Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Wartime Hospital at Beckett's Park



UPDATE - website for published book - www.firstworldwarhospital.co.uk

Headingley LitFest has been awarded a substantial grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project in 2013/2014 based on the military hospital which was at Beckett’s Park, Headingley, during the First World War.

The project will come to a climax in time for the seventh annual LitFest in March 2014 with the production of an illustrated publication and a dramatic performance based on its contents.

The City of Leeds Training College had been built there not long before hostilities started, and in 1914 it was established as the 2nd Northern General Hospital. Wounded soldiers replaced trainee teachers, and the Red Cross flag was hoisted above what is today the James Graham Building, part of Leeds Metropolitan University*.

“The news that we have the grant is really exciting!” said Headingley LitFest Secretary Richard Wilcocks, who wrote the bid last July. “We are particularly interested in personal stories. Thousands of men and women were involved with the hospital – soldiers of all ranks, doctors and surgeons (mostly from the RAMC), nurses and VADs – for the whole of the Great War and for several years afterwards.

We will be looking for letters, diaries and articles in newspapers, and we will also be trying to trace the descendants of people who were there – the grandchildren perhaps. We intend to put out appeals in print and online to find them, hoping that they have memories and photos to share. I would guess that they are scattered everywhere, because the patients were from far and wide, but some of them must live in Yorkshire.

If you can help, contact headingleyhospital@gmail.com


Support and assistance is going to be given to us by those involved with the Legacies of War project at the University of Leeds.

All available archives are going to be searched – at Beckett’s Park, Leeds University, Leeds Library and Information Service, regimental museums, Imperial War Museum and so on – and anything which might be relevant and useful will be pulled out. We are very interested in photos with names associated with them, because they could be the beginnings of trails which lead to what we want.  There are plenty of neglected materials in various archives relating to the Beckett’s Park Hospital, and we are already excited by some of the things we have found in the last week or two:

For example, thanks to help from Keith Rowntree, from Archive and Special Collections which is part of Libraries and Learning Innovation at Leeds Metropolitan University, we have seen a most remarkable scrapbook of photographs compiled by a Sergeant George Sprittles, who was at the hospital in 1917, and pages from a kind of unofficial ‘signing-in book’ with the names of a number of patients who give the details of their wounds and where they were fighting, together with their answers to the question “What would you do with Kaiser Bill?”

We are going to share the results of our researches and compilations with local residents (the various audiences which we have built up over the years) through an attractive and interesting publication, which will be printed at the beginning of 2014. There will also be a dramatic production based on the publication, which will be part of Headingley LitFest in March, 2014. The results of our research will, of course, also be made available for descendants and families, regimental archives, the RAMC and the British Red Cross.

The men and women we are researching went through the most terrible experiences, and they should not be forgotten.”

*The first convoy of wounded, most of whom had been involved in the fighting at Mons, arrived at Leeds Midland Station on 17 September 1914, to be welcomed by the Lord Mayor, Sir Edward Brotherton. Packets of tobacco and cigarettes were thrown at the men by crowds of well-wishers. 


Friday, 16 November 2012

On Your Marks - audience responses

Here's the feedback for the event on 27 November:

Written comments after performance:

I never realised that sport could be so exciting! The young dancers in the section ‘Dancing on Together’ were an explosion of energy that took my breath away.
I also enjoyed the presentation by Palm where poetry and prose was sensitively presented, sometimes giving food for thought with a new take on sporting activity.

Really enjoyed this evening. Quality performances but with a touch of the personal too.
Fantastic. More please.

Excellent  well done everyone.

Great for its sustained intensity!

Very good and impressive performances by the group.

Enjoyed most of it –especially the choreographed movement.

Really, Really Really uplifting - very entertaining!

A great evening’s entertainment!

What an evening! I didn’t think anything sporty could be that entertaining.

Great level of performances and humour.

A grippingly entertaining performance- each different part was well-rehearsed, thoughtful and full of imagination.

