It is the Urban Tree Festival this weekend – celebrating London’s amazing Urban Forest. While we celebrate our wonderful leafy friends this weekend, I am also commemorating the significant number of trees that are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate at the moment in the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames. This is not something I want to write about but I made a commitment to focus on climate change in my writing (most of my writing is about that anyway) and so I begin here… we must value and protect our trees! #climateemergency
A week staying in a tiny cottage in Hastings Old Town took on a new significance for my scooter-obsessed son when we discovered, on our second day here, that a 20 minute walk along the promenade would take us to The Source Park – the world’s largest underground skatepark.
The Source building was originally the White Rock swimming baths, including a Turkish bath and individual baths back in Victorian times. Its popularity waxed and waned, and over the years the building was modified and became an ice rink and a cinema. Eventually it closed and was derelict for several years.
The skatepark opened in 2016, after gaining funding in 2014, and the White Rock baths underwent a massive overhaul in being fitted out as a skatepark. But what is fascinating about the building now, apart from it being a great place for all ages of scooter / BMX / skateboarder to go and ride, is that in transforming it, many of the original features of the pool have been kept, and are wonderful to see.
This would seem a fitting tribute not only to the original architects and designers of the White Rock pool, but also to the original development of skateboarding, and its anarchic roots in the riding of backyard swimming pools back in the 1970s, as shown in the seminal documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, about the pioneering Zephyr team, whose skateboarding started as an extension of surfing.
As the mum of an enthusiastic 10 year old boy scooterer (is that a word?), I am pleased to have somewhere cool to take him, which is also a pleasure for me to spend time in, has a great cafe, and as a writer about place, is not too smoothed over. It feels honest. The music is great too!
this moment is a foot fall of bruises
twisted ambition faltering goodwill
disappointed pain missed steps
this moment is resting resting
recovering returning walking turned
degrees-different path // this foot learned
this moment is still the journey
This haunted London pub has a row of holding cells in its cellar, which were used as holding cells for the prisoners of the infamous Millbank Penitentiary which, in the 19th century, stood on the land now occupied by Tate Britain. The prison was built as a panopticon, or ‘all-seeing’ prison, and was designed by Jeremy Bentham, who saw it as “a mill for grinding rogues honest” .
Un-rehabilitated prisoners were taken through the dark maze of tunnels beneath the streets of Pimlico to the lock up under the pub, where they were kept before being put on boats at Millbank pier, and eventually transported ‘Down Under’…
There are records of prisoners and prison officers dying in these cells, and in the tunnels connected to the prison, and as Gary, the landlord at the pub, was telling me when I went to do some research, a team of paranormal enthusiasts have carried out readings in the cells late at night….Brrrrrr
Gary very kindly took me and Sinead Keegan, a trustee of the festival, for a tour of the spooky cells, and answered questions about the pub and its history. As MI5 is situated directly across the river, the Morpeth Arms has some fascinating pictures and snippets of information about famous spies on its walls- which could be great stimulus for a flash fiction thriller!
Do join me in the snug, for what I hope will be an enjoyable couple of hours writing stories inspired by this fascinating place!
The workshop is FREE but numbers are limited so please email me to book your place: firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Facebook event here.
Ghosts, POMS and Panopticons at The Morpeth Arms, Thursday 16th June from 7.30-9.30pm, 58 Millbank, Westminster, London, SW1P 4RW
Last Sunday me, my son and my dad went for our first proper walk Over the Fields this year. We have all been poorly and the weather has been rubbish but I was desperate to get out and have a walk over there in time for Imbolc/ Candlemas. This is the traditional time of year for sighting the first snowdrops, and maybe to see buds and Blackthorn blossom. With such a mild Winter there was plenty of new green shoots to see, trees in full blossomy bloom, new nettles and dock leaves, hawthorn leaves unfurling… I wrote about the walk for local ecologist Alison Fure’s excellent blog, and you can read what I wrote here.
On Monday afternoon I finally gave up battling with the lurgy I’ve had on and off since mid-December, and went to bed. I’ve been there ever since, apart from a trip to the doctor on Friday. Eye infection, throat infection, chest virus, acute exacerbation of asthma…I’ve been fighting it for ages but finally it got the better of me. This has resulted in a week of cancelled teaching. Not great when you are a self-employed single parent… but…mustn’t grumble eh… my son is being looked after by my amazing dad, and I am safe and warm, if feeling particularly grim.
The silver lining is that being stuck in bed means I have watched a few films. Most affecting of these is This Changes Everything, narrated by Naomi Klein and based on her book of the same name. I need to watch it again and I would recommend that you need to watch it too. So should everyone. It is tough to watch in places but breathtakingly filmed and well put together. A mixture of environmental disaster and tragedy, and the heartening, brave protests of people on the front line, whose land and lives are being profoundly affected by the atrocities of fossil fuel companies and big business. The message is clear and simple. Capitalism vs the Climate- if we don’t fight it we are doomed. Now I need to read the book.
I also watched all of the Hobbit film trilogy- and been for the most part pleasantly surprised; I saw and enjoyed the first one at the flicks, missed the second and third, and was put off watching them by a couple of friends who said the story was poorly handled, there was far too much emphasis on spiders, and that the book had been done a total disservice by the drawing out of the plot to nearly 9 hours of film…I loved the LOTR films but was, like many people, rather surprised and slightly cynical at the announcement that the Hobbit would be made as a three-part series of prequels.
