Responses to “Voices of Exile and Remembering”

AMA BOLTON WRITES : The response to our first meetup of the year has been tremendous, as you will see from the excerpts below. Graeme has given many of us new performance skills and a new confidence, both of which I’m sure will feed into our future meetings. He has also set a very high standard of curation; a hard act, as they say, to follow! Nor will it be easy to follow Sue’s exemplary writing. But we shall do our best.

Huge thanks to Graeme for his inspired and inspiring direction of two thrilling, deeply moving and unforgettable performances. I too wished I could have experienced them from both sides of the imaginary line between actors and audience.

Thanks also to Sue Sims and her team of volunteers, who made sure that the curators did not need to worry about any housekeeping matters.

 

 

FROM MARILYN FRANCIS
What a privilege it was to learn something of the nuts and bolts of putting a performance together, and to work with a group of people, who didn’t know each other particularly well, to produce and perform a viable piece of voice drama. And last of all to rehearse and participate in a real live performance with an actual audience. All in all, it was a most moving, thought-provoking and, ultimately, uplifting experience. I don’t know when I enjoyed a Bath Writers and Artists meet-up more. And, once again, thank you, Graeme, for all the work you put into making the day so special.

FROM VERONA BASS
Many many thanks, Graeme, for the interesting theme and the way you held it all together. You never faltered in your support, and full attention. I admire the way you got us going straight away and then extracted all that we could bring to it in such a short space of time.
The resonances across places, times and cultures.
The poignancy of words that say it how it is.
The impact of voices chanting in unison and repeating a refrain:
‘ Fair these broad meads – these hoary woods are grand; But we are exiles from our father’s land. ‘
The images.
The dignity of dramatisation.
The chance to empathise.
Fulfilling the task: ‘Remember that this has been’ (Primo Levi)
The final phrase:
‘To be human / is to be cast out of Paradise/ not once but time and again’

FROM SUE BOYLE
Graeme Ryan’s superb design and curation of this Meetup Day took Bath Writers & Artists to wonderfully enriching and stimulating new places which we could never have reached without his meticulous planning and professional experience. My abiding thought is IF ONLY the morning had been twice as long so that we could have delved more deeply into the possibilities for creating new work in small collaborative groups.  In particular, I would have loved to experiment a little more – design a first collaboration, try it out, take it back for a rethink to the drawing board, try it out again.  Something similar applies for me to the afternoon work on Report from the Judenplatz. The participants worked so well under Graeme’s direction, and with such focus and dedication, that it would have been marvellous to have had time for reflection and feedback and then perhaps to explore the possibilities offered by attempting a second presentation of the play. I can only record these IF ONLYS because the whole Day was such an absorbing and spell-binding experience to share, and seemed to open so many enticing doors to future possibilities for everyone in our group.

FROM EILEEN CAMERON
After the sadness of the night before, Saturday’s workshop exploration of Exile and Remembering was very appropriate. My only regret was that, as well as taking part in the afternoon performance of Sue’s Voices from the Judenplatz, I would have liked, at the same time, to have been watching it as a member of the audience. Despite the sombre nature of the material being explored, the workshops were fun and enlightening in unexpected ways. Thank you Graeme for conducting the workshops so brilliantly. It must have been exhausting. Thank you Sue for giving us Voices from the Judenplatz to work with and thank you Ama for all of your unseen work behind the scenes. I was also very impressed by those still able to sway, bend, wave arms, kneel etc. over and over again.

FROM JANET SNOWDON
I found Saturday exhilarating, innovative and inspiring. We came together as a disparate group of people with bits and bobs of writing developing into an inclusive whole that brought everyone together. The morning’s activities were a preparation, as well as a performance in their own right for a production I would have thought impossible to create in such a short time. It also brought the group together enabling a shared creativity that catalysed us into something moving uniting us as a group. So many thanks to Graeme and Ama and Sue for an inspiring day.

From a Subscriber 
It was interesting to see the interpretation as a semi-staged script-in-hand. I was very familiar with the poems on the page, and I wasn’t sure whether a staged interpretation would give me something more, or different. For me personally, I still prefer to read the poems on the page and ‘make my own pictures’ in my head. This is NOT a criticism of the performance, which was amazing! – this is just my personal preference for how I respond to Sue’s words. Also recognising that Sue’s words are so precisely calibrated and under-stated, they produce those ‘pictures in the head’ with such power and impact. Incredible that the group was able to produce something so coherent and confident as a performed piece in two hours.

I thought the interpretation kept almost always to the right side of ‘show not tell’. The use of multiple voices was the most successful element, for me. The slide images were expressive, wordlessly, in a far more powerful way than the stage movement by speakers which, at times, I found too ‘busy’. Also it would have been better for the audience to have been facing the slides with the performers in front of the screen (but I appreciate that then the performers wouldn’t see the slides).

On the technical side, when I arrived the group was still workshopping and
rehearsing, and I was really interested in watching and hearing how Graeme directs. Well done to everyone!

From a Subscriber
My most searing moment of the day – of a day of many deeply felt searing moments – was when we were asked by Graeme to pack suitcases for our family. And Ann wailed ‘But we must take Fido! I want Fido!’ And I was instantly her anguished mother, with a far far deeper understanding of the experience of those persecuted than reading words on a page could ever achieve. Which depth of feeling was brought to the surface in the morning, thanks to Graeme’s creativity and direction, and maintained throughout the afternoon in the privilege of performing the monumental Report from the Judenplatz. Thank you, Graeme, Ama, Sue, for an extraordinary day.

From a Welcome Guest
It’s important to me to express my profound gratitude to you for providing the inclusive and safe space for me to participate in our collective expression and response to harrowing memoirs and accounts from times that need to be remembered, but are sometimes too painful to do so. I have long known that I couldn’t bear to go to Auschwitz to see the reality of the holocaust – the thought, the concept, of this blind cruelty is more than enough pain for me to bear. And yet I wonder if this denies or diminishes in some way the personal experiences of those who suffered such atrocities? I am wondering, now, if I had avoided exposing myself to such emotional vulnerability because I felt that I couldn’t do anything, personally, about it?I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t heal anything. This was so much bigger than anything, anything, in my own experience. And I don’t even know if it touched any members of my extended family – so far removed am I. And that leaves me feeling awful. A bystander to historic events and questioning my awareness and engagement in the palpable concerns that this could, is, has, is now, in other countries, in our own, within families, communities, cultures happening even now, again and again and again with no learning. And for me, Sue, as an afternoon ‘supporter’, when you suggested I might be able to take part in the performance I realised that perhaps the time had come to face discomfort. You gave me the opportunity to do so. I hope in some small way I was able to express the artistry of the author’s word adequately. Thank you, Sue, for that opportunity.

From a Subscriber
What a wonderful day we had yesterday. Under Graeme’s tutelage we were able to achieve far more in a short time that I would have dreamt possible. The material we were working with was moving and harrowing at times, yet we all worked so well together in a totally uninhibited way. On a personal level,  I learnt so much from Graeme about how to dramatise a text and bring it to life.

From a Welcome Guest
I would like to say I found the get together unusual, but interesting, not as I had imagined. Feeling a little like a fish out of water, I found, now coming away from the group with time to reflect on the day, I was compelled to use the imagery to sketch out my feelings. These being reminiscent  of what had transpired during those harrowing times. I have already started on a poem regarding the suitcase, as its image has, as you may see, had a profound effect on me.
 

From a Welcome Guest 
Sue Boyle’s Judenplatz work is very powerful. It works well as both a poem and a staged play. I know the Judenplatz from my visit to Vienna a few years ago when l especially wanted to see R W’s Memorial to the Austrian Jews. Gloria and I found it a moving experience as we had also seen another group of sculptures in a busy square that graphically illustrated how Jewish citizens  were treated during WWII . I think the afternoon’s performance worked well because of the skills of the director and the flexibility of the writing group. I was pleased to have an opportunity to participate in such a challenging venture.

From a Subscriber
Many thanks to Graeme for curating such a stimulating day and one so different from our usual sedentary activities. It was challenging but ultimately rewarding to work in a large group and experience the sort of solidarity felt by actors and members of a choir. There are bound to be numerous tributes to the power and poignancy of Sue Boyle’s writing so I will not risk repeating them. Instead, I wish to say what a privilege it was to speak her hauntingly beautiful words. The need to do justice to the lines and testify to the importance of their message inspired us all to produce a final performance that belied the very short rehearsal time.

From a Subscriber
This was an amazing and profoundly moving day.  I really valued the chance to work in a small group in the morning collaborating with them to create a fresh piece between us. Then the opportunity for each group to share more widely was also welcome.In the afternoon Graeme somehow managed to pull the whole group -plus some newcomers – together to create an ensemble piece for “Report from the Judenplatz” in a ridiculously small amount of time. Yet I feel we managed this and audience feedback corroborates this. Well done to all involved.

From Morag Kiziewicz
I feel the whole day enhanced my thinking around poetry and performance, and send thanks to Graeme and to Ama for holding and backing such an intense experience.

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 …..

Untitled 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Untitled 5

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.)

Screenshot 2019-03-31 at 15.53.02

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,

Dore_-_the_ice_was_all_around

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.