Josie Moon

Writer, Musician and Community Artist

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Hollowbone: Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening

https://www.kathryntickell.com/shop/items/albums/hollowbone Hollowbone is the 2015 album from Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening.

My original choice of album this week was Strange but True but it didn’t grab hold of me and so I went in search of more Kathryn Tickell and found Hollowbone which I’ve been listening to since the middle of the week and which has weaved its magical way into my psyche. It blends the contemporary and the traditional with vibrant arrangements and has a potent, stirring energy. I particularly love Hushabye Birdie/Hexham Lasses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbYMYGEkyvc&list=RDK3epYlJChcQ&index=5

I’ve long admired Kathryn Tickell and her impressive career as musician, teacher, musicologist and curator of valuable tradition. I enjoy listening to her shows on Radio 3 where she displays an abundance of warmth and knowledge and sheer love of music. She is central to the cultural life of the North East both in her work at Newcastle University – she was one of the founders of the Folk and Traditional Music BA course and where she still teaches – and through her foundation for young musicians. https://www.kathryntickell.com/biography She also works with The Sage in Gateshead.

Over a long and luminous career, Kathryn Tickell has worked with many musical collaborators including Linda Thompson, Andy Shepherd and The Penguin Café Orchestra to name a few. She has an extensive discography and continues to innovate and explore the music of the North East and Borders, bringing new and subtle layers in her arrangements and performances of traditional songs and tunes.

I am five days older than Kathryn Tickell. We are Summer of Love children, born under the sign of Gemini in 1967. I was destined to pass through Newcastle and the North East between 1985-89, my university years, which I reflect on as truly golden and formative. I lived in Gateshead, Fenham and Heaton and enjoyed making music in the pubs and folk clubs of that time- particularly upstairs at The Broken Doll on Wednesday nights It was a marvelous pub, famous for the blues but hospitable to enthusiastic students running a small folk club. Sadly it was destroyed in the interests of town planning and progress. It was a wonderful place.

It broke my heart to leave Newcastle and for some years I vowed to return. However, life takes us on our own paths and it was not to be. I have a wistful and happy remembrance of those years and I have visited a couple of times since; occasions imbued with the bitter/sweet emotions of retracing steps.

The vibrant presence of Kathryn Tickell, igniting passion for music, playing so magnificently and being a true Queen of the North lifts my spirits. The North East is an enriched and fortunate place for having her in it.

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Horses: Patti Smith

Horses is the debut studio album by American musician Patti Smith. It was released on November 10, 1975 by Arista Records

Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.

The opening line of this seminal album still raises the hairs on the back of my neck. This week I have immersed myself in the life and work of Patti Smith, rediscovering Horses, watching astonishing videos of performances and interviews and reading not only her work, The Coral Sea and Just Kids but other writing about her and her extraordinary life and work.

One morning this week, feeling unusually energised in this strange time in our collective lives, I danced to the whole of Gloria, in my pyjamas, shaking my whitening locks and soaking in the raw, energetic brilliance of it.

There is so much written about Patti, her life and her work, and so much critical appraisal of Horses that it is hard to know what to add. There are two personal moments of intersection with Patti Smith’s life and work that have returned to me as I’ve been listening and reading. One was my recollection of seeing her 1976 performance of Horses on the Old Grey Whistle test. I didn’t see it in 1976 because I was nine years and it was on late at night. I saw it in the early eighties, probably 84/85 during a repeats season. I was emerging as a young woman, curious about the world, about art, intent on discovery. I was encountering feminism for the first time and beginning to question the paradigms of femininity in my own life and culture. There was Patti, snarling out of the screen, androgynous, raw, powered with an energy unlike anything I’d seen. I found her a bit scary. I was used to seeing a very different presentation of women in music, often doll-like, obscured by hair and make-up. As a little girl I had cavorted around the living room every Thursday evening, imitating the dance moves of Pans People/Legs and Co on Top of the Pops, believing this was a zenith of female achievement and artistic expression. Patti was not that.

