Revelation Review: Michael Morpurgo ‘The Mozart Question’

Michael Morpurgo at Revelation St Marys

It was the sound of the snipping scissors that transported me to Venice – one of a few unexpected delights of last Sunday afternoon. For the next hour or so, I forgot I was actually sitting in a church (Revelation St Mary’s in Ashford) to watch and listen to Michael Morpurgo tell his story, The Mozart Question, accompanied by actress Alison Reid, violinist Daniel Pioro and The Storyteller’s Ensemble.

I hadn’t read the book and I didn’t know the story. I took my seat knowing that I enjoyed the productions of War Horse and Farm Boy and that the Revelation classical programme has always pleased me, but still assuming, as an adult, I was not the target audience for this performance. As an arts manager and programmer, and now as a reviewer, I’ve spent years using my professional interest as an excuse to attend events that “aren’t really meant for me” – I’ve included many children’s shows and classical concerts under that. It is definitely time to shake off my need to legitimise my presence. However, I do still love the apparent surprise of being delighted! 

And this is certainly a performance that delights, even with the moments of absolute sadness. It is quite amazing how Michael Morpurgo can unfold narratives that address the holocaust and its legacy, to create a story that is essentially a happy life-affirming one. No wonder Mozart and the violin are at the centre of the tale, both make music that can simultaneously invoke utter sadness and joyful beauty.

It feels like this story was meant to be heard aloud, with Mozart (and Vivaldi and Monti among others) to accompany the words. I was utterly captivated, all the elements of this performance interweave so beautifully. It seems so simple and minimal in presentation, but it is wonderfully complex, emotionally and artistically. 

Alison Reid read the part of Lesley, who finds herself unexpectedly travelling to Venice to interview a renowned musician, Paulo Levi. She is instructed not to ask the virtuoso violinist the Mozart question, however Paulo decides it is time to reveal his secret. Michael unravels the mysteries from the perspective of both adult and child, parent and son, teacher and pupil, while violinist Daniel seamlessly shifts between playing as Paulo, his father and his teacher. The story tells how Paulo, as a child, discovered both the violin and what happened to his Jewish parents at a concentration camp, and why he never plays Mozart. 

For innocent ears, it is a sensitive and inspiring introduction to a horrific history – here is another review of this performance which features a seven year old’s reactions (expect astute questions and air violin!). 

For me, it was an enthralling reminder of the power of storytelling and music.  

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Guest Posts and Poetry

WriteI’ve written guest posts for two amazing blogs recently.

The first was for the super Sarah Starrs over at The Laughing Medusa. Sarah writes about self love, adventure and lifestyle design. When I have a bad day, I look to her blog for guidance, reassurance or a gentle but firm, kick up the backside. She inspires me so much, so I was absolutely delighted to write a little something for her blog – Why Self Love Fuels Creativity And Embraces Your Dark Side

The second guest blog post is all about how to Overcome Adversity and Be Your Own Boss over on Call It Adventure – which is a boss babe’s guide to life, style and adventure. Torie and her blog are all kinds of awesome. I recommend joining her League of Adventurers and watch out for a guest post from Torie on here soon. You can expect a productivity boost and some creative miracles!  

And I’ve also been writing poetry. Lots of it.

I’ve been posting the odd piece of work in progress over on Instagram and Tumblr, and I’ve recorded a couple of poems, which you can listen to on Soundcloud

Finally, I’ve finished a collection of black out poetry, and I’m so pleased with it that I am going to make it into a book! I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon, so expect a flurry of shameless self-promotion!  

Link Love: Art Inspires Art

Creativity can be contagious. Just check out these links I’ve found over the last month – all creative projects inspired by other wonderful works of art.

The month’s DIY Creative Club theme was ‘based on a book’. Areeba Siddique who writes a fabulous blog called I Have A Messy Bun created a zine about the character in her favourite novel, AmarbailOver on the Sunny Side of the Street, there are book inspired illustrations peppered with emotion and kawaii cuteness. I’ve taken inspiration from some of my favourite fairytales and fantasy stories by transforming a poem I was working on with some witchy wordplay (I’ll post it on Soundcloud soon).

