Sunday, January 15, 2017

Wolf moon

In a week of crystalline cold clear skies and frosty mornings, with the wolf moon full and strangely haloed, here in downtown Frome life continues its creative way. I'll start with art.

"A tree represent something full of life, but calm" says Clive Walley of his paintings of Birches in Mist on show now at Black Swan Arts in an exhibition exploring the relationship between reality, perception and what we are allowed to see.
Gazing around this roomful of large square canvases, all similar though none identical, feels a bit like straining to see through the time-fretted glass of a train window, or staring at the world through gauze net curtains. There are outlines but the impediment is the image itself. The 'artist notes' explain this is about the struggle between two conventions of representation, the birch trees set out in the conventional way... and the mist standing in for the mid-twentieth century conception of "flatness". Showing till February 4th ~ and Clive welcomes responses: sadly the Black Swan poetry group is still currently awaiting news of access ~ don't let that stop you writing though...

Roots Grain Bar Sessions restart next week but there's been no shortage of brilliant music in Frome. Griffin Open Mic night on Thursday had some stunning acts: The Moonlit Poachers and Glastonbury foursome Lazydaze were among an impressive lineup including genius impro from MC Ross p, who responded to audience appreciation of his plum jam song with an inspired rap about Pearl Jam and Jeremy Kyle.


And there was a great party in The Three Swans upstairs room to celebrate the memorial anniversary of David Bowie, first of last year's much-mourned casualties ~ big appreciation to Pat Feeney who kept the film stream and songs going while we danced.
Still on the subject of Space Oddities, Frome astronomer Mike Witt will be in Beckington next Friday to present his impressive summary of space exploration from the pioneering 1950s to the current debris-riddled state of the galaxy, with over 4000 satellites whizzing round earth at 18,000 mph and smashing each other into squillions of bits like a Nutribullet.  I was treated to a preview of the talk, and it's interesting social history too, spanning the years when 'computers' were Afro-American women, (thus segregated from the men whose lives were in the hands of their calculations) and the reckless 'space race' between Russia & USA, which probably sacrificed lives of men as well as dogs, until the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission co-led by Alexey Leonov and Tom Stafford. They say what doesn't kill you makes you strong: here they are as octogenarians at the Gagarin Training Centre last year.
This topic for this month's social meeting of the Frome Writers Collective was preparing manuscripts for publication, with an excellent talk from Tim Cutting who last year printed his own book What a Long Strange Trip it's Been. Tim has also helped others from the memoir group led by Rosie Jackson, and he offers a range of advice options to anyone wanting to self-publish. Frome's literary creativity is endlessly awesome: at the Bowie party I met stonemason & writer Andrew Ziminski who's just been signed up by Bill Bryson's agent ~ with publishing auction pending ~ for his fascinating-sounding book on the history of migrations, from birds to people and ideas, that have created the land we call our own today.
Finally for this post:  Here's me in Bristol on Monday at the Ujima Radio Station talking about my poetry collection Crumbs from a Spinning World with Gail Bowen-Huggett - our interview for the Babbers show is online at that link.

And I'm delighted to be supporting Merlin Theatre with their Short Play Competition this year - closing date 31 March, so for all you writers out there, here's what you need to know:

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Year of the Rooster ahead...

According to the Chinese calendar 2017 is a Rooster year (and if Nostradamus is right, a super-power will become increasingly ungovernable and incompetent, wow, who could possibly be responsible for that?) but Chinese New Year doesn't start till the end of the month so right now we're still in monkey zone: smart, naughty and wily, a good time to make plans and have something to crow about later.
Panto season isn't even over yet, which is why I was at the Wardrobe Theatre watching ROCKY a horror show - and what could be more entertainingly horrible than a comic pastiche of every 1970s American Dream cliche in a boxing movie with (spoiler alert but it really doesn’t matter) an alien twist...? Nothing at all, unless you detest burlesque, satire and unrestrained vulgarity,  in which case this ‘christmas show’ isn’t for you. Luckily the full-house at last Saturday's loved it, shrieking with joy as the cross-dressing cast of four talented young actors engaged in vigorous faux-bouts of more physical activities than can be readily imagined. There was singing too, and (luckily) no need for much of a storyline with this amazing cast: Katy Sobey took on the Stallone role with Harry Humberstone as his evil but staggeringly sexy opponent, while James Newton was superb as his girlfriend and his manager, and Emma Keaveney-Roys stole every scene in whatever weird guise she appeared, including the exasperated tortoise. Director was Tom Brennan, soundtrack by Tom Crosley-Thorne, and Madelaine Girling was responsible for the commendably simple design. Do see it - it’s on till 21st January, but don’t sit in the front row if you’re easily shocked.

