Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Worcestershire Literature Festival (June 2011)

The first ever Worcestershire Literature Festival took place this year with many writers, poets and performers involved over a 10 day period.  My humble contribution was helping to organise an event on the first Saturday that included Supine Orchestra, Jazzman John Clarke and my good self 'Poet and the Loops' on electronic beats and spoken word (and some accordion thrown in for good measure).

We arrived mid-day in Worcester with the intention of attending an afternoon session and to drum up some support for the evenings event.  Unfortunately, the venue in question had shut down, so we found ourselves downing a few pints (shame!) in a pub called The Old Rectum (or something like that) over near the river.

Worcester is an attractive place to visit, and a little later we wandered into town to watch a group of young poets bravely reading out their work to the afternoon shoppers.  We also found the Literature Festival office, where there were free books and useful information on the festival attractions, which this year included John Cooper Clarke, Chris Redmond and a talk by the son of Mervyn Peake.

The festival was founded by Lisa Vector-Ventura who is the Director and also a talented writer and poet in her own right.  She and her team have worked hard to make this a two week long celebration of all forms of writing, with a little music thrown in for good measure.

My gig took place at the Worcester Arts Workshop, a funky left of field venue run by volunteers and with a great performance space in the old cellars.  Naturally, the night kicked off with an open mic session (if you've read any of this blog you'll know why) where anyone could get up and read or sing or tell a few jokes.

Nikki told us how she had come to like her men with muscles and not afraid of spiders.  Lisa, yes the same Lisa as above, offered a light hearted poem about reaching thirty.  Matt read some dark and effective horror texts by candlelight.  And Daniel (left) read a poem about someone taking ages to choose something in a shop, and another about a guy who had nothing better to do than dig a hole.

Jazzman John Clarke (below) from London was first on after the open mic.  John took us through a range of poems some of which were a homage to jazz and the beat poets, whilst others were reflections on modern life and intrusions such as lap tops and mobile phones.  Listening into a mobile phone conversation also gave John the word fragments for a 'found poem', which was made up of a one sided conversation.  I liked the idea that you could gather words and phrases in that way, and reflect them back on the world in a different context.

I was on after John and started off with 'Holding ourselves from the edge of the headland' and 'A good year for the spiders'.  The mid section of my set was blighted by feedback and some unpredicted chaotic kaoss, but I managed to pull it back with an accordion piece in homage to my least favourite tipple - L.L.Loopy Juice.  The beverage that sends you a little bit mentalist and sees you ending up trying to have sex with a table leg!  As I hadn't sound checked the accordion, I took the instrument to the audience and squeezed my way through each and every one of them.

Supine Orchestra ended the evening with an hours worth of quality song writing and clever lyrics.  Some new songs off their latest album and some even newer ones that I don't think they've recorded yet.  This was exactly the right end to an evening that began with spoken word and poetry, through to jazz and digital beat poetry, and on to the Americana tinged backwaters of songs about growing up in Coventry.  The whole evenings entertainment was a veritable feast of highs and lows, of the dramatic and the humorous, of lyrics and music, and all round cheerful depressions.

We had a great night at the Worcestershire Literature Festival and very much hope it will go from strength to strength.  A remarkable achievement to say this was the first ever programme.

And finally, I have to give a big shout out and thanks to Ruth Inglis, the festival organiser, who asked me to play and also looked after my family and other reprobates during our stay in Worcester.  We were inspired, we were entertained and we were always educated!

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