Wednesday, 25 December 2013

13's unlucky for some: Theatre, festivals & friends of 2013

Here’s my round-up of 2014.  It’s not so much a nutshell as more a whole bucket of roasted chestnuts, so I split it up with my blog about 2013’s Youth Theatre here and a blog about 2013's music here

This year I performed for the first time ever in Kingston, Newcastle, Scarborough, Bradford, Durham, Bridlington, Eastleigh & Derby.  I performed at Hidden Hills, IYAF, Venturer Camp, Rebellion, Beacons, Galtres and Release The Hounds Festivals.  I did a load of slots at Edinburgh Fringe and worked led workshops for a load of ace young people a load of ace events.  I devised two brand new shows, One Love with Ben Winterton & Jonny Gill, and Practise Patience with Travels By Telephone and held the first Words & Whippets spoken word event at York Theatre Royal.  I toured rural Norfolk writing poems for people in pubs.  I put on a wicked gig at El Piano for my 25th birthday.  I went veggie, I bought the new Asterix book, played the new Pokemon game and shouted at Vince Cable.

For more details on my summer, check out my blogpost here

Here’s my top theatre shows of 2013:  After so many people recommended his work to me, I finally got to see Beats by Kieran Hurley (Sheffield Crucible). His ability to craft the show and characters with such simple gestures, dialogue and sound left me glued for the full hour show.  I think there’s a real tangible difference between drama school acting-methods and engaging solo story-telling.  Much the same for solo show Stand-By For Tape Back-Up (Forest Fringe, EdFringe) by Ross Sutherland.  I finally saw the full show, and I found myself mouthing along to his piece based on an early preview he made.  Synchronicity.   Another EdFringe fav was Rob Auton’s The Sky Show (Banshee Labyrinth, Free Fringe, EdFringe).  Rob balances his surreal charm and stand-up oddness with moments of true beauty and strength.  I’ve programmed it into Words & Whippets 2 in May!  Book yer tickets! Next up, God’s Property (Soho Theatre, The South), simply a stand-out piece of This Is England-esque realism.  Just nicely put together, well acted and I guess I have to have a token London show here.  And finally 1984 (Headlong, West Yorkshire Playhouse) had a profound effect in reminding me how a large scale production (compared to my usual studio shows!) can also create intense experiences twist and turn your guts, surprise you and make you feel out-of-joint from such distance and in such mass company.

Notable mentions:  70/20 split’s work, LPA Theatre’s work, The Noise (Unlimited Theatre), A Real Man’s Guide To Sainthood (Milk Presents), Tristram & Ysault (Kneehigh), The Disappearance of Sadie Jones (Hannah Silva), Money The Game Show (Unlimited Theatre again), The Legend of King Arthur (York Theatre Royal), Kes (Derby Theatre), Going Green The Wong Way (Kristina Wong), Shame (John Berkovitch), Wot? No Fish?! (Danny Braverman), Rumpelstiltskin (Hiccup), Choose Your Own Documentary (Nathan Penlington), The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Tutti Frutti), Blood + Chocolate (The People Of York, Pilot Theatre & Slung Low)

So thanks to everyone who gave me a gig, saw me perform, picked up a zine or generally anyone I had a great conversation with.  I’ve For 2014, I generally want to just keep gigging more, keep writing, keep meeting people and keep surviving.  Simple as that I guess.  Bring it on.

In anger, in solidarity, in love, in Gengar we trust


Henry's Top Albums of 2013 as voted for by Henry

My top albums of 2013

I Thought It Was Morning by Colour Me Wednesday.  Subtle and hypnotic, this re-ignited my commitment to feminism, female-fronted punk bands and boosted my confidence in pursuing vegetarianism.  I just played this album.  I’m playing it again.  And again.  I love the way politics aren’t generic, and wrapped in clever hooks and well-crafted and intelligent verses.  There’s just something about these tracks that really clicks with me, something I can’t quite put my finger on.  I don’t think this album would have appealed to me a few years ago, and I quite like that.

Much love too for Jake & The Jellyfish’s Credit Cards & Overdrafts.  A band I love live, I was worried their transition from acoustic to a more full-band electric sound would leave me wanting a return to folk roots, but really it’s a blinding piece of work which is much needed in the modern day.  I knew this album would be cracking.  It just sums up Leeds for me, it’s the perfect reminder of how much I miss it.  Jake’s lyrics are also so memorable and bitingly honest.

Similarly, whenever I’m missing home I tend to listen to Jimmy Islip & The GhostsTales from the West Riding.  It came from nowhere, but I was invited to support Jimmy’s band at the Brudenell and the way the lyrics waves a world of stories, characters and places with a backing sound which doesn’t undermine the power of the tales.  I can’t deny it’s a go-to album for the year, so catchy, and, again subtle and special. 

