Monday, October 08, 2018

Prattly poems, fishy tales, swamp songs & more...

Poetry Platter night at the Merlin is always a treat for spoken word enthusiasts in Frome - a fully-staged & professionally-lit performance by special guests, with the option of one of Jo Harrington's scrumptious buffets too. This autumn's event was particularly special, as Steve Pottinger brought his fantastic Poets, Prattlers & Pandemonialists to Frome on their south-west tour with this phenomenally successful -and unique- confection of drama and poetry. It's poems, Jim, but not as we know them: all human life is there, its hopes and follies, grievances and joys - funny, poignant, bantering, and sometimes crazy. Droll Steve, thoughtful Dave Pitts, and marvellous Emma Purshouse kept the audience rapt for an hour of cleverly crafted, apparently casual, sharing of passions as they plan their performance in a Wetherspoons somewhere near you..

The book spot now, and it's a long one this week. On Monday I was due to talk about Frome Unzipped at the Frome Writers Collective monthly social at the Three Swans but I had no copies left and Hunting Raven Books had sold out too... cue urgent email to my patient publisher at Hobnob Press, who made a mercy-dash to Ex Libris bookshop in Bradford which had just been delivered a new batch ('It's a terrific book - local history but not as we know it, I hope it's the start of a new genre' the donating owner gratifyingly opined) so I had some copies to wave about and sell.
Also talking that night, poet Ann Philips whose beautifully illustrated new collection Inbetween Lands celebrates a year of experiences and encounters, and Elizabeth Legge who is researching the salacious background to the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1889. The 'Mayerling' mystery still apparently fascinates many - I'm using a picture from the movie, of Omar Sherif and Catherine Deneuve as his mistress although he's far more dashing than the syphilitic prince and she's a lot older than his alleged death-pact partner.
Hunting Raven Books was the venue for a strikingly different talk the next night: Sardine is the new book from writer Trevor Day, who has exhaustively researched every aspect of the life and times of this ubiquitous little fish. Sardines are harvested in seas from Cornwall to California, as the term covers over 90 similar small fish, including pilchards (but not anchovies, their mouths slant differently) and Trevor's range is equally extensive, including marine biology, nutrition, canning, cookery and social culture, like the fact that 'Doc' in Cannery Row was modelled on an ecologist-friend of Steinbeck's: Ed Ricketts, who warned as early as 1946 against over-fishing. Image here is again from the movie version, and this time actor Nick Nolte is not as dashing as the real Ed Ricketts, 'paradoxical and charismatic', who enjoyed 'many women' in his life when not involved in research into biological communities. A fascinating talk full of tasty titbits of fact and information: a smorgasbord of pescatarian delights, just like the book.

Next night another book launch, same venue but a very different topic: Frome's prolific social historian David Lassman was talking about Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths in & around Frome, his newly published collection of fourteen tales of nefarious and mysterious events, compiled in collaboration with Mick Davis. Some of these are referenced in my book Frome Unzipped, but this book goes into far more detail, sometimes gruesome but always interesting: did you know that the Salvation Army in their early days were violently militant and their aggressive preaching caused pitched battles in Frome, on one occasion leading to imprisonment for two of the Salvationist leaders?... quite a contrast to the cosy, bonneted, images we have today....

Then to Bath's Rondo, to catch Edward Day on tour with his one-man extravaganza - Super Hamlet 64, an exploration of Shakespeare plot and characters as a video game in a production that the word 'zany' may have been invented for.  Funny, clever, and passionately immersed in retro video games and the bard's plays, it's indescribable really - engrossing and engaging at so many levels. I'm no game-player so didn't get beyond working out that wicked Uncle Luigi must be Mario's brother, but I loved Edward's lyrical script and the mishmash of soliloquies that finally enabled Edward to stop dying at level 4 and move onto the serious uncle-killing part of the game... the wild singing accompanied by 8-string ukulele was good too.

Moving up a level from 1985 screen graphics to fine art, there were two interesting exhibitions in Frome last week:
At the Hubnub there's If Not Now, Then When: Andrew Roberts offers a collection of 'plein air' paintings from all around Europe, which he describes as 'visual onomatopoeia for the landscape', a metaphor which while interesting seems somewhat subfusc. The paintings themselves are vibrant and full of stories, I liked them.

Just opened at the Silk Mill: Letting the Light In is an exhibition celebrating the 'culture, colours, and people' of Udaipur in Rajastathan, compiled by Peter Hayes who created the ceramic pieces. The painter of those fascinating, vividly coloured, faces is Shahid Parvez and there are also photographs by Rupert Grey and landscapes by Peter Brown.
When is it ever not a good week for music in Frome? Certainly not this week anyway, with high-energy Swampgrass simply fabulous at the Grain Bar on Wednesday,
Cornerhouse throbbing to rock classics from Lix'n'Stix on Saturday and with a brilliant Jazz Jam on Sunday, and Mark Abis one of the buskers at the Frome Independent monthly market on Sunday... which seems a good place to pause, in the sunshine of a superb October day.

No comments: