Archive for the ‘Writing workshops’ Category

zq News April 2016: Words Aloud Sutton + Dance & Poetry Collaborations

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Words Aloud, Sat 16 April, 2–4pm

Sutton Central Library
I’ll be at Words Aloud in Sutton this Saturday with guest Lewis Buxton. I’m doing a slot, and the open mic is always excellent. Compered by Rachel Sambrooks. See their Facebook page for further details:https://www.facebook.com/events/455341517998768/

Publications and Collaborations

Quick Shifts dance collective

Quick Shifts Dance Improvisation Collective

One area of poetry improvisation I’m keen on exploring is movement—in terms of building up a relationship between speech and movement to give performances a more physical dimension, but also how posture and movement affect the way we speak while improvising. Getting performers pacing up and down the room can add nervous energy to their verbal improvisation, and simple things like whether they are looking at one another or up at the ceiling can dramatically change the dynamics.
So I was pleased to be invited to take part in a workshop with Quick Shifts, a dance improvisation collective based in Leicester, in February. We explored ways of incorporating speech into their performances, and one of these ideas formed the basis of their show on 3 March. I also benefitted a lot from seeing how people use improvisation in another artform where it is more established; for example, how they use the number of performers (solo, duet, triplet, etc.) as a central structuring principe.

Nottingham Poetry Improvisation Group

Earlier in April I met with Mark Goodwin for a session in Nottingham, where we recorded some duets and alternating solos (usually I work in bigger groups, so this was a good chance to explore techniques for working as a pair). We’ve both got the recordings, so there may be some alternative versions surfacing once we’ve got round to editing them. There are plans for more in Nottingham over the next few months, with probably a scratch event coming out of it at some point.

Obsessed with Pipework and Open Minds Quarterly

I was excited to hear last week I’ve got three poems in one of my favourite magazines at the moment, Obsessed with Pipework. ‘Story’ and ‘Lay-by’ are from my Poems from the Road sequence, and ‘Trickster Wind’ is about noises in the back yard. ‘Pills’ (which riffs off William Carlos Williams’ ‘This Is Just to Say’, but substitutes ‘pills’ for ‘plums’) appeared in Open Minds Quarterly 17:3.

Sutton Cultural Award

Next week I’m picking up an award, alongside Rachel Sambrooks, for our work on Sutton Stories, a project that ran from July to October last year as part of Imagine Festival of the Arts. It culminated in ‘a truly intergenerational event that gave the elderly a sense of connection to the community and emotionally moved many of the public’, in the words of the Festival Report. Thanks are also due to Joanna Steele, who put a huge amount of effort into the project and successfully managed to pull together all its different strands. There’s a blog post about the work I did with care home residents for the project here: http://www.zeroquality.net/zqblog/?p=747.

Digital Poetry Jam at WAC Arts

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

WAC Arts Interactive Poetry Jam 2015In September 2015 I ran a digital poetry jam project with young people in the WAC Interactive group at WAC Arts in North London. This was a trial project, exploring how we could use Keezy, a sampling app on the iPad, as a fun and engaging way into poetry. The idea was simple: we’d write lines (or just think them up in cases), sample them, and have a go at playing back in different ways. Participants would be able to create the content, use their voices, try out different arrangements, and produce a performance, but without the pressure of having to write a fully formed poem or read out in front of the whole class.

We had a fantastic range of responses, ranging from the poignant to the comic, and it was amazing to see how every person had a different approach to playing back the samples. One person would play back more conventionally, line by line, another would make use of the chorus, a third would go minimalist, stuttering back and forth between just two samples, and a fourth would use looping and layering to create a full-on DJ mash-up.

Here’s a mix I put together afterwards using Launchpad, a live sequencing app.

Many thanks to WAC Arts for giving me the chance to trial the project, and indeed sparking the idea in the first place through the Creative Innovation for Inclusion (CiFi) Think Tank  I attended there back in January 2015.

If you’re interested in me running a digital poetry jam for your school or organisation, get in touch via my contact page.

