Posts Tagged ‘performance’

Cheltenham Poetry Festival logoIt was a delight, dare I say even moving, to hear the poetry choices of Cheltenham’s election candidates last night at Cheltenham Poetry Festivals world first Poetry Election.

The town’s current MP is Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat. He won the Poetry Election with a pair of poems that included Shelley’s Ozymandias (‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone…’) which stopped being a cliché when Martin explained the poem’s original, harshly political context: the Peterloo massacre, repressive Corn Laws and vicious poverty.

The event in the echo-ey vastness of Frances Close Chapel on University of Gloucestershire campus was very sensibly free, so nearly 100 people including the be-chained Mayor of Cheltenham and plenty of arty types packed the front pews to hear readings and a short debate. For an informal arts event in Gloucestershire, that’s an almost miraculously good house.
Other things were revealed. Only the Green candidate Adam Van Coevorden knew how to use a microphone. Labour candidate Paul Gilbert had thought about how the arts enhance education. UKIP newbie Christina Simmons didn’t seem to have an arts policy at all and put austerity far ahead of support for the arts. Martin Horwood vaunted the array of Cheltenham Festivals, quite reasonably on the basis of his involvement in helping to win funding for them. Everybody on the platform got stuck in to their poems with gusto, even indie candidate Richard Lupson-Darnell who confessed to loathing poetry at school.
Call it creativity…
But none of the candidates showed any real understanding of the arts world. Cheltenham’s wonderful Playhouse Theatre – that welcomes professional, semi pro and amateur performance in a way that some of the town’s posh publicly funded venues dismally fail to do – never got a mention.
Beyond the official Festivals, and a yearning for the long lost Axiom centre, the candidates clearly had no concept of working in the arts. If you call it creativity, by the way, the elitist overtone goes away.
Nobody spoke about how creativity – received or participated in – supports mental health, potentially saving the NHS fortunes as depression attains epidemic proportions in the UK. Nobody spoke about how millions of creative people in the UK today – dedicated, intelligent people who train to a high standard and who commit their finances, heart and soul to their work – are unable to make a living.
The thing that makes your heart sing
Nobody spoke about how ‘working in the arts’ carries such a stigma now that it’s almost better to be outed as a banker.
Nobody spoke about how most creative people must, for the whole of their adult lives, consign their talent to a mere hobby to be fitted around zero hours contracts, inadequate wages and exhaustion. If you have any spark of creativity in the UK today, but you’re outside the elite cliques of arts stars and large scale commercialism (film, musical theatre, video games) then all you can expect is sneering discouragement.
Your ability, the thing that makes your heart sing and gives you a reason for living – will be dismissed with a cry of “Get a proper job!”
Cultural desert
After 15 years working full time as a spoken word performer, and observing a wide range of theatre and music from the inside, I’ve concluded that Gloucestershire is a cultural desert where nobody wants to go to anything except the pub, and if they drag themselves to a show they certainly don’t want to pay more than the price of a pint.
Oh, all right, there’s a thin cadre of intellectuals who rather joylessly patronise opera, literature, smart exhibitions and the snob end of culture. Often nowhere near Gloucestershire, let alone Cheltenham or oh my goodness rough old Gloucester.
I could be wrong. It could be that 15 years battling the dead weight of indifference has skewed my view.
Last night’s Poetry Election showed that even politicians can be moved by – and can reach other people through – a thoughtful choice of poem.
But the cold truth in Cheltenham as in most of Britain is that the general public has no interest in what creative people can do. They don’t know, don’t care, don’t go. I’m good at only one thing: telling stories. I have to face every day knowing that very nearly nobody wants what I do best.
Story Cabaret entertainer, spoken word artist Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers

Chloë: new contemporary Story Cabaret

Notes

•  The Jordans Cheltenham Poetry Festival runs 20 April – 3 May 2015: from the world’s gloomiest poet (who will have you in stitches) to duck infested canal poetry, plus bands, hip hop and poetry for children.

•  Scheherazade’s Shed – the world première of my new contemporary story show for adults is Monday 27 April 9pm at Cheltenham Playhouse, ticket £7 or concession price £4. Please pre book from the Playhouse 01242 522 852

Cheltenham’s parliamentary candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

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I once performed a full Story Supper in the grip of flu. I’d taken every drug going and probably shouldn’t have been driving, let alone improvising narrative to paying punters! Hilariously.. or not.. my then Midnight Storytellers partner, the lovely and very missed Karen-Eve, was in the same condition. With spinning heads and overly bright smiles, we lurched onstage. Luckily, adrenalin trumps everything. It was one of our more sparkling shows!

