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Picture 107

An excellent few weeks, which saw the culmination of my year as Staffordshire Poet Laureate came to an end as I gave an account of my year at an event at Baswich Library in Stafford on National Poetry Day, before handing over to my successor Tom Wyre, I wish Tom all the very best in the role and my advice is for him to sculpt his own place in Staffordshire poetry.

The weeks in the run up to National Poetry Day saw many workshops with a range of groups and ages which saw the creation of some wonderful poetry to celebrate our towns and their rich characters built upon a history of often violent conflict to uncertain peace to today’s commercial theatre with its banal slogans and constant sales.

grazier-invite-front

It seems like only yesterday that my first Commission was performed on the Streets of Tamworth, but it is 12 months ago, to the day, if not the date which is tomorrow, 30th October.

You can see the film recording of the production at: http://vimeo.com/53128350 

A full account of my time as Staffordshire Poet Laureate will be published on a permanent blog over the coming weeks. I move on now to support Tom and also to mentor the Staffordshire and Stoke On Trent Young Poet Laureate, Natalie Cotterill from Lichfield.

FUT LOGO 1

I also move on to take up my role as Joint Artistic Director of Fired Up Theatre, for which I have already started with the script for The Fell Walker.

My role is to focus on Literature and to bring new writing to the stage, which does not just include my writing, I am hoping to open up opportunities for others to develop their skills in taking a piece from page to stage.

Simon Quinn also brings an excellent writing pedigree to the company which he founded and has run since 2004. He is an excellent theatre director and devisor of theatrical productions. This builds our working relationship from our previous collaborations on the Wall, Colin Grazier Enigma, Quadrophenia and more recently 23 which saw me take the lead in directing for the first time.

So on to the Fell Walker.

THE FELL WALKER.
A FIRED UP THEATRE PRODUCTION
An adaption of the book by Michael Wood.
Script by Mal Dewhirst and Simon Quinn
Directed by Simon Quinn and Mal Dewhirst.

The Fell Walker Flyer

 

Premier at Penrith Playhouse on 17th January 2014 – with further dates and theatres to be added.

Tickets are available from: http://penrithplayers.ticketsource.co.uk/

Work on the script continues into the rehearsals, as we create the visual representation as a film noir on the stage.

The play sees Local Journalist, Ben Foxley, caught up in investigating a series of deaths that take place on the Lake District Fells, with the authorities taking the view that these are just accidents, whilst a mysterious London journalist, Sophie Lund, thinks otherwise and tempts Ben into being her local eyes and ears as the evidence unfolds.

The piece is now fully cast and the rehearsals have begun, to bring this chilling piece to life.
Simon Quinn and I journeyed up to Cumbria to meet with the Michael Head who manages the Penrith Playhouse theatre. This is a gem of a theatre, built in an old auction mart, the theatre’s main auditorium seats 150 and is fully equipped for our purposes, including projections, lighting and sound.

We also met with Michael Wood the author of the book, who is keen to see how we would adapt his book. I don’t think he is convinced that we can do it, I hope he appreciates what he sees as the production develops.

I will be working to complete the script over the next couple of weeks and then move onto creating the sounds and the projections.

Fired Up Theatre can be found at www.fireduptheatre.co.uk

23

“It was the Scutler’s voices, I heard, it was the Scutler’s.”
“All it proves is that I am no stranger to a grate.”
“No they can’t hang me, they weren’t mine.”
“The so called learned are fools.”
“Stale, putrid, mouldy bread.”
“That is what I think.”

23 poster2

All lines from 23, my poetic sound sculpture that brings the voices of the condemned men and women who had the misfortune to appear before the court at Shire Hall in Stafford.

The piece is now completed and in the final mastering phases of the production and I must say I am really pleased with the soundscape, with its repetitive court procedures broken by the words of the person in the dock. The characters whose voices are heard represent many different people who were brought before the court for committing of similar crimes. There is the bread thief, the coal thief, the murder, the coin clipper and the habitual drunkard all giving us an insight into their lives and the reasons or denials for the crimes for which they have been charged. We also include some insights from the Clerk and his wife.

These are all set at around 1850, when court cases lasted and average of eight minutes and the mere fact that you had found yourself in the dock was a sure sign that you were guilty. The piece draws its inspiration from the photographs and case files held by the county archive service.

