Wednesday 22 December 2021

Autumn, Arvon, and adventures in theatre


I hope December is treating you well. Here in Manchester, we have had some snow, some sleet, and some beautiful blue-sky days, great for walking in the hills and by the canals.

 Since my last blog post in summer, so much has happened - I have made my acting debut on both stage and screen, attended a brilliant Arvon course, performed at a castle, and been meeting up with the Village Bakers in-person again - so, eating lots of cake! 

 I hope you enjoy learning more about my autumn, and thank you for sharing my writing life with me.

First Dibs - The Assembly

The First Dibs programme has been a huge part of this year for me. Dibby Theatre selected me back in March as one of five queer writers to take part, developing our skills, and writing a new play.

 I have written The Reason for Geese, a one-person show about time-travel and finding yourself, set around the canals of Manchester. I portray all of the characters - geese, swans, a cat, a bee - using my own body and voice. It has been a new challenge for me, and I am so proud of what I have achieved.

 We shared our work at a showcase event, The Assembly, as part of Push Festival at HOME. The week leading up the The Assembly was intense but incredibly rewarding, as I worked one-to-one with Leo Skilbeck as my Director, at The Edge in Chorlton, and then at HOME.

 Leo is amazing, and really helped build up my confidence in my work and in myself. The First Dibs writers also had a photoshoot with Jordan Roberts, and I love my photo!

 The night of The Assembly was one I'll always remember. I loved being in the theatre, working with a group of other people, sharing the adrenaline, and celebrating together when we had finished. I made some great connections and friends.

 I got some lovely feedback for The Reason for Geese, and am excited to share it again in January, as part of a very exciting opportunity. I am looking forward to letting you know more, so watch this space, and keep an eye on my Twitter!

Advent at Oldham Coliseum

I was commissioned to write two of Oldham Coliseum's 2021 Advent plays - and then I was asked to act in one of them! It was a really fun experience, and I hope you enjoy watching them.

 'Christmas Octopus', brilliantly acted by Brianna Douglas, is about an octopus costume, finding and accepting friendship, and understanding yourself.

 'Truffles', performed by me, is about food, family, and adventure.

 I have another project with the Coliseum coming up, that I hope to share soon. This theatre - both the physical space and online community - has become so special for me, full of warmth and magic, and I'm so glad I found it this year.

Autumn at Arvon

I was over the moon to be able to attend Arvon's 'Poetry - Expanding Your Reach' course at Lumb Bank, near Hebden Bridge. I last stayed there in Summer 2019, and it was a life-changing experience. Now, I returned in autumn, and the hills were full of orange and red trees. It was gorgeous.

 Our tutors, Mimi Khalvati and Katrina Naomi, were both fantastic, and helped to focus me on what I need to do next with my poems. Leo Boix was our guest poet, and I loved his work. As a linguist, I was especially interested in his thoughts on, and stories about, literary translation.

 I loved being part of a little community, in our cottage in the countryside. The food was glorious, and I enjoyed taking my turn at cooking, helping make vegan butternut squash risotto (it was amazing!). Our nights chatting by the fire are something I'll really miss. I've definitely made some friends.

Out and about with my poems!

A lot of spoken-word events moved back to being in-person during the autumn, and it was nice to catch up with friends, and travel a bit, even just to Salford or Sale! However, Zoom events have their own advantages, and I hope that organisers will keep doing them, as well.

 I was invited to perform and run a workshop at Fatty Acid, a queer night at Partisan Collective. I had a really nice group for my workshop, and I'm proud of the work we produced. I then performed at the cabaret, in a line-up of incredible and unique acts. It was fabulous, and I felt such freedom and pride. The queer community is amazing.

 I then took a tram to Sale, for my first-ever in-person visit to Sale Out Loud. It was lovely to see the brilliant Sarah, who hosts the night, and to finally meet some poets I had only seen on a screen. We sat in a circle and took turns reading our poems, and it felt very cosy and equal and supportive.

 I then made my return to Verbose, now in the upstairs room at The King's Arms in Salford - such a cool space! I shared some poems, and enjoyed some really dynamic and diverse performances.

