Sunday, January 17, 2021

A quiet week, so at least a change from the rest of the news.

The elimination of live entertainment, or even contacts, this last week, leaves a local arts blog with little to chat about other than what's on the box, which is personal-taste dependent & mostly not time-sensitive - I'm still reliving Sky Arts wonderful night of tributes to Bowie on the anniversary of his death last Sunday - but last week for me was mainly walking obediently near my home. Here's a view from one of the lanes to Tytherington, with rather sodden fields & a distant glimpse of Cley Hill. 

This is the land currently earmarked for a  housing estate which would increase Frome's population by over 7,000 residents, with no extra amenities, senior school, or medical facilities. You can see the transformation envisaged by the inappropriately named Selwood Garden Community here

Land ownership is one of those entirely invented concepts, like monetary value, which caused strife even before the 'Inclosures' acts claimed previously 'common' land. "They hang the man and flog the woman / Who steals the goose from off the common / Yet let the greater villain loose / That steals the common from the goose" goes the old rhyme. (And there's an excellent article on John Clare 'the poet of the environmental crisis' by George Monbiot, here.)  People do, of course, need somewhere to live, so even though there are 650,000 empty homes in England,  (latest Ministry of Housing estimate), there is a case for construction - but this project includes no social housing or even realistically 'affordable' housing. Hence the protest. The print is from a 1770 edition of Goldsmith's The Deserted Village, an elegiac lament for the destruction of rural life through displacement of villagers, the greed of landlords, and political change, so it seems appropriate.

Meanwhile Liv Torc is busy turning this new lockdown-without-end into another HAIFLU film - you can see it all here. Grief and sadness are spiked with shock at what was happening over the pond, so although quite dark it's a searingly accurate snapshot of the week. 

Ending this week's potpourri with some thoughtful advice from the American poet ee cummings, culled from that excellent & ever-interesting blog Brainpickings.

“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. ...The moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.  To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.'

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Habits of art & writing, to warm a freezing week

It's almost the law, or a by-law at least, for a writer to be a fan of Alan Bennett but having never really appreciated the 'darling of middle England'  I hadn't planned to invest in Original Theatre Company's screening of The Habit of Art, but as the freezing fog continued and news shifted from dismal to dystopian, with live theatre  off the menu for the foreseeable future, the option became more appealing. 
So I'm happy to report it's immensely enjoyable, whether or not you know much about WH Auden or Benjamin Britten, whose relationship is the central strand of a play that's witty, moving, and very funny. The dramatic structure of a-play-within-a-play allows for a double helping of personalities, with sharp contrasts in tone & mood - and also ensures the audience can enjoy quite a few full-stage views rather than just close-ups.  Two of the 'cast' are played by temporary stand-ins - leaving scope for comic cameos worthy of Shakespeare's mechanicals  - everyone dislikes their role and has their own ideas about how to play it, while the writer is furious at the producers' cuts. Yet through all this, the habit of art is maintained, and the habit of the habit of loving too.
In a strong cast, Matthew Kelly and David Yelland were convincing and moving as the actors playing the poet and the musician, both lives dominated by the illegality until 1967 of homosexuality. The mood of the story ranges from emotionally charged encounters and arguments - between actors, the characters they play, and the playwright) - to comedic moments as stand-ins act as items of furniture with all the panache of Shakespeare's mechanicals.  Available here till 28 February, recommended.

Aloneness is a Many-Headed Bird is the intriguing title of a collection of poems by Rosie Jackson and Dawn Gorman, who wrote in collaboration to create "a conversation in poetry between two women about things that matter in a deranged and damaged world."  Hedgehog Press has published this, and the two poets hosted the book's zoom launch on Thursday. Elegantly introduced and perfectly pitched by the hosts, this event gave a taste of the collection by reading ten poems and discussing the shared experience of collaboration. Originally combining to explore 'what it felt like to be an older woman', the poets had found that, as with a play, 'other characters had wandered in.'  The poems dig deep: darkness, bloodlines, death,- and love.  'We are capable of more love than we know' Dawn found.  Also fascinating was the story of their quest for a cover illustration, revealed by cover artist Gina Litherland, who joined the launch from her home in Chicago. Copies available from Rosie or Dawn.

