Tag Archives: Alex Webb

Manchester Literature: David Hartley’s Spiderseed

Manchester is in need of more literature power houses and look-y here, a new one has sprung. This piece by Alex Webb describes the story of Sleep House Press’s latest release by David Hartley

Just over a year ago I sat down with David Hartley to talk about the Manchester writing scene and his first flash fiction collection Threshold. This February sees the release of Hartley’s third flash fiction collection, Spiderseed, and it is an incredible piece of work! This latest release is fully illustrated by the outstanding Emily Ingle, a local writer and illustrator. I was lucky enough to sit down with Hartley again to discuss the journey from Threshold to Spiderseed and the way his writing has changed since we last spoke.

SHP

The collection is named after one of the stories, it came about after he saw a submission call out for Re:Imaginings where he saw an image of ‘branches of a tree that looked like spiders were emerging from them’. Hartley worked this image into a story about seeds that ‘grow trees that produce animals instead of fruit’ and it eventually became ‘Spiderseed’. For anyone who has read Threshold, this origin story will come as no surprise as Hartley has always been an expert at winding the unhinged and the uncanny into the worlds he creates. Whilst both Threshold and Spiderseed give an eerie sense of unease, the former did so by poking fun at superstition whilst the latter is more focused on nature.

What is creepy about nature? What is there to be afraid of? How can it take advantage of us? These are key questions to ask yourself before embarking on your journey into Spiderseed. When I asked Hartley about this transition, he stated ‘I’ve been writing a lot about animals in the past few years. Some of the shorter pieces that have come out of this impulse have ended up in the collection’ such as ‘Trails’ (a personal favourite of mine which sees slugs gather insects to make one unfortunate home-owner suffer). Some of these darker stories stem from his time as a volunteer with the Manchester & Salford RSPCA where Hartley got a clearer insight into how animals are treated. This ‘messy, complex and frustrating situation’ led Hartley to write more and more about the topic, culminating in Spiderseed.

The realm of Spiderseed is best described by Hartley who calls it ‘inherently weird, without being too weird. Of course “spiderseeds” don’t exist but they sound like they could’ve done, somehow, somewhere’. This sense of unreality is best seen in ‘The Librarian’ which sees the titular man turn his library into a time machine. Hartley’s unique narrative brings every aspect of the time machine to life, you can almost smell the old books as you follow the librarian on their next twisted adventure. When asked how he manages to breathe life into his work Hartley noted that the influence of Manchester in Spiderseed, whilst not as obvious as in Threshold, is undeniable. The difference comes about as in Spiderseed Manchester is not the backdrop for these tales and misfortunes, but their catalyst.

david hartley

     (Dave Hartley Above)

Manchester is a ‘curious, mercurial sort of place’ says Hartley. ‘In the guts of the city it can get labyrinthine, the cobbles are soaked in shadows and histories but that same ground is incredibly fertile, especially for the creative industries’. It is this rich bed of creativity that developed the ‘weird, nightmarish and urban’ world of Spiderseed, and the frequent intrusion of the natural world as backdrops that ‘somehow tie everything together and keep it all from collapsing’. However, the city was not the only ingredient in concocting the cast of twisted characters. The Manchester literature scene with all its characters was fundamental to writing Spiderseed. Hartley says that this collection was ‘tested out on spoken word stages, particularly Bad Language and First Draft’.

Discussing what he did differently with Spiderseed compared to Threshold Hartley says ‘it’s not an exact science, but I certainly get a better feel for a flash fiction piece when I’ve road-tested it on a spoken word stage a few times. I owe a heck of a lot to this city and its creatives’. This is testimony for Manchester’s literature scene. Hartley gave a huge thanks to his writing group for testing and developing his style. Some of the pieces in Spiderseed come with a more performative aspect which Hartley credits to Bad Language’s Fat Roland, ‘the master of prop usage and stage littering’. Another key influence is David Gaffney (one half of the hilariously unsettling Les Malheureux) and his flash fictions which have left Hartley eager to ‘emulate the precision and economy of the best Gaffney stories’.

david gaffney.jpg

 

