Stages in Waiting

Lockdown has not been kind to theatres or indeed creative groups of any discipline. Overcoming restrictions however can be its own kind of inspiration and this month saw the release online of my most ambitious video in quite a while.

To give credit where it is due, Stages in Waiting (working title – BLT Lockdown Podcast) was initially conceived and written by Peter Scofield, the actor and director who I’ve worked with quite a bit over the years, both as a co-star and behind the scenes. When ideas were being thrown around the committee for what kind of videos Bolton Little Theatre could make, monologues were the obvious answer and the Life Bites series grew from that. However from the beginning Peter liked the idea of performing something bigger. He written quite a lot of humorous poetry over the years and he had the idea of a short video anthology, filmed on location in the environs of Bolton Little Theatre. As well as Peter’s words, there would be a bit of Shakespeare and some public domain songs too. Initially there was talk of a live streaming broadcast followed by an edited version on demand. Ultimately, the project was scaled back to an on demand video, due to the complexities, challenging enough under normal conditions.

The idea of filming actors separately was always there, to make it easier to film in restricted C19 conditions, but originally the cast would gather together on stage for the final number. We had an initial meeting and set a recording date in late August. Then Bolton entered a local lockdown and the general feeling among the participants was it was too risky. Government advice waxed and waned, I was preoccupied by my house move, and suddenly we were halfway through October. Peter, Sandra and I had the feeling that if the film wasn’t made soon it might never be, now that winter was setting in, Christmas was on peoples’ minds and the theatre hoping to re-open in the New Year. So a revised production was put into action, now wholly made up of single performers who would only meet in Adobe Premiere. We agreed new dates and Sandra Leatherbarrow organised the rota of actors who would come to the theatre over two evenings. Then in the preceding weekend, Boris announced Lockdown 2, beginning right in the middle of our schedule! Nevertheless we decided to push ahead, even though this meant some last minute cast changes. Including a surprise cameo from myself.

Masked Gareth with camera

If that wasn’t enough, I also decided to make this film with a new kind of camera I had only recently obtained – a DSLR (Canon EOS60D to be precise). I had seen that many other filmmaking acquaintances of mine had been using DSLR cameras instead of camcorders for years, now that they could record HD video. DSLR’s offer the benefits of customisation, better lenses and a socket for an external microphone, something basic that nevertheless a lot of camcorders in model’s price range seemed to lack. My first attempts at filming were somewhat blurry but I had learnt more and now was fairly confident I could get some decent material. I think the results speak for themselves. I’ve still more to learn, but Stages in Waiting is my best looking personal film yet. Rich colours, and between my two lenses, some depth of field shots I’ve never tried before. I’m now fully converted to the DSLR cause, at least as far as tripod filming is concerned. My camcorder is still superior for moving hand held shots.

My direction was light, confined to just encouraging one or two to be a bit ‘bigger’ in their delivery. My cast were all experienced performers so I could concentrate on the shots and just listen out for fluffs. Considering nobody acted with anyone else, their performances meshed together magically well in the digital cutting room. Released on Saturday 21st November on Bolton Little Theatre’s YouTube channel, the response so far has been gratifying positive. I’m proud of Life Bites too, but Stages in Waiting is just a bit more unique than I’ve seen any other local group do. I hope you enjoy it too if you watch it.

Worktown Words Anthology 1

A few months ago you may have read here that I guest edited an online issue of Worktown Words for my old friends over at Live from Worktown. It was a new experience for me, curating a month of poetry submissions, all on my chosen theme of Celebration. The standard of entries was genuinely high. My thanks to editor Paul Blackburn for inviting me and his help.

Woman reading a book
Tina enjoying the new anthology

Now a selection of the best of the first ten issues has been released in paperback form and I received my contributors copy a couple of days ago. Two poems come from my issue and they are both stormers – Magician on the Podium by Rosie Adamson-Clark, and My Human Brain by David Bateman.
Dipping into it I’m impressed once again by the quality of the pieces. It’s full of emotion and ingenuity. Other highlights I have discovered include No Shock by Shaun Fellows about a notorious political figure and Freedom by Donna Hughes, a tale of meeting a Scottish salmon. The other themes during this first ‘season’ of books have been: Spring, Joker, Horizon, Escape, Shock, Silence, Stranger, Heritage and Tear.

