She was the one.Read More
My laptop blew up two nights ago. Faulty converter for the charger. Don't know how much I've lost. Maybe it's a good thing. Wiping it all away. Starting again. How many times has that been now? All my socials have been suspended. Feel like there should be a place where I can post things. The want to put everything you love from the internet in one place. The hope is that I can absorb it all into myself instead. I'll do anything for a way out, my head.
I'm so fucked up about Mac Miller.
February, March, April and May.
Welcome to my blog, we have bananees and avacadees. We’re six months into the year. I’ve been in grief counselling for eight weeks. Ten weeks ago I called up the hospice saying I needed to talk to someone. A while before that I looked into how feasible it is to replace my brain with one of those big wheels of cheese I see at farmers markets and trying to find the pin by my wrist that’ll allow me to unscrew my hands and replace them with some new ones (they keep closing).
I’ve had a couple of thoughts orbiting the important stuff in my head recently. I’ve had this idea that, from the moment you’re born, tragedy is lined up for you. Several forms of death and misfortune will come for those you love, and the more people you love, the more people you’ll lose. The more faith you have, the more you’ll be tested. Unfortunately, every good thing in life, it’s not lined up, you have to find it, fight for it and what can be even harder, you have to make yourself enjoy it.
The consequence of completely removing your ego is being frozen in your bed in fear of how small you and insignificant you are. Lacking a sense of your own importance, you find purpose in meeting other peoples needs. As many as you can, you keep doing this, staying as busy as possible till you realise that one person’s desires are in conflict with another's and you are too scared to tell either one, as that means you fail at pleasing them, which means you’re a failure.
Grieving ends like an earth wind an fire song, or any fun song from the seventies. It doesn’t stop with an exclamation point, it’s a slow turning down of a party that will never end, it’s just going away for now.
Seeking out happiness is hard when you don’t feel worthy of it. When you put happiness into a space, or love into a person, and that space gets torn down and that person is no longer there to reciprocate, will never be able to smile back at you. Smile at all. So it goes.
I miss him, but I miss her most. We talk everyday. Arguing, her frustration at me shutting myself off in the fear of letting anymore of that sadness in my heart could take me to a place I can’t come back from. Watching from far away. Angry, upset. at me, angry and upset. drifting dangerously close to the edge of ending anything.
Night shifts and day shifts and night shifts and day shifts. Burning energy away in minimum wage, twelve hour shifts, Ive been saying it’s for the Fringe but if I had more self worth I’d have started a kickstarter, gofundme. I’d have finished that commission that’d pay more than enough. There’s more to it. Sleeping on the floor in the suit I wore for dad’s wedding. It’s like, while things are dark, I might as well settle in.
One of the other thoughts that was orbiting. Thinking about life. How beautiful life is. the sunsets, the beauty that surrounds us, from the posh beer taps to passing a sleeping cow on a train. Life is full of so much beauty. Life is increidble. Life is beautiful. I just hate my life.
June, July, August and September.
You want to say the people you love pulled you through, but if I think it was only them it’d be disrespectful to the people who’ve had to cut their own hands off just to be let go of. Week five my counsellor shouts at me. Tells me to stop with the deep sighs. Stop touching my eyes. Look: The relationship isn’t working. The career isn’t working. You’re not happy. What are you doing about it. I don’t know. Nothing. Everything.
Grief is still playing in the background- do you remembahh- I think about what I need to do to be happy. When I look at appeasing myself, beyond everyone else, it brings me back to where I was a year and a half ago. Writing a facebook status like a press statement in New York, saying I’m moving there. The most confident I’ve been about the biggest decision I’ve ever made- like I could just click my fingers and it could be done.
That means upsetting my family, leaving boxedin, giving up my career. Then I lost two family members, stopped working on my career, nearly lost boxedin and it was all in the worst ways and I shrank into myself like a burnt up crisp packet. You could still see the logo. Even though it’s bare tiny.
I’m excited for the future. I”m excited about Boxedin at the roundhouse and BAC- seeing this small thing be a little less small. Excited to finally see Jodi read again at Bit Deep. I”m almost excited for Until You Hear That Bell at the Fringe, if it didn’t cost so much fucking money.
And then in September I’m turning thirty. Thirty years old, in a three year long relationship- still separated. All I have in my head is closing that gap, and fighting tooth and nail to have as much fun as I can along the way.
Bring on the clash.
Beyond entertainment, there’s an excitement to open mic nights you can’t find anywhere else: the feeling like you’re watching the next big thing. Being able to see that spark in someone’s earliest performance and know in ten years time you’ll be able to say you saw Them, There, Then.
The hope you'll catch someone special helps you endure the otherwise bland performances from the also-rans. Then there are the characters; People you know are going to be different from the rest of the bill as soon as they start their performance. Most of the time this isn’t indicative of their quality; there are plenty of crass erotic poets, Steve Hardey-Esque relationship gurus, “Spoken word interlude” rappers and sci-fi novelists desperate to cram fifteen pages of text into their allotted stage time. These open-micers can sink a poetry promoters heart as soon as they walk into the venue, and will often be as remembered, if not more-so than the best writers that night.
Most of these characters, like most people, are good people, they’re just lost in their own idea of what “a writer” is. Couple that with subconscious, self-defence mechanisms everyone has when they start gigging, they end up performing as an impression of whatever work they admire. This leads to the Kate Tempest poet, the Warsan Shire poet, the Polarbear, Caleb Femi, James Massiah, Hollie McNish poet (Jill Scott poet, Wale poet, etc). Of course there’s nothing wrong with this, nearly all open micers will sound like other writers as those are their influences when starting out.
