That was my May, and I’m still recovering.
I eased into the month with a double reading at Loose Muse on 8th May. In the first half, Joolz Sparkes and I read from our joint collection London Undercurrents, recently published by Holland Park Press. Over the five or so years that we’ve been working on our project, we’d performed earlier versions of some of these poems at Loose Muse, and Agnes Meadows, the dynamo behind Loose Muse, has been tremendously supportive. So it was wonderful to return with our book and share reworked poems, and also answer questions from the audience about our journey to publication. After the break, and more readings from the floor, I read poems and short fiction from my individual practice. Then listened to my writing pal Joolz perform some fabulous poems, mostly developed from sessions she’s attended as part of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. Loose Muse is on again this Wednesday 12th June, upstairs at the Sun Pub, 21 Drury Lane WC2B 5RH, and will feature Nancy Charley, a truly spellbinding performer, as well as Susannah Rickards, and a special guest all the way from Atlanta, Georgia – “blonde bombshell Dame Colleen”. Doors open 7:30 for 8pm start. Should be a cracking night!
Just over a week later, on 16th May, Ink@84 bookshop hosted a London Undercurrents reading as part of Feminist Book Fortnight. You can read Joolz’s account of the evening here. It was a really uplifting event, and the icing on the cake for the south London posse (Nick and me) was a swift journey home on the 19 bus.
Two days later I was in the air-conditioned basement of the Poetry Café, kicking off the Poem-A-Thon to raise funds for The Poetry Society. Over 10 hours, sixty poets performed for 8 minutes each. The whole shebang was recorded for posterity, and you can listen here to the first 2 hours (I’m up first). Further 2 hour chunks, plus other listening gems from The Poetry Society, are available here. And you can still donate online to support all the work The Poetry Society does to promote poetry and poets!
[Enter stage left: The Virus]
I had two more tasks on my May horizon: helping to organise the annual Fun Day for my local community garden; and preparing a creative writing workshop on the theme of Endangered Species. I had not factored in the arrival of a particularly nasty virus. Cue aches, pains, congestion, and a cough that made me sound as if I smoke 20 Woodbines a day. I’ve recovered enough now to sound like I’m down to 10 a day. And with the aid of an array of legal remedies, and a pinch of bed rest, I survived – in fact almost enjoyed – the Fun Day, helped in no small part by the sun coming out to play on the day.
The following afternoon I headed over to the Thrive main garden in Battersea Park to run my first Endangered Species creative writing workshop, as part of The Popsy Set ‘Rarely Seen’ series of creativity sessions. I’d spent quite a bit of time researching endangered species on the IUCN red list, in particular those where the Conservation Actions Needed include ‘Education and awareness’. The headline statistics are shocking to the point of being almost mind-numbing: more than 27,000 species are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN. And the range of threats species face is far wider then “simply” climate change; pollution, invasive species, habitat depletion, agriculture and more. I narrowed the focus for the workshop to six British species that are under threat, a mix of flora and fauna. I found Magma’s Climate Change issue helpful in thinking about different approaches to writing creatively in response to this overwhelming crisis. I’d put together an info sheet for each species; gathered some thought provoking quotes about responding creatively to the global crisis; tried out the exercises I’d devised. And though I was still feeling below par, the adrenalin kicked in and I was able to deliver the workshop satisfactorily. Tick. In fact, I had some lovely feedback, reassured that I’d got a good balance between information and creative exercises, and praised for being ‘a skilful and sensitive workshop leader’.
Now, pass me another Woodbine.
If you are interested in attending an Endangered Species workshop in the future please email firstname.lastname@example.org to check available dates. Workshops are held on Sundays at 2pm and must be booked in advance. Requires a minimum of six bookings to go ahead.