Wednesday, 26 June 2013

New Album: A Maze of Breaths: @PBHSpokenWord at @TheFreeFringe

My name is Dave Pickering and I run a night called Stand Up Tragedy. We're taking a show up to the PBH's Free Fringe this year. As our show is also a podcast and we have lots of audio experience, we agreed to put together an album to celebrate and fundraise for the spoken word line-up at the Free Fringe, which our tragic variety show is proud to be a part of.

It's a selection of live and recorded tracks, bringing to your ears the spirit of the spoken word line-up at the PBH Free Fringe. We bring to you the variety and energy of the festival, making you laugh, think, feel and move with this collection that combines poetry, storytelling, music, comedy and everything in between.

All the tracks were donated by people who are either taking a show up to PBH's Free Fringe or who have done so in the past. Performers either sent in tracks or arranged for us to record them live. We had lots and lots of amazing submissions, which I whittled down to this selection. I've tried to order it so that it flows as an album, but also to highlight the contrast between the types of spoken word that are contained in these 19 tracks.

The quality of the work submitted really took my breath away. There are a lot more songs and soundscapes than I'd expected. There are also some brilliant live performances, some of which were captured by the Stand Up Tragedy team. Shout out to Bryony Hawkins (who produces the SUT podcast) and our sound technician Steven Harvey, who also mastered this album and set up the bandcamp site.

The artwork was donated to us by another Free Fringe spoken worder, Max Scratchmann. 

Track By Track:

1. Katherine McMahon with Fiona Keenan – Blackberries

This track is as sweet and tasty as its title suggests. It gives me a warm feeling inside and seemed the perfect track to ease the listener into the album with its combination of gentle music and wonderful words.

2. Dan Simpson –You Make My Flesh Crawl

This is a romantic and macabre story set against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. I recorded it live earlier this year at Richard Tyrone Jones' spoken word event, Utter Shite! For me this is one of those poems where the last line blows you away and gives you a new understanding that you can't quite explain. I chose it as the second track so that people would get used to the way the tracks switch between live and produced sound. And also because it meant a transition from relaxed energy to tension; from sweet to bitter sweet.

3. Fay Roberts – Blissful Chance

Inevitably an album showing the range of what spoken word can do will also show the range of what the human voice can do. This is the first of two tracks from Fay Roberts, the current director of spoken word for PBH's Free Fringe, which mixes speech and song. It's also another take on the topic of relationships.  Love has, of course, been a preoccupation of poets and singers through the ages and this album is no exception.

4. Flea Circus: Superbard – Brixton’s Afloat

This tremendous track is the first longer form set-piece of the album. It's also our first straight up story. The relationship element this time is a subplot for the main narrative as Superbard imagines what would happen if a man who thinks Brixton will be flooded is proved "right". Beautiful vocals form a stirring chorus. Powerful and dramatic electronic scoring and a sad and funny tale give us something to really get our teeth into.

5. Isadora Vibes – Lady V

This track takes an often neglected and historically ignored part of the female anatomy and anthropomorphises it to a thought-provoking and often comic effect. Sex, like love, is perhaps one of the timeless topics of poetry, and it’s great to hear so many different voices and perspectives on this subject in the album. A range of sexualities are explored, so hopefully there’s something for everyone.

6. Friends of Friends (Vera Chok, stephenmcaines and Pascal Barras) – Victor Lou (Sequin Edit)

This track is a wonderful piece of music. The spoken word element is almost secondary. The voice functions as another instrument and a texture which helps create an engaging musical atmosphere.

7. Sophia Walker – Around the World In 8 Mistakes

This track was recorded live at a Stand Up Tragedy event. It was written on the day of the performance and is fresh, surprising and thought provoking. It takes you in all sorts of directions and has a strong ending. This is the first track that focuses on another age-old preoccupation of poets: the self. It expresses the interior emotional journey through a series of challenges and experiences.

