My fourth guest-post by Nicola J Vincent; an amazing wordsmith and member of Wrekin Writers. We first met at the LOROS bash at the Guildhall and I was really impressed by her writing. Historic, atmospheric, alive. Here she reports back from a poetry festival attended by a gaggle of laureates past and present. A better place for poets is hard to imagine.
In Close-Up: The Wenlock Poetry Festival
Call me shallow but it was shoes, rather than more literary interests, that lured me to the Wenlock Poetry Festival one weekend in April. A workshop entitled ‘In Close-up: Shoes’, led by the poet Gill McEvoy, intrigued me from the moment I noticed it in the programme of events. After all, if shopping for shoes figures among my preferred pastimes, then surely writing about them must come a close second?
I wasn’t disappointed. Gill was knowledgeable (about poetry and shoes, revealing a personal passion – perhaps that should read obsession? – for red boots), enthusiastic and, importantly, encouraging. By the end of the two-hour session, I had produced a couple of half-decent poems and learnt rather a lot about the history of shoes.
The workshop was the highlight for me in a weekend that delivered what it promised: a celebration of the brightest and best of today’s poetry scene, to paraphrase the words of the festival founder, Anna Dreda, the owner of the award-winning Wenlock Books. With Carol Ann Duffy as patron, it was clear that the first Wenlock Poetry Festival would be something special.
The programme featured a range of workshops and events (for young and old), including readings by Roger McGough, Daljit Nagra and Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales. Clearly, much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t attend every event. I decided to focus largely on the poets with whose work I am personally less familiar.
So, on the morning of Saturday 10th April, I found myself at The Edge Arts Centre in Much Wenlock for a reading by Imtiaz Dharker. Inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking, the event set the standard for the rest of the festival. Next on my schedule was Daljit Nagra who read from his acclaimed Look We Have Coming to Dover! I was fascinated to learn that, despite his success and growing reputation, he still works part-time as a teacher.
The following morning, in the perhaps unlikely (but actually rather perfect) setting of the Methodist Hall, I had the pleasure of listening to a mix of poetry and music by the Welsh poet, Paul Henry. This was followed by a reading by Philip Gross, winner of the 2009 T S Eliot Prize. His work I Spy Pinhole Eye, a collaboration with the photographer Simon Denison, has changed forever the way I will look at electricity pylons!
The festival ended with a powerful dramatisation of Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife by Linda Marlow. When Anna Dreda took to the stage afterwards to announce exciting plans for the future of the Wenlock Poetry Festival, I already knew that, for me, it will be an unmissable date on next year’s calendar.
** A fab LOROS fundraising evening on January 30th! A Spooky Night At The Leicester Guildhall gathered a wealth of local writing talent to entertain the local cognoscenti. Here’s the Roll-call: authors Graham Joyce and Judith Allnatt, actress Genevieve Cleghorn, Scriptwriter Stephen Loveless, Speculators Damien G Walter, JW, Maria Smith and myself, up-and-coming writers Sheila Kondras, Krys Wysocki and (all the way from Shropshire) Nicola Vincent. Promising young talent Brian also shone. Great credit must go to the organizer of the event, Keith Large and LOROS’s Marisa Spitieri (incidentally you can challenge Marisa to do things for charity. If anyone has a tin bath, I’ve got half a packet of custard powder in the cupboard. We could make her sit in a bath of custard beside the Clock Tower).
I read out a short little story of my own called “Life In Film” I also unleashed my werewolf mask on the Leicester public. In an uncanny twist of fortune, I also won the raffle. A big thanks to all my fellow performers, to Keith and Marisa, the really helpful staff at the Guildhall who even cleared up for us after the event and to all of those who attended. You were all outstanding.
** A rumour is going round that Graham Joyce is to come and visit the Speculators. I am a late convert to his writing (I’ve just read the Tooth Fairy –which only came out in 1996 – and I’ll never go near a carp again…), but it is truly top notch stuff.
** My computer died this month. In Nomines Patris Et Filis Et Espiritus Sanctus, Amen. May my hard drive rest in peace.
** I am attending the Writers Industries Conference and an evening with Jane Wenham-Jones in March. Both are great events which allow ample schmoozing time with other writers. I’m down for the lamb and the chocolate cake at the JW-J evening. At last, a decent meal.
** I’m also attending some cool writing courses at the Leicester Writing School. Apart from the Saturday Manuscript Clinics, where I’m polishing my new Vampsov-1938 from a Toyota hatchback into a chrome-finned sexmobile, I am in the last week of Polly Tuckett’s course on writing prose for performance. The course Writing Out Loud is great and full of really awesome writers. Polly runs the Shortfuse evenings at the Y Theatre for prose performance. They are always a good night out.
** Off to the new Phoenix soon. Never been before, but the prospect of seeing “Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter” is about to tempt me from my lair. It’s on on the 19th at 11 pm, if anyone else fancies going.
** They are “restructuring” Leicester’s libraries. What this means is that the Central Library will close. The Records Library will now become the Central Library. Both collections will have to share one building and the music collection will be buried in a library nobody can get to without taking three buses and crossing into a parallel dimension where the City Council gives a shit. The vacated library building will now be used to train job-seekers in finding non-existent work (So at least there will still be plenty of fiction going on there).
** In contrast, Northampton’s main library is celebrating it’s centenary. Last year it was renovated and now looks amazing. Let’s see if Leicester’s changes result in anything half as good.