Usually a character is someone who goes from impression, to parody. An audible reaction from the audience doesn’t determine the quality of a poem, and this silence allows the writer to interpret their performance on their own terms, boiling down to how well they feel afterwards. If they’re self aware, they’ll analyse themselves and hopefully grow, but if they mistake that adrenaline rush from being on stage for being good, they’ll double down their investment on influences and move into a voice that sounds more and more like the writer they think they are, and less like the person they are, and the reality they live in, where clubs echo nineties music videos and romance sounds like a Galaxy chocolate ad.
It’s rare for open-mic mainstays to have voices that sound truly unique, and good, at an open mic, but the James Angir, more famously known by his stage name, The Wizard of Skill, was indeed a rare and special kind of writer.
The Wizard of Skill was a rapper, slam-poet and an all-round spoken-word enthusiast (in the most literal and performative sense). He’d put freestyles on youtube, go to battle rap nights and many, many poetry open mic nights across London. Nearly always in a parker coat that’d also perform in, always in the front row, watching every performance with a smile.
He wrote raps that had a sing-song quality to them, on beat to the point where I remember Dean Atta calling him a “human metronome”. He had a way of putting words together that’s comparable to the Rapper MF DOOM-the writing and flow had a logic you could only see till after it was said, all wrapped into a tight flow that demanded your full attention. For an example, here’s twenty three seconds from one of his pieces, "youtube”
If you want to talk music/prophets like Omaha’s Oracle/Even a “Wicked” musical wouldn’t make me popular/Youtube Partnerships impossible/like computer technology in full/without a homonym/when they correspond to me/as addictive as oxygen/the digital cinema in HD quality/I've given up internet trolling/now all my comments look like the insides of Valentines cards/Juggle infinity to amateur stars.
The Wizard would also have choruses, most notably a poem he’d often perform; “My Radio” which at most nights the audience would be able to even sing along with. These are usually cardinal sins when it comes to performing at an open mic night, but the Wizard transcended what usually feels out of place because when he was on stage you felt that there was nothing else he’d rather be doing, and the joy from that performance was as infectious as the hooks themselves.
He had a love for spoken word that wasn’t only evident through performances and constant attendance, but in the content of his work. He wrote poems for poets on the scene, including Deanna Rodger and Stephanie ‘Dogfoot’ Chan; Declarations of love in poems that didn’t sway into cringe or gratuity as they were about the kindness of the poet and how inspiring he found their work. There were also multiple videos on his youtube channel that would analyse the origins and different styles of spoken word.
I met the Wizard of Skill in 2011 at Come Rhyme With Me, a poetry night on every last Friday of the month run by Deanna Rodger and Dean Atta (still running as a quarterly night at Ovalhouse Theatre) held at Cottons basement space in Angel. It was dimly lit, Often sold out, and had an intimacy that betrayed its size. It was at the forefront of its art form at the time, with electric line ups every month, and whenever the Wizard of Skill would perform he’d stand out as much as any performer and feature on the bill.
As I said earlier, he was a character: A writer that wrote differently to anyone else you’d see that night. Someone who loved and was influenced greatly by everything we were while never letting these influences overpower his own personality, channelling everything he learnt into his own voice.
Tragically, James Angir died from a blood clot in July 2014, and typing his name into facebook will bring up tributes, stories, memories and descriptions of his writing that I can’t top-so touching it's stopped me from finishing this article, this very paragraph, countless times out of feeling redundant and inadequate. We didn’t talk a lot, I was lucky enough to bring him on stage a few times as a Come Rhyme With Me co-host and would be able to tell the audience how lucky they are that he’s here, but we never chatted beyond complimenting each others poetry.
He wasn’t a personal friend, but his presence was woven into fabric of London’s poetry open- scene and what he brought represents so much of what I love about it; A space where a person bends words and breath to express themselves the best they can. His enthusiasm, dedication to quality, and individuality were so rare, and in his absence, now even moreso.
While amassing solid body of work, The Wizard of Skill never gained a large fan-base, had a viral video or was endorsed by any big name brands, which means it’s been a lot harder for new writers to ever know who he was. Even some of the nights he was a regular at are no longer around. Of course, every person’s last open mic night will be another persons first, our landscape has drastically changed since 2014, as I imagine it will keep changing until performance poetry finds a way to support itself.
Most poetry nights have bloated line up’s coupled with long stage time that favours indulgence, so they’re rarely a fun night for an audience, and often they end too late to be worthwhile for writers who want to perform but can’t risk the journey home (having to decide between one state of vulnerability for another isn’t creating a safe space), institutions like the Roundhouse and Barbican provide career opportunities and places to engage with peers, watch and be tutored by incredible writers, and to top it all off Sofar Sounds have swept the live nights off their feet, with many writers making enough to pay their utility bills with two twenty minute sets a month instead of honing their craft at open mic nights.
With that said, as long as there are writers like The Wizard of Skill, Open mic nights will still be as relevant as they ever were. The accessible space, exchanging of ideas, and outlet for expression are not only important to the growth of any writer but also for any creative person who can feel trapped in other facets their life. They’re places to find perspective from your own life, but to also define your experience like any good poem can.
We’re so indoctrinated to be consumers we think writing is only worth it if it’s to be published, and performing is only worth it if there’s a career path, but for all the stars that have come through the open mic scene, those that have gone on to accomplish shows, get book deals, no one could rock three minutes like the Wizard of Skill could. A ready-made star at every night he rocked the mic, I’m proud to say I saw him, there, then.
I wanted to find the starbucks I texted Zia at when I had the ring I'd propose to Desirae with. On January the 6th. It's January the 2nd and I'm at another one five minutes down the road from the one I wanted to be at. Couldn't see it. Walked an extra ten minutes. Thought that I could take stock of the year, figure out what I'm thinking. There's nothing active. It's just creeping and sinking.
I want to write something beautiful, like a shout out. It's not working.