Sutton Stories: Intergenerational Workshops

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Here are the details of the spoken word workshops that form the second stage of the Sutton Stories project I’ve been working on for the Imagine Festival of the Arts (part 1 here). They’ll be led by Rachel Sambrooks, and I’ll be assisting with the first two.

There are two sessions for adults and two for 13–18 year olds, and they’re all FREE! We’ll be performing the work we produce at an event on 24 October hosted by John Hegley in Sutton Central Library.

In July 2015, writer Robin Vaughan-Williams worked with residents in two care homes in Wallington to explore their experiences of Sutton, from bicycles and trams to shops and libraries. In the poems they produced we discover a Sutton of hissing gas lamps and clunking meters, lavender fields and wailing sirens.

In the spoken word workshops we’ll be using the experiences of older residents as our springboard, exploring our experiences of the borough to connect past and present in new ways. We’ll be working on group and prompts for individual work, using different devising techniques to help generate ideas. We will be working towards some poems to perform at the final live literature event on 24th October hosted by John Hegley in Sutton.  We will also have time to practice, share and rehearse before the event.

Dates and Booking

Spoken Word Workshops for young people, 13–18

I. Tuesday 29 September, 4.30–6.30pm

II. Tuesday 6 October, 4.30–6.30pm

Spoken Word Workshops for adults

I. Tuesday 29 September, 6.45–8.45pm

II. Tuesday 6 October, 6.45–8.45pm

You’ll also need to be able to commit to a rehearsal on Sunday 18 October and the performance on 24 October.

Sutton Stories: The Poetry of Memory

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

In July I ran a series of three workshops in a couple of care homes in Sutton as part of the literature strand of the borough’s Imagine Festival of the Arts, which takes place 16–31 October 2015. Because the Festival’s theme this year is ‘Sutton stories’, we were working around the concept of place, using residents’ memories of Sutton and other places they have lived as material for a series of poems.

It was a great pleasure working with the two groups, who enjoyed sparking off one another and seeing their words written up and re-purposed as poetry. I found that the best way to work was to base the sessions around a loose discussion, with me picking up on some of the things people said, writing those up on the board and asking a few guiding questions to help draw out their memories and experiences. Some of the poems are collective, with contributions from several members of the group, and some are individual in their origin.

I have edited the poems, but they all retain the words and voices of the speakers, and in only a few instances have I added words or lines of my own. The test of this was when we came to video the participants reading their poems; I’d show them the poem first, then ask if they felt it was their own voice, and the response was always a clear yes. One thing I’ve learnt is that memory is selective, with an aesthetic logic of its own—you can trust in the poetry of people’s memory.

We’ll be playing recordings of some of the writing at an event hosted by John Hegley at Sutton Central Library on 24 October 2015, alongside writing produced by younger generations in workshops this September. If you’d like to participate in these, you can sign up to the Spoken Word Workshops on Eventbrite. In the meantime, here are a few of the poems to come out of the project.

He Went to Church

My father bought a television set
from Broughton Radio, aged sixty-five.
One day he walked to church in the snow
sat down in a pew and died.
My mother went to pay the bill
but the technician said his debts were forgiven.

Sunday was a day of rest, and like good Christians
we walked to church in the pouring rain
trying to keep our straw hats dry.
Over Westminster Bridge, the flower lady
on Parliament Square. We let the buses go.
Saved our tuppence for another day.

Source: Joyce Buckingham

Croydon Airport

The airmen used to come down to our house on the corner
to shelter in the garden when the sirens went.

Their melancholy wail and terrible moans
stopped everything. We hid in muddy dug-outs.
No dogs allowed.

When I came out my shoes had gone
along with the house
so a workman lent me his boots.

This was a collective poem fusing together several wartime recollections from participants at Ryelands, but drawing in particular on the memories of Beryl Steward.

Beddington Lane

We lived on a new estate on Beddington Lane
on the site of a pig farm.
Used to go fishing for sticklebacks with my mum
over the Wandle and up the hill
four years old, paddling in the stream with my fishing net.
My dad’s dad lived in Wallington
the gas lights hissing. You had to pull them down
feed a sixpence to the meter
turn the thing round and it went clunk.
Spare coins on the dresser in case the lights went out.