8. The Morris Quinlan Experience feat James McKay– The New Bali Ha'i

This piece makes me think of Joy Division or Depeche Mode. It’s a poetry and music collaboration that fits strongly into the tradition of John Cooper Clark. Its lyrical content is surreal, ambiguous and evocative. And at track 8, we have the first meta track(!) which examines what it is to be a poet or make spoken word. But this isn't empty naval gazing in any respect. It explores the external as well as internal. To me, it’s about half connections, the unexpressed, and everything in between. It's pretty epic.

9. Alan Wolfson – Love Sickening

This was another track I recorded live at Utter Shite! It's a mix of the funny and profound, and is an example of what can happen when you force yourself to force the rhymes.

10. Richard Tyrone Jones – Visiting Time

This is a new poem from Richard Tyrone Jones, who is currently taking a sabbatical from being the Director of Spoken Word at the Free Fringe so that he can tour his poetry all over the world. This track is part of a live performance he gave at a Stand Up Tragedy event, and it focuses on his grandmother’s dementia. It really is a beautiful collection of observations and feelings. The context he gives the poem is as profound and poetic as the poem itself.

11. Catherine Scott – That Fucking Cockerel

To liven the mood, we go from personal sadness to the frustration of having a cockerel crowing outside your widow. This is a fun poem, which is also a kind of love letter to the swears we scream and things we think when we run out of patience.

12. Mellor and Steele – Beat 'n' Trachea

This is another longer form set-piece. It examines the voice itself, how we make sound, what sounds we make and how we choose to use them. It's part science lecture, part song, and part manifesto. I was so impressed with the cleverness and execution of this track.

13. The Antipoet with percussion by Mark Gordon – Hanging with the Poets

Some more self-referentialness as The Antipoet sings a song about hanging out with poets. It's a camp and humorous take on the spoken word performer’s lot in life.

14. David Lee Morgan – DUH-MOCKRACY

We go from a farce to a powerful and sincere piece from David Lee Morgan in the tradition of political performance poets like Gil Scott Heron. An evocative piece of wonderfully delivered rhetoric that considers what democracy is. 

15. Mel Jones – Porn

This track from Mel Jones' album, Fuckin' Mel, takes a look at the state of modern pornography. It's an earthy and funny discussion of pornofied culture, which posits an alternative approach to the one that currently dominates much of the Internet.

16. Stand Up Tragedy – An extract from a true story by Andy Bodle

This is the submission from my show, Stand Up Tragedy. It's an extract from a longer true story told by ex-stand-up and core member of the SUT team, Andy Bodle. It gives you an idea of the tone we go for at our night. A sad and thought-provoking story of a teenage suicide attempt that will make you laugh.

17. Jem Rolls – I know what the birds are thinking and I understand that look in their eyes

This was recorded by Bryony Hawkins at a Bang Said the Gun night in London. Jem's performance style made his set hard to capture as he moves around the stage a lot and doesn't use a mic. But I'm so glad we did capture it, as this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Its delivery combines a wonderful mix of humour and anger and it will make you think about birds in a completely different way.

18. Marcel Lucont – The Tits Of The Brits

Marcel Lucont is a comic character that affectionately parodies both poetry and French people. It's a bawdy, ironic piece which playfully provokes, and it was performed live to an appreciative audience.

19. Fay Roberts (featuring Gav Sirisena) – Turn Again

This is the second track donated by our current Spoken Word director, Fay Roberts. Like many contributors, she gave me a few tracks to choose between; in this case I decided to use both of them.  I think they both give different flavours of what spoken word can be. This track is backed by music and forms, with the first track, Blackberries, a set of mellow musical bookends. The title for the album was taken from this track, although the shortlist included lines from many of the other artists.

Anyway those are my thoughts. Hope you enjoy the album that we've put together for you. Some of it is rough and ready, some of it beautifully produced, and all of it brings you some of the spirit and flavours of PBH's Free Fringe.

With love both spoken and unspoken,

Friday, 21 June 2013

Stand Up Tragedy with Josie Long, the launch of A Maze of Breaths, GBA has 4 more weeks on Resonance FM and more!