Inward or outward. I wanted to be useful, kept running round, trying to do stuff- but then, there's nothing else you can do for anyone, you just have to live with yourself. Live with whatever thoughts and feelings have been crawling up your spine.
I was in Zara with D and my back popped, ripped in half, almost collapsed on the floor. The fucking stress of it. it. If I put the words on top of "it" the letters would be crushed. "i" and "t" would be out of commission. They only had three weeks till retirement. We'd have to use small l's and turn our j's round for the rest of our days.
Got a problem with letting people know themes. People want to know what the theme is more than the story- at the moment, I'm watching shows, and there's no story- it's all... theme! And, it's, sad to watch artists so desperate to please the funders. No risk in it, just keeping those boxes ticked. it's frustrating, because there's a small group of people that are so fucking good. They're capable of doing their own HBO specials, of writing netflix dramas- it's like... People are being paid because they're poets, but not to make actual... art. You know what I mean? Shit. Who the fuck am I talking to?
All I can listen to right now is KPop. I can't deal with actual words. There's a positivity that's almost on unreal in this music, a kind of madness in to too. Mainly listening to Red Velvet. Can't believe that member of 5hinee left at the same time. The amount of death at this time of year is staggering.
You know those wesbites that pick your most-used words? Here's mine, Facebook and Twitter
So- if you know me- if you're reading this- you know about Boxedin, and you know it's something I, and everyone involved in it with, cares about quite a lot. The past two years have seen it become something bigger than we intended, with most of our events having over a hundred people coming to watch open mic poetry (Krehzeh!) We love the vibe it brings, but also know that there's something in these big nights that gives an advantage to 'bigger' performers. People who can throw out flashy lines, make jokes, or who can rhyme on beat- they have an advantage over smaller performers... or poets that don't fancy themselves as performers at all. We understand that we can't change the momentum of our main night, and in order to cater to these writers as well, we've created a new night,
A night that hopes to the the yin to Boxedin's yang, at Caravanserail, bookshop less than five minutes away from Boxpark, in a space that holds no more than 45 people with the aim to create a slower, more relaxed evening of poetry that focuses less on the performance and more on the writing.
It's also six pounds for entry, which is new for us, as Boxedin as always been a free night (and that will never change) but we believe that for the features we'll deliver each month and for the length of their sets, three quid for each performer is more than worth the money. While we're here, lets look at the features for this month!
I first saw Jamal at a Boxedin- he was incredible- one of those times where you want to book someone as soon as you see them, and it definitely helped that as soon as his poem finished I had Omar Bynon whisper into my ear "Yo you need to book that guy" to me as well. A lot like our feature for last month, Troy, we haven't been able to get him a feature at Boxedin, but having this night I think will serve his writing so well. His book, Little Boy Blue, is really fucking beautiful. Dealing with shame and pride, there are few pieces in this collection I can't wait to hear.
Here we go with some Vintage Ferg. I met Maria way back, before Boxedin, on the Roundhouse course back in 2011. She's got a voice that can fit into every corner of the poetry/spoken word space, featuring at James Massiah's Spaeking to Bang Said the Gun and everywhere in between. In the past couple of years she's focused on theatre, creating her show Fat Girls Don't Dance, which has since been published by Oberon, and is now working on her new show, Essex girl. It's been a while since I've seen her read, and I'm really looking forward to hearing it.
The night is on the 9th of January. This is still a new night for us, and it'd mean so much to have you show support for our first event of the year.
Thanks so much,
This is my third time trying to write this- and I keep deleting it because I know I'm over thinking it and I know when the idea came to me, I wasn't. So let me tell you about that instead: I wrote the words 'Bit Deep' on my phone and it made me laugh. I then thought that would be a sick name for a night. I talked to Kareem about it at Jawdance and he agreed.
Essentially, it's a night where the person on stage isn't incentivised to be funny, or be deep, but be themselves at that time. A night of guaranteed quality.
Zia Ahmed has practically been helping me every step of the way and we still don't even know what he's going to be doing.
I'm so gassed about this.
It's easy to tell Michelle is hilarious- watching her on stage, she can raise the roof easily- but I'm always amazed by the restraint she shows- how focused she is on putting her writing at the forefront. She's driven to talk about what matters to her and give her writing the weight and silence it deserves. Her ambition in form and subject is inspiring as an artist and as a person. Below is a bit of writing I found off her blog a while ago. I like it.
Kareem Parkins Brown
If there's a chance to book Kareem, I'll book Kareem. He’s spent more time than anyone I know in the BYP- but his voice carries more than the years spent there- there's a love of many forms in his writing. I remember this inspirational video I watched a while ago where the guy was telling me to get in my "end zone"- the place where I can be the best I can be. I feel like the stage is Kareem's. His set at Boxedin this year was phenomenal. Mr Gee still talks to me about it. I’d kill for a night where he just reads his notebook from back to front. Put him on any stage in this world and he’ll be doing you a favour.
Boxedin stopped booking mucisians about three years ago now- I’ve never regretted that until I saw Lex Amor. Her music and live performance showcase two different sides to her artistry- she’s able to rap in a way that’s painful and then come back and talk to us with a smile, having both emotional states ringing true. She's also a host of an amazing podcast that showcases the best in underground talent in music, the Mellowcast. I feel like even if I hadn't seen her live I'd have booked her for her banter alone- luckily it's just a plus on top of her amazing ear for beats and artistry.
I've always loved Laurie, she's a natural on stage- being an amazing host at Bang Said The Gun, and has a real love for page poetry- I remember really falling in love with her writing when I saw her read work inspired from Tracy Emin's 'My Bed'. We were both going through break ups at the time and it was so beautiful. Come see her- and then make sure you buy her book, Box Rooms.
So yeah- The Bill Murray is a comedy pub. Club. A comedy club, pub. And this is a night comprised purely of poets. It sounds strange, but it makes sense to me. I used to be a comedian. I grew up wanting to be a comedian and spent years pursuing a career as a stand up and while I met some incredible people- the scene didn't feel right. The path you had to take, the nights that were on- the jokes that were encouraged- audiences were so scared of the comedian being just a bit deep- like it was a betrayal of their trust to be anything other than a joke machine. Plus it was very rare to see a bill or an audience reflect the cit I grew up in.
I found what I wanted when I started gigging in the spoken word scene. At the Roundhouse, at the Barbican Poets Showcases, at Boxedin, at FWYH and Boomerang. There's an amazing energy in London that isn't in the comedy world... I don't know. I've spent so long writing this and I don't even know what to say. It's just a jokes night.
So yeah. Damn. I don't know what else to say- other than that I'll see you on the 28th at 8pm!
I've just watched Ramon Serrano at the Nuyorican cafe. The show is called "Zen and the art of good bullshit!" a show essentially split into three parts, all of them with Ramon at the centre. First is Ramon reading extracts from a book that after ten years he's yet to finish, second is him taking the mic off the stand and going on a rant bordering on stand up or a stand up bordering on rant on the subject that his piece of writing is about, and the third portion of the show involves Ramon's band; There were three men on stage with him, all paired with their respective instruments- bass guitar, conga drums, and saxophone. When they weren't playing they would be wincing, laughing and gasping to Ramon's stories- you truly felt like if they didn't grow up with him, they grew up like him.
Ramon also brought up a two-man Doo-wop choir he met on the subway years ago to provide assistance when singing music he loved when growing up, mainly Temptations and Drifters hits. Ramon gave them a spotlight to sing some Marvin too and the crowd ate it up.
Speaking of the crowd, they were either senior, Puerto Rican or both. I wound up in the audience because I thought it was a line for the slam later that night (there's a rumour that you have to get to the Nuyorican three hours before doors open just to get on the open mic list; untrue, it's more like an hour and a half) What swayed me was that it'd be funny. It was. His story about his mother shooting her living room chair, swinging a machete on a basketball court wouldn't be so hilarious if you couldn't tell that it wasn't by someone who was the son of this woman and understood her logic.
It was theatric, not theatre. He talked about watching Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show and then said he'll sing All Shook Up for us now, just because he wanted to.
There was growing up, there was school, there was lots of singing, and then there was Vietnam. Ramon started reading and he said something so beautifully written I wanted to hold onto it. I kept the line in my head, saying it over and over and over again and then Ramon stopped talking.
He said "I can't. I can't do it. I thought I was ready but I can't" He didn't apologise. He just put the paper back and the crowd applauded without whoops or hollers. It was a clap to let him know we're still with him.
He then read two poems. The first was called Pegao, about the rice on the bottom of the pot. "Rich people never get to the bottom of the pot. Those poor, poor rich people"
His second poem was about how different words in the Spanish language mean different things to different parts of the world that speak the Spanish language. It reminded me of something I go in and out of trying to write- he took it somewhere more fun. I really appreciated how fun he made it.
The line I kept in my head when Ramon was talking about the Vietnam war, about the soldiers coming back, about the trauma they went through to return with no welcome or system by the government to take care of them, the third line from him deciding to not go any further with his piece -"Unspeakable horrors with no outlet to express themselves".
In all of Ramon's dancing and shouting out audience members that he's known for fifty years, widows of best friends with new husbands that he thinks highly of, sons of fathers who've passed away that are watching in their place, you knew that Ramon loved every moment he had on stage.
Ramon was a history teacher for twenty years before this show. He'd sing on the subway after work before any Nuyorican gigs.
Since November I've written at least six blog posts and have deleted all of them. I'd tell myself that it doesn't matter. Right now I don't think it has to.
For eight or so weeks I've been working every Tuesday in Brighton with fifteen year old boys to help them take photos, focusing on territory and, well, themselves. On the day of the exhibition I was asked to give a little speech. I finished it about ten minutes before anyone came in- when reading the paper I saw my hands shaking, which shocked me as that hasn't happened in years. I'll put it here as I think this whole process moved me and affected me way more than I had anticipated.
Also on stage I just said what you'll read- I didn't do shout outs, so let me do some shout outs! Jo, Jack, Mark and Bex. Thank you so so much, we should be proud of ourselves!!
None of the boys actually came (Halloween parties/half term, can't really blame them) so if any of them find this- thank you for your time.
On The Level.
The name of this exhibition is “On the level”. It’s a reference to The Level. An area in Brighton, not far from the Dome. It’s a skate park, family area, place to buy drugs, spend the night, first dates, picnics. a small area that has everything you could ever want and at the same time, the distance between the boy selling drugs and the boy perfecting his ollie is further than the train I take from London to Brighton. Daley brought up the Level at the end of one our sessions and the amount of worlds within worlds inspired everyone. Especially me, as I said "that's what we should call the exhibition! On the level!" and all the boys gave me their most enthusiastic unenthusiastic "alright".
Albi’s first idea for his picture is what planted the seeds of what On The Level is all about-an idyllic park filled with happy families, full of colour and happiness and in the distance, a boy in black and white. I ask him in one of our recordings why he wanted to be in black and white- he said it was "to show the difference between us and them."
The talk preceding this moment was centred around where these boys fit not only into Brighton the city, but the way Brighton city is seen. The answer to both of those are on the streets, and not on the streets.
If just asking and listening to people talk could solve our problems therapists wouldn’t be paid so much money.
You can’t just ask boys what they want to be in life, you can’t simply tell them you’re there to listen. You can’t tell them what is important to them isn’t important. If it’s important to them, it’s important. If a Gucci belt means more to them than going to sixth form, ask them about that gucci belt and by the end of the chat if you don’t want a Gucci belt, you’ll at least understand why a Gucci belt can hold so much value.
So in these talks we’ve chat about people that are safe and people that aren’t, clothes, who bought you what, what did you buy for yourself- what’s the best item, the best ‘thing’ you own.
It’s this talk that brought us to Adnand’s idea. The story is on the Mp3 players so I won’t go too into it- other than that it’s itself an exhibition of love, bravery, honesty, intelligence and maturity that is rare in a fifteen year old. It’s not art to be smart, but art that’s a tribute to love, to a gaping whole in the fabric that binds friends and family, between past and present that has been filled with a personal possession.
I don’t want to only single Adnand out though- each one of these boys has had a moment of inspiration they didn’t know they had.
when reviewing pictures from a previous session, we skipped through a blurred picture of the ground and as Ania was about to skip- Fin announced what street it was. Casually! To know a street that well, that you can know a piece of grey that well is astounding. It’s taken time to let these boys know that their view, and their lives, hold value, that people want to see their worlds. That you’re all here to see what they want you to see.
That is why when we couldn’t get a picture of Hamish and his dog, he decided he just wanted a picture of him and his mates. Because he loves his mates.
And as much fun as it can be for them to think, their world isn’t primarily a Guy Richie/Tarantino/Noel Clarke production. It’s having fun playing Fifa. It’s trying to let them know that the guy that gives them free chicken at Subway- is an interesting character. It’s your dad bringing a hurt dog home and falling in love with him. Winston.
There are statistics- even on the board of this exhibition- there are statistics that declare the pitfalls these boys are up against- but these are boys. These are boys that have grown two feet in the space of a year. Boys who when given cameras, want to look cool, want to climb things, want to shout out family and friends. It’s been our job to streamline the journey to them realising that these things are worthwhile to people. That’s why it’s so amazing to have them, as they are, up as art.
Boys in the middle cool being the most important thing in the world, and having fun.
There are no actual pictures of The Level. None of the boys dared to go there, to document the comings and goings. The protest was that if they went there with a camera it’d be an instant rush. Instant jump. Thud thud thud.
That may be an element, however, on the train back to London I wondered if it may have been too much of an ask to go to the place they play their biggest roles of all and flip the script.
They did see it however. They have all left this project knowing that the level is more than them. That there is a view on Brighton Brighton wants to see- and that they’re all right. They’re great. I’ve loved working with them. I really have.
oi oi savoloy
Until You Hear That Bell is coming to Stratford Circus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This is the show’s third London run. The first at the Battersea Arts Centre for a three week run last June, the second at the Albany Theatre in February this year, and after a five month tour of boxing gyms, community centres, schools and some very lovely homely theatres- it’s finally back in London.
After all that you think I would’ve found a decent abbreviation for Until You Hear That Bell or it’s other names people have called it like Until You Hear a Bell or When A Bell Rings or Until The Bell Tolls or (this one came last Tuesday) Saved By The Bell.
I’m very glad that I love this show. If there was ONE moment of this play that I didn’t like, that I’d have to peform over, and over and over and over again I think I’d not only feel tired after the show, but sad. Instead I get this cool feeling after (or sometimes during) the play I’ll think “Man. This play is sick to the ick” and it has me carry my stage across the country with pride.
So yes, I am still proud of the show- but- for Stratford Circus, I want to do something different. I want curtain raisers. I feel like I wanted to justify the reason why I wanted them in the previous three paragraphs- I haven’t done that- so lets just say I really rate these writers and want Stratford Circus to see them.
I THINK the first time I saw Miss Jacqui perform was at Tobi’s night at the BAC- where she was introduced to me as Rhythm of Men’s manager. I was like- kay cool you’re a manager. Then she actually jumped on the open mic- and was good! I think the poem was called Fireworks in the day. I was like- kay cool you’re a good poet too. I’ll remember that.
Rhythm of Men (RoM) BLEW UP. BOOM. Seemed to get booked for everything. Forget What You Heard-RoM. Southbank cetnre- RoM. That really sick night at Boxpark, Shoreditch- RoM. Other less significant nights, RoM. My timeline, RoM. RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM RoM
BIT MUCH REALLY.
Of course it’s great that these three incredibly talented young men getting booked is a great thing in itself, but an even bigger plus was that I actually got to see more of Jacqui perform. I kept seeing her perform new pieces, some involving singing, some more focused on page poetry and when it was a piece I’d seen before, you could tell she had worked on it, performed it, knew it better. I was like- kay cool you’re actually next level. Yomi and I booked her for our birthday special with Peter Hayhoe and Mara Ferguson and Jacqui killed it. she got the audience to sing with her, I think she got them to stand up or something too? Either way- she was the stand out performer of the night.
I love her. We love her. Trust me, you'll love her.
Here's a sick poem hers you'll love it.
Remember that group Miss Jacqui looks after? Rhythm of Men? yeah- he’s in that group. Those guys. I was a little skeptical of Rhytm of Men when I first heard of them. My line of thinking was “Who are these guys that are interrupting Omar” and also, I was just a bit of a wanker and had forgotten how much I loved Def Jam poetry growing up (which was in fact my first real introduction to poetry. Shout out to Shihan. Real eyes reaLise)
This was also way back when Boxedin was struggling. We had just finished our first year and were only really bringing people in off Yomi’s name and after months of cancelling the night and it being moved to so many different places with boxpark- even Yom’s seal of approval was starting to dwindle.
We decided to give Boxedin one more push. Just to really see if can be a great night. It was in the March of 2013- We booked Kat Francois (Yomi), Rhythm of Men (Yomi), Shortman (Yomi) and Paul Cree (ME).
It really was our first great night and the stars of the show were Rhythm of Men. They absolutely stormed the stage- each one of them not only felt like they loved what they were doing, but they had love for each other and it was a v v special thing to watch.
Okay- sorry I’m not really chatting about Michael. I’ve since learned from watching Rhythm of men that each one has a very different writing style not only to the group they’re in, but to each other. Basically- I’ve got a bit of a gist thattttttt Russeni is a supreme storyteller- the type of storyteller that’s been around as long as time itself- it’s like he talks fables. It’s sick.
Omar is Omar, just pure love manifested into human form.
And Michael- like- a writer. the first time I actually realised how good Michael is was at a Barbican Young Poets showcase where, befoe the poem he did his Kanye West’s dance from that four five seconds song with Rihanna. It was super jokes, everyone laughed and I wonder now if he did that cos he knew his piece of writing contained absolutely no showmanship. It was a poem about traits, about family, about what gets passed down to who and unconditional love. It was beautiful and honestly I wanted Michael to peform because I know he’s an actor that could do well to chat to SC but also, I really want to see him perform more!
Here's a video of him. Sound isn't great. That's on purpose. You'll get that HIGH QUALITY audio experience with the Stratford Circus acoustics.
Phoebe is as smart as she is subtle. She has a poem told through a childs eyes and not once does she stray from this childs view, like a man in his house who doesn’t take off shoes, and looking up from the back of the car window, watching her perform this piece, I kept waiting for her to break into a diferent view but she never did. On top of that, the piece was heartbreaking in completely different ways- like- the fact it was from a childs pov wasn’t even the focal point (even though it was) (even though it wasn’t) (even though it was too)
Again, I met her at Boxedin and although the first time I saw her I just thought I was watching someone with a decent poem, as the weeks went on her poem stuck in my head. All I can remember now is that it was about a nurse and it also had something to do with time. I really liked it. I tink it’s a bit silly to talk about writers so early into their time as writers but I think she’s really talented at making characters and doesn’t seem too concerened about making her the main character in her work- which is a definite trend- which isn’t bad or good- it’s just cool to see her do something a little different.
She’s in the Spare The Poets collectice which is FILLED with incredible writers. They’re also sick at creating group pieces too.
Oh hey I just found a video of the poem I was talking about AND it's a performance at Boxedin! WHAT A COINCIDENCE
So yeah. Really happy with these three. I’m really happy to be doing the show this week too. I feel like the show now has a great reputation but it definitely hasn’t been picked up by any mainstream press, so as much as I’d love to just do nothing and perform- I need to keep pushing on facebook, twitter and Instagram. Because it’s live art, soon this show will be basically dead. One day I’ll be too old to do it, or unfit, or it’ll feel too far away from where I am at that moment for it to be a decent performance.
So please- you don’t need to share this or anything- or post on facebook- but if you know anyone that would be interested in watching a show about boxing, family and trying to figure shit out- tell a mate.
Creating The Second Thing Is A Different Challenge Compared To Creating The First Thing.
The first thing is seeing if you can tell that story, that story you've known you've wanted to tell for a while. It's trying to figure out structure, realising you can't tell every single part of it, realising that some parts you never thought would be worth telling are actually the most hilarious/heartbreaking/necessary parts of the story.
It took me a year and half to write UYHTB. I'd go to a cafe near mine after work every day and work for three hours and every now and then get that burst of inspo and would be up all night or scribbling lines on the notebook between serving customers.
It's been a year since I finished the show and I've been finding it harder to write this new thing. I've written about three different ten minutes of stuff I keep calling 'seven out of tens'- Stuff that's cool, but it's not blowing my mind. At the same time, I'm not giving any of this work time to really evolve, I'm not caring for it. (And a seven out of ten, it isn't bad!)
When I was younger I'd be so judgemental of artists I didn't know
("Sean, what do you think of the Diamonds From Sierra Leone remix?" "It's alright. Kanye's bit was SHIT")
I think it made me feel better about not being as good as them. I feel guilty about that. Feel like I'm still being way too harsh, but now with myself. Karma vibes.
I'm still sitting at the laptop, doubting myself- hoping to find a breakthrough though. I'm in New York till the 11th of September. I said that I'd write my show here. Think it's beginning to dawn on me how hard that is going to be, mainly because I'm still trying to find out what it is.
... I think I have something- it's so far away from what I was writing in January, when I started, but then again, so is my life, and that's what this will be about. I think it's good. Maybe even a 7.5.
I'll keep posting about it, if not for you (dear reader) than at least for me to hold myself to something.
And thank you.
Well, well, well...
I'm currently at Heathrow Terminal 3 listening to that one good Big Sean song (you know the one). Remember in the first blog when I talk about being haps this tour has allowed me to get a plane ticket to go see my girlfriend and mum in New York? Well yeah, we're here.
Life comes at you fast- as do tours. I wasn't able to keep this blog updated which sucks for me, because I really enjoyed writing what I've been doing, even if it's just for me.
Since the Doorstep festival, I've performed two shows at the Jabberwoky Market in Darlington, two shows at the Strike a Light festival in Gloucester, two shows for the Looping the Loop festival in Ramsgate and Margate, a show at the Mill Arts centre in Banbury, one show for the Out There festival in Great Yarmouth and a show at the Folkestone quarter house. Each location deserves it's own post, they all made me feel welcome in their homes. Tired as I got in the midst of this busy bit of the tour, I was never sad. For almost half a year, this has been my job. Fuck.
Most of these places came with some incredibly inspiring workshops with young people with enough enthusiasm to break a heart. Wish I could say more on it but don't know how to yet.
Now. On to some new matters. CTN portion done, but the run isn't over yet people...
Yes, I'll be at the Stratford Circus in October. The details will be in the UYHTB Tour section of this hear website. I'll be there from the 6 to the 8th and after an exciting meeting with Tom from the SC, should be running a really interesting workshop
I'll also be at the Oxford Playhouse on the 12th of September, and will also be performing in Brighton on the 13th!
Then finally, there's the Unicorn Theatre in January. It's a lot. Very excited to keep this show going and hope to see some friendly faces at the London locations!
There's so much more to say- but this is the important stuff. It comes first.
Gonna try and update with some more talky stuff soon. I have to. I hate dead websites.
Before I go I'll leave you with two things: this podcast I guested on with Mr Gee and Joshua Idehen. Mr Gee is really funny- and Josh has some really dumb views on the film Blade that thankfully didn't make it into the podcast.
The Muddy Feet youtube channel. Peter Hayhoe is one for the most talented poets I know and has started this amazing film company that is managing to put out a new poetry video every week. The quality is ridiculously high. Mixes of live performances and short films, if you want to know how varied and brilliant poetry in England can be, check this channel.
Still got bare time before my flight is called. I'll try to listen to a different song.
I performed my show at The Poly in Falmouth. I was scheduled to perform two shows- but the ticket sales were too low so it just become the one. I was told Cornwall are big on supporting their own but not so much for touring shows (especially ones with "urban" flyers).
I was told that there might only be thirty tickets sold. Honestly- for me- thirty is not a problem- at all. I cut my teeth on doing stand up at open mic’s in London performing just to the other comedians and their partners/mates. I can have a lot of fun with thirty. I can have a lot of fun with one. Trussssss me Daddi.
Torbay was really nice. I was at a Travellodge in Paington, a seaside town- lots of beautiful arcades that sorely lack arcade machines. Everything closes at five pm, something that deeply offends me as a Londoner. The team behind The Doorstep Festival, in particular Jade, the co-director of the festival and a Brazilian Jujitsu enthusiast- were so wonderful and made me feel really looked after.
My first show was in a sport community centre and my audience mainly consisted of the parents of the local drama club who were my curtain raiser and some people from the local council to check if I was worth bringing down. We ended up getting to the venue way too early and spent loads of time practicing workouts with Tom- one of the lighting engineers and learning some of Jade’s Jujitsu grapples. By the time the show started I was already knackered.
Also spent a little bit of time with Rihannon. We worked on her introduction to her show. The cartwheel was her idea, asking the audience to turn their phones off, mine. I also made sure that she said her name slowly, and took a pause afterwards so she could get an extra applause. I wish her dad came to watch. He’d have been proud.
the show, in that community centre- to the thirteen year olds who had performed before me and to the parents of these actors- somehow created the most hospitable room I’ve ever performed in. I genuinely felt loved by that audience.
Me and my sister grew up going to nearly every youth club and community centre and I think there’s always a natural love to anyone trying to do something there. It meant a lot to perform there. It really did. The drama clubs we went to shaped both of our lives so much. Youth clubs and community centres are very cool.
I then ran a workshop with some BTEC Mandem at a nearby school. I spent a lot of time ranting- trying to drill into their heads that they can do anything they put their mind to- but I think they’d rather had put their mind to doing some drama games and workshops a bit earlier.
I’m having a lot of fun doing these workshops. I don’t think it’s something I’m naturally good at- like Polarbear- who is a genius at it. I’m getting better though, and that one in Torbay was a big step in getting better at it.
My second show was at the Edge, in the Brixham. Not much to say other than that the audience were also really lovely, when putting the gum shield in my mouth I threw up, had to hold it in my mouth and swallow and do the rest of the show wondering if anyone noticed. Actually, Harry Bower wrote something really nice about the performance which I think is worth checking out.
After the show I talked to a seventeen year old called Jay. It was a really intimate chat. When I was seventeen, I had a very real hatred for my school system, for failing me, for making me feel stupid- for making my friends feel scared and pressured and worthless. My focus and energy was instead put into the gym, to comedy nights and (free) courses at Hampstead theatre- Jay doesn’t have those things here. He just writes. And he’s really, really good. Talking to Jay has been the highlight of the tour so far.
Right now I’m in Darlington- got a few hours till I do another show. I’m loving this tour- talking to new people- realising that country actually has a peaceful beauty I thought could only exist on other islands.
It’s lonely though- and when I get back to London I get this desperate feeling that I need to be out as much to make up for the time I’ve been away. I miss my girlfriend a lot. She lives in Brooklyn. Izzy was saying that all this travelling I’m doing could make me feel lonelier because all these trains I’m taking me aren’t getting me closer to the one place I really want to go. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I’m so happy- overwhelmed by it- I just wish I could have her with me at the BnBs and Travelodges.
Ah man I don’t want to end on a downer. Here is a link to Cecilia Knapp’s show Finding Home that will be at the Roundhouse Last Word Festival at the end of May. As to not date this blog post I’ll also post the wonderful trailer for the show that feels a lot more like a short film.
Here's the L---I---N---K.
Anyone want to know about Arlington? Most I can say is that I wont ever use a DVD player in my show again- it turned itself off ten minutes in and I had to try and turn it on and fast forward to my boxing bout during the show. Looked like a right mug. Back to the tapes. Re-e-wind.
On the way home, I checked the Arlington Arts centre's pamphlet/list of shows that are on and saw my name written as ‘Ben Mahoney’- I really hope that there is a Ben Mahoney who has no idea why three drama students from Alrington now follow him on twitter- and congrats to him for doing such a great show about amateur boxing in Arlington! What a guy!
I was excited to perform at The Albany. I've seen some of my favourite performers for the first time there. I know it's an amazing place to be- I definitely wanted to do the best show I could.
This next bit of writing, I’m going to talk about performing a lot. And Nerves.