This mash up of black and white TellyTubbies footage in with Joy Division’s is one of the most beautifully soothing things I’ve ever watched. 

The Other Art Fair shared an image from Alejandra Corral’s art book Uncovered Red ridding hood – inspired by my favourite fairy tale. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 8 bit is so sweet and surreal. I love the 8 bit soundtrack.

William Blake is one of my favourite poets – his work continues to delight, comfort and inspire me. Set to song, his words sound wonderful.

With the summer solstice, inspired by the enigmatic Stone Henge, some mysterious mischievous maker constructed Fridge Henge in Maidstone.

Let’s end with a song (or 22), all based on books, or with a literary connection on the last DIY Creative Club playlist. It is collaborative list, so you can add any that we missed! 

What To Wear When You Are Really A 90s Witch Going To A BBQ

What to wear when you are really a 90s witch

It has been 20 years since I left school. I hated school, so leaving it was a happy day!  I don’t have any memorabilia – no photos, no leavers book – but I did keep a handful of amazing friends. Yesterday we had a get-together to mark the occasion, the sun came out especially (we did schedule BBQ weather a year ago, and our advance request was miraculously manifested by the powers that be!).

Hopefully 16 year old Cassy would have approved of my outfit, which had an appropriately 90s influence, but fortunately without the crimes against style I committed at the time. You live and learn.  

I’ve been looking for a black maxi skirt for ages and I finally found one that meets all my requirements from Dorothy Perkins. I teamed it up with a stripy tee and black hat from H&M. Accessorised with my new favourite item of beautiful jewellery, the Radiant Crystal Shards Necklace from Sugar and Vice. Then I added a touch of teen angst with my Ruining Everything Pin from Stay Home Club – this is my spirit badge! My feet were covered in incantations, well actually it is a poem which I wrote all over what I now call my poetry plimsolls

After posing for some snaps, I found some shade and had a bloody good time, with much witchy cackling, mystic fire and a brew of homemade Pimms. 

90s witchy summer style

A Pointless Blog Post

Just add some random whimsy - a pointless blog postThis is the third version of this blog post. It should be one of those fun posts, a straight-forward write and easy read. However I have been known to make life (and blogging) a little more complicated than it is. 

A little while back That Gent Mark tagged me in his Creative Blogger Award post. This means that after blushes and a delighted, if tearful, award acceptance speech, I owe Mark a blog post. There are rules and I’m following one by linking to Mark, but I recommend checking out his work anyway, he is a wonderful blogger, creative designer and illustrator.

As for the other rules, I’m breaking them and freestylin’ this blog post, which does include some things about me, but they are not snappy factoids, you get rambling stream of consciousness instead, you lucky readers!  

I’ve found blogging hard lately. I still have plenty of ideas and lots to say, but I have had to slow down and focus on a series of major life changes, events and stresses. As I type I am surrounded by half packed boxes, I don’t have a moving date yet, so I’m in limbo! 

I have also had my head down on some creative projects, which I’ll let you know about as soon as I can. I’m itching to tell everyone, but need to finalise what I am actually doing first! 

I started blogging just for fun, but I’ve professionalised. While I don’t earn money from writing this blog, I do take on occasional reviewing commitments and I have a clearer purpose – I want to inspire creativity.

I walk the line between being seriously silly and so serious it is silly. I think I’ve fallen on the serious side recently. It may be time for me to nurture some silliness and bring back the whimsy. I am pledging to myself, and to you dear reader, that I will post some pointless, random and whimsical things alongside the purposeful content. 

In real life, I am a pathological people pleaser, and I have been working on being a little more selfish (the good kind!). While I like to make my own life complicated, I try to make it easier for others. I like being useful, but at the moment I’m working on just being me. I’m doing great, but as I write this I realise that I have just transferred my need to be constantly and consistently useful from my real life to my blog posts. 

So I’ve decided there is no point to this blog post. 

Ok there is a point to it. I get to spill some reflective words onto the page and press publish, which will make me feel like I’ve achieved something. I also get to say thanks to Mark and stop feeling rubbish for not posting something. I get to avoid the packing for half an hour. But there is no helpful hints, tips or lessons learnt. There is no intentional message here. This is an indulgent post. Anything you take is yours. 

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Some Creative DIY (with knobs on!)

Creative DIY Update Your Dresser With Decorative KnobsI love customising my clothes and upcycling knick knacks, but when it comes to DIY, I am a disaster! I usually leave the furniture and the flat well alone, but an email from Trinca-Ferro offering a chance to review decorative knobs got my attention.

I was intrigued enough to spend most of my evening perusing a large selection of vintage, ceramic, glass, metal and acrylic drawer knobs and door handles. I started dreaming up potential creative projects. The one that stuck was my dressing table, which I have been wanting to personalise for a while, but not worked up the courage to do anything for fear of destroying it. Surely just changing the knobs would be simple enough?! 

I picked four glass ones, two designs in four different colours, because I love coloured glass and wanted a mismatched look with some kind of design coherence. My favourite is the green, just because I adore green glass – it reminds me of the Emerald City, even though it is more minty than emerald. 

Trinca Ferro Glass KnobsI also ordered two blue-eyed glass knobs for my artist sister, because I knew she’d love them! I have no idea if they will appear on her furniture or in an artwork!

The knobs are great value, at around £2.95 each, they are affordable way of customising furniture and fittings. Obviously I was gifted the ones featured here, but I’d happily spend that to revamp some drawers or cupboards. 

Of course, being Dame DIY Disaster, the knob changeover wasn’t quite as easy as I anticipated. The glass knobs were fine and easy to install, the difficulty was with my quirky handmade drawers, which vary in size. I did need get the drill out to make one hole bigger. A dash of determination, a bit of brute force and some improvisation about which knob would fit each drawer best, and the job was done within half an hour.   

I love my new look dressing table with added classy glass. What do you think? Would you give this DIY project a go? 

Creative DIY with Trinca Ferro Decorative Glass KnobsThanks to Trinca-Ferro for sending me the glass knobs for this project. You can shop their selection at http://www.trinca-ferro.com/

 

How Major Surgery Made Me More Creative

How surgery made me more creativeNo I am not about to tell you about an innovative procedure to alter your personality or give you amazing creative skills. There is (as far as I know) no creativity implant.

Having major surgery changed my life and made me more creative, but you don’t need to go under the knife to kick start your creativity.  

This time last year I was recovering from a hysterectomy. To mark the anniversary of my surgery, I wrote a list of all the things that I have done in the last 12 months, personally and professionally. It is a long eventful list of stresses and successes. My entire life has changed. Although as I type that I realise that nothing has really changed, except my attitude and actions. 

I should say that my hysterectomy went extraordinarily smoothly for such a major surgery. I had the procedure done by keyhole, so my initial recovery time was the standard six weeks. That was six whole weeks off work! The longest time off I’d had since I was 16. Despite the epic fatigue and difficulty moving about, it was one of the best times of my life! 

Firstly, I felt the benefits instantly, I was free from my usual pain and I knew the new surgery-related pain was only temporary. There was lots of things I couldn’t do and I needed to distract myself from the discomfort and isolation. This meant reading books and watching many films. It also meant writing, colouring, sewing sock kitties, doodling and daydreaming. I tried a few new crafts. I did it all just for fun and I felt sublimely happy. 

I’m not romanticising it in retrospect. At the time I confided in friends how it good it felt because it felt a bit wrong to be enjoying it! This time and space was a creative catalyst for me and I’ve been reflected on why so I can keep creating those conditions for myself. 

Preparation I won’t lie, I went a bit nuts preparing for surgery. I cleaned the flat more thoroughly than ever before. I was eating healthy and exercising regularly. I brought all the things I might possibly want during my recovery. I went a bit over the top with it all, my control freakery took over, but I was worried I would go mad after two days. Afterwards I realised I didn’t need everything to be perfect, but it was nice having everything I needed close by. Before starting a big project make sure you have the resources you need, an inspiring environment and supporters queued up. Don’t be afraid to ad lib, adjust or ask for help as you go.

