Upcoming gigs

Upcoming Gigs

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TESTT (Durham): April 12th

The New Adelphi (Hull): April 15th

Workshop Theatre (Leeds): April 17th

Hydra Bookshop (Bristol): April 18th

Derby Theatre: April 20th

Harrogate Theatre: April 24-25th

Ovalhouse (London): April 26-28th


London Book Launch at Ovalhouse, April 26th

York Book Launch at All Saints Church, April 29th

Small Fry DIY, Warrington, 2nd May

Spoken Weird, Halifax: 3rd May

Born Lippy, Newcastle 9th May

Shaken In Sheep Town, Skipton: 10th May

Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

Queenie’s Coffee Nights, Huddersfield: 21st May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Verse Matters, Sheffield: 7th June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Vandal Raptor tour blog #2: Leeds, Bristol and Derby

So we’re now ½ way through the Vandal Raptor tour.  The show is a story about 4 friends forming a band, playing gigs and going on tour.  Did the 4 teenagers of Vandal Raptor squeeze all their gear, merch and clothes in a tiny Vauxhall Corsa like we’ve been doing?

The show is about growing up and in Leeds we performed the show at the Workshop Theatre, part of the University of Leeds.  I studied in that very building, have performed on that stage and learnt a good ol’ whack about theatre in the building.  It certainly felt like a homecoming.  Although the characters in the play return to a dirty pub, not a well-equipped theatre space.

The show is about reclaiming space.  Few bookshops allow punk bands to play gigs, but Hydra Books is one of the coolest venues in the whole UK.  Located in Bristol, Hydra not only stocks radical books, it also hosts meetings for the IWW, feminist groups and other assorted lefties.  The welcoming crowd clocked a lot of the subtler references to the punk scene.

Finally we did a show at Derby Theatre.  The space a traditional theatre venue as opposed to radical bookshop, the audience in rated seating as opposed to sofas.  This meant we had opportunity to play with the lighting a little more, enjoy decorating the space, transforming it, playing with it.  Possibly the best show we’d done probably because we worked that tad harder to engage, entertain and tell our story of a punk rock band changing the world to a audience who didn’t really know our work or form!

The show has 5 more performances on tour at x2 venues.  Harrogate Theatre 23-24th and Ovalhouse in London 26-28th.  We’re feeling confident, we’re feeling exciting and we’re ready to (once we’ve had a couple of chill days) to get out on the road again.  The show is absolutely for anyone to enjoy, come forth!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Vandal Raptor tour blog #1: Durham & Hull

Durham is legendary (at least, in my mythology) for the Empty Shop, an independent and DIY hotspot which has helped support some of my favourite North Eastern bands.  In fact, I’ve only ever been to gigs and performed at gigs in Durham at Empty Shop.  Until Thursday.

Our first date of the Vandal Raptor tour was through the lovely folks at Empty Shop, but in their new space, the TESTT Space (The Empty Shop Think Tank) is an old office space used as a pop-up art gallery and space for us to flex our claws.

The show is all about rethinking space.  The characters in the play all debate how they can recreate and remould the world around them, how they can think ‘outside the box’.  The audience were a proper lovely bunch, some old faces from the North East poetry and punk scene as well as some strangers.  A lovely friendly, warm energy I always associate with Durham.  Hugely welcoming and huge heartening to kick off tour.

Sunday night we rocked up into Hull.  I’ve always loved Hull, it’s poets and theatre-makers are always gusty and honest, rough but warm.  We did the show at the New Adelphi, the only date on tour at an actual proper punky gig venue (well, there’s Hydra in Bristol but balancing the line between venue and bookshop).  A legend on the music scene, their posters showed bands from across the decades I sadly wish I’d seen (another theme of the show) but also boasts plenty of rad upcoming gigs and events (another theme:  Punk ain’t dead).

When the Hull crowd got into the show, they really got into it.  These tough Yorkshire folks are loud and responsive, and afterwards the very cool band Left Ahead did a set which reminded me of late 80s Chumbawamba.  Ace to get the crowd fired up with a punk play and then see a punk band!  Wish we could take them on tour.

