Yesterday (Saturday 7th November 2020) was another TEDxWolverhampton. TEDx is the baby sibling of the globally recognised TED talks and this was the second time my beloved city has played host. And the second time I was involved.
Last year was a whole day of talks, entertainment and a massive audience within The Light House. This year Coronavirus did it’s best to stop it happening but the team fought through it. We ended up with an online event where speakers and performers had been recorded beforehand and it was all streamed from The Arena Theatre.
Yet again, I got to entertain the audience with some poetry.
It was all a bit strange, visiting the University of Wolverhampton on a dark and cold Monday night. Me and Dr Martin Khechara locked ourselves is a massive room, I had lights and a camera or two shone in my face, and I delivered my set to… well, Dr Martin Khechara.
It’s surprisingly tough doing a set to nothing but a doctor who is focused on the cameras working. Performance poetry is as much about the audience as the performer but I got through it.
My performance got tagged onto the end of a wonderful afternoon. Every speaker (as is the standard with any TED or TEDx talk) was fascinating, knowledgeable and left you with loads to think about. For performances I was joined by Alex Vann. Alex is easily one of the most talented people around and he seems amazing at everything he can do.
Hopefully the videos of all the talks and mine and Alex’s set will be live on the TED You Tube channel soon. Now, it’s time to relax and bask for a little while in how wonderful this city is.
A few weeks ago, for one of our PASTA nights, we had a theme of Childhood. I toyed with the usual musings on my own childhood but nothing seemed right. Then, during a walk around my old home town I stumbled on a piece of graffiti which fired a memory. A couple of days later this poem had been produced. I love the title Spider Brendan because it makes no sense but hopefully has enough about it to make you want to read on. Here we go:
At eleven he spent most of the Autumn term doodling daft faces onto the sperm which lazed across the pages of Biology 101. We all did quite frankly But his better ones looked a bit like Youngy’s mom.
At twelve on the walls all around town he’s spraying “spider”. Started off with crude childish lines before the designs got tighter. Soon like we’re eating five gobstoppers we’re silent admiring them.
At thirteen, thanks to a library book on New York Subway graffiti, and some shifty spray can thievery, his spiders became 3D. It had quite an impact on us when we’d reach out a hand and touch them to find they were flat
At fourteen while we’re all trying to get off with Emma Salisbury he’s painting a picture of a spider catching a bumblebee on the door of the cop shop. Right under their CCTV. He even drew a spider invasion across the door of the Chief Super’s Austin Aggravation.
At fifteen after marking more of the town than a pissy dog he’s decided to hang upside down off the overpass. Then he’s done a spider towering over a silhouetted city examining the tableau through a looking glass. We day know about metaphor and simile. We knew it looked good though.
At sixteen this story gets to the crazy part because this Egg Chips and Beans Botticelli this Council Pop Pollock this UB40 Klee only got an E in GCSE Art.
Can you see the photo on the right? can you see the little painted shed? Well that was my first view of the painted shed when myself and the other Pandemonialists went to Boundary Way allotments. We’d been tasked with writing poems about an allotment. Poems… about an allotment.
Sometimes you get these commissions and think, “Can I do this?” and more importantly, “Can I do a good job at this?” When I looked down the path and saw that shed my brain immediately said, “You’ve got this Dave. No problem.”
We had a lovely few hours walking around the allotment and meeting some of the people there. In the midst of a global pandemic it was nice to make connections again.
Then we all scurried away to our own writing dens and wrote our poems. Then the amazing Rachel Gillies took them and turned them into films.
And let’s not be in any doubt the amazing job Rachel did. Her shot selection and editing are top notch and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
So without further ado, click the image below to go to Vimeo and see all three poems in their audio/visual glory.
A gathering held on Wednesday 3rd June 2020 in Wolverhampton City Centre organised by Black Country Stand Up to Racism. The gathering saw people come out in solidarity for the protests around the world following the shocking murder of George Lloyd.
As a nice little pre-Christmas surprise I have been asked to headline Permission to Speak in Stourbridge next Wednesday (11th December 2019).
I wouldn’t normally write a blog post for a gig; let’s be honest, I don’t write many blog posts. Yet I think this one deserves something.
All round good egg Rob Francis has run this night for a while. Before the place was Claptrap the Venue it was under another name which sadly closed down taking Rob’s night with it. But when it reopened Rob appeared again to continue Permission to Speak. I’ve occasionally managed to break away from whatever project I’m working on to drag myself over there and it has always been an excellent night.
Yet Rob and this event will always hold a special place in my heart. You see, it was this event, many years ago, where I did my first headline slot. Rob was the very first person to take that chance with me. Something I am eternally grateful for.
It will be a very different performance from me as well. At the time I was suffering with my back and was on a cocktail of prescribed drugs in an attempt to find the right one which would let me function, move and defecate. My back was obviously having a major physical effect on what I could do. But mentally I was in the ground. I’d been in constant pain for over three years and the chopping and changing of drugs to find the right one was sending me over the edge. While I got through the set it’s possible no one knew how weak I was and how many problems I was having. I certainly dropped at least one line that night. Yet I have recollections of feeling like every word was out of reach. Like I was walking a tightrope of abject failure and constantly surprising myself when the right word came out in the right order.
All in all it went well but I knew, I always knew, I wasn’t at my best. It wasn’t the first headline performance I’d have wanted. I always hoped that one day Rob would ask me back so I can right the wrongs I have convinced myself exist… now he has.
I look forward to returning to Stourbridge next Wednesday. Performing without a head full of medication and a body full of pain. Doing some new stuff, doing some old stuff and being more me on a night I’ve always admired.
Yes, that is a bit distanced from the horrendous image you had in your head from my deliberately click baitery title.
I’m really quite chuffed that the little sibling of Ted Talks is coming to Wolverhampton. It feels like we’re a semi-pro football team who have made the 4th round of the FA Cup and been drawn away at Blackpool and the weather promises to be nice and the Premier Inn are doing a deal on Twin rooms. Basically, I know I’m going on Valhalla. That’s a great feeling.
I will be there to provide “entertainment” between the talks. This will start out as poetry, end with poetry but what happens in the middle is anyone’s guess at this point. I’ve seen the line up of speakers and performers and it’s very obvious I have to bring my A-Game. It’s going to be a wonderful day of entertainment and education and I can’t wait.