Archive for October, 2009

throwing leaves in Victoria Park

throwing leaves in Victoria Park

I’ve been offline for a while with flu, but I’m now back to full health and also back on the blog. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to over the past month…

I helped project manage the Lit Up Showcase & Conference at the Albany on 24 September. You can read all about the conference in the post below.

My first Snail Mail Letter Writing Workshop of the season took place on Saturday 26 September. A friendly group of people, some new, some familiar, met upstairs at Foyles, Charing Cross for a morning devoted to the writing, reading and discussing of letters. As I explained in my last post, the idea behind the workshops is to use letter writing and a form of creative expression, and participants dived right in. One woman wrote a beautiful letter to her walking boots, remembering places they’d been together. Another wrote a letter to flirtatiousness. We discussed what letter writing meant 50 – 100 years ago, and what it might mean today. We also looked at poetry by Richard Hugo, whose collection 31 Letters and 13 Dreams explores poetry in the form of letters and Catherine Pierce, whose Love Poems to unexpected things (America, the phrase ‘Let’s get coffee’, the word ‘Lonesome’) read very like some of the letters participants wrote. The more I explore letter writing and run these workshops, the more excited I am about letter writing as a form of creative writing – one that is accessible and starts from freewriting. I’m looking forward to exploring this more in my poetry, so watch this space.

The next Snail Mail Workshop takes place on Saturday 31 October 11am – 1pm at Foyles, Charing Cross. Visit www.foyles.co.uk/events and scroll down to book tickets.

More recently, I took part in writing a communal poem for National Poetry Day over Facebook. The idea came from the wonderful poet Naomi Woddis, who like me, believes that poetry can come from anywhere and anyone, anytime. A diverse range of poets from different countries took part. If you’re my friend on Facebook, there’s a link to the poem from my page. It may appear somewhere more public soon…

And this week Naomi Woddis and I took part in the first ever StorySLAM at the Albany. We wrote a joint ghost story in the form of emails, texts and letters. Naomi began by texting me some ideas and beginning the story by email, and we then went back and forth by email and text as the story emerged. It was fun to experiment with collaborative writing, especially in a genre I’m not so used to. The story should soon be appearing on the StorySLAM site. While I was ill I spent most of my time listening to The Moth, a podcast of true stories told live in New York and other cities across the U.S. I’ll be looking out for more StorySLAMs and storytelling events in London.

Enjoy the October leaves… I’ll be back soon.

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One of the exciting things about working at the Albany is that there’s so much to get involved with. This September, we hosted the second Lit Up Showcase & Conference and I stepped in to help manage the preparations and the day itself, which took place on Thursday 24 September. Lit Up is a series of events run by the Live Literature Consortium to raise the profile of spoken word in theatres and venues across the UK and showcase new work. Programmers, producers, artists and promoters gathered to discuss the strange and wonderful genre of ‘live literature’ and watch previews of new shows by Polarbear, Aoife Mannix and Janie Armour, Stacy Makishi, Justin Coe, Luke Wright and others.

It was exciting to watch completely new pieces and especially to see artists whose work I know well, experimenting in new areas. Polarbear shared an extract from his upcoming show Return, a spoken film script. With no props and very little acting, he stood on stage and ‘performed a film’, describing what we, the audience ‘see’, and speaking the characters’ dialogue. The ‘film’ is about the return home of an elder brother and his relationships with the people he left behind. I really did start to ‘see’ the film going on in my head, just through his words. I’m not aware that anyone has done this before but it makes perfect sense – storytelling can be so powerful we don’t need images to watch a film, the human voice is enough. Another highlight was when Stacy Makishi made everyone in the audience blow up a balloon and pop them simultaneously to release all the ‘fear, anxiety and stress’ in the room: a great communal bang!

The most moving part of the day came right at the end, when Playback NYC took over the Albany cafe with their blend of hip hop, improvisational theatre and storytelling. Taking reactions and stories from the audience, they ‘played back’ the day in hilarious and touching sequences and sketches. I’m desperate to see them again – it’s probably even worth a trip to New York.

I left very late, feeling inspired. Rather than talking about the difficulties of the industry or what holds us back, the focus was on experimentation and breaking boundaries. Doing so many other things, I sometimes lose faith in my own writing, but Lit Up was a great reminder to keep going and trust my creativity.

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