Bad Faith

Bad Faith is a project I first started thinking about when I met amazing Belgian choreographer Tara D’Arquian about two years ago. Tara is one of the most hardworking and visionary young artists I’ve ever met and she had an ambitious plan in mind.

Her plan was to create a dance and text piece with a broad reach, exploring mental health, womanhood and, to my amazement, she’d seen me perform and wanted me to write the text for the piece.

This task was a big, big change for me. For a start, I’m not that used to writing work for other people to perform and, of course, although a big fan of contemporary dance, I had never written work to fit into a dance piece.

During the development process, I was lucky enough to go to Brussels to the beautiful space belonging to L’Escaut Architects. The atmosphere and attitude of the L’Escaut building was lovely, with architects and artists coming together to cook and eat lunch every day.

 

 

It was fantastic just watching the dancers and the amazingly watchable actor and theatre-maker Hannah Ringham.

But perhaps my favourite part of the whole process was working with our fantastic extended cast. I had the privilege to meet and work with nine women, all 60+ from all sorts of different backgrounds and with a wealth of fascinating experiences. I ran creative writing, performance and singing workshops with them where they created material around themes of the body and also writing that nurtured both the central character Nora and themselves. During the show, the extended cast sat in the audience and spoke and sang their own beautiful writing from their seats. It’s been just over a month since the show and I miss these wonderful and inspiring women so much already.

 

 

The completion of the development of Bad Faith felt like a very big project coming to an end and I felt all the accompanying come-downs of that! Now that it’s been a month since the show, I can reflect on the work and tell you that I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved. It’s not an easy mission to work with such contrasting languages, dance and poetry, within the same piece and my hat goes off to the whole creative team that made it happen. There will, I’m sure, be more chances to catch this show in the future.

You can read the four-star Guardian review here.

 

 

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Hello again!

Given that I haven’t written a blog post for almost a year, there’s unsurprisingly a lot for me to catch you up on! The blog slides when I’m busy and wow, I’ve been very busy! It’s all good though. Business is booming!

First of all to say I’m going to try a new approach to the blog, blogging shorter things more frequently. A friend of mine suggested this and I think he’s right. So although I’ve got an awful lot to say, I’m going to keep this one short and all about Rear View.

The Rear View bus is going to rev itself up again as the IOU team heads off on tour in 2018 to…

Halifax (April), Brighton (May), Stockton on Tees (August), Coventry (September) and Grantham (also September).

It’s been ludicrously wonderful working on this show. I’ve sat on the bus and watched the alternative version written and performed by Cecilia Knapp and it’s amazing. It’s cinematic. Along with the soundscape it feels as if you’re seeing the world in one long tracking shot and it’s unclear whether what’s going on in the streets is happening anyway or has been choreographed especially for you. The show explores memory, music, a sense of place and loss and there are two versions, one written and performed by Cecilia and one written and performed by me. I’m particularly excited to be touring to Halifax as I grew up there and so I think that the memories that the character recalls will sit especially beautifully there.

I’m so proud of this show and I can guarantee it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. If you can make it along to a show this year, I strongly advise that you do!

And working with the team at IOU is great! It’s really fun being on tour with so many people, there are ten of us on the team that makes the show run. It’s a real joint effort. And it makes a nice change from touring solo (more of that in the next piece. I’ve not done a single post on my big project  Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea  which has just finished, but there’s so much to say!)

Anyway, until next time which will (hopefully!) be much, much sooner.

 

REAR VIEW

Over the last year or so I’ve been working with the incredible IOU Theatre on a groundbreaking show called Rear View. It’s certainly the biggest and most ambitious thing I’ve ever worked on and its development has been a wonderful and rich experience for me.

Now, our national tour has begun. I spent the last week of May with the wonderful team in lovely Norwich and it was so, so much fun. We’re touring to 6 festivals across the UK this year and another 4 next year.

I won’t talk too much about the show here, partly because I’ve hardly got a minute at the moment, mainly because Norfolk and Norwich Festival have made this brilliant short film, explaining all about it!

You can watch it here.

Enjoy!

