Like the autumn, the winter arrived more or less overnight. We felt it blow in off the North Sea and felt the chill settle on us. The autumn light has been very beautiful and our winter sky here on the east coast never fails to lift the spirit, even as darkness intensifies.
A highlight of the winter so far was the jazz and poetry gig with Dave Green and Pat McCarthy, just a couple of short weeks ago – time really has flown. Pat and I are doing a lot of work on our set and it’s coming together with great fluency and playing well with audiences.
The Concert for Commemoration was a night to remember as well, with the choir really giving their all and with beautiful accompaniment from all of the musicians. It was a special night, long to be remembered.
It has once again been a time of change, with much of the past now settled and in its place and the future looking exciting and full of challenges. With Pat and the La Luna team we are preparing for a busy spring in NE Lincs schools. Most exciting though is the forthcoming jazz and poetry Requiem, a collaboration between me, Pat and Alan Barnes with the support of Arts Council England and overseen by Gill Wilde. There will be more to report on that shortly.
It’s been a tense time but the ships have all come safely into port and I am immensely grateful for all the kindness and support I have received and for the affirmation of my work, which continues to be a source of joy to me.
Earlier this summer, La Luna secured a substantial Arts Council grant for the provision of a number of poetry and music projects for North East Lincolnshire. The Poetry Cafe is up and running under the leadership of poet and teacher Carolyn Doyley and the Emerging Voices project is now well underway with young writers engaged in a year-long project. Look out for their first event in December.
One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of the project was the commissioning of brand new music for the Great Grimsby Community Choir. The choir is constantly evolving and developing. It has great creative energy and enthusiasm and it was the choir’s willingness to try new things and be challenged that resulted in this project being possible.
The new music, which has been co-written with Pat McCarthy, Joanne Townell and myself is in rehearsal and will be performed at Grimsby Minster on November 17th. The music commemorates the centenary of the end of the First World War and we hope it is a moving tribute to everyone who lost their lives in that terrible conflict.
Tickets for the concert are £8 full price, £6 students and unwaged. Accompanied children under 16 are welcome to attend free. Refreshments are available at the interval. Tickets can be purchased directly from me via email to email@example.com or from Cleethorpes Tourist Information office or the Grimsby Minster Coffee Shop. Doors open at 7.00 pm for a 7.30 start.
May is my favourite month of the year. Lengthening days, blossom and the trees exploding into full life make me feel peaceful. The Ash Tree in the garden has burst into life. I was keeping an eye on it, wanting to see the exact moment it got its leaves. But of course I missed that.
May began with a fabulous gig over in Hull with the Women of Words Collective at Kardomah 94. I was delighted to be their May out of town guest and enjoyed performing enormously. I also enjoyed the rich variety of performances from the other women writers there too. The event provides a welcoming and supportive space for women writers to meet, read and listen and to really appreciate each other. I loved Michelle Dee’s Blue Dress especially. A brave and touching piece that has stayed with me since the event.
Poetry continued to be at the fore as May flowered with a lovely Poetry Cafe meeting at Riverhead Coffee on Thursday afternoon where writers gathered to read, talk and listen to each others’ wonderful words. The cafe is a small, perfectly formed thing of beauty and I could not be more delighted with how it has developed over the past year.
The celebration of words continued into the weekend with Poetry and Poppadoms at St Mark’s church, the first of what I hope will be a series of events in partnership with Ruchita Green of Masala Masters. Divine food and best words from our guest poets who all excelled. Special mention for Eve Darwood, an exceptional poet who had never read her work aloud before and Alex Murphy who similarly was a novice to reading her work for an audience. Two very different takes on the world but both wonderful. However, it was Ruchita who made me cry when she read a piece celebrating her beloved grandmother who lives in India and at seventy-five sounds as if she is the very heart of her family.
This week the workaday world has taken over somewhat with a mixture of schools work, bid writing, event and publication planning but May still has many treats in store. On Thursday 17th La Luna celebrates the launch of Calling to the Moon, Maria Garner and Vivienne May’s beautiful collection of moon poetry accompanied by stunning art work and photographs. The book will be released on Amazon a few days after the launch so look out for notice of that. The event is at St James’ Hotel, Grimsby at 6.00 pm. There will be music and readings from both authors.
