Clown town

The photograph below was sent to me by Louise Halvardsson, who saw the shop on her recent holiday. Would you want a tattoo from a place called Clowntown?


On Saturday Lou was reading at the Wedding Present's At the Edge of the Sea Festival. The event was at the Concorde 2, and Lou was the first performer on the main stage. The readings, organised by Short Fuse, were stories based on Wedding Present songs, with Lou writing a piece based on I'm from Further North than you are. Lou has been writing some great stories lately, and it was exciting to see her performing at an unusual event. Lou has blogged about the event here.

It's been a busy weekend: swimming in the sea, revisions on the novel, visiting the tip, and moving my library from storage to my new room. I also visited Metrodeco, where I had Lapsang Souchang and a massive meringue. I'm loving being back in Brighton.


A Tuesday in London

Yesterday I took a day off and wandered up to London with Richard Willis. We left Brighton at the break of dawn, arriving in the capital by breakfast time. We walked from Victoria to Trafalgar Square, which was my daily commute when I last worked in London. Arriving at the square who should we see, but the Mayor of London. It seemed like a good omen for the day.


Prompted by meandmybigmouth's recent visit, we started out with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery where they had the exhibition for the 2010 Portrait Competition. It was as impressive as the previous ones I've seen, but for some reason left me feeling melancholic. I don't know if it was the pictures selected, the early morning, or something else, but all of the images felt like memento mori.

The painters had worked so hard to portray their sitters. Many of the labels discussed the personalities the artists had tried to capture. But as soon as the picture was finished, the sitter would be aging, becoming less like their image. Maybe I should feel the same way from photography, but I guess the difference is that painting takes so much more time. Everything I saw seemed somehow elegaic.

After that we visited the British library for the Magnificent Maps exhibition. It made me want to be a little boy again, scribbling maps of places I loved and places that would never exist. We also visited the permanent exhibition where we saw the first page of JG Ballard's crash, a type written sheet covered in scrawled amendments. We also saw Scott's diary, which never fails to move me – I still find it hard to believe that things could have gone so wrong.


A stroll across town took us to the Tate Modern, but we discovered we had had our fill of culture. Instead we sat on the balcony and watched the clouds pass by. As the sun came out we saw some interesting shapes.

 Our final event of the day was the Proms, where we took advantage of the £5 standing tickets. It was a long wait but the queue was friendly. I eavesdropped on our near neighbours, a teenaged boy telling a couple of girls about the wonders of special relativity and what happens as a body approaches light speed. "Best of all," he said, "Your mass increases." "That's a boy thing," one girl said to another.

 The concert was fascinating. I've been to the proms before, but never this close to the orchestra. It was amazing to watch the players – the patience of the percussionists as they waited for their moments, the way the double bass players seemed to dance with their instruments. We heard three pieces, diving out during the third; my favourite was Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. A couple of reviews of the night are here and here. I know next to nothing about classical music (other than don't clap between the movements!) but it was a good evening.

After that we had a mad dash back to Victoria for our coach home. We were delayed by an electrical fault, but a visit from Sammy's Garage soon had us underway. It was a long day but a lot of fun.

Brighton and Hove Parkrun

I'd been meaning to attend the Brighton and Hove Parkrun for a while, but I finally made my first visit yesterday. My old friend Mr Spratt was visiting and suggested that we get together for the run then go for coffee. 

The Parkrun is a great idea, enabled by modern technology. You register on the website and receive a barcode to print out. Then any Saturday morning, you turn up at one of the Parkrun events and do a 5K race. At the end of the race you receive a positional chip, which this is scanned along with your personal barcode. A few hours late the statistics from the race are put online. Best of all, the event is free.

I was suprised at how slick and organised the event was. The course, two and a half laps of Hove Park, is well marshalled, with a clearly marked finish line, and lap timings. The group is friendly, applauding the volunteers and first timers at the start line. Free T-shirts are given to regular attendees, for 10, 50 and 100 races run. 

The run itself feels halfway between training and a full-on race. Sharing the same route with 180 people is a good experience. Even on a drizzly August morning, after being up too late the night before, the Parkrun was great fun.

The results were released a few hours after the race. There are a wealth of information for the Parkrun (Average run time: 00:25:47; Total Distance Run at Brighton and Hove: 95,790 km) as well as race reports, and photos. There are also personal statistics, I managed 25:22 and came 119th, 11th in my age category with an 'age grade' of 51%. 

I'm impressed at how simple and well-organised the Parkrun was, and even more that it was free. After yesterday's session I feel more excited about running than I have in a while and, despite the trek to reach Hove Park, I'm looking forward to going again. 

