LOVE AND POETRY..

I was recently asked by my eldest sister to write a piece of poetry to read at her approaching wedding.  Of course, I was incredibly honoured and humbled by this touching request.  However – slight terror couldn’t help but creep up to the surface!  As much as I adore writing, how was I going to put into words the overwhelming love I felt not only for my sister, but also the beautiful relationship between her and her fiancé?

And yes – that terror remains.  So I have been increasing my poetry reading with the hope that inspiration will take control and allow the words to spill onto the page.

So why not share here?  I have been fairly lacklustre recently with my blog posts – a mixture of a dry spell of shows (that I was able to attend!) and an increasingly busy work schedule while the company tours has meant I haven’t had quite as much to write about.  The two combined is a dreadful mix; there are so many excellent shows out there right now (including the fabulous work WOW Film Festival has to offer) but work commitments have barricaded me from attending many.

Alas, that is no excuse!  So I solemnly do swear that from now on, whether I am attending productions or not, I will continue my loving commitment to this little blog.  Starting off with one of the most inspiring – and most appropriate – sonnets, it is of course Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.  And as an aside, enjoy this rather geeky picture taken of me recently at the home of this absolute legend…

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Stratford-Upon-Avon Selfie!

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

WALES INTERNATIONAL YOUNG ARTIST AWARD TAKES THE COUNTRY BY STORM..

Last week I was lucky enough to receive an invite to the Wales International Young Artist Awards.  The event was organised and carried out by The British Council Wales, and if last month’s incredibly successful and inspiring Takeover Cardiff was anything to go by, I knew I was in for a treat.

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The awards were held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Cardiff; a fantastic venue in my opinion.  I’d not visited the hotel before, and was immediately impressed by the lavish décor and various bars and rooms.  Kicking off with a champagne reception and delicious canapés, the room quickly started filling with arts enthusiasts, friends and family and of course the talented nominees.

I love the atmosphere at arts events; it’s a wonderful feeling to be in a room with so many like-minded individuals.  I find it inspiring, and the WIYAA was no exception.  Everyone was milling around, chatting and enjoying the delectable treats on offer, whilst the nominees nervously awaited the big announcement.  It was glamorous, exciting and tense!

After about an hour we were led over to another conference room where a two piece band greeted us with a selection of smooth and lyrical songs.  Here the artist’s work was displayed prominently for guests to admire.  There were five nominees; a fine-art sculptor, a film-maker, two photographers and a ceramic designer.  The wide spectrum of work was fantastic to see and highlighted the different levels of art out there.  Every piece was exceptional with a beautiful story behind it.  I couldn’t believe that these young artists had produced such mature and intricate work.  Crowds were gathered by every piece, drinking it in and letting it take over.  You couldn’t help but notice the artist’s proud faces; what a fulfilling feeling it would be to see so many people blown away by your work!

Everyone was then directed towards the seating area, with nominees sat nervously in the front row alongside the (not so) frightening judges.  After an introduction by the Director of British Council Wales, Simon Dancey, it was time for the judges to take to the floor.

The judges talked through every piece with enthusiasm, knowledge and admiration.  First up was Eluned Glyn, a ceramic designer from Cardiff Metropolitan University.  Eluned created a selection of abstract tea-set pieces, taking her inspiration from the classic ceramic of the 20th and 21st century.  Her work echoed the old chinaware from her Grandmother’s dresser with a new lease of life from the re-creating process.  It was interesting, sophisticated and exuberated an effortless elegance.  It was chic but full of risks and daring.

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Next was Eugene Finnegan, a photographer from Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen.  Eugene’s work depicted the struggles felt by the new generation of adolescents told through a series of black and white images.  His pieces portrayed their attempts to fit in and understand the world they live in, where perceptions of ordinary are challenged on an endless basis by the hyper real portrayals of media.  Such a deep and meaningful topic was told poignantly with the simple but effective images.  You felt as if you were peering through a keyhole at an intimate moment; a perfect snapshot of reality.

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Following Eugene was Georgia Hall, a third year student of Fine Art Sculpture at Howard Gardens.  Her piece, titled ‘Conversations’, was a highly figurative form made from various materials; chicken wire, foam, concrete, cardboard, paper, tape, plaster, nylon rope and chair.  Georgia hoped that the interesting materials would entice the viewer closer to the sculpture, physically drawing them in so that they become a part of a momentary play, creating a visual narrative as if they are in conversation with a possible character.  It focused on presentation and the response of the viewer, whilst exploring the properties of materials with regards to weight scale and balance.  It was a form of art I had never experienced before.  But the mature subject matter and barrier breaking approach enthralled me; it was an exciting and an extremely communicative piece of art.

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Next up was Richard L. Pask from Caerphilly, a highly experienced individual in the film industry.  His piece of short film reflected his own stories, and the stories of the people and places around him.  It was beautifully cut and attention-grabbing, with the flair and technique of a film-maker with years of professional experience.

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Finally we were introduced to the work of Andrew Morris, a photographic artist based in Swansea.   His touching piece “What’s left behind” invited the audience to contemplate one of life’s biggest questions… what is left behind?  The interiors depicted in each of Andrew’s images belonged to a number of empty houses that had been put on the market with the intention to be sold following the death of the owner.  The images were so striking and emotional, including possessions that had belonged to the deceased owners.  The powerful photographs were almost eerie, reflecting the sad remains of a person’s life once they are gone.  Again, so simple but commanding, Andrew’s work left the audience with real food for thought.

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So with a metaphoric drum-roll, the grand envelope was handed to the judges.  The nominees took an audible deep breath, whilst the families clung to the edge of their seats.  Even I had butterflies!  This work was clearly so important to these five individuals, and their nerves must have been sky high.

“And the winner is… Andrew Morris!” And with those six words, I was subjected to the most raucous and excited celebration of a proud Mother I have ever seen!  Andrew’s family were in tears; it was the most amazing thing to watch!  As Andrew proudly took to the front to collect his prize the feeling of pride was palpable.  And rightly so!  Andrew will have his work projected on an international platform through the British Council Wales network of offices in six continents and over 100 countries!  And of course, a cash prize of £500!

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These awards were a fantastic move by the British Council Wales.  It is so important that young artists are given this platform to promote their work, and to be awarded for their talent and dedication.  As always with these events, I left feeling so inspired and proud to be a young person in Wales.  I cannot commend the British Council Wales enough for their devotion to the arts and young individuals; I look forward to all their future events!

Take a look at Andrew’s award-winning work here.

A BEAUTIFUL WEEKEND FOR THE ARTS THANKS TO TAKEOVER CARDIFF..

As you might have guessed from my recent posts, I’ve been pretty excited for Saturday’s Takeover Cardiff.  And rightly so – it was a fantastic idea.  I believe arts and culture are vital to society, and to be able to inspire and engage with young people in this way is fundamental to ensure that a love of the arts never dies.

The event was a huge success.  Every venue was buzzing with crowds of spectators, and social media was going mad for the whole thing.  It was touching to see such beautiful work by these young curators, showcasing their creativity and passion in Wales’ most iconic venues.

Kicking off at The Senedd…

The event kicked off at the Senedd, with a brass band playing as the seats quickly filled.  People of all different ages congregated in The National Assembly Building – including many young kids that might have never visited it before!  As the fanfair came to a close and the crowd hushed, Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding took to the stage.  His speech played homage to the vibrant culture and confident youth of today, and how fantastic it was to see young people take over the political and cultural venues of Cardiff.  I couldn’t agree more.

Following his speech, young critic Ethan Evans delivered a moving, poetic speech of his own.  His words floated across the Senedd and left the audience in awe.  It was amazing to hear such a young person speak with such poise, elegance and linguistic talent.

After an introduction from Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Martin Daws, it was then time for the children of Literature Wales to take to the floor.  This 16 person bilingual poem was performed to a steady drumbeat, with the children performing solo, in pairs and as a whole group.  It was dynamic and sincere, encapsulating the beauty of Wales and what it meant to these incredible children.  One particularly beautiful metaphor came from a young boy from Napal, who described climbing on the back of the Welsh dragon, giving him courage and flying him back home.  With references to Welsh cakes, daffodils and the nation’s favourite sport, the poem was wonderful to watch, transporting each and every member of the audience back to their dearest memories of their country.

Next up were street dance team Rubicon.  The all-female group performed an exciting Ethiopian Street Dance, with carnival-esque music to get the crowd really going.  The dance was lively, fun and exhilarating, with talent in abundance.  You couldn’t help but clap along – and I definitely had to keep myself firmly rooted to my seat to stop jumping up and joining in with the party!   It was a clear hit with the crowd, who’s cheers showed the girls it was a job well done.

The Senedd section of the day finished off with an intimate performance from up and coming singer – songwriter Dan Bettridge.  His folk / american style music was reminiscent of Johnny Cash and John Mayer, with delicate lyrics that left the crowd wanting more.  There with the Young Promoters Network, Dan left a lasting impact on the Senedd – particularly with the younger girls!

On to the Wales Millennium Centre…

Next stop, the Wales Millennium Centre!  Opening the next part of the show was African Dance company, Ballet Nimba.  And what a way to start!  With exceptional music, dance, song and energy, the group had the whole of the WMC up and dancing.  With Welsh participants involved, the group encapsulated joy, spirit and passion, performing a fantastic form of music that may have been unknown to some members of the audience.  By the end, whether you were aware of the music or not, everyone wanted a piece of it.  I could have listened to that showcase all day and night – it was the perfect portrayal of a life free of inhibitions, where beauty and happiness were the only things that mattered.

Following Ballet Nimba was the exquisite Gabrielle Murphy.  Like Dan Bettridge, Gabrielle came to Takeover as part of the Young Promoters Network.  A 17 year old from Treherbert, her voice took the audience away.  Again, she was lyrically superb, with a soulful and exhilarating voice.  I found myself sat there wondering why this fantastic girl didn’t already have a record deal.  The deep and personal songs were touching to hear – and to make the deal even sweeter, Gabrielle came across as a beautiful individual, inside and out.

Next on stage were the Literature Wales team again, introduced by American poet Michael Cirelli (you might remember him from my recent interview).  Michael had been working with the group throughout the week to create this work of art, which the WMC crowd loved just as much as The Senedd did.  It was great to see the confidence and sense of pride of the children on stage; they knew they had created something fantastic!

Closing the WMC was the crowd favourite Rubicon – with (if possible!) even more fire and energy than the first time round!  Again, it was amazing to see the girls once the performance was finished as they soaked in the raucous response from the crowd.  Well done girls – you were out of this world!

Happenings in the Hayes..

Over the The Hayes for the next installment of Takeover.  There was lots going on around the city center, with buskers entertaining the crowds and the Zoom Cymru documentary films playing on a loop in CFQ.  I took myself down to the National Library, for a poetry recital by the YPL and Lit Wales guys.

I expected a calm recital of tender poetry; what I got was entirely different!  The recital came from Michael Cirelli, Martin Daws and Rapper / MC / Singer Songwriter / Scriptwriter / Stand Up Comedy (yep – cracking CV!) Rufus Mufasa.  With topics ranging from hard hitting political raps to love poems about spaghetti, the content was varied and liberating.  Each poet took turns to perform; there were lyrical pieces, spine-tingling songs, theatrical recitals and empowering spoken word showcases.  Rufus wowwed the crowd with her fantastic voice, dipping in and out of Welsh and English.  Martin became a different person with each piece, performing as if it was the most important performance of his life.  Michael was engaging, fun and extremely talented with his words.  They were a terrific trio.  It was like something I had never seen before, and left me inspired.

Next stop on the map was a performance I was personally very excited for – Mutle Mothibe’s powerful showcase with the children of Grassroots.  Held in the perfect venue of the National Museum, the group had a huge crowd ready for them.  For me, this was the highlight of the day.  Watching the Grassroots kids on the side as they prepared, they looked anxious and pretty terrified.  When they took to the stage… well, it was another story.  They presented MC performances, hip hop acts, acoustic renditions of popular songs, incredible singer-songwriters and jaw-dropping dances.  It was a feast of talent – there’s no other way I can describe it.

It wasn’t even the talent that left me so speechless.  For every performer, it was clear how much it meant to them.  With the countless talent-less celebrities filling our TV screens day after day, to see real, raw talent within people who had so much passion was absolutely beautiful to witness.  Particularly with the kids that had written their own work, it was stunning to watch – at times it left me on the verge of tears it was so sublime.  The positive messages resounding in the showcase was truly inspiring and reminded the audience of the brightness and wonder all around us – particularly in an age where all too often the negative aspects of the world weigh people down.

A surprise performance came from Martin Daws joining Mutle on the stage – the two had spent the week under the same hotel roof, and it was evident they had become great friends.  They took to the stage doing what Mutle does best – turning sincere and tender words into pure art.

The showcase ended with a glorious bang, in a collaborative piece between Cardiff and South Africa where everyone joined on stage.  Every single performer here was given a chance to show their fantastic talents to the upbeat crowd – which by now was huge!  The electric atmosphere inside the museum was magnified as instruments were scattered throughout the crowd, ensuring each and every person inside the museum was a part of the party.  It was the perfect end in the perfect venue to a perfect event.

Celebrations in Chapter..

After an inspiring screening of animation students from Oslo, Norway and Newport’s work, the Takeover crowd were invited to enjoy the food and drink of Chapter.  It was a fantastic chance for performers to mix and for connections to be formed.  The atmosphere was incredible – everyone was so proud and empowered by the work they had seen and performed.

I left the night feeling motivated and moved.  To be around such fantastic, inspiring people – not just the performers, but the incredible people that made Takeover Cardiff possible – was an invigorating experience.  It is rare to be around people that share such passion and dedication, and for that, Takeover is an event I will take with me for the rest of my life.

INTRODUCING… MICHAEL CIRELLI: THE POET WITH THE URBAN EDGE..

Following my fantastic meeting with Mutle, today I had the pleasure of speaking to Michael Cirelli, the new york based urban poet, in anticipation of his performance this Saturday at Takeover Cardiff.

Michael has come to Cardiff fresh out of an integral role in Urban Word NYC – a youth poetry organisation giving teens the chance to speak up for themselves through spoken word, poetry and hip hop.

The organisation provides workshops, events and live performances to the teens of NYC, bringing literacy to the forefront of youth culture.

This Saturday he will do a similar thing, working with the talented folk down at Wales Young People’s Laureate – I’m really excited to see what he has planned for Takeover!

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do?

A: I am the Executive Director of an incredible youth poetry organisation in New York called Urban Word NYC. My poetry is inspired by the passion and bravery of the youth I get to work with, and I’m most interested in approaching subject matter that doesn’t usually seem “fit” for poetry.

Q: What led you to become a poet?

A: For me, it was the need for an outlet to express myself, which sounds cliché, but also it is the challenge of writing poems based on atypical subject matter, poems about lesser known heroes, poems that help me honor, or praise, or forgive…

Q: What is the inspiration for your poetry – do you have a particular process when writing it?

A: I am a proponent of consistency. It is important for me to have a time when I like to engage my writing practice, and ALWAYS a conceptual body of work that I am contributing to that drives my inspiration.

Q: Is the subject matter of your work varied, or does it stick to a particular theme?

A: I write about all types of things. My previous books have dealt with race, ethnicity, music, food, and of course honoring my family and where I come from. My work almost always sticks to a theme when I am compiling a book. Right now I am completing a book of poems inspired by the Qur’an entitled The Bee.

Q: Why did you want to get involved with TOC?

A: I love working with youths, as well as engaging with different cultures. I also want to share my view that poetry is for everyone and it can be an incredible space for personal and emotional growth, as well as a place to cultivate and develop creativity.

Q: What do you believe the relevance of events like TOC is to the arts community?

A: It validates the importance of poety, and champions the dire need for youth voices to be heard!

Q: Have you worked alone with your work for TOC, or collaboratively?

A: I have had the incredible honor of leading workshops with Wales Young People’s Laureate, Martin Daws, who is a great poet and incredible poetry educator.

Q: What do you hope to get out of your work with TOC?

A: I hope that this work will inspire more opportunities for youths to have a platform to share their stories, to inspire others with the power of their bravery, and to encourage a culture of poetry and youth voice.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s performance?

A: Saturday’s performance will be a celebration of the youth poets we have worked with, and a showcase of their voices, their representational power in their communities, as well as their relationship to Cardiff. It is an honour to have worked with them and I am looking forward to seeing them rightfully perform on a big and official stage.

To take a look at the work Michael does with Urban Word NYC, have a look at their website.

Find out more about Wales Young People’s Laureate here.

FIVE PEOPLE I WOULD INVITE TO A DINNER PARTY…

It’s a common topic of discussion, as well as one of those terribly confusing curve balls thrown around in job interviews; which five people, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party?

It’s supposed to say a lot about an individual: what type of person do they feel they could get the most out of in the whole world.. that they would most like to spend a delicious few hours in the company of.

So it got my mind going – who would I love to spend an evening of wine, great good and even better company with?

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1. Stephen Fry.

I absolutely adore Stephen Fry.  He is the one “dinner guest” that never changes.  Witty, ridiculously intelligent, and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in – he is just a brilliant character.  Even his voice is like music; the way he uses language is magical, the words spilling out like a beautiful painting.  His love of linguistics is just the icing on top of the cake; I could listen to him talk about language for hours and hours.  It would be a real dream to one day meet this exceptional man.

Check out Stephen Fry’s bright and wonderful website: www.stephenfry.com

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2. Karren Brady.

As a female working to build a career as a successful, independent woman, Karren Brady is an inspiration.  She has her fingers in so many pies, attacking so many different areas of the business world.  She is one of Britain’s leading business figures; a huge feat in a world where the media tends to only focus on women based on their breast size or fashion sense.

She has built an incredible career in a male-orientated industry, as well as being an advocate for a huge range of charities.  There is nothing this woman cannot do!  I would do anything to get every single piece of advice possible from her, and gain even the slightest glimpse into her professional and personal life.  To me she is a symbol of the continual fight against sexism in the business world: for that reason, she would most definitely be receiving an invite to my dinner party!

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3. Johnny Cash.

Every dinner party needs a slice of music; to me, there is no better music than the exquisite voice of Johnny Cash.  There is nothing in the world that gives me goosebumps quite like his rendition of Hurt.  I could listen to that song every minute of the day.

Aside from his music, Johnny Cash lived an incredible, moving life.  I would be fascinated to hear him speak of his battle with addiction, and his indestructible love for June Carter.  The way he used to speak of his spirituality was also so beautiful – although I don’t see myself as a spiritual person, I love the way people talk about their faith, and the way it has molded their life.  It is so interesting, as it is not something I myself can really relate to.  But that doesn’t make it any the less compelling.

“I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me…
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold…” 

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4. J K Rowling.

No dinner party would be complete without the woman who made my childhood magical in ways I could never have imagined.  JK Rowling created a whole new world – a world that will live on and on… I hope forever.  Even now, Harry Potter does something to me I can’t explain.  The only thing that comes close, would be to say it makes me feel like the world isn’t so dark after all.  I can’t even say what I would ask her.  Perhaps nothing – I wouldn’t want to ruin the magical illusion I have of her.  I would simply say Thank you – thank you for showing me a dream world, and giving me memories I will always hold dearly.  Thank you for introducing so many children (and adults!) to literature.  Thank you for giving me a form of escapism, even as a 21 year old graduate.  Thank you for bringing Harry, Ron and Hermione to the muggle world!

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5. Oscar Wilde.

A man with the power to turn words into beautiful artwork, withstanding the centuries and remaining as iconic messages just as relevant now as in the 1800’s.  His work was exciting and daring – not dissimilar to his personal life.  I would love to just sit and listen to him.  Have him tell me about his inspiration for his unforgettable work, and the years spent in and after prison; what did it do to him?  When I imagine just sitting at a dinner table with this man, it almost feels like he is make believe – he would have so many incredible tales to tell, and so many enchanting thoughts to ponder over… I think you’d have to agree, it would be an experience like no other.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” 

I’d love to know your top five dinner guests… Leave a comment and let me know your dream team 🙂