I announced on Facebook last week that I’d been accepted into the University of Manchester to do an MA in Creative Writing, with a focus on poetry. Obviously, this is a big step, and one I’m very happy to take. Even if the small matters of money and work and housing have yet to be fully cleared up.
Before I go on a bit more about this, I’ve got a few things to go through. Sorry, it’s a long one this week, but it has been two months since my last post, and a surprising amount has happened.
For example. after three years and one day, I have finally completed the first draft of Just a Kiss, which I’ve mentioned here on and off. Break out the champagne! Spending that amount of time on something which has turned out to be 48 pages long is ridiculous, but I’m glad I’ve got there, and can turn my attention to other things while I let it mature like a fine wine in my vaults. The weird thing that’s happened during its tumultuous development is that it’s gained two siblings, Surfacing and The Bed, and has become a trilogy. The Bed is just an outline, but Surfacing is an unfocused mess of material rattling within the cage of a larger idea, so I’m going to have to put a lot of work into producing a new outline for it before heavily revising what I have. But it’s all good fun, if not a priority.
Also, I’m going to point you towards my Soundcloud page. I’ve been semi-quietly developing my musical project Lovesick Rebel over there, and I’ve so far I’ve come up with a twenty minute home demo tape. I will play live at some point, but I fear my opportunity to do it in Leicester has passed, considering I move out in less than a week and I’m not rehearsed enough to play in front of people. I will hopefully get round to it in Manchester, though, and I’ll certainly record another 20mins on that tape up there. I have a few ideas of what I want to achieve with Lovesick Rebel (including some ties with the poetry I’ll be doing in Manchester), but it’s going to be a slow journey. Stay tuned, though, it might turn out good.
This hasn’t got anything to do with the rest of this blog, but I currently have my friend Diani staying with me, and I’m having a lovely time. Hanging out more with a good friend is definitely the best way to wrap up five years of Leicester living, and I’m lucky to know her.
Now, poetry. Some people know I write poetry – there’s been plenty on this site over the years, though not much at the moment – but equally, many don’t. Thing is, mostly I write for people or for purpose. With theatre, the writing I’ve completed for it has, for the most part, been performed, often with a very short turnaround time. The trilogy I mentioned above has never had a performance date, hence why it hasn’t been done. With my #fridayflash, which I miss, it was writing prose for immediate publication, but I don’t have a novel on the go, nor many short stories. I’m not in the gigging habit, so my songs outside that musical I did have been occasional, and not widely shared. (Part of the reason I started Lovesick Rebel was to clean up these occasional pieces and see if any of them had legs, as well as producing new material in a more focused manner.)
Much like my music, my poetry has been mostly kept private. Generally, I’ve only really written poetry if I have a strong idea for a poem, or a strong idea that I want to write a poem. This is why my most prolific period was when I was doing my poetry module at university. Nevertheless, the backlog, while not vast, has been slowly building up. Recently, I’ve been looking at my poetry from a different perspective, because I’ve started attending Jess Green’s wonderful poetry night Find the Right Words. Before, I was writing poems for myself, with the vague idea that the best of them would be magically published in a book, the result being few poems and no book. Now, poetry has sidled into the space I used to use for theatre – writing for an audience, with a view to producing a show.
So, I’m going to Manchester to write more poems – often book poems, yes, poems written to work on a page, but also because I want to build a show out of my poetry. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-sufficient live performance recently, having taken a break from theatre (more below), and because I’m good at poetry, and its most basic live production is someone in front of a microphone, that seems to be the best way forward for me, after the madness of doing musicals and opera. Also, I may be good, but every poet and spoken word performer I meet is better than me, and that will not stand.
Obviously, all this means that I’m leaving Leicester after 5 very full years. University was university, and there’s not much point me writing about those three years here. Particularly because I’m writing about them obliquely in a trilogy of plays I’m planning but may never produce. However, if you’re interested, and because I’ve fallen particularly radio silent during them, I’m going to run through the broad strokes of what I was doing in the other two.
After completing work on my BA in May 2013, I spent the next three months bumming around Leicester doing theatre-y stuff, which was nice, and I had some concept that if I stuck around I could develop the amateur dramatics into something a bit more professional. Unfortunately, reality intervened, and shortly after graduation I had to move back home to Warwickshire.