So back to looking forward to writerly events in the year ahead: Frome Writers Collective's plans are featured on Discover Frome (gratifyingly, Crumbs from a Spinning World is in the top ten currently-read books... no cynicism please) and I'm looking forward to great poetry events like the Poetry Platter at Merlin Theatre, and the Frome Poetry Cafe next month, with Bristol's The Spoke as guests. Dramatically speaking, Feet First is taking our Time Walk on another outing in June with Take Art.  Lots more artsy things happening in & around Frome too so tune in next week for another exciting instalment. Go well, and may your creative juices flow with you.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

the festive one

A bumper festive issue now it's all nearly over, that time of year when facebook goes wild with images of celebration, cake, and social inequality, and Elvis McGonagall writes a poem that says it all. Here's this year's one: Unholy Land
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
Someone’s erected a trampoline instead
The foxes are bouncing, the baby awakes
Mary screams “Joseph! What’s this for Christsakes?

Eighty miles on a donkey and me up the duff
No room at the Premier Inn, I’m not chuffed
Where’s the Wise Men with frankincense, myrrh and gold
The angels, the shepherds, the lo and behold?

Who gives a toss about a gymnastic dog
A badger that goes “boing!” or an airborne hedgehog?
I was promised some glory, the birth of a King
At the least I want to hear Aled Jones sing"

But while we’re shopping bombs are dropping, 
                                                         I've lost all mirth
Aleppo’s burning the meaning and truth from this birth
So goodwill to all men for what it is worth
And let’s pray like fuck for some Peace on this Earth.

(The picture of Bath in the rain is to counterbalance not illustrate: it's by Peter Brown and is in the exhibition A Bath Painter's Travels at Victoria Art Gallery till 19 February - well worth popping in. )

Frome of course does everything its own way, and the Night Market Before Christmas at Silk Mill was full of delightful local craft from independent traders plus a full band around the fire in the yard.
Solstice celebrations featured Midwinter Magic at the Wheatsheaves: music and poetry, organised by Sara Vian, pictured here playing with her band.
A great set too from Sue Harding, and fine words from Graham Owen and Liam Parker (Thanks Patrick Moss for my pic)

More music at the Cornerhouse last Friday, where Pete Gage with his band were on brilliant form ~ do get their CD Left Over Blues if you haven't got it already. The last night of the year was lively here too, as musicians gathered for an informal session at Martin Earley's generous end-of-year party.

Frome's 'hub' role isn't only as a cauldron of creativity, as expressed in gigs, markets, shows, and other events ~ it's a rural thing too. There are so many amazing walks within a short radius of the town, and the weather has been friendly.
White Horse at Bratton on Boxing Day was breezy, but a Christmas Eve day walk to Longleat was balmy though I can't report how the Disneylike Beatrix Potter characters look when illuminated as we were hustled off the site by six security personnel having been identified on camera as walking in on regular footpaths without paying the £31.95 price of a glimpse (but if you're disabled it's only, oh, £31.95 ~ unless you're aged 3 in which case it's £22.95). I don't include this to add a sour note ~ we had a lovely walk and a great day, especially with a stop at amazingly welcoming Cross Keys en route back ~ but to highlight the fact that local walkers have been in conflict with Longleat for the last five years over the about-turn on ramblers' rights after genial bohemian Lord Bath handed over control to his son Caewlin.
The 900-acre estate was a priory until the pillage of Henry VIII's 'Reformation' and, since its grounds are crossed by several routes between local villages and towns, there existed until 2011 an understanding between laird & serfs that these could still be used on foot even when vehicle- barriers were up for an event.  There's much to take your money anyway if you linger, but we were on the Pleasure Walk, a woodland sculpture trail still listed as free to all visitors, so 32 quid seemed a high fine for passing an illuminated hedgehog. (There's more in the national press about the history of the walkers-v-capitalist toffs conflict and the family's own battle for the soul of Longleat.)

