Monday, July 17, 2017

Post festival posting

And the Festival is over, so Frome town can return to its usual status of chronic creativity without the mass overlaps which saw everyone rushing between venues and angsting over impossible choices every night. I'll skip the list of all that I missed, and skim you through some personal highlights:
A sublime evening on Monday ensured that, for only the second time since its inception in 2003, the Frome Festival Poetry Cafe was held outside, enabling around fifty poets and lovers of spoken word to enjoy the Garden Cafe at its best. Guest poet Deborah Harvey read from her new collection Breadcrumbs, delicately beautiful poems with an extraordinary emotional charge, and also had the near-impossible task of choosing the 'Festival Poet Laureate' from 25 open-mic readers all responding to the theme 'That Adlestrop Moment' in honour of poet Edward Thomas, killed in that iniquitous war 100 years ago.
The standard was superb and every poem was appreciated & enjoyed: three poets from Bath (Jinny Fisher, Rachel Clyne, and Jo Butts) nearly stole the title, several men (Mike Rogers, Alan Overton, Kieron Bacon) were strong contenders, but our new Festival Laureate,  with signed certificate and bottle of posh wine from Frome Wholefoods, is 'B' ~ B Anne Adriaens ~ with Liv Torc the popular choice for a 'special' prize from Hunting Raven Books.
Final gem in this glittering collection of readings came from Louise Green, who read her 'Glosa' based on Adlestrop which won the Torbay Festival of Poetry competition last year. An awesome evening - thanks David J Chedgy for the picture of me on that night with Martin Bax, inspirer of the Edward Thomas theme in the festival. Deborah has given us a great write-up in her blog, too.
This segues nicely into another really lovely event: the river walk In the footsteps of Edward Thomas, which must surely have convinced everyone taking part (there were about 40 of us) that there really is nothing nicer than strolling beside a river on a sunny afternoon, with a pause now and again to read poetry. Martin and John Payne had planned the poems to suit the 3 mile route: mostly idyllic rural observations of nature, especially the mill at Tellisford, where we stopped for tea, with a more sombre mood beside the church. Tellisford is a 'Thankful' village, one of the nine in Somerset which lost no men in the First World War. There are 53 villages identified for such gratitude but as there over 4,500 villages in England, it seems a dubious reason to rejoice. Edward Thomas would have thought so, had he survived. He wrote his own memorial two years before he was killed by a shell blast: In Memoriam (Easter, 1915) 
The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood 
This Eastertide call into mind the men, 
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should 
Have gathered them, and will do never again.

Speaking of war,  Love, Bombs and Apples, written by Hassan Abdulrazzak & performed by Asif Khan, came to the Merlin on the initiative of Frome Friends of Palestine. This award-winning AIK production brilliantly demonstrates how politics without polemic can make fantastic theatre. The play comprises four short monologues from four very different young men: In Palestine, oppression is so normalised that 'the wall' can even be a stimulating support to a date with an English do-gooder ~ this one is graphic and hilarious ~ while a Bradford lad finds the mosque is a lot less impressive than the Apple Store. A young writer who longs to be 'East Acton's answer to Zadie Smith' is arrested under Section 41 of the Terror Act (there's some helpful critique from the officer in charge: "Characters should have inner life - this is not a story, it’s a shopping list. If ISIS ran Ikea, this would be their catalogue.")  The final play for me was the most powerfully thought-provoking, and inescapably relevant. Here the young man is virtually apolitical: he admires his pro-AIPAC father as a role-model, but his girlfriend is leader of an anti-Israeli boycott movement, and she's demanding he makes a choice...  Again, political potency is brilliantly crafted into a human drama, about a very real ongoing situation as AIPAC is active in US colleges 'educating students about Zionism' with the aggressive assertion 'anti-Israel is anti-semite.' It took me back to Belfast in the 1970s troubles when Loyalists targeted not only Catholics but 'sympathisers' ~ that meant anyone refusing to join their extreme enmity. Watching a play doesn't make anything go away, but for all of us who support Palestine, it does give more context of the complexity of the issue.

The festival Art Trail features studios and galleries all around Frome, twenty-nine venues in all, mostly with more than one artist exhibiting. Time, or rather lack of it, precluded a full exploration though I saw much that was unusual and intriguing and some classy pottery and paintings. Here's the Vicarage Street Gallery, and Raggedy's studio at Silk Mill. The 'Art Car Boot' event in the market yard was hugely popular too.

Music is always a big draw in the festival and though I missed some spectacular-sounding classical performances, I did catch most of the great bands performing in the pubs and bars. Roots Session at the Grain Bar featured Littlemen with support from Al O'Kane, and Wonderstuff came to the main hall, while Cornerhouse brought us two fantastic bands: popular favourites Flash Harry, and the amazing Pete Gage Band ~ Richie Blake bass, Eddie John drums, Craig Crofton sax, the legendary Paul Hartshorn on guitar with Pete's superb voice and keyboard. 'Awesome' barely scratches it.

Frome Writers Collective, having started the festival with their very successful Small Publishers Fair and Writers In (shop & cafe) Residence events, concluded on Sunday with the Short Story Contest prize-giving in the Library. Novelist Laura Wilkinson, who judged the short list, gave a lively talk and presented cheques to the winners: Mark Johnson and Jo Else came joint second with Rhiannon Lewis in first place. Rhiannon read her story to the audience, as did local winner Margaret Histed whose story The Button Game will have stirred memories for many of my generation. Here's the prizewinners with first judge Alison Clink (R) and Brenda Bannister who compered the event (second L) During the week FWC had organised other events for members ~ a book quiz, and a flash fiction contest requiring an imagined monologue from one of the characters in a Jane Austen novel: my interpretation of secret malice from Persuasion's goodie-goodie Anne was voted second in absentia (I was at the Merlin) but I got the prize as first-placed Brenda Bannister had also organised the event. (Pic taken at our next writing group, not at Three Swans where Gill Harry read for me.)

So that's it for another year. The bunting can come down, GWR can take our brochure image off their station posters, and Froomies can go off to other festivals ~ there's several good ones coming up locally.
My final event was a quirky one: Dudley Sutton, octogenarian actor of TV 90s fame who reinvented himself 14 years ago as a solo performer with a startlingly scurrilous show called Killing Kittens at Edinburgh. For Frome's Granary he toned down his material and gave us a whistle-stop tour of a life zestfully spent in Old Enough to Know BetterClever versifying combined with great audience rapport made for an impressive performance, and if Dudley could bottle his talent for word delivery, stand-ups would be queuing to buy. Here's a picture from 1964, when Dudley was cast in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane after he 'found freedom' in London after arriving as a Daily-Mail indoctrinated 'anti-semetic homophobic racist'. With the lefty politics of Grace Petrie, the wicked wit of Frankie Boyle, and a manner all his own, Dudley's show made a perfect ending to a week of magical variety and ~ delightfully ~ near constant sunshine.


Deborah Harvey said...

I had a great time, Crysse - it was an honour to read at such a special Frome poetry cafe.

Crysse said...

I hope you'll come back Deborah! xx