Superb.

Very entertaining if a little loud.

A very enjoyable varied programme. Not a dull moment.

Many thanks to all those who have worked for this absolutely wonderful event.  Great work! Keep it up.

An excellent evening - superb performance by all. Can we have more of these events please? Well done to all organisers.

What an entertaining and interesting evening.

Comments by email:

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed last night’s eclectic and very entertaining programme.                         I think I experienced nearly every emotion: which has to be a good test of an evening’s entertainment.

The Phoenix Dance piece was beautifully choreographed and Leeds Met MA Performance students’ performance was witty and clever.  A great evening.

Really good, high quality performances from all the performers.

Letter in Yorkshire Evening Post  30 November:
  
Dear Sir,

The great thing about Leeds is that it produces quality. Leeds United scored once on Tuesday evening November 27th at Elland Road but also a second time at St Chad’s Parish Hall in Headingley where nine young dancers from Phoenix Dance Theatre wearing Leeds United shirts gave a performance of ‘Score’ that would have made Neil Warnock proud. Along with their colleagues spirited performance of ‘Dancing with Rhinos’ the evening of sport and art with the title ‘On Your Marks’ got off to a rousing start. From the young to the slightly more mature we were royally entertained by Palm Ensemble, students and staff from the performing arts programme of Leeds Metropolitan University whose mixture of wit, poetry and song and professionalism has been recognised at festivals across Europe. There were also guest singers, John Kilburn, Maria Sandle and Phil Widger a local folk singer whose rendition of his own clever amusing work must surely require wider recognition. St. Chad would have been proud.

 I suspect so was Doug Sandle who had put so much effort not only into this event but also the one day conference on sport in art called Field of Vision at Headingley Carnegie Stadium. Accompanying that event is a splendid exhibition of ceramic sculptures of footballers, rugby players and athletes by Mandy Long displayed in the stadium café until December 6th. Yorkshire has so much to be proud of in this Olympic Year. I think I will have to pop down to the café to see if I can find an appropriate memento.

Yours sincerely

Jeffrey Sherwin (Dr)



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Flamenco in Mint Café

Owner Marcos, who can be held responsible for all the superb food (try the Brazilian coxinhas) in Mint Café, says that drop-in poets will be welcome at the Flamenco Evening on Thursday 22 November. Just see him first if you want to read. It starts at 8.30pm.

Entry is £5, with a further £5 for the buffet. The four strong group is Flamenco Diez - guitarist, box drummer, singer and dancer.

For those new to Headingley, Mint Café is near the end of the row on North Lane, just a few yards further on from the Natural Food Shop.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Mimika - comments from the audience

All of the audience questionnaires collected after the Mimika performances at HEART last Saturday contained positive comments - and several drawings. Here are ten of them, and a penguin by Lizzie.

I liked it wen the monkey tried to steel the egg. Elsie

Wonderful! Really creative & moving. Loved the sound, the landscapes, the puppets and really special show Spellbinding Beautiful puppets.  Barba

Terrific show. It contained all the elements of theatre – magic, puppetry, a sense of wonder. Great stuff. Bill

A truly wonderful show bound to entertain & educate. As a model maker in another field I can truly appreciate the use of easily obtainable and inexpensive materials to make things. The thought that must have gone to put on this show, demonstrates  two very talented people Graham

Great we enjoyed it very much. My 2½ daughter liked the toucan best. “And the monkey and the snow falling down. ” “And the snake.” Ted

I liked the animals and the big tent especially the flamingo. Ella

Thankyou  for making this accessible to a local audience. It is stunning! Bravo Jenny & Bill. Wonderful light, movement, sound. Simply amazing Maggie

Please do have them again they are wonderful and great for any ages! Shirley

A magical show! Really absorbing for children and adults. Lovely. Helen

It was fantastic Erin age 8

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Spellbound by Mimika Children's Theatre

Sally Bavage writes:


Son et lumière in a tent erected in the HEART Centre, Headingley

Speechless!  Not just the mixed audience of adults and young children but the show itself.  A puppet show like no other, Mimika Theatre is a locally-based group that takes its audience on a worldwide trip from the desert to the rainforest to the South Pole. Not bad in an hour. The welcoming reassurance of Bill and Jenny, who have crafted a fabulous set of animals to accompany us on our travels, created a rising sense of anticipation before we set off - into the tent with mood music and lighting to help young and old alike suspend disbelief.  And this was after showing the younger members of the audience the scary snake fashioned from a vacuum cleaner hose and the snapping crocodile model head to allay any fears.

We set off to the desert to see a baby bird hatch, menaced by a swooping raptor over the audience. Looking up with rapt faces, open mouths, the children – and the adults – were completely absorbed.  Laughter at the antics of the meerkats, alarm at the scorpion, edgy absorption in the creatures that slithered, bit and met their fate before us.

‘Caws’ and effect – the scene and the soundtrack gave way to bird calls amongst the reflections from a tropical rainforest.  How delightful to see children interested in tweeting, not Tweeting.  We listened to howls and growls, buzzing and snarling, with music and monkey business helping to create the story in each of our heads. 

We then dived underwater to observe anemones wave and fish twirl to a Japanese-style soundtrack that bubbled along.  A jellyfish swam by and clownfish came out to play over our heads, along with seahorses, sea snakes and a turtle.  The audience was completely immersed itself in this watery world.

Within thirty seconds the scene iced up, snow was falling and we were watching as a penguin hatched its tiny baby from a carefully nestled egg, to oohs and aahs of sympathy and delight.  There was then a seal of approval for the audience from the watching mammal which popped up.  The End was nigh, but not quite yet.

Next came a puppet show – and tell.  Bill and Jenny allowed the audience members to choose their favourite puppets and showed how they are made and work. Lollipops and marbles, colanders and string have never looked so inventive, even on Blue Peter.  Especially the meerkats – simples!

Entitled ‘Spellbound in a tent’ -  it WAS magic!  Young people watching and enjoying an older form of artistic entertainment, taken on a journey before and behind their eyes.

I wonder how many of them will be thinking up stories about the puppets and their journeys over the coming days?





After the performance, members of the audience were invited to write down their thoughts on the LitFest's assessment forms.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Stringent and Astringent


Sir Geoffrey Hill, who was elected Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford in June 2010, returned to the University of Leeds, where he taught from 1954 to 1980 on Tuesday 16 October, to read from the work of himself and others. Organised by the University Poetry Centre, it marked two important occasions – his eightieth birthday and the Library’s acquisition of his archive. It was, as promised, a very special event.

Various people from the LitFest committee were there (Sir Geoffrey used to live in Headingley), along with most of the university English Department, undergraduates, postgraduates, poets, family and many others, to listen to a man who, according to one published anecdote, once strode backwards and forwards in front of students in this same Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre, dressed in black and sweating. He told us that, as he sat there, sweating slightly. I remember him from my time as the only tutor who wore jeans, and his habit of savouring with attendant long pauses particular words from our contributions.

This is not a full account, but a series of glimpses and snatches: it seemed inappropriate to scribble more than a page of notes, and few did so, because this was not a lecture, and not just a poetry reading. After an elegantly concise introduction from Professor John Whale, Head of the School of English, he began with his own anecdotes, about how he had arrived in Leeds as a callow youth (“I was pretty awful”), and about Bonamy Dobrée, who was the Professor of English Literature for a year after his arrival. Dobrée liked to keep a balance in the department, which at that time contained both the Marxist Arnold Kettle and Wilson Knight with his “idiosyncratic mysticism”. He talked about his friendships with the poets Tony Harrison and Ken Smith, when they were students.

