I was going to call this blog post Spirit of Jazz in recognition of the fantastic CD The Spirit of Trane by Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble because the band had me and the rest of the audience in rapture last night at Grimsby Jazz’s final gig of 2017. But actually it’s spirit I want to write about because it has been a week of feeling spirit in so many lovely ways and although last night was the apex there have been some fantastic moments of community and togetherness that I want to try to capture.
When we talk about spirit what do we mean? I think it’s a word that is myriad in its meaning and probably context specific. There was a spirit in the room last Friday when the community choir performed at Cambridge Court. There was a sense of shared purpose and fellowship which I think is captured in these pictures.
I know I talk a lot about the power and the value of singing together but it comes home when we go out into the community and perform. The choir’s spirit is immense; big-hearted, generous and welcoming. Monday evenings at St Mark’s should be available on prescription.
Last night’s gig at Grimsby Jazz was just spectacular. Gilad Atzmon is a genius and I would never use that term glibly. When Gilad plays Euterpe enters and something transcendent happens. The Orient House Ensemble is a stunning band. Each musician plays from the soul and inhabits the music so completely. It was an immeasurable joy to be lost in it. It was a poignant night as well because it was Gill Wilde’s swansong gig. But what a finish. My best human remarked that it was one of the best gigs he’d ever been to and I have to concur.
I woke up thinking about jazz this morning and its glorious defiance as a musical genre. It is so free and so revolutionary and it challenges you as a listener to really engage. I started going to the jazz in Grimsby years ago because I wanted to be excited by music and musicianship. I’ve had such an education and such revelations and have immersed myself in jazz as a writer and performer. I want more of it all the time.
Back to the ordinary world today and the second Riverhead Coffee Poetry Cafe. What a rich afternoon. The participants bring so much, not just writing but themselves. It’s evolving as a place to consider the nature of ourselves not just as writers but as beings, existing in a time and a place. Today there was such a wealth of shared narratives and everyone left with an uplift.
And spirit is the thing that unites this experience, the spirit of people coming together to do what they do; to talk, make art, share ideas, perform, give. It’s something spectacularly human and wonderful and the stuff of living. Long may it happen.
Illustrations from In Case of an Emergency by Sophie Helen Ashton https://www.facebook.com/sophieashtoncustomart/
Looking at my calendar for December my hair begins to stand up in fright and then when I look back at November I wonder how I got everything done that needed doing – but of course I did, because we just do. November was a month and a half in terms of what I managed to do; not single-handedly of course, there are lots of people who deserve thanks, bottles of wine and much more besides.
I moved house in November, just over a week ago in fact. So far, so very good. Great place, loads of room and all boxes labelled in a sane way that I understand. They may not be unpacked for some time, we’ll see.
Last Thursday I finished the first phase of my ACE funded writing project with the launch of In Case of an Emergency, the anthology of writing from young people who either attend or have attended Franklin College and undertaken the now defunct Creative Writing A Level. There is a lot that I could say about the government’s decision to scrap the course and much has been said. It was a lumpen, brainless decision borne out of the ridiculous notion that education is about measuring and not much else. The anthology proves that real education is not something that can be measured. The learning, experience and production that went into the book is not something that can be weighed against a set of meaningless assessment objectives and performance indicators. The book is an expression of the souls and imagination of its young contributors. And it is a thing of beauty. It was very telling that amongst the audience for the launch on Thursday evening there was not one single measuring stick wielding individual present. Their absence was noted but not missed.
This Thursday (December 7th) is the second La Luna Poetry Cafe @ Riverhead Coffee. This is an opportunity for writers and those interested in writing to come together, share work and talk about what it means and what interests them about it. Last month we had a terrific afternoon and very diverse contributions. Everyone is welcome, it’s free to come along and the coffee is great.
December is very much about music and singing and the Great Grimsby Community Choir has a full and busy schedule. We are supporting community events and taking part in a very special Christmas concert at St Augustine’s on December 22nd. The weekly joy of getting together at St Mark’s and singing our hearts out cannot be underestimated. We are a very welcoming choir and we embrace new members. Everyone is welcome to come along and join us; no auditions!
It’s a lovely December afternoon. I’m looking forward to singing at Grimsby Minster later as part of the choir for the Advent Carol Service and then to settling down to watch Casablanca with my very best human. I love Advent, probably more than I love Christmas and I wish everyone a whole lot of love and peace.
