OK, before I write this review I have a confession to make. Before going to see the event today I was not familiar with the work of Anna Seward. I’m ashamed to admit that I had not encountered any of her writing and so I went along with a completely open mind. I’m glad I did.
For those of you who – like me – have never heard of Anna until now, she was a poet, author and social commentator who frequented Buxton in the hope that the spring water would cure her ailments.
The choice to perform the show on The Slopes is an inspired one, given that the views from all around must have been very similar to those enjoyed by Anna herself on her trips to Buxton.
The actor, Sarah Gordon, completely inhabits the character and makes it very easy to believe that Anna Seward is back with us. Here a distinguished lady, there a gossip (albeit a refined one!) and always a storyteller, she vividly brings to life a woman ahead of her time and conveys the intelligence and independence that such a woman must surely have had to make it as a woman in a man’s world.
There’s no interaction with the audience and Sarah’s performance is the better for it; just stand back and enjoy a historic character coming back to vivid life before your eyes and let her talk you through the world as she experiences it. And extra points for using the expression ‘infra dignitatem’ – not an expression used nearly enough nowadays!
Finishing with a reading of the poem ‘Buxton In A Rainy Season’, complete with the customary local weather, just rounds the performance off nicely and leaves you eager to find out more about this interesting author.
As this was my first experience of Spoken Word, I was unsure of what to expect. This was an hour totally without prompt, which in itself was incredibly impressive.
Genevieve Carver and the Unsung gave us an angsty performance, along with some comedic elements, all accompanied by the band playing drums, violin, keyboard and percussion.
The theme was one woman’s journey into music. We heard retrospective diary entries of her as the teenage girl facing up to bullies in her music class, then as a 22-year-old with boyfriends and pregnancy scares, culminating in therapy aged 30. We finally hear the frustrations of the 33-year-old, still with no record deal on the horizon and the advice she would give to her younger self.
There was an audio perspective of women within the music industry sharing their experiences of sexism, competitive undertones and the day to day pressures they faced as working mums. All of this reflected in the fact that, even in 2019, women are the minority 30% working in the business.
This was clever storytelling, with thought-provoking language and an underlying message of “Why does it have to be so hard?”
Ian and Luke probably don’t need to do these village hall gigs - they could surely earn more playing bigger venues. But it seems that they do it because they genuinely enjoy it.
We arrived half an hour early and the first person we saw was Ian McMillan, eager to shake hands, give us a postcard and ask when we had met before. He remembered his last Buxton Fringe gig with Roy Fisher and Tony Husband at Crowdecote in 2011. He took the trouble to talk to everyone as they arrived. As he said when he eventually took the stage, he loves performing. And audiences love him back.
The Chelmorton Institute was packed and the room was full of laughter from the moment Ian explained that Richard was going to introduce Luke and him, and we would all applaud.
Ian kicked off with a breathless account of some of the odd signs and notices he had collected from lampposts and gigs over the years. He and Luke sang a clutch of songs - some witty some poignant, none more so than a love story about a soldier and his love separated during the First World War. The choruses were learned before we heard them it seemed.
Luke and Ian made up two songs with help from the audience. Sadly the one about the Severn Trent man, the blocked toilet and the erratic tiger probably passed unrecorded.
By the end of the evening Ian was promoting the rest of the Chelmorton Festival as if his life depended on it - the Chocolate Tombola, Harry’s Walk, the beetle drive, the Burbage Band concert. For this week all of life will be found in Chelmorton.
Ian and Luke still have 13,000 village halls to play. Make sure yours is one of them.
Of all the variety of fringe productions it’s nice to see a local story relating to a significant part of Buxton’s history – the prolonged visits of Mary during her ‘imprisonment’. The perfect location for this talk is, of course, the Old Hall hotel – right behind the blue plaque commemorating her residence. The piano lounge set aside for the performance was packed to capacity.
Jane Collier, in full period regalia, presents her story as Mary. While much of this is well known it is poignant to hear again in the first person the story of her childhood in France, marriage at 15 years old and widowhood at 17.
