Sunday, November 24, 2019

Frome's Glit-lit culture: silver crows, glittery art, & more

A blog about creativity in Frome ought, arguably, to mention writing more often than this one does, as there's a lot of it going on. There's the famous Write Place at Black Swan, for a start, to which members travel long distances, there's Hunting Raven Books positively pulsing with words and word-y promotions - there are scads of writing groups (I belong to two myself) and Frome Writers' Collective has over a hundred members... but literary activity unlike art and music doesn't generally lend itself to imagery & appraisal. So it's great to lead this week with a writerly event - a party organised by FWC to celebrate the success of Silver Crow, a unique concept to ensure self-published writers achieve a quality product. The organising team behind Frome's writers' collective is awesomely well organised and this party was another big success for Gill Harry and her team.   Detective fiction writer Nikki Copleston was the first to take flight with The Shame of Innocence, and since then nine more author's titles, ranging from memoirs to children's stories, have followed. It feels appropriate that Silver Crow's third birthday also launches Nikki's second novel: The Price of Silence, from which Nikki read us a tantalising extract.
Tina Gaisford-Waller, dynamic & delightful manager of Hunting Raven Books, (who feathered her speech with crow puns far more effectively than I have) spoke enthusiastically about how mutual support between local writers and bookshops can play a big role in maintaining a healthy community. Frome Festival Director Martin Dimery was encouraging too, commending local organisers for providing more literary events in our programme each year than some specifically-Literary Festivals, always with a mix of both local and invited guests.  And I was privileged & delighted to add my two-penn'orth with a short reading from Frome Unzipped and a crone poem... (yes it was Bungee Jumping Crumblies, p 47 of Burning Eye's Best Spoken Word Poetry Book in the World., - and thanks Mac for the snap of me.) 

'They come not in single spies but in battalions' said Claudius, and although he was complaining about annoyances like murder & madness it's often apt for nicer things like clashing gigs & gatherings, parties, and event openings. Luckily Frome's artistic quarter is compact enough to dash from one dazzling launch to another, as on Friday when WHY Gallery was raising a glass with master-engraver Chris Pig while Black Swan Long Gallery celebrated 'Pictures and Dioramas' of Corinna Sargood. (As a scavenger of unfamiliar words I seized on 'diorama' like an edible fungus found in the woods, and found it means a painting viewed through a peephole - feel free to look smug if you knew that already.)  The exhibits are totally extraordinary, day-glo brilliant, painted or tightly-stitched, legends from epic fantasies - you get the feeling if William Blake could embroider and had access to glittery threads, he would have created these scenes and creatures. There's also a hand-bound copy of Angela Carter's The Tiger's Bride, with Corinna's lino cut illustrations. This is a really extraordinary exhibition, almost scary in its brilliance - a huge credit to Corinna's generosity in sharing work of so much importance with her local town gallery, and to Mel Day for imaginative curating.

Time for music, with the brilliant Swampgrass back by popular demand at the Grain Bar Roots Session, beating up the blues with verve and style. Singer/songwriter Nick Tann, flying solo for this visit, gave strong support. There were some real highlights too at Three Swans' monthly acoustic session run by Paul Kirtley -including a beautiful, eerie, version of Nirvana's In the Pines from Mountainspeaksfire, and on Friday talented singer-songwriter Jane Langley launched her new band MellowTones at the Cornerhouse.

If you haven't yet seen Sorry we missed you you've probably recognised the connection with our online-buying culture, and with Ken Loach directing this will be an I Daniel Blake style exposé, scrupulously researched, using non-actors in every role - honest, moving and uncomfortable. The 'white-man-van' gig economy survives in this Nottingham example on a fake premise of self-employment which means in reality if you miss a day you not only lose your day's pay, you pay the wage of your replacement - however painful the family or personal circumstances that took you away. Tight script, good photography, and some lovely family moments ensure this is a really good movie as well as call for change in our focus as a society.  I saw this film on Saturday in the bar of Ken's own football club - Bath City FT - with the local Labour party providing supportive leaflets, but it was interesting to hear Ken's opinion in the Q&A afterwards that the over-riding issue in our upcoming election, and priority for any future government, is the planetary crisis of climate change.

Ending this post with two personal highlights: first is having lunch with the wonderful 'Mama Upendo', aka Sara Hillman, whose African Kitchen stall is a regular feature at Frome's Independent Markets: Sarah in the pic. has just found herself in my unzipping history of Frome and its people, and this copy will be going to her orphanage in Kenya.
And my other special event is a sunny afternoon walking Roddenberry Hill Fort (technically Wiltshire but it's an easy walk from my side of town) - one of those magical places with its own kind of silence, and an atmosphere that seems to span centuries.

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