Sunday, November 19, 2017

Retrospective moments & Restoration drama

I had high hopes of the current Tove Jansson exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, which I visited on Thursday, and it totally exceeded them. I realised she was more than a clever illustrator from the existential anguish and ever-present incomprehensible wildness that pervades her magical tales of Moominland, but I hadn't expected the richness of her candid & personal paintings - I love this one of her family, with Tove herself slightly caricatured, watching her brothers play chess just before the war. (Lars, the one who is not in uniform, became her business partner & collaborater later in life.)
Tove was a passionate pacifist, and her cover illustrations for the Finnish satirical magazine Garm throughout the war years show her views. This 1944 one is filled with little Hitlers, robbing farms and households, torching barns, and trying on a crown. There's a tiny little creature clasping the M in this cover, and also on others, who later evolved into Moomintroll...  The popularity of the Moomin characters and stories led to comic strips and merchandise but Tove accepted few commercial propositions - for Amnesty, UNICEF and the Red Cross she made an exception. She also seems to have had a filtering policy on her literary illustrations, apparently only taking The Hunting of the Snark, The Hobbit, and Alice in Wonderland.  
After a couple of hours at the gallery I wanted to buy up the gift shop, but calmed myself with a reminder of some of the permanent treasures of this extraordinary little gallery, the first dedicated art-gallery in England and home to treasures like Gainsborough's Linley Sisters, Murillo's street urchins, Rembrandt's Girl at a Window, Reynold's portrait of Mrs Siddons being tragic, and a mesmeric self-portrait by John Opie.
Time then for a wander round the rest of Dulwich with my brother, who has a far better recolletion of this part of south London we both grew up in, me in the 1950s and he in the '60s. It's changed a lot, is all I can say, and all for the better. (Thanks Pete for the picture)

Still on a time-trekking theme, this time back to the days of Abigail's party, with the launch of Return to Kirrin at Hunting Raven Books. Set in 1979, it's an affectionately-spoofy envisaging of the grown-up lives of Enid Blyton's renowned quintet ~ and that's as many clues as I'm allowed without getting sued. Co-authors Suzy & Neil Howlett shared their skills, Neil providing pace & plot while Suzy added detail and nostalgic enthusiasm for Blytonesque style of story-telling: 'like that baby fleece you cuddle up to, and then grow out of.' There's uncertainty around the location of Kirrin, claimed by Dorset as based around Corfe but perhaps more plausibly an island off Cornwall seen by Enid on holiday. It seems appropriate that these origins are lost in the past.  My own experience of the jolly japers is limited to the Comic Strip Presents version in 1982, but then I had an odd childhood. A retro-party at Three Swans led to interesting comparisons of era & values, and lashings of canapes. (Incidentally, the famous phrase "lashings of ginger beer" never appeared in any of the Famous Five books... oops, gone and used the FF words. Sosumi!)
Now a leap backwards of over 300 years, with a revival of a Restoration Comedy classic: The Provoked Wife as produced by Stepping Out Theatre is lavishly stylish and authentic in every Baroque detail ~ even the venue.
Kings Weston House just north of Bristol is a long trek from Frome, but there's something quite magical about watching a play written by John Vanbrugh in the mansion he himself designed for the politician Edward Southey in the early 18th Century. In a room panelled with life-size Gainsborough-esque portraits, with lighting enhanced by chandeliers, an in-the-round performance allows the audience an intense connection with the shenanigans and improprieties of the characters. In these genteel surroundings, we sit quiet as the sylphs in Rape of the Lock (Pope too is scathing of the affectations of this era), and find ourselves voyeurs of plots both predacious and mendacious. I won't go into details ~ there's a lot of story, and it moves fast ~ other than to say the wife in question, Lady Brute, decides to take revenge by an affair, and the knock-on effect is no end of lasciviousness and frivolity. In the midst of this is a jealous neighbour and her french maid, who is really a bloke called Tom (Sam Dugmore) in frock, wig, and lippy. There's an abundance of frocks, wigs, and lippy actually: the provoking husband dons one when drunk, the magistrate he's hauled up before next day is clearly wearing a corset... Costumes are a huge part of this show, as is the amazing music (baroque with undertones of Benny Hill) created by Colin Smith and John Telfer.
The cast of eight are all strong, creating audience rapport in every scene: I was especially moved by Lady Brute and Belinda (Stephanie Manton) in a scene of rare intimacy without their wigs ~ a poignant reminder that behind the apparent licentiousness of these bored, intelligent, young women, their options were... well, nonexistent. Women, married or not, had no rights, however violent their husbands. This clever production is not only fabulous to look at and very funny, it manages to remind us of the kind of 'English' values best left behind. We're still working on some of them... Directed by Briony Waite, with the Stepping Out company support team in baroque finery to set the mood, and an after-show supper in the dining hall as extra excitement.