The story has been clearly researched and small details such as the Queen’s horse-riding style, and the extensive breakfast menu added a note of familiarity to the story.
The downside of the first person narrative is the one-sided self-justification without much discussion of Mary’s plotting and the account doesn’t extend up to her violent end, which misses a dramatic finale.
After the presentation there is a question and answer session where Jane steps out of character and shows her extensive knowledge of Mary and her times. We are then taken on a short walk to see the ‘tower’ of the Old Hall where her rooms were and across to the ‘fragrant Wye’ - with a description of how the geography was in those times.
This is a great show for visitors who know little of Buxton and leave the performance with an understanding of our town’s place in history.
Further performance 18th at 7pm
Genealogy has become somewhat of a fashionable pursuit in recent times, inspired no doubt by the likes of “Who Do You think You Are” type programmes, but rather than relying on some team of expert researchers paid for by the Beeb, Richard Pulsford has himself delved deeply into his family history and come up with fascinating results.
On the surface, what he has unearthed is unremarkable. Two generations ago his various grandparents and great uncles and aunts were deeply involved in the Great War, some losing their lives, some surviving. No real surprise there, one might say but Richard’s unravelling of the various threads of their stories makes for a fascinating presentation. And presentation it was; usually one would find constant reference to notes on an iPad irksome, but this was an exposition of detailed and captivating personal research. A bit like one’s favourite University lecturer, Richard was able to be authoritative, informative and entertaining at the same time. The hour indeed flew by, and, like the best of shows one wanted to hear more.
Richard held it together with a series of helpful slides consisting of a collection of maps, family photographs and archive material. Some of the material was astonishing; I never realised it would be possible to dig up a diagram showing the layout of the ships in a 1918 North Sea convoy (tellingly the one where one of his forebears perished).
Early on in the show, Richard reveals that one side of his family is Austrian, and one of his grandfathers saw active service on the side of the German/Austrian alliance. Effectively we have a family divided by war. He goes on to reveal examples of Germans buried by the British in English graveyards and British buried by Germans in Belgian graveyards. He doesn’t labour the point; he leaves it to the audience to join up the dots and reflect on the futility of war.
If you weren’t a Dylan Thomas fan on entering the Rotunda then you were on leaving. Guy Masterson performed a selection of the Welsh bard’s work to an appreciative audience. ‘Performed’ being the right word. He took on the persona of the multiple characters of the stories and interpreted them with humour and affection.
He opened with “Holiday Memories” which begins with an evocative list of seaside observations,
“A tune on an ice-cream cornet. A slap of sea and a tickle of sand. A fanfare of sunshades opening. A wince and whinny of bathers dancing in deceptive water. A tuck of dresses. A rolling of trousers. A compromise of paddlers. A sunburn of girls and a lark of boys. A silent hullabaloo of balloons...”
Guy spoke these lines while acting out each scene. Irresistible.
His longer show, as he explained, had to be curtailed to fit the one hour fringe format and so, puzzlingly, The poem, Fern Hill, of the title was omitted.
After ‘A visit to Grandpa’ Guy finished with ‘A Childs Christmas in Wales’ - a beautiful, humorous piece with resonant memories, and not just of Wales.
Excellent performance but acknowledging a great scriptwriter.
One show only – you missed it. Maybe Guy’s success this year – also with Under Milk Wood - will bring him back next year.
There's a road-sign off the M1 to Doncaster, saying "Doncaster avoiding low expectations". No danger of low expectations in this show. It was consistently entertaining (I am not someone who laughs out loud but I did here). Sharp and live, the intelligent observations of poets David Harmer and Ray Globe carry the flavour of the self-effacing North. Alongside poems such as Just Turned 60 and Mediterranean Homesick Blues there is some new material too (listen out for Boxer Shorts Backwards). The book of beat poetry for sale afterwards is a great idea meaning you can leave with a reminder of anything you missed from the live chants of these two very professional performers.
An entertaining and enlightening combination of performance and walking tour. This is one of a series put on by Discover Buxton and written by Netta Christie.
