Wordsmithery project shortlisted in Kent Creative Awards

Cover of An assemblance of judicious heretics.

The book!

Wordsmithery was one of three Finalists in the Publishing category of the Kent Creative Awards 2016 for the book of last year’s lit art project – An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics.

This is the second year we have done this project, but the first that we published an anthology. The project works as follows: we anonymously give written texts to a range of artists and they will interpret the text in whatever medium they chose. 32 writers wrote texts and their words were interpreted by 35 artists. The writing and pictures was displayed in an exhibition. For 2015 the topic was inspired by ‘The Road not Taken’ by Robert Frost.

 The exhibition was shown at Rochester Library through September 2015, with a launch event, where the writing/art collaborations were revealed on Thursday 3 September 2015. We love arranging this sort of large scale literary collaboration, this year’s theme for the project is Shakespeare – watch this space for more info!

The book contains all the text and images in full colour.

A few copies are still available to buy from the Wordsmithery website.

Update: Congratulations to the Winner, WOW magazine.

 

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Bolton drama workshop

Visual Minutes by More than Minutes

Visual Minutes by More than Minutes

In April, I organised a readthrough of My Mind is Free for Bolton schools, sponsored by Greater Manchester Police’s Challenger Initiative. Along with a Manchester based drama practitioner colleague and some local actors we performed a script-in-hand reading of the play, followed by short drama and writing workshops, to help the young people start to examine the thoughts and feelings the play stirred up.

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23 Submarines

23 Submarines logo23 SUBMARINES is a project combining poetry, visual arts and performance devised by Medway Libraries and Icon Theatre, supported by LV21 and Medway Arts Development Team.

I’m excited to say I have been commissioned (along with some other writers – Barry Fentiman Hall, Sarah Hehir, James McKay, Patience Agbabi and Dan Simpson) to write poems about the submarines scattered around Medway, and extracts from the writing will go on posters around Medway. During the project, we will be visiting the submarines to get inspiration – the poets’ daytrip being in February.

UPDATE: The poems have been written and snippets from them are being put up on posters around Medway. There are open mics on 9 June, 14 July and 15 September where some of the poets will no doubt read their poems. For more info see the Visit Medway website.

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2015 – a few highlights

Winner Culture Design AwardsI had been taking a break from this blog while I set up a website for Wordsmithery, my business, but I’m now updating it again. So here’s a few highlights from 2015.

Wordsmithery won the Literature category in the Medway Council Culture, Design and Tourism Awards in October 2015.

My play MY MIND IS FREE about human trafficking secured an Arts Council England grant and toured London and the South East to good reviews and complimentary audiences with Rah Rah Theatre Company.

I wrote two short plays for Icon Theatre’s Youth groups, SHIPSHAPE SHENANIGANS and SWAMP ROMP, which were performed in Medway.

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Being a writer is…

I was going to write a blog about writing – but then it turned into a poem.

 

Being a writer is:

About being able to take rejection…

About being able to do something else to pay the bills…

Accepting that you are unlikely ever to pay the bills from your writing,

but carrying on with it anyway…

 

About being able to take criticism calmly and respond

with a crocodile’s smile when they take you apart…

Being able to realise that people often take the easiest way out of,

or into, your piece…

Which is often personal, or seems downright mean…

 

Being able to believe in yourself when others don’t…

Realising that you are not your characters – even

though everyone thinks you are.

It’s fictional. (Usually…)

 

Keeping going even when you don’t win that competition or

your mss is returned unread…

It’s brilliant, it’s true, they just don’t get it.

 

It’s not stopping for lunch

Because you are not at home, but in your head.

 

Being a writer is:

Thinking, I wish I’d written that,

When reading something glorious,

Looking for ways to make yours better after

Reading something glorious…

 

Being able to write through the tears…

Being able to write despite the tears…

Writing something good because of the tears.

 

Writing is:

Thinking.

Planning.

Doing displacement activities.

Editing.

Rewriting.

Rewriting more…

 

Writing notes on any handy bit of paper,

The icy dread when you lose those notes,

The rush of exhilaration and relief when you find those notes.

 

Writing is:

A drive / a compulsion / being human.

Nothing else is real.

