Monday, 28 September 2015

Cooking up a Banquet

photo by ClaireGriffiths


I've been lucky enough to document, with photographer Claire Griffiths, an amazing project underway in Blackpool this summer/ autumn - Banquet.  There are six creative strands all working towards a largescale community banquet on Saturday 24th October. These include building the table for the feast, embroidering the tablecloth, making and designing the plates, making and flavouring the salt, picking apples from neglected orchards and turning them into chutney, and infusing new teas inspired by the character of Blackpool and the Wyre.

I'm particularly struck by the sustainable and ecological nature of the work. The ethos of all the projects I've visited so far is to draw from the resources of the area - either literally - in terms of making salt from the Wyre or finding orchards for apples - or metaphorically in terms of inspiration that comes from the stories of the participants. While many of the participants were not necessarily aware of the other strands of the project when they first embarked on, say, designing their own slipware plates and bowls, the overlapping of the artistic drive of celebrating what we have where we are is reinforced every time I visit a project. 

This is perhaps most evident in the apple picking project, the salters and the people's pottery project - all three making space and time for the sheer creative joy of making things from the earth. Once time is made to work with and handle the most basic of elements, more value is inevitably placed on the element. The increased sense of wonder that comes from excavating the source of something, making connections between what we take for granted, is boundless. 

And nourishing. It adds the x-factor to any recipe, just as much as eating food you've grown yourself. In an era that mixes a cooking programme virtually every night on tv, spiraling food prices and increasing obesity, it feels imperative to have such community based projects that encourage this knowledge and build it into enjoyable and inclusive events. Beachcombing along the Fleetwood seafront, anyone? 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Soul Poetry

We have soul music and soul food, but soul poetry is not a genre familiar to me. Soul is a tricky word. What is it? How is it different to spirit? Is it something you have to believe in?

I've decided the poetry that mattes to us, as readers or writers, is, by its impact, soul poetry. This is why I think with all the poems out there in the world I am only really struck by proportionally so few. The hit, the striking of that poem with me, has to be so precise for it to chime with me, with my soul - that intangible element of me that is a swirling mass of emotion, intellect and experience. It is that connection that makes a poem flare inside or fall by my feet.

It is that connection, which a friend recently called our soul connection, that makes me as a writer feel so impassioned, so vulnerable, so aligned, with the poems I write that work. I have a series of prose poems that I see as a pamphlet. They occupy a half-lit, smudgy world somewhere in the North, narrated by an unnamed inhabitant of a coastal village. I want them out in the world, rafted in a small publication. This desire is far greater than the impetus I feel for Colne Rising, my latest commission. Which, while focusing on matters close to my heart: sea levels and marine ecologies, has yet to emerge into a transcription of that intangible part of me.

Of course there's time for this to shape itself and naturally I hope and intend it will. But I wonder if the process of having to pitch for this commission, to have to explain the idea and (the nightmare of print deadlines) write a blurb about the unwritten piece as if it exists, forces it into presence. This makes me think it's like religions presenting the notion of soul to a congregation before they've had chance to discover what it might be for themselves.

Colne Rising is full of new challenges for me, which of course is fantastic as well as intimidating. I think the greatest is, having gathered the external details: location, histories, oceanographics, to step inside, breathe, and find its soul.