The voices were provided by local actors from the Fired Up Theatre Company and I was keen to get the voices to be local dialect voices from Staffordshire and on 23 we hear Tamworth, Stone and Black Country voices along with some voices from outside of the county for some of the officials.

The day of recording was most enjoyable we had some real fun with the piece, despite its seriousness and there is perhaps a second sound sculpture of the outtakes, which may someday be heard as echoes in the annals of Staffordshire history.

The piece will become a permanent installation and I will advise you as to when it will be unveiled.

Another Poem Published.

My Poem Jerusalem Revisited (Blake Dub) was published in the magazine Here Come Everyone. The poem is my reflection on whether we ever built the New Jerusalem that Blake predicted and if we did, then where did it go as we grow in a post industrial Britain.

The Latest edition entitled Jerusalem can be view at http://herecomeseveryone.me/

Also check out their next theme “Idiots” and submit a poem, article or short story.

Recently I attended two great events.

Being Human – Coventry Belgrade Studio.

(c) Graeme Braidwood

(c) Graeme Braidwood

Friday 18th saw a performance of Being Human in Coventry, this production has always been something I think works really well, creating a theatrical narrative from 35 of the poems published in Bloodaxe’s anthology of the same name. This should not be confused with the BBC TV programme.
This is the second time I have seen it and it stirred up the same emotions as to when I first saw it and review it back in 2012.

For my review see https://pollysworda.wordpress.com/tag/being-human/

For details on the Anthology
Bloodaxe books – http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852248092

Being Human website – http://livepoetry.org/

Miners Hymns – Polesworth Memorial Hall.

253 gala

Miners Hymns is a collage of film clips from the North East Coal Fields that are sewn together to create a narrative on the lives of mining families. The seamless movement from the awkward delight of the participants at the Durham Miners Gala in the 1930’s to an awkward moodiness of a Gala from the 1950’s or 60’s, shows the change that suggests a growing uncertainty in the mining communities.

The film is excavated from the BFI archives and was dug out and constructed by American Film maker Bill Morrison. With an original score by the Icelandic composer Johann Johannson that draws on brass band traditions, with its signature minor keys that strikes a lost pride into the mourned sadness. The whole film revives the memories of the mining heritage to create a hypnotic experience which laments the loss of an industry, its jobs and its communities.

Shown here in Polesworth, which was once at the heart of the North Warwickshire Coalfield and now reflects on its own losses as nearby, the final pit, Daw Mill closes.

The film with its images from the Battle of Orgreave, which sounded the final whistle on many mining lives, to the building Stadium of light, on the site of Monkswearmouth Colliery, reflecting the new, supposedly out of the mining heritage. This, along with the old Gala’s, the pit work and life was all a powerful statement on the decline of industrial Britain but for me, whilst it was a very powerful piece that touched my thoughts, on reflection it lacked some of the humour and camaraderie that was prevalent among the miners and the communities, that I gathered from my experience as a poet working with ex-miners and as someone else mention to me on the night.

More Details can be found at:
http://billmorrisonfilm.com/feature-length-films/the-miners-hymns

There are further showings in Burntwood in Staffordshire and Bilston in the Black Country by Flatpack Festivals – http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk/project/the-miners-hymns/
Plus further venues around the country.

Jordon Fradley
http://www.jordanfradley.com/#

I met Yvonne Jordon and her husband Mark at the Open Arts awards at Stafford Shire Hall Gallery, I was commissioned to read my poem all around the shire and Yvonne had won the Stafford Railway Building Society award for her photograph ‘LAT 52816589 LONG 2119577’, an atmospheric street view taken at night, when the world is still, or is it.

We have had few conversations since and I am planning to use some of her work in the projections for The Fell Walker.

Take a look are the website and some of the images from her Longitude/Latitude project.

So that is me resting on my Laureate Laurels – as if I ever would!

Other Events

Carnival

A Carnival of Christmas Curiosities – Stage IT Academy and Fired Up Theatre
Come and celebrate Christmas with the cast from Quadrophenia.
Thursday 5th December 2013 – Assembly Rooms Tamworth.