Freedom to focus – I didn’t have to worry about my usual roles and responsibilities. I had no projects to manage. I stopped worrying about being a good wife, daughter, friend. I just worried about being a good patient and looking after myself. It was socially acceptable for me to be totally selfish. Of course I still worried about some things, but I always drew myself away from it, because this recovery time was not the time to worry, it was time for me. Now I apply that to my writing time. When I get distracted, I remind myself that this moment is meant for creating. Worry can always wait… it never helps anyway!   

Permission to play – Of course sometimes I get distracted by fun things rather than worries, social media is the best/worst for this! Now my time is more limited and I might have just an hour or two, to write, craft or relax. Sometimes I diarise a time to blog, but after a long day I’m just too tired. There are times when a deadline has to be met, but if there isn’t, allow yourself to adventure off-track. I usually end up writing something else. If you feel the urge to try something new or different, do it and see what happens. Don’t make everything a task, be playful and experimental.

Just start – I am pretty bloody amazing at procrastinating, but I get stuff done. I get it done much quicker when I just start. You cannot work out the end product before you begin, plan yes, but don’t wait for it to be perfect. Once you get going, ideas will flow and you can adapt as you learn and discover.  

Look after yourself – Drink lots of water, eat well, taking regular dance or stretch breaks. One huge reason I can be more creative now is that I am not in pain all the time. Look after your body, you need it to manifest all those amazing things in your imagination. I’d highly recommend trying the Alexander Technique. It is so good for releasing tension and ideas. If you have health issues, don’t ignore them, focus on making them better so you are fit to create.

Feel your feelings – Look after your mind too. I’ve had many emotional ups and downs over the last twelve months. Suddenly being able to feel again sent me into a spin. When the pain went, all my other senses were amplified. It is amazing and overwhelming. Feeling pleasure and pain provides fuel for most of us creative types. Face it, embrace it and create something beautiful out of your emotions. 

Retreat – Go on a creative retreat. You can make your own or book a structured one, but take a break from your day to day life. You can create or you can consume – go to the woods to write, up a mountain to paint, travel to a city festival to see new performance work or sit by a pool in the Med and read. 

Review: The Clever Badger’s Badger Box – It’s Getting Hot Out There

Badger Box - It's Getting Hot Out There

Subscription and surprise boxes are so hot right now. Probably because they are so much fun and a great way to discover and support indie brands.  

If you haven’t tried a subscription box before, there are two ways to go – either find a company who make you want to collect all their things, or try a box that will introduce you to new things, designers or products. 

The Badger Box is a bit of both. You get to support a cool independent on-line shop as well as discovering fabulous UK artists, designers and creatives.

This is the subscription box for all you art lovers and fun creative types who appreciate contemporary design, quirky concepts and limited edition exclusives. There are only 50 boxes available each month. The box includes a selection of unisex products – homewares, gifts, greeting cards, stationery, food, illustrations and anything in-between.

When the lovely folks at The Clever Badger asked me if I would like to review their first Badger Box, of course I snapped the offer up.

It has the perfect summer theme of “It’s Getting Hot Out There”. The curation of this first box is quite evocative of British summertime; it is a blend of natural loveliness, cheeky wildlife, bright colours and sweet treats, all served with wry humour.

Badger Box - Kabloom Seedbom

Graffiti gardening anyone? First up I found an eco-grenade full of forget-me-not seeds and instructions to throw it and grow it. I don’t have a garden at the moment, but I will soon and I cannot wait to lob this over-arm and duck for cover behind the shed (I probably won’t wait there until the blooms explode as I understand from my horticultural chums that it won’t be instantaneous). This creative gardening tool is made by some eco-friendly Scots at Kabloom. I think it is Kabloom-ing genius – and it also comes in catnip!

Badger Box Stormy Knight and Pygmy Cloud

Then my eyes locked with a cheeky seagull telling me to shove my chips. Typical riot gull attitude – we all know that sulky bird would nick a chip given half a chance! This cute greeting card design is by Stormy Knight. I’ll probably have to send this to my bird-lady sister Mel Ede because she loves the gulls (and the pigeons) as much as I love cats. 