Hello everyone,

So much exciting Dave related news that I will start with a Dave related news contents: 

  1.  An overview of what Stand Up Tragedy is doing.
  2. Stand Up Tragedy's 4th July gig (which will feature Josie Long)
  3. Stand Up Tragedy's Crowd-funding campaign (14 days left)
  4. The Spoken Word at PBH's Free Fringe Fundraiser (which will feature me and Phill Jupitus) and "A Maze of Breaths" the spoken word album that I've put together to raise money for the PBH Free Fringe.
  5. Getting Better Acquainted is extended for 4 more weeks on Resonance 104.4 FM
  6. Spark London Hackney Open Mic (now with a 3 for 2 ticket offer) 

1. Stand Up Tragedy : Overview

SUT is a night where people stand up and tell tragedy. We make you sad; we make you think; we make you smile. Expect music, comedy, fiction, spoken word, true stories and more, all playing up to the tragic form but not always taking it seriously. The night ends, not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a cathartic sing-a-long. 

We are booked in nightly as part of the Spoken Word at PBH Free Fringe 2013 performing at 6.30pm at the Fiddlers Elbow from the 3rd to the 14th of August. We're also going to be releasing podcasts daily during the Fringe Festival.

But we need your help to do this!

2. Stand Up Tragedy : 7.30pm Thursday 4th July at The Dogstar with Josie Long

One way you can help us to go on our Edinburgh journey is by coming to our fourth London based live show:  Dogstar in Brixton on Thursday 4th July.

Tickets are £5 in advance and £7 on the door and you can get them here. We'll also be having a tragic auction on the night to help raise funds.

We have an amazing line up: Josie Long, Nish Kumar, Frog Morris, Emily Capell, Daniel Barker, Jen Adamthwaite, Daniel Simpson, and Polly from Slate Islands.

Plus a PBH Free Fringe Spoken Word showcase featuring Fay Roberts, David Lee Morgan and James Bran. 
3. Stand Up Tragedy : Crowd-funding Campaign : Current total $1,910 of $3,500 Goal with 14 days left
Thanks so much to those who've backed us already and if you were intending to do so now is a great time!

For those of you who haven't our crowd-funding campaign is where you can contribute to our funds and help us get there. In exchange we are offering some brilliant perks such as pieces of art, songs, mechanise, specially written songs and stories, a meal cooked for you by an excellent chef, exposure on our podcasts and more!

Seriously every little helps, from $1 (less than a £1 by the way) to large donations. We're aiming for a small amount in funding terms but it's a sum of money we urgently need to raise. We appreciate whatever you can donate and we are excited to be able to reward our funders directly for their support. Another way of helping is to spread the word about the campaign, reach out to your own social networks and see if they want to get involved in the Tragedy!

We release a weekly free podcast produced by Bryony Hawkins with excellent sound quality that you can listen to to get a taste of our nights. They're 
available on iTunesStitcher Smart Radio and Soundcloud.

4. Spoken Word at PBH's Free Fringe Fundraising:
The Spoken Word at PBH's Free Fringe are having a fundraiser on 
June 26th at the Hackney Attic. I will be performing at this on behalf of SUT, along with an amazing line-up of amazing spoken word artists including Phill Jupitus, Rob Auton, Fay Roberts and Richard Tyrone Jones.

We'll also be launching A Maze of Breaths: Spoken Word at PBH's Free Fringe.  This is an album that the Stand Up Tragedy team put together. 19 tracks that show the variety, quality and energy of the Free Fringe's spoken word community. They will go onsale on the 26th June, the whole album is £5 (or more if you wish to give it) and individual tracks will be £1 (or more if you wish to give it). I've worked really long and hard on this over the last few weeks and I really think it's a quality album. It has at least something for everyone and is a mix of poetry, storytelling, music, comedy and everything in between. 

After the launch date please spread the word about it. This is where it is:
5. Getting Better Acquainted on (and off) Resonance FM

"Join Dave Pickering on his journey to get better acquainted with the people he knows. There are lots of shows about famous people. This is a show about the rest of us. Part interview show, part oral history project, the show was nominated for a 2012 Radio Production Award and was featured on the Radio 5 Live podcast special, Helen and
Ollie's Required Listening."