Source: Pam Bollom

Libraries

There is an overwhelming amount of knowledge
in this large room full of books
filled with the voices of children singing
for half an hour on Thursday mornings.

A quiet, meditative space
time to think in silence
look things up, email
and pick up your Freedom Pass.

It’s like passing your A-levels
flying around the world
being on the top of the South Downs
a non-denominational chapel.

This last poem is one of the few pieces resulting from a structured session. We were talking about libraries. I asked about the things people do in libraries, how they’d describe a library, and finally we invented similes for libraries, and you can see pretty clearly how each line in the poem originates from one of these categories.

Thanks to the staff (especially Dawn and Marie) and residents at MHA Ryelands and The Abbeyfield Society, and to Joanna Steele, the Imagine Coordinator, for their enthusiasm and making it all happen.

zqNews Jan 2015: Texas 2 London, Death on the Road, and Word’s a Stage

Friday, February 6th, 2015

In this issue of zqNews, find out about my forthcoming video link between Texas and London, new audio tracks from Poems from the Road, and poetry improvisation projects in the pipeline for London and St Andrews.

Poems from the Road

Poems from the RoadI’ve uploaded two new tracks to my Poems from the Road SoundCloud playlist. There’s a fascinating interview I conducted with London Grip editor Michael Bartholomew-Biggs about poet-cum-cricketing commentator John Arlott’s pamphlet-length poem ‘Death on the Road’, and ‘Travelling the Roads in My Red Mini’, a poem by Ann Vaughan-Williams exploring the voices that accumulated in her car during her time as a psychiatric social worker

The Poems from the Road podcast is now available on the Apples and Snakes SoundCloud page, so if you missed it in December, you can now listen to it at your leisure. And the additional materials that I wasn’t able to include in the podcast are up on my SoundCloud page until the end of February. Check out the Poems from the Road webpage.

I’m also planning to submit a 10-minute Poems from the Road feature to Radio Wildfire, so if you’ve any favourite poems from the show or additional material, let me know and I’ll consider them for the feature.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the show!

Texas 2 London

Skype Me! Sheffield and the WorldOn 10th April the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) is coming to London with Texas 2 London at the Colour House Theatre, Merton Abbey Mills. AIPF is renowned as a melting pot of world poetry, and our three guests will be trading poems with poets in Austin via a live video link. On our side we’ve got Matt Black, Agnes Meadows, and Kayo Chingonyi, and on the Texas side there’ll be Element615 plus two more to be confirmed.

Take part!
There’ll also be a chance for you to perform your work at the AIPF. At 7pm we’ll have an open mic (offline), and three participants from the open mic will then be offered a short slot during the video-linked part of the evening.

I’m co-hosting with electro-pop poetry duo Project Adorno, and the hosts on the other side of the Atlantic will be the irrepressible and always surprising Thom the World Poet and James Jacobs. I’m collaborating with OpenHaus Arts on producing Texas 2 London, and it’s supported by an Arts Development Fund grant from Merton Council.

Friday 10 April 2015, 7–10pm
Colour House Theatre, Merton Abbey Mills, SW19 2RD (near Colliers Wood underground)
£3 on the door. Enquiries to 020 3730 8039.
More info: http://zeroquality.net/texas2london.html

Poetry Improvisation

Poetry ImprovisationMy December workshop at the Scottish Writers’ Centre in Glasgow got a great write-up, and I have several poetry improvisation projects coming up in the next couple of months.

I’m particularly excited about an Apples and Snakes project called Word’s a Stage that’s starting this Saturday. I’ll be leading a series of four workshops with four emerging writers to develop a performance for early April (exact date TBA). We’ll be using improvisation techniques to generate material and the final performance will be at least part improvised on the night.

This is a valuable opportunity to explore what we can do with poetry improvisation when working with a group over a sustained period of time. I’ve got some ideas about feeding off the audience (so the audience become part of the poetry), chorus work, and layered set pieces with background and foreground voices, but in the end it’s down to the individuals in the group to see how they interact and what we come up with.

Leaving the Comfort Zone
I’m also offering a poetry improvisation workshop at Scotland’s Stanza poetry festival in St Andrew’s on Saturday 7 March. This will be a day-long workshop during which we’ll devise material for a short performance at the end of it. I believe there are a couple of places left, so still time to book.

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Poetry Improvisation Workshop – Nottingham 26 July

Monday, July 14th, 2014

I’ll be running a poetry improvisation workshop at Nottingham Writers’ Studio from 10am to around 5pm on Saturday 26 July 2014.

The session uses group improvisation to explore ways of working together to create spontaneously. The session will include games, structured scenarios where we work with different poetic voices, and freeform improvisation that can take off in any direction. Some of the things I’ve done in improv sessions in the past include creating a human-generated Apostrophe poem, speaking in endangered languages, and producing a piece based on Snapchat.

If you’re used to writing poetry on your own with a keyboard or pen, this is going to be something completely different – it’s oral, collaborative, and spontaneous.

Poetry improvisation can be a great way to channel your inner voice, explore the possibilities of working with others, and build confidence in your spontaneity. It can also be used to generate pieces for performance or recording, and as a method for producing ideas for further development.

The cost is £75 or £50 (NWS members), which includes tea/coffee and biscuits, and there’ll be a one-hour lunch break (lunch not included).

Further details and booking info are available on the Nottingham Writers’ Studio website:
http://nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk/event/group-poetry-improvisation-workshop-robin-vaughan-williams/


More about my workshops: http://www.zeroquality.net/zqme/workshops.html

Poetry Improvisation Workshop, 28 February 2014

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Back in 2008 I was blown away by a poetry improvisation session I’d been to, along with other poets in the group I belonged to at the time. One of the members of the group worked for Point Blank theatre company, and had arranged for us to spend a day with theatre director Steve Jackson. He’d asked us to each memorise a poem, but apart from that we didn’t know what to expect. We hoped it would shake things up a bit, give us some different perspectives on our writing, and help us improve our performance techniques.

BOOK POETRY IMPROV WORKSHOP

BOOK WORKSHOP (free)

We spent the morning doing physical theatre exercises, but it was the afternoon, when we focused on the voice, that really produced amazing results. There we were, about five of us, lying spread out in Sheffield’s Open Performance Centre, shut off in our own little worlds, slowly reciting the poems we’d learnt and building on them, working out new directions for them. And then something wonderful happened. We started to respond to one another’s voices, picking up on words other people had said, incorporating them into our own narratives, and listening to our own threads become intertwined with those the others were spinning. We had started out as five disparate voices, but by the end of the exercise those voices had come together to form something utterly new, unique, and of the moment.

That is not an experience you often get as a poet. And the feeling was very different too—I tend to find myself using spiritual terms when I describe it. There was a sense of a deep but effortless connection, of a consciousness awakening, and I would say a kind of euphoria.

So that got me hooked. I wanted to do it again, to record it, see what we could come up with. I ran a poetry improvisation session with some of our group again, using a multitrack recorder so I could capture each voice on a separate channel. That resulted in some pieces like ‘Everything Changes‘, and we started to explore different ways of spontaneously building a poem together. I used some improvisation in the workshops for ‘Lost Voices‘, a collective poetry performance I was producing at the time. And then in my final radio show for SheffieldLive, Adele Geraghty and Sarah Thomasin joined me for a couple of structured poetry improvisations I’d devised, which produced ‘Are You My Friend?‘.

I’m now drawing on these experiences for a poetry improvisation session with Apples and Snakes on 28 February. We’ll be using a mixture of structured and freeform approaches to explore how poets can create spontaneously and collaboratively. If you’ve ever been to a creative writing workshop, you’ll know that people can come up with some amazing things in a five-minute exercise. To me that’s evidence that we can all improvise, but we often censor what we produce; we’re afraid to fail, wanting to check and edit before letting others see what we’ve written. Group improvisation is all about the process, finding the confidence in your inner voice, and opening yourself up to the voices of those around you.  It can be a powerful way of giving your creativity a kick and discovering new ideas. Some of what we produce might just be an interesting experiment, and some of it might be something we can work up into a recording or a performance.

