31 March 2012

Recorded for posterity

FlashTag performed on Thursday night at Word Soup in Preston, and we were interviewed by Lancashire Writing Hub's Mikey before our appearance. You can read the interview, which is split into two parts, here and here.

Les Malheureux, meanwhile, were interviewed in the run-up to their gig at Not The Oxford Literary Festival, and you can read that here. We've also been interviewed for another site, and that should appear before our Sounds From The Other City gig in early May, and we'll soon be posting some photos from our official photo shoot.

Meanwhile, today we're on the radio! You can hear me reading one of Les Malheureux' numbers on arts radio Resonance FM this afternoon - tune in to Jonny Trunk’s OST Show 4.30–6.30pm (online here: http://resonancefm.com/), when our pals Monkeys In Love will be chatting, spinning the wheels of steel and playing a recording they kindly did of us a couple of weeks back.

30 March 2012

More tour

My spring tour continues on Monday, with a trip up to Lancaster, where I'll be shocking and aweing The Story Forum with 12 minutes of smuttiness. Get yourself over to the Gregson Arts Centre from 7.30pm.

23 March 2012

Getting out and about

Next week, I'm taking my potty mouth out of the goddamn rainy city and heading first south and then north to peddle my smut.

Wednesday 28 March sees me in Oxford, purveying my prose in a fight to the death with a bunch of poets (well, hopefully not quite to the death) as part of the Not The Oxford Literary Festival, organised by the delightful Dan Holloway of Eight Cuts. I'm aiming on reading four filthy and not-so-filthy flash fictions in five minutes flat. I need to practise speaking real quick. I'm also going to be performing a couple of Les Malheureux numbers with David Gaffney - and to plug our act, we've interviewed each other on the Eight Cuts blog. To say I'm really looking forward to the night, and meeting some writers I really respect (Tania Hershman for one) and catching up with some others I already have the pleasure of knowing, is a mighty understatement. Also can't wait to see the Albion Beatnik bookshop - I've heard so much about it!

Thursday 29 March sees me in Preston, with a 10-minute slot of smut at Lancashire Writing Hub's Word Soup night at the Continental. The rest of the FlashTag collective are also reading (and an interview with us will be appearing on the LWH website in the run-up to the event) - it's like we're on the bill or summink - as is one of our Quickies contributors, the lovely Kim McGowan, and my poet mate Miles Hadfield. Preston won't know what's hit it. Still, I'm sure England's newest city (is it still that?) can take it; they're made of stern stuff up there.

16 March 2012

Short-short circuit

Today saw the launch of the latest project from the FlashTag writing collective, of which I make up a fifth. After running a successful short-short story competition and popular spoken word event for Chorlton Arts Festival last year, they're letting us loose again. Full competition details can be found here and details of the Manchester-based FlashTag collective can be found here. The closing date is Friday 27 April, and we'll announce the shortlist on Friday 11 May, with the top three stories revealed at a glittering awards ceremony on Wednesday 23 May, during the festival. Last year, the golden statue was raised above the head of one Socrates Adams, who's just published his first novel. We feel honoured!

If you want a copy of our official press release or high-res images or intellectual soundbites or signed photographs, I'm your woman. The press contact details are here. Similarly, if you want to send us money or cake or provide prizes for the competition winners, we'd love to hear from you.

11 March 2012

Something for the weekend?

You know me, I like a good swear, and a good literary swear is guaranteed to get me on side. Hence my fondness for Larkin, after studying The Whitsun Weddings at school and hearing tell of This Be The Verse. So obviously when I learnt that the quote "Don't let the bastards grind you down" was from Alan Sillitoe's debut novel Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, of course I had to put it on my reading list.

Good book, too. Nice pace; interesting insight into a particular era; great use of dialect, to which I'm also partial. Apparently it evolved from a set of short stories, which is also something to pique my interest, and it's credited as changing the history of the English novel. So when I spotted it on the spring/summer line-up at the Royal Exchange, I was already there. I couldn't wait to see how it would be adapted to the stage, by director Matthew Dunster.

Unfortunately, the opening number rather put me off: an all-singing-all-dancing fight scene with a bloke in a sailor's outfit (in land-locked Nottingham?). Thankfully, it proved to be a one-off and, as the plot took shape, further choreographed sections seemed more natural and did actually add depth to the production. Some innovative set design brought to life the Raleigh cycle factory where protagonist Arthur Seaton (played by Exchange debutant Perry Fitzpatrick) earns the money to keep him in snazzy rigouts, and the same special stage features were employed later on to produce an impressive representation of Goose Fair.

Rapid-fire overlapping dialogue and action moved the story along and gave a realistic impression of Arthur's hectic work-love life balance, then the important hot-bath-and-gin turning point slowed things right down to an almost excruciating pace, soundtracked by the ticking of a clock so languorous as to make the audience feel as drunk and dumbstruck as Brenda (very nicely portrayed by Clare Calbraith) in her desperate predicament.

The props were spot-on, as always with the Royal Exchange, and there were some lovely vintage bikes on show and some great authentic 1950s furniture. There were also some amazing costumes, and quite the display of old-fash conical bras and oversized suspender belts. In fact, there was not an unsubstantial amount of undressing, so, those of a delicate nature, be warned.

In terms of performances, most were spot-on and believable, and it was nice to see David Crellin pop us at Arthur's dad Harold, while Chanel Cresswell and Graeme Hawley made a very convincing Winnie and Jack, respectively. Arthur's accent slippage was a little distracting at times, and Doreen's mum (Jo Hartley) erred slightly too much towards hammy, although she is supposed to be a bit of a comedy character, I suppose, and these were minor issues. Doreen (Tamla Kari) also had a momentary slight slip-up when the standard lamp wouldn't switch off to put the stage in darkness at the end, but hey-ho, these things happen, and all in all it's definitely worth a trip.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning continues until 7 April. See the Royal Exchange website for full details.

07 March 2012

I'm in a band!

If you've been watching closely, you'll have seen me wittering on about a couple of recent performances I've done with my author friend David Gaffney, wherein I read a number of his micro fictions while he accompanied me with some original organ music composed especially for the purpose. Well, after taking off the roof (yup, I'm so Westwood, me) on both occasions, we've decided to run with this thing and aim to carry on gigging, with more whistles and bells (ie an extended set including some of my stories). Our next booking is Sounds From The Other City on Sunday 6 May, which is really rather exciting, and we've even given ourselves a band name for the occasion: Les Malheureux (the poor devils).

Last night, we laid down our tunes and six stories for an upcoming radio slot, and they'll be uploaded to the brand-spanking new Les Malheureux section on this very blog once they've been mixed by sound engineer Steve (communing with Judy the cat in the picture above). In the next couple of weeks, we'll also be doing some interviews, so I'll stick the links to those up as soon as they've been published. All I need now is to come up with an appropriate rider, and I think my rock star credentials will be sorted.

05 March 2012

Flash point

Fabulous news last week was that National Flash-Fiction Day was awarded funding by the Arts Council, so get Wednesday 16 May in your diary right this ruddy minute as it's going to be tippety-top. There will be loads of events and activities taking place around our fair land: check out the NFFD website for updates.

In Manchester, the FlashTag collective will be plaguing, sorry, pleasuring (heh) the general public with their short-short stories during daylight hours, then later on they'll be showing films of the goings-on at an evening bash - which will also include readings, a flash slam contest and a glittering awards ceremony - organised by Bad Language at the wonderful 3 Minute Theatre in Afflecks. Collaborate Here and For Books' Sake are also involved in the rainy city, running performance coaching classes, and there will be writing workshops led by some of the region's best talent, including Valerie O'Riordan.

There is also a flash fiction-writing competition (closing date 1 April), and winners will get to read at the Manchester event (it doesn't matter where you're based; just make sure you're available to read in Cottonopolis on 16 May). The entries will be judged by brilliant Manc-based writers David Gaffney, Emma Jane Unsworth and Cathy Bryant, so get scribbling. For full details, click here.