Picture This! with Dan Simpson and Beach Creative

photo 3Picture This! is a year-long programme of creative writing workshops for Herne Bay teenagers, made possible by a grant from the Clore Duffield Foundation. I was involved in part of it – a series of inspiring workshops by poet Dan Simpson at Herne Bay High that resulted in a Categorical Books publication of the poems. One series in particular, inspired by a poem by Sven Stears, had the pupils invent imaginary jobs, to surreal effect.

The anthology was launched at an event at Beach Creative in Herne Bay where Dan performed poems from his new book Applied Mathematics.

The book’s cover photograph and design are by Nancy Wilson.

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Poetry Exchange

tpeFiona Lesley Bennett of the Map Consortium has set up a wonderful project called the Poetry Exchange.

The Poetry Exchange is a way of sharing our enjoyment of poetry by inviting people to nominate a poem that has been a friend to them. The person who suggested the poem then has a conversation with an actor about what the poem means to them – either one to one or as part of a larger audience – and in return they receive a unique recording of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation.

I nominated Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Song’, which has long been a favourite. The discussion took place at the Wise Words festival in Canterbury and I was thrilled with the recording by Jacqueline Kington and Michael Schaeffer.

You can hear some of the recordings or nominate your own poem by clicking here.

Richard Rogers at the British Museum

photo 1I was lucky to get a preview of the new British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre as part of my role as editor on a book about the project published by the architects.

It’s an amazing building that stitches together new and old, in particular through facades clad in Portland stone pocked with the marks of fossils and frosted glass panels etched with the outline of parts of the Jurassic Coast. But what you may not appreciate from the street is that 68% of the building – housing storage as well as the sensitive equipment needed to explore and restore the museum’s collections – is underground.

If you are passing through Bloomsbury, watch out for the truck lift, which transports lorry-loads of items seven stories below ground and rises up again to ground level with surreal effect.

Songs and poems with Nine Below Zero

ghostThis was a wonderful project organised by Future Creative in Minterne Community Junior School in Sittingbourne.

Musician Dennis Greaves of blues band Nine Below Zero and I worked in all twelve classes – I went in first and encouraged the children to write poems on the themes of memory and identity and then Dennis followed and helped them transform the poems into lyrics and set them to music.

At the end we produced a book of poems and illustrations and a CD of the songs, called There’s a Ghost Under My Bed.

VickyDennis2013 023It was really interesting for both Dennis and I to observe each other’s creative process and to think about the difference between what makes a good poem and what makes a good song. The most successful poems for me were with a Year 4 class where we did cut up poetry – I gave the children an A4 page of words to do with the sea and they rearranged them as they wished.

Here is an example:

Calm clouds disappear
Shimmering waves whisper
Rippling pools roll
We walk on the golden sand
Violent cliffs towering up
We plunge into the deep
I shout to the dark
Rocks, sharp and solid
Alone under the pebbles crabs scuttle
Shimmering moon sings
Droplets surf among the tide
Sunrise, sunset over rain

Dennis and I were reunited for the retirement of headmaster Bill McGrory when Nine Below Zero performed and I read a poem I had written sourced from comments and memories by of pupils and staff. Here it is:

million dollar bill

Storytelling for The Conservation Volunteers

P1070337It was a wild and stormy day in late March. Snow was blowing in across the North Sea and the early daffodils were shivering in the biting wind. At the Singleton Environment Centre families stomped up in boots and winter coats to take part in  the Spring at Singleton weekend…

And despite the bitter weather, we had a great time! I did a storytelling session where groups were invited to listen to me perform ‘Where stories come from’ and then to create their own story with the help of a basketful of wooden objects I brought in for the event.

By the end of the day my voice was giving out after leading half a dozen sessions to groups of between 5 and fifteen who all enthusiastically listened and then contributed ideas. We wrote out some of the stories and put them up on the wall to inspire future sessions. Here is one of them.

Canterbury Valentine’s Trail with Prosper

MOiseax15I can’t resist posting this image of the Valentine’s Trail which I created with Pat Wilson Smith and Adam De Ville as part of the Prosper intitiative.

The wonderful life-size wooden people were designed by Pat Wilson Smith, and as you can see from the photograph, they certainly succeeded in attracting the attention of passers-by.

Each board had information about a local business and local initiative and each led the viewer on to another further along the trail.

We learned a lot from the experiment, and next time could certainly do it bigger and better. But rather than praising what we did do to the skies, here is feedback from one of the shopowners, which I hope speaks for itself:

“The general idea of setting up trails of this sort to guide some people off
their beaten track and their comfort zone is very good for the city centres
(a bit like ‘google something with your feet for a change’). Giving visitors
(and residents) a real authentic experience of a place and its unique
products and history in a broad sense is what will be the future of City
centres I believe, leaving the cheap and standardised shopping for on-line.”

Watch this space!

Karaoke poetry performance in Unexplored Territory

Chapel-Unexplored Territory–PosterAnother opportunity to hear my Karaoke Poetry as well as other readings from Unexplored Territory, edited by Maria C. McCarthy and published by Kent publisher Cultured Llama.

The book is anthology of poetry and fiction that includes such fabulous writers as June English, Maggie Harris, Mark Holihan, Luigi Marchini, Gillian Moyes, Bethany W. Pope and Fiona Sinclair among others.

The latest celebration of a wonderful publication is at The Chapel, 44/46 Albion Street, Broadstairs CT10 1LX, Saturday 16 March, 2pm to 4pm.

Readers from the book will be joined by musicians Bob Carling and Sienna Holihan. I’ll be there too, with my karaoke backing tracks, to read the first three poems in the Karaoke Poetry series.

All welcome, so please join us. Or if you can’t come along, the book is available from the Cultured Llama website.

Prosper Valentine’s Trail

prosper valentine's trailOur Prosper project has gone through many permutations since we started back in October. But our thoughts on a living tourist information station have now coalesced into the idea of an installation containing information that links community and commercial, history and stories, themed around a specific event.

It’s probably easier to see it in practice than explain it in writing, so why not come along to our Canterbury Valentine’s Trail on 9 February? For those of you unable to attend, it will consist of a series of life-sized wooden figures outside businesses with a link to Valentine’s Day, each of which gives information about both a current community project and the history of the part of Canterbury it’s located in. Each board directs you to the next one to form a trail, with the journey beginning and ending at the Beaney where you receive a small prize for solving a riddle. Enjoy!

You can find more information by clicking here, or on the Prosper website.

Prosper with Canterbury Festival

prosper adam de ville vicky wilsonI am excited to be part of a team working on the Prosper initiative, a scheme to build cultural capacity in East Kent by offering support and investment to discover how working together and the power of the arts can enable East Kent and its people to thrive. It is backed and run by Workers of Art, The Map Consortium and the Canterbury Festival. There are about fifteen other investigations within Prosper, ranging from using virtual technology to explore Ramsgate Tunnels to producing a mobile museum to make public the Beaney’s stored collections.

For our investigation, I am working with artists I had never met before – Pat Wilson SmithAdam De Ville and Reece de Ville – to explore the possibilities of a living tourist information station that will give residents and visitors an alternative view of the city from that provided in the usual brochures and websites.

We will be holding a day of action to gather stories and information:
Bean Head cafe, Burgate, Canterbury
15 December, 11am to 3pm.
Please come and join us to tell us your Canterbury Tale!

Kings Hill Cultural Strategy with Richard Wolfströme and Future Creative

Kings Hill is built on the former West Malling airfield, which was the most important base for night fighters during World War II and was subsequently home to US forces, Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and much more. From the 1990s it was developed as a new town and plans are now underway to refurbish the former airfield control tower – a wonderful 1930s building with curved glazing and walls – for community and commercial use.