Quite unlike The FilamentsLand of Lions, one of the few really macho, angry Oi-themed bands I still really love.  I moved away from that sound, I find overt politics have their place, but my iPod is chocked full of those bands.  But this album really blew me away with the sheer addictive relevant angry hooks laced with very fun, dancebale anthems.  It’s a reminder Johnny One Lung’s voice is such a reliable growl (see also The 241ers & Suicide Bid)

But finally, the album of the year has to be ONSIND’s Anesthesiology.  This musical duo are experts at talking about politics, protest, love, life and depression through clever stories, magical hooks and choice-placed soundbytes.  This year hasn’t been the easiest year for me in some ways, and this album has certainly helped without being too twee or upbeat or cliché.  It packs the right about of cynical, ballsy punky home-truth honesty wrapped in heaps of North Eastern wit.  You can spend hours unpicking and analysing the intertextuality of the lyrics, or simply scream along to NEVER TRUST A TORY

Honourable mentions to Crazy Arm (The Southern Wild), Great Cynics (Like I Belong), Middleman (Counterstep), Red City Radio (Titles), Joe Solo (No Pasaran), Jonny Gill (It’s Summer, Let’s Go Home), Paper Tiger (Laptop Suntan), Benin City (Fires In The Park), The Lagan (Where’s Your Messiah Now?), the Ghost Mice/Ramshackle Glory split (Shelter) Martha (Sycamore single), No Ditching (Face Ache) and lots and lots of Mark Wynn

#ILoveYouthTheatre of 2013

Youth Theatre 2013

This year I was very privileged to catch a huge variety of very impressive performances from Youth Theatre groups across the UK.  Partly due to my work as both a freelance artist and my duties for NAYT, but also I think because YTs are producing larger-scale and high quality shows.

The Castle YT’s Lost In Wonderland took Alice In Wonderland and injected it with angry adrenaline, fused with lashings of physical theatre.  A non-stop furious assault led with the energy only young people can bring.  Harrogate YT’s adaptations of the Shock-Headed Peter poems were typically creepy in the site-specific atmospheric (aka freezing) Valley Garden.  York Theatre Royal’s YT did a great job with the morally complex Where Shadows Go At Night, an important story about the use of pacifist direct action against the Second World War.  Girls Like That was a brave and impressive debut from West Yorkshire Playhouse YT.  In terms of 21st century feminism, it blew another politics-based ‘professional’ WYP production out of the water.  The Jungle Book from Riding Lights Youth Theatre took me back to when I was a member of YT myself, and our director put us through intensive ensemble work.  Jungle Book was a suitably impressive bestial, brutish, fuming cacophony.

Honourable mentions to Pick ‘n’ Mix from City Varieties YT, Chips ‘n’ Egg from Steep Turnpike YT, York YT’s 8-11s showcase of plays (Molly of the Midfield, Dark Age, Small Fry & In The Shadow of The Quarks)and work-in-progress pieces from Flying High YT (Black Roses), Page2Stage (Teen Angel) & ArtsSparks YT (Hansel & Gretel).  I was also proud to work with ArtsSparks YT alongside the Touring Consortium & Pilot Theatre on a soundwalk project called Welcome To Darlignton.

But the best youth theatre show I saw this year was unquestionable…The Gargoyles of York performed by York Youth Theatre’s 5-8s.  OK, I might be biased.  I wrote it.  But it was directed in the madcap stylings of Natalie Quatermass and delivered by an even madder bunch of bright performers!  The cast were a clawing ensemble of mysterious monsters with flashes of a wholesome love for the artistic cultures we must defend.  Plus, it was ace.

I’m currently wrestling with a commission for Harrogate Youth Theatre called Hang On Just A Minute, a very different beast to conquer indeed.  For an older teenage age group, the HYT want something light-hearted, so I am growing a comedic script rooted in naturalism/realism with a branch of farce, very different to my usual lyrical approach.

But just like Gargoyles of York, my top priority is that the work should be inspired by the young people.  Of course audience, director and space all factor, but the main pulse of my writing is knowing the cast I’m writing for have a wicked sense of humour, a penchant for a good comedic-set-ups and, essentially, bucket-loads of enthusiasm.

For more of my writing for young people & Youth Theatres, check out my website here.

Already excited to catch Stephen Joseph YT at NAYT’s Raising The Game event in February and all the YTs at the Regional Youth Theatre Festival & my mate Dave’s production of Bedlam at Salisbury Playhouse by Stage65 YT, and the usual hometown productions of York’s YYT, Riding Lights YT & Upstage Centre YT.  Here’s to a plethora of quality Youth Theatre work in 2014! 