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ME4Writers ‘highly commended’ at Medway Culture and Design Awards

Award certificate The writing collective I set up in 2009 has been ‘Highly commended’ at last week’s Medway Culture and Design Awards.

The judges said that they thought ME4Writers had done a lot of really good work in the short time since it was set up and commended us for leading the way in re-invigorating Medway’s literary scene. Our writing work with the local community was also praised and we were mentioned as a group to watch!

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Word tennis

photo of a creative writing class

Creative writing class in action

Word tennis is a writing warm-up exercise I use sometimes in creative writing classes to break the ice and get everyone in a writing mood. The results are usually a lot of fun and each person puts their own spin onto the game. I always say that the sillier the piece of writing is the better, though often the results are really good!The way to play is to read out about 10 words at 30 second intervals. The words should be incorporated into a piece of writing. It doesn’t matter if a few words are missed out, though best to try to include them all!

Here are some pieces from three of the students on a creative letter writing class I led this week, as part of the ‘Letters Home’ project and exhibition, to show how different the pieces can be that come from this simple and fun exercise.

The words:

Leaves / Brown / Fire / Roast chestnuts / Frost / Woolly jumper (or cardi) / Cold / Dark / Puddle / Home

Bose:

The autumn leaves covered the ground like a brown carpet majestically woven and gleaming in the evening sun as if on fire. All you needed to complete the dream was roast chestnuts which will make you forget the frost outside. Sitting comfortably in front of the TV in a woolly jumper, not minding the dark and cold outside takes you into another world.

I watched as the little girl jumped up and down in a puddle as her mother shouted, ‘hurry home’.

Jane:

Leaves are falling, red, yellow, brown… falling from tress which are brown. Our trees are falling too. The fallen trees become wood for my fire. I would roast chestnuts on it but it is enclosed in a box, a wood burning stove. Great when the frost is on the ground early morning. I am wearing my hand-knitted charity shop woolly cardigan as I write. My body is warm but my thoughts are sometimes dark and cold. A puddle reflects the same dark and cold in the world. And we long for home… the warmth, the light, the welcome.

Nigel:

‘The train leaves at 11.20 0n the dot, darling, so we have to hurry!’

‘Yes, I’m just getting my brown bag from the wardrobe – I’ll be with you in a tick!’

‘Look there’s someone outside lighting a fire in the old drum…’

‘Yes’ she said, ‘I know, he’s selling roast chestnuts.’

‘That’ll be good to warm us! It’s laying down a thick frost outside.’

‘We’ll have to wear woolly jumpers in the Lake District.’

‘Yes and it’ll be dark and cold when we arrive.’

‘Come on love, I’m out the door – and mind the puddle as you step out.’

‘OK honey, hope it’s just like home from home.’

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A poetry treasure hunt

picture of a poem

Poem at large

Last year I invented a game. It’s a poetry treasure hunt, where poetry postcards are placed around a town and clues left on social media for people to follow. It is a game to celebrate National Poetry Day and to try to get people thinking about, and enjoying, some free poetry. I called it ‘Poetrymon’ as you have to find them all…

The players have been the hiders of the poems  (from the writing collective I run, ME4Writers), and the seekers of the poems, (in this case the people of Medway, where we have played the game for the last two years).

Is it an immersive game? Is it theatre? Is it performance? An art installation? Is it some strange hybrid?

The Hiders are playing the role of covert operative, the Seekers the role of sleuth.

The journey is for the most part unscripted – though we have a plan of where we want to put poems, plans have to change on the fly as we encounter obstacles, such as locked gates and the approach of night.

The game takes the whole day and we document it as we go. The hiders’ increasing tiredness is part of the performance… if it is a performance… We welcome feedback and place a QR code on a poem as the only identifier of the project, so the finder needs to have access to a smart phone in order to find out more. Part of the project is that we do not expect every poem to be found, and not everyone who finds them will have a smart phone, so where and when they are found, sometimes they are a sweet mystery. We hid 28 poems across 5 towns this year. The cards are individually crafted and each one unique. Sometimes it is hard to leave them, but we hope that if they are found, they give a little joy.