And this small struggle between indigenous locals supported by vociferous incomers against a mighty money-making mentality, ironically, segues perfectly to my last event of this post.
If you google Standing Rock you'll find it's a small reservation in North Dakota occupied by ethnic Hunkpapa Lakota, Sihasapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota. You'll also see, although you probably already know, that Standing Rock has for 8 months been encamped by thousands from other tribes, joined by supporters from other parts of America and the world ~  including about 4,000 US war veterans ~ in protest against a crude oil pipeline installation across their land. (pic Huff Post) The camp is now closed for winter, as freezing blizzards will ensure enough delay to void the project, but for a month, until the day the fires were dowsed, one of those international supporters was Frome environmental activist Ben Macfadyen.
When he arrived back in Frome, Ben met with so much curiosity he decided to have an informal meeting to respond to questions about his experience of working at the camp.  He'd been drawn by the core mission of the native protesters: to protect the water because 'water is life'. Ben went initially as an environmental activist but realised when he arrived that the pipeline was only one aspect of cultural oppression. His induction showed him native history not taught in any schools, even those in reservations. There's a big emphasis on the induction process, and elders rely on daily sessions of 'decolonisation' to ensure the incoming, white, supporters recognise that these are prayer camps to hold what is sacred not to empower conflict. This didn't come easy news to many, as the Lakota tribe are warriors and the vets were hardened to confrontation, so meetings were often long and conflicted. Ben says he learned 'to carry on chopping wood and shovelling snow' as the best contribution he could offer.
There seems much to learn from Ben's insights on the struggle: holding focus on peace, the central role of women, and solidarity through diversity. 'Solidarity is when you tend the fire for people who don't feel safe,' Ben said. Perhaps for those of us who feel powerless in terrible times, the best we can do is tend the fires and hold our own values. Until of course, the Snow Bird comes to save the water and war is averted by the power of natural forces...

So now end the revelries of December, and thanks to all my friends and family for the best of times in the worst of times, and I'll leave you all with a toast to the year ahead: my January Song:
 Let us praise New Year resolutions, their pusillanimous tyranny,
and let’s praise their abandonment half way through January.
Let’s eat more cake, and abridge that long debate 
about detoxing, how much we don’t need this big glass of Pinot 
- would be just as happy without it! - oh go on then, I’m not driving.
Let’s admit this new year will be just like the last: a wrangle 
with self discipline which our more articulate decadence will win. 
Let’s praise the clichés that let us off the hook: 
“It is winter – be kind” - “Men like love handles.” 
Ah, the love handles of our lives, the soft slack self-indulgence 
that under-bellies every good intention. 
Let’s praise BAD intentions. Take courage, take heart: 
Here's a toast to whatever is hidden in the dark.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Three books, four bands, & lashings of poetry & song

"I am because you are, and we are community - this is Ubuntu."
Hazel Carey's book 'Ubuntu - My life in Other People' is an amazing memoir of a lifetime of creativity through drama, dance and song, including spearheading the South African cultural renaissance in the 1980s. Ubuntu is an African term meaning 'we are who we are because of other people,' and as Hazel's friend for over twenty years, I was privileged to edit her story, learning in the process more about this fearless, free-spirited, inspirational woman.