Poetry readings, he told us, are not just about the poet who is reading. After mentioning that it would have been better if we could all have seen the words in front of us, or perhaps projected on the screen behind him, he devoted at least the first half to the works of other poets, most of whom are represented in Oscar Williams’s A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (1946), which he carried in his teenage years. Gerard Hopkins (he omitted the Manley) was first, followed by D.H. Lawrence (Bavarian Gentians, full of flowing lines and repetitions, mesmerizing read Hill’s way), T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (Pisan Cantos).

"Ezra Pound is incomparable,” he said. “He was the great life-giver to poetry in English in the twentieth century.”  He brought in the composer Arnold Schoenberg as analogous. “He was stringent and astringent… after so much dominance by Wagner, by Brahms, by the German Romantics, he gave us Pierrot Lunaire.” He enlarged on Ezra Pound: “…this man could be so enriching… and yet so vicious in his politics…The Pisan Cantos are a most extraordinary achievement, written when Pound was held in appalling conditions by his fellow Americans… his mind was filled with the healing power of poetry.”

Hill has a way of reading often described as ‘sonorous’, which is not quite the right word. He has a singer’s soul, his style distantly related to Sprechstimme, which was prescribed for Pierrot Lunaire. He is, incidentally, an Honorary Patron of Leeds Festival Chorus.

He read beautifully his translation of Eugenio Montale’s La Bufera, which dates from the middle of the last World War, but he does not describe it as a translation: his version, entitled The Storm, is, in his words, “after Eugenio Montale”. It is, in fact, notably close to the original (better, it has been mooted) and is a homage to an admired poet who has attracted his attention for some years, whose “muted discords” make him a kindred spirit.

He read from his own fairly recent work.  Ars, in memory of Ken Smith, which appears in Without Title, was particularly poignant, partly because several in the audience had known Ken, who was co-editor of Stand magazine, which continues. Improvisation for Jimi Hendrix was not poignant, almost funny. It resulted from an online article in which he thought he was being compared to the guitarist, resulting in his buying a number of CDs, which ended up being flipped to students in an American lecture hall. ‘Lysergic’, we were told, is fake Greek.

“There was a time,” he said in the last five minutes, “when I could wait twenty years for a phrase to find its right place, but I can’t wait that long any more.”

Most of the appreciative and, I am sure, affectionate audience walked across afterwards to Special Collections in the Brotherton Library to drink wine and to chat in an oak-panelled room – to the Master, and to each other.

Richard Wilcocks

Comments:

'Hill's work will never be fashionable but it is a corpus of such passionate seriousness and ethical thought, its every phrase written with a consciousness of the weight of history and language, that it is hard to imagine it ever being ignored.' - Robert Potts (Guardian 2002)

'Geoffrey Hill is the central poet-prophet of our augmenting darkness, and inherits the authority of the visionaries from Dante and Blake on to D.H. Lawrence' - critic Harold Bloom 

'Hill embodies his lacerating humour in the person of a sad clown, performer and temporiser, trying to bring together the multiple elements in a dispersed identity: "I'm to show beholden." And parts of speech, too, play many roles, like the German word traurig that recurs. The clown's task is less to juggle words than to catch the one word that his many meanings share.' – Michael Schmidt, reviewing Without Title (Independent 2006)

'But there are good reasons why some intelligent people find little of value in the sentimental consensus of modern poetry; Hill's writing, which speaks to those disputed conditions in which civil and spiritual, as well as personal lives are actually led, offers readers something more rewarding than the usual panaceas.' – Peter McDonald (Guardian 2007)

'Let's take difficulty first. We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We're difficult to ourselves, we're difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most "intellectual" piece of work. Why is it believed that poetry, prose, painting, music should be less than we are?' – Geoffrey Hill (Paris Review 2000)



Inspired by an old cornet

In the run-up to the LitFest in March, members of the local OWLS (Older Wiser Locals) group worked with children from Year 5 at Weetwood Primary School to produce poems inspired by an old cornet. The different generations each brought their own experiences to the project, ably assisted by poet James Nash. Special thanks are due to Year 5 teacher Judith Brockbank and to Lee Ingham and the OWLS.
A booklet of the poems is now up in Headingley Library. These photos are of a display which is currently near the main entrance of the HEART Centre in Bennett Road.





Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Cage by Peter Spafford

LitFest veteran and Headingley resident Peter Spafford has based his latest play on a book by Dan Billany and David Dowie - which exists only because of an Italian farmer who looked after the manuscripts (in exercise books) during the Second World War, after an escape from a camp.

As most readers of this blog are unlikely to be able to attend the performance in Goole, there will be another one on Sunday 11 November at 2pm in the Quaker Meeting House on Woodhouse Lane.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Blue plaque for J R R Tolkien - more photos

A few more photos taken at Monday's unveiling ceremony outside 2 Darnley Road in West Park, Leeds...




Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Unveiled - Tolkien's Blue Plaque

In a ceremony organised by Leeds Civic Trust, the plaque for one of our area’s most famous – and most beloved – literary residents was revealed on Monday morning, 1 October, on the red brick wall of 2 Darnley Road. It was unveiled by Dr Kersten Hall, graduate of St Anne’s College, Oxford and Visiting Fellow to the Faculty of Arts at the University of Leeds. 

The event followed campaigning by the Tolkien Society and its members. Here is part of the Society’s informative statement for the event:


J.R.R. Tolkien, graduate of Exeter College, Oxford, was Reader in English language at the University of Leeds, his family moved to Leeds residing briefly at 5 Holly Bank, Headingley and then leasing a house in St Mark’s Terrace. In 1924 Tolkien bought the semi-detached property in Darnley Road. He went on to be made Professor of the English Language at the university. The family lived there for over a year before Tolkien’s election to the Rawlinson and Bosworth chair of Anglo-Saxon saw them return to Oxford in 1926. 






During his time at the University of Leeds Tolkien was instrumental in shaping the English Language syllabus at the university; some aspects of this were still present sixty years later. He also worked with E.V. Gordon to produce an edition of the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was published in 1925.


Members of Headingley LitFest’s organizing committee were there, as might be expected, accompanying others in the crowd to the nearby Stables Bar for a reception. Speakers included Rory McTurk, Emeritus Professor of Icelandic Studies at the University of Leeds, who contributed to the LitFest programme in 2009. Included in his brief talk were references to a ‘completed’ translation by Tolkien of the story of Sigurd and Brynhildr - and also a Tolkien version of Beowulf, which might just be released for publication next year. 

In only-too-brief conversations with transient friends, it was established that some Tolkien Society members had come up to Leeds from many miles away - for example Dr Lynn Forest Hill, who had travelled from Southampton.

In letters to Allen and Unwin in 1961, the great man emphasized his gratitude for his time in Leeds: “I was devoted to the University of Leeds, which was very good to me, and to its students, whom I left with regret.”




Pictured below: Second Lieutenant J R R Tolkien during the First World War. To qualify as a signals officer, he attended a signals school run by the army's Northern Command at Farnley Park, Otley, which he left in May 1916. He did not see the full intensity of the Battle of the Somme, but he did experience the horror of trench warfare. In November 1916, he was invalided back to England with 'trench fever' and temporarily posted to Hornsea in East Yorkshire. His recovery from this was sporadic and , having relapsed, he was admitted to a Harrogate sanatorium. He also spent time at the Brooklands Officers' Hospital in Hull.  (from the booklet produced by Leeds Civic Trust)





Monday, 1 October 2012

Mimika Children's Theatre Comes Home

Mimika, the internationally acclaimed children’s theatre is to perform in Headingley on Saturday 3 November at the HEART Centre in Bennett Road in four special performances of their show Landscapes, presented by Headingley LitFest as part of our Between the Lines pre-March programme of events. 

This is the first time that Mimika has had a home performance in the city for twenty-five years!
Bill and Jenny, the inspired ‘do everything’ creators and animators of Mimika are really looking forward ‘to coming home’ and sharing their work with their local neighbourhoods. 

