Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Lights, music, curtains...

Frome Festive Poetry Cafe on Monday evening had a focus on the community aspect of these bi-monthly-ish get-togethers at the Garden Cafe: we've enjoyed some fantastic guest poets at these events, and will continue to do so, but this time the metaphorical mic was given over entirely to the floor - or rather to the creative people who come as audience. Here's me somewhat randomly allocating the gifts donated by Hunting Raven Books and Merlin Theatre but the prize for everyone was a really lovely night, rich in imagery with poems ranging from poignant memories to witty word-play. Several 'debut poets' took the plunge, including a touching 'thankyou letter to Frome' from Chloe Rayburn, joining popular regulars like Mike Grenville (with a piece inspired by the current Black Swan exhibition you can read here) humorists Moira Andrew and John Christopher Wood, and John Payne, who read and distributed a moving poem from his current research on the workhouse in Bath, consulting leather ledgers in the Guildhall basement: They list the money spent, the figures, / but not the suffering / of children, elders, the mad, the sick./ We must hold them in remembrance ourselves.  Thanks David Goodman for the photos.
Next night's illuminating imagery was the literal kind, with an evening walk over the Wiltshire border into neighbouring Longleat Festival of Lights rewarded by an awesome scene of myths and legends in massive scale filling the park right down to, and including, the lake. This extraordinary spectacle is on until Jan 5th and it really is, also literally, fabulous: I've been critical of this costly 'spectacular' in the past for tacky cartoon figures and badly re-envisaged storybook characters, but this year's theme-envisaging is truly awesome - every mythic monster and hero from legends around the world is here, aesthetically beautiful as well as posed in thrilling story-telling moments - the illuminated tags beside each were being extensively used by visitors, I noticed, to succinctly fill the sad omissions in our 'education' system. There are hundreds of beautiful images there to enthral and photograph - I picked two that chime currently for me.

For the rest of the week Frome seems to have been wall-to-wall music. Raggedy Men at the Cornerhouse were a perfect choice for Friday, with dancing from the start and lots of shout-along moments to great songs from Jonny Rotten and The Clash - classic smashing punk, but with riffs! Andy, Bugsy, Carl, and drumming dervish Pat - you were just what we all needed.

Dancing-from-the-start at Cornerhouse again next night for amazing Bristol band Flash Harry, who claim to be a folk rock-balkan-cajun band but it's not that simple (!) to describe them - they can sing&play at fast-forward, make a sea-shanty sound like Deep Purple, make a hoe-down song jazzy or the other way around, and have a penchant for hamsters. I can't find their wonderful Get Out Of Bed song online but here's a sample of their style from a Bristol gig.
Sunday afternoon Acoustic Club in the Three Swans, co-ordinated by Paul Kirtley, was a pleasantly casual affair, with a series of enjoyable performances including a great set from Mountain Speaks Fire who were joined for their version of Where Did You Sleep Last Night by guest singer Anna Callan making an early debut. (I always thought this was a Nirvana original, but it's actually traditional, first recorded in 1939 by Lead Belly)
And the tempo stayed relaxed back at the Cornerhouse for Graham Dent's Sunday jazz night, this time with Caroline Radcliffe as guest singer with Graham's regular Piano Trio and John Plaxton on trumpet.

As this is primarily an arts blog, there will be no comment about what also happened last week and I'll leave you with a seasonal poem from William Yeats: The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spirtus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man
 A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
 Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
 That twenty centuries of stony sleep
 Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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