Last week saw Hazel's book launch in London at St Ethelburga's Centre in Bishopsgate, with a party where scores of Hazel's colleagues and friends converged to celebrate, including a posse from Skyros sessions ~ here surrounding the queen of the scene in an impromtu photobombing opportunity. An unforgettably marvellous event, and a great day out in London too as I chose to make my way to the venue via South Bank to watch the city's twilight scenes turn into glamorous nightscapes of magical illuminations as the shard spiralled and sparkled over the dark water and bright-lit bridge arches.

Words & Ears, Bradford-on-Avon's monthly Poetry Cafe run by Dawn Gorman, is always enjoyable though I don't go as often as I'd like. This week I did, and was rewarded by an excellent evening with strong readings from guests Elizabeth Palmer and haiku master John Hawkhead from his collection Small Shadows published by Alba, and outstanding poetry on the open mic. Moods ranged from Chaucer Cameron's subtle and powerful protest at the censorship of Iranian poet Sepideh Jodeyri to Kate Escher's poem composed entirely of lipstick names, and it was great to hear favourite poets like Stephen Payne, Jinny Fisher and Dawn herself, as well as discovering new voices like Pey Oh Colborne.


Back in Frome, it's been a sensational week for live music. The newly-rouged bar of The Cornerhouse was crammed on last two Saturday nights for fantastic bands: marvellous Captain Cactus and the Screaming Harlots (Jane, you broke my heart with that rendition of Just Somebody I Used to Know) and another must-dance-to band, Bristol's rootsy Flash Harry.
Back Wood Redeemers, another awesome band, treated us to their 'twisted blues & religious fervour' at Silk Mill last Sunday and then did it all over again, even better, at Grain Bar Roots Session on Wednesday with our Mr mayor astounding on mouth-organ.
And Bonne Nouvelle gave a sublime performance at the 'Friends of Frome Festival' party at the newly refurbished Granary venue, a fun event which confirmed the fact I'm rubbish at quizzes.
Final music note~  for me, though there's always more music in Frome than days in the week ~  Nunney Acoustic Cafe, featuring Emi McDade and with an excitingly eclectic open-mic including original songs along with covers of Undertones, Manics, Green Day, and Company of Thieves. I contributed three of me pomes which while not exactly child-friendly were at least not scurrilous, which neatly segues into the frankly self-indulgent footnote for this post (about which, as Jane Austen said of Emma, no-one but myself will care...) viz: that Amazon now has two reviews of my collection Crumbs from a Spinning World:
"... Funny, touching and beautiful collection. It is a rare book of poetry that takes you on so many journeys." "My favourite book of 2016. Crysse is a genius with words and these poems make me smile even on their umpteenth reading."  Thank you, lovely people, and for all the facebook comments and emails too. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Winter words ~ poetry and performance

Let's begin with the poetry. I had high expectations of Monday's Frome Festive Poetry Café: dry humour from guest John Christopher Wood plus eclectic variety on the open mic promised a great evening and a supportive forum for unveiling my collection Crumbs from a Spinning World. It was indeed a wonderful event, with full-house audience and a great buzz,  twenty open-mic poets, and John's droll wit immensely popular. From quickies like 'What do you call vicars with no underwear? Nicholas Parsons!! to his reflections on temporal inexactitude and the plasticity of time, there was much word-play to ponder. Audience readings were excellent, ranging from seasonal humour to moving profundity, and I was chuffed with responses to my 'crone' poems ~ thanks David Goodman for the image. Burning Eye Books have now posted the podcast recorded in my kitchen last week ~ link here. If you haven't got 30 minutes (who has?) you could slide to 24.30 for the 'predictive poetry' bit (fun for all) or 27.50 to hear a 'crone' poem.  And despite the drizzle I had some interest for my 'Pop-up Poetry' session on Saturday at the Library ~ thanks Sara Vian for this 40-second video clip!