I am also very pleased that on May 19th I’ll be working with Jo Townell and Nic Reed at The Great Big Sing, a sparkling fizz-ball of a singing workshop we’ve put together to encourage singers to come along and have a go – particularly if you haven’t sung before or think you can’t. This event is at Signhills School in Cleethorpes, registration at 9.30, workshop starts at 10.00. £10 including refreshments and resources. You can book by leaving a message on the site or on the GGCC Facebook page or on any of my pages.
I hope your May is blooming and full of light.
Saturday 19th May
Signhills School, Hardy’s Road, Cleethorpes
10.00 – 1.00 workshop
£10 per person inc resources and refreshments. open to anyone aged over 16.
May is shaping up to be a busy month for La Luna and I’m very pleased to be co-running this workshop with Nic Reed and Jo Townell. If you’ve sung with us in GGCC then you know that I believe everyone has a voice and everyone can sing; perhaps not like Mariah Carey but probably like yourself, and that’s enough. With practice and good technique every voice can develop. This workshop is designed to inspire confidence in your own voice by singing material that is fun, accessible and with enough of a challenge to it that you will feel progress.
Singing together is proven to improve mood and a sense of well-being and in this inclusive, friendly workshop we aim to ensure everyone leaves smiling and uplifted.
If you would like a place, then please do book in advance. You can book here by leaving a comment and I’ll get back to you to confirm. We’ll look forward to singing with you.
Woodland Stories, schools’ tour 2018
La Luna is two weeks into the spring tour, taking Woodland Stories into primary schools and working with Key Stage 1 children. This wonderful, creative partnership with the NE Lincs Music Hub is proving to be a truly joyous and lovely experience. We have received a warm welcome in every school and have enjoyed meeting teachers and children who have been unfailingly engaged and enthusiastic. We are looking forward to working with all of the schools at the Singing Festival in March. You can access the songs at this link, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzdtBfLER9AXHjPGPqhcjSQ/featured
The book with audio CD is available to buy direct from me for £12.50 inc p&p
On January 26th, the wonderful Helen Mort was our guest for a workshop with the Franklin College Young Voices and a reading at Riverhead Coffee. We had a truly fantastic day with Helen who was kind enough to give this feedback:
“I have rarely read in front of such an appreciative audience and felt so well-supported by the event organiser. La Luna events give a platform to emerging voices and to young people who might otherwise feel they are not heard. There’s a sense of democracy but also of high quality work being produced. These platforms are absolutely vital to the life of Grimsby and to reinforcing a sense of community.”
We have rarely been graced with such a warm, witty and engaging guest poet and we are delighted that Helen has agreed to come back for future events.
Thanks very much to poet and workshop leader Gordon Wilson who hosted the monthly poetry cafe on February 1st at Riverhead Coffee while I was out being a woodland warrior. The next cafe event is Thursday March 1st and I am looking forward to it already.
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.
The happy choir!
It’s a delight to announce the new beginning for the Great Grimsby Community Choir. We will be Singing for Life every Monday evening in our new base, St Mark’s Church, Laceby Road and we are already preparing for our first public performance of this exciting and busy term.
Our inclusive choir is open to anyone over the age of 14 regardless of singing ability or experience. We believe that every unique voice has a place in the choir and that everyone can develop their singing and gain enormous pleasure and satisfaction from the experience. We love singing together and we are constantly adding to our repertoire and trying out new material.
We operate a flexible membership as we understand that people are busy and have many commitments in their lives. Our members come when they can and commit to what they can manage. The weekly fee is just £4 and we also run a raffle and refreshments to add to our resources.
Everyone is welcome to come along and join us and we hope to see lots of new faces this term alongside our fabulous regular members.
I can smell autumn coming in and the damp mornings, busy garden spiders and darkening evenings all testify that the season is changing.
After a turbulent and painful summer here’s hoping that the autumn brings some peace, calm and gentleness for all souls on this great blue planet.
Among the things I am looking forward to is the return of the choir with a fresh start and an independent future which I am pleased to be guiding alongside the supremely talented Jo Townell. The choir has become a central focal point of my life and weekly routine. It is a place of joy and light and sustains me as much as it sustains its members.
