Thursday, 17 February 2011

Event Round Up

I’m embarking to London Town this weekend to soak up a bit of the capitals culture, but I just wanted to take a moment to let you know about some other fantastic cultural things happening over the next few days.

First is the Nottingham Writer’s Studio live literature event ‘Word of Mouth’ on Friday 18th Feb, which brings the comic actress Sophie Woolley to Nottingham alongside many other Nottingham writers as part of the Nottingham Light Night celebrations. Also featuring Alyson Stoneman, Paula Rawsthorne, Michelle Mother Hubbard, Robin Vaughan-Williams and Debris Stevenson to name but a few, the event is held at the Antenna cafĂ©-restaurant on Beck Street in Nottingham at 7pm and is even free entry.

And if poetry and writing isn’t your thing, but pirates are then you’re in luck! At the Maze in Nottingham that very same night (Friday 18th Feb, yes) the fantastic pirate band, Seas of Mirth, will bring their rum sodden shanties to get you heave-ho-ing on the dance floor. Get yourself there for 9pm and dance yourself silly. Taken from their facebook page:

Choose Mirth. Choose a weapon. Choose life on the high seas. Choose booty. Choose banging whores on an unexpected flexible rota. Choose pilfering the navy's rum. Choose ivory backgammon boards. Choose Matey Bubblebath and Pop-up Pirate. Choose tug of war with your Grandma. Choose battling with octopi in the Adriatic Sea. Twice. Choose a wench. Choose Judy Dench. Choose a tankard. One has a rat in it, watch out! Ye get the point...

Saturday at Nottingham Playhouse brings ‘Say Sum Thin’ the brilliant Mouthy Poets first show, featuring the poet Inua Ellams. The Mouthy Poets are a group of young people that don’t just ‘do poetry’ they write, perform, market, coordinate and facilitate their own community events, and are making waves through the city. The show starts at 8pm and promises to be unmissable, so unless you’re otherwise engaged, don’t miss it! For more information see here.

And later on in the week for those of you further ‘up North’ there is the poetry and spoken word night in Manchester, run by the new writing collective based in Manchester, Bad Language. Headlining the night is the fantastic poet, Jo Bell who is currently writing something everyday for the website ‘Something Every Day’ and is also the Writer in Resident at the Royal Derby Hospital as part of the Writing East Midlands Write Here programme. The night will undoubtedly be a great one, so get yourself down to the Castle Hotel on Oldham Street for 7.30pm. For more info see here.

So many brilliant events and so little time. I only with I could be in two places at once. Isn’t about time someone invented a transporter machine?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Write Here at Nottingham Contemporary

Write Here is the writer in residence programme organised by the writing development agency, Writing East Midlands. Write Here is fantastic as it creates residencies for writers in culturally and socially significant venues across the East Midlands, facilitates the creative development of writers and strengthens their links with local communities and audiences.

As part of the Write Here programme, the writer Wayne Burrows is the Writer in Resident at the Nottingham Contemporary. For a period of three months, Wayne is responding to the exhibitions, the museum’s atmosphere, services and working environment. As part of the residency Wayne is also running two series of workshops providing a supportive environment in which participants will be encouraged to creatively respond to all facets of Nottingham Contemporary; one series of the workshops is running in February and the other in March, the latter of which will be held in the Nottingham Contemporary’s ‘Study’ space and is open for participants, so if you’re interested contact Saima Kaur at

The February workshops are currently taking place with a group of older people from theBilborough Community Centre. These workshops particularly interest me, as I have previously worked in the care industry; I have an affinity with this demographic and I am lucky enough to work as a mentee on these sessions. I was interested in how the group would respond to the gallery and what their thoughts and feeling would be to the exhibitions on display there.Currently the exhibitions at the gallery focus on work by artists Jack Goldstein, reputably one of the most important ‘artist’s artists’ of the last 30 years, and Anne Collier, an exciting artist working with photography.

The workshops are collaborative, as they combine the expertise of both the writer in residence, Wayne, and one of the gallery’s four associate artists, Jo Dacombe to help the participants amalgamate the written with the visual and explore the exhibitions’ themes and ideas in a variety of ways. The first week acted as an introduction for the group to the gallery, with the group exploring the gallery and the exhibitions. A couple of the participants exclaimed that it was the first time they’d ever visited a place like the Nottingham Contemporary before and it was wonderful to see them engaging with the pieces, particularly the sound-scapes, Jack Goldstein’s recordings pressed onto vinyl of forests burning, cats fighting and a tornado to name but a few. After we had explored the exhibitions we all convened for another well deserved cup of tea and a discussion on what the pieces had said to us. There was an agreement from the group that everyone reads the pieces differently, and it was interesting to hear their thoughts and feelings on the experience, with one lady explaining that you can learn a lot about life just by looking at art.

The next workshop on the following Tuesday, Wayne, Jo and myself traveled to the community centre in Bilborough and met the group there. It was larger this time, with more participants who had not been able to attend the previous week but nonetheless keen to take part. For this workshop we reminded the group of some of the pieces that had engaged with at the gallery, and discussed Jack Goldstein’s ‘Text Totems’, explaining our mission for the session was to create some totems of our own.

The session commenced with the group cutting out words and poetic phrases from magazines and newspapers and arranging them on paper in a meaningful and significant way. Other participants played with the relationship between words and images, and wrote thoughts and phrases down, inspired by the Nottingham Contemporary’s exhibitions in an artistic way.

Wayne, Jo and myself worked one to one with the participants during this session, helping the groups with their pieces and encouraging them to approach them from a different angle. I particularly loved the charming, often poignant stories that emerged through this process, tales of first loves lost during the war, of a lady whose husband had gone to school with the man who was the inspiration for the character the Fat Controller on Thomas the Tank Engine, and a lady whose career in fashion had to be abandoned during the chaos of the war, but would never have met her husband had she not moved away from the city.

I think the group found the creative process to be incredibly therapeutic and enjoyable, with no two Totems the same and each offering a different perspective. There was a genuine sense of wellbeing after the sessions, with the participants pleased with their artwork and taking it home to show family and loved ones. I look forward to the creations we come up with tomorrow!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Spoken Word All Stars

Tuesday night brought the acclaimed Spoken Word All Stars touring show to Nottingham at the Lakeside Arts Centre. Organised by the charity, Poet in the City, and the leading performance poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes, Nottingham was privileged to host the only date for the show in the East Midlands, and I was lucky enough to be part of the vibrant audience.

The show presented such talents as El Crisis, Kat Francois (a World Poetry Slam Champion) and Oneness and included two guest poets from the East Midlands, Nottingham’s very own Mulletproofpoet and the brilliant Lydia Towsey. In what was a superb evening of poetry, beats and jazz the audience was swept away on a wave of comedy, tragedy and philosophy all interwoven by the improvised melodies of award-winning jazz musican Jason Yarde.

What I felt worked particularly well and found very striking was how the different voices of the poets all fit together to form a complete piece. The local poets stood alongside the Spoken Word All Stars cast, and whilst each poet was different in their own right and had their own distinctive voices, the show worked brilliantly as a whole and a powerful synergy was created between the pieces. Afterwards it felt as though you had been on a journey through the performances, that you had learned something intimate about the poets and that you had witnessed something more than a spoken word show, something special.

In a time when the arts are under more and more economic pressure it is increasingly important that audiences continue to attend such shows and display their support. For me they act not only as a release from the stresses and strains of my everyday life, but they also serve as an inspiration, showing me what can be achieved with the power of words and presenting different perspectives and ideas. They powerful, moving and prompt me think outside the 'box'.