My friend Richard Willis recently posted the complete text of his essay Swindon Orbital on his blog. I proofread one of the earlier versions and over the weekend read the latest, which includes some great photographs. I've never visited Swindon, and possibly never will, but the essay was still fascinating, showing how much significance there is in even the most mundane and unpromising of locations.
The essay mixes an account of a tour of Swindon with history, myth and "anti-wisdom", as well as references including the Prisoner, the Usual Suspects, Theseus, the Aztecs and James Bond, the Marie Celeste and Stonehenge. There's also a weird sense of threat as the figure of the pentangle and the circle keep reappearing through time and space.
"swindon, you see, has long been acknowledged by the necessarily objective market research industry
to be, more than any other place, a microcosm of the united kingdom. it is statistically 'average',
meaning that when organisations want to know how well new schemes, promotions and products
will work across the country as a whole, they bring them to swindon to petri-dish them first. the
uncomfortable fact is: swindon is the cracked mirror that the rest of the uk looks into."
Swindon Orbital stunned me with the implication that you could write something similar about any town in England. I imagine, given the time, even the wastelands of Harlow (where I lived for a few years) might deliver something wonderful.
Last night I went to the Low Carbon Cabaret, an event held in aid of Brighton’s Naked Bike Ride. I’d been asked along by my friend Naomi Foyle, one of the performers. I’d no idea who else was playing but the line-up was great. Count Adriano Fettucine was compere, the Young Hannoverians performed an excerpt from their ‘poetic rock opera’ Owl Man and there were some very odd burlesque acts including Size Zero Albino doing a ‘Birdy Song’ fan-dance. Songs about candiru, musical saws and striptease are evidently perfect ingredients for a night out.
Which leads on to the announcement that I’ve been invited to read at Glue Gun ’91 at the Victory. I’ll be doing a ten minute slot, reading a couple of new clown stories. Glue Gun ’91 is pretty much unique: the last night started with a birdcage filling with easter chicks to the sound of the Carpenter’s ‘Close to You’, featured the live cooking of a Mystery cake and squeezed in the complete history of the world. You don’t want to miss this. You know what else: it’s free to get in!
I've been very busy with creative work over the last few weeks. I've mentioned some of the things I've been working on (such as Trailer Trash, the Literature Network blog and Short Fuse Leicester) and missed others (like Pictour, clown stories for Glue Gun '91 and a night of readings in June).
One of the things I should have announced is that I've got a story in the current issue (number four) of Notes From the Underground. It's a small story about Scrabble, 55 words tucked away on page 4, but it's a piece I'm fond of and I'm glad it's found a home. Notes From The Underground is FREE from various locations. You should definitely pick up a copy, and not just to sell on ebay when Zack Snyder one day films my clown novel; there are some lovely stories, each perfectly timed at just a few minutes of reading, and an article from Kathy Lethe about visiting a strip club with John Mortimer.
Thanks to Sunita for posting me a copy of the new issue.
On Tuesday I read at Short Fuse Leicester. It was a fantastic night. I had an easy three hour train journey, allowing me lots of time to relax beforehand. I went for a curry with my friend Jen, who recommeded Kayal, saying its food was very different to what I'd find in Brighton. I ate an incredible mango-based dish which I'm still craving more of a couple of days later.
Leicester's Y Theatre is a lovely, plush venue with by far the biggest stage I've read on. The theme for the night was Sweetbread, Bitter Bread and Polly had chosen six interesting (if somewhat grim!) stories. I particularly enjoyed Bead Robert's story about clocks, which sparked some interesting discussions about pigs on our table, and Jo Cannon's story about grief. Headlining was Tara Gould with her story Little Birds, and Tara gave one of the best performances I've seen from her.
One of the things I love about reading my work out loud is that it can draw out aspects of the story that aren't obvious on the page. Particularly when reading a first-person piece, the line between writer and characters can become clouded. The night was particularly interesting for me because I was reading in front of my Mum for the first time. I'm not sure what she made of her son reading a story about bondage, but she said it was well-read.
Another great thing about nights like Short Fuse is getting to meet other people who are interested in writing. I knew a few of the people there from online such as Jo Cannon, who I workshop with, Damien Walter who organises the Literature Network site I blog for and Lydia Towsey, one of the other bloggers.
It was a fantastic night and I hope to be there again before long. The next Short Fuse Leicester event is in May and features a short-story from poet Jean-Binta Breeze. Thank you to Polly and everyone else who made it such a lovely night.
I’ve had a slow Sunday after a very busy weekend. On Thursday I visited the Fabrica gallery for the first event in their Blood and Ink programme, which accompanies the gallery’s display of Anish Kapoor works. Friday night was another excellent Tight Lip. The event opened with Caroline Weeks playing a lovely acoustic set followed by some interesting poetry from Jeff Shepherd. The evening was headlined by Stewart Home. He’s one of the best spoken word performers I’ve seen: funny, intelligent, fast and everything performed from memory. He also tells some fantastic anecdotes.
The hightlight of my weekend was the Trailer Trash night at the Komedia, organised by Rosy Carrick and Kitty Peels. I was helping out with few things on the night which was fun. I got to watch the rehearsals and felt the excitement building through the evening until doors opened. It was great to see how many people had dressed up for the Beetlejuice theme.
I watched most of the performances from the side of the stage and it was odd not to be able to see the audience but it sounded like they had fun. Trailer Trash had a good range of acts: Bex Marks the Spot was first with a dance routine; Miss Baby Bones did a fire-act; there was a burlesque act from the Flirtinis; hoop from Miz Juz Squire; and some songs from the fantastic Mr. Joe Black. Kitty’s trapeze act was in the center of the dance floor and looked incredible. The photo below is from rehearsals and doesn’t show the green body pain she was decorated herself with.
I didn’t get to bed until 4 and ended up sleeping through until the late afternoon. A lot of work went into the night, from the make-up crew, the photographers, DJs Elvis and Mr. Grinel, the undead popcorn usherettes and the staff of the Komedia but it was all worth it. The next Trailer Trash is on June
18th 19th and will have a Tarantino theme.
On Saturday there's a new club night at the Komedia, whose organisers include my friends Rosy Carrick and Miss Kitty Peels. The night takes a different movie as its theme each week and is starting with Beetlejuice. There will be clips, great music, performances; including aerial, a fire act with Miss Baby Bones and, um, I'm man-propping for Kitty. And zombie popcorn usherettes! Come along because it will be awesome. Click on the flier below to see it at full size:
The latest incarnation from cult movie-themed club extravaganza TRAILER TRASH!
scenes spliced up with twisted cabaret, circus sideshow and aerial live
acts, plus rock 'n' roll, dirty electro, neo-swing and classic 80's
hits from our resident DJ Mr Grinel, and special guest DJ The Future
Sound Of Elvis.
Hosted by the effortlessly effervescent ROSY
CARRICK, and featuring the delectable delights of MISS KITTY PEELS with
THE FLIRTINIS, BABY BONES, BEX MARKS THE SPOT and MIZ JUZ SQUIRE, with
live music from JOE BLACK.
Fucked up Burlesque!
Undead Popcorn Usherettes!
YOU – Dress to Distress in your very best Tim
Burton/Beetlejuice/Redneck/ Zombie/Conservative Ghosty/ Oddball Goth/
Ballgown/ Formal/ Fetish/ FUN attire!
The first 50
people through the door on the night will have thrust into their
glittery hands a special event cd featuring songs from the night mixed
by guest DJ, The Future Sound Of Elvis!
Tickets cost £10.00/£8.00
to book your tickets.
I will be appearing at Short Fuse Leicester on April 21st at Leicester's Y Theatre. It's a very exciting night for me as it will be the first time my parents have heard me read in public.
The theme for the night is "Sweetbread, Bitter Bread". Headlining is Tara Gould, reading her story 'Little Birds'. I'll be reading a story called 'meat'. Also appearing are Kate Niland, Jo Cannon, Bead Roberts and my friend Rosy Carrick. Tickets cost £7, or £5 concessions, and can be ordered online or by calling 0116 255 7066.
Full details on the forthcoming event, as well as last month's, are available here. Do come along if you can as this will be awesome!
I was recently invited to write some blog posts for literaturenetwork.org. Over the next 12 months I'm going to be writing about the limitations and opportunities of creative writing. The first post, How Many Readers Do You Need? is now up:
"Every creative writing course hints: it could be you. They
promise access to agents and the chance to break into the world of
publishing. After years of perseverance, of writing in coffee shops and
cold flats, your novel might be published and become huge. You too
could be as big as JK Rowling."
Please do visit the original post and leave a comment if you like it. Ian Hocking posted an interesting response, raising the questions "What would motivate a person to contribute financially? How would the writer get in touch with these people to start with?"
Since writing the original post I've discussed the issues involved with a few people and the main question I'm left with is how many people am I a true fan of? Is there anyone I've given 1/2000th of a living wage to in the last year? How many people are ever likely to be supported by true fans?
Some of those questions might be answered in some later posts. Meanwhile I'm drafting a post for May on why the novel is almost dead, and why that doesn't matter.