Archive for June, 2012


What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?





A review of Being Human at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry.

(c) Graeme Braidwood

Most Playwrights write in the knowledge that they are hopefully going to hand over their work to a director and a group of actors who will bring the realisation of the piece to new audiences.

Poets on the other hand tend toward delivering their pieces in performance and readings themselves, so the production of Being Human that debuted at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry on the 22nd July was a brilliantly conceived natural progression taking poetry in to theatre with a ground breaking approach to making poetry accessible to wider audiences.

Being Human used poems from the third of the Staying Alive Poetry Anthology Trilogy edited by Neil Astley and published by Bloodaxe books. Bloodaxe headed by Simon Thirsk and Neil, set out to bring poetry to new readers, taking the very best defining poems from around the world often from poets whose work was little known outside of their own circles and languages.

Theatre is always a risk, a theatre production that is delivered solely through contemporary poetry makes that risk even greater so Jonathan Davidson’s vision to produce this show was not one for the faint hearted.

This needed a considered approach and a clear view from the whole of the team as to how it should be brought to fruition.

Under the directorship of Steve Byrne from Interplay Theatre the poems selected created a narrative of stories told around a table, by characters gathered to share bread, cheese, wine and pomegranates with their experiences as fathers, mothers and tortured souls.

(c) Graeme Braidwood

The interplay between the actors Benedict Hastings, Elinor Middleton and Barrett Robertson created a thought provoking mood through the delivery of the poems, where the potency of the words were left to stand on their own with out the drawn out preamble that poets often feel is necessary to justify their poems when reading them at open mics.

This was a breath of fresh air as you were taken along with the characters who emerged from the first lines of the poem then developed into a glorious sound and visual sculptures of the human condition.

To add to this were the subtle projections on the table cloth and the use of light or lack of it to create atmospheres, sometimes unnerving such as when pitch darkness was punctuated with sounds of a stick being run across railings or gunshots from Vietnam.

Barrett’s delight as a Father seeing the ultra-scan picture of his unborn child, standing on stool, drawing himself tall as if he were on a mountain top proclaiming to the world his joy.

Elinor morphing from an angel to a Muslim woman as the table cloth floated on some unfelt breeze and wrapped itself around her as the words spilt from her expressive tongue.

Benedict as a man loading the table with everything that was him, his possessions, his fears and anxieties, a piece that was to be a central core, as it was reprieved by Barrett at the start of the second half and then by all three actors at the end as echoes of each other, not quite in time, different lives all loaded on to their own tables.

(c) Graeme Braidwood

This production was not merely the reading of poetry, but the consideration of meaning, drawing out the values that Neil Astley had seen in the poems when he first selected them for inclusion in the anthology.

Poetry as I have never seen it delivered before, poetry receiving its due respect with its ability to soothe, delight, attack and permeate our senses to leave a splendid sense of fulfilment in a greater understanding as a result of experiencing it.

You left with a feeling of being affected, somewhere and some how you had been drawn in from being a bystander, a mere audience member, to being an active stakeholder in the events.

That is poetry at its very best and this was the sharing of poetry, given as the most precious gift.

There is a new vibrant thinking in the arts where theatre can explore poetry, where traditional audiences from one art form can be exposed and delighted to engage with other art forms that they other wise would not.

Being Human was one of the first productions to demonstrate this. A risk that Jonathan took and got it right, this is the platform from which to build, the potential for this to be developed for bigger stages and on to television is ours.

But even with bigger productions, the smaller production in an intimate space will always work just as well if they are done with the care and sensitivity to the poems that was seen with Being Human.

Everyone who was involved with this production is to be congratulated; you have started something that as poets we can engage with, now lets nurture it.

(c) Graeme Braidwood

This production is touring so watch out performances, Being Human will be at Ledbury on 1st July and then at Bury St Edmunds on the 9th July and will return to Midlands in October; this is not to be missed.

The Anthology Being Human, edited by Neil Astley was published in 2011 by Bloodaxe Books and is available from bookshops and the usual webstore.

I woke up the day after the performance with a mind full of ideas on what I want to do as a poet to take poetry to new audiences using the inspiration that Being Human has instilled into me.

For more information go to www.livepoetry.org

Polesworth a Place for Poetry – Dig the Poetry – 2012.

Polesworth has a long association with poets and poetry, including the names of Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson and John Donne and some make a claim for William Shakespeare. Later came Edward Farmer and more recently poets from all over the country with the development of the award winning Polesworth Poets Trail.

Following the development of poetry in response to Dig the Abbey 2011, Polesworth Abbey has secured funding from the Arts Council England to explore the interpretation of the Archaeology through poetry and creative writing as part of Dig the Abbey 2012.

