Josie Moon

Poet, Musician and Educator

By

Flaming June

It’s hard to know what to say about life at the moment. My only certainty is uncertainty as we all continue to try to make sense of the strangeness of the times we find ourselves in. I know I’m not alone in feeling time become elastic, contracting and expanding. Days merge and I have to check where we’re up to in the week. Gardening, cooking, sewing have all come to the fore at this time; small, manageable domestic activities that are absorbing, creative and practical.

Foxglove and bee

I’ve been writing. Having some structure to writing, making a plan, being consistent has been helpful. I’ve also been working with fellow artists, keeping projects going, pivoting to respond to the context, trying to keep a balance and not become overwhelmed either by the situation itself or the pressure to respond to it.

Bee in the borage

What has become clear is that arts and artists have been central to helping people keep some equilibrium and some quality to their lives. There has been a plethora of online offers; choirs, theatre productions, operas, stories, art and craft. In the first weeks there was a scramble to get work online. Much of that work has been given away for free, and that may have unforeseen negative consequences for the future.

A friend and supporter of my work sent me a beautiful message on receipt of a copy of A Requiem. I’ll share his words here as they have touched me deeply:

‘The days of performing will come back, and we’ll experience them like never before. I think this Covid-19 crisis is a call to arms, ie ‘hugging arms’ if you like, to heal and give hope to our communities. I think we are going to need all the music, and poetry, and art that we can muster to restore, and re-invigorate our communities. I hope that people begin to recognise THEIR artists as the key-workers that they, that you, truly are.’ Paul Cowgill.

My final thought today is of how badly I miss the sea and how much I look forward to being with and in it again as soon as possible.

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Choir Power

Beginning in February as part of the Sun and Moon Festival, I am setting up a new choir project. Great Grimsby Community Choir goes from strength to strength and it is time to take some of the learning from that wonderful project and bring it over to the East Marsh.

The Peace Choir will focus on songs of solidarity, of peace, power and protest and will hopefully bring together those who wish to use their voices to affect social change. Singing is hugely powerful and important and when voices come together they can make change happen. I will look forward to welcoming all who wish to come but I am particularly hopeful that residents from the East Marsh will come along and join the choir; it is for them. The choir will run on Tuesday evenings for 11 weeks between 7.00 -8.00 pm at the courtyard on Freeman Street Market. Each session will cost £3 per person and that money will be allocated to a seed fund for further choir development. The choir will be accompanied by the brilliant Jo Townell on piano and Sue Baker on violin. Together we will arrange and teach wonderful, relevant songs to empower and inspire.

Singing is good for body and mind. It is proven to release endorphins and to help people with sadness and depression. Singing together is uplifting, positive and joyful. It creates positive energy that can be shared among people.

At the end of this project we will host a special concert to raise food and funds for the Rock Foundation food bank on the East Marsh.

Check out our Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/1428986057262172/

And our Sun and Moon Festival page https://www.facebook.com/sunmoonfestgy/

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A Requiem, on Tour

We have had a great week touring A Requiem. On Sunday 29th September we were at the Herts Jazz Festival, hosted by Clark Tracey. Lovely theatre gig with a very appreciative audience and great vibe. Because it was a festival set, the suite was truncated to fit the time slot but it worked well and felt good to be playing it again after a break. I am finding that the music is affecting me and my performance in subtly different ways each time we perform. I have always responded to Song Without Words and found it a deeply affecting piece but this week I have been listening intently to Dark at the Edges and Sacred Music both if which seem to haunt me.

These pictures were taken by Mike O’Brien at Herts and I share them here with Mike’s kind permission.

Josie Moon at Herts Jazz Festival – Mike O’Brien
Alan Barnes Octet with Josie moon @ Herts – Mike O’Brien

On Wednesday we set off on a long drive to Swansea to play the opening night of the Swansea Jazzland International Festival. The venue was a little pub tucked away on a high street and had a more traditional, earthy feel to it. We received a very warm welcome from the Swansea team and from the audience who were most attentive and generous in their response.

From Swansea we headed over to The Stables at Wavenden. This gig was a real treat. Beautiful theatre, comfortable and a good size yet still intimate. I was especially excited to be there as Cleo Laine was a performer who fascinated me as a child. I used to love seeing her on TV with her fabulous hair and dresses, singing in that unique style. I was a little more nervous than usual but I really enjoyed the event and had some warm and wonderful conversations with members of the audience after the show.

