A fruitful meetup in the Elwin Room on the hottest day in June

Thank you so much to subscriber/performers  ALI BACON, VERONA BASS, AMA BOLTON, CLAIRE COLEMAN, EILEEN CAMERON, ANN CULLIS, ANN PRESTON, PETER REASON and GRAEME RYAN, to PAUL BROWNE of the BRLSI for doing our set-up,  and to all our lovely guests.

If only we could spend more time working so happily together, as nine of us did yesterday morning, on ways to improve our performance of our work. Using a set of short ‘audition’ pieces sent in by the group – most of them due to be presented in the afternoon – we were able to work first on the basic essentials of any performance  – audibility and use of the microphone – and then move into the range of more subjective questions which can only arise when an audience can actually hear what a reader has to say.

  • What kind of piece reads well? 
  • Is there a too rich density of detail,  or a too speedy turnover  of shifting ideas and images which will ask too much of an audience unfamiliar with the written text? 
  • Do some  pieces of writing need to be shortened for performance to prevent audience overload and fatigue? 
  • The speed of a reading mustn’t make the audience ‘switch off’ with the effort of comprehension, but is there such a thing as a reading that is too slow? 
  • Are authors the best readers of their own work? 
  • Are ambitious typographical devices (  irregular indentation of lines, for example) helpful in performance, or should they really be kept back for the printed page? 
  • How and how far should a reader honour the line breaks when performing someone else’s work?

Some of  the morning pieces simply sang themselves off the page. These tended to be pieces with a strong and straightforward trajectory –  ‘narrative’ in the sense of working their way clearly through their subject, starting with an arresting moment, maintaining their energy, then closing well.  Pieces whose development was episodic and unpredictable,  pieces whose centre of interest was ill-defined, pieces whose core of energy waxed and waned tended, in performance, to work less well.

The same of course was true of the outstanding sets we heard from some of our subscribers in the afternoon.  The fifteen minute performance ‘window’ is both a huge privilege, and, of course, a trap.   A privilege because so few of us get many opportunities to present our work at this length.    A trap, because longer sets need such tight intelligent structuring and such an unflagging  sense of conviction to hold an audience’s interest throughout.

If only Bath Writers & Artists could find a rehearsal/performance space we could more easily and more frequently  afford!  Those of us lucky enough to be in  the Elwin Room yesterday will look back on this meetup, I think as one of our golden days.

Don’t Miss These ……

So many good things on the horizons  ( the near horizon and the far ) for Bath Writers & Artists that I am gathering them into this summer/early autumn post to make sure you don’t miss anything.  Get your diaries out if you are one of us still running your life in that old-fashioned labour-intensive way. Please note how many links there are in this Post and, as you read, please click and explore them all. This web of activity is  a wonderful  sign how busy and creative so many Bath Writers & Artists are. And this is only a small selection, as you will know if you follow other members’ blogs.

For those of us on Facebook, ALI BACON has now created a special BATH WRITERS & ARTISTS group  page which she has very kindly offered to run on our behalf. Please get signed up, and comment/like when you find the time.  And promote to your Facebook friends.  There might be someone very special out there we could welcome to the group.

Soonest is CONOR WHELAN’S SUMMER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION in Kelston Barn.

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Next up …..

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…our own Elwin Room meetup on SATURDAY 29 JUNE.   All subscribers are welcome to join the afternoon session, as are all subscribers’ friends. For those of us reading on the day, or indeed on any day or any night, AMA BOLTON has very kindly sent us this excellent advice  by Roy Marshall. It’s a really practical, useful and thought-provoking piece.  As I’ve just been given a one hour slot in the coming Appledore Festival of Books, I shall be devouring every word. (Yes, that IS a plug.  I’m so excited, very properly, and also very properly so alarmed! )

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Many of us now are more than half way through ANN CULLIS’ brilliant challenge to contribute to a communal Observers’ Almanac for the month of June.  We have to make our last entries on the 30th, and then have a week to prune down to ten preferred moments from our month.  Bath Writers & Artists has spread its geographical wings for this project, with two separate groups meeting in Bath ahead of Ann’s deadline,  to share and perhaps help choose the highlights from each others’ work.  MARGARET HEATH is very kindly hosting one of these sessions.  I am hosting the other.  Altogether, nine of us will be able to enjoy these convivial editings ahead of discovering the compilation ANN CULLIS will bring to the meetup in July. ( Link here.) I hope that these spin-off small meetings will soon become a regular feature of our group.

Healing Words – Writing through  Cancer

As you can see from the link above, SUE SIMS will be speaking at the Bridport Literary and Scientific Institute  on Saturday 13th July. Her talk, Healing Words – Writing Through Cancer, will be a free event with donations shared between Cancer Research and the Bridport LSI.  Over the years, we have been privileged in the Bath Writers & Artists group to share Sue and Mark’s  journeys and to hear some of the wonderful poems in Splitting Sunlight, which Sue launched with us earlier this year. 