Moving away from his influences, I spoke to Hartley about the actual process of writing Spiderseed and how this differed from Threshold. ‘The process is more fine-tuned and I’m not as precious as I used to be’, says Hartley, ‘if a story hasn’t worked I’m much happier to ditch it and move onto something new, I’m slightly less concerned about experimentation and more with story and truthfulness now I think’. In Spiderseed there is more a direct connection with the stories, giving a clearer message to be heard/read by the audience. Even the more ridiculous stories, such as ‘Most Haunted’, ‘have something to say about various evils, even if that’s not immediately obvious’. This is what is so strong about Hartley’s new collection. In the world he has constructed things are not always what they seem, your first visit to Spiderseed will be nothing like your next. However, you will keep coming back for more.

Spiderseed is out on 25th February, published by Sleepy House Press and fully illustrated by the outstanding Emily Ingle. Check out Sleepy House Press’ Facebook page for details.Like Sleepy House Press on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SleepyHousePress/?fref=ts

Follow David Hartley on twitter: https://twitter.com/DHartleyWriter

Check out the launch party for Spiderseed: https://www.facebook.com/events/1515540278750798/

Story told by Alex Webb

Advertisements

Local Literature: #HumanityWashedAshore

Inspired by the media outcry regarding the death of Aylan Kurdi and his family, this piece interrogates Britain’s response to the world’s immigration crisis. Specifically it questions why David Cameron only acknowledged the situation after it was too late

 Last night on the shore
harsh realities washed up with their sons,
some say they got lost on the way to Canada,
others say Cameron drove them there.
A Daily Mail poll reads “SHOULD BRITAIN AGREE TO TAKE MORE REFUGEES?”
YES:NO
1:3
ALIVE:DEAD,
three quarters of a family taken whilst
gasping for hope:

1:3
Father: Abdullah, servant of God;
forsaken by a godless nation
forced to suffer by politicians
who’d rather play god than help Him save them.

3:1 Mother: Rehan, a flower;
desperate for a chance to bloom in
safe nations,
safe havens.
Places to take refuge with those who condemn:
modern day colonialists not ready to pay their
overdue overdraft
with added interest.

Son: Galip, the winner;
maybe he was trying to win the race,
someone should have told him
in England, the only race worth winning is White.

And then there lies Aylan,
face down in the sand,
becoming a national symbol for change
because Cameron couldn’t stomach it.

3:1 NO:YES
David, the beloved,
beloved assailant of those who
made his Britain great.
How much more will he take
leaving innocents to pay the price?

He raises Aylan as a promise for change.
The Metro tells us
“as a father,
he felt deeply moved by the sight”
well David,
as a human, I felt disgusted by your Conservative resilience.

When will you let it wear down?

by Alex Webb

Do you have something to share about our current global situation? why not submit a literary piece and share your feelings to: them20press@gmail.com

Local business news: ManKind Male Grooming

Alex Webb reports on the services provided by local business ManKind Grooming.

Manking Haircut-2-page-001

Rachel and James make up the team of Mankind Male Grooming, a Withington-based barbers. This duo have never failed to give me a haircut I have been completely satisfied with as soon as I leave. Whilst you’re sat in their chair every step of your haircut/shave will be explained to you giving you confidence in what the pair are doing. When I was speaking to James he said that he joined the Mankind team because it has a focus on craftsmanship as opposed to getting you in and out as fast as possible. Knowing this, I knew my hair was in safe hands (literally), something that is a god-send when you are looking to change up your style or just update a cut you’ve had for years. Before you start, the upkeep that my style would need is explained which means you are not left with a haircut that requires more effort than you can afford to give.

One of the best things about Mankind is the incredibly reasonable prices, especially their students and over 65 rates which offer 20% off. For students, £13 got you a haircut and a clipper shave/trimming! I have only seen prices this good in discount hairdressers where speed is often the priority, instead of quality. At Mankind you can have a quality haircut in 30 minutes and the damage to your wallet is still minimal!