Warwickshire is a perfectly lovely place, except I don’t drive, and there’s precious little interesting employment. I spent a few months temping for the council, but I was pretty much just unemployed until May 2014, which is horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Luckily, I had a lovely distraction in the form of Nando’s and Nandon’ts: A Musical, which probably wouldn’t have been completed at all if I hadn’t been unemployed, and eventually took me to the Fringe for my first run in August 2014. What I felt about the Fringe was, cheesy as it sounds, I was finally somewhere that I felt like I belonged. The fact I’ve felt most at home at a pop-up arts festival probably tells you a lot about my personality.
Anyway, unemployment gave way to employment, and I started working in a paint shop in May 2014 (taking my only holiday in order to go to the Fringe). This was fine, as such things are, and it meant that I could move out of my friends’ front bedroom (where I had unofficially taken residence for many months, in order to work on Nando’s more easily and also search for work in a more populous area) and into a horrid bedsit. Still, it was my horrid bedsit, and it meant I could start moving on from the feeling I was taking advantage of my friends’ good graces. (I feel like I cashed in most of my favours that year, and since then I’ve been trying to redress the balance somewhat ever since.)
After the Fringe, I moved straight on to Carmen, an opera I was directing two nights a week, which suddenly turned from a minor habit into my primary focus and a massive production that was happening within the month. So, I rolled straight from the stresses of an independent musical theatre project (and the life crises that surrounded it) into the stresses of an opera. Needless to say, after that I was burnt out. I took a role in The Cagebirds at The Little Theatre, because I wanted to theatre without having to be in charge of it for once. (In university, I chopped and changed between many short run projects, doing many sorts of roles, but I didn’t get to do much theatre outside of Nando’s and Carmen and therefore being project leader for a year. That’s tiring.)
Once The Cagebirds ended, I consciously took a break from doing theatre, and since I haven’t done any since, that break must still be going on. I love theatre, but there’s many things I don’t like about it, and my experiences over that year taught me that if I was anything less than utterly passionate about a project, there’s no point in me running it, because I won’t see any money from it, and I could use the time doing something else. I was passionate about those projects, and it pushed me to my limit, so the thought of being that “on” for something I was doing just to clear it off my decks wasn’t appealing. I still haven’t developed a theatre piece to the point where I’d feel comfortable asking people to do it with me – not because the ideas aren’t good, but they’re ambitious and I’m not sure how to execute them, which means I need to get them as good as I can before seeking collaborators to help me put them on their feet. Obviously, time’s run out for Leicester, but perhaps in Manchester I’ll finally sort it out. I’ve got the trilogy, plus a few other good ideas, so it is just a case of what my priorities end up being. I love collaborative theatre, but self-sufficient performance is my current focus, so the collaborations will have to be very interesting indeed.
Anyway, once I took my break from theatre, my priority became work, which was an unfulfilling priority, because there was little chance of me having a future in the job I was doing, and I couldn’t find anything in “the real world” that I wanted to do, so a process of being ground down, spending time doing something that isn’t you to pay to live somewhere you don’t like, began. I moved to a houseshare in January, which has been better, but I’m also glad to leave it, considering the mice and the broken boiler and recently the food theft. I had my friends, who I’m grateful for, but they’re busy people, so most of my time was spent doing… I don’t even know what. My life has generally been measured by what play or project I was doing at the time, so when you’re between things it’s hard to keep track of what’s actually happening. Suffice to say, nothing interesting. I even missed Fringe 2015, because I needed to work in August to keep afloat, and I’ve been too tired the rest of the year to do my own show anyway.
That’s why this next step matters. My project now is poetry. I’ve got two years in Manchester to learn, write, perform, and get a certificate proclaiming my aptitude in poetry. Alongside that, I’ll have part-time work, hopefully doing something more suited to my skills. My personal life will change, obviously, and that will be interesting, whatever becomes of it. And maybe, alongside all this, I’ll be doing something else exciting as well. My future is a blank page, my focus is art, now let’s see what happens next.
I’ll try to blog more, considering I’m now displaced from the majority of my friends as well as my family, and let you know how it’s all going on. The next one will probably be more pithy. Until next time, here’s my selfie with Lucy, the family dog.