Tag Archives: Spoken Word

Short and Sweet- Call for Performers

Short&Sweet are running their first big night in Manchester and are looking for performers. The night is called FOOL and will be held on Friday 1st April at Victoria Baths, an ornate, victorian, empty swimming pool- a beautiful large space called the Gala Pool.

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Short & Sweet runs as a continuous series of 3 minute performances all in response to one theme. This time the theme is ‘Fool’. Wise, tragic, naïve or reckless the fool has privilege to violate taboos. Art is foolish. Theatre fools and deceives. Short&Sweet is a evening that originated in Montreal, Quebec where it has been running for over 3 years and we look forward to bringing it over the seas to Manchester. Short&Sweet invites proposals from artists of any discipline for a three minute slot.

Feel free to respond to, rebel from and rework the starting point in any magical way that you wish. But you MUST stick to the three minute limit. We are open to a very varied mix of performance e.g. dance, comedy, theatre, live music, video, singing, circus are just some ideas but something different would be exciting too.

Each performer will get a rider and documentation of their work.

To apply, please email us with your name and an idea of what your performance could be. Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1678876949048986

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 12th March 2016 (midday)

Email: short.sweet.night@gmail.com

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Sorcha and May

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.

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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.

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     (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’.

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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

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

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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

As We Are Away: 20th-30th November

Natalie Proctor previews the nous magazine/As We Are Away festival, taking place around the city 20-30 November

How lucky we are here in Manchester to have so much creativity on our doorstep! No matter what the artistic genre, there is always something going on in this vibrant northern city. This diversity of talent is something that self-established Nous Magazine champions. The magazine is a relatively new enterprise, which has a unique focus on ‘contemporary mind culture’. In collaboration with As We Are Away, the magazine has created a mini-festival for all things arty. AWAA is an art project with a difference, focused on overcoming the cultural stigma around mental health. The festival hopes to inspire us to think differently about mental illness, and learn to become more open and understanding about something that affects thousands of people across the UK.

The event, which goes on until the 30th November, will host a variety of acts throughout the creative sphere. Each night focuses on a different collection of some of Manchester’s finest artists, poets, musicians and directors. Whatever you may have an interest in, the AWAA mini-Festival will surely have something to spark your creative interest.

What makes this event even greater is that it’s free! Although donations are extremely appreciated, and do go on to ensure that these kind of fantastic events may continue. You can even buy an 11- day ticket that gives you access to all the events running for just £5.50. That seems like a bargain to me! We here at M20 would also strongly encourage you to make this donation, as we fully believe it is vital to support the arts to the best of our ability. Without such contributions we would find it hard to maintain the wealth of opportunities on offer for Manchester creatives.

So what’s on? Well, if you’re interested in poetry, there is Tea Hour Poetry on 25th November, which is sure to offer a plethora of new and old talent; including established writers like David Hartley, who we interviewed in October. This will be taking place at the trendy Northern Quarter café The Koffee Pot. Certainly not one to miss!

There is also a lot to offer in terms of music. On Thursday the 27th, the night As We Are Here will host some of Manchester’s most exciting up and coming bands and artists. The live music will continue into the evening at the Eagle Inn, and there will be a variety of sounds from the likes of Second Shepherds, POST and Locean.

If you fancy a little slice of the Cannes Film Festival in Manchester, then why not head over to the concluding night of the festival, curated by Cultivate Film Art. This evening will present some critically acclaimed foreign films, which may perhaps may a nice change from the outlandish Hollywood blockbuster. The documentary film ‘Black Sun’ (2005) by Gary Tarn tells the dramatic story of French artist Hugues de Montalembert who finds himself blinded after a violent attack in New York. It is a moving piece of cinema that is sure to strike a nerve. Also showing is the 1970 film adaptation of the novel ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’. This erotic horror is somewhat otherworldly, and definitely different to what’s out there in the box office!

The festival has plenty more to offer so check out the website for a full list of the events coming up. And remember, the festival ends on the 30th November so don’t miss out. Keep supporting the arts.

Natalie Proctor

Email: hej@nous-magazine.de
Website: www.nous-magazine.de
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nousmagazinemanchester

BASEMENT SESSION #5… Plume // Chris Jam // Gilberto Da Silva

Join us for the latest chapter of M20COLLECTIVE’s new weekly creative sessions in the Northern Quarter…

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It’s thursday again and you know what that means! Back to the Basement.

This week we have an eclectic trio of acts making their first appearances in the depths of Montpelliers. Come and warm your soul as the winter closes in.

acts

Plume

A four piece trip hop group based in Manchester that have a distinctive sound influenced by electronic textures, the band fuse hip hop grooves and lush vocals to create and immersive soundscape. They only named their band this week but you may find recordings sneakily leaked onto youtube without a tag. The quality of musicianship and attention to flow is clear. With the experience of The Mouse Outfit and 8 GOLD RINGS drummer Joe Luckin and the raw talent and emotion of singer Caroline Hendry I expect big things for Plume.

Chris Jam

Enthralling spoken word and slam poet whose charm and wisdom proceed him. Also a really good bloke who does great work in the community using his knowledge and skills to energise youths.

Gilberto Da Silva

Fresh back from a year in France Gilberto has teamed up with Johannes Samland Bowling the saxophonist from Pareidolia and others to work on material. Building on the soul vibe of his last project The Shaded Arrows Gilberto has progressed his musicality. M20’s answer to Seal, with this new band format we expect Gilberto will be tearing up the Manchester music scene this Winter.

details

When: Thursday 23rd October, 8pm

Where: Montpelliers Cafebar, 42 Back Turner Street, Manchester M4

How much: £0!

Basement Sessions #5 on Facebook

See you in the basement! M20 x