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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.

Humber Mouth Wide Open

The school holidays are nearly over, the weather’s turning and the stress levels are cranked up to critical – it can only mean thing… 

HUMBER MOUTH’S NEARLY HERE!

We’re looking forward to a different experience this year, part of a wider literature programme that’s taking over Hull and the East Riding. It kicks off with Contains Strong Language, our sister festival, moving on to Humber Mouth, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Out of this Word and closing with Hull Noir. 

The full Humber Mouth programme is now available for your delectation, with brochures winging their way across Hull as we speak, and you can also peruse events and book tickets online at humbermouth.com. This year brings Will Self, Sara Pascoe, Monica Ali, Melvyn Bragg, Neil Astley and Sally Gardner – to name but a few – to join us for our 25th anniversary celebrations. 

By October 8, you’ll have laughed, pondered, crumpled, argued, procrastinated and probably googled a lot of stuff – just your average Humber Mouth, then. 

Wrecking Ball Press is also proud to be partners with the BBC in delivery of flagship spoken work festival, Contains Strong Language. Featuring The Unthanks and the haunting music of Molly Drake (mother to Nick Drake), Kate Tempest, Kathryn Williams, Dr John Cooper Clark and many, many more, it’s going to be an fascinating, inspiring weekend of words, voices and passion. 

Book your tickets now – while you can!

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. 

Cover_Dream_Catcher_34

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 

 

m w

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.

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POETRY AND PROSE FROM THE POSTMAN 

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*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