Fittingly, we met our “actor”, Sarah Gordon, outside the Opera House. She explained that we were going on a walking tour of discovery during which we would find all five of Buxton’s theatres, learn something of their history, learn of the actors who performed in them and even gain a glimpse of what it was like to be in the audience.
Sarah is a talented actress who successfully combines facts and entertainment. She took us on a travel through time from Buxton’s first theatre in the mid 1700’s to the present day. We visited hidden alleyways, found historical evidence, observed the changes in architecture and were constantly surprised by what we learnt. Sarah is used to giving group walking tours. She waits until all members of the audience have stopped walking and are gathered around before giving information. Each tour will be slightly different as Sarah is happy to answer questions and share her knowledge and enthusiasm for Buxton’s theatres and thespians.
However this is far more than a historical walking tour; we were also entertained. Sarah dropped into character to tell a series of amusing anecdotes about the characters who populate Buxton’s theatrical past. She wove pictures of a Buxton surrounded by fields with the River Wye meandering through and even gave pointers as to where we could find out additional information.
I am not going to tell you any of the stories or where the five theatres are – you will have to book on the tour and find out for yourselves!
The Spoken Word section of the Fringe programme is particularly strong this year and this evening of spooky tales from Laura Sampson and Fringe regular Polis Loizou, featuring atmospheric live sound effects from Sam Enthoven, is surely one of the highlights.
In this nicely structured show, Polis and Laura take turns to tell two stories each, the whole evening playing out to the perfect accompaniment of an electronic soundtrack produced by self-confessed gear-head Sam. Using an interesting variety of electronic wizardry, he produces a soundscape that is beautiful, eerie and disconcerting by turns.
Particularly important is the presence of the mighty theremin, an electronic device which for all its ability to conjure up futuristic sounds is approaching its 100th birthday. The supremely inventive accompaniment also includes everything from the sound of a coin spinning to scratching noises produced by what looks like a toothbrush. This all melded nicely into a memorable performance.
The stories themselves are haunting with subjects ranging from changelings to Samurai and audience members finding themselves chilled, entertained and disturbed all in the space of one intriguing evening. Impostors will appeal to anyone looking for something a little different at the Fringe - or anyone like me who has a special thing for the ethereal theremin.
Tom Rogers and Peter Roe got us into a relaxed mood by appearing in nightwear, Tom in pyjama top and Peter in full nightshirt and nightcap. But watch out, there was nothing sleepy about these two! Quirky and quick came their poetry puns - they had an Indian 'Punjab' bottle on their music stand to fine themselves for making them! Their words came tumbling out with poems outrageous, irreverent and morally relevant by turns. They came direct from their Spoken Word club in Shaftesbury, Dorset, and brought us pieces on Sniffing Baby Jesus, Vegbox deliveries brought by herbefore (get it!), Mouldy Cheese, Don’t lose your Granny Down the Loo, Jack in the Beanstalk and a wonderful dialectic piece called Get Over It. Looking forward to seeing them again.
On Saturday 20th July I was lucky enough to be a member of an audience of eight at Scrivener’s bookshop listening to poems by Jimmy Andrex.
He is very much an active figure in the Leeds/Wakefield area regularly appearing on local radio (East Leeds FM Radio). He is a beat poet and his poetry respects no rules or boundaries.
He read us four poems from the book he was promoting. These poems showed his concern for social justice, his opposition to elitism and his interest in learning from everyday encounters. He boldly expressed his views about the folly of wanting to go back to the old days in ‘Make Britain Great Again’, referring to former times as being 'of puke and piss and processed peas‘.
He painted ordinary scenes such a Salvation Army man rattling a plastic can outside an abandoned BHS branch or a stressed woman at a checkout in a supermarket or a memory of a street which had been demolished. As he described these scenes, he stirred us to consider the hardship brought about by poverty, most recently by austerity, using images around Wakefield to make his point.
In between reading his poems he gave us some useful information, for example on the Hepworth Museum in Wakefield.
