Stina Harris wanted to create "something halfway between a brothel and a temple" for Frome's Women's Day celebrations and she has, sumptuously, sacred & sleazy mingling superbly in the Sun Street Chapel exhibition. Centrepiece among the artwork to 'rejoice and honour' femininity is the sensuous sofa littered with handmade roses, ideal for a reclining goddess to pose, as Stina does here in her Coat of Sin. There was a peace vigil the morning I dropped in, especially apt as we mourn the slaughter of Afghan families by the soldier who 'didn't want to go'...
Another celebration of the female this week, though a sad one: Friday was the funeral of beautiful Jo Lindsay, smart, creative and wickedly funny, and a treasured member of Frome writers' circle. She was a great cartoonist too, and my study wall is hung with her (personalised) interpretation of a story I'd told her of the frog urging a woman to kiss him on the grounds that he'll become a prince and marry her, and meeting the response "I think I'd prefer a talking frog"... Here's Jo when I first met her, in Tuscany in 1996, and the way I'll always remember her: with a dazzling sunflower and a big grin.
A Postcard From... is the theme of the new STAGEWRITE event onstage at The Merlin. We had our runthrough at Des's house this week, and I'm gratified & excited to report the standard is startlingly high. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always authentic is my favourite review quote, and it's never been more true. If you're in striking distance of Frome & you haven't yet booked for next Thursday, do so now!
Back in the winter of 2009, Inua Ellams came to Frome with his deeply personal 14th Tale of the life of a Nigerian in England and I was privileged to be his curtain-raiser act. He's touring again, with Black T-Shirt Collection, which arrived at Bristol Old Vic this week. This extraordinary 80 minute monologue is such a tour-de-force of lyrical story-telling and metaphors for modern life it's hard to describe it. Imagine you’re a Christian child fostered by Muslims. Imagine your brother is gay and you live in Nigeria where retribution is terrifyingly violent. Imagine you went on the run together through alien lands, culture-shocked and missing family & friends, became successful entrepreneurs but belatedly realise the exploitative basis of your business. These are the challenges of Inua’s character Matthew, told on a stark, dark, stage with sparse graphic-novel style illustrations and minimal sound as he learns the political, economic, & social realities of life - and the limits of love. The pain is nearly unrelenting but the integrity of Inua's story-telling gives vitality to this unforgettable piece. It's coming to Frome's Merlin in May, please don't miss it.