The Stables – Wavenden

On Monday we head off to Southport for the last of our October dates. Between now and October 12th, I have a special offer regarding the sale of the book. You can purchase A Requiem for just £5. Simply email msjosiemoon@gmail.com to order copies. The book features all the poems performed as part of the show plus extras. The artwork is by renowned North East Lincolnshire artist Dale Mackie. See Dale’s work here: https://www.dalemackie.com/

Book cover – A Requiem

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Autumn Equinox

How Waves Work

Autumn has certainly arrived and it feels a little damp and dreary today after the balmy days of summer that have been generous and long. Last night at choir, we pretty much finished the first of our new Christmas songs and it didn’t feel too odd singing it in September as it was dark and rainy outside.

We celebrated the equinox in heartwarming style with the wonderful staff and children of St Mary’s RC Primary School in Grimsby. The whole school formed an enormous circle in the playground to sing their favourite song, The Power, while we filmed them for our Sun and Moon Festival community film.

Community is at the heart of this season, of Mabon, the moment where autumn really arrives. Whether you attend church and share in a harvest festival supper, or are taking in your geraniums and fuchsias for a winter rest, or walking a labyrinth, taking a spirit journey or otherwise marking this tender and lovely time, may the peace of the season be with you.

It’s worth remembering that amidst the chaos of the public sphere at present and the insanity around the whole Brexit debacle, that all things pass. Here’s a poem from A Requiem to remind us of how small we are.

How Waves Work

Under a big sky

greater than the reach of day

are all light’s colours;

a bright abundance,

reflected in sheets of watery light.

Waves work on the shore,

a harmonious polyphony 

of sound, light and air,

crossing miles of sea

to end here.

Under a big sky

waves reflect us,

energetic flow;

universal life force, 

the ocean running through.

Salt touches all things

turns us to fins and gills

breathing the beginning,

place of origin.

Remember we were born

from the great nothing.

Like waves 

we form, rise and break

into darkness.

Each of us mundane,

miraculous,

mutable.   

Sunflowers in the dark

By

Finding the Words

The Big Sea

August was going to be the big month of novel writing. I had such plans. This book has been percolating since 2017 and it feels important and pressing. Getting to it is not straightforward as I’ve discovered. All manner of things get in the way of having a long run at writing, from laundry to projects out in the world that just need attention. I feel as if I am almost getting to things that need to be done but not quite and that includes the novel.

There are about 40,000 words of novel in existence. there are chapters, notes, fragments and plans. There are lists, drawings, mind maps and associated novel paraphernalia. I am confident that there will be a novel.

It’s just gone 4.00 pm, the tide is low and it’s perfect weather for swimming but I know I won’t. Swimming is another thing to get to; it requires preparation, including 20 mins of wrestling with wet-suit and sea socks. It has been on my plan of what must be done every day this week – it is yet to happen.

However, the sea is calling and I will answer, even if it is only to go and observe it. That might be enough today. And who knows, tonight, when the sun goes down and the world goes quiet, I might find the words and write some of that novel.

By

A Requiem

A Requiem, the poetry collection available now for £9 inc P&P. Email Josie Moon msjosiemoon@gmail.com

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A Requiem alongside A Soldier Through Time

Monday was a monumental day. A great team assembled – better than the X Men, better than the Avengers, even better than Charlie’s Angels. These were real heroes; champions of music and children. Something spectacular happened.

Around 800 children under the direction of the inspirational Caroline Gooch performed A Soldier Through Time, supported by the La Luna creative team, a wonderful live band and a crew of staff who held the day together and made it deeply moving and immensely successful. The children sang their songs so beautifully and with such conviction and the story of Monsieur Perdu, a young French cartwright living in 1915 and facing war came to life for an audience of rapt parents and friends.

It has been such a pleasure to run this project in partnership with NEL Music Hub and to work with such a committed and engaged team of artists and teachers.

Here’s one of the songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8-jB6cexDk

Below is one of the stirring images from the work by artist Darren Gallagher.

The day continued with the first performance of the official tour of A Requiem with the Alan Barnes Octet and featuring the Great Grimsby Community Choir and Youth Voices, once again under the direction of Caroline. It is a challenging and wonderful work to perform and we were all delighted with how it went. The choirs added a further depth and dimension to an already rich and moving work.

The tour continues with two further gigs in July; Alford on July 20th and LLandudno on July 28th. The full details are below in the poster

A Requiem the book is now available to purchase direct from me for £9 inc P&P. Email msjosiemoon@gmail.com to order.

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Prizing our Teachers, Prizing our Children

Illustration from A Soldier Through Time by Darren Gallagher.

Over the course of June, the La Luna team has been working in schools in NE Lincs delivering A Soldier Through Time, a music and drama workshop exploring the impact of war on individuals and communities. The project has allowed us to work with around 800 children and will culminate in the Key Stage 2 Singing Festival on July 8th at Grimsby Auditorium.