Saturday, 14 December 2013

SLAP, slapping and the 'Stop It' reflex

On Thursday I went along to SLAP at the new space in York, Artemis House.  It’s an event organised by 70/30 Split Theatre and Matt Baker, of LPA Theatre, a children’s theatre company in York.  But there was nothing for kids here.

It was a genuine pleasure and treat to go to a theatre event without any acoustic guitars.  I don’t mean any disrespect to acoustic musicians (“some of my best friends are acoustic musicians” he said defensively) but York’s scene at the moment is very geared to acoustic, folk and country in both the music/open mic scene and the arts/theatre.  Friendly, accessible, open, warm and traditional.  We’re a Mumford & Son-sy town.  That’s not a criticism of York, I love the place.  Maybe there’s some kid in London’s Stratford craving Laura Marling covers after being bombarded with hip-hop.  Who knows.

SLAP had a couple of ace rock bands.  SLAP was loud and electric and, well, salacious (SLAP is Salacious Live Alternative Performance) and here are my thoughts about exposure.

At EdFringe this year I saw some theatre in a small, DIY, independent café.  Like…the Fringe of the Fringe.  There I saw a piece about falling, in which the solo artist performing this show downed can after can of Red Bull.  It was an act which caused what I’ll call the “Stop it!” reflex, as an audience member we can see an individual on stage actively harming themselves. That might not necessarily be painful, but their body is under damage or threat.  In this case, around 1am, this guy was glugging far too much caffeinated sugar.  Stop.  What Are You Doing To Yourself?!

On Thursday, Matt ripped out tufts of his own hair, and offered it to the audience.  Matt is so cheerful.  He has a big goofy smile and a swagger of certainty, like he’s in on some knowing joke we’ve not realised yet.  When one man in the audience casually asks for more and more hair, there’s an unease rippling through the audience.  Is this guy part of the act?  I knew he wasn’t.  Matt gladly rips out more hair for the guy.  We want Matt to stop.  We want the guy to stop asking.  We as audience have this agency and investment.  Matt asks someone to slap him.  Someone does.  Is this guy a dick?  He’s just following Matt’s instructions.  I could have stood up and stopped the guy.  I didn’t.  Would that have ruined Matt’s act?

Later in the night, 70/30 Split (two female artists Sophie and Lydia) perform a fantastic piece about gender identity.  They create work which explores burlesque, feminism, the female body and performance.  Their piece uses dances/movement and a splash of stand-up parody.  Early on, they reveal their breasts. 

Obviously not physically painful like Matt’s hair wrenching, it still makes an audience on edge.  A social norm as been broken.  A theatre norm has been broken.  Theatre is meant to be staged, an act, a joke, a lie.  Costumes, characters, scenes.  We are meant to dissect the characters, not the actors.  But here Lydia and Sophie are blunt and honest. 

As an audience, we don’t really know how to respond.  Someone wolf whistles.  Their exposure changes the mood.  Charges it, winds up tension, splits a room.  I’m no telepath, but I assume someone feels guilty.  The thought crosses our minds that being physically exposed, even by choice, is harmful.  Exploitative.  Stop it.

But it’s Sophie and Lydia’s choice to show their breasts.  They look bored.  It’s no big deal.

Yeah, Boobs.  We’ve Got ‘em .  Deal With It.  Move On.

Another quick example:  In ‘What I Heard About The World’, Chris Thorpe tries to drink a glass of salt water to prove the world’s rising tides problems can be saved by drinking the sea.  It’s funny but…Uck.  Stop It.

I think about this exposure in theatre.  About making your body be harmed, damaged or exposed to an audience.  An offering which triggers uncomfortableness undoubtedly, but also a care and sympathy for the fellow human being.  The STOP IT reflex can be about protecting someone.

I think about my poetry.  I would like to think when I perform certain poems, I am exposing myself, I am putting myself in harm’s way.  I want people to have the STOP IT reflex, not because it is bad or unsettling poetry, but because it is honest.  Entertaining, funny, hell maybe inspiring, but still has the rustle of an audience uncertain as to their agency.

He looks like he needs a hug

Maybe I do…

I am reminded of Ren Spits At Magpies and the way she screams her throat raw during certain songs, and yet at other times in her set she has a beautiful, haunting voice.  I am reminded of a cut up Sid Vicious, and a bruised Henry Rollins.

In theatre, the veneer of actors, cast, tickets, ushers and script allows only the most harrowing of topics to really unsettle a typical theatre-going audience.  We are long post-Sarah Kane.  The baby flesh in Blasted is a prop.  Matt’s cheek was sore.

Food for thought.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

"I like whales"

“I like whales” she said as she pinned another whale poster to her wall, adding to the vast collection sprawled over whale wallpaper.