Worktown Words Anthology 1 is available to order online from https://www.livefromworktown.org/index.php/shop and costs £6 including postage and packing.

Worktown Words

My association with Live from Worktown goes back to 2014 and the first Live from Worktown festival in Bolton. Since then the group has diversified into several artistic ventures and one of their recent successes has been the online magazine Worktown Words. It’s a celebration of new writing from the region, both poetry and short prose pieces. Each issue has a guest editor and I was honoured to be asked to curate Issue 9.

After some thought I chose the word celebration as the theme and over the last few weeks I have been reading a fascinating collection of submissions inspired by my word. From joyful nonsense, through fond nostalgia to bitter irony. Choosing my final ten was a challenge.

You can read the anthology for free at Worktown Words.

Thanks to Paul Blackburn for the opportunity.

More adventures in poetry filming

Well my good intentions to write more have not been bearing much fruit lately. However my poetry promoting video work has continued apace with two interesting commissions.

First up was North West England’s contribution to the International Beat Poetry Festival. Held at the Bolton Socialist Club on 9 September 2015, it featured not only a line-up of top local poets, but thanks to the modern wonder of Skype, transatlantic contributions from Frank Messina and David Amram. I filmed the event and have uploaded a montage and individual performance videos, which have been pleasingly popular on Facebook etc. I was relieved the sound recorded as well as it did, thanks in part to Brad’s sound system. It was a well attended event with a great atmosphere and a feather in the cap for its organiser, my friend Scott Devon. Editing the montage was pretty difficult. My first cut was nearly eight minutes and I needed to get it closer to three! So in the end I went for a quick fire, one sentence each approach.

Following that I got together with Potting Shed Pete again to record a third poem of his, this time inspired by his past experiences at certain open mic nights. A certain snobbery from a section of the audience about his down to earth material and ebullient performing style. Initially I had considered filming on location at Bridgewater Hall but in the end we went for a simpler empty classroom.

At the next open mic event, also at Bolton Socialist Club on 8 October 2015, I will not only be filming, broadcasting the event live on Periscope, in case you have that app on your phone. Starting at 8pm GMT. A brand new experience for me, which I’ll let you know about!

Watch the best of our Bolton poetry festival – Live from Worktown 2015

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So after all the stressful planning, the filming and the late nights, the second Live from Worktown festival of the spoken word is over. Well I say over, you can still buy copies of our accompanying poetry anthology with contributions from all over the UK and beyond, not to mention a long overdue reissue of Hovis Presley’s bestselling collection “Poetic Off-License”. Sometime soon the committee will have a review meeting to consider what succeeded and what could have been done better.

Plus you can watch my videos of many of the events, which I’ve been busy editing during the course of the festival. I’ve put them together into a Youtube playlist below. You’ll find local poets like Jefferama and Louise Fazackerly rubbing shoulders with major names like John Hegley and Brian Patten. I think the part of the festival I’m most proud of is the connections it makes between people, connections which might flower into new creative projects, or just make people’s lives a bit brighter.

Highlights for me have been the energy, enthusiasm and sheer quality of the performers on the INSYT Media vs Young Identity evening. John Hegley’s hilarious clever set, and the good feedback I’ve had from the Hovis Presley night. The latter was the evening I was overseeing and it pushed me into new responsibilities and has given me more confidence for future happenings.

Low-lights have been the problems of finding good venues for our festival programme, money worries when it looked like our Arts Council grant application had failed and trying to think of new ways to promote the festival at the eleventh hour.

However I think Live from Worktown as a brand has definitely raised its profile and reputation significantly this year. Most of the credit goes to Dave Morgan, Scott Devon, Paul Blackburn and Louise Coulson for all their hard work. Now its time to put some of my other projects back on the table and get them completed. Hopefully I’ll have more to tell you about soon. Thanks for reading.

For more information about the festival, or if you want to buy a copy of the anthology, please visit http://livefromworktown.org

Brian Patten and John Hegley are coming to Live from Worktown

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Live from Worktown 2015 has begun, with three well received social events, including the launch of the Anthology, an evening with Flapjack Press and a debate on which famous poet to throw out of a balloon. I’m gearing up to film several of the coming events and put edited versions online. Expect a compilation post once they are up. But I just wanted to take the time to recommend two of our flagship events.

John Hegley

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As well as running an afternoon workshop which is nearly sold out. John Hegley is presenting his marvellous combination of poetry, comedy and music on 18th May at the impressive theater space of Bolton College.
A favourite on the radio and music festival scene he first came to prominence on John Peel’s radio show. Hegley’s poem ‘Malcolm’ is one of the nation’s most popular comic poems. Mandolin-playing Hegley delights in audience participation.

Brian Patten

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Brian Patten came to prominence, along with Roger McGough and Adrian Henri, in the 1967 best- selling Mersey Sound poetry anthology. Since then he has performed at the world’s leading literary festivals and has published several very award winning collections. He also writes for children and is a highly engaging performer. On 21st May he will be sharing the performance space of Bolton Central Library with another award winning poet – Mandy Coe.

For tickets and more information, please visit http://livefromworktown.ticketsource.co.uk

You can also follow the event on Twitter – @fromworktown

Thanks for reading.

Live from Worktown poetry/comedy/music festival in Bolton

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Whilst I’m not intending to spam the timeline with Live from Worktown notices, I’d be remiss if I didn’t put up links to both main webpage http://livefromworktown.org and the online box office http://livefromworktown.ticketsource.co.uk
Especially since I’ve just been putting a lot of work into the latter, listing all the events the organisers have planned for April and May. We’ve really got some big names coming to my home town of Bolton, UK, including one of the original Merseybeat poets – Brian Patten, and poet, comedian and singer John Hegley. Plus workshops, debates and a one-night revival of Dave Morgan’s play for voices “Hovis in Wonderland”, celebrating the work of poet Hovis Presley.

I’m currently editing a big launch trailer, so expect that to be posted here soon.

The weird thing about all this is, I couldn’t write a poem myself to save my life!

Submissions wanted for the next Worktown poetry anthology

This year I am once again involved behind the scenes with our local poetry and related live performances festival. As part of it we are publishing an anthology with an open submissions opportunity for poets from the north of England:

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As part of the Live from Worktown Festival 2015, we would like to invite poetry submissions from poets living in the north of England to appear in our festival anthology. The festival this year aims to showcase international performers and writers such as Brian Patten, John Hegley and Mandy Coe, alongside talented local artists.
But we also want to include you, so if you’re a poet living or working in the north of England then we want to see your work. Send us a maximum of two poems by the 13/04/15 to be considered by this year’s guest editor Anne Caldwell, head of poetry at Bolton University.
If accepted your words will be published in the festival anthology in April 2015 and may also appear on the festival website. All published poets will be invited to the anthology launch which will be held in Bolton during the Live from Worktown festival.
Please see below for submissions guidelines, and we look forward to reading your work.
The submission window is 23/03/15 to 13/04/15. Poems submitted outside this period will not be considered.
All submissions must be by e-mail.
Submissions must be sent as an attachment (doc, docx, pdf). Submissions sent in the body of an e-mail will not be read.
Submissions must be the original work of the entrant.
Any poems submitted that are not in English must be accompanied by an English translation.
Poems must be no longer than 30 lines.
Maximum submission of two poems per person.
Submissions should be made to: submissions@livefromworktown.org
Please include your name and postcode in your submission e-mail.
This opportunity is open to anyone aged 16 years or older who lives in the north of England.

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Exciting times ahead – Music, Poetry and Bolton

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Live from Worktown was a 2014 festival of poetry and music based around the UK town of Bolton, my home. As well as the best local talents, it also featured sets from international names George Wallace and Anjum Malik. I was involved on the filming side and general gophering.

Tonight I’ve been at a meeting to discuss the forthcoming arts festival Live from Worktown and I’ve come away feeling very excited. There’s much to be done between now and May but already it looks as if our follow up to last year’s inaugeral event will be bigger and bolder. I’ll be posting up specifics about what I will be doing once they are confirmed but in the meantime, if you’ve not taken a look at the official website http://livefromworktown.org/ then please do. There is also a brand new archive site http://livefromworktown14.org.uk/ containing a permanent record of 2014’s events.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned.