Frog on Water Steal the Bricks – Wild Whispers

6 Oct

Wild Whispers, poetry film project, began with Frog on Water, a poem by producer Chaucer Cameron about connectivity/disconnect, with the backdrop of the personal – a house move – and the political – Brexit.

She had this simple but ambitious idea (the best kind): send it out to her poetry collaborators across the globe one-by-one, to translate it, turn it into a film, and pass it on. Whispered.

I used to walk through woodland and wild garlic,
watch leap of frog, gold-green on water.

Would it be lost in translation? Well yes and no. Continue reading

As evening falls on National Poetry Day…

5 Oct
In the Tent Palace of the Delicious Air, Swindon Festival of Poetry In the Tent Palace of the Delicious Air

Since my last post I’ve had a swim, eaten breakfast, been to a workshop, missed lunch (my bad) and given a short reading as part of a marathon open mic session. But more (or less) about that later – I’m playing a game of catchup here!

First of all … the night was young and the (faux) stars were out in the Tent Palace as National Poetry Day at the Swindon Festival of Poetry continued yesterday.

Chaucer Cameron gave heartfelt introductions to three readers all with new publications: Stephen Payne, Louisa Campbell and Josephine Corcoran.

Stephen Payne told us a little about his background as a psychologist and academic cognitive scientist – it’s always interesting to find out what diverse world poets come from. He read from a sequences of poems he’s called ‘Euclid for Beginners’, in which seemingly simple geometric shapes (box, point, line, triangle for example) are explored (‘…a plane is a surface where deep stuff happens’). Continue reading

Swindon Poetry – Into the Tent Palace

5 Oct
Isobel Palmer and Philip Gross

Isobel Palmer and Philip Gross

It was National Poetry Day yesterday and what better way to celebrate it than at the Poetry Swindon Festival?  I’m Robin and I’ll be blogging over the next couple of days about some of the sessions, and the experience generally – alongside Festival Chronicler Louisa.

I made it into the Tent Palace of the Delicious Air, on the lawn of the Richard Jefferies Museum, just as an open mic was in full swing. We heard a poem about a ‘Smart Toaster’. Angi Holden read from her collection ‘Spools of Thread’. Jinny Fisher offered a thoughtful piece on the experiences of boys in public schools. The fairy lights behind the stage blinked on and off, we broke for mugs of tea in the garden and suddenly I ran into Hilda Sheehan, Festival founder/director, back from Belgium for the weekend and looking younger and bouncier than ever. This festival is just as I remember it – quirky, warm and unpredictable. It’s four years since I was here and I’m greeted like an old friend. That’s Poetry Swindon for you.

The late afternoon session saw Flarestack‘s Isobel Palmer introducing three poets with recent Flarestack pamphlets: Anna-May Laugher, Pey Pey Oh and Philip Gross.

Anna-May’s background in mental health informed the powerful ‘Our house’ – presumably an ironic reference to the song by Madness, but less of a jaunty memoir than a desperately sad testimony of a young child living with his mother’s illness and its impact on all their lives. Anna-May’s set included a number of ekphrastic poems and plenty of humour too.

Pey Pey Oh, whose pamphlet is called Pictograph, introduced herself with ‘English is my second language’ and some nice background about her life. Much of her set focused on the journey she took ‘wandering around China not speaking Mandarin’.  These were evocative poems full of wry observation (‘the boy with the beautifully sullen face’) and all delivered with Pey Pey’s warmth and charm. We learnt she had three grandmothers, one of whom ‘had bound feet and was married to an opium eater.’ I think that detail alone would have won over the audience.

The final of the three readers, Philip Gross, explained that his pamphlet Shadowplay was actually a collaboration with an Australian, Jenny Pollak, and centred on their exchanges over a period of time, in person and then by email, on the subject of light and dark. Philip explained how it was influenced by the Japanese form renga, in which poets ‘passed verses’  back and forth in a kind of sedate game of frisbee (at least, that’s the image I got!) We heard three extracts, with Isobel Palmer reading Jenny’s verses. There was a lot to think about here, from the nature of photography (‘soon we tire of it …(light) …and begin to long for the dark, its inwardness’  ‘Developing the Negatives’) to the universe itself and what we see when we look at ‘space’.

Full marks to Philip and Isobel for carrying on as the mic inexplicably sagged to around knee-height, and Sam Loveless for trying to fix it from the ground-up. But by the evening any small tech hitches were a dim memory.

One of the great things about this year’s festival is the proximity of everything – many of us are staying at the Holiday Inn across the road, about two minute’s walk, albeit one during which you need to stay alert. We had a health and safety briefing from Festival coordinator Helen in which she told us the only time to cross the road is when ‘you can’t see ANY cars coming’. There’s got to be some sort of metaphor here – a poetry festival divided by a road. Something to work up!

 

 

Upfest 2018 celebrates The Simpsons and women’s suffrage

30 Jul

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Upfest celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend with arguably its biggest coup to date.

After teaming up with the Mr Men in 2016 and Morph in 2017, organisers this year announced a collaboration with The Simpsons, and their creator Matt Groening, who handpicked three artists / teams to bring America’s most dysfunctional (until The Trumps came along) family in their own style.

So it was fitting, in a festival that also sought to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, that some of those artists should be female. Continue reading

Festival Chronicle contributor turns spotlight on Swindon for new book

26 Jul
Angela Atkinson with her book Secret Swindon

Angela Atkinson with her book Secret Swindon

A new book revealing Swindon’s hidden gems will be officially launched this weekend by one of our own writers.

Festival Chronicle contributor Angela Atkinson turned her passion for the town into a blog, Born Again Swindonian. And having attracted a following from around the world, the blog has now spawned a book – Secret Swindon.

Continue reading

Black Deer steers family towards Country

13 Jul

Ignoring worries of line dancing and Dolly Parton on repeat, I left the cosy confines of my home with an open mind and an unnecessary amount of camping kit to attend the first Black Deer Festival.

The festival was held in the picturesque setting of Eridge Park, reputed as the oldest enclosed deer park in England. After voicing my concerns about stags massacring the tents, I was reassured that they had been moved for the weekend and were not, as I feared, being prepared for a live fire stage cooking demonstration.

Quicker and cheaper than a flight to Dallas – albeit a long walk from the car park – we were swiftly transported to a new world. The world of Americana and Country. Continue reading

Festival Finale – Things WILL only get better

21 May

SwindonLitFes_2018_0020_Jacob_Hi_Ho&Darine_Flanagan_previewAt the finale of the Finale of the Swindon Festival of Literature, circus performer Darine carried Jake and the festival into a new era – next year it morphs into Spring Swindon Festival of the arts.

One could be forgiven for feeling reflective. Laura, of musical act the Glow Globes, observed, “Is it a little melancholy tonight because it has been 25 years and things are going to change?”

A film showed us the growth of the festival from a programme of twelve events to over fifty. “Who told us festivals to look forward to this week include the Cannes Festival and Swindon Festival of Literature?” festival director Matt Holland asked in a short audience quiz. The answer was Radio 2. Continue reading