Festive showtime has arrived, with a double splurge of Bristol's best: Cinderella: A Fairytale at the Tobacco Factory is a revival of the Travelling Light show originally directed by Sally Cookson which I saw & loved five years ago, with several of the same performers as well as the same musical magic. The concept is to retain that Grimm psychological horror at wicked parenting and damaged children, with domestic bullying and bleeding severed toes (they bounce as well, which is particularly awesome) but with beautiful storytelling, tenderness, and humour throughout. Every scene, from the forest of birds to the palace gala, is created by five extraordinary actors and two brilliant musicians. Isabella Marshall as Ella is a delight but her appalling family are even more riveting: Lucy Tuck is mesmeric both as spiteful sister and head-scarfed Queen, and Craig Edwards' metamorphosis from tender father to incandescently evil stepmother will probably haunt me forever. The in-the-round format of Tobacco Factory's main house is perfect for this production, creating an imaginary world through inspired lighting with clever direction ensuring varied viewpoints from all angles throughout. A fabulous show for every age, running till January 22nd but may sell out ~ book while you can! Images Farrows Creative

In contrast to Cinderella's traditional tale, The Snow Queen at Bristol Old Vic adds an elaborate plot involving goblins, robbers, reindeer, radical animal rebels and a psychedelic flower-witch. The acting team and musicians are great but the complexity of storytelling make the hero's journey hard to follow, and re-envisioning that profound shard of ice in the child's heart as a 'mirror of opposites' loses the poignancy and impact of the original Hans Anderson tale.
However there's much to charm: dramatic lighting, lively musicality and spectacular puppetry, as well as superb performances, especially from Gerda and Kai (Emily Burnett & Steven Roberts). I had a soft spot too for the dysmorphic reindeer (Dylan Wood) though his role is bewilderingly extraneous. Written by Vivienne Franzmann, director Lee Lyford and Tom Rogers designer, this runs till 15 January. Images Mark Douet.
And with seasonal shows all around, as someone (probably not Scrooge) must have observed, why stop at two? So on Friday I was back in Frome watching a musical interpretation of Peter Pan by Merlin Theatre Productions, directed by James Moore with a lively cast of 34 plus singers, musicians, and a 7-piece band. With Edwardian London evoked by the ensemble from the start and a story-teller to keep the narrative close to Barrie's style and child-like imagination, the production stayed satisfyingly close to the familiar story, creating 'suspension of disbelief' with minimal props & set. I expected to be annoyed that Captain Hook had been transposed from his alter-ego paternal role to be played by a woman, but Daisy Mercedes won me over with her psychotic dominatrix/Teresa May combo. The lead roles were all well taken, with Ryan Hughes and Tabitha Cox superb as the waiting parents, and the steampunk pirates almost as endearing as the lost boys. I really liked the way the central vision of a boy refusing to grow up was maintained right to the end, so the final song is from Oliver Edward's Pan as courageous anti-hero still rejecting the treadmill life. Impressive show, well done all. Image Ken Abbott


Ending with written word again: Frome Writers' Collective monthly social at Three Swans this week featured a fascinating and informative talk on writing & publishing a personal memoir. Rosie Jackson, whose own memoir The Glass Mother has been much praised, shared her experience of the process. Memoir, Rosie showed, can weave strands of political and social history into personal memory, and can be therapeutic too: "You put the narrative of your life in a container and find the meaning of an experience from your current perspective." As a sample of the genre, Rosie read the start of her book, as did two other local memoirists, all three demonstrating that writerly adage 'An opening should grab you by the throat and compel you to read on.'  Des Harris and Steve Small are previous students of Rosie, who is a highly-rated tutor as well as an elegant writer ~ you can find course details on her new website, which has this lovely image of writing in a summer garden so we can look ahead to better days.



Monday, December 05, 2016

Slipping icily into the festive season...

