Thursday, July 09, 2015

Midweek report: the persistence of glitter

With 'Angry' Sam Berkson as guest, I knew Monday's Festival Poetry Cafe would be good, and it was superlative.  After a stellar line-up for the open mic, with readers from Bristol and Bath joining local poets, Stephen Payne was awarded the title 2015 Festival Poet Laureate, and Sam had time for an extended second set from his new collection.
 Settled Wanderers is the result of Sam's stay in the refugee camps of the nomadic tribes of Western Sahara, working with an interpreter to translate their poetry. Sam's own poems are included too, and read us the one explaining Why you should never do translation in the house of your Saharawi translator, where hospitality and ritual rule supreme and it takes many greetings and cups of tea below the crescent-moon-lit, opal blue desert sky to achieve the first rough sketch of the first ever English translation of one of the great Badi's fifty years' worth of poems. It's impossible to convey this amazing book in snatches, I do recommend you buy it.

The usual festival clashes prevented me from watching Brenda Bannister win the title 2015 Bard of Frome at the short play competition in the Three Swans but she met me afterwards for a personal handover of the winner's cup, and we went up to the Magical Folk Garden at the Archangel to celebrate. Fairies at the door added literal glitter and I listened to lovely Beth Porter and the Availables feeling like Peaseblossom.

Miracle Theatre are always popular with Merlin audiences, who bedeck the amphitheatre in clusters with rugs, cushions, picnic baskets and, when required, mackintoshes and umbrellas. These were required on Tuesday: grey clouds, although enlivened by an interval rainbow, promised & twice delivered downpours. But cacti among the ECOS stones, a saloon bar set, and Ben Dyson mopping imagined sweat from the noon-day heat, all helped to transport us to the parched outback of the Wild West for the tale of The Magnificent Three. The cast are all immensely entertaining, though to be honest this piece is more a showcase for their varied talents than a story and despite their charm & skills it seems more an idea for a script than a fully developed production. No-one is complaining though, and there are some brilliant highlights, like the fake filmic slow-motion fights. And for those who like that sort of thing, there's a lot of toe-tapping and song.

From desert to forest to wild west, where next? Frome Stop the War Campaign took us to the harsh reality of international war-mongering from the build-up to Iraq in 2002 to the coast of Tunisia last week ("the perfect opportunity to bomb Syria."). Where are those WMDs? was horribly funny, in the sense that the satiric sketches while hilariously witty were almost too true to be funny at all. TV journalists Dan Glazebrook and Neil Clark gave us a series of glimpses into top level meetings between the US military and UK government: frank and cynical exchanges based on their shared objective of a permanent war-zone in the middle east. Musical interludes were brilliantly provided by Clayton Blizzard, a rapper from Bristol who claims to 'mash folk and hiphop like the long-lost cousins they are' but he's actually much better, and more political, than that.
There were so many superb events I missed during these last three days... but the fairy glitter from Monday night still faintly twinkles. Magic sparkle V Neals Yard cleanser, a win to the festival sprites.

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