And so the official tour comes to a glorious finale with a wonderful gig at The Hive in Shrewsbury. It was a special evening after a very special run of gigs. This tour has been an incredible experience for me as a writer and performer. I’ve found a rhythm and a style on stage that I am very comfortable to inhabit. I feel like I’ve found my home now as a performer and it is a very happy one. The warmth and generosity of the musicians has played a big part in me finding my groove. I will miss them all and am already forming plans and ideas, dreams and schemes as to what happens next.
So, thank you to everyone who has made this a success and such a joy. But special, heartfelt thanks to my lovely friend, mentor and jazz wizard Gill Wilde. It was Gill who started this and she was there to the last note and the last word. Her energy, commitment and belief in this project have been the special ingredients that have made this work. Gill is stepping back from her role as Mrs Grimsby Jazz and the town will be poorer for it. Gill has given so much time, love and energy to jazz over the years and although she deserves her time in the sun, we will miss her so very much.
And so, adieu for now beautiful jazz and poetry world but we won’t be apart for long …
In Case of an Emergency: Book Launch. November 30th @ Moon on the Water
La Luna presents: In Case of an Emergency
Book Launch with Franklin College Young Voices
La Luna Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of its first anthology of ambitious new writing In Case of an Emergency. The book is the result of a project delivered by La Luna for the Franklin College Young Voices, emerging writers keen to develop their skills in both writing and performance. The book also features photography and original illustrations.
To launch the book La Luna is hosting an event at Moon on the Water in Cleethorpes on Thursday 30th November where the participants will perform some of their work. The event begins at 7.30 pm and entry is free. Copies of the book will be available to purchase for £6.00
The anthology has been produced with support from Arts Council England. The funding has meant that the young writers have had the invaluable opportunity to receive critical editorial feedback on their work from professional writers and editors Josie Moon and Nick Triplow. They have also benefited from workshops with professional poets Antony Dunn and Helen Mort.
It would be wonderful to have a great audience at the event to show support for these talented young people and the work they have done.
Most of my posts are about what I’ve been doing but this morning I am thinking about being. The nature of being, of our existence is both simple and complex. Here we are, hurtling through space on a rock living with the inevitability of our own death and that of everyone we know. That is the simple bit. The complex bit is what we do with the time we have and how we are for ourselves and others. This takes some work. You can choose to never think about this of course and to just get on with it. For me, just getting on with it is not an option. How I get on with it and how I am in my existence and in my relationship with others is of paramount importance.
Being with others is not always easy. Often it is painful and challenging and when there is hurt, misunderstanding or deliberate unkindness and cruelty it can be hard to envisage any kind of positive relationship with those responsible.
When I was practising Buddhism I was intrigued by the dharma of Maras. Maras are those who harm us. The dharma teachers that these individuals are a great asset to our lives because they bring us the most valuable lessons, the ones that enable us to grow the most. Having had a great many Mara lessons of late I now understand the wisdom of this. Growth comes from adversity, from challenge and from facing it, even when it is overwhelming and completely exhausting.
Once a storm passes, the air is clearer and it is once again possible to find some peace. Today, after the storm, I have some peace and I also accept the inevitability of more storms because that is how life is.
It’s been a very busy and eventful few weeks with gigs, touring, life and other things. With one more Fish Tale to go in Shrewsbury this Saturday I am feeling a bit sad that what has been the most amazing tour with wonderful humans is about to end. But I am excited and hopeful that there will be more of similar to announce soon.
Highlights have been many. I am very proud of my best human, Billy who has been awarded his PhD. We had a whistle stop visit to Birmingham for his Viva before heading to Bolton for a Singing For Pleasure conducting course. That was fun too.
Every gig over the past few weeks has been a joy, from reading in the Steel Rooms in Brigg to Lincoln, Wigan and all the others it has been wonderful.
I am back to my many other jobs and projects this week and am particularly excited about the imminent publication of In Case of an Emergency, La Luna’s first anthology. But more about that in the next instalment.
Folkestone is quite a trek from Grimsby but I have become adept at sleeping in the back of the car or at being in a poet’s coma as my lengthy naps have been described. The Dartford Crossing is an event and I’m glad I was awake for it as the bridge is quite beautiful. The traffic isn’t and the roads are in a lamentable state – but I digress.