No music to report this week - a sad omission so here's the Unravelling Wilburys' fabulous version of the Dylan song If Not For You - it's on dropbox so I hope the link works for you.  

And if you haven't already included this site on your search for uplifting posts on facebook, do follow Chris Packham's Self-Isolating Bird Club which daily provides images of wildlife - mostly avian - to bring a smile to your morning scrolling - owls, kingfishers, finches, tits,  robins... this one's actually mine, spotted in Rodden Meadow.

Also a facebook-accessible resource to hopefully raise a wry smile in these grim days, Steve Pottinger's political-satiric dialogues are now published online

And Liv Torc has put out another callout for Haiflu in response to this latest quasi-lockdown, so do share your thoughts & feelings, in 17 syllables, on her page here.  (If you forget the 5-7-5 format, it's like this: Catkin colonies / along the road to Nunney / chubby with new hope.)

Ending, courtesy of the Fortnightly Review - always an excellent miscellany of poetry and fictionwith a poem by Johanna Higgins called Ghost but could might well be called Now.

It's the breathing out that kills
The drawing in throughout
The love that spills.
The reddened love
That
Turns and tears
At flesh, at
Some adhesion,
Where the blood meets
Ghost and reason.

 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

A January sky for this first post of the new year,  evoking for me a much-loved song from 50 years ago:  Lindisfarne's January Song with its melancholy repeating chorus 'you need me need you need him need everyone... '
As we look ahead with trepidation on so many issues, its good to note that Frome is maintaining its determination to hold on to as much of its ancient land and green lungs as possible. Developments are still encroaching but one at least has been held off for now - the Friends of Easthill Field continue to argue for the survival of this special sanctuary - and now have a logo designed by Steven Jenkins of Hogweed Pottery. (click the group name to find out more and join this public group on Facebook.)
Last year offered us all new experiences and one of the least distressing was 'streaming', previously associated mainly with colds, but now an online activity with an advantage over that other chameleon verb 'zooming' since furtive fidgeting & refill trips remain unseen. It's especially good for drama.  Mischief Theatre are renowned for their plays That Go Wrong - their catastrophic Peter Pan was fabulous - so Mischief Movie Night In! -"a hilarious improv delight" - sounded great.  
A screenful of audience decides the title, genre, & location of the night's tale, though not the plot which is controlled more by time than story-arc, so it all comes down to the compere to move the romp along, interrupting to steer and underline the funny bits in our tale of vampire love. It's an ambitious concept: all the talented young actors involved deserve credit, and it should at least encourage more appreciation of playwrights in future days, if theatre survives. 

And the theme of survival segues with this double-page article in Plays International, which - though of course impossible to decipher - is my autumn report on theatre in the South West, which was one of only 2 UK regions creating enough performance to submit. Performances were filmed, zoomed, streamed, open-air, with even a few indoors though with massively reduced audiences. The image at the top is the live+live-streamed Hedda at Bristol Old Vic, and underneath is Bottom's Dream as created by a scratch team of young professionals on the amphitheatres of Frome's Merlin.  

Poetry, with less overheads, survived better than drama, encouraged by ongoing initiatives like Liv Torc's HAIFLU and the King Lear email contests for oldies. Poets Prattlers & Pandemonialists began this year with an excellent zoom session with eleven Open Mic readers and a guest spot from Luke Wright, who can chicane from bitter ironic wit to eye-moistening poignancy and back in eight poems. For fans of Blackadder's Georgian series, Luke has rewritten the bawdy ballads of those days,  and this link will take you to more of Luke's poems.  

