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.

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.

INTRODUCING… MUTLE MOTHIBE: THE SPOKEN WORD ARTIST WITH A DIFFERENCE..

This Saturday will see the first Take Over Cardiff event, a one-day taster where the city’s major cultural venues are handed over to the brightest young talent.

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As soon as I heard about the event, I was determined to get involved.  The event, run by The British Council Wales, hopes to engage young performers with their peers, showcasing new and emerging Welsh and International talent.

Kicking off at 11am at the Senedd, the event will take its audience on a journey through all the cultural hubs of Cardiff, with dance, slam poets, musicians and animators exposing their exceptional talent.

Today I met Mutle Mothibe – a South African spoken word artist – for a coffee and a chat.  Mutle will be performing at 4pm at The National Museum Cardiff… and I can’t wait to see his work first hand!

Mutle’s exceptional talent and humble personality is normally showcased as a member of Word N Sound, a spoken word arts organisation in South Africa. His work is topical, thought-provoking and innovative – and I had a fantastic time chatting to him about his inspiration, plans for Take Over and highlights of the event so far… 

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about your work – what does being a spoken word artist include?

 A: Essentially, it’s all about being a poet. However, I don’t just use the spoken word (despite the title!) – I like to incorporate different mediums of multimedia to keep the whole thing fresh and interesting. I’ve been working with Grass Roots (a charity dedicated to 16 – 25 year olds) as a part of their exhibition this Saturday at the Museum, which has been great. It’s my first time overseas – in South Africa I work as part of Word N Sound, a platform bringing together older practitioners of literature with youths, to encourage and inspire them and to give them a sense of the trajectory of a literary career. So this project is very similar, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.

 Q: What inspired you to become a spoken word artist?

 A: I have loved writing since I was in Grade 5 – back then I used it as a form of escapism and expression. It was a medium to express things I had pent up inside. Throughout University, I began to explore the performance side of the art – since then, I just seemed to become a spoken word artist professionally… 10 years and still going strong!

 Q: What does your work tend to be about?

 A: Mostly where I am in my life – be that relationships, social issues, personal struggles… in a nutshell, the things that are effecting me at that time. That’s why it is such a fantastic form of expression. I try to be really creative with the way I project this. I like to use more than just words; I fuse music, dance and images together to create a representation as a whole. This isn’t typical of spoken word artists at all. With my work, you’ll find contemporary dancers on stage, breakdancers, live singers… anything I can incorporate to make the work special.

 For this project, I have been working with 18 – 25 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds, and have created a piece using the information I have gained from them. We have been holding work shops with them since Monday, through until this Friday at Grass Roots. On Monday, the kids weren’t as keen to get involved. But then we created a video for them (http://bit.ly/1gr0Rlu), showing them what we wanted to do. We showed them the video, and today the workshop was absolutely packed! It was an incredible sight. That shift was the nicest thing for me so far. It was a bit like coaxing the cat… we had to show them how cool it could be, and then just sat back and watched the crowds build!

 Q: Why did you want to get involved with Take Over Cardiff?

 A: I was chosen by the British Council as part of an exchange programme in South Africa. There’s a really interactive relationship here, in which artists from South Africa come to Wales to showcase their work, and vice versa. I know that the British Council would like to see this event extended in the future, and I am excited to hopefully be a part of that.

 Take Over Cardiff is a great way to connect as an artist with other artists. I am staying with two other poets – Michael from New York City and Martin from Wales. It’s fantastic as we feed off one another, and can exchange any tips or advice. It’s great fun to have three creative individuals under one roof.

 Q: Do you think events like Take Over Cardiff are important to promote the arts to a younger audience?

 A: Absolutely, but also on the flip side they expose younger artists to an older generation! We are holding our showcase at the museum – a place normally associated with older individuals. So it will be exciting to give this audience a taste of the work by young individuals from the community, and literally put the talent right in front of their faces. A lot of the kids we are working with thought you had to pay to visit the museum! So I hope this will also open a lot more doors for them in that respect, introducing them to iconic venues around the city.

 Q: What do you hope to get out of your work with Take Over Cardiff?

 A: Firstly, I hope we can create an opportuny for kids to take advantage of – there are a lot of chances waiting for them, particularly in great places like Grass Roots, that I hope we can raise awareness of. Grass Roots provides a safe place for kids to harness any artistic inspiration they have, as well as offering several free courses (such as sound and engineering)!

 For me , the whole experience – seeing how other artists carry out their work and approach their craft – is a great opportunity. All the connections I have already made makes it very worthwhile! The arts community of Wales is so welcoming, and everyone seems really happy to help. There’s a very communal feel to it all – a very different atmosphere to my work in South Africa.

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

 A: Lots of surprises! When I left South Africa, I had one idea in my head. Since then, it has changed many times! The show as it is now is much more collaborative – but it is still constantly changing. There will be clips scattered throughout for people to watch, as well as break dancing, contemporary movement, live music and singing. Fundamentally, I just want to expose the audience to everything the kids can do!

 Check out Mutle’s video: http://bit.ly/1gr0Rlu 

To take a look at the work Mutle does with Word N Sound, have a look at their website.

 Find out more about Grass Roots Cardiff here.

 For more information on Takeover Cardiff visit the British Council website.

Follow them on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators.