Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it" ... Goethe must have sustained more people than Prozac and porridge oats. I think of that quote again as Annie Lionnet gives me a wonderful tarot reading. Annie's new in Frome and keen to contribute to the artistic community of the town, so on Tuesday I talk her into the Frome Creative Network, a project to attract future arts funding. In the meantime, once the steering committee has volunteered itself, we adjourn to the Crown to continue networking.

Emily and I visit Radstock on Wednesday, travelling rather perversely by bus to get the full flavour of community life. Only nine miles away yet such a different ambience: if Frome has ragamuffin glitz, Radstock seems dressed in serviceable grey. Maybe it's the predominance of Victorian municipal architecture upholding solid protestant values - the town centre is a giant Co-op - but there seemed to be a slight sense of Life-on-Mars (the TV series not the planet) about the streets and shops, styles and products. The museum provides fascinating insight, as well as cups of tea.
Radstock museum is a treasure trove of local history, especially the story of the coal mines - the last only closing in 1974 - and recreates the tough reality of the miners' daily life as well as the pit disasters and strikes. And the camaraderie that must have been the best part: men who worked together played together too, in quoit-throwing contests, pigeon races, choirs and bands, and supported each other in Friendly Societies.
It's the individual names and specific details - photographs, tally disks, certificates of 'conspicuous bravery', lists of the dead - which make this rummage through the past so powerful and poignant - realising that Amos Dando was 12 when he died in the Wellsway Pit Disaster on 8th November 1839.
In the exhibition of wildlife imagery by eco-poet Helen Moore upstairs, we find here too it's the detail, not the didactic, which illuminates. "Holcombe Woods 10th May 06. I just love the incredible softness of these new holly leaves..."

Friday night & I'm in London for the World Spirit poetry anthology launch, in Kentish Town to be exact, at the Torriano Meeting House which has a strong link with poetry readings since the 1960, when irascible poets were apparently banned from drinking locally for fear of fights. No squabbles tonight, just a chance to reconnect with good friends and meet some new ones, and to hear some fantastic poetry.
I loved Kate Newmann's tribute to her father's freezer with its ice-marble gooseberries and white silence, and the story of Oscar Wilde's trial, 'wit ebbing from his soliquy'... marvellous, and moving.
Much more to enjoy too - including the party afterwards, so thanks to Stewart & everyone who put on a show. And to Tamar, my sleep-over pal, great poet & tutor, and great company.

Long posting for a long week, which ended in Bath with the Rondo Theatre Company's production of "Mrs Warren's Profession" with friends followed by late supper (& animated debate as to whether better direction could have shown impact and warmth in Shaw's script rather than a laboured finger-wagging tract) and on Sunday Widcombe Studios open house with an amazing 10x10 Bid or Buy project - on till 9th December, check it out if you fancy acquiring great contemporary art & supporting the studios in one on-line bid.

PS Irony deficiency corner: In the week when BLIAR has decided to apologise for suffering caused not by himself but by other people (ie slave traders, in an earlier era with different values) can I take this opportunity to claim, through a similar process of irrational osmosis, some of the credit for achievements of the past? The visual lyricism of the Romantic poets, perhaps, & I’d like a bit of kudos for Wilde’s witty one-liners too.. surely more fun than an obsequious request for forgiveness - and less cynical if equally insincere.

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