Manking Haircut-1-page-001 Manking Haircut-6-page-001

Above: Before

What has kept me coming back to Mankind is the lack of pretense that often comes with barbers, I felt comfortable being gay here and just being myself whilst the whole room spoke together. Rachel also made a point to note that she would happily work on girls’ hair that she felt confident cutting, mostly shorter styles. This emphasises the fact that everyone in the barbers is invited to be part of the huge conversation going on meaning that it feels like hanging out with friends more than an appointment. Another thing I loved about the shop was Rachel’s and James’ willingness to accept what they excel in. Rachel excels at blending hair smoothly and creating styles that involve contrasting lengths and textures. With Rachel any style you want will be expertly sculpted around your head shape and hair colour. James is the expert in facial hair out of the two, and when I sat down with him he explained different approaches to shaving which again gave me confidence in what he was doing. I left the barbers with a shave that looked even all over but was in fact 3 different levels, something James has perfected to leave beards looking smooth.

Manking Haircut-4-page-001 Manking Haircut-5-page-001

Above:After

This barbershop is ideal whatever you want, whether you are a student looking for a haircut that is fashionable with minimal upkeep or a full-time worker who needs a quick, enjoyable shave leaving presentable for their workplace. This place is one to watch out for in the new academic year, for any freshers needing a new hairdressers since leaving home – look no further. Rachel and James have you covered in their more than capable hands.

Enquiries: MankindMGenquiries@gmail.com

Website: http://www.Mankindmg.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MankindMG

If you;d like to submit news on the independent business of the M20 area submit an email to: them20press@gmail.com

Manchester’s Political Youth: An interview with Becky Fox on Sex, health and safety in the city…

This year, the University of Manchester broke the record for the highest turn out for a Student’s Union election in the UK ever. Inspired by how political the University community seems to have become, I sat down with a few of the candidates who were running in the election to ask them what they think about the state of student life and general Manchester politics.

The first candidate I have had the pleasure of sitting down with was Becky Fox, who ran for Wellbeing Officer and came second overall. I asked each of the politicians to describe themselves in a small paragraph and here is Fox’s:

‘I’m a third year pharmacology student from South Manchester with a passion for women’s issues and consent education. I’m a founding member of Manchester Sexual Representation Network  (MSRN)  who do all sorts of wonderful things, with a lot of our focus going on consent education at the moment. I’m currently running workshops at local schools to teach 16-18 year olds about consent and planned to use the platform of Wellbeing Officer to have these workshops for every student. I also love thistle tea, cats, being queer, sewing and singing’.

MSRN

It is clear from this that consent is an issue close to Fox’s heart, and so it should be for everyone. The overall conclusion we made from our time together was that everything, in any kind of relationship, is more fun and rewarding when you have consent. The importance of consent education was a driving force behind Fox running for Wellbeing candidate but she was also inspired by the twice-elected Women’s Officer, Jess Lishak. It is clear that women’s issues and issues with wellbeing are closely linked, especially with the horrendous rise in sexual assault and rape happening in student areas this academic year. When I asked Fox how she would define consent she explained that ‘it isn’t just having permission to have sex, it revolves around having sex, kissing or even holding hands when both people are comfortable’.

The importance of teaching consent was clear when I heard about Fox’s encounter with a 26 year old man, sexually active since 16, who did not know what consent was. That is ten years without knowing what it means to make sure your partner wants what you want. It is ten years too many and it is integral that this changes. Consent is finally being added into the sex education programme but, before this, it was up to society to teach people about consent. Unfortunately, evident from the attacks in Fallowfield this year that is not always going to happen. By not teaching consent we are creating a situation where people see having sex with someone as a right, not a privilege.