She took a moment to admire the poster, lost for a brief second at the merriment of the blubbery behemoth exploding from the sea.

She tore her gaze away, and it fell upon the man bound and gagged upon her bed.  The bed with the whale-themed sheets and pillow.  The bed that was shaped like a whale.

His eyes were iced with fear, illuminated by the whale-shaped bedside lamp.

“I like whales” she repeated, fumbling her ‘I Whales’ badge pinned proudly to her chest.

She began to fumble in her drawer, casting aside underwear and socks dotted in happy, smiling whales.  Until she found what she was looking for.

She held aloft the hammer and chisel and moved, like a titanic marine mammal, towards the man who squirmed like a pathetic, limp seal.

“That’s why the only man I could ever love” she said “Would need a blowhole.”


When I and Tom Bellerby made Letter To The Man (from the boy) back in 2011, we wanted to make sure the show wasn’t just about me.  We spent hours and hours working on the poems and the text and delivery, but even longer in that rehearsal room planning how to get people’s stories, how to get them to share and how to make them comfortable.

This November I went on the road, jumping from train-to-train, bus-to-bus, taxi-to-taxi, B&B-to-B&B to take Letter To The Man to a host of pubs across rural Norfolk (and one Library in Suffolk).  This tour was supported by Creative Arts East, the idea being I’d sit in a pub, chat to people, write them poems on any topic they requested, and then perform the show on the evening over 2 visits.

I had no idea what would greet me in each pub, but I was treated to lovely, kind and generous people feeding me, watering me and in some cases ferrying me from place-to-place.  I wrote a huge tonne of poems, some posted here are my favourites with a host of topics, stories and characters.  I want to say a massive thank you to everyone I spoke to, especially those who looked suspiciously at some strange skinny Yorkshire lad in their rural Norfolk pub and yet went along with the gimmick and gave me plenty of ideas, tales and inspiration to write some brand new poems.

Someone asked me how Norfolk people differ from other people across the country, and I know it’s a cop-out answer, but people are just people. Everyone has a story, has something interesting, can surprise you and be can be warm and welcoming.  Each venue I visited runs the venue not necessarily for profit, but the understanding communities need a local space to be relaxed with friends where stories, arguments and jokes run rampant.  Pubs and libraries are important to local communities, referring back to my home of York: El Piano, The 3-Legged Mare, The York Arms and The Golden Ball are my favourite venues in the whole world, all friendly, accessible, open and willing because they are operated by people who understand that need for a space, and put their heart and soul into making it happen.
The culture of art and theatre is shifting, not just in York. 

As funding is hacked from larger theatre spaces, we must take to the fringes.  By which, I don’t necessarily mean The Fringes, I mean we need to aim more grassroots, work within communities not just as visitors and in doing so will find new audiences.  Friendly, warm, approachable audiences with as much to say about the world.  We are all creative, all we need is a willing space and a decent drinks on tap, decent food and a challenge.

Friday, 15 November 2013


I’ve been on tour!  Three trains a bus to get to Mildenhall, stop #1 on my visit to various venues across Norfolk and Suffolk, all organised by the ace Creative Arts East!

Wed & Thurs this week, I set up a little camp in Mildenhall Library fuelled by many teas.  I chatted to locals, anyone popping through, browsing books or using the Library’s services.  By request, wrote a poem on any topic they’d care to mention, which led me to write about the NHS, Great Expectations, Argentina, the Lake District and sharks.  On Thursday, I visited a Primary school and did some poems for the kids, who I think loved my dancing more than my poems!  Then on Thursday afternoon I performed Letter To The Man (from the boy) in the Library and got some lovely responses and stories from the regulars.  I never thought I’d hear a story of hashcakes in a little lovely place like that!

There’s some naturally odd about a man offering to write people poems…and it does set people on edge.  But at the same time, they like to offer me a challenge, and it becomes an exchange between me and the ‘customer’.  I’m not going to say it gives them totally agency in the art, I’m the one writing it after all.  But it shows the accessibility of art, the heart within the roughness of scribbling ideas and notes to create something special which they are part of and have input.

I shall be returning on tour to a variety of venues across Norfolk!  The details are below, if you live round there come down, have a pint, I’ll make you a poem!

