Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Nottingham Castle

Time to Fight

24 September 10 words: James Walker
'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more'
'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.'

On Saturday I had the pleasure of witnessing a day’s festivities at the New Art Exchange as the Lyric Lounge stopped off in Nottingham on its regional tour. The New Art Exchange has been a welcome addition to the Hyson Green landscape and after seven years of helping raise the profile of multi-cultural arts it was the perfect appetiser to prepare us for Black History month this October.

There have been many memorable moments since Friday’s Black Drop session but I’d like to focus on two events in particular; the workshop performances held by commissioned poets Aly Stoneman and Andrew ‘MulltProofPoet’ Graves, as their projects highlight exactly why events such as these are so essential to the communities most likely to feel the back hand of the forthcoming government cuts. 

Aly Stoneman performed with her regular side-kick, Milk.

YWCA Young Women’s Groups
The role of each commissioned poet has been to work closely with a group of people and create a performance. Ann Holloway and Aly Stoneman worked with some young mums and touched on parenthood in numerous ways. Firstly Aly noted that men were the missing component in this particular equation and performed a touching poem about her father taking her out to cut down a Christmas tree. Her descriptions of his strong hands and the felling of the tree evoked images of strength and power, characteristics that some of the women have had to show in the absence of a male. She then explained how the power dynamics of the group were instantly turned on their head at her first session when instead of looking up to her as the workshop leader, pitied her when they learned she was without child. This reversion clearly impacted on her work, illustrating that the learning process is a sea saw that catapults all in equal measures.

The group wrote some poems together and in some, the mothers spoke key lines in harmony. I thought this worked particularly well as it showed a gentle solidarity. Listening to their poems it was clear that the bond with their child was the most important thing in their world and this is exactly what the session offered them, the opportunity to express that other than through breast feeding and changing a nappy. I doubt very much that any of them have any intention of pursuing a career in the written word but at least they now have the confidence to express their love for their children in a different form. That is the value of these community projects and why the government must not underestimate the role of the arts in building back ‘broken’ Britain.     

YARD Youth Theatre Performance
Andrew Graves and Deborah Stevenson were the commissioned artists working with YARD in their newly devised piece directed by Rachael Young, with mentoring from Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze. Let’s start with Deborah.

Deborah Stevenson, a poet with attitude and a warn smile.
photo: www.nickrphotography,com

Deborah Stevenson is arguably the most confident up-and-coming performer on the scene, insisting the audience stand up and then repeat back each of her lines to her. If they weren’t loud enough then she demanded that they do it again. You got the impression that she wouldn’t take second best and would be quite happy to put you through your paces again, and again, and again. Perhaps realising this, the audience quickly succumbed to her demands, meaning that instead of remaining a detached spectator they felt part of the performance. This technique for audience participation is not one I would advocate unless you have the personality and confidence to pull it off. Deborah has this in abundance and so I’m quite happy for her to shout at me whenever she wants. If you’d like to see this poetry drill-instructor in action, then get down to the Nottingham Playhouse on Friday 1 October (5pm-7pm) when Deborah will be hosting an open-mic event with Honey Williams’ Gang of Angels choir.

In stark contrast was MulletProofPoet, the snazziest dresser in town, who describes himself as ‘a failed genetic experiment involving Paul Weller and 'Rodney' out of Only Fools and Horses’. His poetry is a series of acute cultural observations entwined in comical verse, a fun political sparing if you will, that punches hard enough above the belt to leave you winded. He’s quickly asserted himself as a favourite on the local circuit and we’re delighted to announce he will be introducing our themed performances at this year’s Scribal Gathering v Hockley Hustle on October 23. 

If you want to see what a cross between Rodney out of Only Fools and Horses and Paul Weller looks like, check out Andrew Graves website.

YARD is a youth led theatre group and so it came as no surprise that the performers were very good and even included a nine-year old who looked like a seasoned pro. The quality of work was exceptional, particularly the opening performers, who showed such maturity I was sucked right into their respective narratives. It was watching them perform that I realised local cultural organisations, such as LeftLion, have an integral role in continuing the tentative steps made here by these enthusiastic practitioners by finding them space in future performances. This nurtures their talent and enables them to continue their pathway rather than it becoming just a project ‘I did for a while that was well-good’. We’d certainly like to find a fifteen minute slot for them in our next Shindig! if they would care to take us up on the offer.

What this project makes abundantly clear, and similarly with Damien Walter’s fantastic Everybody’s Reading campaign in Leicester, is that for us to affect any level of meaningful change, we need to get to kids when they’re young. We need to drum it into their heads from age dot that they mean something, that they have a place within society and that they have a voice not only worth speaking, but one to which others will listen. This, more than more bobbies on the beat, ASBOs, CCTV cameras and the repugnant Jeremy Kyle shouting down disillusioned youth, holds the key to the harmonious society our politicians keep telling us doesn’t exist.

Now you know what that big building off the Forest Fields tram stop is, get down and use it a bit more often.

It was fitting then in the open-mic session that poet Chester Morrison should mention the troubles in Jamaica and that he was waiting for the people to stand up and fight. It reminded me of the anchorman who loses the plot in Network and screams into the autocue ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more’. Times ahead are tough for all arts based organisations and ‘I’m mad as hell’ at the thought that noble events such as this may one day feel the pinch or that a young mothers' group may get closed down because it’s not economically viable. I’m ready to fight and if you know how LeftLion can get in a good scrap then put on your gloves and punch into your keyboard [email protected]    

There are more acts all day Sunday as Tilt presents Nottingham Liming, so skip the church just this once and head on down. There’s even free Asian grub from 1-2pm so you don’t have to worry about cooking.

New Art Exchange
39 - 41 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham NG7 6BE, UK
Telephone +44 (0)115 924 8630 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +44 (0)115 924 8630      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

and the small print that makes big things happen...

Lyric Lounge Nottingham’ is part of the ‘Igniting Ambition’ programme. It is coordinated by Serenah Cole, with patronage from Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, and is in association with Blackdrop and YARD. ‘The Lyric Lounge’ is managed by Writing East Midlands which supports, promotes and champions writing from the region. It is funded by MLA Renaissance East Midlands, Arts Council England, and The Legacy Trust. Its regional delivery group includes Mainstream Partnership, Apples and Snakes, Déda, Baby Studios, New Art Exchange, Nottingham City Council, 2FunkyArts & WORD!

Lyric Lounge website
James Walker’s website

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now