Literature Fests – pics

Thanks to all who came along to Off the Shelf, Ilkley Literature Festival and Beverley Literature Festival over the last few days. I’ve loved every minute of being involved in this project and working alongside Andrew McMillan and Zodwa Nyoni. We’re hoping to take it to the Brontë Parsonage itself in 2017, keep an eye out.

Off the Shelf Festival – Upper Chapel
As well as being the first of our ‘New Responses to the Brontës’ events, Friday also saw the premiere of a film by Al Reffell which she had made to accompany my song Emily, the Diver. The film was projected onto the outside of the building, whilst me, Zodwa and Andrew were performing and discussing our work inside. Thanks to Wordlife and Arts Council England for supporting the film projection. It’s going to be projected twice more – onto CAST in Doncaster on Sat 29th October, and onto the Weston Park Museum in Sheffield on Fri 25th November. Available to watch online soon too.

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Ilkley Literature Festival – Ilkley Playhouse
Another great night followed on Saturday in Ilkley:

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L-R Andrew McMillan, Zodwa Nyoni, festival director Rachel Feldberg and me

Beverley Literature Festival – Beverley Minster
A stunning place to play!


Here’s my view from the ‘stage’:14695469_10154272520793705_969849062773389628_n
We were interviewed here by John Wedgewood Clarke, lecturer in Creative Writing from the University of Hull. Going back to Beverley also gave me the chance to revisit one of my favourite pubs – Nellie’s. If you’re ever in Beverley, these are my tips – the Minster and Nellie’s!

Again a big, big thanks to the teams at Off the Shelf, Beverley and Ilkley festivals!

The Breakdown, 8.10.16

I was back co-hosting The Breakdown on Sheffield Live for a fourth time yesterday. You can listen back to it here.

I played:


A Week of Sunrises

Last Sunday, I was in the garden reading A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. There was a bit about how books shouldn’t tell us how to live, but make us want to live, and perhaps to live differently. Suddenly, I pictured myself as an old lady, being asked if there was anything I regretted. Old lady me said “I wish had seen more sunrises.”

Day 1: Monday 12 Sept. 6:10 am – 6:35

Pigeons and planes. Rose petals on the lawn. One huge cloud in the west, grey at the bottom, white on top. Feathery whale-shaped clouds in the East, where the sky is a soft peach. Thinking about peaches. The clouds closest to the sun starting to burn pink. Birds waking up, distant cars hum. My pen on the paper the loudest sound. The pink in the sky is spreading, matching the roses in my neighbour’s gardens. A plane streaks across the sky and leaves a fluffy pink trail, but there’s a gap in the trail, as though the plane jumped forward. Some low clouds are moving fast. The clouds in the east are all pink now, the sky like a childhood fantasy, reminding me of strawberry-scented pencil erasers.


Day 2: Tuesday 13 Sept. 6:05 – 6:40

Awake from dreams of a snake and a leopard in my garden, but all that’s out here is a cat on a neighbour’s shed roof, slinking in the half light. I’m trying not to wake up too much, but I can feel it happening anyway. A daddy longlegs on the outside of the window. Twittering or silence. A twinkling light in the hills. Thinking about an old friend who turned up in the dream too. Straight ahead, mist obscures the furthest hills. Empty gardens, a sea of dark greens. I slip across to the front of the house to take a peek out that side, and the first line of a Delgado’s song comes to my mind – creeping round my house at dawn… At the front I see a man walking dog, and then go back to the other side of the house. At 6:22 a small squirrel charges from left to right along all the fences, goes up into a tree, then turns and goes back the way he came. Must have forgotten something. Fluff caught in a spider’s web. A bird I can never identify with this descending ‘peeeeew’ call. Gnats. Tired and uneasy this morning. Crows call. A ghostly squid cloud. A magpie, then another. The sky is softening, the twinkle in the hills grows dimmer. Thin, streaky clouds like pencil marks on the sky. Parallel lines. So precise. The drawing is complete.