 

Where text and dance meet…

A couple of weeks ago, I worked for a week alongside amazing choreographer Tara D’Arquian, incredible dancers Amarnah Amuludun & Laura Doehler and magnetic Actor Hannah Ringham. Nemesis (working title) is a project let by Tara which aims to explore ideas including inner daemons, madness and heterotopia taking some inspiration from the writings of Borges.

It was an amazing process. We wanted to reach a place where we developed movement and text simultaneously, to get to the point where the audience may not know whether the movement inspired the text or the text inspired the movement, where both forms were supporting each other.

We also worked with a small group of women aged 60+. Their role was to sit in the audience as an ‘extended cast’ and to sing and move and speak with material we created together through creative writing workshops.

We’re extremely grateful to Arts Council England, Trinity Laban and Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre for supporting this short period of research and development, both Tara and I are really excited to keep on experimenting with how our two practices can intersect and expand each other’s possibilities.

Here’s a video of the sharing at the end of our two weeks of research:

 

Books what I’ve read (recently)

Hi you lot. Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been incredibly busy with loads of exciting projects brewing and the launch of my book. More on all of this soon, after I’ve moved house. Promise.

Below are some books from what’s tried to be a fairly female and feminist reading list over the past couple of months. This is everything that springs to mind as worth mentioning, worth recommending.

NON-FICTION

This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The climate by Naomi Klein. This certainly has changed everything for me. I took it on holiday where I was depressed by it and struggled. Before I started reading, a couple of friends told me that they’d read two-tklein_coverhirds or three-quarters of it, that it was good but she went on a bit. In the early days of holiday and the book, I could see what they meant. It was interesting but also depressing and dense and hard work. But I ended up doing that thing that happens a lot with books, I got over the hump and all of a sudden I was reading it all night until 5am in the living room, unable to put it down.  One of the most compelling arguments in the book is when Klein draws attention to the climate crisis as a racist crisis, one that disproportionately affects people of colour. Watch this video by Black Lives Matter UK to get the gist.

Klein writes rigorously, no idea is left stranded, everything is backed up by statistics and research. She also writes emotionally, in a way that you are constantly horrified by what’s gone down and what’s still going down. Read this, it will change you.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lourde  I bought this book from an anarchist bookshoaudre-lordep in Haight-Ashbury  in San Francisco having (shamefully) never heard of Audre Lorde before. This is a seminal work of black feminism, a collection of essays and speeches by this amazing poet. Many of the things Lourde discusses are (thankfully) now more widely accepted, at least in some circles, but with racism a continuing problem, and particularly in the current climate, it’s fascinating to read the black feminism of the 80s.

I was reading this book on the circle line recently and made a friend who got excited that I was reading it. He told me it was his favourite book, that he’s taken it around the world with him. This book operates as a call to action too, it repeatedly speaks of the value of anger and the danger of silence. For a taste of this book read Poetry is not a Luxury, eye-opening and true.

Unspeakable things: sex, lies and revolution by Laurie Penny. This is good. Laurie Penny is angry and rightly so. This book tackles gender and class and race, cybersexism and desire. It’s a really angry book and her anger is inspiring and unapologetic. Not that I often forget, but it did a great job of reaffirming my anger and my right to be angry on behalf of all women, especially those less privileged than myself.

pennyReading it quite soon after Klein though made me truly appreciate Klein’s rigour with her subject. Massive respect to Penny though, I like her fire a lot and just in the introduction comes out with a line I particularly enjoyed perhaps more than any other in the book. Penny tackles the commonly held belief that now we can work and vote, feminism has achieved its aims and we can all go back to normal, arguing that popular feminism only benefits the privileged few   “Public ‘career  feminists’ have been more concerned with getting women into ‘boardrooms’, when the problem is that there are altogether too many boardrooms and none of them are on fire.” Word.

 

chavsChavs: the demonization of the working classes by Owen Jones

First published in 2011 at the height of ‘chav-bashing’, this book looks at the the class war waged in the UK on the working-classes by the elite, with a strong focus on how it all began with Thatcher and de-industrialisation. This book is tightly argued and shocking, I found the content about the media’s portrayal of the working classes particularly fascinating, all-pervasive hatred and spite and mockery. This book also made me think much  more about the lack of representation of people from less well-off backgrounds in powerful jobs: lawyers, journalist, doctors and, of course, MPs. A lack of those people in those jobs leads to a lack of understanding and unfair policy being created, unfair news stories being run. The 50:50 parliament campaign recognises this and does great work trying to get more women into parliament.

Many of this countries tensions around immigration hinge on the lack of housing, the fact that recent governments have continually failed to build new, affordable homes. Building new, well-insulated, homes would activate the workforce (the majority of whom are not lazy, the jobs just don’t exist), reduce unemployment and aliviate the constant struggle for the most basic of provisions, a home. This episode of File on Four about the Hidden Homeless is worth a listen too.

I should point out that I borrowed three out of four of these books from Peckham Library. Big up libraries, please do what you can to save them as they’re increasingly attacked by our government.

FICTION

So all of the fiction I’ve read recently have been coming of age tales in one way or another. It makes a pleasant change to read a woman/girl’s experience of discovering the world, rather than a man’s. I feel so much more able to identify, to latch their ways of thinking about things, of seeing things on to my own experience. Also I feel as if I’ve rediscovered that when you carry a good story around with you, your life is infinitely improved.

Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson. This is (also shamefully) the first Winterson I’ve read. I found it completely absorbing. The alternation between the fairytale, orangesmythical style and the frank account of a young life in rural Lancashire is executed beautifully and gives an impressive, stylised edge to the work. I know these bleak Lancastrian towns well and Winterson gets them just right. The book is all pain and confusion, all longing and discovery. It’s great, I read it in half a day.  Found two more Winterson’s in a charity shop.

Astragal by Albertine Sarrazan. This had got to be one of the best books I’ve read of late. Sarrazan has a quite simply magical way with words. The images are rich and dense, just the way I like ’em and the story is thrilling, romantic, young and simultaneously hopeless and gorgeously hopeful. It’s small but very powerful, astragaljust like the protagonist who we can’t help but love, her determination, her resilience and her courage are written so beautifully. All of her other books are out of print so proper expensive. I can only hope this reprint of Astragal sells well so more of her work is reprinted soon. Buy it if you can!

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This book imagines the prior life of the woman in the attic in Jane Eyre. It’s a vivid and vibrant exploration of the abuse colonial power, sexual and romantic power and ways that we perceive and develop mental illness.  This book casts a very dark and unforgiving shadow on Mr Rochester and is just so relentlessly urgent.

POETRY

Tons. I’m in a bit of a hurry now so I’ll just chuck them out there. I find it really tricky to write about poetry somehow too. So beg, borrow or buy them and have a read for yourself.

The Mystic and the Pig Theif by Fran Lock.

Dear Boy by Emily Berry.

Meanwhile Trees by Mark Waldron.

Ban en Banuille by Bhanu Kapil.

Burning Books by Jess Green

Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo 

June & July: commissions, many days of Melody & festivals!

In the last couple of months I’ve had a fair few commissions to write. Writing commissions is great fun and really excellent for your writing skills. It’s great to work to a specific subject, it can really help you train yourself, to write about things that you wouldn’t normally.

My first commission was for BBC Arts. My brief was to write a poem exploring why the Tate Modern is a cultural hub for young people. The poem had to focus specifically on the Switch House, the new Tate modern extension and was to appear on the BBC 2 as part of The New Tate Modern: Switched on, which you can watch here. It’s a really interesting show and I suggest you watch all of it. If you just want to watch my bit, though, skip to 53: 40 and hear Andrew Marr saying my name too!

I was also asked by some friends to write a poem inspired by Bob Dylan, now this was much easier ground for me as a) I write a lot of poetry inspired by music and musicians and b) as anyone who knows me will know, I love Bob Dylan. I decided to write a poem for him from the point of view of a teenage me.

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The delectable young Bob Dylan

I’ve had the The Times they are a Changin’ poster above my bed in every bedroom I’ve ever had since I was about thirteen. Partly because it’s a great album, he’s a fantastic lyricist, he inspired me, sure, sure. But also because, as I’m sure you’ll agree, he looks absolutely smoking in it. I’ve uploaded the poem to Soundcloud so that you can listen to it here if you so wish. 

Then came the hardest commission of all…the amazing organisation Index on Censorship asked me to write and perform a poem for the launch of their 250th issue. They asked some of their contributors to provide me with an article or an issue of the magazine that they thought was particularly important in the magazine’s history. My task was to write a poem that celebrated Index’s work and some key moments from the magazine’s history.