The Cellar House: 2 Eaton St, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7AB Date of first visit: Monday 18th November 2013 Date of second visit and performance: Monday 25th November 2013

The Peddars Inn: 70 The Street, Sporle, Norfolk PE32 2DR Date of first visit: Friday 22nd November 2013 Date of performance: Friday 29th November 2013

The King’s Head: The Street, North Lopham, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 2NE Date of first visit: Saturday 23rd November 2013 Date of performance: Saturday 30th November 2013

The Lord Nelson: Hale Road, Bradenham, Norfolk, IP25 7RA Date of first visit: Sunday 24th November 2013 Date of performance: Sunday 1st December 2013

(here's a poem written for a girl who had seemingly read half the books in the Library already!)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

My Top 5 Asterix books

Top 5 Asterix books

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Asterix & The Picts, the 35th Asterix book and the first book to be written by someone other than René Goscinny or Albert Uderzo. It is written by Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrated by Didier Conrad.  Asterix was a huge part of my childhood, my parents would ply me with a new Asterix book for swimming extra lengths.  I even went dressed as Asterix to a fancy dress day at Primary School.  Dedication.

Here’s my top 5 books:

Asterix In Britain

I may be biased, but let’s remember Asterix doesn’t really venture much further north than Londinium, so it’s really Asterix In t’South.  But the plot is pretty solid, and an example where the magic potion will be of no use to simply smash the Romans as they try and protect their barrel.  It getting mixed up with wines, the Romans getting drunk and mix-ups, misadventures and, rugby games and mischief means the plot doesn’t just rely on British stereotypes and caricatures (my problem with Corsica for instance).  The film is excellent, with a great intro with the might of the Imperial Roman army being completely undermined by a pesky seagull.

Asterix and the Normans

This is one where factual history gets a little…elongated.  The Normans want to discover the meaning of fear, and so travel to Gaul to learn it’s art.  A very odd set-up, it pits Asterix against a tough enemy who aren’t the Romans or working alongside the Romans, something we only really see in terms of a whole plotline in Asterix and the Goths.  I quite liked pirates as a kid (still do obviously) and whilst the actual recurring pirates are pretty ineffective, I like the danger and fear of these massive dangerous Viking-eseque Normans.

Asterix and Son

A fairly unique story with the introduction of a key player.  Up until now, Brutus has only makes the odd appearance, making a briefly as a running gag in Gladiator, Roman Agent & Soothsayer.  But in Son, Brutus comes into his own as a ruthless and tyrannical enemy.  He bellows at the reader “BUT I’LL HAVE THAT BABY EVEN IF I HAVE TO PUT ALL GAUL TO FIRE AND SWORD!”  The final epic battle involves the village being mercilessly burned to ash.   The art is very special, to the orange glow backdrop Brutus stands against the women of the village, normally reduced to background characters, who here make a stand against him.  Brutus trumps Ceaser as a villain, leaving us with the final banquet aboard Cleopatra’s “sumptuous” galley.

Asterix and Obelix All At Sea

A late additional to the series, I remember this coming out in 1996 and being really excited by the prospect of a new book after completing my collection.  I quite liked the naval tones, introducing the Roman navy who haven’t had a key role before.  It’s an attempt at playing with the running gag of Obelix not being allowed to drink the magic potion, adding a vaguely serious tone that Obelix could be stuck as stone forever, even dead.  Indeed it remains the only Asterix book where a character could be dead, as in theory Admiral Crustacius is trapped as stone forever with Getafix to help out, though Ceaser’s final line hints this might not be the case.  Overall I like it for an attempt at making a likable German character, as the Goths tend to get a bad rep through the series.

Asterix and the Laurel Wreath

I wrote a piece a couple of years ago for York Theatre Royal’s Young Actor’s Company.  It was about the Romans in York and Britain, and was meant to be a little silly and daft, Monty Python/Horrible Histories style.  Naturally I returned to Asterix comics!  Asterix visits Rome in Gladiator, but I love this version because of the more adult tone, with drunkenness & slavery.  Asterix & Obelix are forced to rely on their wit, meet all manner of Rome’s upper-class and bandits with some fantastic locations, such as the moss-covered cell, the court, the slave market and the sewers beneath the streets.

What’s your favourite Asterix comic?  Maybe Picts will join the line-up!  We’ll see on Thursday!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Poetry Time, come on and bring your friends, we're going to very distant lands

This has been a busy week.  This has been a busy month.  I was chatting with Katie Bonna via the medium of Twitter…when do we freelance poets give ourselves days off?  Do we need to timetable into our schedules?  Do we need to schedule time off into our timetables?

I spent a lot of time last week making a website

But on Thursday I reluctantly boarded a train to Manchester to take part in its Superheroes of Slam round.  I was tired, knackered and needed a night off.  As it happened, the standard was phenomenal and really woke me up.  Seeing some nice Manchester friends again picked up my spirits, and I actually had a lot of fun.  I came second, beaten by the very confident and staunch Kieren King.  Manchester, like Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle, is producing fantastic poets.

A slam which really made me think about raising my game, and good contacts to chase up.  So well worth going to, even if my body feels like it’s gone a few rounds with a bulldozer.  The bulldozer knows karate.

