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.
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.
I’m happy. My play, Bert, had a rather good night at this year’s Worcestershire Theatre Festival. The production by Holly Bush Arts has already been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and run around a few other places so let’s just say they did a grand job.
It won best overall play, best set and best original script. To cap off a perfect night Dave Francis and Jon Hipkiss who performed in the piece got the joint Best Actor award.
The script is only as good as the actors and the production and Holly Bush Arts have pulled something special out of the bag here. Writing it I saw two guys walking around a couple of black boxes. I call it Brechtian. Others call it a lack of imagination. Whatever it is I couldn’t see the minimalist set created by Tim Tolkien. Look at it. It helps lifts the words off the pages. It’s also amazing how quickly it can be set up and packed down; a crucial component for Fringe Theatre.
And once those words are lifted off the page they are brought to life by Dave and Jon. Theatre is teamwork and I couldn’t be prouder to have these two share my dialogue with others.
They move onto the Quarter Finals in April and hopefully they’ll smash it there as well.
As I prepare myself to enter a New Year it’s worth meditating on the last one.
It’s been a year filled with some real positives. I travelled to Seattle to take part in 14/48. The PPP collective has gone from strength to strength. I’ve written a couple of plays and at least one poem a week. I’ve run workshops, gigged all over the country and helped give a voice to the voiceless.
Yes, it’s been great. It’s also been tough. Juggling a full time job, a family and creative pursuits is nigh on impossible. To get through this I’ve needed help. Thanks to the Tattooed Bride who is an amazing force for good in this crazy world. Also thanks to Emma and Steve, my PPP collaborators, who have provided endless support.
But also thank you to you. To everyone who came to a gig, bought a book, offered advice, entertained me, argued with me, bought a drink, a meal or provided a laugh. Thank you.
In 2019 PPP have a lot of exciting irons being warmed in the fire. My one man show will start doing the rounds. As always I’ll be writing, gigging and providing platforms for others.
Even better, I’ve managed to wrangle myself a bit of extra creative time in 2019. This will make the juggling easier.
As the curtain closes on 2018 I am shaking off a head cold. Which sounds like a metaphor but isn’t. I’m am shaking off a head cold.
But I guess accidentally writing metaphors can only be a good thing so I’ll take it.
See ya 2018, ya daft sod. Hiya 2019. That’s a smashing jumper you have on. Wanna dance?
If you’ve been here before you’ll know things have changed… this web site for starters. There were some issues with things in the background. All round top bloke Alan who does wonderful web wonders for me moved servers and when I did I realised I hated the look of my website. I then spent a couple of days tweaking things, bashing stuff with a hammer and Googling phrases like, “Adjustment layer Gimp”. My search history is forever tainted.
So yes… brand spanking new website. Does it mean I’ll update it more often?
There’s a lot happening, you see. I don’t have a lot of time. But stuff is happening. Here is an example:
Yes, that’s a You Tube playlist of 10 poetry videos. It’s all part of project I’m involved in with the Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists collective. We’ve had Arts Council England funding to produce The Black Country Broadsheet. We will be handing out the broadsheet to people over the coming weeks and chances are you’ll find some knocking around your Black Country town. The broadsheet links to the videos above (you see, it’s all making sense) and we’ve even got each poet to have some pictures taken by the fabulous Nicole Lovell.
On top of that are a series of live shows featuring different poets and some open mic spots.
That’s going to be a corker of a night and we have more planned.
On top of that our PPP show is still spreading its wings. We’re in Stourbridge on Thursday 12th April 2018 at The Duke William. Tickets are £5. We’ve also got gigs in Swindon, Birmingham and somewhere else I can’t remember lined up. It’ll probably cause me to make another blog post closer to the time so it’s probably best if I don’t look them up.
In other news…
I’ve got a one man fringe show planned for January 2019 but it’s already on draft 2 and it’s quite scary how much I have written.
PPP are working on a new project which will be performed in November 2018.
I’ve had a rejection letter come today which had a major typo in the first line. I don’t normally comment on typos because we all make them. But if you’re saying someone isn’t good enough you need to make sure you get it right otherwise you look like a dick. The dick.
Last night was the debut of “Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists”. A mix of poetry and theatre Emma Purshouse, Steve Pottinger and I have been putting together over the last few months.
To say it went well is an understatement.
At 5.15am, suffering from lack of sleep and too many pints of real ale and some Southern Comfort I did the following Vlog.
I’ve sobered up now but the adrenalin is still pumping.
A big thank you to everyone who came along last night. Lots of comments about tours were made and the show will be at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Also a big thanks to Matt Timbers who came along and photographed the dress rehearsal. It’s his photo which adorns the top of this post. Cheers Matt.
Finally a big thank you to Steve to Emma. To reiterate what I say in the video above… I look up to both of them and admire them greatly. Last night, it’s safe to say, I had the best seat in the house.