So, welcome little 2021, all box-fresh and hopeful...  the poem that usually ends this first blog-post of each new year is Brendan Kennelly's marvellous evocation of hope Begin - do click this link and listen to the poet read recite it - but for this year I'm ending with the words of Tennessee Williams, in an interview recorded in 1982, because it feels like they have never been more important than now: 

"The world is violent and mercurial - it will have it's way with you. We are saved only by love - love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent, being a writer,  being a painter, being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love." 





Sunday, December 27, 2020

Nearing the end of Twin-Terrors' year

The annual preoccupation with creating a sparkling feel-good factor in the darkest days has had more than usual to contend with this year - in fact, more the average horror movie. My autumn walking routes having turned to sludge, the alternative of wet streets became a chance to enjoy all the illuminated displays: an expression of community hope and a visual delight - if you ignore the planetary damage, of course, but that's true of simply existing these days.  

Also in the real world, the big news for the week before Christmas was the sensational return of live music in Frome: Back of the Bus filling 23 Bath Street to legally-permitted capacity for an afternoon session last Sunday, with all the glitz, pizazz, and passionate punky hi-energy performance that we expect from this wonderful septet.  From their funky upbeat opening with You Gotta Have Faith to their awesome version of Hazel O'Connor's anthem Eighth Day - never more spine-chilling than this year - this performance was memorable. Huge appreciation to Lark Porter and all the team at 23 for making this happen.

No carol concerts or street singers this year, sadly, but with amazing ingenuity here's a seasonal song from Frome coordinated by Patrick Dunn: 'Carol for the Cabinet from a 'Bleak Choir' of musicians and singers. And do click on this offering from Nick Van Tinteren's Tiny Desk Concerts.

Indoors there was the winter balm of telly, and this season's big feel-good epic Strictly Come Dancing, pulling out all the stops with generous marking and a small but noisy studio audience. This series has had a massive following and deservedly-approving critiques from commentators across the spectrum ... and no-one could have looked as shocked as Bill Bailey and his partner Oti Mabuse when he was revealed as the series winner - great series, great result.  
Also on the box, a double treat from Sky Arts (triple, if you count Stephen Mangan presenting) as Portrait Artist of the Year final night not only gave us Eddie Izzard looking splendid in a frock, but also followed the progress of the contest's overall winner,  Curtis Holderas he created his commissioned portrait of Carlos Acosta, director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. This is now hanging in the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, but just as exquisite is this portrait of the artist's partner, which confirmed the judges' final choice.  
A homebound Christmas left most of us tuning to the tele, rummaging among the repeats & reruns for personal gems: among mine were Greasenow 42 years old but still appealing despite its 'teenage' cast all clearly in their 20s & 30s, and a feisty version of Pride & Prejudice with some emotional scenes shot in Stourhead.

Ending this final post from a year of twin terrors with a poem, which was going to be TS Eliot's soliloquy from one of the Magi, but though beautiful it is very melancholy, so instead here's Kahlil Gibran reflecting on love in The Prophet
    Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
     But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
     To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
     To know the pain of too much tenderness.
     To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
     And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
     To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
     To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
     To return home at eventide with gratitude;
     And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Wicked spells, beasts, ghosts, and all things festive!

