Wednesday, 25 October 2017

20.17 Blog #33: Frack Off!

How do you write an Anti-Fracking poem?

In May 2016 North Yorkshire County Council approved an application to carry out Fracking outside the village of Kirby Misperton, near Flamingo Land.  An existing wellsite, this would be the first time Fracking had happened in the UK 2011.  I’d spent a lot of my activist energy against austerity, and green issues like Fracking had always been on my periphery vision. But I went to the day-long protest and debate in Northallerton.  Suffice to say there were people from across the country from different backgrounds and ideologies opposing this dangerous use of fossil fuels.

In true punk rock tradition, if you have a grievance with the world you create a 3 minute piece about it.  So I wrote ‘Boroughbridge Road’ which went through various iterations and edits before finally ending up as the poem you’ll find on YouTube.

The poem came out of that vast day of people coming together with an empathises on Yorkshire-ness.   I often worry so much it doesn’t work when performed outside God’s Own Country.  The anti-fracking movement has many heads, and one is to defend the rural countryside as beautiful, peaceful and homely.  At the climax to the day, everyone held aloft a White Yorkshire Rose to symbolise the purity of the Yorkshire countryside.  The White Rose may be a royalist emblem originally, but to me it means home and community.

So that was my first experience with the movement.  Since then I’ve visited the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp and the gates several times.  I’ve been to Preston New Road site and hope to do more as the struggle escalates.  Of course, there can be many other reasons for fighting fracking not associated with the purity of the landscape.  I’ve asked myself, if the site was a wind farm would I be so quick to defend the green?  There are plans for 1000 new buildings in the Hammerton area.  In the middle of a housing crisis, should I be opposed to this like I’m opposed to Fracking?

The answer, to me, lies in the massive dangers associated with Fracking as proven time and time again in Australia and America and no matter how many times Internet People assure me that British laws and regulations will keep the water and land safe, I simply to not accept the risk when companies’ priorities are profit.

So I decided to use my poem as a piece of propaganda.  It would be a tool to use at open mics, slams and general gigs.  Its continued use of the White Rose imagery works well in local York pubs, we’re quite proud of our boundaries up here in t’North.  Insult the Yorkshire attitude and we’ll retaliate.  The North is often to the firs to be slashed in its public services.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence the three hot spots for Fracking licences have been Barton Moss (outside Manchester) Preston New Road (outside Blackpool) and Kirby Misperton (25 miles from York).

So I was trying to inspire a defence of the Yorkshire land in the poem.  I enjoy reading it and getting away with saying “frack off” in the pub.

Please come to the gates of KM8, the wellsite outside Kirby Misperton.  Visit the protection camp.  Find out for yourself what is happening.  The people defending the countryside are a mixture of the young and old, the hippies and the middle class, locals and visitors.  It’s passionate and friendly and beautiful and I’m proud to be have been part of it, and will continue to be.  Below is a list of things you can do to support the anti-fracking movement.

·         Visit and to read up on the local dangers of Fracking and to join the mailing list.
·         Visit to donate whatever you can to support the campaign.
·         Join the Facebook groups Kirby Misperton Protection Camp and Frack-Free York to keep updated.
·         Share articles and information online.  If you’re on Twitter, follow @F_F_Ryedale and @FFNYorkshire.  #Frackfree #WeSaidNo
·         Contact your local MP
·         Write a letter to York Press, BBC Radio York or your local press.
·         Contact Secretary of State for Energy Greg Clark MP
·         Contact Third Energy to tell them to stop Fracking:
·         Politely ask the companies supplying the Fracking site to reconsider who they are working for and the damage they will cause:
Sky Scaffolding Stainsacre Lane Industrial Estate, Fairfield Way, Whitby YO22 4P 01947 821259
Moorhouse Drilling Bessingby Industrial Estate Enterprise Way Bessingby Industr, Bessingby, Bridlington YO16 4SJ 01262 608731
Grimaldi Agencies UK Ltd 28 St James's Square  St James's  London SW1y 4JH 0207 930 5683
Walker Crane Services Motherwell Trading Estate, Motherwell Way, Grays RM20 3XD 01708 867251
·         Come down and support in person
·         Visit the Protection Camp where people are camping over to be closer to the protest.  Maybe take some supplies, toilet paper, water, food etc.  Being a smile and show your support.  It’s on Kirby Misperton Road, left off the A169 as you drive towards Malton, postcode YO17 6UE, follow the signs for Flamingo Land.