'The cold never bothered me anyway' trills Frozen's Elsa bravely. Don't mistake me for Elsa. As frost grips leaves (prettily) and windscreens (annoyingly) I strive to muster the stoic resilience of Albert Camus who wrote In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Good luck with that, then, my less stoic self mutters. But it's beautiful, I concede, that icy clarity of winter sunshine ~ this is how Stourhead looks when half the lake is solid and the grass is a field of tiny sabres.
And now it's December there's no avoiding the beast that lurches toward Bethlehem to be born again as a Retail Festival. Frome had a low-key lights-switch-on event this year: singing in the streets and tree sparkles which all lit up at the right moment ~ the mass 'Ooh!' gasp in response was more of an Oh!' of surprise from Fromies familiar with such events.
There was plenty of good music & other stuff around too: Dexters Extra Breakfast after the festive market at the Grain Bar were followed by the foot-stopping Buffalo Gals, and on Sunday Jazz Jam at the Cornerhouse gave us Simon Sax's lineup of superb performers. And Cafe La Strada is now featuring an exhibition of David Goodman's characteristically lucent eclectic photographs.
First Sunday of the month is Frome Independent market and minus- zero temperatures didn't stop the crowds pouring in. Cerulean skies and sunshine helped, and despite the whole town bordering on gridlock status (especially around hot-drink stalls) there was an upbeat atmosphere.
This month I was on the market myself, spasmodically declaiming poems from Crumbs from a Spinning World outside Hunting Raven Books, along with World Tree Story author Julian Hight who was also selling and signing. Great fun, and lovely feedback from buyers.

Earlier this week I'd met up with Burning Eye Books press officer ~ delightful Jenn Hart, here setting up for a podcast to give my progress report. My idea is a kind of scatter-gun approach to launching, with pop-up events in various locations (Frome Library next Saturday, December 10) and open-mic performances in Poetry Cafes and clubs. "If it isn't any fun, don't do it" D.H.Lawrence said, and he was right.
 So far, I've done spots at events in Bruton and Wells, acquiring after the latter a review in the Wells Journal I shall quote endlessly: Praise ... to Crysse Morrison, whose alphabetical 26 word review of Austen's Pride and Prejudice allied form and function in a way the Bauhaus would have applauded.  So it's a watch-this-space situation, or check my facebook page should you want to know upcoming.

Footnote of the week comes from a marvellous piece in Index: Wiltshire in which a Devises resident yearns fractiously for some of Frome's iconic charm. Oh, blast that funky freewheeling Frome... Here we go again, I swear every news story I hear about Frome is a happy-ending-tale of civic action... 
...not a constant free festival or a hippy commune, Frome is an organised community acting upon issues, often against conformity, to create a distinctiveness and liberal attitude which makes Brighton look like North Korea. Full of facts, and funny too ~ Darren Worrow, you may not be Bauhaus but I enjoyed that very much.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chocolate shoes, a hippy Tempest, punk music & retro art

Frome's Chocolate Festival was on Sunday and the Cheese and Grain almost split at the seams with excited tasters and buyers from stalls selling everything conceivably chocolate from bars and boxes to Thomas the Tank engines and high-heeled shoes - including chocolate candyfloss and chocolate limoncello (my favourite). Big sticky licky-fingered congratulations to Jo Harrington for an amazing enterprise.


The Grain bar Roots Session this week featured two excellent acts - punky ukelele-&-cahón trio The Wochynskis with vocals from Carl Sutterby, and 'velvet-voiced' Steve Loundon's band now featuring Charlotte Egmore.
And now to the theatre. The Tempest, despite its redemptive ending, is a difficult play. Prospero has born an understandable grudge in solitude for many years, he's a control freak and often frankly nasty. Neither of his fairy servants feel well-treated and none of the new arrivals on the island are people you'd like to spend much time with, though you have to as this play runs for nearly three hours. Credit then to Frome Drama Club for a brave new version, in which director Steve Scammell gender-swaps three key roles and gives Prospero an almost Lear-like tragic decline in powers at the end. Modernising a Jacobean play is always tricky but Raggedy's lovely costumes helped and there were some moving moments: the dance of the two fairies during Caliban's Be not afraid... speech was my personal highlight. Polly Lamb's watchful Ariel stole every scene she entered. Congratulations all for the team effort.

