Pilgrim Poetry Workshop in the Crypt at Worcester Cathedral Worcestershire Literary Festival 2014
The Pilgrim workshop at Worcester Cathedral was shared between artist Sara Hayward and Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus Maggie Doyle. In the atmospheric crypt the journey of The Worcester Pilgrim was discussed as poets and writers set about discovering their own pilgrimage. Ms Hayward brought along a piece of her artwork as inspiration.
Today was a chance to step inside Worcester’s new Golden Hive for the very first time. It is a state of the art new library bang in the middle of the city where University students and the public will be welcomed equally and which will have an amazing new childrens’ library. Apparently. It opens in July and I can’t wait. It was a great opportunity to don my silly hat and read my childrens’ picture book, “My Magic Stick,” to a bijoux audience along with others from Worcester Writers’ Circle. My daughter was sitting in the audience on the front row and I truly appreciate the fact that she and her friend didn’t walk out. Thank you Sweetie, I’ll pay you later.
An hour later I was on level one preparing to run a picture book making workshop in an orange pod with a yellow pod full of children on one side and a terracotta pod full of children tunnelling through story cubes on the other. Wow! Stereophonic children I thought. Imagine the surprise of my life when the workshop participants turned up and weren’t the seriouslyinterestedinwritingmyownpicturebookthankyouverymuch adults I’d envisaged and planned for but……….. more little people! So now I had quadrophonic children. Delightful! Suffice to say their ideas were far better than mine, their drawings far fresher and better, their natural marriage of pictures and text so brilliant and effortlessly created that I could easily have packed up and left them to it asking Walker Books to come on in and publish the lot. They really were that good. Each wonderful child left with their very own unique and original zig zag picture book. Well done kids! You should be running the country with creative ideas like that! And as for me I left feeling well and truly knackered but well and truly inspired which has to be THE best feeling.
Twice this week I’ve been wrong footed. I was up at the Barber Institute on Tuesday delivering paintings for submission to the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2011 and ambled upstairs to see the exhibition Court on Canvas. At the top of the stairs I turned left into the exhibition and had a quick look but wasn’t overly impressed. There were black and white photographs of Billie-Jean King, a cheeky tennis poster (you know the one), a range of tennis rackets from throughout the ages, a case full of art deco jewellery featuring tennis motifs etc etc. All well and good but nothing exactly scintillating. So I continued on into the permanent collection, mildly disappointed, enjoying the Howard Hodgkin as always, revisiting the Vuillard, the Bonnard, Sickert, and onto my Frans Hals and Bellini favourites. I paused for a moment to listen to various excellent explanations of paintings to a school party by a young museum officer before turning right into the final room and catching the train home. Imagine my surprise therefore when I found THIS was the main room of superb, fantactic tennis paintings and prints featuring works by Eric Gill, Edward Ravilious, Percy Shakespeare, Paul Nash, Sir John Lavery, Stanley Spencer and E.H.Shephard. I was gobsmacked and spellbound, in equal measures; it’s an ace exhibition and well worth seeing. But nearly missed it.
Blow me if a similar thing didn’t happen yesterday! I met a dear friend at Compton Verney near Stratford to take in the current Stanley Spencer and the English Garden exhibition. We did a couple of rooms of garden paintings before finishing off in the final room to watch the film about his life and career. This film had originally come out in the late 70s when we had both seen the Stanley Spencer exhibition at the Royal Academy as part of our O-level studies. It was quite a long film and what with the wooden floors, visiting school parties, and open plan nature of the gallery adversely affecting the accoustics, barely audible at times. We both stuck it out however and by the end were ready to go for lunch rating the experience overall as very good but not fantastic. As we walked back through the galleries we suddenly spotted a small sign on a door saying ‘exhibition continues’. This only turned out to be the entrance to the main exhibition which we had very nearly missed: two massive rooms of far more major works than those in the previous rooms.
Later I popped into the RSC theatre to see the current Folio exhibition- a response to Shakespeare by staff and student printmakers at the RCA; prints by Norman Ackroyd, Alistair Grant (my old tutor), Joe Tilson, Elizabeth Frink and many others. It was a lovely exhibition and well worth seeing. On the two and a half hour train journey from Worcester to Stratford first thing I had got talking to two ladies about their day trip to Stratford. What are you going to do there, I asked casually. Go on the river, they replied. Well, you could always go into the theatre, I suggested. There followed a pregnant pause. Why would we want to do that? they asked in unison. Well, because it’s the home of Shakespeare theatre, they’ve just spent a trillion pounds rebuilding it, you can get a cup of tea, visit the gift shop, see an exhibition, it’s the RSC’s 50th birthday, lots of reasons, blah, blah, blah, but I suspect my well meaning suggestions were falling on deaf ears.