Performing at the Index on Censorship launch

So I found myself trying to tie in diverse themes and stories into one piece; from Ken Saro Wiwa’s struggle against Shell to Ariel Dorfman‘s amazing play Death and the Maiden, which was first published in English by Index on Censorship in 1991. I highly recommend you read it, you can do so here – it’s powerful stuff. The night was a great success and I performed the piece to a really appreciative audience. Before the party started we filmed the poem in the park, you can watch it here. I think it was truly the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to write. But all excellent practice and development! Moddi, a Norwegian singer-songwriter, also performed at the event, he’s a great artist about to release an album of 12 banned songs from 12 different countries. He’s well worth checking out.

Latitude Festival! My third year running! I was originally booked for Melody (which I performed on the poetry stage) but then the amazing Nabokov Theatre asked me to write a poem for a project they were doing called Reformation Nation which would combine raving and activism. The brief was to write a poem on a political issue of our choice that we’d perform over a set by the wonderful DJ Sweat Pea.

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Me being D&B at Reformation Nation 

I decided to write a poem inspired by the book I was reading at the time, Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. For any of you who’ve read it, you’ll know it’s a bit of a tome! Far-reaching and wonderful and horrifying, so I’d really set myself a challenge. By the way, I borrowed that life-changing book from my local library which thankfully hasn’t shut down. As soon as I got up on the stage (at 2am on the Saturday morning of the festival) I realised that it was all a bit wordy and heavy to speak over Drum and Bass so I sort of improvised and sang  parts of it and it was really, really fun. I was shit-scared but I surprised myself by managing fine! I’m not going to put the poem up but if you’re in London on 6th August then Reformation Nation will be repeated on the National Theatre River Stage at 7:10pm 

 

In and around all of this I was really happy to be performing MIMG_3072elody three times in the space of four days. As part of Luke Wright’s Stand up poetry club in Diss, at the amazing Pumphouse in Aldeburgh as part of the music festival there: the Pumphouse run an alternative fringe festival and the line-up was incredible, I very much hope to go back next year. and as part of the brand new OffBeat Festival in Oxford also with a great programme which I hope to rejoin next year.

I had really amazing experiences in all of these places but I particularly enjoyed my time in Aldeburgh, the venue was magic, I’d never been to the beautiful town before and, despite it being really quite nippy, I ate delicious smoked prawns on the beach! I also spotted Melody cottage!

These intense few days of touring the show solo were really lovely, they made me feel independent and it struck me how great it is to have something you can tour around to show people, all on your own, self-reliant on your own two feet.

I also went to Glastonbury Festival for the first time in my life, to say it was incredible would be an understatement. I utterly loved it! I would say Glastonbury’s worth visiting if only for the incredible amount of time, money and artistry that goes into the set. They create these truly wonderful worlds which you can get completely lost in. It was, however, a pretty strange time to be there. The Brexit vote cast a bit of a sour mood to begin with but we all still managed to come together and have a good old party… (it was also my 27th Birthday!)

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Performing at Glastonbury

I realise I’ve not talked about what I’ve been reading at all recently and I’ve been reading some absolute corkers. I’ve read some really great fiction, non-fiction and poetry by women (and a couple of blokes snuck in there too) The next blog post will be dedicated to that! Next week I reckon.

Until then…

 

April & May 2016

Hiya. I’ve had a really enjoyable couple of months welcoming spring in. I’ve been touring Melody in April and teaching a lot in May. Here goes…

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Entrance to the enchanting Alphabetti theatre

In April Melody visited Newcastle and the amazing, fairly new, Alphabetti Theatre. This is a hidden gem of a venue right in the middle of town. When you descend the stairs you find yourself in a shining and magical world, the decor is beautiful and their programming is exciting and varied.

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Post workshop spoons with the scratch club

While I was there, I really fell in love with Newcastle. Both the architecture and scenery are beautiful, the people are friendly and unpretentious and everything is very cheap (especially compared to our capital). The day after I performed Melody, I ran a creative writing workshop with the Scratch Club Tyne – they all came up with amazing poems that incorporated songs that are special to them.

