Monday, April 19, 2021

The week we remembered ordinary life

The 'glorious twelfth' of April has brought many openings, one of which is Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, where there are two art exhibitions and, of course, the famous Oudolf Field garden, designed to complement the gallery by looking like 'a giant artists palette'. A trip here is always a pleasure but at the moment it's not at its most dramatic & felt a bit like visiting a friend who's laid out the paint cards and wallpaper swatch to show how nice the flat will look later. The pond is lovely though, as is walking up the hill to the dovecote above the town.
Performance poetry zoomed in again on Thursday from the Rainbow Fish Speakeasy run by Take Art, the excellent events organisation for Somerset rural areas. Superbly compered by Liv Torc, this has developed a wide audience with contributors providing poems from their sofas, kitchens, and other areas of comfort, sometimes with delightful interruptions from children and cats. Guest of the night was Kat Lyons, who introduced me to the poignant word solastalgia: "a feeling of despair when one's home environment changes" and a neat 'group poem' from audience comments was woven by Jaime. Liv's vivid & moving poem on how her hair sacrificed its life for hers was for me the highlight of an excellent event - you can read it on her FB page here.

From poetry to prose: Andy Wrintmore's Giant Pod this week features Eleanor Talbot, another brilliant exponent of audio sessions, definitely not one to miss. "I have no problems with borders," Eleanor explains when Andy asks about her eclectic choices in music in her weekly show Variations on a Theme, where Kazakhstani hip hop is likely to be heard alongside Noah & the Whale, or Elvis.  Eleanor talks with refreshing frankness and genuinely upbeat vitality about 'touchy' topics like mortality and libido and her lifelong chronic kidney disease.  

The last year has tested the ingenuity of all performance groups and a range of ways have emerged to present productions online and, even more challengingly, to rehearse them. Stepping Out Theatre Company in Bristol maintained their programme of activities via whatsapp and zoom, compiling a presentation with a topical theme: Putin's Mist, on-line for two nights, imagined an hour in the life of the community of a tower block as a mysterious toxic mist confines them to their homes in an intriguing metaphorical processing of reality.  Credit to all the team for this provocative and disturbing look at the effects of disinformation when 'nothing is what it seems.'

And now we can look ahead with confidence that  Frome Festival will definitely go ahead in July - it's already been featured in the Guardian Top 10 summer festivals. "Quirky cobbled alleyways" always seem to head the bill in London-based publications but it's great news anyway, and festival director Martin Dimery expects the line-up to be online by the end of the month. The ECOS amphitheatre will be a major venue for performance, including on Tuesday (6 July) the return of the Frome Poetry Cafe with Liv Torc as guest as well as our popular Open Mic - check it out on the Merlin page here, but note there's no advance booking - it's turn-up-on-the-night in the traditional spoken word way of the 1960s beat poets and here in Frome since the first festival twenty years ago. 

Concluding this bulletin on another upbeat note: the longed-for return to socialising with near-normality has seen a new bar opens up in the French antiques shop in Frome, serving widely spaced tables in a car park that looks as good as the Alhambra gardens to our friendship-starved eyes. Here's me with thespian friends Rosie and Tracey, and a toast to everyone able to enjoy meeting friends and family again - hopefully that's all of you. Cheers!

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