 Next, there was the Young Identity Christmas party - a great evening, which really refreshed me. I performed at the open mic, enjoyed some excellent cake, then walked home, through the Manchester Christmas lights, feeling positive and hopeful. 

 In the virtual realm, the Writing Squad held another Home Concert, and it was a calm, safe space to share our work, both poetry and music. One of my favourite things is to listen to people play guitar and sing, so it felt like I was getting a free gig, and it was lovely to be able to contribute.

 Finally, one of the most unusual, but most brilliant gigs I've done - I was invited by Northern Poets Society to perform at Clitheroe Castle! 

 It was very cold, but the atmosphere among the poets was so special. It was an adventure, and definitely a highlight of my poetry year.

On the page!

I had an exciting delivery - a batch of copies of Not About Now, the Writing Squad anthology in which I have two poems. If you would be interested in buying a copy from me, do get in touch!

 This was a really nice project - it was funded by Simon Armitage and, at a time when I think a lot of us felt pressure to write directly about the pandemic, we were told that we didn't have to. Hence, Not About Now! I wrote about goslings and cats and helicopters, but also about loss and hope.

 I am also proud to have one of my poems about PCOS - 'Why we wait to find out why I am bleeding again' - published in Kissing Dynamite Poetry

 Be aware that this poem has medical themes, but it is told through metaphor, without anything spelt out.

 I have continued to take part in Visual Verse's monthly writing challenge. In September, I responded to the below image by Vika Wendish, with my poem 'Analysis'.

 In November, I wrote 'Eve', in response to this image by Frederick Cayley Robinson. I found this one really interesting, and I definitely want to further explore the world I created.

 Most recently, I wrote 'Os cabalos', inspired by this image by Monica Silva, as well as by the horses of Vigo and Galicia, and my time living there.

 Coming soon: I have a poem, 'Satisfied' in the upcoming issue of Under the Radar, which has been a dream journal for meI can't wait to share it!

Workshops, shows, friends and fun

I have had three lovely Writing Squad workshops in person. We looked at writing the invisible with Andrew McMillan here in Manchester, and I took the train to Leeds to look at metaphor with Francesca Haig, and myths with Malika Booker. 

 On the day of Malika's workshop, it was extremely windy and snowy, and it was a real adventure getting there! I'm very glad I did.

 There have also been some great Squad workshops on Zoom - these are usually on a Thursday night, and are a nice, relaxed way to spend an evening. We looked at writing the taboo with Jenny Danes, settings and senses with Aoife Inman, and rituals with Georgia Affonso. 

 I attended online Poetry Business workshops with Ann and Peter Sampson, Malika Booker, and Suzannah Evans. These are usually in the mornings, and help me get into a poetic frame of mind for the rest of the day.

 I enjoyed two shows at Oldham Coliseum - Gypsy Jam, a passionate, musical coming-together of cultures that was an honour to witness, and Love n Stuff, a play with many characters, amazingly acted by just two people. My brain was constantly tricked into thinking there were more people on stage! 

 With Dibby Theatre, I attended an early table reading of Chris Hoyle's play-in-progress, The Alleyway of Dreams, which was fascinating to be part of. I also saw Nathaniel Hall's First Time at Contact Theatre - having studied the text, finally seeing it performed was a really special experience.

Baking, crafting, candles and community

The Village Bakers have been meeting in person again, which has been fabulous. And I was able to make my famous Biscoff Banana Bread once more! 

 As always, I really enjoyed curating our Autumn Newsletter, with news, delicious bakes, and an interview with one of our lovely Bakers, Andrew. I hope you enjoy it.

 I have enjoyed getting out and about to other LGBTQ+ events, too, from making a clay octopus, to weaving a rainbow bracelet.

 I enjoyed decorating some candle jars for this year's World AIDS Day vigil in Sackville Gardens, which was an extremely moving and powerful event.

 I am still learning Mandarin Chinese, working on my guitar skills, and baking. I am also trying to do more cooking, and have got back into watching The West Wing, which I was a big fan of as a teenager. I am very ready for a Christmas rest, and lots of reading!
 Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and being part of my creative journey. I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable festive season, and that 2022 brings some hope and happy times.

 Warmest wishes,

 Liz x