While their current show Landscapes has enthralled and enchanted audiences elsewhere in the UK and world wide, for example in London, Dublin, Madrid, Toronto, Singapore and in countries such as Denmark, the USA and recently China, Jenny (pictured, with goose) told us: while travelling around the world and performing to audiences from different cultures is often thrilling and fabulous this chance to show the work to friends, neighbours and the local community will be special.

Landscapes is a wordless theatre presentation set inside a beautiful white calico dome. It is an intimate, gentle and engaging evocation of four areas of the natural world. Audiences travel from the Desert to the Rainforest, from under the Sea to the South Pole. Using ingenuous crafted and designed models, puppets and sets, special lighting effects and an immersive sound track, Mimika take their audiences on a very special colourful and enchanting journey.  The show has been described as by far one of the most mesmerising children’s theatre pieces, (Canada) and as a show that should enchant audiences of any age (USA) with Mimika heralded by Kilkenny Arts Festival (Ireland) as one of the most original theatre companies in Europe.  

Performance times are 10.00am, 11.30am, 1.00pm and 2.30pm.  Adults £4.00, Children (under 16) £2.50. Children under ten should be accompanied by an appropriate  number of adults for groups of five and over. 

Tickets are now on sale at HEART . As each performance is limited to twenty-five persons, you are advised to get yours soon.

More information on Mimika at www.mimikatheatre.com







Monday, 10 September 2012

This Sporting Life at the Hyde Park Picture House

At the Hyde Park Picture House last Tuesday (4 September), This Sporting Life revived the feelings in me which I had when I first saw it on the big screen many years ago - it is stunningly powerful, with superb acting from just about all the cast. It's dour but brilliant. In spite of the odd, hybrid accent, which drifts into his native Irish at times, Richard Harris puts his heart, soul and athletic body into the part of Frank Machin, and Rachel Roberts is so impressive as Margaret Hammond! As with all classic films, you notice things you missed before - I recognised places I know now but didn't at the time of the first showing, I appreciated the innovative camera work and I took pleasure in recognising so many actors who made it after the first appearance of the film - William Hartnell (Doctor Who), Frank Windsor as a dentist, not a policeman, Leonard Rossiter as a sports journalist, not Rigsby, and Arthur Lowe as Charles Slomer, not Captain Mannering. 

Alan Badel (The Count of Monte Cristo, TV series in 1964) was truly aristocratic as Gerald Weaver, the moneyed sponsor in a camelhair coat, and he contributed strongly to the class element in the film - he's from another world completely to the grim one inhabited by Frank Machin. The match scenes were convincing, but the brutality was really played up - to go with Machin's ruthlessness: I would have enjoyed a couple more straightforward tries without players getting punched up, but then the film is pretty long already, and more scenes on the pitch would probably stretch it too much.

This showing will be, I hope, the beginning of a productive collaboration between sports and the arts in Leeds.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Meet The Beats


A terrific jazz group - Des The Miner - will be performing on Wednesday 5 September at the Mint Café, which is on North Lane, Headingley, as part of an evening with a focus on beat poets like Allen Ginsberg, whose 1965 poem ‘King of the May’, written just after he was expelled from Czechoslovakia, will be played from a very rare recording made at Betterbooks in London. 

Also performing with his keyboard will be the inimitable Ted Hockin and one or two surprise guests.  

There's no dress code, but if you own a beret...       

And make sure you sample the Lebanese buffet.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Grow Your Tenner

Here's something that LitFest supporters should be interested in!  

Localgiving.com announces £500k Grow Your Tenner campaign

We are pleased to announce that our £500,000 Grow Your Tenner campaign will begin at 10am Tuesday 25th September to celebrate the launch of the new Localgiving.com monthly donations feature!

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So when a supporter gives £10, we’ll double it to £20! And even better- when a supporter signs up to donate £10/month to a local charity, we’ll match the first three months!

Our new monthly donations feature will enable supporters to give automatically and regularly to local charities through online Direct Debit.

Charities must have a paid subscription to be eligible to receive both one-time and monthly matched donations. Our records show that your charity is currently within your three month free trial.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Poetry Parnassus continues

The Poetry Parnassus continues. It aims to feature poets from all two hundred and four of the Olympic nations, and is curated by Simon Armitage. It's the largest-ever poetry event in Britain.

Read this Carcanet blog entry by Henry King to catch a flavour.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Promised Land at The Carriageworks - Review



Richard Wilcocks writes:
Anthony Clavane spoke about his best-seller Promised Land: A Northern Love Story in an event entitled The Lingo of Sport, which took place in the New Headingley Club as part of the LitFest in March. He spoke about the diversity of his native city, about what it means to be a writer celebrating Leeds and about a certain football club with a remarkable history. “I’m working on a dramatic adaptation at the moment,” he told us, “along with a co-writer, Nick Stimson.

“It is going to be full of music, and probably dancing as well. It will be the same narrative, but things will be seen through the eyes of Nathan and Caitlin, two young people with plenty of ideals who are on two sides of a religious and cultural divide: Nathan is from a Jewish background while Caitlin’s ancestors were Irish Catholics.”

Somebody in the audience mentioned West Side Story. “No, not exactly that. It’s not a romantic tragedy. It’s more of an affirmation. They fall in love and get together and that’s it for them. There will be a lot of flashbacks to what happened at the turn of the twentieth century when Jews were arriving, escaping from pogroms in the Russian Empire, and also to the time when Don Revie was revered as the saviour of Leeds United, when The Mighty Whites reached the European Cup Final in Paris. The play is based on facts and research.”

Now that play with music (not ‘musical’) has launched at the Carriageworks, thanks to the Red Ladder Theatre Company and a very strong community cast. On the opening night (25 June), most of the audience fell in love with it: they clapped along, laughed and in some cases cried. I have seen a few ‘community plays’ and this was the best and most enjoyable by a long chalk in that wide category.

For a start, it is superbly-rehearsed, with tight and effective direction by Rod Dixon, who can turn a crowd of amateur (hard to believe) actors into a kind of dancing animal, sometimes aggressive and riotous, sometimes sublimely happy and sometimes chorus-like, commenting on the action. It becomes a crowd of swaying, chanting scarf-brandishers on the terraces, the inmates of a sweatshop somewhere near the Jewish ghetto (called The Leylands in Leeds), a bunch of vicious racists addressed up by a ranting anti-semite and much else. There is stirring music from the Red Ladder Band, I think not enough of it: there could have been at least one more Klezmer number and one more song with an Irish flavour. The footwork is nifty at all times.

Nathan, who represents Clavane, is played by the talented Paul Fox with wit and charm. The author must feel flattered, indulged even. Lynsey Jones is an equally charming Caitlin, and she acts (and plays guitar) with real spirit. Steve Morrell is a very credible David, stallholder in Kirkgate Market and Nick Ahad plays an exploiting boss as a cross between a cartoon capitalist in a top hat and a soft-edged gangster.

Yes, the story is predictable, mainly because it has to be, because it is based on local history and we know that the action is going to end up… here, and yes, the two lovers face only the small problem of their parents’ prejudices (a really funny scene with the two mothers discussing their offspring while drinking tea on a sofa) rather than a secret marriage and murderous relatives, but that’s not the point. The point is that it is a celebration, which might be a bit earnest and possibly a little sentimental, as we hang on those two words ‘Leeds’ and ‘United’.

There are scenes in it which remind us, as well, that we have no reason to feel smug in this country after watching that Panorama programme on crudely racist football hooligans in Poland and the Ukraine. We had them here in the seventies, just as bad. Some of them are still active.

It’s quite an achievement, to turn a book like that into good night out at the theatre.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Egyptian Evening in MINT - المصرية مساء

Marcos is organising this. He's the boss of MINT café in North Lane, Headingley and he was over the moon when the LitFest collaborated with him on a terrific Lebanese Evening in March, which had a bellydancer on the programme along with poems in English and Arabic by the likes of Khalil Gibran and Mahmoud Darwish. 