A series of workshops with some of the regions leading poets and writers will take place during July and August. The workshops will held at Polesworth Abbey with poets and writers working along side the Archaeologists on site to engage with the finds as they occur. Giving a real opportunity to look at the artefacts in-situ, exploring the layers of occupation of this very important place.

Poets and writers will seek to interpret the meaning and value of the finds putting them into the context of the lives of the community to which they belonged, as well as what they mean to us today.

The Archaeological themes will explore the methods and techniques of the excavation, including geophysics, layers, trenches, artefacts, documents and the archaeology of the landscape.

This is a unique exciting opportunity for both new and experienced writers to use their experience of being part of the Dig to put their thoughts on to paper and in doing so create a new legacy for future generations.

The poems and prose created will be presented at The Heritage Open days when readings will be staged as a FIZZ Poetry and Spoken word event.

Following the Dig there will be a publication of the poetry and prose that best reflect the dig and its findings.

To register your interest in participating in the Poetry Workshops, go to the www.digtheabbey.co.uk  web page and click on the Red Button.

Also check out the blog at http://digthepoetry.wordpress.com

THE FIZZ IN JULY – with guest poet Terri Jolland.


Readings in June / July

My diary is all over the place I am not sure where I am meant to be and where I will be reading.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

Empty Spaces

What is DELIGHTING me this week?






Silence and Darkness fell upon the stage
Where kindred souls had danced and played
The story was told of the Desolate “Pink”
To leave the outside world to Think !
Mark Peterson
Lead Singer Floydian Slip

Mark Peterson

Mark’s words capture the real essence of what we did last week and now find ourselves trying to navigate those Empty Spaces that now surround us.

The Wall at Tamworth Assembly Rooms ran for three performances last week to sell out audiences, audiences that were taken by surprise and left with a lasting memory of a performance that captured the spirit of the times and made people think. One of the placards in the show read OCCUPY YOUR MIND; I think we have occupied many people’s minds not only with the themes, but also with what a small group of enthusiastic, committed talents in our communities can achieve.

Several quotes from the people who saw the show left us realising that we had done something special, something that had made a difference.

“Wow, I did not expect that, a cracking night”


“This should be playing to bigger audiences, on bigger stages”

“I have seen shows in the West End, that were not as good as that”

“beaming with pride and respect for your accomplishment of the Pink Floyd show what a visceral experience. Luke as Pink began so oppressed and ended up like a Shakespearean tragedy. The transformation was affecting”

“.if Orwell was at the Pink Floyd show in Tamworth Assembly Rooms he would have shook the organisers hands and said good job”

“Roger Waters would be proud of what was performed tonight”

“This was a brave thing to attempt and how well it worked”

“I want to be part of the next show you do, I wish I had been in this one”

“You have set the bar for community arts projects; people are going to have to up their game”

Simon Quinn’s version of THE WALL differs from Roger Waters original as Simon explores both the Darkside and the Lightside of lives in today’s communities.

Set on a fictitious housing estate somewhere in the West Midlands, The opening sees The Tramp (Played by Steve Jones), as the drunken wise man who tells it as it is, but then gets lost in his own demons that means no one listens to him.
We find Pink (played by Luke Comley and his gang The Dark Side terrorising the estate with antisocial behaviour racism and violence. The first act explains why Pink) has taken this path. He lost his Father in the War in Afghanistan, he has two Mothers in his head, and either would have caused him to lose his way. The first is the over-protective mother, lost in her own mourning and keeping her husbands heroism alive. The Second with her string of boyfriends who sees Pink as blighting her life. Then there is the Education System, represented by the teacher (Played by Gareth Pugh), a system that failed him, tied up with League tables that leave no place for teachers to deal with individual needs and creativity. We see Pink in dysfunctional relationships which the community, the gang and his lovers. All these become the metaphoric bricks from which Pink builds the wall.

Pink with Two Gates Primary School


The second act starts with a tableau of voices that haunt Pink’s head, picking up the themes of the first act. The story then proceeds with the Gangs attempts to bring Pink back, they bring him gifts that are important to him, they show their respect, but they get no response. They then inspect him like the media pulling apart a celebrity finding nothing in the darkness; they try to explore his mind with flashlights only to have them reflected back as Pink tries to defend his self imposed isolation. The gang finally see they have lost him and call for the doctor who tranquilises him. Pink slumped in an almost comatic state as the Band play Comfortably Numb which saw a seminal moment at the Friday performance when Mark Peterson came forward to rest his arms over Luke’s shoulders as the voice and body of Pink melded in an empathetic show of subdued pain. As Pink revives he finds a final revitalisation leading to the uprising of the Darkside, underpinned by the footage of the riots of last year, followed by the challenge of the residents as Pink becomes not just a disaffected youth, but represents bankers and financers whose actions ruined the world economy. As Pink realises the vile error of his ways and is found guilty as charged when put on trial. So the Wall is torn down.