New website:

I’ve been finding ways to have some chillout time, and not feel guilty.  Cooking veggie grub is a good time to give yourself space.  I also try not to feel guilty when I don’t use time on trains to read books or write or learn poems.  I use it to sew patches or play Plants Vs Zombies 2.  You’ve got to be kind to yourself.  I watch cartoons.  How good is Adventure Time?  It pays tribute to 80s D&D whilst still having that post-Spongebob knowing oddness.  It, Chowder and Flapjack have really impressed me.  Who says cartoons are no good anymore?

So I’ve been doing a lot of gig and events and writing.  Lots of new stuff, really exciting stuff.  Today is meant to be my day off; just I’m jetting off to Derby to see Kes, directed by my old Youth Theatre Director, Sarah Brigham, starring my old chum John Holt Roberts.

Currently listening to High Dive.  Bloomington is the golden land of queer-pop-punk and folk-punk.  Thanks to the Queer Punx Podcast for the tip!

I also made a new website.  Did I mention that?

In love, anger, in solidarity, in Gengar we trust

Henry xxx

Monday, 2 September 2013

There Goes The Summer


This has been the busiest, most-fun on summer of Doings I’ve ever done.  It’s featured gigs across the country, putting on events, catching up with lots of mates, making new friends and generally being a busy (hopefully non-dying out) bee.

Let’s start in July, where I took my solo show, Letter To The Man (from the boy) to The Berry Theatre in Eastleigh and got a nice little write-up in The Portsmouth Times which you can read here.  This was programmed by my old Youth Theatre Director Sarah Brigham…

Sarah is now Artistic Director of Derby Theatre.  There is no one in the universe more committed to supporting emerging theatre-makers and artists.  I talk a lot about how if you make art, you should care.  You need to give a shit.  It should be in your heart and soul and spit and sweat.  You should read poems, sing songs and write plays with a passion and a fire.  I dislike it when artists apologise all the time.  Who shrug and put themselves down.  The world needs confidence.  I always thought Joe Strummer taught me that, but it was probably helped along by The Brigham.

At Derby Theatre, Milk Presents held a night of work-in-progress material, and I did a scratch of a new idea for a new show I want to make.  It’s gonna be angry.  And about protest.  But we’ll see what the future holds for it. 

Speaking of protest I went to see Hannah Nicklin’s A Conversation With My Father in Leeds…only to find I’d got the times wrong.  D’oh.

Got the timings wrong for my flyer too when I took my Letter To The Man (from the boy) to the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston.  Played to friendly audiences though, got some really nice faces and feedback and great to be part of the great expansive festival.  I also spent a vast amount  of money in Banquet Records.  But I did get hold of The Filaments new album, which I believe to be the best album of 2013 so far.  Check it out.

Next stop:  EDINBURGH FRINGE!  This year as a civilian, or at least without a show.  Seemingly the only poet without a show or a event to run, I really enjoyed doing slots of new poems at the odd open mic, Forget What You Heard About Spoken Word, the Word House and Monkey Poet’s Spoke N Heard.  I also caught Daniel Bye’s How To Occupy An Oil Rig, The PaperBirds and Chris Thorpe’s new play.  Thank goodness for Northern Stage.

Last year my good friend Conor helped out with LTTM(FTB) at Edinburgh, this year he asked me to come perform it at Venturer Camp, run by Woodcraft Folk.  I’d never heard of them before, but reminded me a lot of the old Big Youth Theatre Festival days.  I had immense fun getting 700 young people to join in with a poem about a dinosaur before performing the most madcap version of Letter yet!  I also managed to finally see Grace Petrie perform, someone I’ve wanted to see and sing-a-long too for a long long long time.


Something else I’ve wanted to do for a long long time was go to Rebellion Festival, the biggest celebration of punk rock in the UK.  I did 2 sets on the Poetry Stage, then skanked and moshed to a good few fun bands, to many to mention here.  But Jello Biafra was a surprising highlight, as were The Adicts, New Town Kings and Molly Tov.

Then it was my BIRTHDAY!  I turned 25 and to celebrate got all my chums to do poems and songs in the best restaurant in York, El Piano, before hitting the town.  Cheers Jonny, Chris, Jamie and John.  Thanks to all my lovely friends who came out, I love you all and it meant so much.  It’s pretty slushy and soppy territory now, but it sure was the highlight of the summer, if not the year, if not the life.  We recorded some poems too, so videos coming soon!

Beacons Fest was next, which was a great place to visit, pity I couldn’t stay!  But the set was good fun.  Then back to Edinburgh to perform the new show called Practise Patience I’m working on with Travels By Telephone, which went down really well on the Free Fringe, good feedback, good future.  Also saw Ross Sutherland’s show Stand-By For Tape Back Up.  Very good fun, moving, engaging, experimental… everything the Forest Fringe should provide.