A half-hour Uber-ride, and three centuries, away in central Bristol, Luke Wright was performing The Toll at the Wardrobe Theatre. This photo isn't quite right hair-wise, but I can't find one closer: the Johnny Bevan look is gone and it's boyish again ~ in fact Luke still complains he's I-Dd regularly when trying to do grown-up things. It's probably difficult to know how to follow a multi-award-winning show (for both acting and writing) and Luke has gone back to what he also does so well: intimate performance of powerful poems. His tour takes its name from his latest collection, but it's the chat that makes these poems ones to hear as well as read. Luke is a master of traditional formats and wordplay and wit, but it's his narrative ballads, serious, satirical & often sad, that stay. And I really like that he opened with one inspired by coming to Frome and seeing Cley Hill.


Which brings me nicely back home to Frome, where Wednesday was an excellent night at the Grain Bar Roots Session with Swampgrass, an amazing blues band from Glastonbury, ably supported by Julian (Bugs) Hight.





As winter creeps in there's been much lantern-making, in free workshops run by Mel Day and Aliss Vaas, where so many lanterns have been made I'm surprised there's not a national shortage of withies and tissue and sloppy white glue. It's all for a candlelit procession on December 1st, and this is Orion's creation in progress, being recorded by a Danish film crew who arrived in town last week to film the Doings of Frome ~ the sort of thing that often happens here.


Finally this week, Sunday's Chocolate Festival, an annual jollity when Cheese & Grain hall is crammed with stalls dedicated to all things chocolatey, from a recreation of Willy Wonka's Factory garden to chocolate shoes and make-up, there's every colour, texture, and flavour imaginable & then some more (lime & chilli is delicious) and the smells are amazing. Here's a glimpse of the crowded hall, with Empress of Chocolate herself, Jo Harrington, looking happy. As she should.  Now I'm off to nibble on a slice of Kraken Rum & Raisin Cheesecake. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

History decides winners... you may not always agree

A visit to the Wardrobe Theatre is always a delight: proper pub theatre in the heart of Bristol, only a short walk from the station via the new Avon footbridge, and more importantly every show I've seen there has been fantastic. How to Win Against History didn't break that record. Based on the true story of Henry Paget, 5th Marquis of Anglesey, this musical is fascinatingly entertaining not only because the three performers have masses of talent & charm but because Seiriol Davies's witty, absurd, script is based on intense research: this is a character study of weirdness uncontrolled by the usual social limits of access to funding. Henry's status allowed him extraordinary excesses. To quote the annotated script that I couldn't resist buying: 'Born to inherit the empire, instead he burned brightly, briefly, and transvestitely through his family's vast wealth, charging round Europe dressed as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine or sometimes a butterfly, in a car with rose-scented exhaust fumes...'  Henry died in 1905 aged only thirty, and his family erased every trace they could of his existence. The Evening Express headed their obituary 'A Wasted Life', and wrote reproachfully of the man who became bankrupt on £100,000 a year and 'bought diamonds as an ordinary man buys cigarettes'.  Social familiarity with psychiatric definitions was limited at that time, but envy of wealth wasn't. These days, when abuse of personal power is increasingly under scrutiny, the colourful exploits and foibles of this gentle, generous, man seem almost innocent. How to Win Against History is a co-production with Tobacco Factory Theatres. Image: Mihaela Bodiovic

A quick blast of music now: Rebel Heroes at the Cornerhouse, best Bowie tribute band I've yet heard...  and The Raggedy Men on  the busking stage dazzling a large crowd with their 70s retro-punk at the Independent Market last Sunday.
Stallholders and strollers enjoyed a wintry sun for this ~ I  popped into the Magpie market hall too, to check in with Frome Writers Collective and to take a look at Matt Straker's art in the Grain Bar.   And now the glitter-arti opening at Black Swan Arts is over, there's an opportunity for a quiet look at the exhibition of winners from an Open Arts contest that attracted over 900 entries. Viewer responses to the winning choices have been mixed: some find the pieces inscrutable and the artists' notes obfuscating, but then as Picasso said art should not aim to please. It all made for an interesting writing workshop on Monday, impressively led by Louise Green who suggested subterfuge as an overall theme: the artists' meanings concealed, as poets also often do. There's a link to our writerly responses here, and as contrast to the elusiveness of those ~ mainly pale-toned ~ exhibits, here's Matt's vigorous portrait of Dave Grohl. Exhibition on till end November.

Frome Writers Collective social evening at the Three Swans this month featured readings from the nine 'writers in residence' in shops and cafes during the festival. To suit the festival theme, the writers' trigger was a Jane Austen line: passionate Darcy's plea to Lizzie "Surely, you must know it was all for you." Responses ranged from humorous to murderous, poignant to absurd. Writer Tim Bates was chosen as this year's winner ~ fittingly perhaps, as it was his original idea for a one-day "sweatshop" that we pinched off Bruton Festival of Arts and brought to Frome...

I'm not familiar with Günter Grass's picaresque tale of the Nazi regime through the eyes of a perpetual child, but 'the team that brought you Dead Dog in a Suitcase' was enough to entice me to Bristol Old Vic to see The Tin Drum. As always with Kneehigh, the on-stage musicality is fantastic, visuals amazing with great use of shadows and symbols,  and a terrific ensemble performance team but this time though there's the usual verve, the story-telling feels weak. The first act is mostly personal back-story and only after the interval does a real sense of allegory develop. But Oskar as a puppet (created by Lyndie Wright) is superb, with an expression both wise and naive: despite his drum he's not an initiator and his observation seems more like the incomprehension of the little man than the deaf-dumb-blind secret power of a Tommy; neither the Messiah nor a very naughty boy, perhaps only a delusion of innocence. And there's memorable moments: one is when nice kind Alfred arrives home sporting a red armband, innocently excited by the new group forming to empower the lives of folk like them… and another is the trail of tiny refugees across bodies on the stage as the cast sing sadly. The end will either comfort or disappoint you.
Artistic Director Mike Shepherd's company is legendary, and for this production he has Ali Roberts (Tobacco Factory's loss) as Executive Producer as well as Carl Dead-Dog Grose as writer, and Charles Hazlewood composing and ~ well, it's Kneehigh, 'one of our liveliest national treasures' as The Times has sententiously observed, so book before the company heads on off on tour.  On till November 18th. Images Steve Tanner

Back to the present now, and the regular retelling of WWI history. Siegfried Sassoon is buried near Frome in Mells churchyard, and his grave always has flowers on November 11th. Sassoon like Wilfred Owen was unequivocal in his opposition to the conflict:
"You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by, 
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go."
Meanwhile in town the Cheese & Grain was enjoying a day of electric dreams, showing off a range of vehicles including the Mark 1 Tesla Roadster, Renault Zoe, & various bikes. Frome Car Club has gone electric so the Zoe is available to hire, but the Tesla is more photogenic. David Bowie's movie Labyrinth was shown in the afternoon, powered by Electric Pedals.
A frivolous footnote to conclude this melange of past & future: when you lick your first-class stamp to send those belated reciprocal festive greetings, give a thought to the cheery santa steering through a sky Van Gogh would have appreciated: this image, picked from over 9,000 entries, is by a young Frome artist: well done Ted Lewis-Clark! May all your moons be golden.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Art, drama, poets, rebels & reprobates: a busy week...

A big week for art in Frome, as Black Swan hosted their Arts Open event with a launch night crammed by celebrity judges of the ilk of Mariella Frostrup and sponsors like Hauser & Wirth and Babington. Naturally, with big names handing out big cash prizes, the private view was too rammed to really see any of the art but there were plenty of smiling faces and I do know that first prize, plus a mentoring award, went to Katherine Fry for her video of a woman sucking a table leg.
Also pictured: the installation which judge Seamus Nicolson feels represents contemporary confusion, and Bea Haines' Nest, picked by Rachael & Gary of PostScript for the 3D prize. I'll go back for a proper look at Words at the Black Swan workshop.

Straight on then to Merlin Theatre for Lemn Sissay giving a dramatic reading of his one-man play Something Dark Until earlier this year Lemn was mostly known as a performance poet struggling with a difficult past, but in May he took the extraordinary step of revealing that past not only to the world but to himself, on stage at the Royal Court, shifting his persona from entertainer to something more profound and precious. Lemn ~ his name, he discovered aged 32,  means 'Why'  ~ has experienced many shifts in his life. Fostered as 'Norman', shunted through care homes, crossing the world to find his family and meeting serial rejection, he now works actively with the Forgiveness Project. He sees his search for identity as both unique and universal. From his days as Chalky ~ 'I was nobody, so I became everybody's nobody' ~ to his ultimate acceptance of isolation from his real kin ~ 'Now I have a fully dysfunctional family just like everyone else!' Lemn Sissay finds connection with all of humanity, and a purpose for his own work.
     I am the bull in the china shop
     & with all my strength & will
     As a storm smashed the teacups
     I stood still.
 “It’s about opening up all the dark places that have been closed,” Lemn says “That’s what we’re doing here. We’re digging up the bodies.” Gladys Paulus, whose Hinterland exhibition recently caused such a sensation at Black Swan Arts, would understand that scouring of the past for healing.

From art and life to stage dramas ~ three of them, making for a busy homecoming. Bristol first. Waiting for Godot is so well-known as 'the play where nothing happens’ that any director must feel challenged about what special thing to bring to a new production. Director Mark Rosenblatt at Tobacco Factory brings various bits of things, like pantomime-style audience interaction and bits of slapstick. Estragon (a strong performance from David Fielder) brought a bit of Northern Irish anguish and Colin Connor’s Vladimir brought a bit of gurning comedy, John Stahl’s Pozzo was a bit Wildean and Chris Bianchi while memorably impressive as Lucky also looked a bit like Marley’s ghost; the set was a bit evocative of an unpopular Turner Prize, the costumes were a bit like a post-festival clothes-swap, and the music was... just a bit baffling. It would be good to say that the whole made something fantastic of these disparate parts, but I didn’t feel it did, and the reduced audience for the second act suggested others felt the same. Despite this being a play where nothing happens, there is actually a lot already in it, much of it mysterious and lyrical,, exploring themes in the way dreams do. Friendship and freedom, loss and longing, power and personal choice, remembering and forgetting, the search for meaning and guidelines… all in a random repetitious way with no answers. Just like life, you could say. Previously, after tTF productions I'd head for my friend Bob’s place nearby to talk over a nightcap of other things like his passion for the Scottish highlands, but now he's gone to live full-time in a wee bothy or whatever it is highlanders dwell in, so I plodded back to desolate Templemeads to catch the midnight train to Frome reflecting that weird and hopeless as Beckett's script may be, its poetic intensity works best without diversions and, even with fine actors, his staging instructions need to be observed. Also feeling very grateful for the oasis of Wetherspoons. (Production now touring)

