Stroud & Glastonbury
Last week I took Awen stock with the help of my friend Jay to the ‘Spoken Word Assembly Rooms’, top of Stroud High Street – as part of the SITE Festival 2011 local writers and text-based artists have taken over an empty unit (former ‘paint-a-pot’ shop; Chinese and tattoo parlour – so following on in a weirdly apt way, pushing ink). On Friday and Saturday I did a couple of stints, invigilating. Took stuff to read, even some marking, but didn’t get a chance, as folk popped in for a chat – it was nice to feel part of a community initiative, championed by local patron saint of poetry, Rick Vick. The Awen shelf (a bookcase made by my grandfather) sat in the hearth alcove and very nice it looked too. Our small press has a growing list of distinctive titles.
Friday night I went down to SVA (Stroud Valley Artspace) to check out a zany collective from Falmouth ‘The Fate of Neutral Norway’. It was heartening to see such bright young things get passionate about the spoken word – and to pull in such a youthful crowd. Local poetry impresario Charles and I decided to hold fort in the ‘Old Farts corner’ and were inspired to form an impromptu trad. poetry combo, entitled ‘The Oxfarts’, reciting ‘poetry-that’s-good-for-you’ in a tweedy (or stentorian) fashion. We await bookings. I performed a couple of my poems (Phone Tree; and Wolf in the City) which seemed to go down well, especially the group howling at the end!
The next day, a tad tender from bardic grog, I did my second stint in the shop – this time joined by local poet superstar Adam Horovitz. Earlier in the Spring, over a pint of Budding we devised the idea of a spoken word podcast – Stroud Out Loud! or SOL for short – recording and promoting local voices (poets, storytellers, singers). We test run the ‘instant archive’- with a couple of poems from myself, Adam and Rick, who happened to be passing with his partner, Gypsy.
Next weekend folk are invited to come along and record an original poem, Fri 1-3pm & Sat 1-3pm.
Afterwards I roared down to Glastonbury for the latest date on our ‘Words on Fire Tour’ – promoting my new novel, The Burning Path, (the 4th in The
Windsmith Elegy series) & Ola her first collection of short stories, The
Firekeeper’s Daughter. Once again, Trevor & Liz played the congenial hosts at their lovely shop, the Cat & Cauldron. Surrounded by witchy paraphenalia, Ola and I read out excerpts from our respective books after Phil Stretch, partner and Kali (new Bard of Ynys Witrin) created a charming atmosphere with their enchanting music. A nice little crowd gathered, enjoying the wine and the ambience. The response afterwards was positive. One lady had been following my
series since its inception in 2004 – and was ‘worried about Maud’ (the main protagonist from the first volume, The Long Woman).
Later, after I had pitched my tent and grabbed some food I went along to the OBOD Summer Gathering, where Jay (running a poetry workshop at Chalice Well) and myself had been kindly invited by Philip Carr-Gomm. There was some splendid entertainment by the likes of Liv Torc, Paul Newman, & Damh the Bard – whose ‘supergroup’ rounded the evening off in lively style, with everyone dancing and singing along. I had a nice chat with Philip and the great historian Ronald Hutton (who I am equally honoured to know, from my days as Bard of Bath – he was one of the judges who awarded me the Chair of Caer Badon back in 1998). My friends Jay, Ola and Paul finally joined me – direct from the Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw concert at Chalice Well and we concluded our ‘baby-head-wetting’ with a wee bop together.
Reeling from the tunes (and the fabulous druid mead, especially fermented for this occasion) I made my way to my tent, under the stars on the side of the Tor – hoping Gwynn ap Nudd wouldn’t seize me while I slumbered (or rather the rain wash me away).
Damp, chilled & weary I made my way home the following morning (after a fortifying breakfast at Heaphy’s). Pushing ink can be hard work! Sometimes it’s hard to see the benefit – any reciprocation for one’s efforts can seem be difficult to fathom at times, but who knows what ripples one causes?
Touch one heart, and it’s always worthwhile.