Day 3: Wednesday 14 Sept. 6:15 – 6:40

The night after the lightning storm. Thick fog and cloud. Hungry. The sky is grey, smoke grey. Hair grey. Ghost grey. A breeze genty ruffles the trees, like an absent-minded owner stroking a dog’s head. Thinking about the term ‘absent-minded’. Neat gardens. A single red wildflower that was in the garden yesterday has not survived the storm. Nothing is changing this morning. But I still showed up. Awareness in the feet. ‘The foot listens’. Cupping my face in my hands, both warm. Blackbird on the grass.


Day 4: Thursday 15 Sept. 6:27 – 6:45

Even foggier than yesterday. Worrying about hedgehogs. Haven’t seen one for years. Remembering my first hedgehog; being woken up by mum to see it. A good memory. Stomach gurgling. Mist drifting past the window. No breeze today, the trees still again. Pegs on a line. Stones that look like a duck, swimming in concrete. Skipping rope. The squirrel on the fence again. As I go back to bed, a Kyllie Minogue song from my childhood is in my head – “Je ne sais pas pourquoi”.


Day 5: Friday 16 Sept. 6:28 – 6:48

Cloudy, but not foggy. So tired. Wind in the trees. So quiet. Someone leaving for work, their headlights shining on the garage door the only sign. A dark wall of trees in the West. Thinking about the berries on the trees. I dreamed I was drawing a forest scene and that I wanted to watch all of Seinfeld from the beginning. The sky is lightening, but the birds are still quiet. Inner stereo playing ‘Roses in the Hospital‘. Subtle pink in the East. Inner stereo playing ‘My Best Friend’s Girl‘ now. Narwhal cloud. Soft, peachy-pink sky under the grey. Thinking of the sea. I open the window to breathe in the cool air, hear the sound of the wind. The birds start to sing. The clouds are burning. Spooky, swirly clouds in the West remind me of Fright Night. Branches sway. Drying shirts and the curtains sway.


Day 6: Saturday 17 Sept. 6:32 – 6:57

The sky is lighter in the North and West than in the East, has the sun moved in the night? Gentle breeze in the trees. Have been hoping these mornings to see the local fox, but he’s a no show. Thinking about The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes. Purple hills in the distance. Squirrel on a neighbour’s tin garage roof. Feels like the sunrise is broken today. So grey in the East. Going to a wedding today. Illuminated white cross of the church straight ahead, I wonder how far from me it is. The sky is pink everywhere except for where it’s supposed to be. 6:49 Birds starting to twitter but it’s still grey in the East. 6:57 Fuck it.


Day 7: Sunday 18 Sept. 6:36 – 6:50

Perched on a chair by the window of my hotel room in Todmorden. The window looks out onto the illuminated clock tower and across to the hills, except…fog again. I was hoping to see the sun rise over those hills. Different bird calls here. I can see the windows along the side of the Town Hall, where I spent yesterday eating and drinking and dancing. Slight headache. A squawking bird sits on the weathervane cock’s back. Cool air coming through the open window. Six birds on the weathervane. I dreamed of prison, my captors volatile and untrustworthy, including those who were meant to be on my side, my fellow inmates too curious, trying to know my secrets. Thinking of how I took my shoes off and danced last night. Headache growing. Dry mouth. I did it.


Overall, this week of sunrises has had the effect of slowing down time. September had been racing away, but getting up for a little bit every morning then going back to bed for a hour or so has made the week seem to last much longer, as in more than a few hours longer. Like I’ve lived more this last seven days. The weather was largely against me, but it was the getting up that mattered, showing up for this extra bit of time to sit and do nothing but look at the world in front me. I’m a bit sad that it’s over, and thinking that I’ll do it again before too long. I wish I was naturally an early riser, I know some people reading this might be thinking ‘you got up – so what?’, but at the start this really did seem like a challenge to me, though it was a lot easier than I expected. Rise well, friends.

Shepherd Wheel @ The Folk Forest (Tramlines)

I wasn’t planning on performing at Tramlines this year (or anywhere this summer – I’m busy working on a project at the moment that I’m hoping to be able to share with you soon!), but when I was asked to play a short set on the Water Wheel Stage at Shepherd Wheel, I changed my mind.

It’s a spot I’m fond of anyway, but it’s a great idea for a stage, with music, drama, poetry and local history. For the music element they have chosen artists who are particularly inspired by nature and landscapes.

More info on the Facebook page. I’ll be on at 3.

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