Back for Play In A week with Pilot Theatre & York Theatre Royal, first one since 2009 so lovely to be back in a rehearsal room with young people.  Reinforced how much I really want to write work for young people as performers and plays for youth theatre.

Did a quick gig with Boss Caine, where I compared and wrote some poems for each of the acts, see previous blog post.  Then Galtres Festival where I did a nice intimate set in a tiny tent, all of us huddled and surviving against the wind and the rain.  And got people to do a Poetry Human Pyramid!  I spent the Sunday day and night with some amazing mates and even though we almost died, I would have died happy…crushed between your sniffling and shuddering frames.

A very good friend of mine, Anna Wilcox, became Anna Lewis and her wedding was a very fun day of old faces, old friends, drinking, photos and a little spot of dancing with an excuse to wear my mod suit again.

FINALLY I hit London to perform at the Anarcho-Folk Fest for Freedom Press.  It was a sunny day, lots of angry politics, lots of niceness, free vegan cake and saw some great acts, highlight was (as always) Pog and also Ren Spits At Magpies, who I’ve never seen before but she totally blew me away!

What does the future hold?  Doing loads of new stuff at On Our Turf’s Little Festivals across September.  Working on Practise Patience with Travels By Telephone.  And Matt Baker’s Down In Albion event should be fantastic in November, get in touch if you want to perform work on the theme ‘England’.  At Release The Hounds Festival this month too!  And, of course, Generation 6 of Pokémon comes out in October…

A million thanks to everyone who saw me perform, supported me, programmed me, booked me, clicked Like, RT’d etc etc. Thanks to my ace girlfriend Lizzie for her support, thanks to my friends, thanks to being thankful.

But generally speaking…. rethink and refresh.  Keep rehearsing, rewriting and resisting.

In love, in anger, in solidarity, in Gengar We Trust.


(P.S. Any gigs, slams, workshops, commissions or whatevers…do let me know at

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Poems for: The Wynn, the Railway Child, the Larking Skies and Mr Big Bad Boss Caine

Last week I compared Boss Caine’s hometown gig at the Basement (review here), a great showcase of local talent as well as invited guests.  Instead of doing my own pre-written poems, I did a trick I’ve not done for a while and wrote a poem inspired by the set of each act.  This is inspired musically, lyrically and stylistically, with help from their banter and attitude.  I might collect these in a zine someday.

Inspired by Mark Wynn
I just can’t picture me growing up
I’m going to keep falling in and out of love
All these ladies need songs
All these rights end up wrongs
There’s this thing I do
Puts them off, and really so it should
I’m a talker
Quarter jerker-offer
Shit gets shovelled like coals
Fuel for the chatter
Baby, I’m a talker and a lover
And on Saturday nights, my throat does the fighting

Inspired by Joe Tilston
Tonight I’ve been thinking easy thoughts
Easy excuses and easy reasons
Not thinking clearly
Thinking easily
Living in history
But my intention is a singer
My intention is a dancer
My intention hops on trains
Discovers new destinations
Disembarks at unfamiliar stations
My intention has name
And will keep it in the new daylight
Tonight, I’ve been thinking a lot.

Inspired by Skylark Song
Finding thorns in pies and paws
Food is sharper, my claws are clipped
Struggling in streets, obviously alone
Relenting under spiky stars and a sea-storm coloured sky
“Spend your time preparing for mercy
Spend your tonight repenting”, they advised
“Devils & women” I replied.
“Devils & women”.

Inspired by Boss Caine
These nights bite like rats
Each toothmark is a scarred story
That aches in the mornings.
And I am so thankful
These pains are kindly
Like the bruises from bumping out of bed
Whisky-soaked and smiling.
Couldn’t live without those bruises
And if you find that funny, let me show you
A good lovin’ time
Because living is serious business
Like navigating storms
Like rationing failing drugs
Like staying the fool
Inside a 4-wall world.
I want a world that fits within my backyard
For smokes, mates and sunshine
I’ve got toothmarks and bruises

And you.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Here Comes The Summer

Hi everyone, I hope you’re alright.  I really do.

So here’s a little update for you all what’s happened the last few months!

I have been working hard with Travels By Telephone, an amazing musician, to create a new show/set of poetry, spoken word fused with acoustic sounds.  We’re at the Edinburgh Fringe with the show 18th August midday at the Banshee Labyrinth, and it’s called Practise Patience.


I am super-excited to announce I am now an Associate Artist of Red Ladder Theatre Company.  Red Ladder have a strong history of activism and political theatre, supporting Unions and protests with theatre.  Hopefully it’ll be the start of a great relationship, and I’m really proud to be connected to their work.

