Culture and cake at ArtBeat 2015

The last day but not the last of ArtBeat

Culture and cake at ArtBeat 2015I detected a definite spring in my step as on a lovely sunny morning I walked round to Vernon House, sheltered housing for the elderly at the end of Avenue Road. We were there for a reprise of With Great Pleasure which we had pioneered at VH last year. When we arrived we were greeted by not only expectant faces but also a splendid display of home-baked goodies by Karen, one of the neighbours. As an accompaniment to morning coffee they were terrific. We had had Poems on Toast on Sunday morning; now it was to be Poems with Cake.

I counted 17 as we sat down and made the introductions. We had a lovely range of poems starting with one from Mary which her father had read to her when she was a little girl. She is still able to recite it word for word. We had an evocative poem by Norman McCaig about his grandmother chosen by Ann which led to some shared recollections about grandmothers; a reading of poetry and prose in honour of the Gurkhas from Derek; a poem by Daphne that her mother had given her on her wedding day that prompted a reminiscence from Kumud about her own wedding; a rousing poem of defiance and pride by Maya Angelou read by Brenda; and much more from Karen, Carol and others. This all gave rise to some lovely shared memories that were heart-warming and life-affirming. It became clear that Vernon House is not just a home for people but a community too. And the cakes were scrumptious. It was really a terrific morning with our friends from Vernon House asking for more return visits of this kind. Make no mistake: the show will go on!

At the other end of the age spectrum we had a great hour of story-telling for small children in the Knighton Library with an African story beautifully told by Jill Jobson. This was followed by an Indian story read by Jane Clarke and vividly illustrated by movement artist Nimisha Parma accompanied by her son on the drum. The fifteen or so small children seated on the floor around them were enthralled and many of them, when invited, made excellent expressive movements of elephants and mice. It was charming and it was great to see the children still engaging so well after a full day at school.

There were two events in the evening of contrasting kinds. At The Lancaster School Steve Cartwright played a set of songs of working-class struggle which was well received by an appreciative audience. And in Fingerprints the usual Tuesday night gathering of Knit and Natter was supplemented by some newcomers who all enjoyed helping each other out as they got to grips with their knitting challenges and enjoyed each other’s company.

The big event of the evening was held in the Knighton and Clarendon Park Club on the corner of Queens Road and Clarendon Park Road. Over a hundred people, regulars and newcomers, were packed into the main bar for a book quiz that had everyone eyes down and whispering in team huddles for an hour and a half. It was thirsty work and the bar was at risk of running out of glasses. The questions were tough but fair and everyone appreciated the challenge. After the winners were announced and prizes given out, we were then treated to a set by Leicester’s top ukulele band, The N’Ukes, who gave us some great renditions, including a novel version of Jumping Jack Flash. It was a gas, gas, gas!

And then finally this blogger was called upon to close the wonderful five days of festival with a piece of doggerel as Epilogue. So here it is.

ArtBeat 2015: Epilogue

Our revels now are ending
The curtain is descending.
Now it’s here, now it’s passed
But what a triumph, what a blast!
Friday evening, sky was blue
Drummers, dancers, singers too;
And Liz’s ode to launch the fun
For young and old and everyone.
Five full days, numbers growing
The curious gather, to’ing, fro’ing.
Musicians, poets, popping up
For pavement drinkers as they sup.
Voices United will never be defeated
Photos e-mailed, facebooked, tweeted.
Lunchtime concerts, numbers spiking
Novice poets, open miking
Richard Gill’s architectural walk
Short story winners, Chalk and Talk
200 visitors I’ve been told
Down th’allotments off Queens Road
People writing for themselves,
Memoir, poetry, fairy-tales
Celidh dancing, zumba, Latin
Where did people do all that in?
Schools and churches, cafes, bars,
Shul, Gurdwara, never far.
I’m sorry, I can’t tell it all
If I go on, it’s bound to pall
Instead I’ll draw this to a close
By mentioning someone I’ve chose
To doff my cap to, novice busker
A lad I know as Thurnby Oscar
Whose pitch was oft by Gareth’s seat
Two symbols of ArtBeat’s heartbeat!
So gentles all, it’s my delight
To bid you all “Safe Home, Good Night”