I hope you are having a nice April. I have been eating lots of Easter chocolate, watching spring arrive in Manchester, and hiking in the Lake District.
Since my last blog post in December, a huge amount has happened in my writing life. From performing my first hour-long, one-person show at Hope Mill Theatre, to being accepted for Magma Poetry, to doing a residency at The Poetry Business, I'm really happy to be able to share it with you.
The Reason for Geese at Turn On Fest
Last year, I was selected for the First Dibs programme by Dibby Theatre, and wrote my first one-person stage show, The Reason for Geese. I debuted an extract at Push Festival at HOME, where it impressed Superbia, the arts and culture branch of Manchester Pride.
Superbia then sponsored me to debut the show in full at Turn On Fest at Hope Mill Theatre in February. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I worked with Greg Thorpe as my Director, to explore and develop the play and increase my confidence in performing it.
It was good to be part of the festival, and to see two of the other shows - Dungeness and The Regulars, both of which were brilliant. On the day of my performance, I got to spend the day in the theatre - I had my own dressing room! - and it was really fun.
Huge thanks to the tech crew, Tom and Fran, who were incredibly generous and patient, and helped me to get the lighting and sound effects as good as they could be.
It was a special evening, with my lovely friends coming to support me, and I'm very happy with how the play went. I hope I get the chance to do it all over again. Watch this space (and if you are interested in a queer play about time travel, mental health and geese, please get in touch)!
More scriptwriting shenanigans
I was very honoured to be asked by Oldham Coliseum to be one of the writers for their Secondary Partnerships Scheme, writing a short play for pupils to perform at the theatre in the summer. My play Happy Place involves music, baking, mental health, TikTok, and some very flamboyant teachers!
I also had a script chosen by In Parallel Productions for their Launch Night in January. The brief was for one-minute scripts, and mine, Strings, is a monologue from a character who finally feels that they have found a home, and have accepted their queer identity.
The Launch Night was really fabulous - Saskia Pay performed my script wonderfully, and I got to meet lots of new people. It was very pink!
Finally, I was surprised and delighted to be a winner of Ergon Theatre's Get Heard competition, with my monologue Batty, about climate change, bats and mental health.
I had a lovely whirlwind of a day, working with the other four winners to professionally record our pieces at Contact Theatre, and then curate a radio show together, which aired on Earth Day on Reform Radio. You can listen to it here.
We also went to see Nora: A Doll's House at The Royal Exchange, which was a really intense and memorable experience. It was such a nice group, and the whole Get Heard experience was one of those unexpected magical things that can just come along sometimes - I'm so glad it did.
My residency with the Poetry Business!
I was thrilled to be invited to be Digital Poet in Residence for The Poetry Business for the month of February.
I chose to use my residency to explore February as a time of change, a transition between winter and spring, as well as writing from my walks around the canals and industrial areas of Manchester.
My first post was 'Shadows and Sky', a collaboration with January's Poet in Residence, Jasmine Gray.
I suggested we each send the other a photo we'd taken on a walk in nature. Then, we would write in response to each other's photos. From Jasmine's photo, I wrote 'Too much sky for the octopus'. From my photo (below), Jasmine wrote, 'I'm wondering who is wondering if I'm lonely'.
The overlap in the themes we wrote about - isolation, existence, hope - was really interesting.
For my second post, I created 'Writing the Spaces Between', a series of writing prompts using my photos. These were shared on the Poetry Business' website, and on their social media.
For my third post, I wrote a personal essay, 'Wandering and writing - What I've Learnt', sharing my experience in the form of writing tips. This one took me a while to pin down, and I'm proud of the final result.
My fourth and final post was 'My February Diary'.
I kept a nature diary every day, documenting signs of spring, from changes in temperature and light, to seeing crocuses, bats, and a heron. It helped me to be aware of my surroundings, and feel connected to nature, even in the city. I hope it inspires readers to try something similar.
On the page!
I have had to pinch myself recently, after being accepted in a trio of long-term dream journals - Under the Radar, Popshot and Magma - as well as a number of brilliant newer indie journals.
My poem 'Satisfied' was selected for Issue 28 of Nine Arches Press' Under the Radar, with the theme of 'The Elements'. It is a gorgeous publication, and I can't quite believe I am part of it.
Rosie Garland also shared this poem on Twitter and said she is a fan, which is amazing.
Also on the elemental theme, my poem 'Fluid' was published in Issue 35 of Popshot, which is 'The Water Issue'. My poem explores fluidity of body and identity, as well as trying to find a place you belong. It was gorgeously illustrated by Esmé Alice Mackay.
This is my third publication in Popshot, and I love the narrative of my trilogy of poems. The first was about accepting my queerness, the second about my future and the possibility of having children, and this third is about embracing my fluidity. I hope these poems comfort and inspire someone out there.
It is always an honour to be part of a project from indie zine-makers Coin-Operated Press, and seeing my poem 'Sky belly', and one of my photos, published in the Depression Walks zine, was very empowering. Walking is key for my mental health, so this was a zine I really hoped to be in.
I was in Queerlings last year, so to see that Poetry Editor, Scott Aaron Tait has started their own journal was very exciting. I submitted some poems to Powders Press, and was really happy to have two, 'What happened' and 'Strawberry', chosen for Issue 2, with the theme of 'Wasteland'.