Then to Salisbury Playhouse for a play where lots happens, most of it criminal and all absurdly funny: The Ladykillers, produced in conjunction with New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich & Queen's Theatre Hornchurch has been adapted from the 1955 film by Graham (Father Ted) Lineham. There was an endearing innocence about those Ealing comedies, their Laurel-and-Hardy-level violence and humour, simplistic plots and signalled denouements. Anyone who remembered this one from 1955 would delight in the nostalgia, and anyone who didn’t would surely be delighted by the silliness and gags both spoken and visual, the criminal gang's surreal ‘concert’ which bookmarked the interval, and absurdly satisfying final outcome. The complex set was amazing and deserves a permanent place in a museum or at least a branch-line of its own. On a circular stage, a virtually-life-sized station-house rotated to alternately reveal its exterior, sometimes adorned by fleeing criminals, and its 2-storey interior where the cunning-planning and most of the action took place. Mrs Wilberforce (Ann Penfold) was a delightful antithesis to Miss Marple and the five crooks created their OTT character-types superbly, with each gruesome death impressively slick (special credit to bannister-breaking Sam Lupton's Harry and Damian Williams as One-Round, slow-witted even when knifed. Director Peter Rowe led the production team: Foxton, as well as creating the set, designed the costumes supporting the 1950s look, and presumably also the clever illuminated model of the crime scene. Multiple murder really shouldn’t be so... delightful, once again, is the word. On till 18 November.

Criminals' comic capers on stage are ok when bags of cash are  involved, but terrorism is serious, and so is Daniel Khelmann's play Christmas Eve at Bath's Ustinov Studio Theatre.
Directed by Laurence Boswell in a translation by Christopher Hampton and with an awesomely strong cast, this tense two-hander creates in real-time the hour of interrogation room faced by academic Judith (Niamh Cusack) from a man unknown to her, whose tactics vary from psychological manipulation to browbeating challenge. It's not without dark humour too, mainly from Patrick Baladi who plays Thomas a bit like Gene Hunt from Life on Mars with just a touch of David Brent. It's a great performance, bringing believable complexity to his character even in the least plausible sequences, when  the play seems to be trying too hard to be enigmatic.    Personally I found the discussion of ideology and the dynamics of protest fascinating, though some reviewers might not, and felt the weakness in the script was its unconvincing twists and turns. But definitely recommended, as an entertaining and thought-provoking hour ~ it's on till November 18. I'm now committed to further  research Frantz Fanon, who as well as supporting redistribution of wealth 'no matter how devastating the consequences' wrote Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.  Which sounds like something Lemn Sissay would understand... and also segues nicely to my final review:

The week's not yet over but this post is already brimming with rebellious struggles and you probably have more to do than sit around reading blogs so I'll end with Thursday night at the Wheatsheaves (the pub with four names, aka also The Wheatsheaf, Frome's new Venue and 23A Bath Street): a rabble-rousing evening of post-punk songs and protest poetry organised by Momentum Frome.
After a stonking set of gloriously dissatisfied & disappointed songs from Beef Unit (FB 'band interest': our dystopian present), the headline act to a packed room was Attila the Stockbroker: (FB 'genre': Surrealist performance poetry, energetic acoustic songs, punk rock with medieval tinges! )
Attila talks a lot about politics and the need for social change, but he talks also about his life, growing up in Southwick (one of the 5 'most normal' towns in the country) with a stepfather he resented ~ though he's written a moving poem about reconciling with this 'decent gentle man' ~ about experiencing bladder cancer, nursing his mother, saving his football club, and how it feels to be still actively performing political protest poetry in a post-grime world... His book, ARGUMENTS YARD, which I was delighted to win in the raffle, is 'a cultural activist's eyewitness journey through the great political battles and movements of recent times.' And he's a terrific performer, with unfaltering focus on timeless class struggle, from medieval punk-folk ballads played on thrash mandolin to fresh-today rants and raves ("He's not the Messiah or a naughty boy, he's the man Murdoch wants to destroy - that's how we know he's the real McCoy, the man they call JC..."). And above all, he says, his message is a simple one: "You don't need to be a celebrity to have a wonderful life earning your living doing what you love." He does however add, "You just have to have a way with words, the self-confidence and organizational ability of Napoleon and a skin thicker than the armour of a Chieftain tank." But that's performance poets for you...



Saturday, October 28, 2017

Honeys, I'm home...

Cortijo Romero, vegetarian, holistic, English-speaking, holiday venue in the hills of Andalusia, bans phones & internet in the same way schools do & for the same reason: to discourage thoughts & connections with a personal life beyond the community. I suppose if you have a job you hate that’s welcome but if not, you feel a bit severed and it can create group dynamics that are... well, a bit schooly. I went there for a week of group walking in the Alpujarra, and that part was fabulous. All the treks were all a coach-ride away so less of the day was spent on foot than I expected but our guides were fantastic in a constant herding-cats situation, dealing with a big group with diverse needs and speeds. My own annoying-trait was to want to know more about each place we visited - the geology, history, map-location... (see above lament about no internet) but no-one could complain about the routes & views ~ this was a week-long blast of bliss to set anyone up for an English winter. My personal highlights, apart from the general joy of walking daily in glorious sunshine under a searing blue sky, were: the cliff scramble above cerulean seas from Playa de Cantarrijan to a tiny deserted bay and then back for a fish lunch at a beach restaurant ~ the walk from Trevélez, highest village in the Sierra Nevada, looking down on the dazzling golden poplars, and ~ top favourite this ~ the walk around old Granada listening to a fantastic talk by architect & historian Raphael Anderson.
With passion equalling his scholarship, Raphael's talk not only brought vibrantly alive the story of this ancient city, once supremely important & still beautiful, but also showed connections across the centuries from thousands of years ago: powerful controlling forces corrupting from within, now as then. Does the history of Islam, doomed by the unification of Spain into a single-state religion & deprived of all their advanced learning with the iniquitous burning of books in 1499, have parallels today in the perilous state of our democracy, debased within and distorted by our media? You do right, perhaps, to wonder...

And now a welcome return home, to grab again the vibrant threads of real life. I gather I've missed the launch of a new open-mic music venue and probably much else.  But fear not, Frome fans! Normal service will be resumed next week.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ghosts in art and history

Southampton is the port from which the Titanic sailed, has a Premier League football team (currently interested in Barcelona striker Paco Alcácer) (thanks Google), and a great little art gallery which is featuring a major retrospective of the work of Christopher Bucklow. As Chris lives in Frome, and I was fascinated by his amazing paintings exhibited in the Black Swan in 2013, a trip to the City Art Gallery was definitely called for. Here, in several galleries, there's early work reflecting a passion for Sisley's landscapes, later work exploring 'Guests' ~ ghostly figures arriving unexpectedly and mysteriously, and some of the series that had fascinated me when I first saw it in Frome: Mandy Rice-Davis struggling with the art critic Clement Greenberg, who here is 'trying to keep Mandy down as a 2-D ghost, while also preventing her from cutting, Suffragette-like, the vital fourth slit in the Kenneth Noland Chevron painting...' The gallery is fronted by a fountain & beside a line of horse-chestnut trees but as 3pm was museum closing time and there didn't seem much else in this part of the city, we adjourned to The Titanic to talk about ghosts with the landlord... until he rather strangely disappeared...

