Saturday, January 27, 2018

The land we live on, the town we live in

When Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane came... a tale of treachery, murder, and scots ballet moves.
Multi-award-winning Mark Bruce Company is now fully established in Frome with a superb home here in a fully-fitted out dance studio, so we're privileged that their current opus Macbeth premiered here before its highly anticipated tour. Like their version of Dracula, and their Odyssey, this is powerful dramatic story-telling, the lack of voice increasingly irrelevant and paradoxically more powerful as the story unfolds. The dancers are amazing, the special effects are stunning, and the second act becomes a horror film nightmare of remorse, recrimination, & retribution: Shakespeare fans, this is the best Banquo's ghost scene you've ever seen.

The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind curated by Adam Sutherland is the newly-opened exhibition at Hauser &Wirth, an 'ambitious survey exploring the contradictory nature of society’s relationship to the rural telling the story of humanity’s evolving connection to the land, our perception of, and reliance upon it.' There's a huge range of evidential artefacts, from tiny woodblock prints to a wall-sized film of modern farming methods, pointing up every aspect from sentimental to sensual, from exploitative to indifferent, some exhibits puzzling & some deeply moving. Opening night fizzed  and this deserves a second visit for proper scrutiny - on till 7 May.

Land, coincidentally, is one of my current themes so I was fascinated by Angela France's semi-dramatised presentation of her new poetry collection The Hill: tales of Leckhampton Hill and the struggle of Gloucestershire people over a hundred years ago to save their footpath rights. The land wears time as a mantle, bending briars over paths, growing trees to fill a slope, change encoded in every seed and speck of earth.  Several other excellent poets too at Words & Ears, Dawn Gorman's always-excellent poetry night in Bradford on Avon, including Robert Walton and a fine open-mic.

And on Saturday, three Frome authors shared a presentation of their recent titles under the title Bookends of Time, all firmly rooted in locality and soil: Julian Hight explained how the land around here was all part of Selwood Forest, Annette Burkitt talking about the deep history of this area, and Carolyn Griffiths telling the fascinating story of woad in local cloth industry. Flesh & Bones by Annette is a fiction set in the pre-Roman kingdom of Dumnonia, and Carolyn has written a scrupulously-researched account entitled WOAD TO THIS - a traditional instruction to the dyer. Residents of the Blue House knitted this cloak in varying shades of woad-indigo which apparently has the property of losing visibility when mist descends, which enemies must have found disconcerting. I faded my shot to test the theory, and these blues definitely disappear more than other tones. (Makes you wonder why so many cars are silver...)

Currently I'm still in full-on project mode so again this post will barely skim the surface of  the last two weeks in Frome. But there's been too much music to ignore all, and though I've missed jazz & blues (& also King Sporks who promised 'hand-crafted artisanal funk, seditious jazz and ungentrified reggae in an outrageous night of original live music' at the Griffin), here are the events I just could not pass up: the totally brilliant Raggedy Men at the Grain Bar ~ new boys on the music block shaking up the scene with extraordinary vigour ~ also the even newer Borrowed Light, who shared their exquisite traditional songs and melodies at the Three Swans. and a Sofar Sounds Frome session ~ three excellent guests, introduced by the man who, with Anna Dina  and Beth Monk, brought the concept to Frome: singer-songwriter, town councillor & general rep for creativity, Al O'Kane.  Sofar is an excitingly quirky concept which transports anyone of my generation back to those magical '70s days of wandering night streets looking for a party you knew must be somewhere, following the people who had a bottle in hand because they must know, and always ending up somewhere with great live music playing... it's a lot more organised these days of course, but there's still a sense of secrecy and passion for music and a great buzz ~ and Frome is the only town in the southwest to have joined this international initiative. And I can't miss a mention of the rock & blues jam session at 23 Bath Street since (it was research, honest) I somehow ended up on stage with Elaine Pugsley knocking on heaven's door with the jammers.... thanks David Goodman for snatching my camera from the bar and grabbing some shots of this unlikely occurrence.

Final footnote: it did look published but it wasn't properly (because self-publishing on Kindle is not as easy as it looks, folks!) my second novel with Hodder & Stoughton Sleeping in Sand now an e-book, thanks to David Goodman who not only created the cover but tidied up the text within. It will cost you 99p to verify this, but you can't get a coffee anywhere for under 2 quid these days - go on, spoil yourself! 

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