Recent Photos 1

Postings from an edge has written a summary of Wednesday's writing event.

 I spent last weekend at the Blythe Power Ashes with Joh. We saw lots of bands, most of which seemed to feature our friend Deacon. A lovely weekend of camping, old friends, music and water shortages.


I'm also loving being back in Brighton. There are so many things to see walking around the town. I hope the person who lost their trike gets it back.

Not for the faint-hearted workshop no. 3

Last night saw the third of the write club creative writing events. Sadly Ellen was sick with flu, so I ran the session by myself. The format was the same as before: a photograph is displayed on a projector and everyone writes a story or poem inspired by the image. There is a time limit, after which everyone takes turns to read some or all of what they've written. The only rule is that you're not allowed to apologise for your work. 

We did a series of rounds -I've linked to the creative commons-licensed photos used in the list below: 

I'd picked all of the photographs and it was only later I realised that most of them were images of Brighton seafront. I am going to mix it up a little at the next one.

I love hearing the range of stories produced at Write Club. The time constraints sound imposing, but people seem to thrive on knowing that they'll soon be reading their work in front of the group. Some of the stories were hilarious, and all of them had something exciting in them. It was also interesting to see how many interpretations people can make of the same image.

One of the most exciting things about the event was that I didn't know most of the people attending. I was particularly impressed that one woman had heard about the group at the Playgroup Festival. She'd been talking on a dancefloor with a stranger (another woman I didn't know). After she said she was looking for a writing group, the stranger told her about our event and swapped numbers. Both of them came to the event.

After the two hours was up we retired to the Basketmakers. It was a fantastic evening – thanks to the Skiff for hosting us and to everyone who attended. The next session takes place on September 15th - we're also running our September sessions on weekends in September and October.

A question about audiences

I've recently been thinking a lot about writing, and why I do it. I found myself returning to the columns I wrote in 2009 for the Literature Network. I still agreed with most of the things I had written, but was most interested in the post How many readers do you need?. This argued that people should aim at a small, realistic level of 'fame' rather than all-or-nothing success. As the writer Douglas Coupland put it, "there is a lot to be said for having a small, manageable dream". It's easier to build larger dreams on the foundations of simpler ones.

I drew on an essay by Momus, Pop Stars? Nein Danke, which claimed that in the future "everyone will be famous for fifteen people". Danny O'Brien explored similar issues in How many people do you need to be famous for?

I concluded my piece by saying "There's nothing wrong with being famous for fifteen people. JK Rowling was once less famous that that. Finding those 15 true fans is the first step towards millions of true fans, and is far better than none." Re-reading the essay over a year later, I find the ideas as interesting as I did when I wrote it. But I also find myself wondering: what constitutes a fan? How would this differ from, say, a friend who reads your work?

The Brighton Creative Writing Sessions

On Monday night, Ellen de Vries and I held our first planning session for our upcoming writing workshops. I've run a couple of free flash fiction sessions with Ellen in the past and we have another planned for next week. In these sessions, people are given photographs as prompts and have to write stories on them within a certain amount of time. We have two main rules: everyone has to read something of what they wrote, and nobody is allowed to make any apologies for the work. People seemed to like the previous sessions (Tom Hume has written a post about one session) and we enjoyed hosting them.

The Write Club sessions led Ellen and I to thinking about workshops and what other things we'd like to do. Last month we set up the Brighton Creative Writing Sessions, and we have four events planned in September and October. These sessions will take place in Jake Spicer's art studio, currently home to the Brighton Life Drawing Sessions. We will provide a playful, friendly and experimental environment for people to try new things with their writing.

In the past I've expressed concerns about conventional workshops and creative writing teaching. One thing I dislike is that many conventional creative writing courses focus on publication and 'success'. For me, one of the most exciting things about writing groups is the social aspect.The Sessions want to explore on writing as communication, as an activity that is thrilling and life-enhancing in itself. 

On Monday Ellen and I settled down with some food from Pompoko and planned our first few Sessions. I've designed workshops in the past, but these feel like more of an event. Ellen and I are approaching this as we would a performance or a piece of writing. We want to make sure that, as well as producing some great writing, everyone enjoys themselves and has an exciting experience. We want these to be workshops that people will enthuse about afterwards.

The first session we're holding is Writing and Life, which will focus on the visual aspects of writing. We're going to take full advantage of Jake's studio. I don't want to give away too many details, but I think we've come up with something quite special. You can sign up here. We've done our best to keep prices low, and will be charging £20 for a five hour session, or 4 sessions for £60. If you want to try our next free session, there are still a couple of places left. And please do email me if you have any questions.