What a lovely evening this spoken word/live music event was, and the Green Man Gallery was the perfect setting for it. I sat down with my glass of white wine ready for what I thought was going to be spoken word. But it was not at all what I expected - and I mean that in the best way possible! Musician and poet Matt McGuinness, in a most original and unique manner, incorporated music, stories and anecdotes, dark humour and positivity, exploring themes of mental health, being middle-aged and male. One of the things that shone out for me the most from Matt McGuinness & the MLC was how well the band worked together; the music they created was absolutely brilliant reminding me of The Divine Comedy band in parts!
Matt sang and played acoustic guitar as well as interacting with the audience, answering questions, which was really nice. He was so open and honest that it felt as if he was almost a friend. Dan who played bass, was a very chilled-out guy and seemed very well rehearsed, as did at all the band! Jo played percussion, including the cajon and tambourine, and she was great, seeming to keep all the band in time and together. Finally Eileen was on the saxophone and piccolo which sounded brilliant, and worked amazingly well with the other instruments and the songs. All of the songs that were played were originals. My personal favourites were 'Everything Under The Moon' and the song the evening was named after, 'We Are What We Overcome'. Before each song, Matt walked down from the stage into the audience and explained the meaning and stories behind each song, which made the evening feel personal and intimate. So this is definitely not one to miss, Matt McGuinness & the MLC are performing again the 23rd of July at 8:30-9:30pm at the Green Man and the evening if for ages 14+. I am going again to this performance, it was so good - so I'll see you there!
Today was the first in a series of hour-long ‘Meet The Experts’ talks given free of charge at this superbly refurbished venue. Three of the eight talks are on the Country House theme and ‘Duchess Georgiana’s Servants’ was the first; coinciding nicely with the opera ‘Georgiana’ performed as part of the festival. Accident or intention, this was excellent programming.
In a full house and after a ‘no further ado’ introduction by the curator (excellent – some intros are far too long), Hannah Wallace took to the floor, checked that everyone could hear and see OK (why don’t all talks begin like this) and introduced Duchess Georgiana - popular 18th century celeb living the high life in London’s uber-fashionable Piccadilly. But this was not about the Duchess, it was about the servants and Hannah succeeded in bringing them out of the shadows and into the light of some very well-researched, interestingly illustrated and confidently delivered work. It must be said that the reviewer didn’t know the topic upon arrival and came through the door with little concern for duchesses, or their servants but soon began a change of heart - due mainly to Hannah’s gift for the well-paced building of interest.
Hannah’s talk was a fascinating romp through a Devonshires’ back story – footmen with gambling problems, seriously larcenous confectioners, priggish children making the nanny’s life hell, obscenely overpaid coiffeurs and French chefs sent packing by Bakewell protestors. Not to mention the goings-on at Chatsworth and its geriatric geranium planters. Hannah poured the details and incidentals surely and steadily and left the audience undoubtedly hoping that she will one day put her name to a book on this subject.
A thoroughly enjoyable talk. Catch another of these at 1pm every day ex Sat, Sun, Mon until 19th July.
This is something new for the Fringe. Part lecture, part walk, part discussion. And all within the confines of the Pump Room.
The artwork/workshop is one which engages the participants in considering our rural landscape, how we view it and what we do with it. There are many things to consider within this seemingly simple concept, and there are as many different answers to the questions it raises. These questions are philosophical, practical, social and cultural. Sound like hard work? Not really. Do you think about these things when you walk in the countryside? Perhaps some of us do more often than we care to admit.
The artwork/workshop takes place in this venue to help detach participants from the both the object and subject, to give you a clearer view of what it is you are thinking about. It does involve walking, which I found a little distracting as I walk slowly most of the time.
Perhaps students of geography, history, archaeology and other disciplines would find this interesting – there is a link with academia in there. But this should be of interest to anyone who likes walking, the rural landscape and walking in the rural landscape. Just ask yourself, what traces do we leave behind?
The work continues tonight at 7pm. Have yourself an interesting stroll.
Ian Parker Heath
The WMC had gone flat out to embrace the Fringe with orange fringes all around the walls and Psychicbread’s own set and lighting helped to create a cave-like setting. We felt just a little confined - but secure, not claustrophobic. And this slightly mystical, magic feel was entirely appropriate.