ladybarn-1

This need for consent education is the main reason why we are so lucky to have MSRN in our city. They look to teach people about consent, being safe and having a mutual respect for people around you. For MSRN, if we can educate people on safe behaviour the problem will become easier to deal with – knowing about the need for consent and the risk you put someone at by not asking for it is undeniably a major factor in stopping attacks and horrendous, life-changing experiences. When I asked Fox what MSRN thought about Manchester’s safety, specifically their sexual safety, she said that it is not to do with the city, it’s the people in it. If someone decides to sexually assault, attack or harass someone you cannot pin it on the city. This was a refreshing perspective as this year has seen Manchester deemed a threat to females, and understandably so. The way to counter this, as Fox has said, is educating the people as there is nothing we can do to the city to stop this. The closest we could get is demanding more police patrols in Fallowfield. Although, considering some responses when the problem first arose () this may take longer than it should. It is the police’s responsibility to do everything they can to reduce the risk that Fallowfield residents are under. However, it seems that noise pollution (a genuine problem that should be solved) is more of a priority than the mental health and well being of innocent people. You can decide if you agree with the police’s decision, Fox and I do not.It is also important to note that whilst many people see rape as being dragged down an alley at night, 50% of rapes actually happen by someone the victim knows and 60% of women who were raped, were raped inside a building. A third of this figure were raped in their own home – rape is not just anonymous and we need to know how to limit the risk that rapists pose by educating EVERYONE.

Directly related to issues with consent, is the need for accurate, realistic and healthy depictions of sex in the media. Stirred poetry, a fantastic Manchester-based poetry group, and MSRN have taken stands against this, with Fox amongst them, by boycotting Fifty Shades of Grey and offering education on safe BDSM behaviour. It is important to acknowledge that those who enjoy BDSM  (bondage, domination and sadomasochism) safely hold consent and their partner’s wellbeing as their main concern. It is fun having someone’s consent! It isn’t fun making someone feel uncomfortable and trapped – this is why Fifty Shades of Grey is such a poisonous film in our society, Christian Grey does not see consent as a priority and this spreads a dangerous message. It is media like this that MSRN and Stirred Poetry are looking to tackle head on by making their concerns heard.

stirred poetry

                                                               https://www.facebook.com/stirred.poetry

Besides BDSM, sexual wellbeing also comes down to something as simple as contraception, STI testing and education around it. To go and have an STI test you need to know how to get it, why to get it and the risks of not getting one. In my years at school I was never taught about STI testing just the risks that STIs present. The education needed to go one step further and I would not have gone two years of being sexually active without being tested. I felt ridiculous when I found out how important it was and I am sure I am not alone.  Find your local clinic here: http://www.sexualhealthnetwork.co.uk/clinic/. If you need contraception, the Rusholme Children’s Centre on Great Western Street gives free condoms out, you just need to give the gender you identify with, your age and your race. Do not miss out on centres like this! There are also free safe-sex packs in every gay club in Manchester’s Gay Village so it is easy to get hold of, don’t put yourself at risk of contracting an STI as they can cause all kinds of damage. It is also important to let anyone you are sexually active with know your status and to be checked regularly to make sure this is as up to date as possible. I get tested every time I have a different sexual partner and every time I enter into an exclusive relationship with someone. The bottom line is that if you have an STI it is your moral duty to ensure that anyone you have sex with is aware of this to prevent the infections being spread further. There is no shame in having an STI, it happens to most people in their life time! It is just important to deal with them in the most responsible way possible.

On top of consent and sexual wellbeing, ensuring that mental health problems and emotional support are improved and easily available for students was a key policy Fox had. This was one of the main reasons I voted for her in the elections – she is aware of the stigma surrounding mental health, she has experienced it herself as I’m sure many of us have, and she wants to actively try and change how we perceive mental illness. It needs to be treated with respect not scepticism.

At the end of the interview I asked Fox to sum up what she is fighting for in a few words she said ‘better support, consent, happiness and well-being’. I think we can all agree that more of this is never a bad thing and I am hopeful that Becky Fox and the MSRN can help improve Manchester’s wellbeing. In their hands we can hope for a more secure and safe future in the city.

Alex Webb

Verbose’s Relaunch

Fallow Café’s Verbose was my regular spoken word night in 2014 and I was gutted to see it go on hiatus in June. Fortunately, under Sarah-Clare Conlon’s new supervision, Verbose is back and bigger than ever! Whilst I have fond memories of 2014’s Verbose and how Helen Isserlis ran it, it would be misleading to say that this new iteration of the night continues in the same vein as before. Verbose is reincarnated in Conlon’s hands with monthly headliners guaranteed and a huge variety of open mic acts as well as publications from some of Manchester’s newest authors. For January’s Verbose, we were treated to performances from Conlon herself and the publishing collective, Inklings. These performers are well-established Manchester acts with several publications between them. This proved to be a good thing as I was drawn in by their performances and ended up leaving the night with two new collections to check out! The key standouts from Inklings, for me, were David Gaffney (via video as he could not make it) and Sian Cummins who presented new interpretations of what it means to write and be a writer. I was shocked and ecstatic to see just how many people turned up to this event! This was all thanks to Conlon’s advertising of the night, drawing in a huge crowd with people standing on the stairs just so they could listen. It was a success in all senses. However, it would have been nothing if not for the open mic-ers. I often think that it is the open mic slots that make, or break, a night because you see a range of artists from first-timers to professionals and seeing different styles filter through their writing is inspirational. It is in the open mic that you see people practice new material and if you are lucky you’ll see people have realisations and perform a piece in an entirely different way. I know Verbose has done that for me in the past. What Verbose focuses on is the variety of writing and spoken word: from prose to poetry to improv, you can find anything you can imagine at this night. My favourite performance of the night was done by an adorable open mic-er who offered us a piece about Bic pens and sexism (it has to be seen for full impact) to huge rounds of applause. Another stand-out performer was Andrew Georgeson, a hilarious act who discussed his conversation with a moth ending with roars of laughter. He is an act I am eager to see more of and, if this performance was anything to go by, anyone who has the opportunity to see Georgeson in his element would be foolish not to take it up. Doors open at 7.30pm for Verbose, every final Monday of the month, and I would recommend getting there early if only to get a seat. Although, you should treat yourself to some of Fallow’s delicious food (even if it is a bit pricey) and their amazing drinks and cocktails whilst you are waiting! The next event is Monday 23 February where Curious Tales will bring their exciting entries to the Manchester literature scene. It is going to be a fantastic night for sure and I look forward to seeing just as many people as last time in February. Treat yourself during this month of love and hear some heartbroken poets lament, it’ll be a highlight of your month for sure. Alex Webb

February’s Verbose – attend on Facebook

Check out the new Verbose website here for updates and news

cropped-or8-design-vebose-22-4

Who is Keisha Thompson a.k.a. SheBeKeke?

Alex talks to Keisha Thompson about what inspires her writing, what Young Identity hopes to achieve and the Manchester literature scene in general

Have you heard SheBeKeke? With an already more-than-impressive portfolio, Keisha Thompson is a valuable member of Manchester’s poetry circuit. As well as being a key member of Inna Voice, another creative group within Young Identity, she recently released her own EP, Abecedarian, and has been published in numerous anthologies.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing Keisha perform a number of times. At each performance, I’ve been struck by how she manages to bring new character and life to the poems (even the ones I’ve heard before), whilst at the same time retaining something undeniably “Keisha-y”. This combination of constant reinvention and a strong creative signature is something she shares with a lot of her fellow Young Identity talent: they all excel in showing one piece in many different lights whilst still putting a personal stamp on their work.

And this personal touch is present throughout the whole creative process: Keisha’s work, for the most part, is based on her own experiences of the world, her family and responses to the political/social landscape around us. Discussing inspiration, she brought up the powerful connection between her identity and her family heritage. In ‘Fickle’, a piece on her EP, Thompson examines her relationship with her father, and how it in turn facilitates her understanding of her own heritage.

Being British with a Jamaican father and Guyanese mother, the identification process is not simple: she does not feel as though any of these three identities/nationalities is wholly her. When she was younger, she never felt particularly British because her household held a lot of Guyanese traditions – but when she was five and visited Guyana, she was no longer so sure she felt so Guyanese. Describing it as a “weird one”, she concluded that she is always somewhere in the middle of being Guyanese, British and Jamaican – though all three identities certainly inspire her.

“Once I’ve processed it, I can write about it”

And Keisha’s own heritage isn’t the only thing from across the world that gets her writing. In terms of the social and political inspirations for her work, tragedies like those that took place in Ferguson last summer, when unarmed black teenager Mike Brown was murdered by white cop Darren Wilson, are important creative sources. But with heavy issues like racism and violence, getting pen to paper can take longer. “I get angry about these things but it takes me a while to process it; I need to process it. Once I’ve processed it, I can write about it,” explained Keisha. Indeed for many writers, taking a step back from material is necessary in order to walk the difficult ground between raw, blunt emotions and tailoring language to suit a creative purpose.