At this point, I got distracted by the sweets – ice cream and strawberries. Yum! The striped paper bags brought back happy sugary memories of penny sweet summers. 

In the other super cute striped bag was a glorious sunshiny coaster made by Pygmy Cloud (who make really lovely things). 

Badger Box Tim Easley Ice Scream

Then I chuckled at the amazing, stupendous 2D glasses. So stylish, so satirical. The perfect accessory to wear to view my Tim Easley print ‘Ice Scream’, which is cute, funny and classically heart breaking. Being a seaside girl, I quickly learnt how to consume an ice cream cornet with minimal spillages, but losing a scoop is an important rite of passage and a life lesson we must all learn at some point (and some of us more than once). However it has left me wondering whether an ice lolly eating an ice cream is cannibalistic act (answers on the back of a saucy seaside postcard please). I cannot find this print on the website, so I’m not sure if it is available or a Badger Box exclusive.   

The next Badger Box is themed ‘Great Adventures’ and will be released on June 28th at 7am – set your alarms! I got this one for free, but I plan to purchase the next box because let’s face it, I’m basically the target market for this! It costs £18 as a one-off (which includes postage if you’re in the UK, there is an additional shipping charge for those of you overseas), you can get a rolling subscription for £16 per month or pay £50 for 3 months worth of boxes. You can find more details on the Clever Badger website.

If subscription boxes aren’t your thing, I’d still recommend checking out the Clever Badger shop for gifts, stationery and great cards. More loveliness from them featured in this blog post.

Theatre Review: Every Brilliant Thing

Every Brilliant Thing

Since seeing Every Brilliant Thing, at the Marlowe Studio in Canterbury, I’ve found it easy to list good things, happy thoughts, or the stuff that is just, well, brilliant.

It is a habit I already try to cultivate, both as a writer and a depressive, to record those subtle wonders and to create an attitude of gratitude. Fluffy cats, the feel of my hair cascading down my back, pretending I’m in a moody 80s pop video while on long train journeys… all brilliant things.

Latest brilliant addition: a one man show about depression. 

This is a show that Lyn Gardner described as “one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression”. She is right, it is delightfully cheerful, despite telling the tale of how a seven-year-old boy copes with his mother attempting to commit suicide by creating a list of brilliant things. 

I should also include: pieces of wonderful writing.

Because this play, written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, is clever, funny and sensitively observant. It doesn’t over do the whimsy or get too preachy, it simply shows you the bitter-sweetness of life with lines like this… “if you got all the way through life without ever being heart crushingly depressed, you probably haven’t been paying attention.”

Oh, y’know what else is brilliant? Audience participation. 

Okay that often strikes terror into me, but star of the show and co-writer, Jonny created a supportive atmosphere, where even the more reticent audience members shone in the spotlight. From shouting out brilliant things in response to a number… “one”, “ice cream!” or becoming a substitute stand for musical instruments, to major roles like dad, girlfriend and the wonderful Ms Patterson, being played by people seated near the front. We were sat in the round, so the interactivity felt inclusive and friendly. It was all rather lovely.    

Another brilliant thing: when a theatre performance comes with it’s own playlist.

Obviously, a play about depression needs a suitable soundtrack. Music can make, mimic or magic our moods, turn them up to full volume, drowning us in sadness or filling us with the sound of utter joy (and bongos). 

And one more thing for the brilliant list: when you leave the theatre smiling, adding to or starting your own list of truly brilliant things. 

Link Love: New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Here is some link love for my fellow DIY Creative Clubbers…

Give Us A Toile – Jennifer Hall made her first wedding dress for her best friend and it is all kinds of beautiful. Read all about the process and see the dress on her blog.

That Gent Mark began selling gorgeous prints and bookmarks inspired by Harley Quinn and Sailor Moon. 

The Sunny Side Of The Street knows the way to beat staring at a blank pagebegin a blog or get outside, get inspired and sketch.

I love this photo by Rich C using his images of masks and silhouette. 

Katherine Harrison Harpist revamped her website and it looks great!

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