Thursday, 31 December 2015

Generic End Of Year Review Blog

It’s time for my annual 2015 round-up of all The Things I Did.

I spent the last few days of this year praying that the Ouse defences would hold and leave my house high and dry, so far, so good.

My intention for this year was to write more blogs, not necessarily from a journalistic or literary perspective, but to keep my fingers typing away.  Type type.  Click. 

But I always assumed I’d never have the time to write a ‘proper’ blog.  Too busy being busy. So I decided to limit my writing to 20 minutes and 15 seconds.  20.15.  Geddit?

So some other highlights:

I was the Community Artist for Selby’s On Our Turf Project culminating in a performance in Selby Abbey, a very unique situation and performance.  I learned a lot about Selby, I chatted to its locals and hopefully produced a evening celebrating Selby’s unique history.

I went on tour with JENN HART who is super awesome and super cool.  I documented this in my blog here and am working on a podcast of all the interviews we did along with the way, but looking back I am still amazed it all came together, and we did it without a car!  I am keen to get touring once more, and might put a week aside in 2016 to give it another go.

I went to EdFringe, again, documented here.  Still need that photo of the human pyramid!

Gigged with Apples & Snakes' Public Address tour and met loads of ace new poets!

I wrote a load of plays for Youth Theatres, including Who Shot The Sherriff? for Harrogate Youth Theatre’s summer show (an adaptation of the Robin Hood story, but for the characters as teens) and The Hunt for Hull truck Youth Theatre.  I worked on a Play In A Week for York Theatre Royal and Hannah Bruce & Co, and I also got to do more freelance work across Yorkshire, and will be working with Harrogate YT leading a play-wrighting group.

2016?  Well, we have more Say Owt Slams in the pipeline, I wrote an adaptation of The Castle for Hull truck YT which is on in Feb, another Words & Whippets gig planned at York Theatre Royal and I hope to tour more and do EdFringe again!

I can only hope 2015 was good for you, and I wish you all the best in 2016.  Let’s hope it’s peaceful, fruitful and leads to the Grand Revolution toppling the capitalist system so we can build an Anarchist utopia.

In solidarity x


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Tonight I Typed

Tonight I typed
I didn’t have enough tissues to wipe away the debris of spittle
And I yelled until my housemates asked me to keep the noise down
They had work in the morning, and, to be fair, so did I.
In the brief moments my internet crashed
I continued to thump against the desk, just to try and relax.
I typed and typed until my fingers were simply bone
And my keyboard short circuited as it overflowed in blood.
Only when my head was spinning from the dents
And only when I had ground my teeth into fine powder did
I hear in the distance the share holders of BAE systems
Wheezing to raise their wadded wallets to their puckered lips.
I heard The Allies breathing a sigh of relief.  Phew.  No one noticed.
I heard the orphan, clearing their throat, some rubble, digging.
I heard the parent’s tears trickling onto what remained.
Then I heard The Terrorist fill in another Weapon Resupply Form
for another resupply of recruits.
No, I didn’t.  I couldn’t hear all that.  I was safe in my walls.
But I could hear the brutal cheering of politicians of all colours
United, together, in the squealing joy of a successful evening.

And as the morning sun rose, the bombs started to fall.

Friday, 27 November 2015

20.15 Blog #15: Who Killed Blogging Moose?

The first gig I ever put on must have been something at University, possibly the Hydropaths with Leeds Punk Soc.  The first one I very clearly putting on and being a massive success as Al Baker & The Dole Queue, The Ruby Kid and my friend’s band Elijah At Sea.  I knew absolutely nothing about equipment or running a gig, but it seemed to work OK.  We passed round a hat for UCU on strike and I got a load of mates to do some poetry.  That would prove to be standard for a Henryish gig.
I’ve done a load of poetry gigs over the years.  Too many the count.  But gigwise, I can remember them all because they were, initially, far and few between.

I put on Franz Nicolay and Chris T-T at the Basement, which was very busy and popular, but I still lost a lot of money.  I think that put me off gigs for a long time, despite the fact it was a great night.  For everyone on my support band’s cheaplist, I said I’d give them a quid.  As it happened, I gave them a lot more than what we’d arranged I’d ‘owe’ because they really did deserve more than a few coins.
Again, that would prove standard practise.

Then, in 2014, when I moved into my current house with my mate Nick, we plotted, schemed and devised a gig at some point.  Then KINKY said they were looking for dates.  The time was right, we made our move from the shadows.  We would be Who Killed Psychotic Moose.  The brand was born.
Or so we thought.  We decided to change the Adjective of Moose for various complicated reasons.  It became a running joke which Moose was getting killed each gig.  Poor mooses!

That gig taught me a lesson about putting on gigs, which is true for all the ones I’ve done.  Don’t get bitter because people haven’t turned up.  It’s not worth it.  It’s not justified.  People can do whatever they want with their time, they don’t have a ‘duty’ to your gigs.  If I had a penny for the number of times I’d missed a gig I should have, in fairness, attended to support the scene or a friend, I’d be able to pay Rancid to play Fulford Arms.  I bet folks would come see that, though.

Next few gigs were all pretty well attended, Petrol Girls in March was really busy and had a real energy as we had a few speakers talking about Reclaim The Night marches and Hollaback!  York branch.

No Ditching was a different crowd, but a really fun one nevertheless.

Then Mooseless I put on Block Fort all on my lonesome.  Lessons learnt, that’s hard work.  But it was DirtyGirl’s first ever gig, and it was rammed.

Petrol Girls returned with Typesetter, and already we'd built up a following for the band who are, without doubt, one of my fav bands at the moment

Our the Refugee Action York fund-raiser with Magnificent Seven was a real tour-de-force of York's energy coming together to play and sweat!

I also put on Daniel Versus The World & Ay Carmela!  without the Moose brand, and thankfully had a crowd despite it being a wet, cold half-term Wednesday.

Our last Moose gig of the year, Casual Nausea, had a decent little dedicated crowd, but it reminded me of those lessons from the Moose gig #1, don’t ever get jaded about a gig’s turnout, whoever comes is there to have fun, whoever isn’t misses out.  As long as you did all you could to convince and spread the word, you should relax and dance.  A hard personal lesson for an anxiety-ridden gig-promoter.

So what else have I learnt over this year putting on music gig (poetry gigs is another blog entirely)?

You have a duty to publicise as much as possible.  That means Facebook event, posters, flyers and spreading the word

That’s not just a Facebook event made a few days before that says:  “This will be ace” with no selling points.  If a stranger who’d never heard of these bands came across the page, would they be enticed?

Posters and flyers.  Everywhere.  York has plenty of places to put them.  If it gets one passer-by who wonders whether to come or not, it was worth it.  Flyer other gigs, is the venue is OK with it.  Carry flyers around in case you pass someone in the street who looks like they might enjoy it.  Carry them in case you bump into a friend who asks what you’re up to.  For all it’s illusion of ultimate connectivity, Facebook only has a small circular reach.

In this respect, I have learnt not to put on too many gigs, no gigs for the sake of it, and bands that are truly worth time and energy.  I’ve said no, and turned down gigs.  But when there is a gig worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I’m still learning.  It’s my basic instinct to just slog it out there. There’s more to it, but I’ll learn.

Thanks to all the people who played a Moose gig, and everyone who came down and supported us.  It’s been super awesome to see so many awesome bands and people!

Next we have Moosefest 2016!  Details here, come down, have a dance!

Monday, 16 November 2015

20.15 Blog #14: GreedCreep

If you were to sift through my bedroom back at my parents, you would find stacks of old Games Workshop figures.  The only thing I brought with me from this stage of my teenage life was a huge map of the Warhammer world, which sits alongside my map of Westeros and Middle-Earth.

This has been my first year living away from my parents since University, which came after a good few years working out how to make this Freelance Thing work.  I moved in with a couple of Anarchists who were glued to Gogglebox.

This year has really been a productive year for me.  I wrote a play for Harrogate Youth Theatre, and have just finished another for Hull truck Youth Theatre.  Past Henry’s goal was to write plays for young people, and to achieve that has been super awesome.  I’ve gigged at Latitude and Boomtown Fair and went up to EdFringe with a show.  Say Owt Slam has gone from strength to strength.  But I am constantly worried I take it for granted.  I’m always worried I take everything for granted.

I get anxiety sometimes about what should be achieved, and is achievable.  I constantly compare where I am to where other people are.  This is too much of a competitive trait, it assumes everyone climbs the same ladder, or worse is on the same production line.

Now I have more rent and food bills to pay than when I lived at my folks, I have started to worry about money.  Now, actually, I don’t really need to.  I’m kind of on top of finances, and I am slowly making enough each month.  But I do worry about money, because I worry about GreedCreep.

This term popped into my head recently.

When I was a kid, I would write long lists of what Warhammer I would buy if we won the lottery.  I don’t think this was because I wanted to hoard all the Warhammer in the world all for myself.  Warhammer is a game you play with other people.  I wanted more to use in our Saturday daytime battles.  Though, at the end of the day, it’s still ownership over stuff.

I wanted all the music I could get, so that I could find and enjoy gigs, take part in conversations and maybe even form a band (pity it took 10 years, but we got there, guys).

I’m getting that quite badly again.  This time with Board Games.  2015 will forever be recorded as the year we all got obsessed with the Game Of Thrones Board Game, but I’ve also got very much into Boss Monster, Dominion, Coup and a few others.  I like the fact I can arrange a gaming day/evening and have a huge selection to enjoy.

To that end, I have this twitch whenever I walk past Travelling Man or OG Games.  I kind of get this sense I really want more games to add to my collection.  Lego, Mighty Max, CDs, patches, plays, comics, books…I’ve always been a bit of a magpie for collecting. 

However, I think this is GreedCreep.  It’s not necessarily an evil thing, I don’t want to have all the money in the world ever.  But I do think it is a gnawing bug in the back of my brain.  It’s a force that drags me in certain directions, to certain websites or to certain shops.  And I think it’s a major force in nerd culture.  Since the nerdifcation the ordinary, since the commercialisation of nerdiness, you can get watches, dressing gowns, shoes, hats, gloves, socks, pencils, notepads, cases, clocks, curtains, bedsheets, stationary…anything with Tyrion, Finn, Batman or even Joe Strummer’s face on.

And, yeah, it might be punky to love music, nerdy to love games but it’s still capitalism, it’s still a wanting of objects, of things, of items and no matter how much you dress it as ‘alternative’ culture.

So I’m going to keep an eye on this GreedCreep.  This wanting.  Because I like my Pokemon shoes, I like my bag o’ patches, I like my zine library and play collection and new comic books and I LOVE my new board games, but I need to make sure these are for sharing with folks.  These games are to be played, comic books to be shared, CDs to be lent and plays to be written for people to perform.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

TakeOver's 'Trainspotting (Not The Film)'

I created a short piece for TakeOver Festival and performed this half-term, here's a video for your eyes and ears!

Friday, 30 October 2015


We do not have the power of the press or law, police or courts.

Their power is a system of glass ceilings.

But power comes in many forms

As a voter, our power is in our vote, so we vote

As an eater, our power is in our survival, or we go on hunger strike

As a worker, our power is in our labour, so we remove that and strike

As a name, our power is in our numbers, so we petition

As a physical body, our power is in our space, so we march and occupy

As a consumer, our power is in our footfall and wallet, so we boycott

As a promoter, our power is in our venue, so we No Platform

I do not always agree with No Platforming, in fact quite often I think it’s worth ignoring.

But No Platforming someone with power and privilege isn’t free speech censoring.

I believe it’s an instance to show of what little power we might have in whatever circumstances.

Never shut down a debate, never shut down a discussion.

But be aware of what power we have to fight oppression.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

20.15 Blog #13: Spectre didn't have a ghost of a chance

I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen all the James Bond films.

Like all my viewing habits, we had a nox upstairs in the corner of my parents bedroom with every Bond film taped off the telly.  In our house, we rarely had any bought tapes, everything (including Asterix, Star Wars and various cartoons) were taped of the telly)  This was viewing on demand

My Dad’s Bond was Connery and early Moore, so those are firm favourites in my mind’s eye.  A few years ago, we went through each Bond film in order.  I remember being pleasantly surprised that Timothy Dalton’s Bond films were engaging, and saddened that Moonraker was not the gem I recall from my youth.