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Top six things to do and see in Stockholm

After a lovely trip to Stockholm in August – here are my highlights! It’s a very accessible city, with trams, buses and metro (Tunnelbana), although walking is the best way to see it, if you don’t mind walking up and down steep hills of which there are many.

1) Sodra Teatern terrace bar
More a complex of cool bars, than a simple terrace, at the back of the Sodra Teatern, the oldest theatre in Stockholm. Here seems to be where all the groovy young things go to unwind during the warmer days and evenings. Fantastic vibe, fantastic salads. Nearest metro stop Slussen, exit via the Hökens Gata exit or you will have a steep climb up a cliff to get there!

photo of Sodra Teatern

Perched on a cliff, Sodra Teatern


2) Gamla Stan – the old town

Gamla Stan is a proper old town with medieval alleyways, cobble streets, and fine architectural details everywhere. The centre of town gets very busy, but is worth just wandering about and discovering on your own. Take spare batteries – it’s a photo opportunist’s dream. Metro – Gamla Stan.

Photo of a door detail in Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan door

 3) The Vasa Museum
Even if you are not all that interested in ships or naval history it is worth queuing up to see this amazing piece of history – the only one of its kind in the world. The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage, then it lay for 400 years, covered in mud that preserved it in an amazingly pristine state. There is also a complex of other museums near to the Vasa Museum, and if you do like ships, there is a nice cafe on an old ice breaker, which is free to visit, where the cakes were splendid. Buy a ticket on the Hop on Hop off sight-seeing tour boat and arrive in style from Slussen all year round and from Nybroplan during the summer.

Photo of the Vasa

Like a skeleton of a sleeping dinosaur, the Vasa

4)     Stockholm City Hall
The City Hall was designed by the architect Ragnar Östberg, and opened on Midsummer’s Eve in 1923. When you win your Nobel Prize, the banquet is held in City Hall. After dinner downstairs in the Blue Hall, Nobel Prize recipients, royalty and guests dance in Gyllene salen, the Golden Hall, with its 18 million gold mosaic tiles. It is not generally open to the public but you can get a daily guided tour.  Metro – T-Centralen.

Photo of City Hall

Upstairs in City Hall

5) Festivals
In the short time that we were in Stockholm we stumbled across several festivals, and looking at a calendar of events for 2012-13 it looks like there are plenty more to come! In just a couple of days we saw arielists, men playing musical instruments in a giant wheel, children building an island, opera in the open air, rap music in a park, and an immersive theatre piece ‘The Guide’ in the Dance museum from Spanish company La Reial Companyia de Teatre de Catalunya.

Photo of musicians at the Culture Fest

Kulturfestival musicians

6) City centre wildlife
Whilst you are in Stockholm, take time out from looking at the buildings to look around you at the streets, where you may notice an abundance of flowers… and birds. Apparently Stockholm is made up of 30% parks and green spaces, where you can see hares and other wildlife, depending on the season.

Birds in city centre wilderness

Spot the birdy!

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Women Playwrights International Conference 2012

Sodra Teatern photo

Sodra Teatern

In August I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on a panel at the Women Playwrights International Conference (WPIC) 2012. This was held at the Sodra Teatern, the oldest theatre in Stockholm, perched on a cliff with amazing views of the city and a Bohemian vibe in its lovely terrace area.

The conference consisted of workshops, seminars, discussions and showcases of 90 plays by women. It was a very stimulating week, and I hope that one day we could do something like this in the UK.

I was a panellist on a debate about ‘Female Representation on Stage – with a focus on female playwriting/playwrights’.

The panel comprised of playwrights from Sweden; Sofia Freden, Ninna Tersman, and researcher and drama lecturer Yael Feiler who has done some key research into the issue; from Australia; playwright, dramaturg and associate artist Malthouse Theatre, Van Badham and Chris Mead, artistic director of Playwriting Australia; and the UK, represented by me.

The main question of the debate was ‘All over the world, plays by women are produced less often than play by male playwrights. Why? How can we change it?’

What resulted was an interesting, wide-ranging discussion about how seriously gender equality in the theatre is taken in these three very different countries, with the conclusion being drawn that the playing field for female writers is not at all level from country to country. I will be presenting summaries of the three countries over the next few weeks to see if there are any learning points for UK theatre on 17Percent’s website .

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