I love doing this so much. I love writing, I love performing. I’m so grateful to make enough money on this tour that I can buy a plane ticket to see my girlfriend and Mum in New York- I think, because I love it so much, I forget how stressful and exhausting it can be. We did a get in, worked on some new staging for the Albany audience layout, tweaked a few later scenes with Yael, did a run through, a tech run- I remember looking at the clock and realising I had half an hour before the show would start. There was then this panic in me that I couldn’t shake off- tried doing a warm up, tried listening to music, staring at a wall- each one for ten seconds, on a loop, getting more and more frustrated with myself.
When I got on stage, I said the first line of the show so quick, I didn’t even hear it. I wondered if I said it right at all. For the next ten minutes I was on stage, questioning myself, frightened, tripping up on my words- luckily- the first ten minutes of the show revolve around me being a very nervous, frightened little boy- so I don’t think the audience could tell. And the audience were so lovely. One of the loudest I’ve ever had. Was so pleased whenever I heard Zia and Eve laugh as well. Love you two so much.
When I finished shifts making burgers, or selling pies, I’d go home and feel rubbish, hoping one day I’d do what I’m doing right now- so to let anything get in the way of enjoying these moments has me getting really mad at myself.
The next show went real smooth- I got to share the stage with Jacqui, who beautifully interpreted my show using sign language- it was such a joy to share the stage with her and I would love to work with her again.
My sister Eve filmed the show- she’s an amazing filmmaker and did the trailers for the BAC run. it was great to have her film the show and really exciting to see what she’ll do with the footage! I’m guessing she’ll cut it to some unknown Skpeta song from 2008 or a Novelist freestyle that’s only on soundcloud.
It was really nice to do another show in London. Thank you so much to all my mates who’ve recommended the show on Facebook and Twitter! Especially to Beth Friday, someone who went to my old gym does stand up, working at one of the best comedy nights I ever did stand up at, Angel Comedy. In every chat we find another way in which our lives are eerily similar. She also brought Chip Grim, a poet and trainer at one of a gym I used to box for, The Allstars. That meant a lot to me.
And to Daniel Kitson- thank you for coming on Tuesday, for coming to the show in June and recommending it on your mailing list, what you wrote was so encouraging and I’m really thankful and grateful for your support. No doubt in my mind you’re the reason my show sold out. Thank you so much.
I’m leaving London for six days now. Touring. Performing at the Poly in Falmouth on the 9th, The Acorn Theatre in Torquay on the 12th and The Edge, in Brixham on the 13th. It's exciting. I'm really knackered in a BnB in Falmouth. Rains a lot here. Te Amo.
P.S. Follow Andrea Hubert, Zia Ahmed, Jade Bruce and Milly Prett on twitter.
I was in Hull for the heads up festival last week. I loved it. The way they say hello is like "L-O". My two shows were at St Paul Boxing Gym and Winefred Holtby Academy. St Pauls is a beautiful gym. Big painting of the clubs crest on the wall, an area at the back where you can buy a tea if you're a parent picking up your pugilist in training and are early enough to see them spar, framed, blown-up pictures of boys in boxing stances through the ages-from crops, to mullets, moustaches and back to crops again (No fringes). The club has also birthed Olympic gold winner Luke Campbell. Needless to say for this to be my first location to tour I was pretty nervous.
I was lucky enough to meet Mickey, the owner of the gym before going on. It meant a lot to shake his hand and thank him for letting me do my show in his gym. There was something very strange about warming up, in my Times Amateur Boxing Club attire in the dressing room of another gym before going on. It was Eerie and uncomfortable. I was hit by a wave of doubt- as if I was pretending to box. I started texting Yael Shavit, Helen Heaslip, my little sister, mum, dad, partner- all of them encouraging me. Made me feel really lucky
The room held a lot of theatre makers, people from the community, and boxers. Ex boxers and current. I couldn't ask for a better mix of people. It wasn't my smoothest show at all. I'm nursing a terrible cough at the moment and at one point had to chug a glass of water while the bell was ringing! What it lacked in timing and delivery it made up for in- I don't know- feeling. The moments that felt important held more weight than they've ever done, almost to the point of hurting me to say them. If the show didn't go well here, I don't know if I could have had the confidence to perform at another gym so I'm honestly really grateful that the audience at St Pauls were so accommodating and lovely and open to my show! Thank you St Pauls and Mickey!
The show at Winefred was great- it was to year eights and nines. Not sure if the age group is a little too young- and I think a lot of them were worried about laughing in case they'd get told off, but it was great to hear the odd giggle every time i said "fuck" on stage. Can't believe I get to have a job where I can say fuck at a school and not get in trouble for it. How amazing!!
The workshop I ran with the teenagers was great too. We played games, did a little Q&A (And no one asked how I remembered it which makes me love them even more) I fell in love with the way they say so many of their words- and how honest they were in talking about the most important five minutes of their lives.
Thank you so much to Daniel Kitson for recommending the show in his mailing list. I've been getting messages from people all day about it!
Final thank you to Stephan Skills from Winefred for giving me his stories to read. I haven't properly tucked into them yet but the fact you've trusted me with them means the world to me. You're a world maker mate!
What else. I stayed in an Ibis which Ethan- the ex-skater tour techie who refers to it as "abyss" and had a lovely time watching Everybody Loves Raymond on the hotel telly in the morning. Saw Deadpool. Really good. Very romantic. Made me miss my girlfriend. I always miss my girlfriend.
Cool. This is really long. I'll do shorter ones in the future.
I'll leave you with the Beetle and Bird website. Milly Prett, someone who worked and helped so much on the beginning show and helped shape it a lot. She can see things a lot of people can't when it comes to writing. I saw them do their show Moonfruit in Brighton- it was incredibly beautiful and I've been hooked on their website for a while, especially watching the Keithettes video. So good!
Okay. Great. Safe one!