I’ve just done Hidden Hill Festival, with Galtres Festival coming up at the end of August.  Hopefully a few more festival appearances to announce before the summer’s over.

This coming Thursday 4th July I’m taking my solo show to Eastleigh, and will be at Derby Theatre on the 18th July scratching an idea for a new show I’m starting to work on.  It’s part of Milk PresentsLucky Dip. It could be the next big show I make, and I’m really excited by the germ of the idea, but more writing to be done first.  But always onwards & upwards, I suppose.

Friday, 17 May 2013

DIO: Do It Ourselves

DIO: Do It Ourselves

Last week I went to Bradford to the 1 in 12 by an event organised by Bradford Uni entitled ‘Do(ing) It Again’ and was very honoured to do a short talk about protest poetry and the community that exists across the UK.  My point was, if theatres and Arts centres feel the squeeze, will the small-scale DIY element of spoken word and pub-theatre flourish, or at least see positive affects from people seeking alternative forms of art?  Bradford seems to do very well from a ‘lack’ as was discussed at the event.  Got me thinking about York, how in some ways we are ‘DIY by Default, not Design’, fuelled by a lack of venues and a loose community rather than a political drive to create new spaces.

So, what am I up to these days?  Doing quite a lot with young children actually, have written a handful of poems which have gone down really well for under 10s.  You’ll see Letter To The Man (from the boy) my solo show, at the Berry Theatre, The International Youth Arts Festival both in July and The HUB in Leeds in September, but still looking for bookings anywhere in the country for any venue!

I’ll be at Edinburgh Fringe, helping out with Six Lips Theatre’s show Faustus, 11-25th so if you have any open mics, showcases, slams etc please let me know, always looking for an opportunity to perform at EdFringe!

Finally, next week is WORDS & WHIPPETS!  I had a conversation with York Theatre Royal about this in August, and the date was set in October, so it’s been MONTHS AND MONTHS in the planning. I’ve selected 5 amazing slam/performance poets, and you’ll see acts that don’t always come to York, so please come along and together we can make connections, make a community and build a little scene here in York!

25th May, 7.45pm, YTR Studio, £5 (+£1 booking fee)

Friday, 29 March 2013

One Lovin'

It’s been really busy here at Raby Towers, me and the minty-fresh Jonny Gill and the slinky-stealthy Ben Winterton have been making a BRAND NEW SHOW. It’s a fusion of theatre, poetry, music and comedy all about the perils, pitfalls and portrayals of LOVE. It’s called ONE LOVE. It will make you laugh a lot. It might make you a little sad. Stay tuned.

My solo show, Letter To The Man (from the boy) has also been confirmed for the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston! It’ll be exciting taking the show somewhere entirely new, more details to follow!

I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on three moments somebody said something, almost off hand, but it’s really stuck with me in my practise and art. Let’s review:

‘If you ask an audience member to help look for your dog, they go, “yeah, alright”’- Alan Lane, Slung Low.

Alan came and spoke in my 3rd year at the Workshop Theatre (BA English Literature & Theatre Studies, 2:1), and he also spoke at a NSDF training weekend I went to.  I really admire Slung Low, they make immersive but political work, and I’m looking forward to their collaboration with Pilot on Blood & Chocolate. But what Alan said is if you give someone a frame or a task, they’ll go along with it. They’ll play along. Audiences aren’t stupid, but they have been made passive and need direction and that’s why in LTTM we tried to really outline XYZ with neat instructions. Theatre is a game, and all the best games have a rule system. It’s about knowing the rules in the performance means the audience can relax and go along with the fun!  Below image from Slung Low's show Beyond The Frontline

‘The best writing workshops I’ve been in are ones where I’ve not realised I’ve written something good until it’s finished’- Tom Bellerby

Tom is an old friend and directed LTTM. He’s a director, not a writer by career, but anyone can write and anyone can write good stuff too. Whenever I plan a workshop, I try and use lots of games, techniques and playful formats to almost ‘trick’ people into writing good work. If they are really perturbed by writing, all they have to do is follow the instructions and it falls into place. It takes away the pressure, rather than saying “so now write a poem”.

‘The bigger the stage, the more work the eyes do’- Robin Lietch, Random Hand

I’m really paraphrasing, because this is something Robin from Random Hand said years ago before I really knew him as a friend. He was describing their first show at Leeds Festival, and the enormity of the stage. Robin has an amazing stage presence, he can dash around like a ska spider, but then he fixes the crowd with a GLARE. I think I’ve tried to explore my own style of performing, and with help from Tom, to have that fixed spot at the climax or important moment in a poem, to find that pinnacle where, after movement and energy, it gets brought down to the face and the eyes. It’s the difference between a reading and a performance.

That’s all for now!