BlackSwanArts is currently enjoying a retrospective look at 30 years, 30 artists, celebrating 'artists and makers who started their careers at the Black Swan, returning with a mix of ceramic, jewellery, painting, pottery and printmaking.' It's a charming exhibition, most of pieces delicately playful - and an admirably vibrant interactive art chest from Stina Falle.
I ended my week with a family trip to Dorset and a marvellous walk along the chesil beach and ridgeway at Abbotsbury, included here via the slightly-dubious connection with TE Lawrence who as well as being an officer, archeologist, and diplomat was also of course a writer, and whose cottage is here. We didn't see it actually, because after a seven mile walk we preferred the pub, but the whole area is fascinating historically as well as beautiful. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Art to disturb the comfortable & comfort the disturbed

In a week when Michelle Obama's departure from the White House was greeted in West Virginia with relief that the ape in heels had gone, the new production at Bath's Ustinov feels disturbingly relevant.
 Trouble in Mind was originally performed in 1955, and writer Alice Childress was the first African American to win an Obie - best Original Off-Broadway Production award. It's a passionate play about the production of a passionate play: a tear-jerking inditement of racism from a white writer's perspective. Can the black cast accept this, as they accept the bullying of their volatile director (Jonathan Cullen terrifyingly good in this role), and be grateful for the money and for sharing meals in public with their white co-actors or do they have a right to their own feelings? This is the dilemma that increasingly emerges, and Tanya Moodie ~ who instigated this production ~ is memorably impressive as Wiletta Mayer, the one who articulates it. Director Lawrence Boswell brings deliberate theatricality to every moment of this painful journey: from dominated role-playing, to slow achievement of confidence and ultimate crisis. Don't matter who gets in, don't make no difference to us, is a line from the play-within-the-play that resonates throughout. Grippingly watchable, often painfully funny, and brilliantly acted - it's on till 17th December so forget the panto, come and see this. (image Simon Annand) 

This has been a week of new beginnings. My poetry collection Crumbs from a Spinning World was officially published by 'upstart indie punk' company Burning Eye Books on Tuesday with a really nice blog on their site (very short, do click the link!) and I had a small celebratory party. On Thursday Ann Harrison-Broninksi launched her 'comic horror story for kids' Hag of Hythe, also in a party atmosphere at the Three Swans. So you can enjoy a brace of covers from the pen of 'Frome's Banksy', Paul (Mutartis) Boswell who lavishly illustrated Ann's story.

Then on Friday night Frome Writers Collective launched their imprint Silver Crow in the Black Swan gallery to an enthusiastic crowd of writers. Nikki Coppleston read from her detective novel The Shame of Innocence, published in this new imprint by SilverWood, whose director Helen Hart gave an excellent talk about self-publishing as no longer a 'vanity' choice but 'the democratisation of publishing.  Here's Helen, and Nikki with her book.
I just had time then to scamper to the Round Tower to congratulate Annette Burkitt, Geraldine McLoughlin and Kate Cochrane on their collaboration with Rosie Jackson to create paintings inspired by her poems, which Rosie was discussing at the launch of Kate's Angles & Aspects exhibition.
And also on a busy night, Cornerhouse rebranded its upstairs room as a gallery with a fantastic exhibition of prints by Frome photographer David Goodman. The bar downstairs too was filled with amazing examples of his work, and Bonne Nouvelle were there to entertain the guests, appropriately surrounded by superb portraits of musicians.

It was a big week for farewells too: on Wednesday a memorial service for Esme Ellis, sculptor and writer and supporter of all arts and artists. I met Esme when she was writing her allegorical novel This Strange and Precious Thing ~ this picture is from the launch in Bath in 2008 ~  and she responded to one of my poems in her last book Dreaming Worlds Awake, a deeply personal reflection on life and love.
 And on Friday, Frome town said goodbye to Griff Daniels with a tribute night at Rook Lane. Griff was a key figure in the Frome music scene and an all-round fantastic guy, and over two hundred people came to his send-off - fittingly in a party atmosphere, with several of his closest bandmates playing throughout an unforgettable evening.