My Bond was Brosnan.  Born in 1988, Brosnan’s best Bond was part of growing up, even if I didn’t see them all in the cinema, he was still my generation’s Bond.  As tough as Dalton, but with more humour.  Goldeneye has everything for me, especially that nostalgic connection to the Nintendo game.   Ah the hours and hours spent throwing Proxy mines at each other…

Anyway, due to two pretty naff Bond films, my teenage and young adult years lacked a Bond, so I kinda got attached to the older Bond as best than any current fad.  I was a little slow to catch up with Daniel Craig, missing both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

I enjoyed Skyfall, despite the sexist development with Moneypenny for turning her from a field agent to someone stuck behind a desk.  But I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Bond is an interesting English figure.  We’re good at making rebels of the establishment, and yet against the establishment.  Robin Hood, the disgraced ex-lord of Locksley.  Falstaff, a Lord and yet a vagabond.  Dennis The Menace, the naughty kid who, in his heyday, had mass mainstream appeal.  Lennon and Lydon.

Bond is part of the British establishment.  He’s not the loner, like the American Western figure, and yet he is the character who might break the rules, go behind his superior’s backs, defy laws (driving a tank through Moscow etc).  There’s a whole bundle of Bond traits, it’s not one thing.  One film might play down the Britishness, another film will explore the violence, another the gadgets, another the villains, but it’s all a melting pot of Bond.


I found Spectre insufferable.  It seemed to take ages for Bond to actually get anywhere, and then major plot points were glossed over quickly as the need to wrap everything up rushed everything in the final act (they were brothers?  Spectre organised for M to be killed?  What are the other agents doing while the 00 programme is being shut down?).  Spectre were set up as this indestructible huge organisation, but Bond very easily blew up their base without much effort.  Then Blofeld went from being their sinister shadowy figure to a guy who flies in a helicopter above London with a couple of henchmen rather than his grand army.  What was his devious plan?  Collect everyone’s credit card details?  Watch us on the toilet?  I was not impressed.  I was underwhelmed.  I felt like a rehash of Skyfall.

Monday, 26 October 2015

20.15 Blog #12: Public Address Tour

Public Address Tour 2015

When I started trying to think seriously about making a career out of Saying Words As A Poet, the place I kept being sent to was this organisation called Apples & Snakes.  I went up to a workshop in Newcastle led by Kirsten Luckins, and joined their various Facebook groups, followed them on Twitter and perused their website.

Nay, I have pillaged their website.  Like the hungry Viking that my ancestry dictates, I went through their website devouring their articles and sample workshops.  I have used their workshop plans many times, obviously changing and adapting to suit my own devious ends.

For those of you who don’t know, Apples & Snakes support and promote poetry, spoken word and theatre-poetry fusions.  They work on a national and regional level, putting on events, gigs, workshops and advocating for the genre.  Alas, they have no Yorkshire-specific region, we tend to fall under the North East category.

So I was delighted to ‘represent’ Yorkshire as part of their 3rd Public Address Tour.  This tour takes artists from across the regions and sends them up and down the country.  The theme was Soapbox.  Standing on a platform and declaring something important in your heart.

Where was I to start?  I write about politics, but often as an uplifting Never Surrender style, rather than specific topics.  So I decided to write about the plight of the bees.  Cos if the bees go, humanity will be next.  I decided to set the piece in a post-apocalyptical future, partly because my partner was playing loads of Fallout and I’d just finished The Road.

With support from director Hannah Silva, we all took our pieces and crafted them over a lovely long amount of time.  The end result was a fantastic showcase, Shagufta Iqbal’s uncompromising poetry on Muslim identity, feminism and true beauty, Justin Coe’s honest reflective look on growing up and homosexuality in schools, Keisha Thompson’s satirical and darkly comic monologue about Black identity, Ingrid McLaran’s fantastical romp through a mindscape, Helen Seymour’s disarmingly funny exploration of our obsession with death and AJ McKenna’s hilarious (and divisively touching) performance piece about love, loss, rice and water pistols.

I was part of the Newcastle and London leg of the tour, but it was a privilege to meet and perform and work alongside really exciting poets.

Going waaay back to when I was a student, Sticks & Stones in Leeds was a cracking night because it brought talented poets from across the country.  It’s a sharing of ideas, styles and talents that is essential, putting a theatre director like Hannah with poets is essential.  Putting poets who are parents alongside poets who are just starting university is a sharing of different perspectives, and I’m sure audiences appreciated this kaleidoscope of characters we presented on tour.  That’s how we learn, and audiences learn, and I want to keep that culture alive in York.


It’s not over yet!  Catch the gang tonight in Southampton and Friday in Brum

Monday 26 October, 7.30pm | Part of SO: To Speak | Nuffield Theatre, Southampton SO17 1TR

Friday 13 November, 7.30pm | Hexagon Theatre, Mac Birmingham, Birmingham B12 9QH

Saturday, 17 October 2015

20.15 Blog #11 Be Chronos: Workshop planning & delivery

20.15 Blog #11 Be Chronos:  Workshop planning & delivery

There’s nothing like the revelation that a music single you remember having a profound effect on your musical tastes came out 10 years ago to make you reflective.

(for the record, the single was I Bet You Look Good On The dance Floor by t’Arctic Thunkies and I hated them at the time)

I have been leading workshops in youth theatre, schools and for adults for about 2 years now.  It came from the decision to really try and push myself as a freelance artist.  If I’m honest, most of my income comes from workshops.  I gig all the time, but I find gigs are for travel expenses or for charities or local low-funded events.  At least, that’s my perspective.  I’m far from an expert.  I have loads to learn.  I also have 3 workshops I need to be planning instead of this blog.  It’s putting my thoughts down neatly to I can control them.  But that’s a freelance time management skill to wrestle.  You need to control time. 

Be Chronos.

I’m doing a term as an artist in residence at a Primary School looking at Greek Myths.  They’re a bloody bunch.

(the Greek Titians/Monsters/Heroes/Gods.  Not the kids)

I spent a good time stressing about how you lead workshops.  How.  Do.  You.  Lead.  Workshops?  I worried about discipline, construct, content, standard, inclusiveness and enjoyability.  I shouldn’t have worried, but just considered.