Well, what a week. I am well and truly cream crackered but happily so. I have participated as much as possible in the inaugural Literary Festival, reading out my own satirical piece as well as someone else’s where I played the Queen (as One does) as part of the Worcester Writers’ Circle Lampoon evening at Drummonds last Wednesday, read my short story “Whistler’s Mother” as part of the Sinister Shorts evening at the University on Friday, as well as run a Picture Book workshop with children’s book author Karen King in the very beautiful St Swithun’s Church ( I have lived in Worcester for twenty three years and am ashamed to say this was the first time I had stepped inside this beautiful interior).
As well as “performing” I have also enjoyed hearing Tony Judge talk about the writing of his first novel Sirocco Express in an interview with Peter Spalton, attended a mesmerising book binding workshop where I hand stitched two small booklets under the expert eye of Angela Sutton, heard about the writing of the play “Elgar and Alice” about Elgar’s life by Peter Sutton at the Swan Theatre, and nearly, I repeat nearly, heard William Cash talk about his book about Graham Greene’s affair which inspired “The End of the Affair” (unfortunately we turned up not realising he had cancelled. Gggrrr, William Cash, gggrrrr!)
This afternoon I am off for cake and bubbly to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Worcester Writers’ Circle and shall no doubt read a few of my haiku, and tonight I am off to read more haiku at Malvern Theatre as a member of Malvern Writers’ Circle. Today and tomorrow are the last two days to catch our Literary Portraits exhibition here at our Battenhall studios. Oh! and I’ve got toothache. It’s all go!
So what now? Well, I have started writing a non fiction book about life drawing so watch this space and I’ll keep you informed. If and when it’s published you’ll be the first to know and I’ll encourage you to buy a half a dozen copies to keep the bare wolf from this door.
The inaugural Worcestershire Arts Trail went really well; Paul and I met some lovely people and the four days went very quickly. I am sure that by next year there will be even more participants and even more people coming round. By next year we intend to have more drawings, prints and cards available. It felt good to be able to recommend other artist studios in the vicinity for interested parties to discover.
We then spent a magical few days on the coast in mid Wales catching up with the Museum of Modern Art in Macchynleth and sunbathing amongst the dunes in Aberdovey. The weather was kind and the wild natural beauty of the area delightful after being studio bound for the previous few days. Although we were camping we managed to find the nearest 4* hotel at lunch time and treat ourselves to the most delicious three course lunches you can imagine. This turned it into more of a glamping experience but goodness me, having left the kids behind who can blame us! Sadly however this week I now have to diet trying to lose all the extra pounds I put on. Ah well. It seemed a good idea at the time but boy! does sea air make you ravenous.
Now the inaugural Worcestershire Literary Festival is nearly upon us and we are busy framing paintings for the literary portrait exhibition we are holding here in our studios at 74 Battenhall Avenue. I am also going to be involved reading at Worcester Writers’ Circle events during the festival and being on the door selling tickets for some of the events, as well as running a picture book workshop with Karen King. But well done, Lisa Ventura, for organising it and getting it off the ground. Its good to have a cultural event going on in the city and I hope everyone tries to support it. There are so many interviews, workshops, book signings, readings taking place there is surely something for everybody. Small is beautiful this year but I am sure that by next year, just like the Arts Trail, it will have grown. Check out: http://www.worcslitfest.com for all the up to date details.
Carol Ann Duffy
It was fantastic to hear Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy give poetry readings twice – once in a Worcester public house where she spoke from behind the bar pulling pints looking quite at home and once in a Malvern school where she was serenaded by a musical sidekick. And I loved her poems about committment created for the nation around the time of the Royal Wedding recently. I am pleased with how this illustration turned out. Beginning any new image is like an act of faith that something good will come out of the time, energy and focus invested and as Sir Winston Churchill said: all paintings are a battleground reaching a point where you think you are losing but reminding us to press on and win the battle. It was a challenge to paint her hair; I never use black but manage to mix a gorgeous rich dark colour from the darkest blue, the richest red and a hint of the richest yellow on my palette, only ever using the three basic primaries to create all the colours I need. I do however use a full range of brushes from the largest scruffiest cheapest mongrel brush picked up goodness only knows where (never throw brushes away – they’re all useful somewhere in a painting) to the itsiest finest detail brush, thereby creating a rich vocabulary of mark making to describe the textures and subtleties of both flesh and fabric.