Relating to the Mike Brown case, as well as countless other crimes against people of colour, we discussed Keisha’s views on the need for – and lack of – white voices in race debates. Thompson argued that white voices are necessary when violence happens, because racism is not just ‘a black issue’ – “all races need to acknowledge that racism exists and move forward with that.” Here referencing social theorist Dr Joy DeGruy,  she highlighted the key differences between American and English politics: Keisha sees it that voices from all corners of American society can contribute to discussions about the rights and experiences of those from minority groups, even with only a basic understanding of the issues at hand. But in England, she argued, there is a hostility towards approaching an issue if you are not a member of the group being discussed. This was something I could definitely relate to: in my experience, England is more focused on drawing the lines round “who can say what about what” than on actually getting problems heard and discussed.

“They aren’t just playing with words, they also want to be the voice behind them”

Talk turned to focus on poetry as a vehicle for political speech in general. Is spoken word/rap/poetry more powerful than conventional speech when it comes to communicating ideas to people? Again, the differences between the US and the UK came up. “In America, it is way more powerful than here. When I go to places in New York they aren’t just playing with words, they also want to be the voice behind them” said the performer, noting that in Britain it is much easier to go to an event and not stumble across any political ideas. For various reasons, she felt that the spoken word scene in America was a lot more lively – but she takes inspiration from the fact that it is beginning to stand on its own as a viable platform for creative expression separate from the written/literary scene.

Young Identity, the group of young writers based out of Contact Theatre, are a group changing the narrative on what spoken word is, and can do, here in the UK. As we’ve seen from their constantly growing body of work, which brilliantly fuses the political, the everyday and the creative, they aim to change the game of Manchester’s poetry scene by trying to get people talking about current topics, focusing on politics and thinking actively about their own lives. As evidences this, Keisha noted that in the last One Mic Stand “everyone was doing politics and everyone was brilliant; the quality was outstanding”. Having gone to a previous One Mic Stand, Young Identity’s regular poetry slam, I can vouch for this. At the night I performed at, thoughts on equal rights, sexism and abuse were interwoven boldly and seamlessly with powerful, emotive language, bringing the room alive with the honesty of the work.

As with many Young Identity members, Keisha also works with Inna Voice. Helpfully, she explained the difference between the two groups: “When it first started, Young Identity was the writing group, and then as we started to slam we had Inna Voice. Not everyone was willing or ready to perform from Young Identity so it was easy to make Inna Voice the focus of performance”. Since then, Inna Voice has progressed and it is now its own company, a selective group that are hoping to put on a show next year.

Finally, who would Keisha recommend checking out? In Manchester, Ben Miller, Elmi Ali and Shirley May (one of the driving forces behind Young Identity’s One Mic Stand) are some of her must-sees, as well as Isaiah Hull, the phenomenal winner of June 2014’s One Mic Stand, and Yusra Warsama. Outside of Manchester, Keisha Thompson said she was reading Malika Booker’s Pepper Seed at the moment and could not recommend her enough, as well as loving the works of Warsan Shire and Tanya Shirley. If you want some great inspirational material definitely check out these artists, especially Booker’s latest release (which I am already delving into and loving!).

Going forward from Abecedarian, what can we expect from this talented artist in the future? “Abecedarian means learning your alphabet and it seemed fitting for the title of my first release because I was just trying it out,” explained Thompson. “But now I am ready to focus in on a theme and be more specific with something I can develop”. Performance-wise, she’s also bringing her live show I Wish I Had A Moustache to Manchester’s Contact Theatre this year and it is not something you want to miss out on! Whatever Thompson does in the future, it is going to be entertaining, fun and most of all, inspiring. I’m looking forward to seeing where her talent can, and will, take her.

