It’s been a busy week of teaching and barding about. I’ve been running creative writing workshops at King Edward’s School (est. 1552!) around the story of King Bladud, for a Bath Fringe 2009 event, King Bladud’s Pageant, a celebration of Bath’s legendary founder to coincide with the Bath Pageant, an enormous event that took place in Sydney Gardens in 1909. Hundreds of local people joined in, as can be seen from the fabulous photos. It’s a shame B&NES Council didn’t get behind this event and encourage all to take part. Richard Carder, the organiser, was originally refused funding but eventually managed to get some from somewhere – and so me and fellow poet Rose Flint got the green light to run our respective workshops. I was chosen to run workshops for Year 7 at Richard’s old school (where he taught music for many years). Rose ran goddess-writing workshops for adults and has written a libretto to be performed on the day. In Parade Gardens on the 7th, between the start at The Circus at noon and the concert in Chapel Arts Centre at 3pm, I’ll be performing extracts from my poem Spring Fall: the story of Sulis and Bladud of Bath, which won me the Bardic Chair of Bath in 1998. It has been republished by awen in a special 10th anniversary edition which includes my prize-winning short story, Taking the Waters – deemed so controversial Le Bath Chronic was too scared to publish it!
Monday evening I went along to the Bath Storytelling Circle at the Raven – I wasn’t hosting this month, although I collected performers’ names before Anthony arrived, who was on MC duties tonight. The last guy I asked, a classic grumpy old man, wanted to know ‘what was I selling’ – duh, it’s a free event! I was offering him a chance to perform at our volunteer-run evening… Ah, well. Some people have their own ‘scripts’ and no matter what you say, they only hear what they want to hear. I performed an Irish eco-myth, The Yew Tree of the Disputing Sons. There were fine contributions from Anthony, Richard, Marks I & II, Verona and others. Inspirational local author Moyra Caldecott, frustratingly limited in her speech now due to age-related symptoms, asked me to read out a poem for her:
in the green cocoon
of my garden
spun of sunlight
to be born.
Tuesday I did another session at King Edwards, getting the kids to write poetry on the theme of flight, to link in with the lesser known aspect of the Bladud story. In the evening I blatted over to Chew Valley School to run my creative writing workshop there for adults. A good session, but I wished I could have been at the Bardic Finals in Glastonbury (when the new Bard of Glastonbury was chosen) but there you go. No rest for the self-employed.
Wednesday, I had my last session with members of BEMSCA, (Bath Ethnic Minority Citizens Association) at Fairfield House, where Emperor of Ethiopia and Rastafarian god, Haile Selassie, stayed during his time of exile (1936-1941). I had been asked to help them produce a booklet of the members’ life writing (all first generation, post WW2 immigrants). They all have incredible stories to tell – and many of them were keen to tell me! I was shown lots of photos – some very old and rare – of numerous relatives and achievements. It was touching and I felt privileged to be allowed a window into their world, to be trusted with their treasures, their precious memories. When the book, Life Journeys, is ready there will be a launch at Fairfield House. I hope to be there to celebrate the residents’ achievement, which is in small measure because of the hard work of the staff there and Norton Radstock College’s support (they’ve been running IT sessions there since last Autumn – and now they’re all surfing the web). Quite rightly, it has become an award-winning project.
Wednesday evening I ran the Bath Writers’ Workshop at the New Inn. This has been going well since we moved to our new home in January – the snug bar of a great back street pub – and since I joined forces with the inimitable Mr David Lassman, esq., master self-publicist and screen-writer. Next week, for our monthly Fourth Wednesday session, we have 2 guest writers in conversation: fantasy novelist Jessica Rydill and Chrissy Derbyshire, whose first collection, Mysteries, I published last year thru Awen.
Thursday I turned to my stack of marking from the Open University – for A215 Creative Writing – I had hoped it might have diminished if I ignored it long enough, but no, it was still there…like a squat toad, waiting for me to snog it. I hoped its inky skin would have edifying properties.
Somehow, amidst all this I have been able to make significant inroads into my new novel, the fifth and final Windsmith novel, The Wounded Kingdom – about 9000 words. This is all that keeps me sane! As long as I can write every day I feel as though I am honouring my own creativity.
All I need now is an agent who gets me a five book deal…
Tonight, though, it’s the opening of the Bath International Music Festival with a big free Party in the City – time to dance in the streets!