The welcome at Folkestone Jazz Club was warm indeed. The Tower Theatre is a beautiful space, a lovingly adapted chapel that is inviting and well designed for performances. The octet found themselves up close and personal again after being some distance apart at Herts on Sunday.
The vibe was suitably windswept and sea-inspired as a storm was brewing in Folkestone when we took to the stage for what was a barnstorming performance from everyone. Because the stage was small I sat to the side which gave me a new aural experience. I’ve got used to sitting with Mark and hearing a lot of gorgeous, warm brass solos from him and Neil with the visceral delight of Gilad cutting through. I’ve heard lots of drums and bass as well and so it was great to hear more of Alan, Dean and Pat this time.
After having my knees knock throughout the set last Sunday, I was pleased to feel enough nervous energy to power my performance but not so much that I feared I might fall over. As the tour has progressed I’ve added more layers of storytelling to my introductions and have grown in confidence. I feel I know the poems so well now and really enjoy inhabiting them as I share them with the audience.
The standing ovation at the end brought tears to my eyes and yet again the lovely comments from audience members made my heart swell.
I am thrilled that we have more dates in November and yet more next summer. At the moment I feel I could do this forever and never grow tired of it. However, there are stories, poems and ideas bubbling away and we shall see what time brings.
Photo credit: Melody McClaren with thanks
Back to life, back to reality, well until Thursday when we hit the road again and head for Folkestone for the last gig of part 2 of the grand Fish Tales Tour.
Grand indeed. We’ve had nothing but warm welcomes and kind words and I want to say thank you to all the venues and promoters who have hosted the production; Dave at Swansea Jazzland, Steve at Leeds Jazz 7, Chris at Wakefield Jazz and Clark at Herts Jazz Festival.
Thank you also to the lovely audiences who have been so rapt and so attentive. It has been a wonderful experience for me to truly feel the impact of my words in the response of the audiences.
Many thanks to everyone who has bought the books and CD’s, that is true support and is hugely appreciated.
Finally thank you to all the lovely people who I’ve spoken to after gigs who have commented on how much the poetry moved and affected them, how much they enjoyed the show and my delivery.
It is such a great joy and such a lot of fun to perform with this stellar cast of jazz legends, all of whom play with energy, fizz and aplomb. I have been dazzled by some of the solos and lost in the tunes as they weave and wander, telling the story through the voices of the instruments.
Fish Tales lives and breathes on the stage; it is a complex and beautiful work and I am immensely proud to have been part of its creation and to have the great good fortune to be bringing it to audiences across the country.
Out on tour, taking the route from the late summer flowers in the garden, all the way to Swansea through beautiful South Wales to a welcoming stage a spit from where Dylan Thomas lived.
Then long, bad roads with hold-ups and delays up to Leeds and a glorious gig with added bonus of old friends coming along to say hello after too many years to count.
Home for a brief hiatus and then off we go again to Wakefield and Welwyn this weekend.
More poetry is needed, I concur. It is only ever a good thing.
The Poetry Cafe @ Riverhead Coffee
Following on from our enjoyable National Poetry Day events La Luna is very pleased to announce that in partnership with Riverhead Coffee we will be hosting a regular Poetry Cafe event for poets, writers and audiences to enjoy an afternoon of readings and conversation about writing. The first Poetry Cafe will take place on Thursday 2nd November at Riverhead Coffee between 3.00 -5.00 pm and this first event is open to anyone to come along and read. We plan to run this event monthly and to have many poets and writers from our region joining us.
We were sorry to have to cancel the Poetry Tea today but even poets get poorly and we will reschedule this event as soon as we are able.
Great Grimsby Community Choir GGCC
Following our very happy and successful move to St Mark’s church where we are settling in very nicely GGCC now has a packed autumn schedule of events and performances. We are thrilled to be singing this Sunday as part of The Fisherman’s Memorial Service at Grimsby Minster. The service starts at 2.00 pm and all are welcome to come along. We have some lovely songs to sing including Jo Townell’s arrangements of You Know You’re Home and Cold Winds Blow both by McCarthy and Moon and written specifically about the Grimsby fishing heritage.
Thanks to our friend Ian Pickles at The Peoples Magazine we have a lovely new logo.
For regular information about what GGCC are up to why not like our new Facebook page