Pink the Voice and Pink the body meld in an empathy of subdued pain

Themes of feigned disability, corrupt practices, failure of governments and the obsession with Celebrity culture interspersed with the Cult of Me are all explored to show how society disintegrates and our young people create their own futures as disaffected individuals with cracked values and no ambition, find their way into the world.


The scenes are built through physical theatre at its very best. Choreographed by Ami Radcliffe, who drove the dancers from the stunningly brilliant Tamworth Youth Dance Company and The Wall Contemporary Dance Group along with the cast from the community, to push themselves, to create uncompromising action sculptures in her relentless dedication to achieving perfection. Her toughness and constant assertion that they could achieve the highest standards paid off as the cast took ownership of the piece. This was matched by the equal toughness of Simon’s direction of the actors in the hours of rehearsals and workshops. Simon had the vision in the first place, he knew what this represented and how it should be delivered. No excuses were acceptable, both Ami and Simon could deliver the parts themselves and so raised the level of expectation. I have much respect for them as masters of their individual crafts and in the process of developing this production I have gained so much knowledge and experience from working along side them.

Mixed in with the theatre and the music was my contribution of poems and films, often expressing the lightside, with the good Mums of Tamworth, or reinforcing the messages with the poems of Antony Owen and my own Thin Ice.


Floydian Slip

Floydian Slip delivered the Pink Floyd sound, nailing every riff, melody and vocal with accomplished precision. Very tight and accurate in their performance, that saw fantastic drive rhythm section of Simon Hall on Bass and Wayne Bolland on Drums providing the foundation for the brilliance of Gaz Bedford on Keys and the Guitars of Andy Ashley and Phil Wright. Mark Peterson’s wonderful vocal performance telling this austere tale with all the expression of a true storyteller.

Floydian Slip are not only the UK’s no 1 Pink Floyd tribute act they are in my eyes the best anywhere, sure there are others out there, some who play arena’s, they can all I am sure create the authentic sound of the Floyd. But would any of the others have taken six months out from gigging to focus on delivering the excellence of THE WALL that they did. Would any of the others have become a cohesive part of a team of creative people who invested sweat and graft, physical effort and creative thought and a total belief in what we were doing, that this meant something special and would make people think, this really would make a difference. I am not sure they would. Floydian Slip did, they are now part of the Tamworth Community, part of its history.

I should mention also the contributions of Two Gates Primary School who delivered Brick in the Wall pt2 with a natural talent to charm. Luke, Steve and Gareth all of whom had never acted before took to their roles with an enthusiasm to challenge themselves to deliver performances that would have been the pride of professional actors with many years experience.

It is true that Luke has lived the role of Pink since he got it in March, often being seen around town in his signature great coat.

Also Tamworth Voices, ten of whom joined the production for the Thursday and Friday performances adding an extra dimension to the sound filling the Assembly rooms with a rich blend of melodic beauty.

Tamworth Voices

Full credit must also be given to the tech crew of Jem McCauley, Jock Ross, Ron Pyle and Andy Palmer whose control of sound and light was perfect and to Rachel and Emma Smith who managed the props and costumes ensuring everything was in the right place at the right time.

The other film maker Sean Miller produced some stunning footage of the National Memorial Arboretum and Lichfield Day Care Centres as the jury at the trial.

South Staffordshire College made the giant puppet of the Teacher and the large hypodermic needle along with the two backdrops of the graffitied wall, all too fantastic effect.

I will finish with praise for the Arts Team as Tamworth Borough Council, Elanor Thompson, Laura Hastilow and Hannah McKenzie who produced the production. Firstly for sharing the vision and being brave enough to take up Simon’s idea. Secondly for trusting us to deliver even though at time I am not sure they saw how all of the parts would come together. Finally for their support and encouragement.

This was an uncompromised, gritty piece of real theatre, although it did have a good outcome, it did not suggest a happy ending. The plight of the characters remains unexplained as does Roger Waters characters. Lives were portrayed within a framework of real and relevant themes. The audience were not left with a feel good factor, but with something to think about, which is where I came in with Mark’s quote.

I tweeted on Wednesday night that Tamworth had rocked like no town ever had before, that something really special had happened and that the world was a better place for it, I genuinely believe that that is true.

PHOTOCREDITS – Floydian Slip and Andy Palmer.

If you missed the show then you can get a flavour here

For reviews and interview on the Production use the following links.
Interview with Simon
Interview with Mal

First Night Review from Gary Longden
First Night Review from James Longden
Last Night Review from Rae Gee

Floydian Slip can be found at:


Dance Sculpture

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