times.

Then things changed. Activities changed. I have learnt many new skills. I made a short film, worked on a ground-breaking zoom activities in care homes with Creative Paths, attended on-line events in places would struggle to access geographically in person, performed in front of crowds larger than ever. I hope many of the lessons learnt about accessibility will continue in The New Times ahead.

Excitingly since my last blog I have begun work on two new projects, with different artists. Both working in ways that are new to me. More skills to add to the quiver.

I have been reflecting on my MS during this period too. How it affects my life is not something I have spoken about much previously. Using this new (to me) technology has given me pause to consider how the ‘normal’ way of doing things affects me physically. Both positively and negatively.

This reflection was followed by an unexpected approach from a comedian I know to create a humorous podcast reflecting on our experiences of living with MS. Serendipity – it’s all in the timing!

So we have begun to share our fortnightly pilot episodes from 10th December. You can catch the trailer for Multiple Shenanigans below.

Meantime events with Poetry Aloud, DIY Poets, World Jam, & Social Model Writers all continue on-line and I hope to catch you at an event soon.

As they (almost) say on Strictly – Keep Writing!

Time to snuggle in

It’s definitely autumn. I say that with some conviction because today on woman’s hour there was a discussion about when we are in both meteorological and astrological winter – and both are around the 21st of December, ergo, we are in autumn still. The leaves are beautiful, though falling fast. The nights begin before you realise and hot chocolate has become the beverage of choice.

Time to think about cosy evenings in, and how we can fill the long dark days. Well, there is much to do! 13th – 22nd November sees Nottingham Poetry Festival‘s 5th event, and this year it is all on-line and free – so you can join us from wherever you are.

If you fancy a workshop, I am facilitating World Jam’s Kicking up leaves, and staring at fires on Sunday 22nd November. Join us online, details on the World Jam page.

Gigs to look out for during the NPF: Looking forward, with Hindsight by Poetry Aloud presents: and DIY Eclectic Showcase I can personally recommend. The fact that I hosted both is not at all relevant!

I’m also working behind the scenes with other artists on forthcoming projects that are very exciting, but about which I have to keep Mum for now…

This autumn and winter is going to be a tough one for many, so be kind to yourselves, and to others. Here’s a #DixieCatNottm image to keep you warm and fuzzy inside. (There are plenty more on her insta site!)

Autumn is virtually here

Well, there is a real nip in the air – but performance life has and is continuing virtually. Aside from whizzing around the country to listen to poets far and wide, and throwing in the odd poem to the open mic slots, via the ether I have also been dabbling with radio and working remotely in care homes.

The latter project was with Creative Paths and I have to confess I think I found the tech more challenging than the people living with dementia on the other side of the screen! They thought nothing of singing, chatting an creating poems with the person in the ipad. I find it really interesting how different people react to new technologies. For example small children are learning all the time and just figure out how to work things, and my recent workshop participants weren’t in the least bit phased with the use of the new technology. It’s just those of us somewhere in the middle that remember enough to have forgotten how to learn new things that have any issues!

October is always a busy month supporting We Shall Overcome to raise funds for those facing homelessness, especially as the weather draws in. This year the circumstances are different, but the need for support is ever greater so we are having a virtual event on Saturday 10th October – including the best raffle I have ever put together! There are commissions to be won – locally based, though nationally renown songwriters, musicians and poets are offering bespoke songs / poems / performances to the lucky raffle winners – and the tickets are only £1! You could also win a pair of tickets to Deerstock Festival for 2021. Make sure you log into the facebook group to join in the fun and get all the details. Get your tickets here. Be quick, the draw is Sunday 11th Oct at 6.30pm. Funds raised go to Emmanuel House in Nottingham.

So, wrap up cosily as I think this will be a bit of a one this year, remember to check in with your friends on the phone if not in person, and settle in with a good book. I can recommend some poetry…

Bloody Amazing by Dragon Yaffle press

The World Outside by Nottingham Writers Studio

Purl by Jo Dixon

The Pretty Boys of Gangster Town by Martin Grey

Get Over Yourself by Leanne Moden

Loves Burn by Kevin Queaver Jackson

That is your Rule of Six for now – plenty more when you are ready to swap bubbles….

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.