The workshops have challenged children to explore a dilemma; the choice of a young man from a French village in 1915 who feels the call to war but has fears and reservations. Together children have explored the dilemma and worked out for themselves what they think. They have shown compassion, empathy and maturity beyond their years while tackling one of the most complex problems human beings face; war.

It has been moving and uplifting to work with the children and to hear their thoughts and opinions. They have surprised us, made us laugh and brought tears to our eyes.

We have been welcomed into the schools, looked after with endless cups of tea and thanked effusively for the work. We appreciate that enormously. And that leads me to the heading of this post. Our teachers are wonderful. They work incredibly hard, are committed and dedicated and they really value the children in their care. They are underpaid, overworked and still standing and I salute them. If it were up to me they would all be getting 200% pay rises and at least another three well paid assistants to help them in their classrooms. They would be prized, trusted and applauded for all they do.

And the children are wonderful, all of them. They are a joy to work with and they deserve so much more freedom and creativity to explore and learn in a non prescribed way. When you trust children to explore and present their ideas they produce glorious work. Creativity should be at the heart of learning and we have seen clear evidence than when it is, results are remarkable.

Thank you teachers and children of NE Lincs, we really appreciate you.

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The Gauleiter and His Pig

With the European Elections tomorrow and our politics so sullied and divisive I am sharing this poem from Poems from the Swamp, my 2018 collection.

The Gauleiter and his Pig

The Gauleiter and his pig reside here

in the swamp, a septic, infected sty,

poisoned with wormwood for false prophecy.

Their respectability has that stink

of swill that clings like thin grease, that chokes throats,

an insinuation of rancid filth.

They can wash their hands, insipid Pilates,

and never know what it is to be clean.

The people have spoken, so it is claimed

across this newly grim, unpleasant land

where mandrakes strangle healthy plants,

fervoured tendrils spread amidst the sane,

sanguine folk of once fair-minded islands

made pestilential and sabre-rattling

when pigs and Gauleiters take command.

This pig and Gauleiter feed on censure,

patrol the streets, sniff out the shunned,

hunt the dreamers, the effete, the forceless,

poison the water, spread lies, deception

that find keen reception in willing ears.

These guardians of now lost Albion

with pig battalions in eager service

goose step, relentless over small town swamps,

spread venom and violence with every tramp.

People need their pigs in lipstick, patsies,

apologists, pimps and panders.

These quiet and not so quiet fascists

impose spurious jurisdiction,

shift civilisation’s paradigm

spawn bleak new dawns of moral disaster,

bring terror, trauma and catastrophe.

This Gauleiter and his wallowing pig

inhabit the swamp imperiously,

belching obscene absurdity.

The cowed folk quake and scuttle with truffles

to sate and satisfy lusty tumescence,

with Destroying Angel, Fly Agaric,

to avoid the cosh, the Taser, the mace.

But nothing placates appetites like these

where only the hunger, the greed is fed.

The sty turns seamier, with deepening stench,

while mists from the quagmire writhe and hiss,

meander in serpentine gyres and twists,

layering the space where once light fell

with impenetrable shadows from boundless Hell.

Once before, in still living memory

the fair-minded folk of a place like this

thrilled in denouncing friends and neighbours,

those whose faces no longer fit.

Trucks rattled the bones of human cargo

along tracks destined for nightmarish swamps.

Pigs and Gauleiters wallowed in loss,

caroused at perdition and extermination,

a Saturnalia of uncountable cost. 

This Gauleiter, pig, and the onlookers 

are droghers who’ll carry the weight of the swamp,

a shipment of shame beyond all atoning

long after this tale and its tellers are gone.

By

Pisagua

It is 40 years since Thatcher became PM in Britain. Her election ushered in change that damaged the fabric of society, destroyed communities and began the steady dismantling of the country’s infrastructure. I have a strong and abiding loathing of her and all she stood for.

It is arguably not widely known that Thatcher regarded Pinochet of Chile as a good friend and ally. I am currently re-reading Andy Becket’s excellent book Pinochet in Piccadilly which details the strange, fascinating and disturbing story of Thatcher and Pinochet.

When I first read the book I wrote the poem below. The poem returned to me as I read comments fawning over Thatcher and as I picked up the book again.

Pisagua

1973

The trucks began to arrive

and cries rang from those

who dragged themselves

naked

up the glass-strewn nitrate slopes.

No visitors.

No Red Cross.

Executions took place

beside the cemetery.

Now an unscarred monument

in black and blue and red

guards the place of the dead.

Vultures still circle overhead.

There is a memorial to the dead in Pisagua, pictured above; a solemn and frightening piece of wall art that tells the story of those taken, tortured, murdered and left in a mass grave under Pinochet’s orders.