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.

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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Another amazing day!

ADVENTURES AND EXPERIMENTS WITH WORDS AND IMAGES
for full programme, please see the meetup page

linked here 

Bath Writers & Artists chose their own topics for the forthcoming meetup on Saturday 1st June.  If you take a look at the poster below , you will see why someone outside the group asked whether this was actually the publicity for a year long Bath Writers & Artists’ creative writing course?

We wanted to celebrate the diversity of the group, and the courage of the way members seem to branch out so fearlessly into (for them) untried and untested things.  By focussing on the idea of GENRE, we have all been able to propose almost anything which has appealed to us …… which is how the day turned into the utterly extraordinary event which is postered and previewed here.

Saturday 1st June
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution
Queen Square
BATH BA1 2HN

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The morning space is too small for visitors, but we will have room in the Lonsdale in the afternoon, for friends who would like to enjoy the presentations, share our tea table,  and contribute to the fascinating and illuminating discussions which are certain to take place.

VISITORS WILL BE VERY WELCOME FROM 1.45pm to 4.30pm
ADMISSION FREE

 

 

Fill the stage with the earth

These words by Una Chaudhuri concluded PETER REASON‘s adaptation of the Climate Lens Playbook which shaped our morning session in the Lonsdale Room.  We opened the morning with a passionate essay  by Exeter poet CHRISSY BANKS on The Place of Poetry in a Time of Catastrophe which asked

What, I wonder, is the place of poetry in maintaining some kind of hope, reason and balance in the face of a world that seems to be spinning out of control? How can we meaningfully face climate change, war and social inequality with our words?

and offered us this inspirational answer

When a poet loves the world but hates what is happening to it, writing is a way of containing the chaos experienced –  the anger, frustration, disappointment and powerlessness. Poets can wake people up as long as they can stay awake themselves.

‘Poets can wake people up as long as they can stay awake themselves’ might almost have been the theme of the whole day.  The writings we shared were so intense with energy and commitment that the meetup simply became more and more compelling as the hours went by.  AMA BOLTON has already done a brilliant post, Of Trees and Tygers and Catastrophe, on her WordPress site Barleybooks ( link here).  I won’t be trying to add to any of her detailed account, with its rich library of useful links, except to quote the post’s final words

…..but it’s time to face the apocalypse head-on and do something about it. The expression it’s not the end of the world has gained a horrible new relevance.

Moving on …..

The Climate Lens Playbook, which Peter Reason had adapted so skilfully to the short space of workshop time we had available, proved to be a wonderfully illuminating way to think about the poems which had been submitted by VERONA BASS, AMA BOLTON, EILEEN CAMERON and LOUISE GREEN. We will be using it again when we have our follow-up session on Saturday 20th July.  ( link here ) We will also be using the poem Rise  (link here)   which Peter introduced in the afternoon, both as an inspiration and as a model for our own work.  The link on the Barleybooks site is excellent.  Please use it if you are thinking contributing to this Day. ( I will be messaging out in more detail how to shape your contributions very soon.)

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The two authors and performers of the poem ‘Rise’

Our audience…..

What an amazing gathering! What an electrifying afternoon!  What a responsive group of friends and strangers flocked to the Elwin Room!  I counted 43, and know that a few more trickled in for SUE SIMS‘ launch.  The atmosphere was unlike any meetup I can remember and it felt from the first moment a huge privilege to be part of this remarkable event.

Afterwards, also how good to hear that someone had written in about the pleasure she took in our inclusivity – three senior poets helping FLORY WISDOM with her remarkable debut reading, the lively Bard of Bath performing alongside an eminent academic who has now completed his formal career.

Another inspiring response from another visitor new to our events :

I feel deeply that something huge is happening – as if we are all being re-arranged. That everything is going through a huge transition where things have to be undone in order that they can be recreated on an altogether different plane. And here it’s the role of the artist to enlighten our inmost thoughts – some of which, as yet, are inaccessible for very many people.

I will be writing to these new friends and asking whether they would like to send us a contribution to this post.

And here is a lovely summing up from our very own  VERONA BASS which I was so delighted to receive in my emails four days afterwards

in BRLSI on a clear bright day

we bear witness to catastrophe;

is this blue sky thinking?

 

PLEASE USE THE COMMENTS BOX BELOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS DAY.

And please make sure that you are following this blog if you would like to come to more of our events.

 

Another cornucopia of good news

So much has happened for the wonderful Bath Writers & Artists since our January post. And so many good things are going to happen soon.  I’ll write up the archive first.  But please scroll down to the end of the post to see some of the events we already have in prospect – and mail in your requests to be included in the first ‘shout’ when it goes out. For any of you following this blog, who would like to join the group, we still have room this year for a few more members. Use the contact form if you want to get in touch.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Terrific final workshop in the morning, with brilliant pieces of writing brought in by SARA-JANE ARBURY, VERONA BASS, SUE CHADD, CLAIRE COLEMAN, MARILYN FRANCIS, LOUISE GREEN, MIRANDA PENDER, GRAEME RYAN, JUNE WENTLAND, SHIRLEY WRIGHT,  and EILEEN CAMERON.

New member PETER REASON joined us for the afternoon to introduce the work he plans to do with us on The Place of the Arts in a Time of Catastrophe. This produced a wonderfully lively discussion across the Elwin Room and set the mood and theme for the dedicated meetup which is going to take place at the end of  March.

We also had time to hear open mic readings from three of our 2018 subscribers who will be moving on  – SUE CHADD, LINDA SAUNDERS and SHIRLEY WRIGHT – and from four of our new 2019 subscribers – EILEEN CAMERON, PENNY GARDINER, PETER REASON and FLORY WISDOM, whose own ‘showcase’ reading has been scheduled for the end of March.

Flory with ms

Flory Wisdom Showcase 23rd March 2019

There was a bitter-sweetness about saying goodbye to such good and longstanding friends, all of whom have contributed so much to our meetups over so many years  and all of whom have such excellent reasons for being unable to sign up for another full year’s programme  of events in Bath.

Saturday 23 February 2019

This was the day for our third  ‘Homeric Afternoon’ which this time had parted company completely for a while from its original brief to read right through The Odyssey.  It had also very sadly lost its foothold in the beautiful Bradford-on-Avon garden where it started out, and had instead to snuggle itself rather tightly into the Southfield living room. ( A move much appreciated by the resident Maine Coon cat. )

Reading right through The Four Quartets was our ambition for the afternoon. We achieved this, along with lively discussion and digression quartet by quartet, but at the expense of leaving quite enough time for the delicious food which had been laid out so lovingly in the kitchen waiting for us to break.  A few of the group had to dash away hungry – something we think we may remedy at our next meeting by scheduling a ‘Homeric Late Breakfast’ instead of a ‘Homeric Afternoon.’

Many thanks for their contributions culinary, thespian and intellectual to VERONA BASS,

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The ice was all around… Gustave Doré, 1876

CLAIRE COLEMAN, ANN PRESTON, CONOR WHELAN and SHIRLEY WRIGHT. ( Also for their indulgence of the Maine Coon cat. ) It has been suggested that we might read The Ancient Mariner at our next meeting, to continue the redemptive journey theme.  If we choose this, I have suggested we might introduce a new dimension by exploring Gustave Doré’s breath-taking illustrations, many of which are now available to view online.

Incidentally……The ‘Homeric Afternoons’ are open to everyone who subscribes to the Bath Writers & Artists group – depending only on how many an offered private venue can accommodate. Please get in touch if the prospect interests you

Forthcoming Events

The 2019 programme is already richer and more varied than ever as you can march 23 poster pm pdfsee by browsing the calendar details on the header menu on the blog.  The meetup on 23rd March will be one of the most exciting we have shared, with contributions during the day from fifteen talented subscribers, some already well-established members of the group, others new.  A huge thank you to everyone involved in creating this wonderful programme: ALI BACON, VERONA BASS, AMA BOLTON, EILEEN CAMERON, CLAIRE COLEMAN, ANN CULLIS, PENNY GARDINER, LOUISE GREEN, MARGARET HEATH, MIRANDA PENDER, ANN PRESTON, PETER REASON, SUE SIMS, CONOR WHELAN and FLORY WISDOM. Please look at the programme Page to learn more.

and finally…..
advance notices …..

FOUR EVENTS IN PROSPECT FOR 2019/early 2020

PETER REASON will be giving a workshop on Nature Writing later in the year.

CONOR WHELAN will be giving a workshop early in 2020 under the working title  ‘Begin afresh, afresh, afresh’, borrowed from Philip Larkin’s poem The Trees.  This workshop on the theme of renewal will be Conor’s  final appearance as the Bard of Bath.

MARILYN FRANCIS & SUE BOYLE are co-organising a meetup Day on the theme of Childhood on Saturday 21st September and will be messaging out for submissions very soon.

SUE BOYLE will be offering a whole day workshop on Memory, Imagination & Dream sometime later in the year.Screenshot 2019-03-15 at 16.27.37

PLEASE REGISTER YOUR INTEREST IN ALL OR ANY OF THESE FUTURE EVENTS NOW if you would like to get on board. They are open to all members of the Bath Writers & Artists group.

What a way to end our year!

There were fifty people in the Elwin Room when we counted at 3pm – FIFTY people on the day Bath Christmas Markets opened, on the day of the Artisan Fair outside the window in Queen Square, on a day when most sensible people –  unless they wanted to go Christmas shopping – might well have avoided Bath.  We had a marvellously engaged and responsive audience, made specially lively by the colourful contingent who came to hear Larkhall star, artist JUDE WISDOM answer questions about her work.  This followed a powerpoint presentation of selected pieces to accompany ANN PRESTON’S eloquent Appreciation, which we might be permitted later to include in the blog.

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One of Jude Wisdom’s artworks included in the show

The Realms of Gold concert was also mesmerising with some of our finest readers and most admired poets delivering a powerful programme of prose and poetry.  We all love drama, except perhaps an organiser waiting at 1.55pm for the arrival of  the always reliable CONOR WHELAN who had promised to open at 2.00pm with a recital of Kubla Khan from memory.  The piece really mattered to establishing the meetup theme.  Only the wonderful talent and good temper of STEPHANIE BOXALL saved us from listening vainly to the silence of the void.  Hers was a marvellously sensitive and compelling reading and it gave our afternoon a flying  (albeit for this organiser a nailbiting)  start.

The shared tea was unusually spectacular.  Many thanks to VERONA BASS for taking charge of managing the tables, to all the generous providers, and especially to FLORY WISDOM who had been baking for us for days. FLORY will be presenting her poems for the first time on March 23rd next year, our youngest contributor so far and also definitely one of our culinary stars.  It was quite difficult to coax the audience away from the food and each other’s company and back to their seats for The Letters from Mexico .  

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One of the slides for The Letters from Mexico with grateful thanks to Frederick Lord Leighton and Henri ‘Le Douanier’ Rousseau

This must surely have been one of the most delightful launches, for an author, that anyone could have had. Other than the little pieces of linking narrative, all I had to do was listen, enchanted, as friend after friend delivered my sonnets better than the author could have done, while PETE SMITH serenely showed the slides.  The Letters from Mexico has now, under GRAEME RYAN’S excellent direction in Taunton,  been a costumed play; had a formal launch at the excellent Teignmouth Festival of Poetry; an outing to the Beaufort Bookshop with audience spilling out on to the pavement and the glorious accompaniment of an overhead thunderstorm; and now presented itself in Queen Square, to a wonderful audience who had travelled, among other places, from Dublin, Exeter, Reading and Appledore.

Many thanks to all the writers and artists who played a part in this excellent afternoon: VERONA BASS, CHRISSY BANKS, AMA BOLTON, STEPHANIE BOXALL, CLAIRE COLEMAN, CLAIRE DYER, NIKKI KENNA, ANDREW LAWRENCE, MIRANDA PENDER, ANN PRESTON, GRAEME RYAN, LINDA SAUNDERS, SUE SIMS, PETE SMITH, CONOR WHELAN ( much better late than never ) and SHIRLEY WRIGHT

Many thanks, too, to the people who provided such a wonderfully supportive audience, among whom were CAROLE CATLING, B&NES Senior Arts Development Officer ANN CULLIS, poet MARILYN FRANCIS , botanical artist CAROLINE FRANCES-KING, Walcot State Choir’s BRIAN GOODSELL, singer CAROLINE KAY-MOUAT, poet MERETTA HART, Secure Broadcast CEO HELEN LENNON, SIMON LENNON, writer and teacher MICHAEL LOVEDAY, poet PAT MILLNER, artist MARK PENDER, author PETER REASON, writer and publisher TESSA STRICKLAND, JILL SWALE, writer JUNE WENTLAND, DAISY WISDOM and  LUTHER WISDOM, all of whose presence was such a pleasure and such a joy.

The next scheduled appearance of The Letters from Mexico will be at The Swan Hotel in Bradford-on-Avon on Thursday 26th September 2019.

The next fully programmed meeting of Bath Writers & Artists group will be in the BRLSI on Saturday 23rd March 2019.  The day is already rich in themes and interest. Please visit the programme Page to see the details if you would like to play a part in this.

 

sue boyle / organiser bath writers & artists group