This was very much a game of two halves. For the first half it was poet and story-teller Mark Gwynne Jones on his own. You never quite know with Mark where the story ends and the poem begins but what might be a little disarming is in fact engaging. The story of love between a tortoise and a Croc was a joy. A poem about common ground in public spaces was both witty and questioning. Other tales about the uncertainties of life and how our perspectives can shift were delivered with characteristic confidence and edge.
For the second half Mark was joined by Psychicbread for a set of songs. The scene was set with the arrival of a wind-up circus monkey to take up position behind the drum kit. Mark’s vocals were often echoey - sometimes whispered, sometimes shouted. His flute playing added to the shimmering sound. One audience member said the sound had ‘a trippy vibe’ and suggestions of Planet Gong also seemed about right. Buxton’s own Graham Clark would fit in very nicely!
Apart from Alex (on drums) we heard Anna (keyboards and vocals) and Nick the Hat (guitar and vocals). This really was a special evening. Mark’s material touches on dark areas - the stupidity of the human race. But he insists that he is positive, that we each of us can change and make a difference, that the revolution starts with us. Join Psychicbread next week!
Bemused by Brexit? Puzzled by populism? Then the chances are you need to listen to some poetry. This isn’t the poetry of the Festival. This is the poetry of another side of life, of a different culture. The theme that runs through this collection is masculinity and what is it in today’s Britain. Well, that’s not quite true.
This is class-poetry that follows in the tradition of those punk-poets of the 70s such as John Cooper-Clarke, Seething Wells and Attila the Stockbroker. Jamie’s poems reflect what life is like for young, ‘under-achieving’ working class men. From his poems you get the idea that his ‘under-achieving’ isn’t entirely down to him. Drink, drugs, addiction; so there is an inevitable conflict with the guardians of law & order with the invitation to accept their hospitality. Yes there is anger at what he went through, but there is also humour, love, a sense of loss and confusion when death strikes.
It isn’t pretty and it isn’t romantic. What it is, is an honest and unflinching look at a life. It reflects a life which in part has been shaped by societal attitudes, having the wrong surname or even living in the wrong (DE) postcode. You might think this is a depressingly familiar picture of ‘low-life Britain’ but it is more than that. It is a window into the soul of what the respectable media call “the left behind”, and you ignore it at your peril.
Jamie returns to the same venue on the 16th and 23rd at the friendlier time of 4.00pm and he deserves an audience.
Ian Parker Heath
On 16th August 1819 large crowd gathered on St Peter’s Field in Manchester to campaign for electoral reform and against poverty. A crowd as large as 80,000 people gathered and some 18 died and almost 700 were injured when the authorities charged the crowd. Several of the speakers and organisers were subsequently imprisoned.
After a brief introduction giving the basic factual events, this commemoration of the event comprised readings in three parts:
The first comprised a series of readings of eyewitness accounts of the demonstration, describing the good behaviour of the crowd and the violence perpetrated by the forces of law and order. These included accounts from the poet and author Samuel Bamford and his wife Jemima.
The second part was a reading of The Masque of Anarchy, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in response to the massacre. This long (91 verses), heartfelt piece is clearly much more accessible as a reading than on paper, with the four readers making it very accessible and moving for the audience.
The final section comprised four contemporary poems and readings, finishing with The World to Win, by Don Dolby, which emphasised the ongoing importance of the struggle for equality and wider democracy.
Before and after the readings, relevant song recordings were playing, notably Harvey Kershaw’s Peterloo, performed by the Oldham Tinkers, and Factory, written by Bruce Springsteen.
Despite, or possibly because of, its simplicity, this was a moving commemoration, bringing to life the events of that day, and some of the consequences.
Buxton Radical Readers are an ad hoc group (Don Dolby, Karl Largan, Keith Savage and Nikki Duguid) formed specifically for this one-off event, although there seems to be a possibility that they will organise further similar events. I hope they repeat these readings in this basic format, as it would give further opportunities for people learn of the event, and to hear these disparate readings, particularly The Masque of Anarchy.