My second intersection with Patti’s world was an unexpected surprise. In 2012, on holiday in Scotland, myself and friends discovered that Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs were on display in the arts centre in Dunoon. It was a cold March day in a small town where we spent a thoughtful couple of hours with these provocative and moving works.

The Romantic, Bohemian sensibility of Patti Smith, and Robert Mapplethorpe imbued their life and work from the moment of their chance meeting in New York. Rimbaud and Blake were their guides and watching Patti now, singing In My Blakean Year, with her band, masked for our times, bringing in 2021, her words joy will conquer all despair take on a whole new depth and resonance.

Patti now has all the grace and power of a magus, a shamanic crone, shimmering with gravitas. Her generosity and compassion radiate from her. After all her losses, her tragedies she could have so easily succumbed to bitterness and corrosive sorrow; instead she stands in the light and offers her hand to all and invites us to dance with her and to embrace hope and responsibility for a better future.

If you’ve not seen it yet – watch this.

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Listening to Women

Over the course of the past year me and my best human have listened to music compiled from lists of the top jazz, reggae and folk-rock albums. It has been a year of discovery, re-discovery, deep listening and learning; and mostly great enjoyment. A few albums were binned after one listen (not many) because in spite of an open mind, some work was unlistenable, at least to our ears.

Through the course of the year, it became apparent to us both that there was something missing, something unbalanced in our lists. Women. There were just too few women represented in the compilations. We decided that in 2021 we would have a dedicated list of 52 albums by women to listen to over the course of the year, one per week. And I decided that I would write a blog post each week to accompany the listening.

I have chosen the list. Much of the music I have chosen I do not know very well or at all. I want to expand my range of listening and to hear women’s voices from across the world. A few of the albums are revisits, works I have admired in the past but have not encountered for a while.

It would have been easy to compile a list of my personal favourite albums by women but that is not the point of this exercise. I know what I already admire, I want to expand and explore. The list I have compiled is not in order. There is no hierarchy, no subjective ‘best album by a woman ever’ for week 52. Those kinds of lists are a helpful starting point but not a useful end. Each album on my list is to be approached as a world of its own, a place to explore and enjoy without an artificial ranking, decided by a music critic.

Each week, my blog post will explore the album and some of the context around it. I am sure there will be albums I don’t much like- that is inevitable because taste is subjective. But I know I will discover treasures along the way. I imagine that some of my revisits will be disappointing because I am not the person now that I was when I first encountered those works.

Of course there are thousands of great albums in the world by women and I am exploring just 52 of them. There are works I have decided not to include for a number of reasons, in spite of some of them being considered iconic. I have a feeling that this process is a starting point and that I will be wandering into wonderful musical realms of discovery and finding more to explore along the way.

I will publish a new post each week to accompany this musical odyssey and I hope readers will enjoy the posts and the music.

I wish everyone a good year and I hope 2021 will be better for all the beings of the earth and the planet herself.

Peace.

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Join the Sun and Moon Festival for Advent

It is the season of Advent in this strangest of years and I am very pleased that East Marsh United and the Sun and Moon Festival team have been able to undertake some beautiful work in the run-up to Midwinter.

We have been working with our families on art and craft activity and have been delighted with the response to our Christmas Lantern Project. Many families have been able to join in and make the lanterns at home. It’s always lovely to receive a message and a photograph from our participants and to see how much they have enjoyed taking part.

Lantern

Our Online Advent Calendar launches on December 1st and it will feature lanterns, artwork from our families, writing from the East Marsh Writers and more. In these unique times it has been impossible to offer live events at our base on Freeman Street Market and so we have done our best to find alternative ways of working. In addition to our calendar we also have a bumper edition of our online magazine, The Proud East Marshian launching this week. You can find all of our editions for 2020 here: https://www.sunandmoonfestival.org/proudeastmarshian

We are lucky at the Sun and moon festival to have a great team of artists and participants and we prize everybody for their contributions. It is exciting to watch the flourishing and growth that happens in our project. Through Advent we are delighted to share with you a project from two wonderful young artists, Lisa February and Matt Gray. We asked them to create a new piece of drama, suitable for families. Given all the constraints around Covid 19, this was a challenge.

Lisa and Matt have written, recorded and produced a beautiful four-part audio drama The Girl and the Gull especially for this time of year. Episode One aired yesterday, on Advent Sunday at 4.00 pm and the remaining episodes will air each Sunday throughout Advent. You can hear Episode One here: https://www.facebook.com/sunmoonfestgy/videos/1086737588429593

The episodes, with subtitles will soon be available on our Sun and Moon Festival YouTube channel.

Please visit our page on Facebook for up-to-date information about what we’re doing, and do have a peaceful Advent.

https://www.facebook.com/sunmoonfestgy

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Light

In these short dark days and long nights, light is ever more important. Over the coming month in the run up to Christmas I will be focusing my writing and my photography on light.

This year has been immensely difficult for everyone and I fear worse is to come as we head into 2021 and increasingly dystopian times. However bleak things are and however much bleaker they might become, there is always light.

This is the final verse from A Requiem and it feels so very relevant.

Let there be rest. Let there be peace.

Let bloodshed, war and violence cease.

Let us seek with all courage that which is right,

When darkness falls, let us search for light.

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For Sale: The Magic Garden; A Covid Christmas: a beautiful and reassuring brand new picture book for children.

What if Santa Claus has to self -isolate? What if Christmas is in peril? Never fear, Carrie, Cosmo, Monster the cat and all the creatures in the garden have a plan.

Featuring beautiful illustrations by Vivienne May and an original story by Josie Moon, The Magic Garden; A Covid Christmas tackles worries about Covid 19 from children’s point of view and offers a reassuring and magical tale about solving problems and adjusting to challenging times.

Order a limited edition softback copy of this reassuring book for just £7 inc P&P from Josie Moon by emailing: msjosiemoon@gmail.com

Also available. Let’s Go To Space and Sail Away, two epic adventures ideal for children aged 5 -10. £7 each or buy both for £10 inc P&P.

Buy all three books for £15 inc P&P.

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Living at the Edges

At this time, it feels like the edge of the world has risen up to meet us and we are tipping and tilting on a precipice that is ever-shifting. Multiple crises surround us and the failure of our systems, governments and structures are visible, perhaps more visible than ever before. It is easy to stumble and fall off the edge, to feel overwhelmed by waves of despair and hopelessness. Our smallness and lack of control over our world is revealed and it is not comfortable.

What do we do when that overwhelm comes and the world tilts? Each of us will find different ways of coping and of dealing with those primal flight/fight instincts we all have. My instinct, after dealing with either fight or flee, is to turn to two sources of wisdom and solace; nature and story.

The natural world, particularly the sea and the sky remind me of the mutability of existence, of constant change. An hour spent watching the sea is a lesson in accepting change. No two waves break in the same way. The light shifts moment by moment. As you stand there gazing, you too shift and change, in small but important ways. The same with the sky. Watch a sunrise or a sunset, they are dynamic experiences, full of wonder and change.

This year, gardening has been more important to me than ever before. Tending a small urban garden through the lockdown, watching it grow, caring for it gave structure and order to the day, and a place to lose myself and my fear and anxiety over the chaos ‘out there.’ Putting the garden ‘to bed’ for the winter this year feels like a solemn responsibility and an act of thanks and gratitude for all the garden has given me this year.

Story has been my other place of refuge. I have been writing but also forging a path back to reading and to the stories and tales I love. I have found it hard to read this year and have done so in short bursts. I have made a commitment to myself to read over the winter; to read the books I know I need to read, to rediscover the stories and tales that I need to help me make sense of the world and to step back from the edge and into the mysterious embrace of myth.

