I need your help!

I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the rest of the funds we need to finish The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family and get it to the Edinburgh Fringe, and beyond, this year. We have the support of IdeasTap, Underbelly, Apples & Snakes and mac birmingham, which is fantastic, but sadly not enough to cover everything. On top of this, we recently had some bad news from the Arts Council regarding a funding application we made to them, so we really are in need of a saviour or two (or a hundred)!

There’s a whole heap of rewards for people who pledge to help the project (anything from a fiver upwards gets you something in return), at the top of which is a personalised commissioned poem PLUS an hour-long intimate spoken-word set performed by me AT YOUR HOUSE! And lots of things in between, like signed copies of my now-sold-out Nasty Little Press pamphlet and signed posters, meet-and-greets, free tickets to the show, all sorts. This is of course alongside the cultural return you get for your investment, which is a show that will hopefully play to thousands of people this summer and to thousands more across the UK on tour next year.

So please help us in any way you can. And if you can’t afford to help us financially, please pester anyone you know who’s rich enough to do so! Spreading the word on your own social media is a really really useful thing, and something for which I’d be enormously grateful.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. I’m so passionate about this project. I hope others believe in it too.

WATCH THE VIDEO AND MAKE A DONATION HERE

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family – full show

In November I developed and twice performed the first twenty minutes of what I hoped would become a full hour-long one-man show. I even wrote about it, and how I hoped it would grow. Well, since then, I’ve found a producer (the apparently super-human Oscar French), found some support and expertise (the apparently omniscient Louisa Davies), found a filmmaker (the apparently nocturnal Paul McHale), found an artistic mentor (the boundlessly talented Inua Ellams), found a rehearsal and performance venue (the definitely real mac birmingham), retained a director (the apparently eternally energetic Polly Tisdall), and – crucially – found some money (from performance poetry overlords Apples & Snakes, and overlord of all overlords Arts Council England). So it’s happening!

Tomorrow morning, Oscar and I, armed with hired film equipment and a plan more flexible than tabloid morals, will embark on a journey from Nottingham to Wembley, hitchhiking whenever we can. We’ll be blogging as we go, on the show’s brand spanking new website. It’s sure to be a genuinely fascinating ride, and hopefully also a genuinely fascinating read! The hitchhike will inspire the show, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family, and the footage we get over the next few days will not only be used as a record of the trip for me to look back on, but will be incorporated into the show too. Details of the performance, how to buy tickets, and everything else you need to know (which is pretty much limited to the details of the performance and how to buy tickets!) is all on the show’s website, but for the sake of ease, and insatiable self-promotion, here are the details in the digi-flesh:

19:30, Saturday 6th September 2014
Hexagon Theatre, mac birmingham
Tickets £5, available here

I really hope to see some of you there. The show will be followed by a brief open-floor discussion in which the audience will be invited to offer feedback, in order to shape the development of the show before (fingers crossed) a UK tour and Edinburgh Fringe run in 2015! So I really hope to see some of you there! I’ll be the tired, dirty, happy traveller, thumbing a ride to the venue…

Hitchhikers promo

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family

Apologies for the massive expanse of time between my last post and this one. It’s been a while. I’ve been so busy that the most I’ve been able to do on this site is keep the gigs page up to date! And hey, I’ve introduced a gig archive section, because everyone wants a record of almost completely useless information, don’t they?! So things have been pretty exciting on here. Not.

But what I’ve been busy doing, actually is, I think, pretty exciting. A number of things have been eating up my time, some more interesting than others, but I’m not here to write about the emergency meeting my housemates and I called in order to deduce what was causing our tumble-dryer to start customising everyone’s clothes in the style of a Jackson Pollock painting (it was an ink cartridge trapped in the filter), or the production of Blue/Orange in which I played Bruce last week, or the mountains of cake we begrudgingly worked our way through after the birthdays of both Millie and Jenna over the weekend, or the fact that we turned my front room upside down into a makeshift film set to make the Method trailer (it will be online soon).

O’, no. I am here to write about the solo show I am currently working on: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family. It’s about my dad and me, and the laughably little we have in common. We are such different men, and the nature of our relationship (or lack thereof) has always fascinated me. So a year and a half ago, on a train back to Birmingham from a gig in London, I started writing about it. I wrote about the few things we do have in common, and the handful of times (at that point, specifically the two times) I’d felt really connected to him. One of those two times was when I watched this video on YouTube, in my first year at University:

Incredible stuff. Spine tingling stuff. That penalty save! Wow. (Or not, depending on how you feel about football.)

My dad is a Luton Town fan, and this match is legendary in our family, or in his mind at least, so it’s become somewhat legendary for me. He wasn’t there when I watched the video, I was on my own in my room in my halls of residence, but I felt like we had shared an experience, across time (24 years of it, from 1988 to 2012) and space (all M42 & A42 of it, from Nottingham to Brum).

He was born in London, moved to Welwyn Garden City, moved to Luton, then moved to Nottingham. Always North, and always directly in line with the M1. Which got me thinking. I decided I wanted to start in Nottingham, where I was born and grew up, and hitchhike south down the M1, stopping off at every place he ever lived, every pub his parents ever ran, and speaking to everyone he never knew (perhaps a bit ambitious but you know what I mean!) until I get to the Wembley. A pilgrimage, if you will, based on football and shared experience, and sountracked by Gerry Rafferty.