·         Visit the protests which are happening outside the Fracking site.  Every weekday local residents are taking a stand.  It’s on Kirby Misperton Road between Kirby Misperton and Little Barugh village.  Again, if you can bring sandwiches and support that would be greatly appreciated by the local residents who are continuing to fight against Fracking.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

20.17 Blog #32: Praise is my Kryptonite

Today is World Mental Health Day, so I thought I’d throw my tattered flat cap into the ring.

I wrote a blog a-g-e-s ago about my anxiety in a social landscape which you can read here.

I constantly have this little voice in my head telling me I’m shit.  I’m worthless.  I’m a failure.  I’m not going anywhere.  After I perform, no matter the response from the audience, seconds after leaving the stage I’ll be strategically analysing everything that went wrong, or could go wrong, with the set and night.  Glass half empty?  More like glass gets smashed.

I had a mentoring 2-days with Third Angel which was staggering useful about funding, company structure and planning for making theatre work.  It seems so natural now, but it took me years and years to even begin to consider applying for pots of money or stepping outside the comfort zone of small scenes because I thought:  “Who would want to give me any money?”  “Who would want to book me for a gig?”  Cos I’m naff, said the brain.

 I shudder at arrogance and ego like Gollum squirms at Elvish rope.  Overly confident poets and artists really get my back up.  They are few and far between in our scene, but their swagger seems alien.  Yet praise is my Kryptonite.  If someone says:  “That were good, Henry” I think they are:  Lying, wrong, confused, stupid as I say “Thank you!”

It’s because my brain, for whatever reason, has been wired over years to see the negative than the positive.  The brain is a muscle, the more you exercise it the more it grows in a certain angle.  I recently did an online CBT course in trying to rethink how you think.  I’m trying to do more mindfulness exercises.  Eat healthy.  Go for walks.  Listen to less angry music.  That’s hard for me.  Love my angry music.  Any further recommendations welcome.

In our last slam we have a number of poets come down to read very personal poems about their identity, sexuality, gender, mental health and survival.  It was very impassioned and beautiful and, I’d like to hope, somewhat empowering.  And that matters in that moment, at that time, in that space.  All strong pieces, all being shared, all being appreciated.  The hierarchy of poetry seemed not to matter a jot (it might have helped our guest, Jackie Hagan, celebrates the mistake, the failure, the incompetence, the imperfection).  

Thanks, poets x

World Mental Health Day is raising awareness, and poetry is a perfect tool to say to an audience “HEY I feel like this!”  Rather than paste over this fear, better to show those cracks as we rebuild the house.

“Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.”

Thanks Well-‘ard Eddard.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

20.17 Blog #31: Punk Publishing

Since I started writing poems, I’ve been trying find ways to put them into the world beyond words.  In my first year I (rather arrogantly) made a CD of recordings using a little Dictaphone without any sense of editing, structuring or whether anyone would actually want the bloody thing (I guess marketing).

I also put some poems out in the form of zines, under the title Snapping Turtle Press.  This was me and my mate venturing into some self-publishing, and we really enjoyed the rough-and-ready DIY element of glue, staples and combining words with illustrations.  I even went to a few zine fairs, but in the end it was just a fun hobby and it takes a lot of energy to keep putting out zines, so much respected to regular poetry zines like Paper & Ink whom I devour.

I always had huge respect for Burning Eye Books, who mainly focus on publishing performance poets across the UK.  At Say Owt, the night I run, we’ve had lots of their published authors, Harry Baker, Rob Auton, Vanessa Kisuule to name but a few.  I am hugely proud to announce I will bringing out a collection of poetry on Burning Eye next year! Woo!

The book is called Nerd Punk, which is no surprise to anyone who knows my poetry.  It’s about growing up, friendship and home plus protest and politics.  And dinosaurs.

It’s been interesting pouring through old documents, zines and my memory to put together all these poems from the last 11 years.  I don’t think there are many poems from the first couple of years of my poetry writing and performing career, and some poems never really made it into my core ‘sets’.  It felt like, if someone them weren’t included here, they would get lost in the mists of time because they never made the ‘cut’ to the live performances.  Similarly one of two were very specific to the context of a show or event and didn’t really need to be part of the collection.  Because I couldn’t include song lyrics, one poems just fell apart as it was built around a Bedouin Soundclash song.

It’s been an interesting journey going back in time (and I do love nostalgia).  Revisiting and editing old pieces, realising that the structure is much sharper as it has been shaped by performance.  Rather than chunks being added to a poem, the poem has become more streamline and I hope the pieces are stronger for this.

So keep an eye out for the collection in (hopefully) April 2018.  No doubt I’ll be shouting about where to buy it and have a book launch.  I’d love to get out there in a tour if anyone’s up for booking me around that time, drop me an email