If you’re up for something new and exciting, give it a go! You can find booking details on the Apples and Snakes website:

http://www.applesandsnakes.org/page/37/Power+Plant+Improvisation+for+Poets/1098

Workshop Title: Improvisation for Poets
When: Friday 28 February, 10am–3pm (with a break for lunch)
Where: Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Rd, London, EC1R 3GA
Tickets: FREE
Info: 020 8465 6154

poetry-art collaborations and improvisation

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Several exciting things have started happening recently. I’ve got a couple of poems, ‘Frogger’ and ‘Eating Ghosts’, included in the Jawspring Poetry and Art Exhibition, which will be showing at The Village Hall Gallery in Wimbledon (SW19 4QD) 19–23 March. My poems have been sent to two artists, Siobhan Tarr and Phil Deed, so I look forward to seeing their responses, interpretations, or reactions. There are twenty-five artists taking part, and seventeen poets from Merton Poets, who work will all be shown during the exhbition. There’ll be a launch, with drinks and readings, at 7pm on World Poetry Day, Friday 21 March 2014.

Trevor Tomkins, by Alban Low

Trevor Tomkins, by Alban Low

Jawspring is organised by Alban Low, who has a line in producing some lively jazz sketches and album art. Check them out on his blog: artofjazz.blogspot.co.uk. We’re talking a about some live poetry-jazz sketching, and producing a film-poem, and I’m sure something is going to come of this. Here’s a short film he produced a couple of years ago, a walk through London streets…and here’s one of my favourite film-poems, ‘Door’ by Lawrence Bailey, based on a poem by Merton Poets’ own Patrick McManus.

On Friday 28 February I’ll be running a group poetry improvisation workshop as part of the Apples & Snakes Powerplant series. It’s FREE and runs from 10am till 3pm (with a break for lunch) at the Free Word Centre on Farringdon Road, London. Full details here. If you’d like to book a place, get in touch with Apples & Snakes on 020 8465 6154. We’ll be using a mixture of structured and freeform approaches to explore how poets can create spontaneously and collaboratively. If you’d like to hear an example of improvised work, check out this piece I produced for my radio show back in 2008, with Sarah Thomasin and Adele Geraghty. It’s called ‘Are You My Friend?’.

This can be a great way to shake out some fresh ideas, create work for recording and performance, and get some writing done that doesn’t involve sitting on your own staring at a screen for several hours. You should try it!

Poetry en plein air

Monday, February 11th, 2013

On a cold and drizzly Sunday morning in February a select group of hardcore poetry enthusiasts gathered for Matt Merritt’s Hidden Nature writing workshop on Attenborough Nature Reserve. I’d been planning this workshop for about a year now, and it’s turned out to be one of my favourites. Matt is not only a poet but also a wildlife journalist for Birdwatching magazine, so he knows his stuff and we went away buzzing with newfound knowledge.

Like that birds use motorways for navigation—and probably Long Eaton power station, which can be seen from 50 miles away—and take pit stops in the gravel pits excavated for motorway construction. That birds have a sub-song, a wintry, melancholic rehearsal of their song proper. That male and female robins look and sound alike (I’d always assumed the females were brown and speckled…and retiring creatures, spelt with a ‘y’, rather like female dwyrfs). And that some species of bird have local dialects which help ensure a mix of genes, as the females won’t mate with a male that sounds like he comes from less than 10 miles away.

Fishing for Words poetry booklet

Friday, June 15th, 2012

The booklet I produced for Aphasia Nottingham finally arrived last Friday. It was a bit last minute—the printers delivered it fifteen minutes before the end of the session—but they’ve done a fantastic job. The cover (below)—which I scanned from some of the painting the art group had been doing—has come out really strong, even bolder, I would say, in print than on the screen.

Fishing for Words front cover

The booklet contains poems produced during the Fishing for Words sessions organised by Aphasia Nottingham in the past year, with poetry workshops (run by me), art workshops, and singing sessions.

You can find one of the group poems we wrote in my blog post Making a Collaborative Poem.