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A Day in the Life of Ted Lewis

A Day in the Life of Ted Lewis

As part of the 2017 Humber Mouth commissions programmes, Hull City Arts commissioned Ted Lewis Group to present A Day in the Life of Ted Lewis’ to showcase his remarkable and far-reaching talents. 

Monty Martin put pen to paper to give us an insight into Ted’s life and loves, and how the commission came together. 

A Day in the Life of Ted Lewis

Ted Lewis, local novelist, artist and musician, died from lifestyle illnesses in 1982 aged 42. Despite significant achievements and influence, his name is sparely recognised, although a mere mention of the film and novel, Get Carter, evokes an immediate knowledgeable reaction. Hull City Arts decided to commission Ted Lewis Group to present ‘A Day in the Life of Ted Lewis’ which would showcase his remarkable talents at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival (2 – 8 October 2017).

Ted lived life to the full, unconsciously illustrating this by entitling his first novel, All the Day Long and All the Night Through (1965) but to do justice to his character, escapades, and talents required examination of more than event, appropriately in places early influences.

At Wilderspin National Heritage School in Lewis’ home town of Barton upon Humber, former friend, Nick Turner, (now nominated for North Lincs Council’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year) graphically illustrated their early life as neighbours and friends. Describing their youthful activities ranging over the South Humber Bank estuary with its deserted industrial landscape later described in Get Carter, he was supported by a comprehensive static exhibition and novel readings from Group members. These were followed a popular conducted Ted Lewis Trail with the alternative option to view The Beatles’ film, Yellow Submarine, for which Lewis was responsible as Animation Clean-up Supervisor.

The story moved on to The Minerva near Hull’s newly refurbished Fruit Market area. With a changed clientele, this popular respectable gastropub once boasted a colourful past in which Lewis revelled, a haunt of trawlerman, prostitutes and such Humber Ferry travellers as Ted who travelled across the Humber to study at Hull College of Art and Design, graduating in 1960. Visitors, including contemporaries, re-lived those heady days with Monty Martin (Chair of Ted Lewis Group) who presented heritage graphics, tales of the revolutionary freedom, jazz and Ted’s artistic and renowned prodigious romantic activities (“You only had to open a stationary cupboard door and out fell Ted with his latest girl”).

Hull School of Art and Design hosted a discrete and rare screening of Eric Barbier’s 2006 film interpretation of the Ted Lewis 1971 novel Plender, a dark tale of blackmail and corruption set in Hull and Barton. The story was explained by Nick Turner supported by novel readings from Group members and Hull University’s Matthew Crofts who later treated the select audience to a comprehensive explanation of noir writing and influences.

Finally, The Lairgate Hotel in Beverley hosted a packed audience, again including some of Lewis’s contemporaries (one of whom featured in his first book and was now visiting from Australia), who enjoyed excellent dining to traditional music from the resident New Orleans Climax Jazz Band. Ted Lewis had played piano in Hull’s’ renowned 1950s Unity Jazz Band and his friend and Unity trombonist, Ron Burnett, not only guested with Climax but reminded the audience of Lewis’s Unity’s life, entertaining throughout East Yorkshire. The icing on the cake was a donation by one visitor of an original signed Unity Jazz Band card, a remarkable artefact to end a success.

Ted Lewis Group can be reached at frankiesatthirtyfive@gmail.com and thanks Hull City Council for its sponsorship of a successful event. The Treasure House in Beverley will hold a Ted Lewis Exhibition from January 2018 in conjunction with the Group.

Dean and The Hull ’17

If you haven’t heard, Contains Strong Language will be running from National Poetry Day (28 September) to 1 October, with a diverse programme to please purveyors of all forms of the humble spoken word. 

Celebrating both new and existing work, it’s packed with world premieres, concerts, outreach activity and television commissions, and is produced by BBC Radio in partnership with ourselves, Hull UK City of Culture, Hull City Council, Humber Mouth, British Council, BBC Learning and a number of poetry organisations.

At the very heart of the festival is The Hull 17 – an ensemble of the country’s most interesting and diverse artists commissioned to create new work in the city throughout the duration of the festival. We’re delighted that our very own Dean Wilson forms part of this collective, alongside Kate Tempest, Jacob Polley, Imtiaz Dharker, Helen Mort and 12 more incredible artists. 

Dean is currently poet in residence at BBC Radio Humberside until September 2017, and has joined forces with poet Vicky Foster to inspire the local community to send in poems about where they live. Called Landlines, the poems, written on postcards, will be hung from washing lines in Hull Central Library on Thursday 28 September to celebrate the start of the Festival. 

We published Dean’s first full-length collection, Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe On The Streets, last year – buy your copy here.

 
 

Gordon Burn Prize Shortlist!

You must have been somewhere far away, warm and oblivious to not know that the wonderful Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe has been announced as a shortlisted titled for the 2017 Gordon Burn Prize yesterday. 

Showcasing some of the most interesting contemporary writing in its wide-ranging selection of titles, The Gordon Burn Prize celebrates work that is far-reaching, eclectic and provocative. The other brilliant titles on the shortlist include: 

  • Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Granta Books)
  • First Love by Gwendoline Riley (Granta Books)
  • The Long Drop by Denise Mina (Harvill Secker)
  • This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan (Faber & Faber)
  • This Is the Place to Be by Lara Pawson (CB Editions)

If you’re not familiar with Adelle’s latest work, get up close and personal with it here. Telling Andrea Dunbar’s story in print for the very first time, it’s a tale of the North/South divide and of how a shy teenage girl defied the circumstances she was born into to become one of West Yorkshire’s greatest dramatists.

Dunbar, of course, wrote Rita, Sue and Bob Too!, scandalous at the time not just for its notorious tagline ‘Thatcher’s Britain with Her Knickers Down.’ It was a box-office smash, but fame brought anxiety and Dunbar found herself struggling with the media attention, pressures of family life and writer’s block. Succumbing to the pitfalls of drink, she spent her last days in her local pub The Beacon where she completed her final script based on a gang of unscrupulous debt collectors. In 1990, aged 29, she collapsed from a fatal brain haemorrhage.

A bittersweet literary depiction, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile explores a world whose themes are more relevant today than ever. It also marks the arrival of one of the UK literary underground’s best kept secrets.

Adelle Stripe was born in 1976 and grew up in Tadcaster. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester University and is the recipient of the 2016 K Blundell Award for Fiction. She teaches at MMU.

Adelle is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry, the most recent, Dark Corners of the Land, was 3:AM Magazine’s Poetry Book of the Year. Her writing has appeared in publications in the US and UK including The Guardian, Stool Pigeon, Caught by the River, Penny Dreadful and Chiron Review.

The winner will be announced at Durham Book Festival on Thursday 12 October 2017, tickets available from the Durham Book Festival website now – wish us all luck!

The Weird And Wonderful World of Peter Knaggs

A great review of Peter Knaggs’ “You’re so vain (you probably think this book is about you)” by Dick Ockleton in Dream Catcher Magazine. 

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It’s not every day you come across a poem with the title “Scunthorpe Police Swoop on Lunatic Bean Fetish Man”, but by the time you reach page 72 of Peter Knaggs’ “You’re so vain” collection, it doesn’t seem anything out of the ordinary. “Normal for Knaggs”, you might say.

You know you are in for something different from the off. The arresting cover – a face formed from a pair of scissors, a comb and a button, should seem harmless enough, but there is something unnervingly fierce about it and the significance of those bloody (literally) scissors comes back to haunt you.
Page by page, Knaggs has the ability to surprise, intrigue, amuse, sadden and shock in equal measure and it makes for an oddly addictive collection. You really do want to know what happens next. The accessible style of these pithy, cleverly crafted pieces keeps you turning the pages.
Knaggs’ gritty, witty poems take you on a journey through a world populated by meticulously observed and totally believable ordinary people, just trying to get by on a day to day basis. You are introduced to their shortcomings, their labours, their hopes, their dreams and their frequent disappointments. They just keep at it, ever more inventive in their efforts to keep their heads above water by whatever means, be it working in unrewarding jobs, lawbreaking, fighting, practical-joking, conning. And, now and again, the odd murder is dropped into the mix – quite literally in the case of an adulterous trapeze artist. Those scissors also make a couple of appearances, broken and sinister.
They are a motley bunch, Bobby, Billy, Ox, Banana Dave, Arnie, Stiggy and the rest. You join their lunch breaks and eavesdrop on their conversations. The author’s acutely-observed scenarios and quirky fine detail (“White bread impressed with grey fingertips like dabs down the nick”) put you right there with the characters. You could perhaps warm to some of these lads, but you definitely wouldn’t want to meet Gasher on a dark night.
But the hapless, ever-optimistic Crusoe is the star of the show. He appears as a steady thread running through the book. There is more to Crusoe than meets the eye. Stuck in an unhappy marriage, too scared of his wife’s brothers to get out, he “sometimes wants God to give him his receipt so he can take his whole life back and get a refund”. Even his own mouse traps attack him. Crusoe has firm opinions on what does not constitute modern art, and is meticulous about cleaning his van. He is on a relentless (so far unsuccessful) quest for self-improvement, but has also been known to “moon” in Macdonald’s. His frequent appearances and obviously sympathetic treatment might lead you to the conclusion that he is the narrator’s best mate.
Recurring themes of poverty, law-breaking and tediously stupid, incompetent bosses, are lightened by moments of joy and release. There is a character who goes up on the roof in all weathers to escape – “it’s the quietness, the otherness, the being above”. There are “boisterous shirts” which apparently make the wearers irresistible to the opposite sex – or is that just the beer talking? Even the relentless bashing of inept managers is punctuated by a couple of moments of (almost) sympathy for their situation. The ongoing fight between the “Devil” and “God”, or the pitying parallel drawn between a boss and an old library book that nobody wants to borrow.
But now and again you are brought down to earth with a bump. The gnawing poignancy of a woman who dies, alone, with “two losing lottery tickets in her purse”, or the helplessness and horror of a football stadium tragedy.
And then there are moments of pure whimsy – a relationship with a mermaid, or a “Clockwork Orange” style over-luxurious use of language to describe the gluttonous “Badger the Cadger”. You can almost hear the slobbering.
This collection is a pick and mix of real lives. It takes you through the highs and lows and it makes you stop and think. Never boring, it crackles with originality. The wry wit keeps going right through to the end, with the final poem’s take on being hard up – directions given to an imaginary bargain hunter on how to navigate by a succession of “Pound shops” to reach the ultimate goal – a shop that sells everything for 10p – Paradise!
All in all, a refreshing read.

Dick Ockleton

 

Subscribe to Dream Catcher here: http://www.dreamcatchermagazine.co.uk

THERE, ON THE HORIZON, SWINGING TOWARDS US …

So what (un)earthly delights are we offering in 2017? 

Here’s the line-up so far :

JULY 

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile

by Adelle Stripe 

adelle author pic

 

“You write what’s said, you don’t lie. Or say it didn’t happen when it did all the time…”

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile is the keenly anticipated debut novel by Adelle Stripe and is inspired by the life and work of the Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar.

 This slice of kitchen sink noir tells Dunbar’s story in print for the very first time. Featuring a cast of real and imagined characters, it is the result of four years’ painstaking research that has unearthed the hidden story of one of the North’s most enigmatic figures. It is a tale of the North / South divide and reveals how a shy teenage girl defied the circumstances she was born into to become one of West Yorkshire’s greatest dramatists.

Set in the Thatcher era, it maps the extraordinary rise of a young woman from the Buttershaw estate, who is discovered via a Women’s Aid refuge. She is propelled into the London theatre establishment and an adapted screenplay of two of her early plays brings her wealth, accolades and notoriety, while raising three young children.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too! is a national scandal upon its release, and its tagline ‘Thatcher’s Britain with Her Knickers Down’ ensures it is a box office sensation. Fame brings anxiety however, and Dunbar is unable to cope with the media attention, pressures of family life and writer’s block. She slowly succumbs to the pitfalls of drink and spends her last days in her local pub The Beacon, where she completes her final script based on a gang of unscrupulous debt collectors. In 1990, aged 29, she collapses from a fatal brain haemorrhage.

One of the most important writers of her generation, this remarkably stubborn ‘genius straight from the slums’ recorded the everyday realities of working-class life. Dunbar’s unflinching autobiographical plays included themes of domestic violence, underage sex, poverty, racism, alcoholism and the declining status of men. By using frank and expletive-ridden dialogue she created a no-holds-barred account of the underclass composed in the tradition of social realism.

A bittersweet literary depiction, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile explores a world whose themes are more relevant today than ever. It marks the arrival of one of the UK literary underground’s best kept secrets.

Adelle Stripe was born in 1976 and grew up in Tadcaster. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester University and is the recipient of the 2016 K Blundell Award for Fiction. She teaches at MMU.

Adelle is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry, the most recent, Dark Corners of the Land, was 3:AM Magazine’s Poetry Book of the Year. Her writing has appeared in publications in the US and UK including The Guardian, Stool Pigeon, Caught by the River, Penny Dreadful and Chiron Review.

Her prose-poem The Humber Star will feature at Hull City of Culture 2017 as part of John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux programme. She has recently recorded vocals and lyrics for production duo Smagghe & Cross. Their experimental ambient track Cock of the North will be released in spring on Offen Music.

Find out more at: 

www.adellestripe.com

 

AUGUST 

Spit and Hiss 

by Mike Watts 

 

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photo by Jerome Whittington

Spit and Hiss is the fourth collection by Hull born poet Mike Watts. As well as carrying Mike’s trademark brutal honesty and hardboiled insight, these poems betray a deeper and more lyrical maturity to Mike’s current way of looking at the world. From corrupt local councillors and lost weekend lovers to memories of youthful exuberance and present-tense mid-life panic, all life is here, in all it’s marvellous bare- arsed glory.

Here’s a little taster, a poem called Let The Good Times Roll, which has been selected for publication in The Morning Star:

 

Let The Good Times Roll

 

His tearful mug crumbling from the front page of the local rag,

the political candidate swore-blind he’d been punched

simply for posting his party’s propaganda.

 

Turns out he was being economical with the facts,

 

the alleged ‘man-mountain’ of an assailant insisting he

didn’t take a swing at all,

 

he merely objected to having unwanted junk posted

through his letterbox and attempted to return it

by pushing it back into the posters pocket.

 

The candidate assumed it would be good publicity if he

reported it,

so the local press sent out a team to capture HIS version

of events.

 

The paper has an on-line comments section.

It stirred-up quite a debate.

 

Some said the guy was probably an unemployed thug

whilst others defended him.

 

Personally, I think the political candidate is a weasel

(I think most of them are)

and in this town I think he got off pretty lightly,

considering his politics.

 

This crappy bull-shit no-news story made front page,

so obviously all is well;

 

diminishing crime rate, zero unemployment and

the local economy booming.

 

Quick, pour the cognac, light the fire-works,

pass the cigars;

at last, we’ve cracked it!

 

In other news, Mike has just had a poem “Yorkshire Princess” selected in this year’s “Anthology Of Yorkshire Poetry”. 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 

 

International Poetry Collection … TBC (!) 

 

 

OCTOBER 

We Know What We Are

Short stories by Russ Litten 

 

RUSSPHOTOPAINTING

painting by Mark Hebblewhite

 

The debut short story collection from the author of “Scream If You Want To Go Faster”, Swear Down” and “Kingdom”. This latest batch of tales are all centred in and around Hull in the year 2017 and feature a cast of citizens whose lives play out in the furthest edges of the penumbra of the City of Culture spotlight. 

 

Here’s a short excerpt from “The Light That Lights The Dark”, which previously appeared in “Pearl” in the USA and “Verbal” in the UK. 

He gets up before you, goes downstairs and lays the table; a plate of toast with the margarine at two o’clock, the jam at three o’clock, a mug of tea on the right hand side and the knife on the left. You sit and eat together and talk about the day ahead. He tells you that it looks like it’s going to be a nice day outside and you should both go for a walk, blow away the cobwebs. When you’ve finished breakfast he runs you a bath and holds your hand as you step in. He washes and conditions and rinses your hair and then goes through to the bedroom and lays your clothes out on the bed from left to right; knickers, bra, fishnets, the long multi layered black and mauve skirt, the black satin bustier, your favourite mesh top. Then he gets himself dressed and flicks through the TV channels until you call for him to help you out of the water.

   And when you’re dressed he blow-dries your hair, your head between your knees as the heat roars around your scalp. Then the backcombing, the gentle tugging and teasing of his fingertips and then the throat catching blasts of hairspray, the mist settling on your spikes like a sticky net. He sits you down in front of the mirror and does your make up. The cold lick of foundation and the tickle of the brush on your cheeks and forehead. He describes the colours he’s using around your eyes, the purples and the greys and the greens and then falls silent as he leans in closer and concentrates on drawing in the lines around your eyes, the arch of the brows and the cat lick at each corner, his warm breath at the side of your face.

   I’m getting good at this, he says, and you say that you’ll be the judge of that.

 

NOVEMBER 

 

Debut Poetry Collection from exciting northern punk poet … TBC! 

 

We’ve also got amazing short story and poetry collections coming up from some very exciting new and established names. But that’s not until next year. In the meantime, if you want to get on the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club and take advantage of our ludicrously generous nature, please follow this link here:

 

http://wreckingballpress.com/product/wrecking-ball-press-book-club/

 

In the meantime, steer by the light of the whalebone and look after each other. 

WBP

x

 

 

One Minute Inquest – Peter Knaggs

 

Can you cook? What do you consider your signature dish?

I don’t like to comment on my ability as a cook, I’ll leave that to those that eat my food. I really love cooking, especially things that you can get involved in like a soufflé or a risotto. Of course I’m far too working class to have developed a signature dish, but it goes without saying, that my Yorkshire puddings and Toad in the Hole come out well every time.

A few years ago, I become besotted with baking bread and that has stayed with me. Sourdoughs are the way to go. Scotch morning rolls, always good. My bread explorations led me to discover Arkatena bread, a Cypriot recipe which uses gram flour, chickpea flour that is, for the polish. Truly, it is the most amazing bread I have ever tasted.

Recommend a book to cheer us all up? 

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

The most triumphant, jubilant, pump your fist in the air and cheer book I have read. It is impossible to read this book and not be happy or cheered up. Buy it right now! I don’t say this lightly, because I’ve read thousands of books and this is singular in springing to mind in that this story, which is a good story, it is so up-lifting. What else is there? Do you know any? The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint maybe. If you are going on holiday, take Ron McLarty with you. It will make your holiday.

What was your favourite game as a child, and why? 

My favourite game is psst, which I still play, given four people who will acquiesce, at any given opportunity. There is the normal version, or you can introduce a tennis ball or football for variation. Endlessly amusing, everyone should play psst everyday and the world would be a better place. In fact here’s an idea for a book. Lose Weight by playing psst… For those uninitiated, you need five players who form a quincunx, the corners being roughly four metres apart. The participants psst each other and if the psst is acknowledged, the psster and the acknowledger exchange places. The person in the centre of the quincunx attempts to steal a vacant corner and replace the switchers. If successful, the runner heading towards the now occupied corner goes to the middle (does that make sense?) Anyone fancying a go, I’m always happy to demonstrate.

If you weren’t a writer, what else would you have liked to be?

Are you presuming writing to be my career and asking what other career I fancy or if I have a propensity for another proportionally futile and self-indulgent activity? I have always enjoyed being Peter Knaggs and I think I am the best person for the role. In the eighties I co-ran a mobile disco called Itchy Feet. Itchy Feet Pete, available for weddings, birthdays and football dos. I would have liked to have been a highscoring winger such as Andrei Kanchelskis. If I could sing I would front a rock-a-Billy band, The Love Cats.

I fantasize about monetarizing the things that I am good at. I am good at and enjoy listening to music. Would it be possible for a workaholic time-skint stiggy who, in wanting to be cool, may pass over this role so that somehow he could become vicariously cool? Re-holidays, I am good at going on holiday, so maybe there is a time-skint workaholic who hates holidays who would pay another to go on holiday for them?? I have this other fantasy (impossible to exist) job. I can see myself presiding in a comfy upholstered chair in a room not dissimilar to the James Reckitt Reading Room at the library, a bow-tied Jucundus; I have the vision of being sat there turning the page of a poetry book and reading it silently to myself. I’d be wearing a dog tooth jacket and my lectern style desk would have an ink pot, for some reason I would swaddle a quill and get paid for being a poem reader. As well as this I’d like to be taller and more handsome. Radio DJ that would be a good one, getting paid to play music, that would be good.

Which part of the world has made the biggest impression on you?

I have been lucky enough to go to Croatia, Montenegro and Portugal out of these, today, the memories of Montenegro spring to mind. It is utterly beautiful, rugged. Snow-capped mountains descend to the sea, so unlike Hull. Because of it’s troubled recent past and it’s slow economic development, there is very little infrastructure. By this, I mean there are endless tracts of coastline with no adjacent road. This results in a touristless, tranquil unspoilt beguiling sea.

There was this one day, my wife and I and our two kids went on a boat – I call it a boat it was like a Spanish Galleon – to the Bay of Kotor. The crew were pirate-like. Unexpectedly halfway through our journey the crew brought out a feast of Mediterranean fare; cheese, olives, bread salami and brescola, as much as we could eat, and then they brought out the wine. The boat anchored up and the passengers could jump off the boat, swim in the sea and climb up the rigging to get back on board. Swimming in that ocean, the mountains right there. That was magic.

When was the last time you were utterly terrified? 

I took my kids to Go Ape. Now, my son is of the type … well, listening to health and safety talks at seven wasn’t his thing. Anyhow, you go up into the canopy of the forest and they have these zip wires. Now having both my son and my daughter, I was a bit uneasy, because it meant at any given time we would be on a platform fifty foot up in the air, then if the girl went first, she would have to unhook herself, using the correct method and in the right order – safety hoist, carabiner, belt-hook, second safety rope etc – and me being at the other end of the zip wire, I would be unable to check and if she got it wrong. Consequences could be fatal. Being in between my two, that petrified me.

Favourite book cover?

I own hardbacks of all Bukowski’s prose published by Black Sparrow Press, Hollywood, Hot Water Music, South of No North, they all spring to mind … and the cover of The Reater number one … and I like the cover of The Slab of Fun, mostly though, or numero uno, I would say is The Book of Fuck.

Writing Tip?

Writing is about one thing, doing it. Write! Fill the wheelie bin every week… In the longer term, write like you. Write with individuality, write like no one else, then you will be remembered, if you are lucky.

Pull a portrait out of a magazine and have a go at describing a person’s face. don’t just do it once, do it a few times. Practise, get good at getting down the detail.

Favourite TV moment of the last 50 years?

Well, remember that programme, I forget what it was called but it was on BBC4 on Worldwide Egalitarian Day, where justices are restored to their natural equilibrium. It was great programme, firstly the BBC itself, as a concern paid for by the populace, had to restore the workforce to an equilibrium where it contained seven percent or less of staff who hadn’t attended public school. Then it was the bit were Cameron had to go to Scunthorpe and give three of his vehicles to Martin, who was on a zero hour contract at Asda. The best bit though, it was the faces, those public schoolboys walking out of the BBC buildings with their glum looks and their folders and files. Anyhow, this bit where they erected a Marshall speaker outside Dom, of Dick and Dom’s house and every seventeen minutes it emitted a BOGIES at volume. Twenty one days in and Dom comes out and he kicks the speaker, he starts punching it, wild-eyed and addled. We knew, of course, that the speaker was rigged so that if it was punched it would broadcast a BOGIES thirty seconds later, which riled Dom even more. Justice was truly done that day, he was zany, demented, off his head and I laughed my head off.

The last song to stop you in your tracks?

Music, eh! I’ve been listening to and enjoying the Mexican band Cafe Tacuna a lot. The last music that made me go f**king hell. That has to be William Onyeabor, ever since I’ve been slightly hooked on Nigerian funk from the sixties, there are two tracks that are particularly gobsmacking, from Who is William Onyeabor? The first is Atomic Bomb, the second is Fantastic Man. If I wasn’t on question 10, I would probably say more. But do have a listen. It is remarkable and you would have difficulty pinpointing which decade this stuff comes from, so ambient, so funky, so mysterious, so bloody cool.

 

 

 

One Minute Inquest – Lee Harrison

The first in an occasional series of brief yet intense quizzing sessions with our writers. 

Today, we interrogate the master of epic kitchen sink fantasy, Lee Harrison. 

 

 

LEEPHOTO

 

Can you cook? What do you consider to be your signature dish?

A nice curry – but its not signature because it changes every time – an ongoing flux curry.

Which book would you recommend to someone who needs cheering up right now?

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Things can always get worse.

What was your favourite game as a child, and why?

I used to love playing block in the dark, back in the days when kids still did that sort of thing. I was good at hiding in plain sight, and enjoyed the mix of applause and unease this provoked.

If you weren’t a writer, what else would you have liked to be?

A jellyfish

Which part of the world has made the biggest impression on you?

THE SEA. THE NORTH.

When was the last time you were utterly terrified?

Utter terror is never far away. It sits on my shoulder like a fucking parrot.

What is your favourite book cover of all time?

There are loads, but I was particularly fond of an old paperback edition of The Hobbit I had, that featured the dragon Smaug posing on a mountain top. He made smoking look cool.

Tell us a writing tip

Don’t give up your day job, and don’t listen to writing tips.

Favourite TV moment of the last fifty years and why?

It’d have to be an old, formative one because these days i don’t watch it. I’ll say Rik Mayall on Jackanory, reading out George’s Marvelous Medicine, and showing off how naughty and cool and hilarious and slightly sinister books are and should be.

What was the last song to stop you in your tracks?

Just the other day I heard Still Life by The Horrors, and it sent me into a lovely, and most welcome daze.

WRECKING BALL PRESS BOOK CLUB

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POETRY AND PROSE FROM THE POSTMAN 

Here’s a happy notion – a brand new Wrecking Ball Press title delivered to your door every single month! Here’s how it works – you send us a cheque for sixty five quid and we send you a book on the same day every month for a year. We’ll pluck one out at random, or you can go through our back catalogue and pick the book you want.* Choose from literary legends like Dan Fante, Roddy Lumsden, Geoff Hattersley, Niall Griffiths and exciting new voices like Dean Wilson, Lee Harrison, celeste doaks, Andy Fletcher and Peter Knaggs. Good, eh?

So what are you waiting for?  Hit this link

http://wreckingballpress.com/product/wrecking-ball-press-book-club/

 and we will add you to our lovely list of lit. lovers who will be getting a years worth of words, one month at a time.

*Excludes 2017 titles onwards.

TALKING DOORSTEPS – FINAL BLOG ENTRY

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Wrecking Ball Press have teamed up with The Roundhouse and the BBC in a global project that will see Hull performance poet Joe Hakim travel to Trinidad & Tobago. Talking Doorsteps is for spoken word artists aged 16-25yrs and offers an accessible and interactive physical and digital community to share and platform work centered on the theme of HOME. Starting from next week, Joe will be observing and participating in workshops with young Caribbean poets before returning home and working with young Hull poets, then bringing the two artistic communities together for a performance in September as part of the “Contains Strong Language” Poetry Festival, which will be programmed by the BBC and Wrecking Ball Press. Joe will be writing daily blog entries so we can follow his progress. Here’s the last instalment.

It was the final night of the project. There would have to be a day of evaluation and that kind of stuff, but essentially this was the end of the line. The Café Mariposa was buzzing, and it wasn’t just the hummingbirds. When the place opened around five years ago, it was just a café. Eventually they added the guest rooms, and their latest project was the construction of the amphitheatre as a performance space. The idea being to just build a small family enterprise, a little business that could show visitors another side of Trinidad, a rural retreat away from the hub of Port of Spain. And it was working. There was a good vibe about the place, and the surroundings and good food were the icing on the cake. There was the issue of remoteness, but the bumpy ride to and from Lopinot became part of ritual. It was a small price to pay for that feeling of being truly away from it all. At the foot of the hills, surrounded by the dense rainforest, it was easy to put ‘real life’ to one side and just get on with creating stuff.

I wrote a small poem as part of the project, and even though it was a slight, little thing, there was still the question of whether I’d be able to edit it and get it committed to memory. But out at Mariposa, in-between the workshops and gigs, I found that I managed to do it just by taking the odd ten minutes and wandering about in the grounds of the café.

In addition to it being the culmination of the project, it also marked the launch of the performance space out the back. Everyone was mucking in to make sure it was a success. A lot of the village are related to the Guerrero family, cousins, nephews, nieces, so we had plenty of volunteers to help out. While a cocoa-covered suckling pig cooked over charcoal, people, from old to young, dashed about, arranging seating, putting up lights and trimming back bushes and shrubs. This was their chance to sell their burgeoning bed and breakfast not just as a place to stay, but as a performance space as well.

Marcia remarked that she had seen us on the telly the previous morning, and that she’d received a load of bookings just after it aired, so she was feeling cautiously optimistic. I was pleased for her.

The space at the back was special to be fair. Dug into the ground, with staggered sides providing three tiers of seating, the small stage area faced away from the property and up towards the wild, wild hills. There was a sweet-spot in the middle of the stage, an area that would produce a crystal-clear reverb, meaning you could hear your own voice as though it was coming through in a monitor, meaning you could get your levels just right. You could stage a mad play in it.

As the participants arrived, we convened and warmed up, and set about working on the running order. Debris plotted the order of the performers like a graph. They had been restricted to a short set time, around four minutes, and they were asked to think about how the tone and content of their poems might fit into the bigger picture of the show, highs and lows, when to follow intense with more light-hearted, that kind of thing.

In a way, this was the final part of the ongoing lessons over the course of the week. As I’ve said previously, Trinidad’s spoken word scene has gained momentum over the past few years due in part to the popularity of poetry slams, so this has produced a slam-orientated culture. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here, and state for the record that I’m not really a fan of poetry slams. Although I think they are a great tool in education, an effective way of grabbing attention and getting people up and reading, I have great reservations about the long-term effects of engaging in slams. I think a lot of it is down to the overt competitive nature of it. I’m all for competition in art, and in many ways, art is dependent on using the achievements of others to spur you on – ‘that’s a great bit of writing, I need to up my game’ or ‘that’s a killer tune, I need to get out and gig more’ – but once it becomes all about points and judges, something changes. What happens is that people tend to find they have one or two good slam poems, crowd-pleasers, and they end up performing the same ones over and over again. And when they set out to write something new, they find themselves trying to emulate the style and impact of their previous work in order to conform to the standard that they feel that they have set previously. Experimentation, messing about, trying something new, takes a back-seat and becomes a secondary concern. You get stuck in a slam rut. Sometimes the rut is so big, that other people become trapped in it. Seeing the success that someone has had with a certain sort of winning style and approach, all the up-and-comers start to model their work and performance on the visible face of the winners; before you know it, you’ve got a scene built on clones.

Maybe, deep down, it’s just the binary nature of it; it becomes about winning or losing.

One of the great things about watching 2 Cents prepare is how they manage to cast aside their usual modes of approach for one that is more egalitarian. Tonight is just a show, a chance for them to do their thing. There’s no winners or losers, just a chance to dazzle a crowd with what they do, what they say. The pressure of having to battle to win the favour of a panel of judges has been replaced by a different kind of buzz, the one of getting out there and doing it for the sake of doing it.

As the night falls and the guests arrive, the whole space lights up. Seeing it illuminated by lanterns and beaded-strings of little lights gives the whole place an ethereal quality. I half expect to see some little goblin wandering around.

To Marcia’s great relief, the place quickly packs out. Not only will the space be baptised in proper fashion, but all of the food she’s spent the day toiling over will be eaten.

Poetry Under the Stars commenced, and I kicked off proceedings with my little poem. And then 2 Cents delivers an absolutely storming set. Freed from the need to compete, they instead weave their individual performances into a bigger structure, one that manages to encompass the whole experience of life in Trinidad, the good and the bad, the beauty and the tragedy, the warmth of the sun and life in the dark. From the impassioned sermons of Emmanuel and Michael, to the comedy skits of Jonathan and Kyle; from the feminist dialogues of Denika and Ashlee to the meditations on peace and relationships from Alex and Kaveesha; from the soul-searching of Idrees and Seth to the exuberance of Isaiah and Leeum; from the explorations of the personal of Ariana, Shania and Kirby to the confrontation of political realities from Marcus and Derron.

Debris topped off the evening with an emotionally charged performance that had the audience looking on agog. It was clear that everyone felt something extraordinary had taken place. (Later on in the evening I would be approached by a woman with tears in her eyes: “I’m so glad I came here to see this,” she said. “I worry about the future that the young people in Trinidad are facing, and this gives me hope.”)

Before we went to eat, the Guererro family took to the stage. They explained that their journey had begun years before, when they toured as a family band, performing parang music, a traditional Trinidadian folk music with its roots stemming from the Venezuelan migrants that made places like Lopinot their homes. After winning a national competition, they returned home, to begin building the place in which we were all sitting. Their father encouraged them, hoping they would build a creative place that musicians, artists and poems could feel welcome in.

Parang has a strong nocturnal connection, they explained. Traditionally, and especially at Christmas, people would visit each other’s houses and perform together. And with that being the case, they couldn’t let us leave without sharing something with us. They played a couple of songs, concluding with, fittingly, a version of ‘Consider Yourself’.

As we headed to over to the house to fill our bellies with pork and tortillas, there was no doubt that in some way we were part of a family.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS

 

WRECKING BALL PRESS

Shane Rhodes

Russ Litten

 

ROUNDHOUSE

Debris Stevenson

Pip Riddick

Sylvia Harrison

 

BRITISH COUNCIL

Debo Amon

 

BOCAS LIT FEST

Marina Salandy-Brown

 

2 CENTS MOVEMENT

Jean Claude

Alex

Ariana

Ashlee

Denika

Derron

Emmanuel

Idrees

Isaiah

Kaveesha

Kirby

Kyle

Jonathan

Leeum

Marcus

Michael

Seth

Shania

And also Isaiah and Vincent

 

CAFÉ MARIPOSA

The Guererro family:

Marcia

Bianca

Hilda

Leslie

Natalie

Ayinde

And everyone else

 

And also thank you to anyone else I may have forgot to mention.

Thanks for reading the blog.

 

Joe Hakim

January 2017

 

TALKING DOORSTEPS – BLOG ENTRY #8

 

Wrecking Ball Press have teamed up with The Roundhouse and the BBC in a global project that will see Hull performance poet Joe Hakim travel to Trinidad & Tobago. Talking Doorsteps is for spoken word artists aged 16-25yrs and offers an accessible and interactive physical and digital community to share and platform work centered on the theme of HOME. Starting from next week, Joe will be observing and participating in workshops with young Caribbean poets before returning home and working with young Hull poets, then bringing the two artistic communities together for a performance in September as part of the “Contains Strong Language” Poetry Festival, which will be programmed by the BBC and Wrecking Ball Press. Joe will be writing daily blog entries so we can follow his progress. Here’s the eighth instalment.

 

As the project hurtled towards its conclusion, the already packed schedule steps up a notch. In addition to evaluations, paperwork and the planning of the Poetry Under the Stars gig that will take place at the Mariposa on the night, we also have to film and record the participants’ poems that they’ve written as part of the project. The blogs that I have tried to diligently write each day (made it to number 5) have become a series of notes and meanderings that I will have to type up at a later date. There’s also the small matter of another school gig to attend.

It’s yet another early start, and the always dependable Ariana shows up to take us to the school before she heads off to work, so we take the drive down the road and onto the highway in the dark.

The conversations that take place in the cars every time we’ve made this journey have been wide-ranging, with subjects ranging from: How many classic stand-the-test-of-time albums has UK grime produced? to Is the British secret service anything like the James Bond films? and the perennial Why the hell is there a billboard advertising paternal DNA testing on the main highway?

But by far my favourite are the conversations that unearth something odd or quirky about Trinidad culture or tradition. On this particular morning, Ariana told us about some aspects of Trinidadian folklore. She tells us about the Duppies, phantom stragglers who wander lost at night, who are confounded by the sprinkling of salt around a house or doorway, because they feel impelled to count the individual grains. And then she tells us about the Douens, the souls of unbaptised children whom died in childbirth, doomed to forever walk the earth. Their faces are blank, featureless, and their feet are turned backwards. They roam through the forests and hang about near rivers. Near places very similar to the one in which we’ve been staying, funnily enough.

“Every night I’ve had to make the drive in the dark by myself, I’ve expected to see one,” she tells us.

The school we’re visiting today is the South East Port of Spain Secondary school. After escaping the stop-start chug of the Macoya highway, we arrive at the school gates. Straight away it’s clear that this is a different set-up to what we’ve experienced previously. All of the schools we have visited have had visible, uniformed security at the entrance/exit, but in this instance, the security is backed by wire fences and big rolling gate topped with barbed-wire. It would take a tank to break in here. The actual school buildings resemble the rectangular concrete high-rises that are dotted around UK housing estates, with class-rooms where the apartments would usually be. The kids are like all the other school-children in Trinidad, smartly attired in matching uniforms, clean white trainers for the girls, clean black trainers for the lads.

There’s a buzz in the air, and the kids whizz about, getting fruit and juice for their breakfasts while I try to limber-up inconspicuously in the car-park (among the many other things I’ve learned this week, the importance of posture is one of them). Eventually the bell rings, and we all file into the assembly hall for the performance. The kids stand assembled while we set up on stage (they stand through the entire assembly too), patiently waiting for us to set up, and then it’s on with the show. Today’s show is being hosted and presented by Idrees and Derron, both of whom are also participants in the workshops. They are both on the older end of the spectrum of the participants, on their way to their mid-twenties, but even at this relatively young age, they are seasoned performers, veterans and champions of the slam-scene that dominates the Trinidad spoken word circuit.

Although they both come across as quite serious, stoic guys when you first meet them, as you get to know them, another side becomes available, and seeing them performing here in front of the kids is a bit of a revelation. Idrees starts things off with a clapping exercise to wake the kids up. Idrees is a deep, deep bloke, a man of faith whose poetry grapples with the kind of unflinchingly soul-searching questions that many of us spend our lives trying to avoid. But in contrast to the measured countenance, he also possesses a gift for expression that can be deployed to great comedic effect (he also has a great knack for accents and voices; by the end of the week he had the Hull twang down. It was uncanny). Within minutes, he had the whole crowd in the palm of his hand, ready for him to deliver his first poem.

Derron is very much a political speaker, his fierce machine-gun delivery and heartfelt pleas taking a hatchet to the headlines of the papers that shriek about murder and corruption. This is a man driven by quest for justice, and a need to highlight injustice. But here, in this context, he delivers a really funny piece about his first girlfriend, and how he learned to respect women, with easy-going warmth that has most of the girls in the audience swooning. It’s a revelation, and it heartens me no end to learn that these guys will be undertaking a 44 date tour of schools after we leave.

It’s my turn, so I get up and do the whole ‘Err Nerr’ shtick again, and once again I’m blown away by the way in which its received

After the gig is over, it turns out to be a two-birds-with-one-stone situation, because both Idrees and Derron want to film their poems in and around this area, and Marcus, who also performed at the assembly, wants to do his just around the corner. We retrieve the equipment from the car and leave it parked at the school, and then we head on out.

Turns out we’re filming Derron’s poem on one of the corners of Nelson Street, which runs parallel to the school, and which also happens to be one of the most dangerous districts in Trinidad. Crime and violence are a way of life here. Jean Claude comes over to me while Debo and Pip are setting up the equipment to shoot and record. “See those two?” he asks, pointing over to a couple of onlookers who have popped up to see what we’re up to. “They’re look-outs. This is a bad, bad place.”

Jean Claude is one of the hardest-working people I’ve met, but he’s also one of the most laid-back. Seeing him on edge like this is disconcerting, to say the least.

We wrap up and make our way to the second location, which is on the roof of a local building. As nerve-wracking and tense as it is, I feel as though it’s vital for me to be here at this moment. It was always important for me to treat this journey for what it was, a cultural exchange. Despite my loud shirts and ready-to-burn pale skin, I didn’t want to be seen as being all ‘Brits-On-Tour’; chugging beers, quaffing rum and stumbling to the next party spot, that kind of carry on. To be fair, it was never going to be about that, due to the full-on schedule and the very nature of the project, but deep down I had major fears about my authenticity, that my being here was somehow a gimmick, born out of the uncanny alignment that is Hull getting City of Culture this year, and me just happening to have a reasonably long track record of slinging words about in Hull. There was no doubting that a lot of my insecurities sprang from the deep-well marked: ‘Hull mentality’, that mysterious reservoir of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy that runs as deep as the Humber. But here on Nelson Street – surrounded by people whom genuinely cared about my safety, but also wanted to share the actual, physical source of the pain that drove them to write – something inside me clicked, and my petty hang-ups evaporated and dissipated in the Caribbean heat.

The roof-top where Idrees recorded his film gave us a 360 panoramic view of Nelson Street and the surrounding area. With its oddly pretty run-down wooden tenements, painted green and shielded by white plantation shutters. With its corrugated iron-stalls hawking coconuts and water. With its crumbling concrete buildings. This little flat patch of chaos, looking out to the indifferent hug of the Northern Range mountains.

The classic signs were there: the all-day bars, the gambling parlours, the rum-shops. But being on the roof-top, shut off from the street via a chained iron gate, the tension dropped slightly, and we giggled and larked about like school-kids. While Idrees was recording with Pip and Debo, Jean Claude, Marcus, Denika and Derron found an area of the roof where a lip jutted out from behind the wall, meaning that from inside the confines of the roof, it was possible to make it look like you could jump clean off the roof. They hastily put together the idea for a video. Jean Claude filmed Derron as he sat on the wall. Off-camera, Marcus can be heard saying: “Don’t do it. I’m sure you’ll start getting more gigs soon. Don’t listen to them, your spoken word career is really taking off.”

Derron says something along the lines of: “It’s no use, I can’t take it anymore,” and then he appears to roll off the roof and we all scream.

To the uninformed the clip looks truly terrifying, like the last will and testament of a doomed man, but to us it was hilarious, and laughed until our sides hurt when we watched it back.

Marcus was the last to be filmed, and the original plan was to film him down Charlotte Street, just a block or so away from Nelson Street, but a world away in terms of activity. The nearest analogue I can think of is Holderness Road, and I mean that as no disrespect to either party. Charlotte Street is shopping district, lined with multitudes of shops and stalls, the kind of place you go to when you want to ‘ger on rerd for a bargain’ (I swear I will never use Hullisms again after this project). It’s a vibrant busy place, the swarm and chatter sound tracked by the massive sound-systems that serve as storefronts for DVDs and music.

It’s at this point that I must mention ‘Full Extreme’ by Ultimate Rejects. If there’s one song that came to define my time in Trinidad, it’s this one, simply for the fact that I heard it most, in the clubs, on the streets, blaring from car stereos as they past. For better or for worse, it’s a bit of an anthem in Trinidad at the moment, as evidenced by the fact that it often will be played two or three times within a single night in a club.

People often make the mistake of assuming that reggae is the national music of Trinidad and Tobago, and while it is very popular, the national music of Trinidad and Tobago is soca, closely followed (and sometimes incorporating) by parang music, which is a little like folk music. Like most musical styles and genres, soca is a hybrid, incorporating elements of soul and funk like reggae, but also really taking its cue from calypso. Big booming brass stabs and horn sections, with fast up-tempo Indian influenced percussion. Modern soca has increasingly mechanised the style into a more electronic form of music, using sequenced drums and synth-lines to provide the big stabs. It’s unashamed party music, designed to get people up and moving, something it’s very successful at. Seriously, if you’re feeling down in the dumps, put ‘Full Extreme’ on at top-volume and crack open a beer. I defy you not to wiggle something.

Anyway, between the competing sound-systems and the general noise of the market, it quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to get a decent recording of Marcus performing his piece to camera. The idea behind Marcus’ piece was one of motion, the general public rushing by while huge decisions were being made for them. Eventually, we settled on the bus-station as the place to shoot, as we were unsure whether security would be unhappy with us shooting it.

Marcus took a seat on the curb, and Pip began rolling. I’ve mentioned Marcus before, but what I didn’t mention was just how talented and focused this guy is. Not yet twenty, yet able to write, rehearse and perform a poem within a day, and able to perform it to camera without making any mistakes. It was a powerful piece of writing as well. Constrained by the remit of creating a short poem for the film, Marcus managed to condense his epic worldview into a short, white-hot piece of rhetoric. A diatribe against the cold, unfeeling wheels of big business as they crush the dreams and opportunities of the average man.

He was so on point that he managed to finish seconds before the security arrived to move us on.

We had the big gig on the night at the Mariposa to get ready for, so Pip and Debo packed up the equipment and we headed back to the car. It was only lunch-time but there was still so much to do.

On the way back, we passed the South East Secondary school. A group of kids had congregated on a balcony overlooking Nelson Street, peering over the side at us. As we got closer I looked up at them and waved. They waved back, and then in unison, they pointed at me and said together: “Er ner, it’s Jer.”