Tonight we’re at my old stomping ground:  The Workshop Theatre in Leeds and tomorrow we hit Hydra Bookshop in Bristol for the last of our DIY dates.  Then Vandal Raptor goes upmarket to the sophisticated theatre spaces of Derby Theatre (20th April) Harrogate Theatre (24-25th) and Ovalhouse in London (26-28th).

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Whatever Happened To vandal Raptor? tour!

This week I have been mainly sat, in my car, listening to podcasts, lamenting roadworks on the A59, drumming the steering wheel.

That’s because myself and director Natalie Quatermass have been heading out to Harrogate, come April rain or April shine, to re-rehearsal Whatever Happened To Vandal Raptor?, our how about punk, protest and DIY.

And we have been fully embracing our DIY ethics as, with neither agent, producer nor pot of ACE funding, we have been planning the entirely of our upcoming tour in-between runs and re-stagings.

We’ve taken time to look at the structure of the show, reminding ourselves the audience are going on a journey.  We have 4 characters in the story, each with their stakes and their intentions and their personalities.   We have many locations, and lighting does help us, but so does the power of story-telling.

We’ve been approaching a whole host of potential audiences, from the local poetry and literature groups to the general assorted lefties of Momentum, Socialist and Anarchists in each city.  I genuinely feel the show has a wide range of appeal, it’s about friendship, it’s about love for music, it’s about community, it’s about activism and it’s about growing up.

The show is about to embark on a UK-wide tour and we are thrilled to be visiting not only established theatres, but also DIY spaces. 

Floor 2, 25 North Road,
Durham DH1 4SG
April 12th

The New Adelphi Club
89 De Grey St, Hull HU5 2RU
April 15th

Workshop Theatre
School of English
University of Leeds (open to non-students)
Leeds LS2 9JT
April 17th

Hydra Bookshop
34 Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
April 18th

Derby Theatre
15 Theatre Walk, Derby DE1 2NF
April 20th

Harrogate Theatres
6 Oxford St, Harrogate HG1 1QF
April 24-25th

52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW
April 26-28th


Sunday, 11 March 2018

"Who invented the typical boy?": Being a man in punk

A lot of audiences see me, in my band t-shirts, patched up jackets and calling myself a 'punk' and, to be frank, there's a confusion.  You can see the familiar flash of surprise across their eyes.  They don't really see how a man can be a punk.

Most people don't think punk appeals to men.  And I can see their point.  Punk is an aggressive musical form.  It has a sharp playful sneer, a clever subverting of standards and expectations.  The clever lyricism of Poly Styrene, The Slits, Patti Smith and Vi Subversa spring to mind.  Not what you'd expect from men, who make up the majority of Bosses, Supervisors, Managers, Vice Chancellors, Artistic Directors, Police Officers, Prison Wardens and even Security Guards.  Since 1721 there have been over 70 Prime Ministers, but only 2 have been women.  Men make up 2/3s of MPs.  Men are most likely to be figures of authority, so it seems bizarre that punk music attracts the gender that upholds the tapestry of hierarchy and power, something at odds with the savage, subversive punk genre.  I guess it's just in our nature to like keeping structure and systems, whilst punk is about breaking rules and being DIY with your own rules.

Punk can be a screeching, guttural and a hammer stroke strike from the heart.  It's a passionate wrenching that drains the blood from a clenched fist and embodies teeth-gritting determination.  From Petrol Girls to G.L.O.S.S., from KINKY to War On Women it's music infected with a fury.  Typically, as a man, life is pretty good.  What's there to be so angry about?  I'm more likely to get a well-paid job, more likely to be heard & taken seriously, more likely to see my gender as the protagonist in films, more likely to have any art or music I make given a platform.  I'm less likely to have my arse grabbed, less likely to have abuse hurled at me in the street and less likely to have my drink spiked.  Plus I can pee wherever I like.

So with all these luxuries, there's very little to rail against.  No need to be furious, unlike women in bands who really have something to kick against.

And that's why festival stages are dominated by one type of gender, why most sound engineers and promoters are one type of gender, why gigs are mostly attended by one type of gender and it's quite unusual, even rare, to see a range of diversity in music.

But I hope things are changing, if slowly, so that conceptions around gender can change.  Don't assume that people are solely defined by their gender.

Now go check out the documentary So Which Band Is Your Boyfriend In?

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Poets on Picketlines

In Red Shed, comedian Mark Thomas begins by asking that age old question for lefties:  Where do your politics come from?

A question myself and some mates asked ourselves as we sat at the gates of Kirby Misperton’s anti-fracking camp last week, watched steely by more-than-enough Police Officers.  We wandered up the road, and were stalked by three Officers (one each) who referred to us as “young people” in their radios.

Mark’s question leads him to talk about his experience of the 1984-1985 miners’ strike as a student living in Yorkshire’s West Riding and the gut-wrenching pain of revisiting old struggles and battlefields.  It’s a cracking show.

It wasn’t a hate preacher who radicalized me, and I won’t lay the blame at David Cameron’s posh door.  It was Michael Arthur, the Vice Chancellor of Leeds University who, in my third year, stated that cuts will occur across departments.  With my precious theate and English course under review, and therefore the knife, I got involved in Leeds University Against Cuts, at that time a localised collective of lefties and concerned students who would oppose cuts and, critically, defend strike action which opposed cuts.

This led to a great deal of conflict with the current crop of Student Union Officers who essentially backed management and did very little to represent the student’s concerns.  In fact, it felt like they did a super job of representing management’s stance to us.

So my first picketline was a simple batch of students and lecturer’s with a few signs.  Hardly the warring battlelines of cops and miners, or other such struggles across the globe.  People casually sauntered past us, it was all quite civil.  But leading up to this picketline had been a continual battle of debates in seminars, in the Union, in the Student Paper and on the Student Radio.  That’s the environment I learnt:  Do Not Cross A Picktline.  We marched and demonstrated against cuts, it ws the first time I chanted or used a megaphone, and we even did a sit-in outside the Student Officer’s offices.  It was actually the picketline itself that seemed quite tame by comparison, in all honesty.

But the UCU members on strike we fighting for all us students.  We could feel the tide of cuts were coming, not those promised by the VC, but the looming coalition government.  A few months later, Nick Clegg would break his promise, the Tories would test their newfound power against the student and college campuses.  Leeds University students, amongst many, would go into Occupation and the student movement was at the forefront of resisting Tories between 2010-2011.  But by then, I was totally radicalised…er…I mean…politically engaged.  And now UCU are going on a huge strike to defend their pensions, and of course beneath the surface is the issues around the marketability, privatisation and exclusivity of education.

I popped down to the pickets on Thursday, and can confirm the dedicated student body who support their staff and support their strike.  Love, rage and solidarity to all xxx

I’ve read poems on picketlines, and rallies to support strike action.  Picketline poetry is always quite simple and to the point.  From the work of Joe Hill to this day, it’s about giving confidence and inspiration to people constantly and consistently demonised for defending their rights, and by extension other people’s rights.  I’d never claim this poetry is particularly complex, and indeed the romanticism cooked up by artists like Dropkick Murphys and Billy Bragg in songs never quite filters to the ground level, stood in the cold, with flyers, as people filter past without a second glance.  The issues surrounding a strike are always very complex, and people striking need a lot of courage.  But at the end of the day, there’s some very simple rules around pickets and strikes:

Don’t cross a picketline.  Don’t scab.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Rejection Doesn't Mean You're A Reject

For those of you unfamiliar with neither the tradition of non-commercial non-profit driven art-making nor putting up shelves:  DIY means Do It Yourself.  Whilst sometimes taken as a don’t-ask-for-help culture, I take it as a call to make the work you want to make and not wait for permission.

Because this has been neatly wedded in my artistic genetics, I don’t apply for jobs that often.  It also explains why I’ve never held a salaried position.  Also why poor.  Obviously I still sign up for the Arts Jobs newsletter, as well as Lane’s List, the London Play-wrighting Blog and scouring various other opportunities sites.  But I know people who are constantly putting in applications for jobs or projects, or submitting poems for competitions, pamphlets and publishers.  It’s old news, but as the old Tories policies of Austerity continue to squeeze the arts there becomes a bottleneck of applications for fewer jobs.