I am really grateful for York Theatre Royal for giving me my first opportunities with young people leading sessions, as well as friends for looking over my workshop plans and being someone to check against/with.

The fact is, not every workshop needs to change someone’s life.  And if it’s for teenagers, they might look like they hate your guts and want to tear you apart.  They probably do.  But you can run faster than them, and hopefully own a car.  You can’t judge your skills on every single encounter with a group, and you can’t chalk up hits and misses.  It ain’t boxing (though it might feel more painful).

I always write aims/objectives at the top of my plan.  Keep a track of it, even if it’s ‘Make sure XXX is engaged’, ‘get to learn names’ or ‘finish scene’. 

My style is often relaxed.  I try and crack jokes, I’m not always overly disciplined, and on reflection could be a tad more.  But I do like to move at pace.  I give people 15 mins, I usually mean 13.  I like to keep people moving and thinking.  I use a stopwatch.  Even when everyone is engaged and scribbling away or merrily devising, I like to keep an eye on the time.

Try to predict times.  Don’t worry about times.  Keep a track of times.  Always leave plenty at the end.  Time is important.  You can’t control it.  You are in charge of time.  It’s your decision.  Tame it.  Bow to it.  Just make sure you wear a watch.  Be Chronos.

But I think the most important lesson I’ve learnt (read:  I am learning) is about passion:

I have found over the past year or so there have been times my energy levels have waned, or I haven’t planned the workshop as well as I might have, or taken particular care over a certain aspect.  As much as the other factors need addressing, always bear this in mind and you won’t go far wrong, I reckon.
But what you can do is go into each workshop with enthusiasm, because at the very least if you show you care, then that’s an important lesson in artistic-based work.  That someone actually has investment in their delivery, which does have an impact in the people you’re working with.

But I’m talking about Chronos, the embodiment of time in Greek Mythology.  Not the titian of the same Mythology, Cronus.  Cos he ate children.  Top tip:  if you do that, you might not be invited back. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Bearded Blog 20.15 #10: The Best Beards In The [B]oetry Business

Does the poet grow Beard, or does the Beard grow [the skill] of the poet?
Is there a direct correlations between the length and strength of a poet’s Beard and their Words?
Can you define poets into subcategories of genre based upon their facial hair?
Some of these questions are for a longer dissertation.  Possibly a PhD study.  Talk show.
But here are some of my fav Beards on the poetry scene, and the faces, mouths, tongues and brains that sit, tight, protected behind the hairs like gnawing tigers in jungles of Saying Things.

Jack ‘Jack Dean’ Dean
Theatre-maker and word throwing Jack Dean has an imagination like a vicious animal constantly sniggering, jigging and rerigging mighty pirate ships bound for the world of Wha…?!  When he performs, your brain feels like it’s Wonder Woman, arms flailing in trying to catch each bullet flying forth with your bullet-proof magical bracelets.  The bullets are Jack’s words.  It’s no surprise then, that Jack’s Beard is like a fuzzy Critter clinging to his chin.  Not so wild it could be a threat to you, but possibly a danger to your lower brain functions, to the darkest recess of your imagination, to your children and their children.
Beard rating:  10/10

Dan ‘Nerdsmith’ Simpson
@ DanSimpsonPoet
Dubbed by many, if not all, as The Bearded Blur Of The Edinburgh Fringe 2015, Dan is one of life’s Doers, a man with lots of spinning plates, lots of skills and lots of energy.  How he took the time out of his busy schedule to grow his Beard, who, if none, can say.  Perhaps some kind of chrono-structural-warping serum?  In any event, Dan’s poetry is packed with wordplay, carefully co-ordinated and crafted with the same pains as Administrators construct their oh so important spreadsheets.  This precise geeky care is reflected in a highly preserved and prized Beard that all 13 year-old nerds dream of one day obtaining.
Beard rating:  10/10

Monkey ‘Matt Panesh’ Poet
Watch out!  He’s about!  The madcap antics of Monkey Poet belong on some kind of television show broadcast kate at night, beloved in cult circles by stoners and your brother’s strange mate.  Monkey poet is all limbs and spittle, an assault of words, most of them either rude, crude or both.  Monkey Poet fuzzy beard is a loveably sprawl of tangled barbed-wire, the kind of Beard you might lose your kite in.  Behind that smiley friendly face often see down Niddry Street with wise/safe advice and pint/two pints in hand(s) lurks the filthy mind of a manic mucky monkey and this is reflected in Monkey Poet’s Beard, scruffy but lovely, warped but warm, hairy, a wee bit scary.  Highly sweary lumberjack.
Beard rating:  10/10

Tim ‘Honours The Beard’ Clare
You know when you’re out and about on a dark story night, and you see a man build an effigy in the local park?  When you see them curse the Gods up high, tear off their clothes in a fury to match the heavens themselves? Then, with all the rage of Hell, you see the man set the effigy alight and dance around the flames like a small child at a Wedding Disco?  Then, you realise, in the light of the flame, the effigy turns out to be a twig-based replica of YOU.  Then the man turns around, catches your eyes and your brain screams RUN?  Well that’s what it’s like watching Tim Clare perform poetry.  And his Beard, at first glance, is fairly short, trimmed, neat and acceptable.  But then, on closer inspection, it’s the kind of Beard that could snap at any moment, grow like a Beanstalk, reach out and strangle your brain.  In a good way.
Beard rating:  10/10

Stu ‘Free Stone’ Freestone
Stu doesn’t have a Beard, he kind of has a little bit of stubbly fluff.  That’s OK, cos we like him regardless.
Beard rating:  10/10

David ‘Don’t leave the door a’ Jarman
The kind of Beard you’d see in the Minster Inn on a Tuesday night.  The kind of Beard that takes you for a pint, talks sense and then talks shit.  The kind of Beard you could trust to pay you back a fiver.  The kind of Beard that tells you that, yeah, you might have put on a few pounds but don’t worry about it, have another pint, you look great anyway.  The kind of Beard that would lose at darts to make you feel better.  The kind of Beard that you wouldn’t get in Star Wars. The kind of poet who rambles and speaks sense with every line.
Beard rating 10/10

Henry ‘Oh yeah, that guy from York, yeah I think I’ve seen his stuff on YouTube, and I think he Tweeted me once.  His Beard’s is a bit weird; it’s all scruffy and tangly.  It looks like for a week at Uni back in 2010, he didn’t shave and it just kind of grew from there.  It sticks outwards rather than downwards, and it’s quite patchy but to be fair if he didn’t have it, he’d look like a 16 year-old. ’ Raby
The plug socket for my shaver doesn’t work in my bathroom.
Beard rating:  10/10

Note: All Beards are wonderful on any face, man, women, all genders or no gender.  No Beards are also great.  Bodies are great, and body/hair shaming sucks.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

20.15 Blog #9: Edinburgh : The Story of Edinburgh 2015

Edinburgh :  The Story of Edinburgh

The first time I went to EdFringe was 2009.  Remember those dying days of Brown, when selfie sounded like a cute way of saying LONELY and the world waited with bated breath whether Harry Potter would survive the next, and last, two films?

