Sunday, May 28, 2017

away-days and sunshine

Bath Festival has been urging us to JUMP IN their ten-day event this year, a compressed version of the usual music and literature festivals but still looking pretty jiggy with a wide range of lively events. Writer Alison Clink & I checked in to Miniature Marvels, billed as a look at 'the art of the short story' though more accurately at the art of the three writers on the panel, with some overall comments from the Bath Spa lecturer chairing.
More stimulating was the screening of Psycho, original black-and-white, with a live soundtrack from the Bath Philharmonic Orchestra, and never did that eek eek eek! as Janet Leigh wriggles under the shower sound more scary... Rosie Finnegan and I had front row seats in the art deco splendour of the Forum, originally built as a cinema though since a dance-school, bingo hall, and even a church. I found I'd forgotten much about this Hitchcock classic ~ like that the second half is a whole other story with a second victim, and also how incredible Anthony Perkins is in this role.

And I also went along with Alison to hear Fay Weldon talk about her latest novel, The Death of a She-Devil, in which she revisits her most infamous character 40 years later in a sequel that interviewer Alex Clark referred to cautiously as 'rather controversial' (for which read, widely slagged off). Ms Weldon's responses were also rather controversial, which made the interview highly entertaining. 'They are young, they'll grow up' she says of her feminist detractors, and suggests 'as soon as women stop seeing themselves as victims of a patriarchy, their lives will improve.' Alex response is a sharp intake of breath and spluttered references to violence & misogyny, concluding 'Where has that all come from?'  'It may have come from the fact that men feel so disregarded,' says Fay sweetly, continuing to smile as the silence lengthens. The topic then shifts to her backlist and working habits. I'm pleased to hear that Fay's writing policy coincides with mine: 'The minute you get dressed you've had it,' she says, 'so I just don't get up.' Applause at the end was long & loud, and rightly so.

Feet First, the outdoor theatre group Annabelle Macfadyen and I co-run, has three days of bookings in Somerset for our TIME WALK with school parties in June so we've been checking out routes in our new venues... this week we had a superbly sunny day in Ham Hill Country Park, a gorgeous area of grass and woodland with some fabulous ancient trees and, appropriately, a Time Stones sculpture.

Also relishing this burst of sunshine were the organisers of the Campfire Conversations event in Frome on Thursday evening. Annabelle and Peter Macfadyen introduced this project with a real campfire in the garden of the Hubnub Centre followed by real conversations, with supper, inside in the Rye Bakery. The aim is to engage positively and imaginatively with real alternatives to present conflictive theories. It was Einstein, Annabelle reminded us in her succinct introduction, who said "Imagination is more important than knowledge" and this radical approach has grown from a festival ethos, supported by Brian Eno and led by Pete Lawrence who recognised from his Big Chill organising experience the possibilities generated by small group discussions. Also present were Indra Adnam and Pat Kane who were inspired by the Danish Alternative Party (and by Frome's 'Flat-pack Democracy') to create The Alternative UK, not a party but a platform with the aim of 'reimagining politics'. They argue that the 'apathetic majority' is a misnomer: people are simply massively dissatisfied with party-politics as a concept. Conversations from the start revealed wide range of opinions among the fifty participants, but also a willingness to listen and discuss. (Probably it helped that the election was off-limits as a topic!) My personal thought-of-the-night came from Pete Lawrence when campfire conversation turned to how long we'll have to wait for a revolution. "The revolution has happened," he said, "it’s happened in an unexpected way with unexpected people, but it has happened.” Brexit and Trump as the volcanic rumblings before the cosmic social eruption... it's a good thought.
Poetry and music were, of course, part of the mix of the night: Folk trio Borrowed Light played as we arrived, and Vicki Burke's harp accompanied supper, after which Liv Torc read a funny & euphoric celebration of Life and Rose Flint shared her beautifully hopeful poem Because. Table conversations were clearly lively and fruitful but sadly (see moan below about my ongoing lurgy) I didn't stay long enough to hear Liv's summary, wondering: What if... We become constellations of culture / Get Google maps to chart us / like a new universe / and trip advisor to rate the satisfaction / of our hearths and hearts / A roaring conflagration of voices / Grassroots twitching between our toes. It's viewable on her facebook page and it's inspiring - do take a look.

So despite some real highlights this has been a sub-par kind of week, half-full of cancellations ~ The Island at Tobacco Factory and three music sessions (trad jazz at Three Swans, Pete Gage at Sam's Kitchen, and Reg Meuross at the Grain Bar, all of whom I was sorry to miss.)
My voice is now a steady rasp rather than mostly mouthing with the odd fox-bark sound, and days have been fabulously sunny so happily I was able to end the week without missing  John Law, Pete Maxfield and Billy Weir playing breathlessly exciting jazz with Nic Sorensen at the Cornerhouse.  I'll end with a picture of this, and one from the vibrant exhibition from Artists 303 currently in the Round Tower, and hopes of full recovery next week.

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