I aim to make winter my season of log fires and toasted crumpets, and cuddling warm furry cats on my sofa. Christmas performances in red and green glittering glamour. Not parade of the snotmonster…

To all of you involved in performance, public speaking or just wanting to keep the SAD [seasonally affected depression] at bay, may I recommend:

•    Cheap 500mg Vitamin C tablets. One a day.
•    A bottle of high quality ginger cordial. Even if you normally save money with el cheapo supermarket own brand squash, just once a year you need this spirit-warming substance. Drink hot, instead of too much tea/coffee.
•    Cook often with chillis, ginger and garlic.  Chilli con carne or con veggie; Thai green curry – extra comfort from coconut in the sauce; Chloe’s Restorative Fish Gumbo – contains chorizo, fresh coriander, coconut, extra chilli and garlic, and white wine – WARNING do not try to kiss anybody after eating this, don’t even cuddle your cat…
•    Ordinary honey/lemon throat lozenges: one every night, last thing. The little black throat lozenges: one approx 30 minutes before going on stage. Does NOT replace proper voice warm-up.
•    Stay in the same air temperature at least 20 minutes before using your voice to an audience.
•    Room temperature still water – poured ready to drink – onstage, or immediately to one side. You won’t need it until is isn’t there.
•    Glamorous soft scarf and snuggly coat: put on immediately after performance, especially traveling home tired. Keep neck (throat) protected from extreme conditions at all times. Why d’you think I have so many colourful scarves? – It’s not just to hide the double chins, y’know!
•    After-show treat at home: in a pretty glass or mug, hot toddy made with (optional) whisky, juice of half a lemon, dollop of honey. Top up with just-boiled water. Drink as hot as you can manage.
•    Alternative treat: small glass of cognac and cherry brandy.
•    An electric blanket. Spares you the whole will-(s)he-won’t-(s)he relationship nightmare. You’ll be warm and comfy anyway.
•    A microwave heatable neck cushion (scented with lavender for soothing). Alternatively, a safe hot water bottle with a plush fur cover.
•    Sleep. Afternoon naps whenever possible. 30 minutes horizontal replenishes you for the evening’s exertions. One day a month STAY IN BED with books, radio, cats, hot buttered toast…
•    Deep hot baths. Use essential oils for scent, avoid foam baths as these often irritate.. er.. private bits. Be aware what stimulates (eg geranium) and what calms (eg lavender).
•    Walks, especially at noon to get maximum sunlight (even through cloud). All exercise helps improve mood. Even housework counts! Bung on a CD and bop, if nothing else.
•    Chocolate. But only the good (dark) stuff. Look for 50% – 65% cocoa solids; anything more tastes too strong and is just snobbery. Anything less than 40% cocoa solids is not worth your money. Try dark choc with red peppercorns or chilli, if you enjoy exotic flavours. Look, there’s a whole world of hand-rolled choc truffles, dipped cherries marinaded in brandy, choc orange chunks, Venus Nipples… It’s so intensely satisfying, you won’t want to overeat. Proper chocolate contains natural stimulants, calmants and anti depressants. I daren’t tell you what the modern factory product contains, except it’s probably closer to sweet cheese than real chocolate.
•    Bagged fresh salad. Don’t mess about, it’s winter. Make it easy. Fresh or tinned fruit. Fresh or frozen veg.
•    A woodcutter’s axe, well sharpened. A sheltered sunny spot with a chopping block. See, a log fire warms you at least four times: once when you stack the logs in store; twice when you split logs and chop kindling; thrice when you heave the full log basket indoors; and finally, when the fire is merrily crackling and you’re on the sofa with the purring friends…
•    Fairy lights. Indoors and out. All winter, not just the alleged festive season.
•    Toasting fork, crumpets, real butter, marmite/jam/honey to taste. Do it the old fashioned way. Best thing to drive away the demons of Sunday afternoon. Why real butter? – use less, taste more.
•    Table lamps with bulbs equivalent to 60W. Candles/tealights in safe holders. LIGHT really does affect mood. The gentle, varied light of lamps and candles spells home, warmth and safety. Overhead, fluorescent striplights are despair and death.
•    Box of matches with one match prepped: tail sticking out of closed box. So you can find and light a match in the power cut.
•    Car prepared for winter. Eg de-icer to hand NOT locked in car. OR (fewer chemicals) newspaper/blanket over windscreen in frost. Last year [I’m in the English countryside] made me think about actual winter tyres but need bloke on tap to change all 4 at short notice ie when snow starts. Hmm.. Car should contain blanket, wellies/walking boots, water and chocolate, shovel. Fully charge your mobile phone before snowy driving.
•    Canister of table salt for ice free doorstep.
•    Broadband internet connection. Cheap phone deal. So you can laugh and be in touch with friends without battling through snow and storm.
•    Funky winter clothes. Customise charity shop buys and/or have 1 (2?!) amazing thing(s) that make(s) you feel good every day.
•    Honour the Spirit of Christmas.