Next up, on 20th July will be our own meetup, when we will be performing ANN CULLIS’ version of our Observers’ Almanac in the morning, and revisiting Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviâna’s remarkable video poem Rise in the afternoon.  PETER REASON introduced us to Rise in The Place of the Arts in a Time of Catastrophe meetup in March.  Between now and then, subscribers are invited to re-view and re-read Rise at home and to write their own responses as though their lines could be interwoven with that text. The idea is to immerse and lose yourself in the poem, your voice becoming part of a chorus joining into that remarkable dialogue.  We will be creating a performance of our contributions during the afternoon. All the links you need here.

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October seems a long way away, but time to mention that there are only TWO places remaining on the Day of Good Poetry based on the workshop papers given in June by VERONA BASS, ANN PRESTON, SUE SIMS, and JUNE WENTLAND.  If you would like to join these four writers and MARILYN FRANCIS, MARGARET HEATH, ANDREW LAWRENCE, MIRANDA PENDER and me in the Murch Room on the Day of Good Poetry, please let me know as soon as possible.

 

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Pluses and minuses of an amazing day

The two meetup sessions on Saturday 1st June were just as rich in variety, content and excellent preparation and performances as we could have hoped.  Preparation for the morning workshop, in particular, had been so imaginative, so wide-ranging and so thorough that we came out of it brimming with new thoughts on a huge range of topics and  with another full day of poetry discussions and presentations already planned.

Four subscribers – VERONA BASS, ANN PRESTON, SUE SIMS and  JUNE WENTLAND – offered us such excellent papers on their chosen themes that we will be using them as the basis for a Day of Good Poetry in October 5th or October 19th, whichever suits the majority of those four writers best. All them have generously agreed already to make their papers available in advance so that we can come to the Day of Good Poetry fully briefed. As usual, watch this space!

All the day’s presentations were excellent – better I think than anyone could have hoped –  which, ironically, brings this post to the first ‘MINUS’ of the June 1st meetup day.  Which, as so often, concerns the ticking of the clock.

FIFTEEN PEOPLE wanted to make presentations, all of them worth every minute of the time we could make available. And many deserving more. But quite a few of these contributors had also hoped for discussion around their work.  Having time for discussion would have certainly deepened and enriched the whole experience of the day. But since most of these same contributors chose to use every available minute of their time allocation either to present or to perform, this left no time in the programme for feedback, Q&A or discussion of any useful kind. Our day overflowed with wonders, but many people felt disappointed that there had been a little too much ‘the successive sounds of one hand clapping’ and rather too little creative dialogue.

THE LOGIC OF THIS IS PAINFUL.  If a subscriber would like feedback on their work, then they themselves have to design their presentation to create the open minutes this will need.  Presentations will either have to be more compact than they were on June 1st, or we will have to arrange more, smaller discussion-style meetups through the year instead of trying always to provide time and space for everyone.

What most writing event  organisers know already is that the largest part of most audiences consists of people who know that they, too, will get their chance to read. The logistics of the lovely Bath Writers & Artists Group are quite brutal in this respect: we must have enough subscribers to pay our rent. And to get our subscribers, we must offer them chances to read whenever they want to, whenever they want to come.

THERE WILL BE MANY WAYS OF TALKING AROUND THIS ISSUE.  THE COMMENTS BOX BELOW WOULD BE A BRILLIANT PLACE TO START…

One of the outstanding successes of the day – there were many, many, many – was the collaborative Observations Almanac which ANN CULLIS launched for all subscribers to take part in during the month of June.  At least fifteen people – not all of them subscribers who were with us on June 1st – have taken up Ann’s challenge which will be emerging in its performance-ready form on Saturday 20th July. You will be able to follow its progress on the meetup Page for that date.

TECHNICAL FAILURE is always the thing we dread.  Usually we manage to get by.  But on June 1st something happened to the colour values being transmitted from the laptop to the projector in the Lonsdale Room and we had to make do with slides which had entirely ( almost entirely?) lost their blues and reds.  ALI BACON, AMA BOLTON, ANN CULLIS and MIRANDA PENDER have all very kindly checked the powerpoint file via a Dropbox link and found nothing wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with the flash drive when I run it through at home.  PAUL BROWNE is investigating on our behalf.  But it was a decided MINUS on the afternoon, and particularly disappointing for ANN CULLIS and LOUISE GREEN whose presentations in their full colour were so very good.

I am creating a Page on the Header menu for thoughts from subscribers what makes a performance presentation ‘work’ .  Those of you who are editors can add to that Page directly.  If other people like to mail me their wise comments, I will add them by cut and paste.  It will be a very tactful way of helping us all improve our presentations without identifying any particular ones which we feel could have been rather better than they were.

HOPING TO SEE AND HEAR MANY OF YOU ON OUR ELWIN DAY ON SATURDAY 29TH JUNE.  LINK TO THAT PAGE HERE: Saturday 29th June 2019

And just until the new poster starts coming in…… a lovely reminder …..

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