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TESTT (Durham): April 12th

The New Adelphi (Hull): April 15th

Workshop Theatre (Leeds): April 17th

Hydra Bookshop (Bristol): April 18th

Derby Theatre: April 20th

Harrogate Theatre: April 24-25th

Ovalhouse (London): April 26-28th


London Book Launch at Ovalhouse, April 26th

York Book Launch at All Saints Church, April 29th

Small Fry DIY, Warrington, 2nd May

Spoken Weird, Halifax: 3rd May

Born Lippy, Newcastle 9th May

Shaken In Sheep Town, Skipton: 10th May

Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

Queenie’s Coffee Nights, Huddersfield: 21st May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Verse Matters, Sheffield: 7th June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Thursday, 4 August 2016

20.16 Blog #16: Deer Shed & DissFest

A few weeks ago, myself and Chris Singleton spent the weekend stood in a field shouting poetry at each other.

Around us was a festival, Deer Shed to be precise, a swarm of 10,000 people 45% of the under 16.  Amidst the chaos of workshops and music we performed poems by request.  On the spot improvisations.  Based on audience’s suggestions.  Anything for an easy life, right?

When I’ve done this before in cafes, pubs and libraries there’s always more resistance and uncertainty, but in the middle of a wacky festival we are just one more attraction the kids get excited by, and that’s a testament to the intense madcapness of Deer Shed.

Some of my favourite requests were the ones me and Chris tag-teamed, telling a story between ourselves and often the people who had suggested the poem. Though me and Chris aren’t necessarily from a rap background, we tried to take part in rap battles.  Child-friendly of course.  Monsters vs. Robots, Shrek vs. Nemo, meat-eaters vs. vegetarians.   Not poems I’d ever claim to be worthy of Don’t Flop videos, but fun in the moment nevertheless.

You can watch one of our battles here:  https://www.facebook.com/DeerShed/videos/10153585201676619/

It was also fun collaborating with Chris, who is a lovely poet from Leeds running Verbal Remedies and running into a few lovely folks, like Kate Fox and the Holy Moly & The Crackers ensemble.

Deer Shed is a great fun festival, designed for families, so maybe not one of my favourite as a participant (seriously, no ska-punk stage?) but definitely my favourite to visit as a performer and poet.
Here’s a poem what I wrote for the Festival inspired by the suggestions of passing peoples:

At Deer Shed Festival I ate the best
The tastiest
Most monstrous Hot Dog ever
At Deer Shed Festival I watched the Card Ninja
Boomeranging cards with calculating power.
I spent a good hour cart-wheeling by the Helter Skelter
Filled up the comedy tent with roaring laughter
Then some crowd-surfing like a winged monster.
I strummed a metallic 3 stringed guitar
Elementary!  I went to see Sherlock Improv
Grumbling bears, stories to hear, a raggle taggle of cracker folk.
Zombies!  All around me!  That’s realistic blood!
I stayed up partying as late as I possibly could.
The Blacksmith clattered in metal-melting heat
I opened my Northern gob to speak (and eat)
And I don’t know who won, the Monsters or Machines
But if this Festival was a film
It would be an action-filled classic.

Similarly, this weekend I was at DissFest writing poems for people visiting the very sublime Fairchild’s Tea Room.  This time more relaxed, you could almost say tamer, as I penned some poems for people supping delicious fruity teas in the mega civilised and friendly atmosphere.  Here’s one of the poems I wrote about the English weather:

As you know, as summers go
The English one is to-and-fro
Enjoy the parks, the fields, the beach
The trees cast shadows in the heat
It’s shades and spades and t-shirt weather
Carry an umbrella?  Ha!  Never!
We’ll get toasted, burnt red
Feel the rays upon my head
But, what’s this?  In a flash
The dusty dirt is a muddy splash
The rain comes in buckets and buckets
No!  We cry:  SKY STOPPIT
The rivers rise, the wind it cries
Cats and dogs storms and spray
It ruins our sunny day
So now we know, us soggy fools
Never break the golden rule
Always carry a cagoule.

DissFest, run by Unity Twenty Three, is like the LittleFests I've worked on in Yorkshire, a way to get people to engage with arts in their town by putting it into unusual spaces, or making it as accessible as possible.  Lovely friendly, and important, work by the team.

And another I wrote for a women about the Ukraine, her home country

Last night we heard the mountains cracking
Like skin from burning sunshine
We saw the rocks peel away
And the countryside cower into itself
In the morning we walked from the river
And, like pulsing veins over stinging skin,
We passed forests deep like black tea
Then the old sky mixed colours of blues and greys
And the rain washed down like a heavy tea
Poured with gentle care
And we smiled, and we washed away the night
And carried on walking

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