Now there's going to be an Egyptian Evening on Friday 29 June at 8.30pm with Helena Bellydancer, who will not only dance but talk about the remarkable Lady Lucy Duff Gordon (pictured), who was a mid-Victorian translator and travel writer. Her three volumes of travel letters were not originally intended for publication, and perhaps owe their honest style and natural tone to this fact. 


There will be some other readings too, in Arabic and English - for example from the works of Nizar Qabbani, a poet revered in the Arab world.



The food in MINT is brilliant - you can order an authentic mezze buffet for seven pounds if you want to try it. Entry at the door is three pounds.

Warm and wonderful

Warm and wonderful in the HEART café on 8 June!  Amongst the friends - a bunch of school students, poets all. Singers too. Stella Litras brought along her keyboard and guitar - and a brilliant young group called Caution!

 In the picture - Michelle and Becky.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Michelle and Friends


Charismatic performance poet Michelle Scally Clarke is well-known in Headingley:  for the past five years she has been the creative genius behind the amazing poetry slams held at Lawnswood and city of Leeds schools as part of the Headingley LitFest. Her own poetry lays bare her turbulent journey from care, to adoption, to motherhood, to performer – and she encouraged the teenagers who attended her preliminary workshops to dig deep and find their own sense of identity. She worked with the students for six weeks before each slam, nurturing their talents and offering them her own inimitable style of encouragement.


She will be joined by poet Becky Cherriman, musician Stella Litras and other guests for what should be an unforgettable evening in the HEART Café, Bennett Road.


From 7.30pm      £5



Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lines of Dissent - Ian Parks


Lines of Dissent is the title of our Poetry and Jazz event in the HEART Café on Friday 25 May at 7.30pm      £5 on the door

Poet Ian Parks will be joined by the two Simons from Des the Miner, which is the resident group at the Flux Gallery, and by his guest Kim Moore.


Ian Parks was one of the National Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. He was made a Hawthornden Fellow in 1991 and has taught creative writing at the universities of Sheffield, Hull, Oxford and Leeds.

Described by Points North magazine as 'an heroic figure in Yorkshire poetry and a living legend in Hull', Ian Parks is the only poet to have poems in the Times Literary Supplement and The Morning Star on the same day. His collections include Shell Island, Love Poems and The Landing Stage.

His poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer and Modern Poetry in Translation. He is currently editing a new anthology of contemporary Yorkshire poetry for Five Leaves Publications and was special guest on the Janice Long Show (BBC Radio 2) earlier this year.

The Exile’s House is published by Waterloo Press and he will be venturing out of Mexborough in November to live and work as writer-in-residence at Gladstone's Library. He's asked them to subscribe to The South Yorkshire Times during his stay.

He has researched Chartist Poetry: his book on this will appear next year.

The Exile's House - Ian Parks: Download

“A poet working big themes and moving in new directions.”  Ed Reiss

“This is a poetry which is universal, profound and as natural as breathing.” David Cooke

 A Last Love Poem - Ian Parks: Download
 Jazz Train - Ian Parks: Download
 Over The Top - Ian Parks: Download
 Lazarus - Ian Parks: Download




Kim Moore works in Cumbria as a peripatetic brass teacher, which involves travelling to different schools to teach brass instruments and drinking cups of tea.  She lives with her husband, two dogs and a cat. 
Kim has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.  She has been published in various magazines including Poetry Review, The TLS, Ambit, The Rialto, The North and Magma and has recently had reviews published in Mslexia and Poetry Review.  In 2011 she won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and an Eric Gregory Award.  She regularly reads for the ‘Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’ series at the Royal Exchange in Manchester and is Reviews Editor for the Cadaverine magazine.  She is currently working on her first full collection. 

Chartists rally on Kennington Common in London -