Monday, October 27, 2008

" Something For Everyone"

Last week, Chester Oyez came chattering into the city as Spoken Word part of Shell Chester Literature Festival 2008....
Some juicy items occurred simultaneously, so I sipped thirstily on those that I could.

Oyez was new to LitFest; hopefully, Cestrians will want more, because it was fun.

You could perform, watch, listen, learn, you could experiment; all these elements were there for the taking. And meanwhile, you could mingle with your old friends, while making some new ones....and best of all, there was lots to ENJOY .

On Saturday, our " Words and Biscuits"gang appeared at Bishops Lloyd's Palace. I then crossed to the Juice Bar, where Cheshire Poet Laureate 2004 John Lindley ( ) ran an excellent workshop.
Next I joined "Shakespeare on Toast" in the huge StoryTelling Tent on Cathedral Green, with Ben Crystal, son of David Crystal. Then followed a gig run by Cheshire W I's in a city centre church. And to close my Saturday, I enjoyed Open Mic at the Bull and Stirrup, run by students/staff from Chester Uni. All these events were varied, vital and FUN.

Sunday was hectic. First I heard Ayesha Ahmed and her Bangladeshi poetry; it was good seeing Ayesha again as I met her originally when our sons were at school.
After Ayesha, David Gaffney ( ) read his short-short stories ( his work features on R3:" The Verb") and then we heard contributions from the University's flash fiction collection ( " Anatomy of Chester" ) And afterwards to the Juice Bar for David Bateman and his poetry workshop, where we concentrated on List poems.
My early evening saw a performance at " Bull and Stirrup" of " One Voice" ( Paul Kelly's Monologues; remember his name, you'll hear it again...) including actors from Tiptop Co. and also local writer Sylvia Jenkins, performing her own stuff.
And all THAT, folks, was only a part of the Oyez programme. ...

It's often said of a Festival:" OOH, there was something for everyone!!" ...
BUT believe me, Oyez made sure there REALLY was...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Mr Morpurgo Comes To The Festival"

Last year, writer Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare spent 3 glamorous months living at London's Savoy Hotel.
Imagine doing that: I can...

Morpurgo was " Writer in Residence" at the Savoy and as the Morpurgos usually live on a farm in Devon, this must have been rather a treat.
But listening to him this week at Chester Lit Fest ( ) and realising how creative and energetic this man is, I strongly suspect Mr Morpurgo ( while lolling in lap of luxury, of course) ALSO spent his time there very usefully...

For one thing: the idea for his new book " Kaspar, Prince of Cats" ( Harper Collins, 2008) was created at the Savoy.
The book began life while the Morpurgos ate in the Savoy diningroom; this is a lavish place, not unlike the splendid dining salon on the Titanic.
In the Savoy, there's also a statue of a black cat; he's called Kaspar and his purpose in life is to make up numbers to a safe 14, whenever 13 folk gather scarily around a table...
And in Mr Morpurgo's story: "Kaspar" becomes the only cat to survive the Titanic disaster . It's a story seeped in history which is clearly a favourite theme. It features a Countess, a Bellboy, and a voyage on the world's most famed ship.
And if the book-buying queue at Thursdays's Festival is anything to go by, it's making waves with children of Chester..

This was a superb session. Michael Morpurgo has published well over 100 books and he inspired his big audience ( many under 12, although lots older) with his thoughts on both reading and writing.
He never patronised; he encouraged, he delighted.
Mr Morpurgo was the most welcome of visitors.

PS: Having a couple of weeks break from Blog; there's other writing stuff I need to get stuck into ( hmm: very elegantly put) ....BUT although blogging's fun, Blog 's got sharp teeth and Blog's VERY clever at nibbling away one's time...
See you soon.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Gig One:
One gloomy evening last week, friends and I parked at The Bickerton Poacher. The Cheshire pub glinted its welcome, but we waited outside in darkness ( eating humbugs) until a car approached flashing headlights. Inside this car were more friends.

Then, in convoy ( do 2 cars make 1 convoy??) we drove off, turning up steep country lane until we reached a wood, where we stopped and "dismounted" and wondered where on earth we were...
We were in pitch dark. Two of us had torches, the others grabbed arms (and coat tails ) and squinted between birch trees as we made muddy descent down a woodland path.
No owls actually hooted and no foxes actually bayed but I bet they did a few minutes later...
But " This way, folks!" said reliable AP ( who'd recently done a recce) and yep, there in the near distance was a timbered village hall which we reached across a wooden footbridgebridge over a brook ( at least I think it was a brook, but it was hard to tell...)

Hmm. We'd arrived at Peckforton/Beeston WI; these are two Cheshire villages, both of them boasting a Castle**. We'd come to the WI to do a story/poetry gig. And we're glad we went. The women were fun and they were welcoming (not all are) and they enjoyed stories and we enjoyed cakes. We've visited lots of WI's and their members can vary from women in tweeds/brogues to women in jeans/trainers. There can be farmer's wives/accountants/solicitors/stayathome mums/librarians; a whole cabooodle of womanhood!
SO once again, we sang " Jerusalem" in our best voices ( I actually know the words now!) and we pictured Mirren and Walters looking beautiful in " Calendar Girls" and we heard about our hostesses rural interests and their future plans and we hope to see them again...
** A walk betwixt these 2 Castles is one I've taken many times over many yrs and always enjoyed..