Opening again with drama! Enterprising performances  despite these stop'n'start lockdowns and the catastrophic effect on theatres, starting with a live production at Frome's Merlin: Bea and the Winter Winds, whipped up by Black Hound Productions in a short space of time and despite cast changes, is a delightful folk-tale-inspired story of the triumph of good over evil as a brave girl sets off to break the spell of constant winter so the community feast can be held once more...
So, with their land withering in the thrall of Jack Frost (Pete White), young Bea (Anabella Fairgrieve) sets off to find the the imprisoned ‘good fairy’ (Amy Morgan-Bell). Of course she has helpers: a greedy squirrel and an narcoleptic mouse (Patrick Withey and Tiffany Rhodes) who intermittently steal the show with their entertaining comedy. And of course, they succeed in their quest. Patrick Withey and Ben Hardy-Phillips devised the storyline, Patrick writing the script and Ben creating the songs: the musicality is delightful throughout, as Bea has a fabulous singing voice and her guitarist brother is played by Ben, a popular local performer. Visually, it’s enchanting: the set design by Patrick is superb, featuring a semi-realistic tree and fantastic snow-swirls on the stage, which William Holmes’ lighting design plays on exquisitely, changing illumination on the branches and creating snow crystals on the imaginary drifts.  Evocative of memories for older viewers, exciting and comforting for younger viewers, entertaining for everyone, Bea and the Winter Winds is a huge success for the company and for the Merlin Theatre.  (As a footnote, Nevertheless Pub Theatre followers will remember Tiff as a Jane Austen heroine in Time Slides, our 2016 Frome Festival production... So good to see young performers continuing in the profession despite all problems.)
Beauty and the Beast from Living Spit onstage at Bristol Old Vic was about to open when Bristol moved into Tier 3 and tickets for the show were transferred from live to streamed audience. (For anyone confused by the image above, beauty is the one on the right.) Stu Mcloughlin and Howard Coggins seen live have a wonderful and chaotically distinctive duo-persona that doesn't totally transfer to screen. Perhaps we're used to comedians with the kind of subtle self-awareness of The Richardsons on our TVs, or perhaps a stage feels less magical when filmed close-up, but it's not until after a monologue introduction, a clunky role-changing first act, and a quiz, that this became really entertaining.  And when it's good, it's very good. 
Filmic tricks help - as in this screen shot - but more importantly the script begins to make life connections. 'I wanted someone else to know how I feel...' whines the beast in defence of his imprisonment of Belle. 'You have no idea how it feels to be this beautiful,' she counters, 'To know everyone wants me, whatever room I walk in...'  The absurdity in this case doesn't make this concept less thought-provoking, and when Stu sings his melancholy song about Stockholm Syndrome ('It's not going to happen to me...') another huge social issue is covertly identified. This unexpected depth in the story interpretation increases the interest immensely, and the bursts of filmic trickery do too... Make what you will of the ending - in which Beauty can accept her partner as only by pretending he's still a beast - there's some great comedy and provocative opinion in the mix somewhere, but served only in thin slices.

And now another churlish individual redeemed: Artsreach, the Dorset-based organisation bringing performance to rural areas in the southwest, is promoting a one-man version of of that classic Dickens tale A Christmas Carol on Youtube, as narrated by David Mynne. David was a co-founder of Kneehigh, so it's not surprising this is a more-than competent adaptation, gripping from the start. With minimum props - a couple of scarves and atmospheric lighting - David evokes all the extreme drama of the action and morphs convincingly through a wide cast of characters. Purists might complain that the ending is slightly altered, but it's a tour de force of narration, and never fails to grip.

 Pound Arts Open 2020 has transferred the 12th Annual Visual Art Exhibition to Flickr, so if you can't get to this gallery in Wiltshire, you can see the 60 wonderful artworks here. This is Wilderness at Benham: apologies to artist John L Harris if my screenshot doesn't do justice to the colour tone or brushstrokes, but you can see it's very atmospheric. The exhibition can be viewed till 23 January.

And finally, music... Sadly the session planned for Saturday's Frome Market was cancelled, but musicians are resilient and many gems have been posted online - you probably have your own favourite groups to follow - Open Micsolate & Postmodern Jukebox are two of mine - but if you haven't already, do click and enjoy Patrick Dunn's Gaudete.  A Tier-2 Triumph.  



Sunday, December 13, 2020

Drama's back! Controversy, murder, mirth... and more.