'Strawberry' is a very personal poem to me, looking at my experience with PCOS, and 'What happened' is a very old poem I've recently reworked, about the environment, and I'm so glad they have both found this safe, perfect home.
Irish magazine Impossible Archetype has some really strong queer writing, and I had so wanted to see my work there - so it was wonderful to hear that my poem 'Hunger', about food, loneliness, and desire, had been accepted for Issue 11.
Another poem I wrote a while ago, 'The Road from Hebden Bridge', has been published in Untitled Writing's Voices Volume 4.
It's especially nice that this is out at the same time as Gentleman Jack in the UK, as the poem tells the story of my visit to Shibden Hall, with someone who really helped me to accept my queerness.
Finally, I was overjoyed to have my poem 'The attic years' accepted for Issue 83 of Magma - 'The Solitude Issue'. It really is a dream come true, and I'm so proud of how far I've come as a writer in the last ten years. The Solitude Issue will be published later in the spring.
On the stage!
I've had some great poetry outings this year. I performed for the first time at Word Central at Manchester Central Library, which was a nice, warm, supportive event.
I also had my debut at Switchblade Society at The Peer Hat, a night where we perform both our own work, and each other's. It was a cosy venue, and I loved the range of poetry.
I travelled to Bolton on a gorgeous spring day to perform with Northern Poets Society at Breaking Barriers Café, with the charity Manc Spirit.
I shared some poems, as well as performing an excerpt from The Reason for Geese, which went down especially well.
I then returned to Clitheroe Castle, having last performed there just before Christmas. Being there in April was lovely, and I heard work from so many poets I know, as well as some exciting new voices.
I also just had to visit The Chocolate Works - my favourite place in Clitheroe!
I also visited Write Out Loud in Sale, which is always a special space. Jolivia Gaston guest-hosted fantastically, and we all got to know each other, and took turns sharing poems and stories.
Coming up: I have been invited to perform a ten-minute set at Pride on the Range in Whalley Range, Manchester on 6th May, and am looking forward to it. Do come along if you can!
Workshops and resolutions
I started the year with Kim Moore and Clare Shaw's Resolution/Revolution workshop series, writing for an hour every day in January. There were some days I couldn't make it, but I tried to do at least a third of them, and it helped kickstart my poetry for the year ahead.
I've also been enjoying Poetry Business workshops: writing about water with River Wolton, looking at prose poems with Suzannah Evans, being inspired by letters and correspondence with Liz Berry, employing animal helpers with Pascale Petite, writing from paintings with Phoebe Stuckes, and talking about trees with Laura Scott.
I had two really nice Writing Squad workshops at The Burgess Foundation - looking at semantic fields (and writing about Love Hearts!) with Keisha Thompson, and planning novels with Francesca Haig.
We are still having some Zoom workshops, which is really good - we looked at sensationalism in the news with Gabriel Evans, and at the nitty-gritty of form with Lydia Allison. There were also some Squad panel events about self-employment, which were really insightful.
Finally, there are the Pathways workshops from Oldham Coliseum, where we read plays, do writing exercises, and just catch up every two weeks. It is a fab group of creative people - writers, actors, directors - and I'm learning a lot. I can't believe I only discovered the Coliseum last year - it has become such an important part of my life.
Out and about
I attended the Manchester Pride Conference at The Lowry in Salford, which was a really interesting day, and it was cool to catch up with so many friends who I hadn't known would be there.
I had a great time watching Box of Tricks' play Last Quiz Night On Earth in an actual pub - Derby Brewery Arms - and my team won! The way the setting and audience were integrated into the play was really well done.
I attended the launch of Rebecca Kenny's collection Crash and Learn from Bent Key Publishing, and enjoyed a fun line-up of poets. I was really happy to get a copy of the book signed by Rebecca, and am looking forward to reading it.
It was a real privilege to attend a potluck event at Islington Mill, to see two pieces of new artwork created to commemorate the Mill collapse in 1824 - a quilt by Sarah-Joy Ford, and a garment by Astarte Cara - and to hear more about the collapse from Greg Thorpe.
Finally, I enjoyed watching The Jungle Book at Oldham Coliseum with the Pathways group. The show was well-acted (with some impressive doubling-up, where I didn't realise it was the same person), and I particularly enjoyed the songs, which it was hard not to sing as I made my way home!
Baking, hiking and linguistic adventures
The Village Bakers have been meeting every month. This is my third year on the Committee, and I love writing the newsletter, meeting with the other officers and, of course, baking! Here are a couple of my recent creations - Jammy Dodger blondies and chocolate orange brownies.
I've also been doing a lot of hiking - I had a lovely weekend in the Lake District, and have had daytrips to the Peak District, Todmorden, and Blackburn. It has been really nice to meet new people with similar interests to me, and to get out and explore and be in nature.
I completed the Mandarin Chinese course on Duolingo, which I am very proud of, and I am hoping to sit a HSK exam soon, either Level 2 or 3. I achieved my Level 1 nearly a decade ago after three weeks studying in Beijing. It has been really nice returning to the world of Chinese this last year.
I find language inherently fascinating, and I like learning languages with different writing styles and forms. To that end, while I am currently working on improving my Portuguese, I have also started Greek - I'm interested in its alphabet, and how it influences other languages. Wish me luck with it!
Many thanks for sharing my adventures. Have a lovely spring and summer.