Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Elizabeth: Talks With Us Of Vikings"

Elizabeth, Keeper of Early History at Chester's Grosvenor Museum, called in to chat with my writing group yesterday. We've " broken up" for
summer, but this was too good an opportunity to miss...

BECAUSE Liz is at present ammassing an important Exhibition about the Vikings, stemming from their arrival in Cheshire in the 10th century.

The Exhibition explores Viking history.... and of course, the startling legacy they left behind. And listening to Liz yesterday, we realised JUST how generous a legacy this was.

Viking Raiders, Traders and Settlers brought us skills, arts and crafts, government ideas and language....and much of it we still use today. AND there's certainly lots more than we imagined.

Now we have a few weeks to shape up some prose/poetry for the Exhibition...and after Liz's visit, we're bubbling with thoughts/ideas/images.....

The Viking Exhibition opens in Chester on September 11th, running for 4 months before going On Tour to other museums.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Poems From The Plucking Shed"

Last week Chester poet Gill McEvoy launched her new collection. It's called " The Plucking Shed" and it's published by Cinnamon Press.

I couldn't make the launch ( at Alexanders, where Gill and friends regularly hold their Zest! Open Mic evenings) but I called round at Gill's one evening for a cuppa, a chat and a copy of her book.

Some of her poems I knew already: from sessions at Zest!...and also from our Words/Biscuits afternoons, where Gill is one of our original Biscuits!

Her poems are crafted beautifully. Gill is a wonderful observer of detail, of memory...of the natural world, of the whole gamut of human feelings...

This is a very special collection.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Much Ado In The Park...And Remembering A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Last week, a boy (aged about seven?) cuddled on his Dad's lap while they nibbled sandwiches and sipped juice... as together they watched Shakespeare's " Much Ado About Nothing" in a striking setting in a midcity park.
The production was part of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, presented by Chester Performs ( ).
The play runs for several weeks through July/August. This year is the Open Air Theatre's inaugural year... and going on last week's splendid performance, Cestrians will soon be hungering for more.
WHICH REMINDS ME: the boy with the sandwiches. He appeared permanently the play, not necessarily the sandwiches! Each time I glanced across, he was watching the action intently: Hero and Claudia, Beatrice and Benedick....and I bet those images...the sights and sounds he experienced, plus the music, the natural setting used so cleverly ( mature trees, acres of sky, England in twilight..) ...along with the fun of lots of people gathered on a darkening summer night...will be remembered by that little boy for always.
ON just such an evening years parents took me to watch a celebrated local drama company's production of " A Midsummer Nights Dream". The venue was the gardens of Eaton Hall, home of the Duke of Westminster... and the director was Peter Dornford May, well known throughout the county. This was my intro to Shakespeare ... and also to outdoor theatre... and I never forgot it.
OF COURSE that play was ideal for such a night....the theme itself...the characters: Noblemen, Ladies, Bottom, Titania, Puck, Cobweb and Mustardseed...and of course Pyramus and Thisbe (!)...and yes, there was the wonderful new-to-me language: " I know a bank wheron the wildthyme blows".... and the cracking " You spotted snakes with double tongue!" .... All of it was magical. All of it was memorable.
BUT then I WAS lucky. My parents were superb at creating "memorable occassions". My childhood is like a long necklace of beads....some beads more vivid than others....these beads are often ones my parents added: eg. a yellow seashore in very early morning...the black drama of a cruel storm at midnight...a silver-grey ancient turreted house where peacocks strutted on wide green lawns....a tiny whitewashed cottage on moors above a wild Welsh sea...the list goes on. But that visit to Eaton glitters on the necklace too and lies there in all its vivid colour...
SO I HOPE that several decades on... that the little boy in Grosvenor Park looks back on " Much Ado" ( and back on his dad) with the same grateful affection...
AND I suspect there's a chance that he will...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Another July Treat: The Four Seasons Played On A Stradivarius Violin"

I'm about to GUSH. That's the Only Thing For It.

One recent Sunday, I read for the first time of talented 22year old violinist Nicola Benedetti.

In August she appears at the BBC Proms performing Vaughan Williams' " The Lark Ascending"....and her already illustrious career is set to ascend the greatest of heights.

SO in Chester Cathedral the other Friday, it was a treat to see the darkly beautiful Benedetti, with the European Union Chamber Orchestra ... ( plus Sir Andrew Motion, reading his poems in deep-velvet tones)...perform Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons".

Clearly of Italian heritage ( but born in Scotland) Benedetti enthralled. It wouldn't be exagerating to say enraptured...or even that we were captivated. Because we WERE...I imagine every one of us.

And ( added thrill!) Benedetti played on the Earl Spencer Stradivarius ( c 1792)...thus bringing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter deep into our hearts...where I guess her magic will delight many of her audience always.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"July Treats: Incl A Cutting Edge Production."

July has been pretty varied...and not just this weather...
Last week we splashed in sunshine but last night,there were flash floods in nearby L'pool.
And some of my family are at this very minute driving to Sefton Park, L' the much praised ( 5 times daily til Aug 1st) production of " In the Night Garden"... where a treat ( including the wonderful voice of Derek Jacobi!) awaits the lovely A aged 2 ...she who ADORES the Ninky Nonk, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pacca, the Tombliboo al. ...and who quite often, adores them all at 5 oclock in her extremely early mornings....

BUT back to MY treats: July has been yummy... including visits to St Mary's Centre (an old city church on a hill near the castle)... to hear Adam Walker and Tom Poster... playing Bach, Scubert and best of all, a superbly beautiful sonata for flute and piano by Poulenc. This was part of Chester Summer Music Festival .
Then on Sunday to St Mary's for The Sozinho Occasional Theatre Company's vivid and gripping production of Stephen Sondheim's " Sweeney Todd" directed by David Whitley. There was a fabulous cast, including Luke Howarth as Todd and Jonathan Cooke as Adolpho Pirelli, with Hiroshi Amako as the most wonderful of bowler-hatted Beadles....
We look forward to more such Sozinho productions.
More July treats reported ASAP!

Monday, July 05, 2010

"The Gentle Stateliness Of The Average Purpley Foxglove..."

See you in 2 0r 3 weeks... Blog's decided to slope off into the woods and look at peaceful stuff like foxgloves......