Friday, 4 August 2017

Coming Up: Wilderness and Edinburgh (3 Things)

NOTE: I will be updating this post over the next few days as things develop

1. Wilderness

I'm heading over to Wilderness Festival in an hour, and I'll be there today until Sunday. I'm performing at The Forum on Saturday evening, with some amazing people - including Sophia Walker and Sophia Blackwell.

I'm also looking forward to catching up with Raymond Antrobus (running the Apples & Snakes event this eve) and Katie Bonna (whose show is on TWICE today).

And of course, hearing Renni Eddo-Lodge and other writers/speakers... and Grace Jones and Bonobo and plenty of musicians. I'll have to pace myself but, hey...

If you're there, please come say hi! If not, wish me dry weather! :)

2. Edinburgh (so far)

I'll be one of the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Poetry Slam judges this year. The heats are on at 8.30pm from 7-10 August; the final is on the 13th.

So far, I'm also guesting at Other Voices on Tuesday 8th in the Banshee Labyrinth 

I may have a spot at Hammer & Tongue one of these days...

My biggest single aim this year is to see at least half as many NON spoken word poetry shows as I do spoken word ones. I'm always keen to be signposted to any unmissable theatre/comedy/art/whatever, but I'm on a limited budget after forking out half my life savings on accommodation [ouch]. I'd forgotten what last minute room finds can be like!

3. Safest Spot... update

Well, the first ever script I've written was aired on TV 2 nights ago. And I feel great about it. I could write a much longer post, but I won't. In the meantime, it will be on iPlayer for another 28 days, alongside all the other monologues - and if you order a book, you can read along with it at home, like I did :)

Well, I'm off to find my tent!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Safest Spot in Town

I've mentioned the Queers monologue series a few times now.

Safest Spot in Town, the play I wrote, will be on at The Old Vic on the 31st July - now just a couple of weeks away - alongside three other plays by Jon Bradfield, Michael Dennis and Brian Fillis. I'm pleased that Kadiff Kirwan will be doing the stage version as well as the film version. I couldn't have wished for a better actor to take on the role... seriously, he's legend, and I'm saying this as objectively as possible (watch it and see if you agree...).

The Old Vic show SOLD OUT! (and pretty quickly - which probably had something to do with Russell Tovey starring in Brian Fillis's More Anger). Not to worry, short of queuing up for reserves, the film version will be on BBC Four in the next few weeks to watch at leisure in the comfort of one's own home.

Meanwhile, here's a trailer:

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Book Overload!

Here's the full list:

Jay Bernard - English Breakfast
Kayo Chingonyi - Kumukanda
Lorna Goodison - Collected Poems
Roger Mais - Black Lightning
Nick Makoha - Kingdom of Gravity
Nate Marshall - Wild Hundreds
Karen McCarthy Woolf - Seasonal Disturbances
Miriam Nash - All the Prayers in the House
Olumide Popoola - When We Speak of Nothing
Leone Ross - Come Let Us Sing Anyway

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

UPDATE: the last 2 weeks

It's been the most full on couple of weeks for me. Like EVER.

In chronological order, some of the printable highlights:

i) As per my last post, I took a school group to Parliament, in between conference sessions at the British Library and a bunch of other stuff, like going to Tate Britain.

ii) I co-presented work with Malika Booker at Birkbeck University and then, the following day, was performing in Basingstoke for Come Rhyme with Me, alongside Fergus Evans and Toni Stuart!

iii) The Golden Shovel event (also mentioned in the last post) was off the hook. I got to meet two of my poetry heroes - Patricia Smith and Terrance Hayes - and managed to string a coherent sentence in their presence. I also caught up a lot with my mentor, Peter Kahn, who's now back in Chicago.

iv) I went to Madrid for the weekend... I won't say more, but it involved catching up with friends and hanging out, and avoiding my birthday.

v) I went to Huddersfield and had the most amazing time in two schools, doing workshops with young people. I'm still impressed by what they had to share.

vi) I performed as part of the Penguin Pride live event in Camden, alongside Toby Campion, MC Angel and Kele :)

vii) I got on a 7am train to co-chair a conference panel in Newcastle. Later, I over-napped and almost missed the entire reading of Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay and Lorna Goodison (I'll never forgive myself that). But, the next day, I woke up in time to present as part of another panel at 9.30.

viii) Back in London, I somehow ended up on a pride march with UCL staff (long story!) and met friends at UK Black Pride.

ix) Oh, and of course, my bookshelf has grown by about a dozen books! Grrr... that will have to be another post.

After all of that (and more), understandably, I'm a bit tired! I may provide links later...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

JUNE UPDATE (in brief): 5 things

WARNING: several links ahead!

1) Golden Shovel Anthology

On Thursday, I'll be at the British Library, reading out my Golden Shovel poem alongside 18 super poets, as part of an anthology launch. The line-up is immense! I'm not even going to begin... Ok, more details can be found here. You can also get the anthology here (it's already been described by NY Times as one of seven timeless poetry collections - ever - and it's only been out a couple of months!).

You can also hear me discussing it last Sunday on Jumok√© Fashola's show Inspirit, BBC Radio London (from 2:48:52). Strangely, there are still tickets available for Thursday's event, so get them!

2) Penguin Pride @ Proud (there's a tongue twister for you)

I've also been busy at Penguin HQ, being interviewed for Gay Times and reading out a poem as publicity for the Penguin Pride event at Proud Camden (scroll down for an interview with Toby Campion, and follow links for his poem as well). I'll be performing alongside Toby and MC Angel and... check it out, KELE!! Whaaaaat???!

Once again, there's still a few tickets left so, er, get them!

3) Other related stuff...

As part of a series of events commemorating 50 years since the (partial) decriminalisation of sex between men, I was interviewed for an exhibition, currently on at the British Library (so check it out). I also have a monologue which I've mentioned before, on at the Old Vic Theatre, in just a few weeks' time.

4) Recent and upcoming: a week in the life...

It's been a busy few days and I've hardly had the chance to catch up with myself!

a) A week ago, I chanced on a poetry trail at my local park! I wanted to write more on this but, alas, I haven't had the time. I may do later:

b) One of the highlights of the last few days has been attending the Goldsmiths Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity conference.

one of the opening panels including Dr Pat Noxolo, Sonia Barrett and Dr Ronald Cummings 

Indigo Williams presenting workshop art from I Shape Beauty collective

Huw Locke presenting on his pioneering work
c) I had to interrupt my conference attendance yesterday to slink off to the Houses of Parliament! There, I met with young people I've been working with at a Hackney school over the last couple of months, for a Speak Up project designed by Ministry of Stories.

First, we did a tour of the Palace of Westminster, then headed off to a room where they were able to deliver speeches in front of a mixed audience: their local MP Meg Hilier and Hackney councillors, Ministry of Stories leaders, including Nick Hornby, volunteers and more...

I was extremely touched by their passion and confidence. In just seven or eight sessions, these young people managed to think about what they strongly believe in, create a two minute speech expressing these beliefs and then work on public speaking skills, battling shyness with each other, plus all the usual self-esteem issues 12-14 year olds have, plus the prospect of speaking to an unknown crowd in a grandiose building such as that one! It's the third time I've led this project and I'm really honoured that I get to do work like this!

d) I could go on... but, looking ahead, there's more great stuff. Tonight I'm presenting some work in a conversation with Malika Booker for Corkscrew, a society for practice-based researchers at Birkbeck. Then I'm in Basingstoke for Come Rhyme with me, then the Golden Shovel launch, then I'm doing a school event in Huddersfield, which I'm super excited about, then Penguin Pride... then... then... I have links to all the public gigs in the 'Upcoming' tab on this page.

Meanwhile, I'm writing up some of my research and my novel, so it leaves me little time to update on here, so expect shorter updates (but hopefully more regular)!

5) Selah

If you've managed to read this far then.... [applause] well done!

I've spoken a bit about my new book Selah and I think I've shared the interview I did for Burning Eye. I was also chuffed to see it in the window at Gay's the Word bookshop on Marchmont Street (right next to Ocean Vuong, who is a poet you MUST read!):

Spot the Selah

There it is!

I haven't had an "official" launch because, reasons. But I genuinely want people to read it and, hopefully, enjoy it. So, the first 5 people to read this and email me (before Thursday 29th) can get a free copy. Postage, everything included. In addition, I'll give another five copies away to those with a ticket for the Golden Shovel event or Penguin Pride. Just email me by Thursday, turn up and I'll sign your book.

If you miss out, it's only a tenner, otherwise. Just click on the link to buy at the top of the page, where you can also get a hold of my I Speak Home pamphlet. Or come see me at an event. Or go to the Burning Eye website. Or to Gay's the Word. Or pester your favourite bookshop... oh, the options!

Monday, 15 May 2017

UPDATE: GREAT NEWS! (3 things)

1. Queers series - 'Safest Spot in Town'

I've given some small details about this project before but here's more!

I was commissioned to write a monologue script for the BBC in conjunction with Old Vic Theatre, with seven other writers. The whole project is to commemorate 50 years since the Wolfenden Report, which part-decriminalised sex between men in England and Wales. Even with mixed feelings about this law and everything attached to it, I was thrilled to be asked to write one of the stories.

Mark Gatiss has been curating and directing the project and I've had a blast being mentored for this project, as well as meeting all the other writers. I'd never written for TV before and had never written a script, either, so it was back to basics in many ways. Storytelling is storytelling though, innit?

That said, I find the monologue a tricky genre. It's a challenge getting a character to speak in one long torrent of words - without the interaction of any characters or significant changes in time - and still be believable AND compelling AND easy to follow. Better yet, by the end, the audience usually needs to feel the character has 'gone on a journey'. I had my head-banging moments; thankfully, they were short-lived and I'm happy with how it's gone (and ready to do another!).  

My final script, Safest Spot in Town, is set in 1941, during the Blitz, and it's based on a true story. I enjoyed the whole process from researching the character and the slang right up to getting into his poetic voice. For now, I shall say little else. There'll be a chance to watch it in July/August, either at the Old Vic or on BBC Four.

The biggest part for me was turning up to the studios during filming, having been informed Kadiff Kirwan is starring in my script (I'd seen and loved his character in Chewing Gum). He's a legend! It's a big head trip knowing someone has memorised fifteen minutes of words you've written and arranged through several drafts, while a film crew has built a set which brings a physical reality to those words. There's a massive rush that comes after a whole day filled with take after take of the words you set down on the page coming to life, in bits and pieces. After spending the entire time trying not to burst into tears/laughter/overwhelm, I was exhausted. For some people, this experience is everyday!

2. Selah

Something else I've mentioned a few times, which I'm also super excited by...

New book. New poems. COMING SOON!


I'll be able to reveal a publication date over the next few days, plus a flash of the cover and some of its contents. In the meanwhile, some pre-empting is due:

Q. SEE-luh... or seh-LAA?
A. I say the former but go with the latter if you want to sound fancy. That said, there's no consensus on how to pronounce it.

Q.Where does the title come from?
A. Well, it's a Hebrew word that features in the Psalms a lot. And Habbakuk, 3 times. (In the bible)

Q. So is the whole thing some kind of biblical allusion?
A. Not really... that's just the launch point. I have a couple poems in there that mesh the Psalms together with modern day concerns like migration and border detention... but there's a lot more to it than that.

Q. Ok, so what does Selah mean?
A. Erm. There's no straightforward answer. And that's why I picked that as the title. I like the ambiguity and the poetry that comes through interrogation rather than simply providing answers. Generally, though, people assume Selah means something like 'stop and consider', or as some kind of musical direction.

Q. Is this a full collection or a pamphlet? Are there any poems I've heard you perform in there?
A. Well, it's 32 poems so it depends whose asking... and yes, a couple. A few old(er) ones which I've reworked for the page, a few new that I'll be outing for the first time. All stuff that I'm proud of.

Q. Where and when can I get it?  
A. Well, it's coming out with Burning Eye, so check their website. And I'll be updating you in the next few days, so keep checking back here.

3. Upcoming Gig: TONIGHT!

It's Birkbeck Arts Week and I'm taking to the Harrison pub, just round the corner, at 7.30pm for Poetry Live!. There'll be readings from SoGul Sur, Julia Bell, Fran Lock, JJ Bola, Stephen Morrison-Burke... Come if you can! And check out the other events during the week!
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See Coming Up tab at the top of the page