Since I started writing 18 months ago, a lot has changed in our family, and I want to reflect that in the longer show I hope this becomes. But for now I have the opening 20 minutes of a one-man spoken-word/theatre piece (whatever anyone wants to decide it is!) which is centred around these 2 experiences I have ‘shared’ (either literally or emotionally) with my dad.

I first performed this 20 minute extract earlier this month as part of ‘Lit Fuse’, a joint Apples & Snakes and mac birmingham venture which featured other new work from the excellent Lily Blacksell, Elisabeth Charis and Roy McFarlane, working with director Polly Tisdall. And I’m performing it again TOMORROW in ‘Biting Tongues’, part of Capital Theatre Festival, again working under the brilliant directorship of Polly Tisdall (who is, by the way, an award-winning storyteller and theatre-maker in her own right), and again alongside Lily Blacksell’s new piece, this time with other new work from good friends and fine Birmingham-based poets Lorna Meehan and Carl Sealeaf.  I honestly think it will be a thoroughly enjoyable evening of new spoken-word/theatre, and I’d love to see as many people there as possible.

The plan after this? Well, go on the hitchhike, for starters!, and then make an hour-long show, possibly even in time for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014, though whisper it quietly…

Scribble Kicks and last-minute gigs

20th November 2012. Can you remember it?

Christmas hadn’t happened.

The world hadn’t ended yet.

The royal baby was still a royal secret.

It was but a humble Tuesday.

Well, you’d remember it if you went to the inaugural SCRIBBLE KICKS, the first ever Writers’ Bloc event at mac birmingham.

To counterbalance Grizzly Pear, our performance-poetry night at the Bristol Pear, I wanted to put on a page-poetry and prose friendly evening of readings in a relaxed and marginally less-bawdy atmosphere, where the emphasis is entirely on the words. Originally Scribble Kicks wasn’t going to have a headliner (and future events, about which I’m currently in discussions with mac (ding! for pretentious managerial-speak points), probably won’t), but it happened to so neatly coincide with the publication of two excellent collections of contemporary British poetry that it would have been foolish to turn down the opportunity to happily marry the two. Abi Curtis’s The Glass Delusion and Luke Kennard’s A Lost Expression are both published by the Man-Booker shortlisted Salt, and it was a privilege to welcome the authors to the cafe-bar at mac to launch the books and read their new work.

Scribble Kicks is nevertheless still all about supporting new and emerging local writers, so there were plenty of open-mic slots available, which provided a platform for an eclectic and delightful range of readings from Writers’ Bloc  regulars, mac‘s own ‘Future Poets,’ undergraduate and MA students at the University of Birmingham, and entirely new faces (to be most encouraged!). I’m very keen to see the event become a place where Birmingham’s writers meet to share work or works-in-progress more formally, drawing on the good work done by Apples and Snakes with their Poets’ Place initiative at Central Library. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the next edition, which I’ll write about on here, as well as on the Writers’ Bloc Facebook page and mac Birmingham‘s website. You can follow me on Twitter, and Writers’ Bloc and mac are also on there.

3rd December 2012. Ring any bells?

NORTH tourIt won’t for most, but for 12 lucky people, it certainly will! On the last Monday of the autumn term, I organised one of the most last-minute gigs in the history of gigs that anyone has actually called a gig. Not only was it called a gig, however, but it was part of a tour…”Girls on Tour”, to be precise. The girls on said tour included the wonderful Sally Jenkinson, a fine spoken-word performer and big-dog at Wandering Word who I had the all-too-brief pleasure of meeting at the Bristol Poetry Festival in September, Liz Greenfield, another excellent poet, and the extremely talented singer-songwriter Dominie Hooper. Seeing an endearingly ramshackle Facebook event page declaring an endearing vague tour of the north with certain dates yet to be filled, I decided to think like a southerner, declare anything from Rugby upwards the ‘north’ and invite the girls to perform in the Beorma Bar in Birmingham Uni’s Guild of Students. Due to the fact that all this happened about 3 days before the date we hit upon, the audience turn out was small. Did I write 12? ha! Can’t you people spot a comic under-exaggeration? Well, it was 12. But my god it was good. The intimate atmosphere, and the fact that, of those 12, half live in my house, leant the evening a generous cosiness, as if I’d invited the three performers into my front room. Sally was great, at turns deeply personal and hilarious, and it was fantastic to finally see her on stage. Liz’s poems were often bizarre, challenging, terribly unPC (therefore also hilarious!), and somehow managed still to contain pockets of breathtaking imagery and metaphor. And Dominie’s performance was simply gorgeous, both musically and lyrically. Of the modest selection of merchandise available from the girls, our house went home with a copy of Liz’s pamphlet, Nobody’s Uncle, and 2 copies of Dominie’s EP, Run It Over, both of which you should buy, now (links are above). Now.

For all the semi-stressed dashing around, it was unquestionably worth it.

So remember kids; if someone asks to read poetry and play music in your pantry in front of paying audience with 10 minutes notice, say yes instantly.