Thursday, April 30, 2015

false flags, bunting, and bluebells

I'm opening with a response to the talk at Westway cinema on Sunday so if you're one of those Mark Twain had in mind when he said "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they've been fooled" then skip this bit, there's a picture of a cuddly toy further down.
What's really interesting about the talk by Richard Gage about 9/11 Truth is he sticks to the facts. He's a architect, and he knows about steel strengths and responses, he knows how buildings collapse. He doesn't use the C worlds like coverup or conspiracy, he uses a flowchart ~ which my inner logician loved ~ to show the analytic process the investigation should have followed instead of disposing of extensive evidence as waste and ignoring hours of eye-and-ear witness accounts of explosions. It's a fact too that the lift shafts, best place for detonators, were under maintenance at the time by a new firm which afterwards disbanded, and that the buildings were massively insured against terrorism shortly before the attack.
And why talk about it now? Because as Richard Gage says, Every major war has been started by a false flag operation, and in the words of Martin Luther King, "a time comes when silence is betrayal."  Richard is off to present his talk in Brussels now, congratulations to Sheila Coombes for bravely putting Frome forward as one of only three places in the UK ready to listen.

In other news:
Jazz Jam at the Cornerhouse on Sunday too, and on Monday an excellent evening with Warminster Writers' Circle talking about writing short plays with this friendly, very witty group.

Frome Arts Society spring exhibition is currently showing at Rook Lane Arts - some great paintings here.
And in another part of the forest, the Share Shop opening night another brilliant concept ~ non-ownership. Here you simply drop in to borrow a tool or a toy that you can't afford to buy or don't want to possess forever. How Frome is that! From skateboards, keyboards, and golf-clubs to household tools, it's all there, and big credit to the Edventure team and to Johannes for bringing our town one step nearer to sensible consumerism.

Hunting Raven Books was chosen as Julia Donaldson
Independent Bookshop of the Month, with a visit from the Gruffalo to celebrate, and although this being an arts blog I generally avoid matters political, I'm including this image of me with Theo Simon at the LoopdeLoop pop-up curry-house in the Grain yard.

Ending this posting with a sunny photo jaunt to Bradley Wood and Longleat ~ thanks Mike Witt for the trip.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Another arty week in Frome

The Garden Cafe was full on Monday night for our Eco Poetry event with Helen Moore and Peter Please, both with new books just out. Ecozoa is Helen's response to environmental destruction, looking to a new future of love and respect for the earth as a shared entity not a collection of utilities. Peter sees himself as 'a writer who also likes to doodle in the margins' and his book is a collection of mixed media illuminations paying homage to past traditions. Two very different energies combined in a fascinating guest spot, with some excellent open mic readers too. To quote Rosie Jackson, when the earth is dying ordinary 'nature poetry' is impossible ~ it has to be political now.

Over in nearby Silk Mill, an exhibition of 21 images of mayoral chains demonstrating the creative ingenuity of local groups from the Community Toilet Scheme to Sustrans Missing Link Campaign. Mayor Peter Macfadyen posed in a range of teeshirts for these shots by David Partner, framed by Simon Keyte of Mount Art.
And the Round tower has some intriguing images of Frome by Fourmakers, while Paul Newman has opened his new studio at the Black Swan and is working on creating drawings from his sketches of the The Needles off the Dorset coast.
Wednesday night's Grain Bar was jammed for Sam Brookes magical Roots Session. To quote promoter Griff: "Sam Brookes has a captivating, magnificent voice and a superb collection of songs.. his album, Kairos is regarded as the album of the year by Frome's musical cognoscenti who know their onions." And Griff certainly knows his onions.
Tom Jones is the latest FDC production at Merlin Theatre, featuring popular local actor Ben Hardy-Phillips as the hero-narrator in this adaptation of Fielding's novel. The programme offered 'risqué fun' but it's more of a lively and highly entertaining romp through eighteenth century mores and modes. A strong performance from Ben with great support from the rest of the cast and a wickedly clever set. I especially enjoyed Ross Scott and Tina Waller as hot-headed Captain Fitzpatrick and his wayward wife ~ sudden swordfight was a real highlight ~ and Neil Howlett as Tom's shocked tutor Thwackum. Interestingly, director Christine Dunn has found evidence that Sophia Western, the real love of Tom's life, was based on Betty Weston who lived at Gants Mill in Bruton. Now if we can only be sure she visited Frome shopping for gowns ~ in 1749, Frome was 'very famous for the manufacture of broad and woolen cloths' ~ we can put up a plaque!
Speaking of frocks (see how I did that? smiley face) we have a new ethical fashion outlet now: Hibiscus on Cheap Street launched this week with pzazz and cool names like Mudd & Water and SkunkFunk, including these snazzy remoulded-tyre-soled sandals.
A visual end to the week, with an exhibition at Stourhead's First View Gallery on the theme Memories of Shape and Colour featuring two brilliant landscape artists from Frome, Kate Cochrane and Amanda Bee. Impressive paintings and a convivial gathering at the Friday preview.

And to any bibliophiles disappointed by the omission of World Book Night, I consider the event has done for reading what Clinton cards did for sincere greetings. Save our forests, I say. Or did, but since Neil Astley has published a collection of Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy
especially for this event, I have to concede a retail-opportunity celebration can have value too. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Outside Killucan, beyond Mullingar...

A new play at the Ustinov Studio in Bath is always something to look forward to. Outside Mullingar starts like Steptoe and Son transported to Craggy Island, absurd comedy blended with realistic painful family co-dependency, but though the laugh-aloud dark-tinged mirth continues, the secret souls of these people brim with passionate imagination.
Writer John Patrick Shanley grew up in the Bronx and evaded his Irish heritage throughout a successful career scripting for screen and stage, succumbing only in his 60s to the pull of his father’s homeland, “the lost and beautiful world of my poet’s heart.”  This is unchanged rural Ireland, a raggedly beautiful landscape of long-simmering feuds and lives of quiet desperation, where middle-aged children tend the land of their fathers, still wondering what love looks like. Set in a village where ‘everything is spoken of’ yet somehow secrets and grudges thrive, this is also rom-com where the happy ending glimmers through the slats of the disputed access fence from the start. 
All four actors have great presence, with strong scenes of unresolved sexual tension between Anthony (Owen McDonnell) and Rosemary (Deirdre O'Kane), the shrew in a taming story reversed.  James Hayes as the blunt-talking father is marvellous, magnetically watchable in every scene. Sam Yates' direction skillfully negotiates the passage of time, and the evocative set designed by Richard Kent is enhanced by Giles Thomas' sound design. Lyrical and witty, this play will leave you musing on the human capacity for wild imaginings, and for redemption too.  Recommended.    (Images Simon Annand)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Mayor's do and other bashes

Alison Clink, founder of the Frome Festival Short Story Competition, was at Hunting Raven Books on Thursday evening for the launch of her new book The Man Who Didn't Go To Newcastle, a personal memoir based on her journals at the time of her brother's death seven years ago while also drawing on a lifetime's memories of their close relationship. In our interview we talked about aspects of the writing, and I asked too if she found the process healing. No, was the answer, but it helps you to cope. And to any writer with difficult experiences Alison advises: 'you have to expose yourself ~ no matter how painful it is, just do it, even if you're crying.'  Don't let the sombre aspect deter you, there's humour too in this ultimately life-affirming story.

It's been a musical weekend for Independents for Frome folk, with a flashmob singing Welcome Home to the Friday night commuters as they arrived at the station, followed by the Mayor's Charity Bash at the Silk Mill.

Frome Street Bandits start the party and No-Shit Simone and the Flunch Nonchalent supporting Captain Cactus and the Screaming Harlots get everyone dancing quicker than you can say both band names, probably as we're all disinhibited by looking fairly bonkers in our charity shop outfits ~ prizes awarded to the most bizarre. Mayor Peter Macfadyen was present in multiples, not only in his current pompom chain but in a series of portraits around the walls, showing the inventive diversity of the institutions of the town in devising mayoral chains for every occasion.

Ending the week, the Pete Gage Quartet were rocking in the Cornerhouse and Frome Jazz Club celebrated its grand reopening at the Grain Bar with a fantastic set from the John Law Trio (plus sax)  ~ his version of My one and only love was breath-taking.

This blog began life as a writer's journey and, although extolling the delights of Frome increasingly and effervescently, I do like to maintain a link with matters literary and linguistic, so I'm ending with a few words: Epexegesis is one I discovered last week. It means extended explanation, and one who is epexegetical is prone to garrulous converse... And take comfort next time you forget a word and randomly invent a substitute, that you are ~ as Shakespeare did and children still do ~  creating a neologism.  For those fascinated by the archaic, here's a list of fifty forgotten words which we really could use in these days of crambo-clank and eedle-doddles. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Scandal and sensibility

It was an age of pantaloons and powdered periwigs, macaronis and mantuas, so what has Sheridan's The School for Scandal to offer in the modern world?
 SATTF's clever, funny, production for Tobacco Factory Theatres picks out a link with the slanderous sensationalism of our twittering society from the opening moments, with a smart-phone selfie in the introduction to this pantomime of manners which sees reputations shredded over teacups for the entertainment of trivial minds and the sanctimonious are secretly scurrilous self-seeking hypocrites. As well as glints of modernity, like the payday loan interest rates, the prologue and epilogue underline the Shakespearean dramatic tradition, with themes of sibling subterfuge and characters hiding their true identity.
It's a moral farce brimming with louder-than-life personalities, and a strong cast jostles with stand-out performances: Lord and Lady Teazle (Christopher Bianchi and Daisy Whalley), Sir Oliver and his reprobate nephew (Chris Garner and Jack Wharrier), Byron Mondahl in 'ugly sister' persona as a dandy Benjamin Backbite, and Fiona Sheehan's delightful Mrs Candour.
Terrific direction from Andrew Hilton maxes the in-the-round staging  ~ as when the audience become the paintings when Charles cheerfully sells his ancestors to his disguised Uncle Oliver. Once the establishing scenes are done, the play becomes a succession of highlight scenes: the young reprobates' Riot Club style party, the Teazles having a major domestic behind brittle smiles, and the trio of gossips spinning a catherine wheel of fabricated revelations around an attempted seduction made farcically public. Emma Bailey's costumes are gorgeous and the minimalist set keeps action fast-paced. Another don't-miss goodie from Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Forth and back: unblocked writers, time travel, and electioneering Frome-stylee

Cheltenham Spa on Saturday sparkled in sunshine with pink blossom floating dreamily, mythic sculpture, (that's a hare and a minataur in somewhat intimidating-looking embrace on the Promenade) lively busking and even a small carousel, all confounding all my expectations of a stiff, horsey, kind of town. I was there to reunite with a writers' group which formed after sharing a weekend course at The Grange six years ago and still meets twice a year, members converging from all over the UK. It was delightful sharing an afternoon session with this friendly quintet which clearly thrives through a supportive ethos as well as great writing - and there's room for two more in their scribing circle so if that could be you, contact organiser Claire via a comment on her fascinating travel blog.

A superb day on Friday too, as Annabelle and I took several families on our cosmic Time Walk, telling the story of earth in a thousand paces. Here we are in costume in the superb gardens of the American Museum in Bath where despite distractions from primroses and birdsong, and an inquisitive rabbit, the children were encouragingly fascinated and charmingly responsive.  Even though the dinosaurs did take nearly four and a half billion years to reach, and disappeared forever a few paces later.

Back in Frome on Sunday, Democracy Day began ~ late afternoon, in fact ~ with a massive meeting with all five parliamentary candidates at Cheese&Grain and ended with a party for IfF ~ independents for Frome ~ candidates standing for council election. Following four successful years since the indies supplanted the party-politicians, and with nationwide interest in how they did it (see Flatpack Democracy) it's vital to maintain, and boost, support.

As this is Frome, music and creativity is inevitably involved, with Al O'Kane telling the story of IfF policies in a brilliant song which Howard Vause has made into a fabulous must-watch video. Live music from Al too, fresh from the Lamer Tree Music Awards final, with Tess Wakeling and Fasian Al'fasir Fharrad Farrer. Talent practically oozing out the walls - which revellers found on leaving were illuminated by more than moonlight...

I'm concluding this post with Poldark (which I don't watch) on the specious pretext that adulation of (insert lascivious adjective of your choice) Aidan Turner means a second series, and it's produced in Bristol. As was the brilliant Being Human (which I did watch) in which Aidan did for vampires what Colin Firth did for wet shirts with frothy cuffs. For a  bite-size chunk of Poldark action, click here. (spoiler alert, it's a spoof. Very funny too.)

Monday, April 06, 2015

... now that April's there ...

Frome is fashionable for its quirky independent coffee-houses ~ Garden Cafe, River House, Crocker & Wood and Divas to name but a few ~ so you'd expect a frisson of disapproval at the sudden arrival of a chain in our central precinct. A bit like a duck flying into a cattery, perhaps. But the Cordero Lounge, combining cafe with restaurant and bar, opened last week with no dissident voices raised at the massive launch party. This new venue is a tardis, its deceptively short frontage extending endlessly on two levels, both with glamorous decor and lighting. Looks set to be a great addition- especially on Independent Market day when streets overspill with sellers, customers, and the simply curious.
This Sunday we didn't match the density of last month's gridlock, to general relief, so it was far more pleasant browsing the vast selection of stalls, with live music from Frome FM and local writers on the Frome Writers' Collective stall.
Sara Vian with Shehzad Abbas played at the Archangel in the afternoon and Words at the Black Swan poetry group met to write in response to the amazing work of local artists aged 10 to 18 in the Young Open exhibition.
More music to end the day from the monthly Jazz Jam at the Cornerhouse ~ exceptionally good, with several local musicians joining Simon Sax's quartet.
The long weekend of Spring concludes for most of Frome ~ and for much of the southwest too, from the standstill traffic  ~ with Mells Daffodil day.  Mells is only three miles from the town, so the easiest way to visit is on foot through Vallis Vale,  a beautiful walk on the first really warm day of the year as the path follows the river past moss-thick banks shining with celandine, with wild garlic already beginning to scent the air.
The bucolic sounding name of this event is misleading: there are daffodils on the banks of the village, true, and a sprinkling of morris men, but the streets are stiff with stalls and the fields filled with all the paraphernalia of festival: fairground, beer tents, bands, portaloos...  Entry between these two sections is through the graveyard via a slit in the wall only wide enough for one at a time, and it was impressive to see the English politeness of people queuing on both sides as they negotiated with those equally desirous of moving in the other direction. Apart from those who leapt over the church wall, of course.
And Frome Writers' Collective has, amazingly, completed its first year as a support group for all things writerly in the town. The informal monthly meeting upstairs at the Three Swans, saw a (semi)formal handover of The Chair, from Tighe O'Connor to Sue Watts, among other activities like creating a mayoral chain out of haiku.
I'm ending this post with a picture from Stourhead Gardens, just because I like it.  Just another reason at this time of year to always look on the bright side of life...