He did.

I then went and worked teching with C Venues in 2010, and again with Pleasance Venues 2011.  Both times I had a great time, the work was hard and the rewards far from monetary but it was a great experience for anyone just out of University looking for a fun summer.  But I was a techie, and I was bursting to be recognised as an artist.

In 2012 I took my solo show, Letter To The Man (from the boy) with support from Pilot Theatre.  If setting up a venue, teching 10 shows a day and then stripping it all down sounds hard, then it’s nothing compared to the emotional rollercoaster of making a show, putting on a show and then dismantling the show.  And yourself!

The next few years I visited the Fringe to do scratches or see friends or catch the odd show, with the additional open mic or slam slot.  Then, this year, I kinda got the taste to return.  To take something and once more try and prove a worthy artist in the arena or performance.

I made my show, Up The Nerd Punks, from a collection of pre-existing poems and wrote some new ones around them.  It felt good and artistic, but it didn’t get in the way of my other projects for The Laurence Batley Theatre, Hull Truck or York Theatre Royal.

EdFringe was very fun.  I did x2 hours of flyering a day, which made me feel good when hardly anyone showed up, because frankly I went with the old punk adage:  At Least I Tried.

 At least I f**king tried. That’s the only eulogy I need - Frank Turner, Eulogy

Last night, me and some chums watched Anvil:  The Story of Anvil.  It’s about some old metalhead rockers from the 80s trying one last time, having one last attempt, putting all their hope and faith into a dream of making a glorious metal album.  And all the way through, lead singer Lips has a driving hope that you just gotta believe, after 10, 20, 30 years, ya just gotta keep going and at the end of the day, if you don’t make it, then at least you can look yourself in the mirror. 

 Metal on metal, it's the only way, to hell with tomorrow, let's live for today  - Anvil, Metal On Metal

Anvil’s problem is they come from a school of music which measures success by proportions.  Their idols were Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, their peers were Motorhead and Bon Jovi, their successors were Metallica and Anthrax.  Stadiums, festivals and grand gestures.  They are almost punks, they have a DIY gusty attitude but still search for a manager and a major label to accept them.

I think that the ‘majors’ of EdFringe are pretty obvious, not only do they rules the advertising and the reviews, but geographically they control space.  I found my place on the Fringe of the Fringe, in a small venue called the Stafford Centre the ‘other side’ of town.  The staff were lovely, the venue was just right and the audiences that came were there because they wanted to see a scrawny punk make jokes about Star Wars for 50 minutes.

I could not have gone to the Fringe if not for the DIYness of the PBH Free Fringe.  I don’t think I would have wanted to.  I don’t really want to play stadium gigs.  I’m not of the metal school that says louder the better, bigger the better, badder the better.

I’m a punk, admittedly a nerd punk.  For me, scale doesn’t matter, but attitude & intention does.

I do want to look myself in the mirror.  Sometimes that’s hard.  But the lovely audiences, lovely guests I had, lovely staff at the Stafford Centre, the folks who hang at Forest CafĂ©, lovely PBH poets, lovely bar staff at the Banshee Lab and lovely random folks on the Mile also flyering who stopped for a natter were a huge amount of reinforcement.

Love you all x

(oh and if you’re the person who snapped a photo of the human pyramid at my last show, please please please send it along

Friday, 7 August 2015

Up The Nerd Punks @ EdFringe 2015

Henry Raby is a punk. He likes pogoing, picketlines patches and protests.

He’s also a nerd who loves comics, critical hits, cartoons and Charmanders.

Join him dissect friendship, growing up, anarchism, feminism & dinosaurs.

Think a wand-wielding Joe Strummer battling a Tory-voting Darth Vader.

With The Avengers smashing the box office and everyone in the world now owning an Adventure Time t-shirt, does that mean geekiness is now mainstream?

Is punk deader than Ned Stark*? Where are the underground scenes redefining punk rock?

How can we destroy the sexism & bigotry of #GamerGate like blowing up a Death Star*?

So grab your cosplay costume and celebrate an underground culture for introverts, outsiders, the nerds and punks.

Henry is a performance poet from York who has toured the UK, performed at Boomtown Fair, Latitude Festival and various front rooms.


“He smashes it every time I see him”- Mark Grist.


*spoiler alert

Free non-ticketed. Money donations towards Game of Thrones merchandise appreciated.

18.15-19.15 Stafford Centre venue 175 103 Broughton Street, EH1 3RZ

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this! Special guests!

Sunday 23rd: AJ MCKENNA: Queer trans woman smashing the patriarchy, one poem at a time

Monday 24th: Stu Freestone - Spoken Word Poet. Effervescently loveable poet. Shortlisted for 'Best Spoken Word Performer' 2015.

Tuesday 25th: ROB AUTON (of The Rob Auton Enthusiasts Club fame): Shambolic man-ragamuffin putting nonsensical words into sensible ears.

Wednesday 26th: Suky Goodfellow & Heckler Hand: Feminist wizard of words. Upbeat and Unicorn-esque.

Thursday 27th: ROSE CONDO: Canadian prairie girl turned slam-winning superstar spoken word.

Friday 28th: Turtle Lamone: Alternative piano pop-punk playing happysad tunes for your delight/tears.

Saturday 29th: SUPER SECRET SPECIAL GUEST. What? How? Who?