 

Follow Keisha Thompson on Twitter and on Facebook

Give her bandcamp a follow and download Abecedarian, her EP (you decide the price!): https://bandcamp.com/shebekeke

Check out Young Identity for more information about One Mic Stand: http://www.youngidentity.org/

Watch a performance here

 

-A.Webb

An Interview with… Harriet Dyer

Alex Webb sits down with comedienne Harriet Dyer

In September I was taken to Manchester’s Comedy Store for their monthly night ‘New Stuff’ and it was here I had the privilege of seeing Harriet Dyer perform. The Cornwall-born comedienne is a relatively recent addition to Manchester’s residents and we are very lucky to have her!

Toby Hadoke, host of The Comedy Store’s New Stuff, described Dyer as “a comedienne like no other” – and he’s not lying! When I asked Dyer about her style of comedy she said “I’m just trying to be as close to how I am in real life, because I think that’s when I’m at my funniest”. This is something I really appreciate in performance acts. The ability to be yourself whilst being great at what you’re doing makes for brilliant results and is a vital step in becoming respected in your art: watching the high energy Dyer run around the stage in what I can best describe as a hyperactive internal monologue was the highlight of my night at the Comedy Store.

Discussing her writing process, Dyer says that it’s an everyday thing with her finding material in the day to day conversations that leaves friends laughing. In Dyer’s opinion this is down to just how “bloody eventful my life is” which means that her material is the most original it can be: no two people experience things in the same way! One such example that I saw first hand was Dyer retelling the story of a wheelchair user harrietwho tried to leave her show early but got stuck – leaving the comedienne to help her out. Normally this would read as tragic but with Dyer’s relentless energy it was brought into a hilarious light and was probably her strongest sketch of the night.

Like a lot of performing arts, comedy is not something people easily fall into. This was precisely the case for Dyer who originally wanted to be actress, desperate to find an affordable school. Her aspiration led her to Wolverhampton which seemed to be a difficult time in her life, confessing she was “a bit of an alcoholic [who] everyone refused to work with because [she] turned up with a bottle of gin” in hand. Luckily this played to her advantage when, one day, she turned up drunk and was presented with a stand-up comedy assessment. Dyer made her way through the course with a story about how she once died twice, and she promises this is funnier than it may sound. By the end of it, everyone was in stitches and she thought to herself “by Jove, maybe this could be a career path for me” and here she is today.

Dyer is becoming a well-established act, bringing a show to Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 called ‘My Name Is Harriet’ (‘My Name Is Earl’-inspired). Having been in the game for a while I asked Dyer for any advice she may want to give to aspiring Manchester-based comedy acts. Her key piece was, bluntly, “don’t be a dick, be original, work hard and there’s no time like the present so bloody hurry up and get gigging”. This is undeniably sound advice and something that translates to anyone interested in performance. You’re never going to get better if you keep your material to yourself – air it out and let it be hated, loved and most importantly critiqued. In relation to Manchester specifically, Dyer said that we are living in a city with one of the best comedy circuits so there are endless opportunities to practice! If you are interested in getting any advice from Dyer then she has an open email policy (kind of similar to an open door one) so drop her a message and I’m sure you’ll find yourself in safe hands!

For those of us who prefer taking a seat in the audience Dyer suggested some comedy hubs such as XS Malarkey, The Kings Arms Salford (for ‘Gein’s Family Giftshop’s Bargain Basement’), The Frog and Bucket and, of course, the Comedy Store. If you want to find some of the most exciting and varied talent our city has to offer make these places your regular hand outs, all hosting a variety of nights with prices ranging from free (students get on it!) to about £30 for the near-perfected Mancunian comedy shows.

When discussing the future for Dyer, she said that we can expect more gigging, writing and “working like a strumpet, I guess” (whatever that means). If this has made you eager to see what this act has to offer check out her weekly podcast (co-hosted with fellow comedian Lou Conran). Whatever we see from Dyer in the future it is bound to be excellent, confusing and most of all, hilarious.

 

Check out Harriet at www.harrietdyer.co.uk

Give her a follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dyerlinquent

Or drop her an email if you want some advice on starting out in comedy: dyerharriet@yahoo.co.uk

If you want to get a taste of her 2015 fringe show, check out her excellently reviewed 2014 one at http://harrietdyer.bandcamp.com/album/barking-at-aeroplanes

Alex Webb