I am thrilled that the Fish Tale tour begins again in October with dates around the country. Being on the road with such consummate musicians and my great friend and jazz champion Gill Wilde is exciting and fun and I am chomping at the bit to get out there.
There are several beautiful, creative projects in the pipeline including two forthcoming La Luna publications and some poetry events and opportunities. I am always grateful that I have so many creative outlets. There have been some very dark days of late and the light that gets in always comes from places of creative energy.
Autumn is a good time to reflect and look for a bit of peace and quiet, if not externally then internally. The equinox on the 21st and the returning darkness open a space for that to happen and I will be taking advantage of this time for just that. We all need that quiet and for the noise of life to abate.
Peace and kindness to all beings.
This week sees the official release of A Fish Tale – A Story and Song for Children. This is the little sister project to the major A Fish Tale Jazz and Poetry tour. This work has been undertaken in partnership with Gill Wilde at Grimsby Jazz and Sue Baker at the NEL Music Hub. This Spring the creative team has delivered sixteen workshops for primary school children in NE Lincs.
Today we came together with 700 children, a fabulous band and conductor and performed the story and music live to an audience of rapt parents, grandparents and guests. What a joy. All of this work was made possible thanks to an Arts Council grant and has been money well spent on a worthwhile and hugely enjoyable piece of work.
We now have a wonderful book for sale; a photocopiable resource including the whole story, the songs, lyrics and music and a CD to accompany. This is available to order directly from me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The book is £20 plus £1.50 p&p. This is a resource that can be used by children’s groups, schools, community groups, libraries and choirs and incorporates local history and myth as well as having fantastically singable songs.
I have to say a big thank you to my partner and co-writer in this project, Pat McCarthy who is a consummate composer and sympathetic arranger for voices. You can catch us out on tour with Alan Barnes and the orchestra across the country and also look out for McCarthy and Moon gigs coming very soon.
Singing for Life on Grimsby Top Town Market April 2017
There is nothing like a good sing. All singers know this. They know that singing either solo or with others has enormous benefits. Thanks are due to Gareth Malone, whose popularising of the joys of choral singing has led to a remarkable renaissance in the UK and elsewhere of community choirs.
Having started a community choir in January, 2016 that is going from strength to strength, I have been humbled by what I have witnessed over the past year and a half. During the first few weeks, I was shocked by the numbers of people who told me they could not sing. It was the first thing many of them said as they walked through the door. What I found heartbreaking was that many of these people had been told at school, by teachers when they were six or seven years old that they couldn’t sing. They, of course, believed this and shut themselves down as singers at a tender age. How devastating. There are many things that six and seven year olds can’t do, or can’t do very well and that is because they are children and they are developing. What entitles anyone to tell a child they can’t do something, especially something like singing which is something everyone can do?
I firmly believe that everyone can sing; that everyone has a voice. It might not be a strong voice or a voice that can range very far or a voice that has great tonal variety. But a voice it is and it is everyone’s right to use it to the best of their individual ability to make music in the most accessible and democratic way of all. Our voice is our unique musical instrument. We carry it with us everywhere we go and it can be used in all sorts of exciting and unique ways to create music and to express ourselves.
What I have witnessed since the choir’s inception in January is a group of people, many of who initially lacked faith in themselves and their abilities, making a glorious sound, week in week out. They sing with passion, verve, humour and conviction and it is an honour to lead them in song. I am sure my experience is not unique and that it is a story replicated in many places where such choirs have sprung up in recent times.
Singing has so many proven benefits it should be available on prescription. It can help overcome anxiety, depression and insomnia. It can help overcome shyness and social anxiety as people get together and sing in groups, sharing in music making but not having to stand alone in the spotlight. Singing can help alleviate respiratory problems like asthma and can increase flow of oxygen to the blood vessels and brain. It is a joyful and invaluable enterprise that should only be encouraged.
As part of my practice I offer one-to-one and small group singing lessons. This singing for well being is designed to enable adults to find their voices and learn techniques to help them get the very best from their voice. My sessions are ideal for beginners and singers who wish to sing for joy rather than for public performance or exams. Click here to contact me on the website for more information.
Long may we sing and also may we get into the habit of not telling people that they can’t!