For those interested Peterloo, there are further sources: the Peterloo Exhibition in the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester1; Peterloo at the Peoples’ History Museum, Manchester2; Mike Leigh’s new film, Peterloo3; and a range of books.
A series of one-hour illustrated 'lectures' on early English poetry. How many Fringe Festivals can boast that!
Michael Gibson describes himself as a poetician. He is a writer, performer, researcher and student. His passion and enthusiasm for poetry in general and early English verse in particular seems to be unquenchable.
In this first show - entitled Beowulf's Boxer Shorts - he presents his argument that early verse, song and dance are rooted in the same rhythm and metre - similar to that which we now recognise in the limerick!
In the course of an hour - packed with material but never hurried - we were led through a handful of songs and verses, including some writing by Queen Elizabeth I as well as Cædmon of Whitby, the earliest known English poet.
Michael speaks the language beautifully and and has worked hard to arrive at an authentic sound. This was a fascinating hour and it is a matter of regret that I shall not be able to hear all the shows.
NB Michael is performing 5 different shows over the course of 6 days. Check with the Gallery for the exact schedule. Each show 'stands alone'.
What could be better than to be sitting comfortably, surrounded by hundreds of books, ready to hear some new and exciting stories?
Especially written for the occasion by storyteller Ian Gregory, Ian had used as his theme, the mysteries of the Peak. He chose from his new collection of four short stories entitled, Nathan Bennett, Mr Brownings Target, Fire Put out and the Cave Lion. Speaking to a group of avid listeners whilst standing in the middle of a busy store next to a crowded restaurant was no easy task. Ian however, skilfully overcame the background noise from the overflow of excited children, as they and their parents roamed around the shelves, discovering new books that excited them. So much so that he was he was asked to do another of his new tales, the Black Predator.
All together a very pleasant afternoon.
A break from the comedy and music of the fringe is this thought-provoking piece which challenges pre-conceptions about wealth and poverty.
This is not a dry lecture or polemic but it is a piece of connected poems set to techno-rythms. The absorbing presentation, we learn, is based upon Rutger Bregman’s book ‘Utopia for Realists’. The basic premise is that a Universal Basic Salary would emancipate people of all categories: unemployed, working, stay-at-home-parents, retired etc. The objections to this is that poor people cannot be trusted to manage money – spending it on drink and gambling. This is dealt with in informative ways by referring to several trials – with mixed results.
The presentation/show was followed by a discussion – which also revealed the erudition of the Buxton audience.
A stimulating, thought-provoking evening.
To be in close eyeball to eyeball contact with Hitler as he rants about betrayal by his allies and generals is quite an experience. The intimate setting of the small performance space at Buxton’s unique Scrivener’s bookshop is as close as you can get – or would want to.
Paul Webster’s intense performance is mesmerising and revealing about Hitler’s state of mind in his final hours. He rages against his enemies in one breath and reveals his admiration in another; wishing he had got to meet Churchill who he believes he would have had a lot in common with.
His anger appears to know no limits – the international Jewish conspiracy being the main target although he admires their industry and organisational skills. He wishes America would join him in a fight against the Stalinist Bolsheviks and then expresses some admiration for his ruthless foe, Stalin.
In addition to the military dictator – who as an aside is amused by Charlie Chaplin’s satire of him – we see his sentimental side; giving Eva Braun a marriage she has always wanted and also keeping a picture of his mother with him at all times.
Paul Webster has done his research to show all sides of the man ‘Germany hasn’t shown itself good enough for’.
Paul performs as Hitler again on Friday 19th and in different shows as Shakespeare on Tuesday 16th and 18th and Somerset Maugham on Wednesday 17th July.
Scrivener’s performance space is small so book ahead.
To begin at the beginning.
Dylan Thomas’ Play for Voices was completed late in 1953, weeks before the author’s death. It has become one of the best-loved texts of its time - I hesitate to say in the English language. Phrases and characters from Under Milk Wood are familiar to many who have neither read nor heard the Play. It has inspired musicians (Stan Tracey’s jazz suite, for example) and been plagiarised (though King Crimson’s Starless is forgivable).
