Thursday, 29 April 2010


Claire Martin
Various venues, Mumbles, Swansea
Fri 30 April – Mon 3 May 2010
The sun has been shining, and more reasons to be cheerful, May is almost here. Which means two things people – bank holidays! Stuck for something to do this coming long weekend? Why don’t you head down to the lovely Mumbles village, the pretty side of Swansea Bay, and get down to some jazz and blues by the seaside? The four-day Admiral Mostly Blues & Jazz Festival has got itself a name for entertaining the masses with local legends such as guitar maestro Brian Breeze, and the wonderful gypsy jazz of The Amigos to national and international show stoppers. Launched in 2005, the high-quality musical weekend kick starts the summer season at a variety of venues beside the bay, all in walking distance. This year’s bill, a mixture of free and ticketed events, looks sure to get you dancing happy. Let me talk you through…
Friday night the Festival Pavilion will be headlined by Maggie Bell of Stone The Crows, this time appearing as Maggie Bell and Dave Kelly & The BBQ. Catchy it may not be, but luckily the set is… You can expect ‘A review of soul, blues and classics, with some thumping rock’n'roll thrown in’ with support from a festival favourite, the Sean Webster Band.
Saturday is the Big Blues Day. The afternoon gig features the powerful Steve Arvey & Blues Move plus festival faves Derik and the mOOn Dogs. The evening will rock to top European combo and North American favourite the Ana Popovic Band. Their album ‘Still Making History’ reached No. 3 in the US Billboard after 19 weeks in the chart. Serbian-born Ana (on guitar and vocals) and her band have been touring the European and U.S. festival and club circuit to ever greater acclaim since 2001. On the bill with them, from the U.S.A., are Earl Thomas & The Kings of Rhythm – classic R&B, soul and contemporary blues from a master singer working with the late, great Ike Turner’s backing band. Yes that Ike Turner.
Those who like things a bit more jazzy, Sunday is YOUR day. Sundays is Big Jazz Day, you see, and features Claire Martin, the first lady of British jazz, acclaimed star of innumerable UK and international jazz festivals, winner of multiple awards and with 16 albums under her belt, returns to her favourite Welsh city with the Gareth Williams Band, supported by those great trad entertainers the Pete Allen Jazz Band. Heading the evening line-up will be Protect The Beat, five masters of jazz/funk, plus trombone supremo Mark Nightingale with his All Star British Jazz Quintet.
Don’t think you can relax yet, mind, Monday is the true party day featuring aforementioned local stars Brian Breeze (Brian Breeze Rhythm and Blues Band with Taff Williams) and The Amigos alongside The Hamsters, who will be closing the Pavilion in the night.
The first-ever official Festival Fringe will take place this year and comprises an eclectic programme of free events on the new Pavilion Side Stage and at venues around the village (Café Valance, the Park Inn and the Con Club). The Fringe programme highlights local talent including the winner of the Admiral in-house talent competition, Aggi Thomas; two popular performers from the Swansea M.A.D stable, Ian James and Kelly Angel; the Phoenix Choir singing lunchtime jazz numbers; guitarist Terry Clarke; Swansea’s own Ursine Princes; and the talented Tom Duggan Trio.
Swansea Bay Inter-Celtic Festival 2011
Enjoy this year’s festival! 2011 looks set for even bigger things, as the four day festival becomes part of a new and bigger 10 day Swansea Bay Inter-Celtic Festival featuring artists from Swansea, Lorient, Cork and further afield. You can start getting excited NOW, I know I am.
Find out more and watch the Vibe TV video of the event over at:

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

MS: Long Nights & Long Lists

The Mslexia Blog

Happy Birthday Shakespeare -- he loved the 24 hour poetry marathon held in his honour.
Happy Birthday Shakespeare – he loved the 24 hour poetry marathon held in his honour.
Cough, cough, splutter! Apologies ladies, I fear I am feeling a tad worse for wear after my 24 hour poetry marathon fundraiser on the weekend. It turns out that staying up for 40 hours and performing rather a lot doesn’t have the best impact on your throat. Luckily I lasted throughout the wonderfully heartwarming event – no major hitches, poets from across Wales, visitors and cheerleading well-wishers throughout the early hours – and I have to say a big ‘THANK YOU!’ to all who helped: you rock, people :)
As well as playing organiser, compère, stage manager, sound monkey and performer, I also made it on to BBC Radio Wales. You can listen again here… 21 minutes and 52 seconds in. It was lovely to see so many watching from the cosy sofas. The event was a fundraiser for the Hay Poetry Jamboree, the fringe poetry festival in Hay-on-Wye on 3/4/5 June 2010. Donations are welcome, both for ourselves, and for the amazingly generous artist-led Elysium Gallery in Swansea who let us take over their building for the duration.
Wales Book of the Year Long List
The eclectic longlists for the 18thWales Book of the Year – Wales’ premier award for literature – were announced on Tuesday 20 April in Bangor, North Wales. The winner will be announced at this year’s festival. Last year Deborah Kay Davies won the English-language award for her fantastic collection of short storiesGrace, Tamar and Laszlo the Beautiful while Wiliam Owen Roberts won the Welsh-language award for Petrograd.
It has been a good year for Philip Gross, winner of the TS Eliot Prize for The Water Table, here nominated for the poetry and photography collaboration I Spy Pinhole Eye (Cinnamon Press). There is a dearth of females on the English-language list, but Jasmine Donahaye is a strong contender with her latest collection of poetry, Self-Portrait as Ruth (Salt) which deals in provocatively sexual and erotic terms with the Israel-Palestine situation, while children’s author and journalist Terri Wiltshire has been nominated for her debut adult novel, Carry Me Home(Macmillan, 2009). However, Welsh-language writers have done the XX-line proud, thanks to Manon, Manon, Sian, Siân, Caryl and Haf.
Chair of the English-language judges, poet Ian Gregson, found this year’s efforts inspiring: ‘This year’s list is especially exciting because almost all the best books this year were by lesser-known or younger writers, notably the two novelists and the three poets. It’s also conspicuously varied in terms of genre: as well as poetry and novels, it includes nature-writing, life-writing, short stories, and two books of intriguing and challenging critical exegesis.’
The Long List
English-language titles
Horatio Clare, A Single Swallow, Vintage
Jasmine Donahaye, Self-Portrait as Ruth, Salt Modern Poets
Philip Gross, I Spy Pinhole Eye, Cinnamon Press
Emyr Humphreys, The Woman at the Window, Seren
Peter Lord, The Meaning of Pictures, University of Wales Press
Mike Thomas, Pocket Notebook, Heinemann
Nikolai Tolstoy, The Oldest British Prose Literature: The Compilation of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, Edward Mellen Press
Alun Trevor, The Songbird is Singing, Parthian
Richard Marggraf Turley, Wan-Hu’s Flying Chair, Salt Modern Poets
Terri Wiltshire, Carry Me Home, Macmillan New Writing
Leaf Writers’ Magazine Launches
Last night, despite still nursing a sore throat, I jumped on my magic carpet and landed in Cardiff Bay for the Leaf Writer’s Magazinelaunch in the stunning architectural setting of Wales Millennium Centre to hear Jasper FfordeHolly Howitt and Simone Mansell Broome.
Plenty of budding writers had had the same idea and it isn’t hard to see why. Leaf Books is an independent publisher especially interested in supporting new writers and new forms including nano-fiction, micro-fiction and teeny weeny fiction. They run many a competition offering opportunities to get work published in one of their anthologies. That first foot in the door can prove so important, as the night’s youngest reader, Holly Howitt, must know: she entered and won Leaf’s 2006 Short Short Story competition with ‘Water’ and also had two stories, ‘Rock’ and ‘Harvest,’ highly commended. All were published in their Final Theory & Other Stories anthology.
Since then Holly has written a deliciously dark and highly acclaimed novella, The Schoolboy, and a collection of micro-fiction Dinner Time and Other Stories, both out from Cinnamon Press. She will also be co-editing a micro-fiction/prose poetry anthology that’s due out in the autumn of 2010. She has certainly found her niche in publishing since since studying creative writing in Cardiff: ‘My lecturer, Richard Gwyn, steered me towards prose-poetry and I began to make some sense of my work and how I fitted into literature as a whole – micro-fiction, nano-fiction, flash fiction, sudden fiction….’ Prosetry!
Jasper Fforde, interviewed for the launch issue of Leaf Writers’ Magazine, had quite a different tale to tell: it took him 13 years to get published, and he cited ‘loving what you do’ and ‘being stubborn’ as good qualities to get you through the dark times. ‘Never write to earn a living,’ he added, claiming that the found his creative space when ‘deadlines loomed.’
Next up: I am looking forward to Floralia Festival in Cardiff this weekend, a 2-day lady-led event in honour of Flora, the Goddess of spring and flowers. I shall be appearing at Telling Tales (reading a short story) this Sunday 2 May.
Enjoy the sunshine,
Susie Q x