Tickets are available from
https://www.tamworthassemblyrooms.co.uk/whats-on/day.listevents/2013/12/05/0

Readings

1st November – Cromford Mill Poetry – Derbyshire – 7:00pm
5th November –CORK POETS – Night Blue Fruit – Coventry – 8:00pm
6th November – CORK POETS – Poetry Alight – Lichfield – 8:00pm
13th November – Unity in the Community – Wednesbury – 7:30pm
15th November – Spoken Worlds – Burton on Trent– 7:30pm

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WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.

What is ANNOYING me this week?

STOMACH ACHE

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

BEING HUMAN

LISTENING TO:

IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING – KING CRIMSON

SOME OF MY DOINGS:

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.

SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS

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 ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.

What is ANNOYING me this week?

Apps that become demanding children – ITunes and Spotify you know who you are!

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The Community Café Workshops.

LISTENING TO:

THE WALL – PINK FLOYD

SOME OF MY DOINGS:

An early post this week as I have a lot of things I want to promote.

THE WALL

Tamworth will see a fantastic production of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL over four days at the beginning of June.

The production which is collaboration between Fired Up Theatre / Tamworth Borough Council and the local community is a new interpretation of this Magnus Opus from the Floyd.

The interpretation features a new script, poetry, dance and actors drawn from the local community to explore the themes of isolation, delusion, seclusion and loneliness and how it impacts people in their daily lives.

For my part I am creating new poetry both from my own pen and also in collaboration with the Community Cafés. The poems will be performed using a variety of media from film to sound pieces to word displays.

Last week saw my first workshop with the community café in Wilnecote where a cross generational group gathered to discuss the song Comfortably Numb and to create new lines in response to the song, these were recorded and I am now putting together a sound poem from the event. I will be running two further workshops in Amington and Belgrave over the coming weeks.

Poetry Workshop at Wilnecote - (c) Community Cafe

In addition I will be supporting the Creative Director, Simon Quinn and the dance choreographer Amy Radcliffe in producing the show

You can find more about the production at:
http://www.tamworthassemblyrooms.co.uk/arts-activities/the-wall

Tickets are on sale now and since being promoted on The Pink Floyd News website are selling well, so it is best to book early to get the date for the performance that you want to attend.

The performance dates are 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th June – To book tickets follow the link:
http://www.tamworthassemblyrooms.co.uk/whats-on/event-calendar/icalrepeat.detail/2012/06/05/290/0/the-wall

You can use the calendar on the right to select the date of the performance that you wish to attend. Tickets are £8:00 (£6.00 Concessions Details are on the website.)

JOHN DONNE – GOOD FRIDAY 1613 – 400 YEARS.

John Donne - depicted 3 years after writing Good Friday.

Jacqui Rowe tweeted me last week to point out that next Easter it will be 400 years since John Donne sat in front of the fireplace at Polesworth Abbey and wrote the poem Good Friday 1613 Riding Westward. I am in agreement with Jacqui that we should not miss the opportunity to commemorate this anniversary of such a wonderful poem.
So I am proposing that we create a commemorative event to take place on Good Friday 2013 at The Abbey and I am looking for ideas from the poetry community as to what we might do.

I do have one or two ideas that have been suggested to me already, which I will hold on to so as not to influence your thoughts in coming up with some original, out of the ordinary approaches to creating and event.

Ideas may involve some workshops prior to the event, which I am open to organising, so don’t hold back on the ideas, lets create something new that will go down as an event in the history of Polesworth in the same way that Donne’s poem is considered.

Who knows in 100 years time our descendant poets may well be celebrating 500 years since Donne wrote the poem and 100 years since we created our event.

Please leave comments on this blog or email me at maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk  with your thoughts.

In the meantime I will discuss it with Fr Philip and other groups in Polesworth.

If you don’t know the poem then follow this link to read it.
http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/goodfriday.php

KEITH LARGE – FISTS AND CHIPS

There are not enough serious short plays being written these days in my opinion. Not that I am adverse to comedy, I appreciate the comic sketch as much as anyone but I do wonder if writers use comedy as a safe way to get their work out there and as such avoid the controversy that a serious play exploring social issues can attract.

So I very much admire Keith Large who I have the pleasure to work with on film projects, for his taking a stance to tackle the subject of a social issue through his latest production.

Keith has written and produced a radio play called Fists and Chips, the play takes the theme of domestic violence as its focus and seeks to breakdown preconceived ideas on the reality on what is for some unfortunate people is a major part of their daily lives.