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Jess Green on stage at the Handmade Festiva

I also visited Leicester twice. And I really like Leicester too! Unfortunately, I was there just before they won the Premier League so the atmosphere was tense rather than the wild celebration that followed the day after. I took Melody to the great theatre-pub Upstairs at the Western and the lovely and brilliant Jess Green (check her out) asked me to perform on the Find the Right Words stage at the Handmade Festival.

And Melody also showed at it’s birthplace Clapham Omnibus. This is a wonderful place that has supported us so much by giving us free rehearsal space whenever they can.

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Melody at Clapham Omnibus

Space is a scarce and expensive resource in London and we had no funding at all for Melody so the generosity from Clapham Omnibus has been hugely valuable. Our first full draft of Melody was presented at Clapham Omnibus in May 2015 so there was a nice sense of returning home.

Melody also visited the Welsh town of Llanelli and the Ffrwnes Theatre, I wish I could have spent longer there. I never consider the lack of friendliness in London at all and like to think it doesn’t exist but when you visit Llanelli and Newcastle, you really feel the difference.

Enough of Melody. I spent a lot of time teaching and delivering workshops in the last couple of months. I’ve found it really rewarding and enjoyable. I delivered two workshops at the London Metropolitan Archives as part of their amazing Lost & Found festival. Not that many people know about the archives, they have interesting exhibitions on all the time and anyone can go in, sign up for free and explore the history of the city in their huge collection. Do it!

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Workshop participants at the LMA

And I spent the last two weeks in May at Huddersfield university helping the first year Drama students develop and rehearse their end of year show along with the incredible IOU theatre. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, I suddenly found myself directing a 32 strong cast in an interactive, devised (and frankly bizarre) theatre piece. I’ve not worked so hard in a long time. At the beginning of week one, I delivered some poetry workshops there with Cecilia Knapp and it was really great to see how the students got so into it and how some of them developed their poems further to incorporate into the final piece.

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Entrance to the enchanting Alphabetti theatre

And finally, a few more fun gigs & interesting things…

I did One Track Minds at one of my favourite venues ever, Wilton’s Music Hall, I was honoured to stand on that stage. One Track Minds is a new idea from film producer Kristian Brodie. A hybrid of Desert Island Discs and TED talks, it asks creatives to tell a story about the track that changed their life. I chose the Spanky Wilson cover of Sunshine of Your Love and talked about my teeneagerhood in Hebden Bridge, fronting a band and discovering funk and soul music. They also chose me as their poster girl!

Flyer!

The flyer for One Track Minds

I also performed at Chocolate Poetry Club, a really nice night at The Roebuck in Borough. It’s a lovely, friendly night and you get free chocolate! I’d highly recommend it if you’re in London, especially if you want to try out new material at the open mic. You can watch a video of me trying out a new poem at Chocolate Poetry Club here.

I did a shift at the Poetry Takeaway (a great organization) at the Roundhouse, writing bespoke poems for dinner guests.

I chatted with Lunar Poetry Podcasts and read a few bits for them, you can listen to the podcast here.

And I performed at the Free Word Centre at the finale event for the London Metropolitan Archives Lost and Found Festival.

I’ve also begun the practice of trying to write every single day, even if it’s just one line or an image. As everyone says about this practice, it is really good to flex your writing muscles to keep them in shape.

More news coming soon. Lots of love and writing. X

Songs from Melody Playlist!

Hello! I’ve been asked to make a playlist featuring all the songs that feature (however briefly) in Melody. 

I’ve put this together mainly as a resource for people who have seen the show and want to place/remember certain songs. Songs are in the order they appear in the show. Songs from the show that do not appear on this list are my own, if you want to hear them again then do get in touch.

WARNING: Some of the songs are in there deliberately to be shit. Do not try to impress your date with this list!

Note: The original version of Bob Dylan’s Spanish Harlem Incident seems to have been removed from YouTube, so I’ve given you a rather nice alternate take instead.

And yes, I did try making this playlist on Spotify first but there’s no Newsom on there because the ever-eloquent Joanna says Spotify “is like a villainous cabal of major labels. The business is built from the ground up as a way to circumvent the idea of paying their artists.” Her work is so important to me and the show, I could face not having here in the list,  so YouTube it is.

Enjoy!