Saturday, 24 April 2010

BYT: On The Radio/ Dead Poets

Bright Young Things Logo

April 2010

We made it! 24 hours of poetry (I think I was ‘awake’ for about 40 hours in all, and no dead poets. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Thanks to all who came along! You can listen again to my interview on BBC Radio Wales (21 minutes and 52 seconds in). We were raising money for the Hay Poetry Jamboree.
I am shattered but shall write more soon. Until then you can catch me reading a story at Telling Tales in Cardiff on Sunday 2 May (2pm, Cardiff Arms Cafe, Westgate Street, FREE)  and then I’ll be reading poems at Milgi, also in Cardiff, with the Big Fuss residency from 7pm that evening.
Enjoy the sunshine!
Susie Q x

Thursday, 15 April 2010

MS: Naked Librarians & Laugharne Literati (Part 2)

The Mslexia Blog

I heart Laugharne
The fourth Laugharne Weekend may well be the last, so the rumour mill goes, but please say it ain’t so as despite the threat of train strikes and snow storms the Welsh festival still managed to fill me with sun-soaked joy.  This is how it went…
After hitching a lift with Prince Charming to the pretty West Walian town that inspired Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and claiming my weekend festival wristband, I headed off to see funnyman Dan Rhodes, accompanied by Matt Thorne as the ex-Brit School performance poet of the moment Laura Dockrill had cancelled. While I was disappointed not to be treated to her vocal pyrotechnics, it was still a great pleasure to hear this year’sE.M.FORSTER winner read from his excellently gruesome new novel Little Hands Clapping (Canongate) set in a suicide museum. The museum featured the expected celebrity suicides including Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolf, and Kurt Cobain as well as plenty of strange characters and big laughs. All the more surreal for the wake taking place in the rest of the restaurant beyond our curtained room, which meant Dan delivered most of his gags off-mike. Dan also read acrostic poems by school children including his nephew Spike and quizzed the audience – ‘Everyone has a favourite Elton John song, what’s yours?’ – taking the first letters of titles as cues for which story to read from his first collection of 101 stories about girlfriends . It was Dan’s fourth year appearing on the bill at Laugharne, he claimed this was down to ‘a series of clerical blunders.’ The delectable Booker-longlisted author and journalist Matt Thorne read about the comic politics of his creative writing class at St Andrew’s. Anyone who has ever studied creative writing would have laughed and groaned along with him – I know I did.
Next, on Dan’s recommendation, it was over to see former Jayhawk Mark Olson play some gentle folk-country songs with Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Ingunn Ringvold like a true troubadour in The Rugby Club. In the Millennium Hall afterwards Jane Bussman’s celebrity stories were a bitter pill to swallow: and good as her turn of phrase was, her fascinating career story unfortunately comes off far poorer on stage than on paper, so, instead, I found pal Niall Griffiths and his editor, Robin Robertson, the fiercely humoured three-time Forward Prize-winning poet for a drink before heading to the Congregational Church. There I heard a softly-spoken Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch reading from her well-received Picador collection Not In These Shoes before Robin grabbed our attention and showed us exactly why Forward liked him so much. A serious highlight of my weekend, as was the chatter after.