Sunday 30th: Dominic Berry's Poetry Stuff: Ever-energetic performance poet leaping around higher than a high-five

18.15-19.15 Stafford Centre venue 175 103 Broughton Street, EH1 3RZ

Free & non-ticketed. Donations towards Game of Thrones merchandise appreciated.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

20.15 Blog #8: Ambition (or: Lex Luthor is Bad)

In another decade, a younger Henry wanted to be a famous writer.  The kind of writer they write about.  The kind of writer that gets studied.  The kind of writer that gets studied in their lifetime.

At some point, I lost that life goal.  I wonder whether it was because I lost self-confidence in myself, and asked:  “What makes me so special that people would want to study me?”  Sometimes I ask why people would want to bother listening to me at all.

But you’re here reading this blog, so you’re at least interested in reading what I have to ramble.

A lot of poets have built their careers on viral videos.  There’s a lot of hardwork goes into the construction and promotion of a poem that can go viral, and I’m not knocking those poets.  They’re reaching larger audiences and we’re riding those coattails.

But if all poets were able to go viral, we’d infect the world.  But we’re not going to go viral.  The very nature of a viral video is it exists in a sea of videos which do not get the same attention.  Bucking the trend and beating the competition makes the video noticed.  But (from where I'm sitting at least) they can make a career.

Ambition is the little cousin of Hope.  Left in Pandora’s Box, Hope is both the sin and the virtue.  Hope is a negative and a positive.  A trap and a freedom.

Ambition in our western society has two faces.  Climbing the corporate ladder to fame, riches and famous riches is seen as A Good Thing.  Within the arts, students are told making good work is seen as A Good Thing too (and so it is), but it doesn’t hurt if you’re on a nice salary or get healthy ticket sales from that work.  Even a decent job in a building.  Stream of funding.  Interview in The Stage/Guardian. Congratulations.  Us theatre-makers sell these dreams to ourselves.

But with the stroke of the same hand that pats your back, ambition can be seen as self-serving and self-gratifying.  The working class are sold the lie that we must be “happy with what you’ve got.”  The church has done this job for centuries with the Pie In The Sky lie.  The humbleness song is somehow in a positive key and should make us grateful for simple wages, simple benefits and a simple life.

Aspiration is another cousin to hope.  Aspiration is like ambition, but I see it as to elevate oneself beyond the situation you exist within.  Aspiration is about rising, ambition is about gaining.  The working class are told they should aspire, because the ruling classes have made the working class situation so unenviable

We live in such a vertical world, that it is impossible to be ambitious without clutching at the feet above you and stamping on the fingers below on this imposing ladder.  The competitive culture encourages self-serving attitudes.  Not only this, but an ‘eye on the prize’ perception means you lose sight of where you are (see Yoda’s wisdom for more information:  "This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless").

But I said ambition is a double-edged blade.  There are positive qualities.  There is a better world worth fighting for (see Sam Gamgee).  We should want will demand better.  Anarchism is about valuing yourself and defending your rights and as individual to never be a slave, but not as the cost at making slaves of others.  Lex Luthor (see Superman) has ambitions to become the biggest businessman in the world, the biggest power on the planet, the President of the United States.  Heck, he even tries to dominate all space, time and reality a few times.  But at the cost of controlling and ruling over others.  Ambition should be horizontal, am ambition to support yourself and others.  Ruthlessness is born from Luthor's vile ambition.

Love is born from another kind of ambition.  Ambition to better yourself the world.  To save it, to secure it, to make it more FUN.  If ruthelessness is born from negative ambition, then we should nurture the purposeful love that can emerge from positive ambition.

This world is so broken, so many flaws, so many systems that control, grind, kill.  But we can make a better world, every fight we lose, every fight we undertake, every fight we win is going towards a better world.  We are told this is the state of the world.  The Tories won a ‘democratic’ election.  Deal with it.  Find a job.  Wash your hair.  They say.

I want to build an inclusive and high-quality poetry and punk scene.  I want to challenge myself and make stronger work.  I want to tour, meet new people, make new friends, see and work with new artists.  I want to inspire someone that will inspire someone else.  These are my ambitions.

Be ambitious in valuing yourself.  Be ambitious to do what you want, however you want as long as it doesn’t harm someone else.  You are wonderful, but that wonder doesn’t detract from the wonder of your neighbour.

Be ambitious.  Demand the impossible.

Another world is waiting xxx 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

20.15 Blog #7: Adapt To Survive

It’s been a while since I set my phone off spinning round and round until 20 mins and 15 seconds are up.  But it’s been a busy few weeks.  I’ve co-ordinated an event for Selby’s Little Fest of theatre, music and arts in the incredible Abbey featuring local groups.  I’ve been doing some R&D with my friend Maddy Shann on a piece we might develop in the future.  And I’ve been busy turning my acoustic side project, Pewter City Punk, into a full band!

But we must forge ahead with the project for the year.  Namely, to write a blog post in 20 mins and 15 seconds.  We’re off!

This blog is about adaptations.  Over the past year, I have adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Harrogate Theatre to be used for a range of ages roughly 6-11 in Youth Theatre and school’s outreach projects.  I have also adapted the classic tale of The Circle of Chalk (as retold by Brecht) for York Youth Theatre’s 16+ group which was performed at the end of last year.  Now I’ve sent off my final draft to Harrogate Theatre, an adaptation of the classic Robin Hood tale.

Adaptations can be incredible retelling of stories.  I saw a stream of the NTs Treasure Island written by Bryony Lavery.  I thought it was a really gripping action adventure.  Maybe a tad gory for the target audience it intended, but still a visceral retelling that gripped me.  Some adaptations get the story to a wider audience, Tom Morris and Emma Rice’s Night’s At The Circus for Kneehigh was the first time I’ve experienced Angela Carter, now one of my fav writers.   Mike Kenny’s adaptations for York Theatre Royal, Tutti Frutti or Hiccup Theatre are always rich with a joyous insight into the original.

Adaptations have to be both faithful and fresh.  Just as film is not theatre, theatre is not a book.  Theatre is a live experience condensed into a relatively small pocket of time.  But it must also be faithful, else why not repackage the story as something entirely new?

From an artistic perspective, there’s the pull between the context of the original text, and trying to find the ‘hook’ for the modern day.  Shakespeare is often easy, as a humanist his plays often have recognisable characters falling in love, being ambitious or being trapped. 

