22 March 2019

Smokes and smokelongs

I've been asked to read at Peter Barlow's Cigarette, which is a real honour as it's one of my favourite regulars on the brimming Manchester live literature scene. I'm sharing the stage with three other writers: Gilbert Adair, who co-founded and curated the Sub-Voicive poetry reading series; Patricia Farrell, whose most recent publication is the visual text series A Space Completely Filled With Matter, published by Veer, and Colin Herd, who has tons out, including with Knives Forks & Spoons, Boiler House Press, Red Ceilings Press and, upcoming, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, so at least we share the latter. Still, please don't tell them I'm not an avant garde poet. Having said that, I am currently tinkering away on some new work with constraints other than just wordcount and have had my nose in a lot of books about OuLiPo and by OuLiPo. 

PBC#31 takes places Saturday 6 April, 4-6pm, at Waterstone's Deansgate, in city centre Manchester. It's free in and you get a glass of wine, so what's not to like? More here.

01 March 2019

Time marches on

Gosh, it’s only 1 March (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus to you) and so much has already happened in 2019 in Live Literature Land (see all the pictures here and keep up-to-date with upcoming developments over at Creative Tourist) and with Project Writing. On that front, January saw the publication of one of my Re/place stories with Reflex Fiction and the signing of a contract (official!) agreeing to another flash fiction appearing in the University of Greenwich anthology Story Cities, to be published in the summer by Arachne Press. I’ve been sticking to last year’s resolution to submit pieces at least once a month, and I’ve also been busy writing new things (not just previews and advertorials, I promise) and tinkering with an application to fund a very exciting commission, which will include events and the creation of a body of work, so fingers and toes crossed for a successful outcome. I’ve had the honour of being asked to perform at the European Poetry Festival, and will be teaming up with Jazz Linklater at the Burgess Foundation in April, and also at Peter Barlow’s Cigarette the same month, at Waterstone’s Deansgate, and I’ve been back “on stage” at February’s outing of The Other, swapping work with poet Martin Kratz and wearing my readers in public for the first time.

Top left: PN Review launch Benjamin Nehammer 23 January; Top right: Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op Emily Oldfield 24 January; Middle left: Manchester Prize Matthew Frost & James Draper 1 February; Middle right: The Other Steph Lonsdale & Hilary Robinson 7 February; Bottom left: Peter Barlow's Cigarette Dan Eltringham 9 February; Bottom right: Poets & Players Lavinia Greenlaw 23 February.

23 February 2019

Stranger things

Managed to catch the photographic exhibition at Central Library of the Manchester music scene, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, just before the lights went out, i.e. on its penultimate day (it finished yesterday). 

Documenting the rise of punk, post-punk, Factory Records, The Haçienda, Madchester and beyond, the show (presented by Rockarchive.com) featured photographs of the likes of Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division, The Smiths and so on taken by the likes of Howard Barlow, Jill Furmanovsky and the once ubiquitous (I used to be photo librarian at City Life, back when photos needed librarians) Kevin Cummins. 

Below is a picture of the contact sheet for a famous Joy Division photo-shoot (the selected Furmanovsky print is beneath it), photobombed by a copy of the book We Were Strangers. In an odd coincidence, the very same week (today, actually), Lavinia Greenlaw performed a poem inspired by Joy Division during her set at Poets & Players in the Whitworth Art Gallery, then Love Will Tear Us Apart was blasted out over the PA as the audience dissipated. 

We Were Strangers is the collection of short stories inspired by Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures album, edited by Richard V Hirst, designed by Zoë McLean, and out now with Manchester-based independent press Confingo Publishing. Here's the track listing:

Disorder - Nicholas Royle
Day Of The Lords - Jenn Ashworth
Candidate - Jessie Greengrass
Insight - David Gaffney
New Dawn Fades - Sophie Mackintosh
She's Lost Control - Zoe Lambert
Shadowplay - Toby Litt
Wilderness - Eley Williams
Intervene - Louise Marr
I Remember Nothing - Anne Bilson

Anne's story I Remember Nothing (the lyrics of which give the anthology its name) has just been announced as being included in the 11th volume in the Best Horror Of The Year series.

Find out more from Confingo and buy a copy of We Were Strangers hereUnknown Pleasures turns 40 on 15 June, so readings from the book will undoubtedly ensue - watch this space for details of live literature events in and around Manchester: Creative Tourist.

15 January 2019

Culture by numbers

Another interesting and lovely looking publication - designed by Cog, based in London - I've recently had the pleasure of being able to copyedit (and be involved in project managing D&P-wise) is the Cultural Gifts Scheme & Acceptance in Lieu annual report for Arts Council England; the fifth I have worked on. It lists and gives the lowdown on the works of art and other cultural objects or important land and historic buildings that have been donated to the nation to be shared with the public perhaps for the first time. Read more about it here.

25 November 2018

Maids in Manchester

It's been on since Friday 16 November, but fear not as The Maids at HOME continues until Saturday 1 December and it's worth checking out, particularly if you're au fait with the play already. Showcasing a brand-new translation by Martin Crimp, this version of Les Bonnes by Jean Genet also features some interesting and innovative production devices - including webcams as mirrors and peepholes, Big Brother-esque big screens, subtitles à la Netflix detective series, and the first time the HOME theatre has been set up in the round.

This all helps to bring to life the story line about Madame's lover being in clink (which has seemed somewhat lost in other productions I've seen, but actually lies at the crux of the maids Claire and Solange's need to escape - it's not just to be free of the chains of their service, but to be free of the law once their plot is uncovered) and adds a completely new element - placing the play in the context of Genet having started to write it while he himself was behind bars. How would the audience know this otherwise, unless we had spent time beforehand studying (or Googling) him.

The set-up also (nicely, I think) brushes aside the five-page instructions "comment jouer Les Bonnes", which appears in the Folio edition I have, explaining what the set should look like, the facial expressions and gestures to be used, how the actresses should portray their parts... and that in itself is noteworthy in this Lily Sykes-directed run. Claire is played by Jake Fairbrother, Solange is courtesy Luke Mullins and Mistress (Madame) is Danny Lee Wynter: male leads taking on female characters, which is apparently how the playwright intended it, and which layers on even more role reversal and role playing than the simple story of the maids taking it in turns to pretend to be the master not the servant.

Jake Fairbrother (Claire) and Luke Mullins (Solange) in The Maids at HOME. Photo: Jonathan Keenan.