In mid-August (just down there, thanks to the power of a scroll on a screen) I was preparing for something large and happy to be nearing its appearance on the streets of Brighton. Well, I am happy to say that since Mr Watts arrived on the seafront, near the marina, he has been hugged, photographed, ticked off on lists, updated on apps and generally embraced, by locals and visitors to the city.
Happily, with restrictions now lifted, I can share him properly and once again acknowledge the brilliant work that Judith Berrill did bringing him to life, not to mention Bob’s work on his shirt!
In the weeks since he was put on his plinth, there haven’t been many times that I have cycled or driven past him without seeing someone smiling and taking a picture with him. I hope that people have had the chance to read his advice, which is contained in the poem that I wrote and painted on to his gardener’s apron.
The whole thrust of the campaign (and the tagline for it) is #bemoresnail so I set about writing something to remind us of the key ideas for living a happy, if slower-paced, life. As an extra bit of fun and as a challenge to my writing brain, I decided to place lines in the poem, formed from anagrams of #bemoresnail, which were painted in red.
A lot of people have commented on the poem and the overall feel that Mr Watts and his words give off, but not many have spotted the anagrams. That’s been okay with me, as the poem stands on its own anyway, and the priority was to add something to Judith’s art which would work in harmony. It is lovely seeing him out “in the wild” and he now has until November 18th before being collected to meet up with all the other snails for a special event, prior to the main fundraising part of the campaign; an auction in early December where people will bid to buy all of the pieces of art and raise some big money for The Martlets hospice.
One of the more famous admirers, who seemed to like him, was this chap:
I have also been busy writing poems again recently, after suggesting a fundraising idea to run alongside the Snailway Safari. In a nod to how my mind works creatively, and in a similar style to The Poetry Takeaway, I suggested that I could chat with people on the sponsored trail taking part around the city-centre snails, and offer them a personalised poem, which could then be posted to them via snail-mail. The evening went extremely well, money was raised, and I ended up writing a range of prose, stories, emotional outpourings and general silliness, which included the following titles:
- When Rosie stayed up too late
- Reuben’s peculiar trick-or-treat party
- Freddie and Gerry go global
- What if your glow-stick was powered by smiles?
- The tale of Barry Starfish
- Be careful with your packing list
- A grimy history of Brighton
Fairly soon, I will be chatting to the right people and these will wing their way to their unsuspecting recipients, hopefully on something snail-shaped!
This blog was started to remind myself of progress and share successes along the way, I should include two or three more things have happened since I last tapped the plastic keys …
I was booked again to perform and write with The Poetry Takeaway and spent a full-on day in Chessington and Hook writing and performing poems for schoolchildren in the morning, then visitors to a library and community centre in the afternoon.
There are many stories I could share, but the last poem I wrote was for a devoutly Catholic lady, originally from Spain and now settled in the UK, whose son was turning 13. Our chat was an insight into her heart slowly breaking, as she clearly feared ‘losing’ her little boy and how his attitude to her and his family might change with the teenage years ahead. As I let her know she had given me enough ‘ingredients’ to start cooking her poem, she told me: “If it is good enough? If it speaks to my heart? I will print it professionally, frame it and give it to my son to have in his bedroom, to remind him of how much he is loved”
No pressure there then.
When you work with The Poetry Takeaway, before you give the person their poem, you are asked to perform it to them directly before you hand it over. I love this aspect, as there is a personal transaction between the two of you but there’s something powerful about writing something you are proud of but then letting it go and not seeing it again.
As I read to the lady, I kept my eyes on the page, as I wanted t actually perform it as well as read it. The response was genuinely uplifting. She was sobbing gently at the end (and half-way through if I’m honest) and we had a big hug over the counter before she said lots of nice things and walked away, clutching this deeply personal message that she had trusted a stranger to convey.
It is one of the most challenging things I think you can do as a writer, as there is an expectation that you can and will produce something which will engage, entertain or get points across, but in a very limited time. Thankfully, I managed to do this, and have been assured that future bookings will come in the new year when it goes out on tour again. Getting paid work for being a poet? It is happening!
On the back of feedback from the event, I have also been asked to have a chat about running a poetry workshop at a primary school in Hove, so next time I’m here, there should be news on that too!
In my last post, I was excited about something that I couldn’t yet show you. Well, I find myself in the same position again, but this time it relates to the commissioned work I wrote and was filmed performing for Prostate Cancer UK
The final editing stage has now been reached and I was sent the video last week of the 2-minute piece, shot at The Amex football stadium and on Brighton beach on the same day. It looks brilliant and professional, and the man in charge of the final cut is doing an amazing job with the footage. Needless to say, when it is ready to launch, I will be blogging about the immediate response in my head, and hopefully from the minds of others. This was a still from the day, to set the tone:
My last thing for today, before I return to editing the first children’s chapter book I have now finished writing (!), is to mention that I was asked to attend the always brilliant PigHog poetry night in Brighton recently. When thinking what to perform, I felt suddenly compelled to share 3 poems that I wrote in the immediate time after my father-in-law’s passing in July. This may sound morbid, but I was reminded how important words and poetry are to me, and how they form part of who I am and how I tick.
One was actually written on the day he died and the next on the day immediately after. Surreal moments of cooking an omelette late at night and seeing my mother-in-law neck a glass of wine were recorded, as instant, unedited poems, as I knew I would not be able to come back to these points in time at a later stage. The third, which I was allowed to overrun on the night to perform, happened when I went back to the house and found myself picking blackberries at his end of the garden. I wrote it with one hand, on my phone, while the other picked fruit and wiped away tears.
There are moments and days when you can write, but sometimes there are moments when you have to write, and I simply watched my fingers tapping in the words through the blur of my eyes.
After the performances ended, several people came over to say how they had been taken to that place and that point when they heard me talk, so it was good to feel my decision had been valid. I am known at that event for bouncing around and telling stories, so showing a different side to my writing was a good thing to do. It helped my head and my heart a little too, as there is still much to get through following his passing.
So, to sum up? It has been, and remains, an emotional time, but with every opportunity I am strengthening links and gaining more feedback and work. New things are on the horizon, the proofreading and copy-editing course has been completed, with my final assignment marking due back soon and I will be available to watch on a screen, or in a school-hall, in the not too distant future.
I am getting there.
As always, thanks for popping in.