Last week I didn’t get to interview stage for a job I was really gunning for.  I tried not to envisage actually getting the job for fear of setting expectations too high, but certainly hoped I’d be invited to interview.  When one is faced with such news, there’s plenty of routes an anxious brain can walk.  The road to bitterness is well-trod (treaded?) for a privileged kid like myself.  Assuming that the system is rigged, or stacked against you, is not very helpful when you’re able-bodied, white, male, het and cis.  Plus it’s difficult to change in your circumstance.  Use what little power you have to undo what you perceive as a rigged system in the systems you’re part of.  This road is a sole-shredding, effort-filled uphill slog.

So the other road your brain can take is all downhill.  It starts with acknowledging you weren’t right for the job, a fair assessment.  But then why weren’t you right for the job?  Because you’re not good enough, obviously.  Because you’re not experienced enough.  Because you’re not strong enough.  Because you are good enough, but you wrote a terrible application (even if you spent hours and hours on it).  This is the road that leads to the Land of Should.  I should be at this point in my career.  I should be doing more.  I should Get Better.

The problem with trying to Get Better means feedback.  The problem with anxiety is you pile feedback onto feedback that turns into a weighted, unhelpful burdensome barrage of worries/thoughts.
Not going to lie, not getting an interview put me into a funk these last few days.  And it’s made worse by the guilt at feeling arrogant.  The shame in knowing your worth.  The disgust at yourself that you dared to think you had potential.  All the italic gut-punch flashing thoughts.

As I say, I don’t apply for as many jobs as other people in the industry do.  And everyone deals with rejection in different ways.  But being rejected doesn’t mean you’re a reject.  Shamefully my instinctive gut reaction is to give up, or make a career choice.  Obviously sometimes one needs to readdress strategies and approaches, but to swing to an extreme is never useful.  I guess what I’ve learnt is to take it slowly, to digest, to consider and to take those negative thoughts, interrogate them, breath and let them slide for the more practical package.  So as you continue walking along this over-used, exasperated metaphorical road you have your walking boots, well-resourced backpack and iPod playing your ‘Onwards!’ playlist.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Energy Doesn't Just Mean Energetic

If you watch videos from poets like myself & Dave Jarman we’re much happier to toy with the microphone, to stomp around the stage and to offer more interaction.  I think secretly, me and Dave wish we were rock stars in bands (well, he is).  Dave is bold.  Kate Tempest paces the stage like a tense caged beast, Vanessa Kisuule is an articulate whirlwind and Dom Berry is like a bubbly, walking, talking human high-five.

By contrast, if you watch Hannah Davies energy it’s much more around her face.  The expression of a staunch story-teller, unfazed, the warm eye-contact and of course well-paced delivery draw you in with a welcoming intensity.  Sara Hirsch, our last guest at Say Owt, is a trained actor but she brings characters to life by painting stories with conversational language rather than bluntly embodying them on the stage.

There are different ways you bring energy onto the stage, and how you use it.  Certainly the louder, faster and more intense poets will often be more memorable.  The ones who bellow or ditch the mic or strut across the stage or clamber into the audience.  But that doesn’t mean poets who read from the page or refrain from such ballsy acts are not using energy.  A political point is not made more revolutionary by shouting; a comedic rhyme structure is not funnier because it’s faster.

On Tuesday I took part in the ATG Slam, and most other poets read from the page/phone.  A mixture of introspective, warm and playful poetry from a good number of first time performers.  I knew I didn’t have the scores to win, so I decided to perform a poem off-mic, loudly, messily and, for those who know me, spontaneously self-referential.  I didn’t win, and in the process blew a speaker.  I’m not a punk poet for nothing, right?  I guess I just wanted to bring a different energy into the space, one less introspective, measured and sharp and something more raw and jumbled.

Energy can come from all sorts of places; physically on stage mine tends to be more in my upper body.  I like to ground myself, but enjoy twisting my shoulder, scanning a room, hunching over the mic and sometimes having a little wander.  My energy goes into a bit of chaos, a constant fiddling with the mic stand, rubbing together of hands, being surprised by myself or the audience reaction.  I’d like to call this energy cartoony and playful, urgent and klutzy.

But here are some words that might be good synonyms for how a poet can use energy on stage without necessarily meaning louder or faster.