The dramatic event of this week was for me was review tickets for a theatre show again, after nine months' abstinence. Theatre Royal Bath had proudly announced its 'Welcome Back' season after the first lockdown, only to be closed down again before the second of their trilogy could make the stage. Oleanna is the now showing and -fingers crossed- will continue until 6th January at the Ustinov studio, with exemplary safety & sanitation provisions. First produced in 1992, David Mamet’s controversial play is about a dedicated professor whose attempt to inspire confidence in a panicky student is maliciously reinterpreted by a posse of ferocious neo-fascist feminists - or possibly a play about a complacent professor whose attempt to dominate a vulnerable student is thwarted by female solidarity... 
Jonathan Slinger as the maverick professor is superb, totally credible whether prickling with frustration on the phone or calmly confident of his offbeat educative skills. As the ambivalent student, Rosie Sheehy has a baffled belligerence that might well  appeal as a challenge to a dedicated teacher. Directed by Lucy Bailey, with a set by Alex Eales which ironically evokes Educating Rita in its scholarly intimacy even as this becomes increasingly at variance with the action.  Oleanna was iniitally seen as an important breakthrough in acknowledging an elephant in the room of sexism: thirty years on there seem to be other questions: The tutor advocates challenging the system, but is avid for personal advancement within the status quo. He may not a sexual predator, but he's certainly a hypocrite. images Nobby Clark

And now to Frome's Merlin Theatre for a dramatic contrast: As part of the Signal Fires project to revive small theatre companies in these difficult times,  
New Old Friends touring company 'producing engaging, accessible, shows that make people laugh' brought their current show Crimes Against Christmas to the amphitheatre stage on Thursday, and a resilient cast of three persisted in entertaining their entranced audience huddled- in a socially distanced manner - on the stones with mulled wine, by recounting a complex Agatha-Christie stylee saga, in complexity and unlikeliness of a multiple murders to coincide with the story of the twelve days of Christmas. As with all such sagas, it's the deftness, and deliberate undeftness, of the multi-tasking characters that provides the entertainment. 

And finally in this disparate trio, Wardrobe Theatre hosted 'the world's first interactive pantomime (possibly)' when Streaming Beauty zoomed out on Saturday night. As with all pantos, even the most salacious, the focus was flamboyant entertainment and the storyline was of scant interest. Technically, this was ambitious and amazingly successful, with Tinkerbell the technician creating subgroups in the audience to interact with the cast as Beauty struggled to sever her contract with evil Hymen Bowel. A cameo appearance by Blaise Castle to encourage us to co-create a dreamcatcher to break the spell gives some idea of the inventive absurdity. Zoomers from Bristol who know each other, and probably know the cast too, will have enjoyed it most but it's great to see innovative approaches to interactive drama in these drab days.


Also in a seasonally festive vein,  Black Swan Arts held a pop-up market of  collectables and giftables in the courtyard, cafe and Round Tower.  The 'Small and Affordable' display of delights included jewellery, ceramics, woodwork items, prints and original artworks, and more, including salted caramel brownies in the cafe.  Here's artist David Davis with one of his stunning local views.  

Still local-ish, Heart of the Tribe has an exhibition in Glastonbury, enterprisingly creating an online gallery tour, showing until January.
Ending with poetry, and a short video of six poets responding to a sculpture in Mid Wales Arts Centre. Steve Pottinger and Emma Purshouse were among this group and, as both poets have performed in Frome to great acclaim, even though they're based in the Black Country this film earns its link. Here's a couple of screen-saved snaps to show the quality of the film: this kind of project might appeal to local poets too - Millennium Green, maybe? 






 

Saturday, December 05, 2020

And the answer is Schrödinger’s cat...

 After this blog's grumpy inertia last week,  here's a new concept: our 'Surge Capacity' - the natural energy mankind brings to a crisis - is only designed for short bursts like a tornado which is why, after eleven months, we are inevitably depleted and in need of other strategies to cope. One is to understand the 'ambiguous loss' of our previous lives in terms of a bereavement, but there's a 'both gone and not gone' way of looking it too: just as despair & hope are coexisting, so can lethargy and activity.