This is where nature and story intersect for me. The stories I want and need are stories about the land – and the sea – and our connection to it. I want to root deep into story and deep into the earth, while reaching for the sky and tasting the salt of the sea. This is where I will find balance, strength and courage to navigate the coming tumult and play my part in the world.

I wish everyone solace, strength and solidarity.

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It’s National Poetry Day

This time last year I was touring with The Alan Barnes Octet. We were touring A Requiem, a Jazz and Poetry collaboration which was written to commemorate and comment on a century of global conflict. Working with Alan and those superb musicians was a creative highlight of my life, a hugely enjoyable and rich experience and I look back with enormous gratitude at having had that opportunity. Two years prior we toured Fish Tales which celebrated the history, mythology and legacy of the Grimsby fishing industry. I never imagined that I would write about either war or fishing but part of the delight of creative life is to be surprised by what you can do.

Given the current context and the terrifying threat to the arts in the UK, presented by both Covid and a lack of support from the government, artists find themselves staring into an abyss and wondering what kind of a future there is for this essential part of human experience. Life without the arts can only be arid, desperate and sad. To be advised to ‘get a better job’ in the face of rising unemployment, shrinking opportunity and a UK isolated from the world is as offensive as it is unrealistic.

There is a terrible imbalance in the creative arts nationally, one that was longstanding before the current crisis. Access to the arts is increasingly limited to the middle classes, those with means and connections. The direction of travel over the past decade has been away from arts for all towards limited enclaves where not enough varied voices are heard. The education system has played a significant part in this with arts being constantly demeaned and undervalued while the STEM agenda has been relentlessly peddled, pushing children and young people in directions where they are not necessarily going to find fulfillment. It’s not enough to have arts as an afterthought or extra-curricular. A decent education should encompass and value the arts as equal to science and mathematics.

Before the pandemic, work was underway to address cultural imbalances, including leading work from the Arts Council and their publication of the Creative case for Diversity: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/diversity/creative-case-diversity

It would be a travesty to not centralise diversity as part of arts recovery in the UK post pandemic.

This year’s theme for National Poetry Day is Vision. Artists have vision, they have sight, insight and intuition in abundance. But sometimes it is hard to see, especially in times of great stress and duress. Vision is hard to find if you’re worried about losing your livelihood, feeding your family, keeping your home. However, it is important to not let go of artistic vision. Perhaps now more than at any other time in recent history we need vision and visionaries, artists who will sing, write, paint and create a future that could just be better than the past we have had to let go. I believe that each one of us is an artist and that with our creativity we can envision and create a better world with much broader and wider representation, particularly in terms of social class. I would love to be proved right.

A Requiem on CD is available here: http://www.woodvillerecords.com/Requiem.htm

The book can be purchased direct from me for £8.50 inc P&P

email msjosiemoon@gmail.com to order

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Bloody Amazing!

Breaking taboos
I am pleased and proud to have been been published in a taboo-busting collection of poems written by women all over the UK. Bloody Amazing! explores the health and social issues that affect experiences of women of all ages yet are hardly ever talked about: periods and menopause.
The anthology is intended to be a conversation-starter for everyone. If you’ve never had a period, you’ll find out what it’s like not just to experience it physically, but also to function on an everyday basis while you work hard to hide your secret. And as for what happens when it all stops…
It is a book of very human experiences, full of humour, grit, anger, pain, hot flushes, mood swings and, of course, blood.


Bloody Amazing! already has celebrity support in the form of comedian Jenny Eclair, author of Older and Wider – A Survivor’s Guide to the Menopause. She took very little persuading to write the foreword:

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a collection of poetry that is so relevant and accessible about something that happens to around half of the planet at some stage of their lives. Who’d have thought that periods could inspire such a torrent of beautiful words? … I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

I was inspired to write about my experience of the onset of menopause. I am entering the third age and have to come to terms with letting go of my youth. It is painful and challenging. My hair is turning white, I have expanded around the waist and I am finding that my body often feels like a stranger to me. The unknown country of the future currently feels very disorientating.