Artist Richard Wolfströme is creating a series of text-based works to be embedded into the paving around the site. And along with Future Creative practitioners Andy Evans, Lesley Finlay and Doug Noble, I am collecting stories to use as inspiration. We are talking to individuals, organising visits to schools, nurseries and youth clubs and are holding two community events (see poster). So far we have heard about ghosts and heroes, abandoned women and candlesmoke graffiti, lost German pilots and the perils of going over the top. Please get in touch if you have any stories or information to add! Or join us in the Kings Hill Community Centre on 5 or 10 December.

Unexplored Territory with Cultured Llama

Karaoke Poetry is about to be published for the first time! The first three poems are now available for public consumption in Unexplored Territory, edited by Maria C. McCarthy and published by Kent publisher Cultured Llama.

The book is anthology of poetry and fiction that includes such fabulous writers as June English, Maggie Harris, Mark Holihan, Luigi Marchini, Gillian Moyes, Bethany W. Pope and Fiona Sinclair among others.

The launch event is at the Beaney, 18 High Street, Canterbury CT1 2RA, Thursday 15 November, 6pm to 7.45pm.

All welcome, so please join us. Or if you can’t come along, the book is available from Amazon.

Wise Words with Canterbury Festival

wise words categorical books sarah salwayWise Words: The Canterbury Laureate Anthology 2011–2012 is the latest publication from Categorical Books.

The anthology charts the journey of the 2011-2012 Laureate Programme, part of which was a pilot collaboration between creative writing MA students at the University of Kent, teacher trainees from Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury Laureate Sarah Salway and the Canterbury Festival.

Teacher trainees and MA students worked in pairs with schools and community groups to deliver workshops aimed at producing creative writing and photography on the theme of Wise Words. The project had a strong intergenerational slant, pairing older members of photography, arts and dance groups with young people from a refugee centre and a special school. Along the way, wise words were collected from the public at events and though a website forum.

The book contains the inspirational writing and photographs produced in the course of the project by students and participants, as well as by Sarah Salway herself, alongside writing exercises and workshop guidelines.

Do come along to the launch on Saturday 13 October at the Canterbury Heritage Museum, Stour Street, CT1 2NR, 5.30–7.30pm. Or check out the book at Amazon.

Launch of We come from… with Dean Atta

Dean Atta and Vicky WIlson We come from...We had a really great launch event for We come from… Write from the Heart 3 (edited by Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson) at Beaumont School in St Albans on 9 July.

The book contains some 60 poems by secondary school students who have English as an additional language and is now available to buy on Amazon. For more about the project, click here.

About fifteen of the young contributors read their poems and Dean  performed two of his own that are in the book.

Thanks to everyone who worked on the project – it has been a wonderful experience and a real cause for celebration.

Carole Connelly of the Herts BME Achievement Team and Suzanne Rider of Hertfordshire Music Service are hoping to get funding for future similar projects – watch this space!

Performance of Karaoke Poetry with Maggie Harris and David Woolley

old look out gallery broadstairs maggie harrisI’m very excited to be trying out some of my new Karaoke Poetry series on Saturday 30 June at a reading hosted by the wonderful Maggie Harris. Also appearing is David Woolley, editor of the Bob Dylan 70th birthday tribute book of poetry, The Captain’s Tower. It seems particularly appropriate to be kicking off with ‘Like a rolling stone’, and even more so as Bob himself is appearing live at the Hop Farm later on the same evening.

I’ve bought a karaoke mike for the occasion, as well as downloading some karaoke backing tracks to introduce each poem. I’m not sure yet how or if it’s going to work, but I’m practising!

The reading is at The Old Lookout Gallery, Broadstairs Pier, at 6.30pm, and is the culmination of a week-long residency and exhibition by Maggie. Reading alongside Maggie Harris, David Woolley and myself are Mark Holihan and Write Women Poets.

Do come along if you can, and feel free to leave your comments!

The Old Lookout Gallery, Broadstairs Pier, Saturday 30 June, 6.30pm.