Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Let the festivities commence - some highlights ahead

July's Independent Market, perhaps due to temperatures touching 30º again, was slightly quieter than usual, and all the more pleasant for it, with space to admire the ingenious craft on the hill which tends often to be lost in a slow-moving crush of limbs and dog-leads.
Thankfully most of Frome's cynophilistic population had heeded the messages on social media - or maybe their own common-sense - and weren't dragging their heavily-furred, bare-footed, creatures along in conditions that would fry an egg.  As always, great sounds from the busking stage - here's Crossing the Rockies rocking the crowd with songs & airs in the celtic tradition: this local band also played in the balconied upstairs room of The George later that evening at Ann Harrison-Broninski's launch party for her Frome Festival Sketchbook exhibition - here's a sample of the Ann's lively in-the-moment sketching. There's currently a Festival exhibition in Black Swan Cafe too, with Frome Wessex Camera Club displaying some favourite shots. David Chedgy chose this memorable moment from our 2015 Nevertheless site-specific production Midsummer Dusk in the Dissenters Cemetery: Frome actor Oliver Wright as WW1 soldier George Case.

Before Frome Festival hits this blog with the force of a Harry Kane goal kick -(yes I know this is an arts blog but there was an England match on when I wrote this bit) - a theatrical digression to Wiltshire, to Cleeve House in Seend, which was the setting for a lively performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor from Shakespeare Live.
The 36-strong all-age cast presented Shakespeare's comedy of seduction and retribution in an entertaining production visually impressive throughout - a beautiful garden setting for the company's lavish costumes and magical lighting effects. There were many great moments - Rod Moor-Bardell Falstaff is terrific, his pond-weed return from the ditch where the merry wives' trickery dumped him is a high spot (image Owen Benson). Strong performances too from Jeremy Fowlds' genial George Page and Laurence Parnell's jealous Frank Ford, with Django Lewis-Clarke and Phoebe Wood-Wheelhouse absolutely delightful as the lovers. Overall this was a superb example of community theatre - vibrant, fun, with everything the discerning outdoor theatre-goer might require: Pimms, prosecco, and portaloos.

Grain Bar Roots Session was packed despite a hot night for Wednesday's excellent double bill: Al O'Kane & band, with Ben Hutcheson support - amazing talents and fantastic performance energy - I think my wide-angle lens had heat-stroke, the images really don't do justice to the acts.

Frome Festival officially begins today - Friday 6th - so this week has also been a flurry of final preparations and rehearsals.
Yesterday afternoon was our rehearsal for In the Footsteps of Siegfried Sassoon, the poetry walk around Mells devised by John Payne and Martin Bax, a three mile stroll along gorgeous wild flower trails around stone buildings soaked in history and sunshine under a sky of unblemished cobalt blue - I took only a bottle of water & my script so can't show you any snaps but it was honestly awesome.
I was home just in time the penultimate rehearsal of The Meddling of Mrs Harris, on Tuesday - definitely the most unusual event of this year's festival as Peter Clark takes on the role of Mark Twain who is taking on the role of Leopold II of Belgium, the most monstrous monarch ever, even in our long history of tyrants and psychopaths. His treatment of the Congolese people was so atrocious that reports were deemed unbelievable in the early 1900s, until the wife of an English missionary set about recording the evidence and then travelled around Europe and America with 60 slides of her photographs, taken on one of the world's first cameras. This irrefutable proof brought the end of Leopold's empire in Africa, and the woman who took the pictures has been hailed as the Mother of Human Rights by the Anti-Slavery campaign. Her name is still virtually unknown, even in her home-town - which is Frome - so come along to Rook Lane and hear all about what Alice Seeley Harris found in the Congo under Leopold, as presented in this 1905 satirical 'self-defence' by the king, with a Q&A session afterwards. There's a bar too, if you need a stiff drink after hearing some of the things that Alice saw...

Other events to look out for: Well I'll be going to all the music I can - and tomorrow - Saturday - is the Small Publishers Fair at Silk Mill, hosted by the indefatigable committee of the Frome Writers Collective, at which I'm thrilled to say I'll be lurking about by the Hobnob stall, signing and I hope selling copies of my book Frome Unzipped - from Prehistory to Post-Punk.

I'd also like to put a word in for the Poetry Cafe, which will actually be in the garden of the Garden Cafe on Monday - always our aim but not always an option - with Rob "not-only-clever-but-very-funny" Barratt as special guest, and the Open Mic quest for 2018 Festival Poet Laureate. Last year's theme worked so well we're doing it again - poems on Frankenstein, this year's festival choice.
There's poetry too on Thursday when Liv Torc does her wonderful Hip Yak Slam at the Archangel, and on Wednesday, the Friends of Palestine are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the death of Mahmoud Darwish, with an evening of poetry and music and a middle Eastern buffet. Darwish was six when Israeli forces expelled family and took his village: his poems express not only the suffering of a displaced people, but their hopes and dreams too. I'm very privileged to be one of the readers.

Now I'm off to visit some art openings...

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