I have been reflecting on my bleeding life, remembering the trauma and difficulty I experienced for decades. I was adept at avoiding school -especially PE lessons during periods. I lived in terror of the boys in my peer group going through my bag and finding sanitary towels and using them as a weapon of humiliation. I remember sitting my O Level English Literature exam in agony and under-performing as a consequence. I look back and shudder at the days I spent curled up around hot water bottles, lying in hot baths, battling three-day long migraines that became an unmanageable, chronic condition.

I remember one particularly horrible day at work when the pain was so bad, I slid down the wall outside my classroom and slumped on the floor wondering how the hell I was going to get up and get through the hour and forty minutes ahead of me with twenty rambunctious A Level Literature students. A colleague (female) saw me there and made a lairy comment, insinuating that I should ‘man up.’ And that’s often the problem isn’t it? Women are expected to behave as if they are not bleeding, not in pain, not struggling month after month after month – and sadly I’ve often found female colleagues unsympathetic simply because they breeze through their bleeds with no issues and can’t empathise.

The irony now, as I cease to bleed, as periods are down to one or two a year, is that when they come I welcome them like an old friend. I put this down to grief. I am grieving for the part of my life that is coming to an end and it is a complicated physical and psychological process. This is why this book is so special and so important. It brings together a flood of women’s experience. It is a bold, brave and timely collection.

Only last year, I burst into tears listening to Dawn Butler talk seriously about legislation to help women in the work place with menstruation and menopause, bringing this subject into the public domain and acknowledging its importance. Sadly we will now have to wait longer for that legislation, for social and political change that acknowledges and understands bleeding and all its attendant issues in a grown-up way. But this book supports the movement for change.


Co-editors Gill Lambert of https://www.yafflepress.co.uk/ and Rebecca Bilkau of https://beautifuldragons.net/ came up with the idea for the anthology after a conversation about how difficult it is to talk openly about menopause and menstruation.

“Women have kept quiet for centuries about ‘women’s problems’ but the taboo is beginning to crumble, especially with excellent campaigns like Bodyform’s #wombstories or initiatives such as The Vagina Museum in London. That’s why we thought it was a timely idea for the two publishing houses to combine forces with poets to create an anthology that addresses the taboos and experiences around menopause and menstruation. And they haven’t let us down.”


All proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards period poverty charities.

Bloody Amazing! is £10 + £1.50 P&P and is available on www.bloodyamazing.co.uk.

Cover art by Jane Burn. Find out more about Jane at: https://www.culturematters.org.uk/index.php/itemlist/user/683-janeburn

https://www.facebook.com/jane.burn.5

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Autumn Arriving

Sunrise over the sea.
Equinox Sunrise

The season of being surprised by spiders has arrived. This year it’s the Daddy Long Legs variety that are appearing regularly in my hair or in the way as I navigate webs and busy little arachnids doing their autumn clean up. A money spider decided to tickle my feet yesterday and I know there’s a heck of a bruiser lurking somewhere in the bedroom but I can’t find him at present.

The late September warmth and soft sunlight are welcome. I don’t want the cold and damp just yet; I’m not ready. We had such a long and lovely spring it seems almost inconceivable that soon it will be time for thick socks and long stretches of darkness. It’s as if I’d forgotten about winter completely.

I am not a morning person on the whole. I have found getting up and getting going tricky since the age of about thirteen. I would love to be a lark and to leap out of bed with the sunrise and crack on. However, I have been making the effort to get up and get to the beach to see the beautiful sunrise, or at least the last bits of it. It is its own reward, a sublime experience, a connection between the smallness of self and the vastness of sea, sky and sun. The photos don’t do it justice, but they do record moments in time and I can look at them and remember the feeling of joyous connection.