Saturday began with some more great poetry as Academi boss Peter Finch launched his latest amazing experimental poetry collection Zen Cymru and his publisher Seren plied us with wine. Music followed from the Swansea/ Cardiff band No Thee No Ess featuring core members and songwriters Paul Battenbough (King of Despair lead singer) and Andy Fung (Richard James Band) playing their fantastic alt-country Americana vibes complete with pedal steel magic (Jon Berry). The hilarious Welsh novelists Catrin Dafydd and the afore-mentioned Niall Griffiths kicked off some more literary talk and read from their upcoming new novels. Catrin’s new work of fiction, provisionally titled Random Births… (and something still to be decided) is a follow up from the brilliant black comedy Random Deaths and Custard and features the main protagonist Sam Jones, now aged 21, with a baby. From the extracts she read, it is all set to be another winner. Finally the day was rounded off with a look-in at Keith Allen’s three-night talent show Laugharne’s Got Talent featuring teenage dancers in hot pants, the worst band in the world (probably), and some half-decent singer-songwriters. Despite the uneven talent on offer the evening was actually made quite enjoyable by Keith’s put downs and impromptu drumming at inappropriate (quiet, heartfelt) moments. This may or may not be why Keith got punched in the face; the supposedly high-brow audience packed into the Rugby Club’s function room enjoyed themselves at any rate.
Helen Griffin had returned to the festival to present her one woman play Caitlin, which Rachel Trezise popped over to see, but I indulged my inner music geek and went to see the curly-haired Guardian journalist Will Hodgkinson talk about his latest travelogue The Ballad of Britain which, in a wish-I’d-thought-of-it-fashion charts his journey across our fair isle in search of music that captures the spirit of Great Britain today, the results of which he recorded and has now released a book and a CD of the sounds he found. He was joined on stage by Alex and Lavinia from The Trembling Bells each singing traditional songs accapella; joyful. Then it was time for a lunch break and my Prince Charming dragged himself away from researching his next book and whisked me off on a romantic meander around the sights. Laugharne has a fair few of them. The crumbling castle, the waterside walks, Dylan Thomas’ white-washed Boathouse, and his envy-inspiring writing shed, the graveyard where Dylan and Caitlin are buried and where, this year, someone had ‘kindly’ left a half bottle of whisky, as if they hadn’t had enough!
After such R&R it was more than time for some Freud: The Musical, or at least writer and folk singer Charlotte Greig and Anthony Reynolds’ interpretation of it. Songs from Dr Freud’s Cabaret sounded fantastic (both are wonderful musicians) but in my opinion half an hour was far from long enough to cover the vast subject matter; perhaps that’s just the psychology graduate in me? Outside, taking a breather, a table of well known writers and I were accosted by a local lunatic (more than a little worse for wear). She insisted this table of wordsmiths were both ‘students’ and ‘second class citizens’ for coming to Laugharne; proclaiming ‘I go to Hay, it is far superior.’ (Not so, it is just different). She then scared us all into thinking we were going to die at the hands of a mad woman with manic machine gun laughter – all of us expecting a kitchen knife massacre – before she suddenly about-turned changed and invited us to share a bottle of wine with her, at her nearby cosy abode. We declined, politely, and ran for cover, finding ourselves back in the safety of the crowds and the musical afternoon at the Rugby Club.
A stiff drink later, and Race Horses rounded off my afternoon wonderfully. What with the lead singer’s angular energy and pink leopard print tight trousers and their set of sample-soused, amazingly catchy songs – most notably the Beatles-bright ‘Scooter’ –  I guarantee this latest psychedelic pop outing from Wales will be massive. I wound down from the festival talking to the writers Paul Durden (Twin Town), Rachel Trezise, Niall Griffiths, Rob LewisCharlie ConnellyCarys Eleri and the worn out organisers Richard James, Richard Thomas and John Williams as the sun went down on another lost literary and lyrical weekend in Laugharne. The big names may not have made it along this year, but the audience still had plenty of fun. Start campaigning for a Year Five now.
I am reading: Keinc, a fantastic experimental bilingual poetry debut from Rhys Trimble, a John Tripp Award 2009 finalist (which launches tonight) and the new short story collection Touch from Bridport Prize-winning author Graham Mort.
Read More! Until next time,
Susie Q x