Sunday, January 22, 2017

And in other news...

Politics is downstream from culture, as Timothy Goeglein wrote (mind you he was a notorious plagiarist so someone else probably wrote it first) and political power can be the enemy of culture, which is why the organisation English PEN was founded nearly a hundred years ago to campaign for writers oppressed and imprisoned for their words and opinions. One way PEN raises awareness is through readings, and Emma Craigie who curates events At the Chapel in Bruton organised an especially dazzling one last week. My first involvement with these PEN evenings was eight years ago as a reader, which inspired me to stage Chimes of Freedom in Frome's Merlin theatre the next year, so I was pleased to be among the audience of Freedom to Write, Freedom to Read.
Here as well as enjoying supper, we listened to poet Alice Oswald, novelist Andrew Miller, comedienne Viv Groskop, broadcaster & writer Jonathan Dimbleby and PEN President & writer Maureen Freely.
Alice read poems by Iranian poet Mahvesh Sabet and three of her own, Andrew read from a work by Egyptian Ahmed Naji considered unacceptably sexual, and a strong extract from his own novel The Crossing. Viv's extract was a powerful piece by Sanjuana Periodista about the murder of journalists in Mexico, which she admitted finding difficult to follow as her topics are more typically 'the prime ministers's horrible tartan trousers', and Jonathan read a piece from Bahrain's Nabeel Rajab, in detention for promoting human rights. In a deeply moving conclusion, Maureen's extract featured the repression of writers in Turkey, including detained journalist Ahmet Altan, and Armenian journalist Hrant Dink who was assassinated in Istanbul ten years ago to the exact day of our elegant supper. That's a picture of him. It's salutary to reflect how all of these writers, in Alice Oswald's words, laid their life before us, like gold leaf.

There were bubbles in Bruton on Saturday again, this time at Made In Bruton for the launch of fragile, the first poetry collection by 'Forgotten Bee'.
Bee Brook is a local radio personality who cohosts on Frome FM morning radio shows too. Her 'snapshots' reflect on love, loss, and life generally, including intimate aspects like insomnia, missing socks, and the satisfaction of toast.
The Elizabeth Frink exhibition, Transformation, at Hauser & Wirth had just opened so while in Bruton we seized the opportunity to look at this impressive collection of bronzes from the 1950s & 1960s gathered together in the Rhoades gallery, while life-size Riace Warriors stare in from the Cloisters. The (excellent) notes explain that these sinister figures were inspired by the 1972 discovery of two ancient greek bronzes off the coast of Italy, combined with the artist's interest in aboriginal face painting. She also said she liked representing male nudes. On till May 7th, well worth a visit.

Back in Frome, Roots Sessions at the Grain Bar restarted with the 'dark but sensuous sound' of class local duo-turned-trio Bonne Nouvelle. Sadly the support acts were decimated by winter ailments but Mike Cornish gave a strong solo start to the event.

And staying local for the final footnote in this mostly out-of-town posting, thanks Sara Vian for sending the audio of Midwinter Magic night. Memo to self: must do more of that, it's fun.

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