But Under Milk Wood has 69 characters. Surely it is absurd to try and make it a one-man play? You might have thought so but Guy Masterson’s performance has, over many years now, shown what can achieved with imagination and ability.
Guy brought his ‘highlights’ version to Buxton - a 60-minute production rather than the full-length two-hour show. The semi-skimmed show was originally developed for Edinburgh. He has performing the piece for over 20 years but says he never tires of Thomas’ language and can never tire of sharing it with audiences.
Hearing Under Milk Wood is to hear phrases and images that might have been coined yesterday. There is a freshness and immediacy about so much of it that can only be truly apparent when it is heard rather than read.
Guy Masterson inhabits the characters and loves them as Thomas surely did. “We are not wholly bad or good/Who live our lives under Milk Wood/And Thou, I know, will be the first/To see our best side, not our worst.”
This production was a joy from start to finish and I would readily see it again tomorrow.
With such an explosion of entertainment available during the Fringe, it is important to carve out a little space for your own creativity.
Gordon MacLellan (aka Creeping Toad) is very good at helping us do this. Whispers in the Grass took place eight miles south of Buxton in the liberating, beautiful surroundings of Dove Valley Activity Centre near Longnor, an inspiring setting. Many of the participants belonged to Borderland Voices, a charity promoting health and well-being through the arts, and had pens poised to “settle into an ease of stories and poems” as Toad put it in the event’s description. However there was also an opportunity to sit upstairs, enjoying panoramic views, and taking advantage of trays of pens, printing blocks, pastels and oil pastels to create your own individual masterpiece. Toad had an idea about making little books to combine words and pictures and I think cutting up or folding up my own large-scale barn drawing might well be the way to go...
A little structure is sometimes useful and we were offered poem ‘shapes’ to try, from haikus to kennings and even 280-character Twitterpoems. Below are some of the lively poems produced by the group:
I’ve also had a go myself so here is a Cinquain (5 lines with 2 syllables in the first line, then 4, 6, 8 and 2).
Pick up a pen
See those frothy flowers
Swirl them onto patient paper
Simon Corble relates a year-long journey of his encounters through the very special landscape of Derbyshire’s White Peak. But this is no ordinary journey. It is also a beautiful work of art in every one of its facets – poetry, photography, soundtrack pieces and stagecraft.
The poetry is captivating and sensitive direction by Alice Bartlett ensures that Simon’s inimitable presentation of his work makes one feel that this is a conversation he is holding with you in a quiet corner of a local pub on a winter’s evening. Words and metaphors flow delightfully and with ease. Spellbinding writing; Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill brought into Derbyshire winterscapes:
“…foxes follow one another like well-tanned shoes…”
“… a footmark (in the ice) - a frozen question mark; a hook to hang cold thoughts upon…”
“…freeze-dried snow, soft as powdered coconut…”
The piece is divided into months, each having three separate observations; all very different and all taking a look through the artist’s eyes at something capturing the attention. Darby Lane – ordinary enough but in the artist’s hands it becomes, “… a javelin’s throw over the mined-out wastes…a way which, after ages, shyly yields its secrets to a hike led astray.”
Even without the poetry, the accompanying photography would make this a striking performance. This aspect of the production is a superb and perfectly-timed sequence of black and white images. It is especially so for the wildlife – monochrome images coloured in by words - a wheatear which would, “drop from clouds on wings of slate-blue love…caped in colours as if from some Venetian ball.”
And that’s not all. The poetry and the photography, as if these were not enough by themselves, are further enhanced by well-placed additional soundtrack pieces (loved the muted background conversation in Conway’s hardware store) - all very cleverly edited together.
If you treasure the Derbyshire countryside, the seasons, the rural way of life, wildlife, poetry – then please do not miss this exceptional and lovingly performed production. Part 1 is repeated on Monday 22nd July and Part 2 on Wednesday 24th July.