Poetry on Toast at ArtBeat 2015

Sunday Wonderful ArtBeat Sunday

Poetry on Toast at ArtBeat 2015A full programme of 14 events and activities on Sunday and there is no way I can do justice to all of them. So I will confine myself to comments on those I was able to get to and refer to any other reflections picked up from elsewhere.

For me the day started in a sunlit Fingerprints Cafe with Poems on Toast, a new time and place for the Open Mic for Poets session that had been such a success at Babelas last year. Again the event was well attended, even at 9.30 on a Sunday morning, with up to 40 people coming in and out over the hour.

Local poet Liz Gray led the event calmly at a pace well fitted for the time of day. She encouraged people to read their work and also recited some of her own including a repeat of the festival ode she had written for the launch and a wonderful poem about the Lady who lived in a Van made famous by Alan Bennett. From the floor we had an amusing poem from Becky on how a company tried to enthuse its staff to reduce their stress and live more healthily; and a poignant love poem from Lynn. The vibe in the cafe was friendly and supportive so even people not used to reading poems out loud in public had a go. A great start to the day.

This was followed by a special event; the announcement and award of prizes for ArtBeat’s first short story competition. Literary agent, Penny Kitchener of Luithlen Agency, who was one of the judges, read out the titles and names of entrants and described the qualities of their work which made them special. She said that overall the standard of writing had been very high in both the adult and the children’s (under 16) competition.

The winners of the children’s competition was Martha Yeoman, with Lucia Gozy Kirkden and Tamara Thompson runners-up. In the adults section the winner was Alison Duthie with Kate Myers and Lisa Williams runners-up. Note that these stellar writers are all women or girls. Where are the men and the boys? If they are not writing, is that because they are not reading? Congratulations to all the winners, including others highly commended; and to the judges too. The stories are to be posted on the festival website.

Chalk and Talk at Clarendon Park Community GardensIn the afternoon the sun continued to shine which made it all the more gratifying that there were at least two outdoor community events that drew in good numbers. In Bulwer Road there was Chalk & Talk in the (now not so) new community garden that is cared for by people in the neighbouring streets.

The idea was to introduce people to this amenity, enjoy some summertime music courtesy of Green Shoots, invite people to hang out and talk and perhaps try a bit of their own artwork by chalking on the wall of the garden. The music certainly helped to make this work very well.

Further south down Queens Road, allotmenteers were happy to open up their plots to the public. At the same time visitors were able to view some of the work of talented printmaker Sarah Kirby. You can read more about the special print of the allotments she has created on the blog I posted last week (“Branching Out” 16 June).

Usually a few more than sixty people visit the open day but on this occasion there were between 150-200, the difference said to be almost certainly due to the publicity going to a much wider audience under the ArtBeat banner. So many people came who said they had not even been aware the allotments existed.

Live music always adds to the pleasure of these occasions and this was no exception. People’s enjoyment was enhanced by some fantastic busking from the very talented Greenshoots Ceilidh orchestra, followed by Dead Question – a trio of 2 guitars and percussion who entertained us with a couple of great sets. They were followed up by a small group of three very talented, very young musicians who played the violin, and who also happen to have a strong link to the allotments.

Dead Question at the Queens Road Allotments, ArtBeat 2015But of course the other major draw was Sarah Kirby’s prints. Our event was truly lifted on to a different level by her participation. The newly commissioned print of the allotments was really well received and people put their money down and bought eight of the ten prints, as well as many of her cards and other prints.

There was also a friendly visit from our community police officers, and three local councillors, two Lynns and Patrick. It was great of them to come along to another ArtBeat event. All in all it was a lovely day.

Other events during the day included a specially laid-on wedding at the Gurdwara preceded by food. At Christchurch an appreciative audience savoured performances of Haydn’s Nelson Mass and selections from the Messiah by the Knighton Chamber Orchestra and Tudor Choir. At South Lodge there was a tea dance. About 40 people turned up for food, music and poetry in Lesley and Tony’s garden. And at the Progressive Synagogue in Avenue Road another 40 or so people were entertained by three professional musicians from out of town, Dean who appears to be something of a rock star and cantor Gershon all the way from Canada, accompanied by Franklyn on the keyboard.

In the evening upstairs at Cultura well over 30 people were given a class in the tango as part of a Latino dance night. Some of the moves looked extremely technical to this particular bystander, but everybody had a go. And as the instructor said at the end, dancing should be about having fun so don’t get too hung up on the moves; go out and enjoy one of the many classes on offer locally.

Finally at The Donkey there was a full house for a jazz evening with four bands taking their turn to entertain us. For me the pick were the Afro-City Swingsters, thirteen people crammed on to a small stage and playing numbers that had melody and rhythm. People, including a few in ArtBeat T-shirts, danced alone or in couples New Orleans style, to some of the Township tunes and the atmosphere was tremendous. As someone said, looking at the demographic of some of the players we want to make sure they all get their flu jabs if we are to continue to enjoy what they have to offer for years to come! But then who am I to comment?