Gig Two:
Chester Theatre Club have Tuesday Club Nights throughout their season. 2 or 3 times each year, I gather friends together to "entertain" Club Members with stories/monologues/poems. We did this again on Tuesday; it's fun and the audience are great. And there's free drinks in the bar for everyone when we finish. For more info on Chester Theatre Club, see
Their next production is Noel Coward's " Hay Fever" running from Nov 14th to Nov 22nd. See the website for details.
The picture above is a glimpse of cast in Arthur Miller's " All My Sons".

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"LitFest Limbers Up.."

Shell Chester Literature Festival** is in full swing and she ( OR could "she" be "he"?) shimmies on til the end of October.

First off ( on gorgeous sunny Saturday) was BookSwap held on stalls at Town Hall Square. This raised a generous sum for Book Aid International and also provided lots of interest for its band of helpers. If you like people-watching, THIS is the place to be; it proved to me just how varied " Book Lovers" are and it was good to chat with lots of them on such a bright Autumn day.

Last Thursday, Chester Poets held their annual bash in an upper room at the Bear and Billet. This pub is old and probably haunted; the Poets "inhabited" a low -ceilinged oak -beamed upper room, where fairy lights flickered on dark leaded lights as they launched their latest anthology and performed their work. It was particularly cool to see a gang of students from the Uni sampling both poetry and beer.. and what a lovely crowd they were.

On Sunday, writer Kate Long ( a good friend now to Chester Lit Fest) chaired a "Big Read and Film" at Upton Village Hall. The Hall was opened in 1928 ( by Lady Grosvenor ) so it was fitting that Kate chose "Cold Comfort Farm"( Stella Gibbons/1932) when we planned the night. Kate's love/knowledge of the book was clear and after her juicy intro, she led a wide ranging discussion which included lots of intriguing comments...and a jolly double act! ( You Know Who You Are!)
AND the 1995 film of the bk ( Kate Beckinsale, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Eileen Atkins) remains as fun as ever..

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

" Two Films/One Play"

What've I been up to? Lots, I suppose: more writing than usual and I'm enjoying it. I must keep resolutions. Writing is A Source of Happiness. It's a total involvement which I find exhilarating yet amazingly relaxing...
My classes started two weeks ago; one has 20 folks enrolled, the other 14. Hopefully they "buzz" and I think it's safe to say we have fun. I'm SO glad that I " unretired"...

BUT 2 films seen lately:" The Duchess" and "Edge of Love" : I didn't expect to particularly enjoy these, but I loved them. You probably know all about them as I'm just catching up...
Keira Knightley plays Duch of Devonshire in 1st and Dylan Thomas's Lover in 2nd. Each story, coincidentally, involves a tantalising menage de trois. These people all existed but the fabric of that truth has been creatively twisted and emboidered and the results ( in my opinion) are 2 highly watchable films. Both excelled with camera work, settings, the superb ( very different) period details.......
AND there was, of course, Keira's gorgeous Edge of Love cardigans....Per Una : no contest!

THEN: M/Ch Royal Exchange to Chekhov's "Three Sisters" directed by Sarah Frankcom and designed by Liz Ascroft.
This theatre is fabulous. It's a former Cotton Exchange; it reeks with Lancastrian history and it stuns one with images of a glorious M/Chester in another era...
The theatre is a "capsule"( 7 sided, glass walled) suspended from massive pillars of marble in the stunning Great Hall of the Exchange. I could Go On.
But Honestly: I could be quite happy sitting in the empty auditorium there.
OR sipping soup in the Round Bar
OR people-watching anywhere at all beneath the Exchange's lofty magnificent heights.
The Chekhov was long (very) but the production was skilfil and moving with its universal truths uttered by its ordinary folk, its beautiful direction , its touches of both tragedy and comedy...
And the set design, including 7 starkly simple birch trees ( like a Klimt painting??) and the glittering candlelit chandelier lowered delicately from ceiling by prim Russian housemaids...all was memorable.
But in particular, there was the versatile Emma Cunniffe ( I first saw her in TV's " The Lakes") now one of the best 30- something actresses around..
" Three Sisters" is at The Royal Exchange til Oct 11th.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


It's all Dr D's** fault.
She knows who she is.
It was she who two years ago this very day said: " I think you'd enjoy blogging!"
SO I blogged.
And I do ( enjoy blogging)
So Happy Birthday To Blog: Two Years Old Today!

PS: And thankyou Dr D for suggesting a fascinating new experience... which proved to myself ( plus disbelieving family/friends) that I'm NOT as technically inexpert as rumoured/believed...
PPS: And ( see picture) the 1950's guys grouped in jolly fashion around piano are singing a riproaring version of " Happy Birthday"...