News Archive: 2016
March 19 - Wilful Misunderstandings Writing Workshop .
My general impression was that this went pretty well. It was organised by my very good friend Emily Hinshelwood, who runs the Neath Port Talbot 'Young Writers Squad', of whom 6 members attended with another 3 guests from the Swansea YWS. After an opening ice-breaker we took a look at misunderstandings in general, focusing on the game Chinese Whispers and song lyrics that you hear and get wrong. From one of these we did a group question and answer session to show how you could begin to build a story from the simple start of a misunderstood word.
Then it was into Wilful Misunderstandings territory proper. We looked at the ways you could find to impose new meanings onto existing words (go to my blog from the Links page if you want to know more about this) and I read a section from one of the stories in the book to show how you can develop these meanings. We then got down to some writing. I invited participants to think of words they could 'misunderstand', but offered some pre-selected words to anyone who couldn't think of one on the spot (which isn't easy - and my congrats to the one participant who did: we got 'pizzeria' as a rather unpleasant form of illness you get from eating improperly cooked pizzas!).
By the end of the session some fine stories were beginning to emerge. We had a 'decibel' being hunted as the last surviving member of a severely endangered species; we had a drummer being mis-sold a very shoddy kit of 'conundrums'; the mysterious appearences of someone's 'napkin' (a family member you only meet in dreams) and the amazing invention of the gravity-defying 'flywheel'. I'm looking forward to reading and giving feedback on these and the other amazing tales that were emerging - if the writers, who were aged from 12 to 18, get them finished!
The WMs writing workshop package is up for grabs - suitable for young writers groups or for creative writing in schools sessions. Contact me (email@example.com) if you'd like to know more.
April 2nd - Shaftesbury Arts Centre Book Launch
So it's 2pm and the tables we've set out are burgeoning with goodies that I've bought with the help of my good friend Elaine Cadogan, but which have been doubled in quantity by my ever resourceful sister Trish who has baked sweet and savoury scones, various pastries and a bunch more things with funny names that I can't remember. Peter Rolfe and Pam Kelly are sat at the table ready to sell the books, Elaine is at the drinks table, Hilary doing the teas and coffees. Now all we need is some people to wander in and buy the book.
Several kittens later it starts to happen and by 3pm the room has filled up quite nicely, at least some of the food mountain is being consumed and I've had a bit of practice at writing my name (a bit more and I should be able to spell it). It's time to get up, say my thank-yous, reel off a few of the '23 Darned Good Reasons to Buy This Book' (as featured on the WMs blog) in the hope of getting some preliminary laughs, waffle a bit about how the project came about and then read a story from the book. I do 'Enlightenment', the one about the evening class that - by the end of term - has become a deranged cult. It seems to go down well and gets laughs in most of the places I was hoping to get 'em. Phew.
We sell enough books to slightly reduce the pile under my dining table, and it appears that everyone goes with the feeling they've had a good time. Job done. I'm still eating my way through the remaining 'nibbles' four days later. I don't want to see another cocktail sausage for at least a year. Oh no, wait... I've got someone else's launch to go to in about half an hour's time...
Ah, the social whirl...
April 23rd - Street Reading outside Shaftesbury Town Hall
This turned out to be a lesson in how not to do it. Shaftesbury is really not all that busy on a Saturday, especially one on which an extremely cold north wind was blowing. Arrived to find a disheartened Mike Bailey - who'd been reading for 2 hours to very few if any listeners. "They steer well clear of me," he said. My hour went pretty much the same. So no rapt listeners to sell books to afterwards. At least some good folk put money in the bucket and the other street collectors did fairly well, raising a good total for the Children's Society charity.
If I ever agree to do anything like that again I want guaranteed warmth, a spot away from traffic noise - preferably where people are more used to stopping to listen as and when artsy events are happening - and maybe some pre-publicity.
My appreciation for buskers has been enhanced greatly. Tough row to hoe.
June 10th: Wonderland
The genesis of Wonderland was kind of fraught, as I indicated before the event in the news column above. A very serious crisis in the life of the person who initiated the project meant that - for entirely understandable reasons - she could no longer commit to overseeing its development. Everything went into stasis while this was unfolding and all of a sudden we found ourselves barrelling towards the end of May, with not even a complete run through at rehearsal under our belts.
Enter the estimable Dave Hollis, a man of considerable theatrical experience, who stepped in and bailed us out. Thank you, Dave. Even so, that first run through felt pretty shambolic, and we had little over two weeks to make a 'show' of it. People were losing confidence and beginning to regret their involvement. I was pretty wobbly about it myself.
But then, somehow, it came together. We had a running order, we ironed out some of the wrinkles and what we had started to look like the good stuff we'd thought we had in the first place.
Come the night, we were still rehearsing one or two items half an hour before the performance was due to begin, but outside the theatre doors, an audience was gathering. In they came, and off we went. And bugger me, it worked! Not only did the audience leave feeling they had enjoyed 'a really imaginative and spellbinding evening' with 'an amazing variety of content and style', but we raised £150 for the Arts Centre's 'Raise the Roof' campaign. I think this is what they call a 'result'. Phew!
As mentioned in the preview news item I read 'A Curious Dream', my Lewis Carroll channeling story from the book. It seemed to go down pretty well. My live reading style is pretty animated. Next time, on 2.7, I'm hoping to persuade someone to video at least some of the performance. UTube beckons...
July 2nd, Shaftesbury Fringe Festival
I read 4 stories from the book to an audience of between 20 and 30 people (which wasn't a bad turn out considering how many other things were on that night, there was even Mark Knopfler at the Broad Chalke History festival just a few miles away!). Three of the stories were fully videoed, and if you go to the video page of this website you'll find links to each of them on YouTube.
Things have picked up pace-wise lately and I've been guilty of website neglect, so here's a brief resume of what's gone on since the above events. As a result of the perceived success of 'Wonderland', those of us who participated were invited to contribute to the Shaftesbury Arts Centre's 'Open Day' on September 3rd. This was a short performance so there wasn't time to read from 'Wilful Misunderstandings', so I read a prose poem called 'I Hope to Write a Garden' (which can be read on my blog).
On 17th Sep I read a short selection of poems at the Tears in the Fence Magazine event at Stourpaine, Dorset, along with a bunch of very fine poets. Very enjoyable event - a highlight for me being the work of poet Nisha Ramayya, who was one of the guests. Highly recommended. Not long after this, on the 24th, I read 'Friendly Smiles and Calm Voices' at an event put on by Shaftesbury's excellent Community Choir at St. James Church in the town. I was invited by choir leader David Grierson, amongst a few other readers and a solo singer, to provide some counterpoints to the choir's performance. A well attended performance, it raised just over £1,000 - divided equally between the Church Restoration fund and Medicin Sans Frontieres.
More poems for an event preceding National Poetry Day, on October 5th at the Two Brewers pub in St. James, Shaftesbury - organised by some of the folk involved in setting up the earlier Fringe event.
And then 3 days later I was in Frome, Somerset, for another reading. This was at an event hosted by the Frome Creative Collective at the picturesque Sun Street Chapel venue, that began in the afternoon with a family oriented session involving face painting and child friendly activities, then morphed pleasantly into a music and readings performance for adults into the evening. I did a 15 minute set, reading 4 poems and a newly written short story - a cautionary tale for Hallowe'en called 'Treat... Or Trick'. All of which seemed to go down pretty well, though I doff my hat to rapper Jake xjX Hight, who led into a late evening jam session, for managing to hold so many, many words in his brain, and firing them at us in rapid succession. Anyway, here I am and you can just see some of the excellent decor in the background. Sadly though, I heard that it is all change at the Chapel - a refurb is on the way and when it re-opens it will be a somewhat more conventionally run venue.