Frome in Palestine is the title and theme of an impressive exhibition at Silk Mill gallery, where thirty-six boards filled with photographs and media cuttings tell the tale of our town's contribution to Britain's involvement in this troubled land. There are also tables of books and images, options of films and food, and a programme of talks and entertainment, all creating a rich though serious environment for this extended study. Frome Friends of Palestine is marking their tenth anniversary with this historical presentation of British involvement in the region, summed up by the excellent introduction in their guide booklet: A hundred years ago this autumn General Allenby marched into Jerusalem. To some it was the culmination of a dream, but Britain's 30 year rule of Palestine rapidly became a nightmare. This carefully researched study of a difficult but crucially important subject is on till the end of the month and deserves at least one visit ~ more if you can, as there's much to absorb.  Banksy said it's the role of art to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed': this, one might think, should also integral to any religion. The history of the 'Holy Land' shows a different perspective and this is not, as the booklet warns, an easy exhibition.

A brief blog  this week, as I'm off now to the Alpujarras to go walking in the foothills for a week with Bootlace Walking Holidays. We'll be based in Cortijo Romero, a lovely venue I know well from years of fond memories with writing groups. I'll end with a view that trails happy ghosts... poets and fiction-writers, memoirists and bloggers, all of us enjoying these abundantly-blossomed gardens with their fabulous views of the the mountains beyond... wow, I can almost hear the laughter over that sparking azure pool, and the bell ringing for supper-time... though actually it's the long days of walking I'm going for. Obviously!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Elvis in the building & Frome's multicultural faces

Major event for me personally this week was Elvis McGonagall at the Granary on Friday, pitched to Frome as a kind of Poetry-Cafe-special-outing and pushed to Bristol and Bath too since they're  more familiar with big names in performance poetry. I knew if people came they'd love him: they did, lots of them, filling the Granary bar (big thanks to bewildered barman Sam for keeping smiling & serving even though we drank you out of draft) with many standing (only about 50 stools and chairs rustle-uppable). Frome Poetry Cafe posse opened to a warm reception and Elvis took us to sizzling at imagination-warp factor fifteen.. We all had personal favourites ~ the irasible barman,  Trump's haircut, the UK Government Care Policy, the Immigration Alphabet ~ but the whole was even bigger than the parts.*
In short, a fantastic event and an unforgettable evening. No publicity pix, but here's a snap of Elvis and also the brilliant Liv Torc.

In other news: the Celtic collective had a session at the Lamb and Fountain on Thursday ~ the first time I've actually visited this friendly time-warp pub ~ and brilliant cover-band Purple Fish returned to rock the Cornerhouse on Saturday.

Multicultural Frome at the Cheese & Grain on Sunday, 'a family festival of music, dance, crafts, food and a celebration of our international community', must have even exceeded its own expectations ~ it could not have been more successful. Hosted by Young People Frome, initiated & oraganised by Azeema Caffoor & Lenka Grimes with contributions from groups, schools, families and individuals, this was an afternoon of delights: a mix of entertainment and entertainingly-packaged information in a party atmosphere with international tasty samples, many free. Special feature was the energy and enthusiasm of the young contributors, from performances on stage to general participation. Entertained by music, song, dance, and recitations from across the world, hundreds of local people explored tables of foodstuffs, specialities, rituals and treasures, interactive games and activities... general verdict: let's do it again, next year and every year.
Somerset Scratch at the Archangel on Sunday evening, organised by Sian Williams of Boiling Kettle Company, gave the opportunity to five local writers to present extracts from their plays in progress and invite positive critique. All themes ~ a benefit office row, a refugee,  compulsory purchase, life-regression therapy and a secret love child ~ had potential and hearing their words read by professional actors like Sally Sanders is gold-dust to any writer. Congratulations, all.

* I'm aware I haven't done much of a review of Elvis, because a big percent of the show is delivery. But the words are great too, especially the political ones, & they're free to read here.  I recommend particularly That Government Healthcare Policy In Full and The Queen's Speech. smiley face!