The play was produced as a radio play in a London recording studio, starring Jeff Stewart (PC Reg Hollis in the Bill) and Carrie Hill.

I would recommend that people follow the link and listen to this thought provoking, sensitive play.

You can hear the play by following this link:
http://www.dvmen.co.uk/

Keith has also put me on to an Edinburgh writer who he really rates. Simon Jackson whose poetry collection Fragile Cargo is published by BeWrite Books.

Reviews include,

“Jackson is a brave poet. There’s an underlying tenderness to Fragile Cargo, but the poems are all written with such energy and bite that the reader is never allowed to feel comfortable. They’re funny too. Jackson captures our lives and dilemmas and works like a photographer to show us the way we really are. More please.”

Mark Wallington (writer for Not the Nine O’Clock News and thirteen produced TV series and films)

Simon will be touring in the near future, included a date at the Buxton Festival in July.

You can buy Simon’s book by following this link

http://bewrite.net/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=B&Product_Code=FragileCargo&Category_Code=PO

You can follow Keith on Twitter @KeithLarge3
And follow his other projects at:
http://www.carrotnapper.com/

JO BELL – NAVIGATION – REPRINT

I was pleased to hear that Jo Bell’s collection Navigation is going to be re-printed.

Jo who is the leading light behind National Poetry day and delighted us with the Bugged anthology in recent years, writes about life afloat on her narrow boat with musings on sex and archaeology, but not I hasten to add not always at the same time.

I bought one of the last 12 copies of the original print from her a few years ago and not only have I read it myself but I have also lent it several other poets who all loved it but were disappointed not to be able to get a copy of their own. Well now is your chance as copies will be available from Jo, you can contact her through jo@jobell.org.uk  . The book is well worth the £9 including postage.

I also note that Jo has taken the opportunity to slightly revise the collection and has added in some new poems, a great move on her part as it means I now have to buy the reprint but only if she will sign it for me.

And if you are not following her blog then why not it has been listed in the friend’s blogs panel on this blog for over a year. If you have been just that little bit too busy take a break and have a look now at:
http://belljarblog.wordpress.com/

TWO POETRY EVENINGS.

Jonathan Davidson has dropped me a line to promote two very interesting evenings of poetry.

Firstly, we have an evening of Persian Poetry on Wednesday 9th May 2012 at the Barber Institute in Birmingham. It will be rare and wonderful; two Afghani poets and their translators and details here: http://www.writingwestmidlands.org/2012/02/28/an-evening-of-persian-poetry/

And secondly, Jonathan is producing a poetry performance working with a team of performers and a theatre director and based on poems from the Bloodaxe Books’ anthology, Being Human. This will be rare and wonderful too and has three dates at The Belgrade in Coventry from Friday 22nd June 2012. Details here: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/being-human . Anyone who has an interest in performance will find this useful. Jonathan has produced three others over the years and they have all been terrifically well received.

Both are well worth going along.

NEWS FROM THE POETRY TRAIL POETS.

Gill Learner whose poem Listen is on the Polesworth Poets Trail (outside the Butchers Shop on Bridge St) has full collection in print, The agister’s experiment, 2011, published by Two Rivers Press.

The collection has received some great reviews

“The poems here fizz and crackle while exploring the vast range of humanity“
Poetry Book Society Bulletin Spring 2011

“It is rarely that a first collection hits the nail on the head as accurately as this.”
ARTEMISpoetry 6

The collection explores the themes of small workshops and the craftsmen toiling at their work and brings a solid accuracy of the process of manufacturing into our thoughts. I also think the cover is something to behold.

You can read more about Gill and her work at http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/gilllearnerpage.shtml

For copies of the collection see the Two Rivers Press page
http://tworiverspress.com/wp/the-agisters-experiment/

Janet Smith whose poem The Owl is on the trail has had further poem, Still Birth, selected as one of the twenty highly commended poems for Donald Singer: Health, Art and Science – Hippocrates Awards for Poetry.

You can see the link to the award here: http://donaldsinger.blogspot.co.uk/

Congratulations to Janet, whose work goes from strength to strength

Sarah James at Nightblue fruit. 1st May

Margaret Torr at The Fizz – 22nd May

LOST POET.

The Lost Poets are on Holiday until June.

SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS

Readings in April.

17th April – Goblin Folk and Poetry Club – Ashby
20th April – Spoken Worlds – Burton on Trent.

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