Well, time to catch up. So much (too much) has happened! A couple of weekends ago I spent Saturday at Manchester’ Contact Theatre, taking part in UNSUNGFEST, an independent festival of art, poetry, performance and music.
It was a brave venture, organised by Matt Byrne, Justin Dooley and James Byrn. They took over the whole theatre space for the day and had a constant, rolling audience with people coming in and out throughout the day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
My share was the 7 p.m. slot, reading poems with fellow Manchester poets Jon Glover and Linda Chase – both notable teachers of creative writing as well as local celebrities. It was a great session: Jon magisterial, reading his moving and nearly-surreal poems about adventures in America (snakes under the house!) and the weirdness of having MRI scans; Linda, chromatic in the spotlight with matching red shoes, hair and A4 binder, entertaining us with her sexy and colourful poems about love on the bohemian fringes of the US counterculture.
Before that I was able to catch a good set from Steven Waling and Simon Rennie (loved a line from his poem ‘Carbon Copy’ – ‘The cocooned insect dreams the same dream as the dozing philosopher’. I can imagine Blake coming up with that!) And a fine reading from the sensitive Helen Tookey, with her haunting, introverted poems coloured and perfumed by the Wirral seashore.
Matt organised the whole thing on a shoestring and it was an amazing achievement. Let’s hope he’s already planning next year’s FEST and that it won’t remain UNSUNG!