I’m not sure where time goes. One minute it was midsummer and I was performing in fields in wellies. The next people are asking me what my plans for the festive season are. I don’t plan that far in advance. Although if the rain keeps on falling then hibernating under blankets with a pile of good books and my laptop seems most likely. I do have a novel to complete, after all. Hopefully, though, the rain will stop falling, I will be coaxed out for the whoosh-bang fun of a postponed Fireworks display and the weather will return to a glitter of frost, snug layers and I-can-see-my-own-breath cheap thrills. There are many reasons to hope for this, including the luxury of having finished my own book tour and being able to enjoy other people’s literary performances and some top new theatre.
First up, I must congratulate the Seren poets Pascale Petit and John Haynes whohave both been shortlisted forthe T S Eliot Prize. They join Simon Armitage, Annie Freud, Seamus Heaney, Robin Robertson, Fiona Sampson, Brian Turner, Derek Walcott and Sam Willetts on what is a mighty fine list. I’ve particularly enjoyed the collections of Pascale, Robin and Simon and wish them all well. The winner will be announced on the evening of Monday 24 January 2011 at the T S Eliot Prize award ceremony, which will be held in the Courtyard at the Wallace Collection.
BayLit: Shock of the New offered a truly enjoyable programme of events in Cardiff Bay. I was particularly impressed by the Plymouth-based Hannah Silva’s theatrical poetics at the TXT2 event examining innovations in performance and technology for poets and spoken word artists. With other top performances from Rufus Mufasa, Liam Johnson, Ceri Elen and Byron Vincent it was the sort of evening that makes me want to up my game. As such I look into my crystal ball and see a lot of re-edits and rehearsals. The Saturday also showcased plenty of scope for new directions and innovative discussion as Tyler Keevil and I finished off the Bright Young Things tour, with talking points focusing on e-books and how the writing process may change for authors with the interactive novel. It also saw the announcement that the novella ‘Arrivals’ from my debut short story collection is to be released as a Kindle Single very, very soon. So hark at me moving with the times.
We were followed by the brilliant Welsh literary magazine The Raconteur who have relaunched as a digital entity, still with the same great writing, but now completely for free. It really was a fascinating look into new angles in publishing, and reader expectations and trepidations. How do you feel about digital magazines? Do you own any e-books? Do you read them? Fellow Bright Young Thing JP Smythe has written an interesting article on all this forThe Raconteur. I’ve also been getting fascinated on all topics technology, and recommend this brilliant essayGeneration Why? by Zadie Smith for insights into Facebook, Generation 2.0, and the film The Social Network.
Due to my rather crazy schedule of late, I’ve missed a few launches. One of these is Simone Mansell-Broom’s first full-length poetry collection Cardiff Bay Lunch (Lapwing Publications, 2010). Simone is a regular on the Live Lit scene. Luckily for you prolific blogger Kath Eastman was there to report. Saying that, I was pleased to make it along to the Cardiff launch of Seren’s anthology of dark and chilling tales Sing Sorrow Sorrow featuring short readings from great writers including Imogen Rhia Herrad, Roshi Fernando, Maria Donovan, Charlotte Greig, Tristan Hughes and Richard Gwyn. Tristan is not long back from a lengthy stint in Canada, now with a new novel completed, and a new post as Research Fellow at Cardiff University. Other appointments in the world of academia include Jasmine Donahaye and Jon Gower who have just joined the Creative Writing team at Swansea University. I’d also recommend joining Cinnamon Press for the launch of new poetry titles from Alison Bielski and Jane Monson on Weds 17 November. The free event forms part of Academi’s Literature Programme in the Wales Millennium Centre. Bar One, 7.30pm.
Rachel Trezise has been pretty busy too. As well as becoming an ambassador to The Dylan Thomas Prize, along with Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert, she has also finished her ‘New’ novel: “so it’s the ‘old’ novel now I guess.”
This weekend I’m looking forward to seeing and reviewing a double bill of new theatre, starting with National Theatre Wales’ celebration of one of Wales’ most distinctive voices of the last century with ‘The Dark Philosophers’, a brand new dramatisation of the comic tales of Gwyn Thomas. That’s my Friday night, over in Newport’s Riverfront. I’m following it up with UNDEB-VELOMENT in Cardiff on Saturday, where Undeb Theatre will be launching three news plays onto the public, and then partying into the night.
In fact, it is a pretty good month for theatre in Wales with the news that National Theatre Wales is launching an unprecedented five-year project to help up-and-coming theatre companies and artists explore new ideas, thanks to a generous grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The programme, entitled WalesLab, will give theatre practitioners a rare chance to develop their ideas in locations across Wales. Under the guidance of National Theatre Wales, they will share the results of their work online and at artist ‘summer camps’. Up to 240 artists will be reached directly through the programme over the five-year period, with many more benefitting through online elements. Funding of up to £483,000 will be given over the course of the programme, all of which will go directly to work with emerging artists and companies. Great news for writers, performers and audiences alike, I think you’d agree.