With which positive thought I booked a free online talk offered by the National Gallery: 'Every Society Needs a Scapegoat', using Holman Hunt's famous painting as a focus. Christina Bradstreet, introducing, talked about the artist, possibly the most puritanical of the PreRaphaelites: for him the scapegoat seems to share a sacrificial persona with Christ, though with no choice or redemption. Disappointingly Katharine Quarmby's following talk cast no light on the social role of a scapegoat as she used it as showcase for her books on abused minority groups like gypsies, rather than discussing the fascinating question of why all communities seem to need these 'sin-eaters'.

Also online, there's an hour-long Royal Academy Summer Exhibition virtual tour through their closed galleries, though you can move through more speedily. And if you're thinking of arty or crafty gifts for family or friends, do check into the Shop Frome This Christmas facebook page and be amazed by the range of creative local artists. 

'Angry' Sam Berkson came to Frome as our Poetry Cafe Festival Guest five years ago, which why, mainly, I booked to attend the zoom Hammer & Tongue Annual Slam on Tuesday.  Sam's poems are succinct and powerful, delivered with the impact of an orator but immaculately crafted: his opening piece, written in March, was a tirade on 'this virus that is drowning.. choking.. guttering.. our planet', an elegant and apt evocation of Wilfred Owen's poem about mustard gas in the first war.  He moved on to a more positive view: that our new awareness of human fragility may have triggered, finally, the long overdue social reappraisal expressed in the 'Black Lives Matter'. Other powerful poems, both political and personal completed this brilliant set. 
The '2020-themed Slam' that followed gave us eight strong voices, judged in the traditional way by selected -audience response, with a well-deserved (i.m.h.o) victory going to 'Almalia the Alkemist,' who echoed Sam's theme in her spoken word piece asserting that, more important than Covid, In 2020 a black man died.  Here's Almalia looking happy when the audience scores were all totalled and she came out top. 
Thursday's zoom-Poetry event was very different, with none of Hackney's friendly, slightly chaotic, conviviality. Burning Eye Books' hosting of Elvis McGonagall's new book Complete & Utter Cult! was a stern affair: audience members were silenced and blacked out on arrival, so there was no sense of shared enjoyment, which seemed odd & a bit sad for the launch of a poet so witty and provocative.
Elvis last came to Frome three years ago for a special session in the Granary, startling the bar staff by absolutely packing the place out, and it's a source of quiet pleasure to me as a big fan of his work that Burning Eye posted our cover images together in their compilation collection The Best SLAM / STAND-UP / PERFORMANCE / SPOKEN WORD Poetry Book in the World.  Elvis is still terse, tartan, and potty-mouthed. Brexit and lockdown were both grist for his mill of scurrilousness and savagery, providing a banquet of derision in parody clich
és: Get it done! with gin-soaked spirits and quiet despair, rise with pride like a Victoria sponge, living a dream as the Benny Hill theme plays on and on and on and on... His support team were excellent too: Erin Bolens with the comforting thought that Christmas is just another day - if you don't like it, that's ok,  Jonny Fluffypunk,  and Luke Wright excellent as always whether 'embracing the wank' or remembering his father's skeleton clocks. 

Still with books, the Frome FM on-air book group festive edition is now posted here, with gift recommendations from me as well as from Tina Gaisford-Waller, warrior-queen in the bookshop world who this weekend transferred much of the stock of Frome's amazing emporium Hunting Raven Books to the Silk Mill to give buyers more browsing space. The range of authors is incredible: from quirky stick-it-in-the-air-B&B-room titles to massively important tomes like The Book of Trespass, from Peppa Pig to Gareth Southgate, there's genuinely a gift for everyone in your life here, and lots to put on your own booklist.  This pop-up book-fest will be back at the Silk Mill for the 18th-20th weekend for your late buys, and the store will be having some late-evening openings too.



Sunday, November 29, 2020

It's that time of year again - believe it or not....

As November ends, Frome town traditionally gears itself up for the festive season ahead with a Festival of Lights... usually a parade of lanterns through the streets cheered on by crowds enjoying a party atmosphere (though one year for a change we had Jenson Button scorching up and down the main street in a McClaren)  - Mel Day and Aliss Vaas run free workshops, sponsored by the town council, to ensure a plethora of stars, moons, angels and bells waving in the night air for the grand switch-on of twinkly lights on Christmas tree, with carols and bands and.. oh, you probably remember it well. Which is good, as this year's festivities will be rich mainly in memories as the lanterns this year will be only window decorations apart from this magnificent swan, created by Mel and Aliss for the courtyard of the Black Swan where Black Swan Arts is currently preparing for a re-opening the café and festive craft shops next week to sell 'small & affordable' art - donations welcome!

Frome On-Air Book Group with Sheila Hedges and Karen Stewart continues to broadcast monthly on Frome FM, and invited me to join Tina Gaisford-Waller, legendary manager of Hunting Raven Books, in offering ideas for christmas gifts. During these non-meeting times this is a zoom session recorded & edited by Helen Ottoway with smooth professionalism (& a promise to edit out my faffy bits). Tina offered her suggestions from her car as the bookshop is currently awash with deliveries, and I also talked a bit about how The Price of Bread emerged from the first lockdown after gestating for 25 years - you can hear all this on Friday 4th December on 96.6FM.

These are difficult days for a local/Arts blog to remain apolitical. With no live theatre or live music, or live groups of any kind even in a cinema auditorium, my off-line entertainment is mostly walking through trees. There's plenty of stimulus online, of course, but after seven months you probably know your own interests there. And with that self-deprecating & somewhat grumpy intro, here's a few things you may or may not know about already, as Frome town is currently as besieged as Macbeth when Burnham Wood began shuffling its deadly way to Dunsinane. Easthill Field is the latest green space to be noted by developers, to the dismay of many who value this species-rich habitat - this is an ancient lime tree, one of the last remaining from the avenue that once led up to Easthill House. The land is earmarked for social housing but protesters insist they are not just NIMBYs as the location, tucked behind a cemetery at a busy junction outside the town centre, isn't suitable for this, and with influential support & careful research they have secured a delay on the decision. Do join the Friends of Easthill Field if you want to follow their progress or feel you can help.

Meanwhile nearer the centre of town, a community-minded group of neighbours decided to get together to transform the scrubble at the end of their gardens back into an allotment, and formed the Broadway Allotments and Community Garden Association. With much hard work already, this abandoned area is slowly returning to its previous function but it hasn't evaded the eye of developers. Frome Town Council is backing the allotment group and has presented a case to Mendip, so let's hope this last small green lung remains in our town's ever more dense housing estates. 

The largest looming threat in Frome's struggle with The Developers, as this amorphous & invasive enemy is commonly termed, is the one hanging over the southern fields, where 1700 new houses are planned to infill from the Mount to the by-pass.  Just, houses - no amenities or services: no medical facilities, Secondary schools, transport links, or parks.  Stop Selwood Garden Community is the protest organisation opposing this euphemistically termed project - and yes, I do realise housing is needed but this project is a cynical money-spinner: no social housing, no chance for Frome's young people stay in their own community continuing the tradition of local companies. To put it in another context, UK Government data this September showed there are 600,000 empty houses across the country, double their annual national building target in fact. Property is a good investment for the monied: rent continues to arrive and repairs are tax-deductible. And once the last of Selwood Forest is eroded, we've lost more than we can ever regain.  
Here endeth the diatribe, but please consider joining one or all of these protest groups.

Moving from nature's effortless artistry to crafted arts: mega-creative Frome poet Liv Torc is taking her sensationally successful Haiflu concept into the off-line world and now wants haikus about life currently in the form of a visible public installation. My first effort is a lamentation for lost seasonal celebrations. Do have a go, and add #haiflu2020 to your art (I forgot) to as Liv has plans for them!
I'll leave you with an image of Frome centre on Saturday night, its tree defiantly glittering with blue and golden starry lights.