So…slightly late to the party…I watched the final two parts this week. Yes, the story is drawn out but I think it’s ok, if a bit baggy . I find the use of CGI action scenes which look like computer games (and *are* constructed for the computer games market- I know, the biggest part of the film business these days) distracting and annoying- formulaic and jammed into the action of the films- but, otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies- and I would happily watch them again.
After watching This Changes Everything, The Hobbit trilogy of films became a metaphor for the rampaging greed of capitalism destroying nature, Power Over instead of Power With.
I am also re-reading Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking- a fascinating, wonderful read and, as this year I am especially committed to developing my walking/writing/making practice, a necessary one too. Once again, in light of what Klein says at the start of This Changes Everything, about the idea promulgated during the Enlightenment, of Nature as something to be conquered and used for ‘our’ benefit- the history of walking ties in, in some ways, with this view of what Nature is and is not…thought-provoking stuff and I will be returning to it again and again no doubt.
I can’t write about Bowie- there are many glorious essays, articles, outpourings, anecdotes, tributes and stories accumulating like gold dust in his wake… they are easy to find, and have been comforting I think for so many of us who feel bereft. I’ve just read this one by Chris Roberts in the Quietus …this is interesting too…The Villa of Ormen… It’s not too late to feel grateful to the Thin White Duke, even if he has returned to the stars. I have a renewed sense of ‘better do it now and better do it the way I want to do it’…and I am sure I am not the only one. What a legacy…. listen to this…Black Star by Elvis Presley- right to the end Bowie was impeccable with his art and his intentions…
On Saturday 18th April, at the Duke of York pub in St Werburghs in Bristol my first pamphlet, clew, published by Hesterglock Press, was launched. This was along with Sarer Scotthorne’s first pamphlet, The Blood House, and Paul Hawkins’s first full length collection from Erbacce press, Contumacy
l-r: Sheer Zed, Sarer Scotthorne, me, Paul Hawkins
As part of the Bristol Spring Poetry Festival this was a wonderful evening of us three poets coming together to read our work, and celebrate. Sheer Zed, a fantastic multi-talented electronic musician, provided soundscapes to some of the poems, and a great set of his own work.
It was a pleasure to be back at this lovely pub in a corner of the city that I spent time in occasionally when I lived in Bristol many years ago. Strange and synchronistic to be back reading poetry and launching my first collection here, after ten years to the month of leaving. Also, to be supported by dear friends living there, who I have stayed in touch with, and amazingly, to have four brilliant mates from Wales drive across for the evening! And to meet and chat with new people in this friendly, vibrant place
Sarer and Paul gave superb readings, hugely talented performers, and unique voices in poetry individually, as well as the partnership behind Hesterglock Press, which also publishes the vital Boscombe Revolution / Bosc:Rev magazine. I was chuffed to finally meet with Sheer Zed too, who I have been communicating with on social media for a while.
I’m so grateful to Zed for composing soundtracks for some of my work. As someone who started off many years ago by singing in a band and making experimental music, it was really exciting to ‘out’ my frustrated vocalist and have that additional musical dimension to my work. I hope we get to work together again.
There are plans to do a similar event in London but not sure when- keep an eye on the blog for details.
In the meantime Sarer and Paul’s work can be found via Hesterglock Press and Paul’s web site- I wrote a brief review of The Blood House, and have since spent more time with it and I would recommend you do so too. Here is Andie Berryman’s review of it. I have also read and re-read Contumacy, and it contains my favourite poem from last year which I return to over and over. Steve Willey wrote a great piece about it here.
Back on the 21st March, Sarer and Paul appeared on Jude Cowan Montague’s radio show, The News Agents on Resonance FM. Sarer beautifully read my poem, The Cleaning Cupboard, which was published in issue 3 of Boscombe Revolution. It’s a great programme with Jude and co-host Alice Foster discussing Hesterglock Press, and talking with Paul and Sarer about their work, including Paul’s up and coming publication, Place/Waste/Dissent, which is going to be published by Influx Press in October 2015. Listen in here!
You can buy my pamphlet clew here.
“Read ‘clew’ for a window on our times and a reminder of how poetry remains a resistant art.” – Siobhán Campbell; poet
At the beginning of this year I was lucky enough to have a poem accepted for issue 3 of Boscombe Revolution, published by Hesterglock Press. I read said poem, and a few others, in Bristol, as part of the launch event, which was a fantastic evening of poetry, spoken word and fiction at the Duke of York pub in St. Werburghs.
This Saturday I am over the moon to be going back to the very same place to launch my debut poetry pamphlet, clew, which is also being published by Hesterglock Press. clew is named after the ball of thread Ariadne gave to Theseus to help him find his way out of the Labyrinth.
I’ll be performing alongside Sarer Scotthorne, who recently published her first collection, The Blood House, and Paul Hawkins, who will be launching his collection, Contumacy, published by Erbacce. Adding to this will be music from Sheer Zed, Bristol-based electronic musician and artist, who will be providing ambient soundscapes for some of the poems. The event is part of the Bristol Spring Poetry Festival.
I feel very fortunate to have Hesterglock Press publishing my first collection of poetry. They have been wonderful to work with, and I am chuffed to bits with the finished result. For more info please visit the website.