Whenever I’m playing with an original idea, I like to jot down over a few days all my thoughts with purely the context I bring to the paper.  Circle of Chalk is swished around my memory of seeing it previously at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  All my initial ideas of Brecht ideas.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I rifled through my memory for all those key moments that stand out without a re-reading of the play.

Then I take time to dive deeper, read around the story.  Read the liner notes, read up online, take out some books, try and really sink deep and see if there’s an interpretation I’ve missed.

By putting these two contrasting styles alongside each other, you start to find your own voice between the lines.  For Who Shot The Sherriff, my mind flashed Marian as being a tough fighter, not unlike the TV show from my childhood.  Of course, upon doing my research and reading other books I realised how she’s traditionally portrayed as being an aristocratic woman.  So my version had her being forced to learn the rules of civilised society despite her best interests.  I knew there needed to be a fight scene, but only after re-watching the classic Errol Fyn sword-fights did I realised how this can be scripted, and kinda parodied.

My version of Robin Hood and his Merry Men are more merry kids.  They are still teenagers, played by members of Harrogate Theatre Youth Theatre.  To that end, they have the energy and bravery of young people. They are told they are dirty, rude and intolerable.  They get told off, caught and are fought.

If my Robin Hood and his merry men were, in fact, merry men I think it would be tonally darker.  It wouldn’t be a cruel angst-driven piece, but more would be at stake.  Breaking laws would have more severe consequences.  Who Shot The Sherriff is a bit farcical, a bit slapstick, a bit manic.  There’s the threat of death hinted, but it’s more for a summer show of swords and swordplay.  I felt this came out from the characters being so young and vim-filled.

However, that’s not the say the play is a watered-down Panto.  From the 21st century lens, why are these kids keen to become knights or outlaws?  Who are their role-models?  Why can the Sherriff bully them around?  These thoughts bounced around my skull like an arrow flying off the walls.
So I realised (partly though a spot of Prince of Thieves viewing) that the adults had gone off East to fight the crusades, not unlike our day and age where soldiers are sent abroad in government’s wars.  This left a power vacuum for men like the Sherriff to take power, and young boys and girls eager to fill their shoes.

I’m not saying it’s the most political piece I’ve written, certainly not compared to The Circle of Chalk which has a lot of my perceptions on nationality, nation and borders.  But I think they exploring various perceptions on an original text, while keeping the energy of a traditional action-adventure can take a different turn when not throwing it into the deep waters of 2015, but letting it paddle around in a few different ponds of possibility.

Or something.

Catch Who Shot The Sherriff at Harrogate’s main stage this summer, tickets here

Sunday, 17 May 2015

20.15 Blog #6: Delayed Reaction to the election

A 20.15 blog (written in 20 mins 15 seconds)

Yeah. We get it.  The Tories won.  So put your anger back in the box for 2020, Henry.
Well, I feel like I never got a chance to vent.  Because over the last month you might have noticed a lack of blogging.  That’s because I’ve been mega busy.  Like, I’m always busy.  But the meganess makes it even more busy-ised.

What’s been occurring?  Well I bought a car so I can zip to gigs, festivals and workshops quicker.  That feels a big deal.

I finished my 2nd draft of Who Shot The Sherriff, my play for Harrogate Theatre, a summer family show about Robin Hood as a kid.  It should be a good madcap comedy and I’m happy with the result, a few more tweaks and it’ll be ready for rehearsals.  I’m going to write a proper blog about it later, but for now.  It’s there, the arrow is notched up, the aim is true.

I’ve also been working on a community project for The On Our Turf Project.  I am the Community Artist and my role was to put together an evening of entertainment for the people of Selby, inspired by their stories, the town’s history and it’s character.  We had various groups come and perform, a nice sizeable audience and lots of smiling faces.  So that was a positive buzz.

But Thursday night wasn’t, and nether was Friday morning when, after 18 years, the Tories got a majority government.  I went through a whole series of emotions that night and morning, as I did think Miliband might have turned it around.  But he proved a damp dishcloth of a banner-bearer when it came to the crunch, and we’re stuck with a Tory cabinet unbound by Lib Dem liberalisms.

The Stage article by says it best, but I want to say I found myself falling into the trap of preaching to the converted.  Well, not quite.  In the past year I got into challenging the problem and problematic culture within punk, nerd and the left.  Trying to wrestle with my own privilege, my own preconceptions and attitudes.  My poems have been trying to remove or play with gender.  I have been putting on gigs as both Say Owt Slam with Stu Freestone and Who Killed Moose? with Nick Smith where we really take time to consider the acts we book.  I’ve also been playing my guitar.  WOT?

But certainly I have not been performing to an audience of Tories and trying to explain why their votes have doomed many to death.  I have not been gigging to Liberal Democrats who cling to the idea their party’s fence sitting  does more harm than good.  I have not been gigging to UKIP voters, who buy into the sickening lies of fascists in suits.

It I want to change that.  I want to use my platform as an artist to try and perform more to different crowds.  I’m not a theatre company, I’m a poet who just needs a voice and just needs to turn up to open mics and events.  I won’t water down my opinions, I don’t hide my politics and I won’t compromise my performance style.  But is there any point being the punk who plays to punk crowds saying the same old rhetoric everyone in the room agrees with?  I want to challenge those audiences, and hope I do, but time to challenge those who need to see.

This inevitably involves me being staunch in my views.  I do need to change views.  I do need lines in the sand.  I do need to acknowledge some people are wrong.  Not evil, but still their perceptions on the economy, on race, on business, on immigration, on arts, on homelessness…on all sorts of issues leads to regulation, law, control and cuts, torture, deportations, death.

That’s how I’m feeling at the moment.  An immense sense of duty, of certainty and, sure, call it righteousness.  But I want to channel that not just into demonstrations (but trust me, there’ll be plenty of that).  But also writing new work, accessible but sharp, dangerous and defiant but truth-telling.  And I will do my best to keep fighting.

Because another world is possible, so another way of thinking and fighting is always, and should always, be possible.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015


There’s a corpse in your moat.
You’ll have to call out the chap to drain it.
What a fucking palaver.
There’s a corpse in your pond.
It’s upsetting the ducks.
It’s not healthy for them.
There’s a corpse in the Jacuzzi.
You were looking forward to taking a dip in the Jacuzzi.
What a day!
There’s a corpse in your pool.
Sack the pool boy.
Fuck’s sake.
There’s a corpse in the sink.
You work bloody hard.
You don’t expect corpses everywhere.
They are brown and black
Young and old.


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Words & Whippets The III

WORDS & WHIPPETS The III (feat. Charlie Dupre)

9th May, 8pm, York Theatre Royal De Grey Rooms, £5

In 2013, Words & Whippets debuted with a sell-out showcase of some of Yorkshire’s finest spoken word artists.

In 2014, it returned with another line-up of spoken word artists, featuring Rob Auton and The Sky Show.

Now Words & Whippets is back with an evening offering poetry and spoken word from York, Hull, Sheffield, Huddersfield and even beyond Yorkshire’s borders!

2015’s W&W is part of the International Shakespeare Festival and takes place in the beautifully atmospheric De Grey Ballroom.

Compared by York’s nerd punk poet Henry Raby, prepare thinselves for

Paul Maxy (Ex-Prison Chaplin at HMP Hull, social commentator and wearer of Dc Martins)

Sarah Thomasin (Sharp satirical wit straight from Sheffield)

Rose Condo (Canadian prairies girl via Huddersfield. Word War One Slam Championship 2014, Jibba Jabba slam champion 2015)

Plus The Stories of Shakey P performed by Charlie Dupre. Classical playwriting and Hip-Hop meet in an electrifying lyrical brew, as the Bard is re-imagined as a playground battle rapper by slam-winning performer Charlie Dupre. Charlie has performed at Latitude, Secret garden Party and supported the likes of Scroobius Pip, Ghostpoet and Kate Tempest.

The Stories of Shakey P begins with a rap battle between the young Shakespeare and his playground rival, Kit Marlowe, then takes a look at Richard III's therapy sessions, Othello in the style of Eminem's 'Stan', the tale of Macbeth told from the mischievous perspective of the three weird sisters, and a psychotically rhythmic insight into Hamlet's inner turmoil.

Tickets available from York Theatre Royal Box Office, over the phone at 01904 623568 or via the website

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

20.15 blog #5: Patchwork People

Yesterday a friend remarked I wasn’t wearing any patches.  Just on my trousers, however.  My hoodie was still covered in patches related to Adventure Time/squatting, TMNT/Anarchy and punk/Roger from Doug.  But she’d never seen me without patches covering my slim (if a tad hairy) legs.

I started wearing patches back at Uni.  Before then, I resisted the call to cover my clothes in patches because I still liked to stream-lined simple approach of a band t-shirt.  I think that’s because I came from a scene where patches were the norm for the punk friendship circle, and at Uni I wanted to stand out more and carve my own identity.

I have three pairs of trousers with patches on.  My black & white patches only, usually an assortment of punk and ska bands.  My folk-punk trousers, consisting only of bands of that genre from across the world.  My anarchy trousers, with three simple yet effective anarchy-related images (Red A, spanner in the works and Sabcat).  My Seen-In-York trousers, a mixture of local and touring bands whom I have caught playing gigs in my hometown.  My hoodies are also themed, there’s the Devil’s Brigade hoodie with black & red patches, and the Against Me! Queer hoodie I can’t wear when I work with kids due to rudeness.

This may seem incredibly obsessive and compulsive to be so rigorous over patches.  They are, after all, simple bits of cloth.  But punk and ska (and metal but…yeah…whatever) are the only genres of music which really push this aspect for fandom.  Mod to an extent, maybe a Strokes or Libertines patch might find its way into a collection, but mainly punks promote themselves through patches.  Why?

Well, punk has always strived for a DIY attitude of self-promotion beyond the mainstream means of communication, and mark of that marketing strategy is to find alternative models of word-spreading.  Zines, hand-made posters and popping your band on a patch.  It also shows a belief.  Punks from across the spectrum of Oi/crust/anarcho/straightedge/boozey all believe in the concept of punk.

I’m currently reading Taqwacores, a fictional book about a fictional Muslim punk scene which actually inspired a real life Muslim punk scene.  The author presents the argument through his characters that the belief in the idea of Islam is similar to the idea of punk.  Now, I’m not comparing a 1400 year-old worldwide religion to three chords, but I think Taqwacores in general is about how one styles one’s identity.

I have always been incredibly aware of how I wanted to be seen and recognised.  As a teenager, I hated clothes with any logo on.  Later, as I got into Anarchistic principles, I realised it’s because to boast that logo is, to me, to place a faith and a belief in that logo.  You are emblazoning a FCUK image across your chest, you must be championing that product.  You’re allowing your body to be a marketing tool.  You become a product too.  What loyalty do you have to brand names?

So it is natural I sport band t-shirts and patches as a sign that this is what I want to promote.  This is what I want you to see.  This is what I want to be associated with.  I have loyalty to ONSIND, Operation Ivy, Rancid, Spook School, The Clash, Jonny Gill etc.

Mischief Brew are one of my favourite bands.  They have a song called Punx Win which includes the lines:

Creep into town,
And it's not long
Before i start to roam.
Seek out the patches on the punx,
Maybe a band I know.
I bet you in five minutes time,
We find that we know all the same
People, places, and roads.
And its not long before I start to feel,
That somehow I can never leave home. 

There have been a few times I’ve struck up a conversation based on someone else’s patches, or someone has chatted to me.  Someone asked if there was a Food Not Bombs chapter in York because of my FNB patch, which allowed them to find out about the FNB efforts locally.

So sometimes I do like to think of myself as a waking billboard, plastered with patches, logos and images.  But these are all images and logo and names which I have actively sought to attach to my clothes, to paint afresh in some cases.  I want to say:  “Hey world!  Check out this band!”

I think it is important to style yourself how you choose.  I think more people should wear patches.  It adds colour and variety, it redesigns and reimagines clothing and just looks fucking cool.

You can buy my patches from my Bandcamp in their various forms.  They look great on t-shirts, hoodies, bags, jackets and socks.

There’s nothing I like better than a good afternoon spent patch-hunting.  Remember kids, patches cost pennies. Pints cost pounds.  Here are some of my favourite Etsy shops for patch-hunting: