Saturday, 27 December 2014

Home & Away: Best bits of 2014

The final gaps of 2014 are weaving through the air, it’s breath rancid and rotted.  In the doorway stands 2015, bright, handsome, head full of hair.  2014 smiles one last time.  “It was a good life” he says, a voice pained but essence of a brightness.  Then he passes on.  “No” 2015 says, in a voice like honey.  “It was a good year.”

This has truly been a good year both home and away.  Here’s some of my highlights:


I put on Hannah Nicklin’s show A Conversation With My Father totally DIY in the Black Swan with ace support acts.  I forgot to get everyone to sign up to a mailing list though.


I toured with Travels By Telephone to Birmingham, Norwich, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Knaresborough, Scarborough, Newcastle and various rural venues with our show Practise Patience.  We are dead proud of the show, and still looking for any dates in 2015!  We met some wonderful people, caught up with old friends and had some amazing feedback (“The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”).  We did the show in York to a packed out crowd!  AND NO BLOOMIN’ MAILING LIST!

Download the live recording and get a zine here


I put together TWO compilations of poems and songs  about my favourite game/cartoon:  Pok√©mon.  Off the back of this, I started playing more acoustic sets under the name Pewter City Punk and went outside my comfort zone.  Download here


I performed at Boomtown Fair, the biggest festival I’ve been to so far.  My set went down well, I met some cool poets and saw a whole bunch of brill bands and acts.  Thanks to Tim for driving me and Sally for putting me on!


Me and my Emma made a zine with interviews from over 25 female York musicians about their influences and experiences.  We did a launch with Kinky, Freaks + Geeks, Chrissy Barnacle and Jenn Hart.  You can pick up the zine here, and a good read it is too!


I did more rural touring in Suffolk and Norfolk, and it’s always nice to write poems for random people on random topics, thanks to Creative Arts East!  Read about it here


Alongside Stu Freestone, I put on the first Say Owt Slam featuring Mark Grist.  The night sold out, and we had 15 amazingly high-quality poets fighting for the title of first slam champ!  Mark was superb as always, and we got great reviews in One & other and The Nouse.  Next slam is 23rd Jan with Sophia Walker, and the one after that in March.  Again, forgot to do a mailing list.  Whoops.


I went and say a WHOLE LOTTA Youth Theatre (see my blogposts here and here).  I wrote a play for Harrogate Youth Theatre, adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream for them and wrote a play for York Youth Theatre.  I became a Trustee of Upstage Centre YT and have done more freelance work than ever before in the sector.  Looking forward to writing another play for Harrogate in 2015 and hopefully other freelance opportunities.  Check out my website for more info here.


I put on WORD & WHIPPETS 2 at York Theatre Royal featuring Rob Auton and the Sky Show.  Rob’s show is very odd but magical, very funny but very moving and I’m dead happy we also had Chris Singleton, Lizi Patch and Genevieve Walsh performing their ace poetry.  Hopefully will be another W&W in 2015, more info to come.  And although it sold out, totally forgot to make a mailing list.  Agh!


I compared and programmed the spoken word & comedy stages at Galtres Festival 2014, putting on ace acts like Jess Green, JB Barrington, Jenn Hart, Danny Deegan, Zach Roddis and loads more.   Though we were small in the poetry section, everyone who came had a wicked time seeing something different amongst the music, and the comedy tent was always rammed with people eager for some gags which Peet Sutton and Seb Bloomfield provided admirably with their cast of comedians.  I know Galtres had issues with paying traders and acts after Galtres, and I know there is an uncertainty with 2015, so I’ll say as much as I know:  I do not know if all my acts were 100%, nor whether Galtres will return in what capacity, and I have not been asked whether I’d want to be involved as yet.  But I did dance to The Levellers and forgot to get a mailing list.  Eeeek.


I put on Buddy Wakefield, one of the greatest poets in the whole wide world.  And he was amazing.  Mind-blowing.  Highly skilled.  Thanks to York Lit Fest for their support, and All Saints Church for letting me use the space.  And guess what?  I MADE A MAILING LIST!!!  Whooooop!!!

Go sign up here

So thanks to everyone that gave me a gig or came to check me out home or away, all the acts I gigged with, all the acts I put on and most importantly YOU.  Yes YOU.
Always looking for gigs, writing and workshop opportunities or new connections, here’s to 2015!

Henry ‘Mailing List’ Raby

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Top albums of 2014

This certainly has been the year of queer punk, queercore & indie punk-pop!

AGAINST ME! (Transgender Dysphoria Blues)
Black Me Out!  This album came kicking and screaming into my ears early on January, and I knew this would be a staple of the year.  Fusing a fist-and-furious assault of punk rage that Against Me! had kind of lost over their last few albums, this album featured Laura Jane Grace screaming her heart out over trans* rights and experiences making every track feel raw and salted and totally replayable.  Each track gets my blood pumping and when I saw them live in Leeds I was certainly not disappointed.

KINKY (self-titled) & NOT RIGHT (Your Turn)
This is a joint position, because both bands have delivered awesome old school-sounding punk/hardcore but with all the aggression of queer and feminist policies that I’ve come to discover over the past year.  Kinky were so cool, we put them on twice in York and Not Right were amazing at Nottingham Queer Fest.  Their albums are so sharp and snappy and moreish, unashamedly in yer-face it’s glorious and what I love about both punk and queer. 
Also firm favs of 2014’s riot grrl and queer punk releases were daskinsey4 (Bent Coppers) Petrol Girls (EP), Skull Puppies (Venus Crytrap), Caves (Leaving)

MARTHA (Courting Strong)
When I talk about a replayable ablum, I mean an album that as soon as it’s finished, you just want to hit play once again.  Martha’s album full of stories, growing up, love, gender identity, isolation, home and hope is a fantastic piece of work.  Crafting stories around the upbeat indie-punk-pop, every song has layers in both the lyrics and sound, every verse is full of catchy clever line and live their ramshackle DIY essence should teach bands with a similar sound to punk-afy their lives.  Even the NME praised this Durham super-group!
In terms of cool indie-punk, I loved Thee AHs (Corey’s Coathangers) Colour Me Wednesday/Spoonboy split Young Attenborough (Isolations) Ace Bushey Striptease (Slurpt), Doe (First Four), Happy Accidents (Not Yet Jaded)

Helen is a firm favourite on the acoustic York scene, with her amazing voice, clever song-writing and beautiful strumming she’s always worth checking out.  I have been waiting for this album for a long time, and it was worth the wait.  It’s the perfect album when I’m needing a moment to relax, to drift away and allow the Beverly legend’s music to wash over me.
Some other brill folk music this year included Tree Trunks (Snorgasm), Andrew Jackson Jihad (Christmas Island), The Roughneck Riot (Out Of Anger), Rail Yard Ghosts (Blackgrass), Tim Loud (Out Of Anger), Dan Kemp (Climb Treets Every Day), Ash Victim (Love, Rage & Confusion)

BEAR TRADE (Blood & Sand)
Just one fantastic loud, fast, punk rock album from these North Eastern lads making great tunes and the peppering of Likely Lads sound clips really made this a album to stomp down to the street to.  Another great punk album was The Menzinger’s Rented World, but I only just discovered their early albums.

Wicked chilled out and groovy children’s cartoons turned into R&B classics.  Believe it.  It’s brilliant.

KATE TEMPEST (Everybody Down)
Not quite my cup of tea, maybe because it’s a reworking of Brand New Ancients and that jarred for me, but there’s no denying her delivery and powerful use of language.

PERKIE (Time Machines)
A very intelligent album which also boasts some sharp wit and cutting punk ethos sitting neatly above Perkie’s delicate and gentle piano underpinning.  Full of gentle and clever songs about growing up, feminism and living your life by your own rules.


I love Sonic The Comic.  I love, love, love, love them.  Their album, Pixel, is so bright and bouncy and fun.  This EP has slightly less hooks, but still packs the power of an upbeat and charming band using their love for punk with their love for gamer nerdiness and their cliptune reworking amazingness.  I can't wait to see them in York in January!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

I Love Youth Theatre 2014 (part 2)

Hello!  Last year I made it a goal to see as much Youth Theatre as possible across the country.  I wrote a blog about the shows I saw at the end of 2013, and you can read it here

So this year once again I put my diary aside, booked my train tickets, begged for comps, and set off to see young people making great theatre.

By the end of March, I had been fortunate enough to see a fair few shows, so I wrote a mid-year blog on the YT shows, which you can read here

A few days after writing the blog, I went to see Upstage Centre’s production of The Bloody Chamber as part of their Springboard event.  Upstage Centre are going from strength to strength, and I’m proud to announce I will be working as a Trustee in 2015 supporting them in many awesome upcoming productions.

 In April 2014, I bounded down to deepest, darkest Salisbury to see my friend Dave Orme’s production of Bedlam with Stage65 Youth Theatre.  The production had a good balance of physical ensemble scenes whilst giving breathing space for actors to play with the 18th century characters.  The sense of uneasy background ensemble spying and sneaking helped portray this world of gossip, rumour, mystery and the inevitable question:  Who really belongs in the asylum?

Next up I visited the midlands, and Nottingham Playhouse’s All Quiet On The Western Front directed by Allie Spencer.  Such a dark, complex and weighty text was handled brilliantly by this cast who managed to find all the moments of humour and melancholy, occasionally reminding us these soldiers were no more than children through clever theatrical moments and great playful use of staging.

Back on my hometurf of York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre, The Genius directed by Natalie Quatermass and A Thousand Reasons Not To Fly directed by Jenna Drury were both marvellous inventive and fun performances from the 8-11s.  A feast of fun characters and wacky moments, The  Genius was brilliantly nutty and A Thousand Reasons Not To Fly had a very emotionally charged ending that genuinely touched the audience’s hearts, perfect proof of the ability of youth theatre to move.

In July, I also saw Harrogate Youth Theatre’s similar age range perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Jonquil Claughan.  This was my own adaptation of the classic play, drawing on lots of poetry and updating and streamlining the language whilst keeping the magic, wonder and humour.  The cast (as well as a local school who also used a version I adapted) kept all those elements of ensemble creating the magical world of the fairies and the woods.  I loved adapting this Shakespeare, and realised how incredibly easy it is to find humour still within the Mechanicals and their little play, and the wonderment of the fairy kingdom.  If anyone is interested in looking at my adaptations, please just get in touch.

Carriageworks Young Theatre Makers presented Extraordinary in July directed by Ruth Cooper, an original piece of work drawing ideas from an enormous cast which spanned the ancient Greeks, World War 2 and into the distant future.  Ingeniously telling the story of various child geniuses (genei?) it allowed for a number of connected scenes and connected characters all telling their own stories in their own worlds, but part of a larger picture, handled well by the group all with their eyes fixed on the central theme:  suspicion of the extraordinary.

I travelled to Derby to see the double-bill of The Willow Pattern and The Chrysalis.  Emma Waslin’s The Willow Pattern found those charming moments of humour, but also the tension within the ancient tale.  Visually the show was full of colour and vibrant images.  In contrast, Sarah Brigham’s The Chrysalides was full of tortured characters exploring the bleakness of this zealous dystopian future.  Both casts embraced their challenge of performing on the main stage of Derby Theatre with gusto, energy and a commitment to telling two great stories.

Back to Nottingham in August, I killed two birds with one stone and managed to catch Equus before hitting Nottingham Queer Punk Fest. Sarah Stephen’s cast were highly professional in their dissection of this deep and rich play, drawing on fleshed-out characters but an also a very haunting and brutal atmosphere, at times intense, and often unsettling.  Nottingham Playhouse have suffered at the hands of Labour City Council cutting funding, and I hope they can still continue the good work for their Youth Theatre in some capacity, who always produce excellent quality work.

In November, I managed to catch York Youth Theatre once again, this time with their 16+ groups performing Brecht-inspired pieces, Mr Puntila & His Man Matti and The Circle of Chalk.

Mr Puntila & His Man Matti (again directed by Natalie Quatermass) opened with a visceral experience which saw the audience avalanched by an onslaught of snotty, righteous, youthful anger, all shouting for occupations, getting rid of the rich and the injustices of capitalism.

But Mr Puntila & His Man Matti also showcased hilarious comedy moments; with a sea-sickeningly swaying distorting back-and-forth charm it left the audience feeling drowned in Puntila’s drunken world of swagger and ruse.  Knowing looks, snooty jibes and brash songs all peppered this capital play.

I was incredible honoured to be asked to write The Circle of Chalk for York Youth Theatre.  Inspired by Brecht’s version, but also the original ancient Chinese crime drama, I poured a lot into this production.  I read up on the polices and arguments of various nationalist organisations, researched the situation in the Ukraine and Palestine and wrapped the production up in the poetic story-telling I’ve learned from both my own spoken word gigs and Shakespeare.

(me and Natalie basking in the fame of a MASSIVE poster)

Using collaborative story-telling, Julian Ollive’s The Circle of Chalk cast wove an intense story rich with a range of flawed, funny, charismatic, despicable and loveable characters.  Their inventive ensemble work gave every moment a thousand shrewd angles, and their unflinching questions on the nature of nation rippled through the audience.

I have also had the pleasure of work with The Lawrence Batley Young Company this year, working with a very enthusiastic bunch of young people looking at snippets of Shakespeare.   I will be working with them next year, as well as writing another piece for Harrogate Youth Theatre and, as always, looking for commissions or freelance work.  So if you want to read any of my scripts so far, take a look at my work or get in touch for whatever reason, just drop me an email on

Thanks to everyone who supplied me with a comp, thanks to everyone for the invites, thanks to Harrogate Theatre and York Theatre Royal for the commissions, and thanks to all the directors and casts for fantastic work.

Have a great 2015!  More great Youth Theatre please!