Monday, May 19, 2008


Fierce 11: The Launch

Friday brought the launch of Fierce 11. Events opened with a neat twist, we descended into a venue called The Vaults only to discover that, due to a quirk of topology, the apparently subterranean bar had a fairly decent view of the city.

There were very many familiar faces at the event, some not seen for a long time, but the place was too rammed to do much circulating and catching up. Pete and I found ourselves a quiet space next to the stage, which inevitably ceased to be a quite space once the action started. As the stage riser was low and the stage long and narrow, right at the front was the best place to be, so long as you are prepared to beam encouragement at all speakers and clap at the nearest hint of clapping being required.

Front of the crowd put us in the benign but exacting gaze of the host Barbara Nice. In a lazy way I always expect Barbara to be variant on Mrs. Merton, but of course she’s not, she much more fun than that, more dynamic, sparky and playful. After the speeches Miss. High Leg Kick, did her thing, which involved dressing like Lady Di, circa-The Engagement, using a muscular male model for Gym-Practice and rounding off with a few High Leg Kicks – ‘nuff said.

Barbara Nice reclaimed the stage and launched the festival by launching herself headlong into the throng, a stage dive that, as requested, took her all the way to the bar – admirable.

Kevin Isaacs, the festival’s Executive producer urged us all to see five shows and bring along five people. A few years ago I would have eclipsed this number, now there are family responsibilities. With Sarah undertaking her annual insane Markathon – this year the proceeds will be going on repairing the car – all hatches are batoned down. The only show logistics will allow us to see is B1 Labyrinths by Needless Allies, which takes place in the streets during the daytime on Saturday (and Monday). The good news is that this is amongst the shows I’m most anxious to see. Maybe the family Yarker will see you there too.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Bristol Talking

Whilst Craig was in Frankley with Nick B, I jumped on a train to give a talk to some artists as part of Mayfest. It was great to be back in the West Country that it feels like they've got a good thing going on in Bristol. There's a sense that a bunch of courses, including those at the University and Circomedia are churning out graduates who are sticking around and forming companies (Birmingham take note). This year's Mayfest is giving loads of those companies a bit of profile (Birmingham take note), The Tobacco Factory Venue has a great feel to it, on the first floor with a Bar Bellow, Aardman and other media companies above and luxuary appartments, including the owner's condo on the top floor it is part of a fascinating mixed use building and collectively they're persuing an activly green agenda (Birmingham take note). Theatre Bristol appears to be an interesting catalyst for action and they booked me in to give the talk so I'm keen on them already.

In deeply crass summary, Bristol: like Brighton it's got a high hippy factor, but with no beach they're all forced to actually get on and DO SOMETHING and the results, to the outside eye (me) are impressive.



Thursday, May 08, 2008


Theatre Frenzy

There has been a theatre going frenzy. A fortnight ago Sarah and I went to see Amanda in Taming Of A Shrew in Stratford and last night Craig and I went to see a load of people we don’t know in David Edgar’s Testing The Echo.

It’s great that Amanda’s talents have been spotted by the Royal Shakespeare Company at last. Almost inevitably a combination of an unexpectedly early start time and rough Friday traffic led to us arriving just too late to be in our seats from the start and just in time to watch Amanda’s one really big scene on a monitor in the foyer. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn. Still, the blur that was her looked great and although it was tough to hear what she was saying, she was clearly getting a lot of laughs, which, in a Shakespearian comedy, I count as pretty good work.

Once in our seats we had an enjoyable time. The production was relentlessly up-tempo, full of physical business and big acting, but good none-the-less. Inevitably we were left mulling over whether that play can ever really be framed in such a way as to not be read as a misogynist tract? Why do people still bother staging it? If it was exactly the same script but without Shakespeare’s name on it would people still bother staging it?

We are very much looking forward to seeing Amanda in A Merchant Of Venice later in the run and engaging in similar discussions replacing misogyny with Anti-Semitism.

Testing The Echo was at Birmingham Rep and I was on my bike, so even though the show started even earlier there were no problems getting to our seats on time. Running at approximately 110 minutes straight through we were deprived of ice cream but had plenty of time to convene a mini-Critics Corner at the Tap and Spile.

Essentially the consensus runs something like: we like David Edgar, we think he’s sound and we also think he does good jokes. This felt a bit like an early draft script. We could imagine a later version with a number of strands cut and others pursued further. Crucially we thought the production didn’t serve the text at all well. There seemed a fundamental miss-match between a script that was nuanced and relatively open, and a production style that harked back to Agit-Prop. The script explores the complexity around notions of British Citizenship whilst the production tries to make things simple.

We should probably have stayed to say those things at the Official After-Show Discussion. Has anyone ever been to a really good Official After-Show Discussion?



Fruit and Veg Cities Come To Christchurch

Craig and I have had a fun two days in Christchurch School, Birmingham, working with Year 3 building Fruit and Veg Cities.

On Tuesday we looked at pictures of lots of impressive buildings. We imagined what might happen inside these buildings, where they are in the world and why they are shaped as they are. Later we did a quiz identifying many different kinds of fruit and vegetables. We drew pictures of vegetables on coloured paper and cut them out. Then we arranged these vegetables so they looked like buildings and stuck them down. On some of the pictures we added drawings of people to help us imagine how big the buildings might be.

In the afternoon everyone contributed ideas as Craig demonstrated safe ways of cutting and clever ways of joining fruit and vegetables together using cocktail sticks. Finally, working in pairs, the whole class made practice models, which were all very imaginative.

Today, with no spare classroom space we’ve been outside in the warm sun, much to the excitement of the ants. Everyone has been working hard. The whole class has come out in pairs to make their models, whilst inside postcards have been made and messages written from imaginary cities. The models we built in boxes were: the Taj Mahal, The Sydney Opera House, a scenes from Dubai and London, the street we live on, an imaginary city with a big clock tower, a palace that a Queen lives in, a Disney Castle and a huge impressive Mosque.

At the end of the day we carried the diorama boxes in and lots of visitors came in to see what we had done; most were very impressed, some were bemused. Miss Latif said they were fantastic and Mrs. Glock said she’d had a good time helping too.


P.S. Soon we will have gathered together a selection of photographs of the models and add them to the website, we will link to the appropriate page from here.


Friday, May 02, 2008


Podcasting from Frankley

After an extended hiatus, which thankfully everyone has now recovered from, podcasts are starting to eminate from Frankley again and they've started with a good one.

Follow the link to listen.



Thursday, May 01, 2008


Kingstanding Hi-Jinx

The sun shined on the staff of Christ The King Catholic Primary School today. Their school, up in Kingstanding, had been converted into a Polling Station, so they were taking the opportunity to get up to Hi-Jinx on a City Adventure day. Headteacher, Adam, or ‘Sir’, as we like to call him, emerged from a City Adventure at the end of February saying he wanted his whole staff team to go through the experience he had just had and now they have.

Rachel Carter brokered it. Craig did the prep. Jake stepped in to help stuff some of the 561 envelopes involved. Charlotte booked the catering and a whole gang turned out to loiter and lead tasks around the streets. The staff (all women, except ‘Sir’ obviously) seemed like a good bunch and appeared to have had a bit of a riot along the way, throwing themselves into the challenges that involved accosting strangers.

The afternoon was both lively and focussed. Together, we drew parallels between the morning’s activities and their professional lives. Hopefully this will be the start of something big for a school which, judging by the staff we met, must already be fun place to learn. I’ll be spending a few days with them in June making some videos with the kids, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Well done everyone, well done the weather.


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