Getting Better Acquainted has now been extended on Resonance 104.4 FM. There will be 4 more episodes running through July making the first season 17 episodes in total.

Each episode is a half hour edit of a full length episode that has already aired, the 13 episode season tries to represent every element of the podcast as a whole, whilst also targeting topics, people and places that will fit in with remit of the station in general. The episodes are available locally on fm radio and globally on the online player.

GBA is not going away as a weekly long-form podcast however. If you haven't heard the show yet there are lots of ways you can: It's available through iTunesStitcher Smart Radio and from the website.  You can also follow it on twitter and like it on facebook.

I can will be recording two live GBA's as part of the PBH Free Fringe 2013 at 1.40pm at the Banshee Labyrinth on the 13th and 14th of August.

6. Spark London

I host the monthly open mic at the Hackney Attic and doing social media for the brilliant Spark London.

The next one is on Monday 8th April and the theme is "Tragedy". The night kicks off at 7.30pm and only costs £3. We now have a 3 for 2 offer running so if you quote "story time" at the box office when buying your ticket on the night three people can get in for the cost of 2!

You can listen to our weekly podcast on Mixclouddownload it from iTunes or stream it on your phone using the Stitcher
Smart Radio app

In general our live events happen this way each month:

1st Monday of the month: Spark London Curated Stories at the Canal CafĂ© Theatre
2nd Monday of the month: Hackney Open Mic at the Hackney Attic
3rd Monday of the month: Brixton Open Mic upstairs at the Ritzy Cinema

Like us on facebook and follow us on twitter?

Thanks and as usual let me know if you want to stop getting these emails.



Getting Better Acquainted:

Stand Up Tragedy:

Spark London

@GBApodcast @StandUp4Tragedy

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Further thoughts on #HowILearnedAboutIntersectionality

Yesterday the idea that you can only learn about the concept of intersectionality  through having been academically privileged was soundly addressed on twitter. 

This storify: collects that discussion together. 

This link to the wikipedia article on intersectionality should answer any other queries anyone has about the basics of this concept. 

Many people in the storify who talk about how they came across intersectionality  found it through peer to peer communication or through self education. That's how I came across it too. 

That doesn't mean we aren't privileged as I'm sure most of the tweeters would acknowledge. That we have the space and time and ability to seek out new terms and ideas means we have some level of freedom. On my part I am very privileged. 

Part of being intersectional is checking your privilege. And so it seems to me that being aware of how people who are oppressed differently might experience the word "intersectional" is a part of that.

For example it would be wrong to suggest that working class people can't understand the meaning of the word intersectional. They may not have come across the word but that doesn't mean they haven't experienced the thing it describes. Intersectionality isn't really an abstract idea as its rooted strongly in reality. But even if it was working class people are people and therefore capable of thinking in abstracts. 

But it wouldn't be wrong to say that some working class people will be alienated by the word. They may have a problem with academic sounding terms coming at them from people they consider to be middle class. They may well see academic words as the language of their oppressors. 

Working class people aren't the only group who have a complex relation toacademic sounding  words and the academic system they represent. 

We don't all come to words from the same place. 

Some people are intimidated by academia because they are intimidated by what they don't know. Or because they feel inferior or stupid due to systematic experiences.

A reaction against academia was one of the things that intersected for me personally when I was bullied at school. Reading books and getting good marks in exams marked me out as "other" from many of my contemporaries, as much as my lack of masculinity, my different accent, my glasses and the rest. So I'm not defending this prejudice entirely. Fear of learning new things and re-looking at the world, of checking our priviledge and assumptions is not a good thing. It helps people to remain oppressed. 

But fear of learning is a complex thing. Sure, sometimes this fear comes from privilege, people resist learning new things because those things challenge their privileges. But it also comes from the intersection of the systems that oppress people due to their class, race, gender, ability etc...

Academia isn't problematic because learning is oppressive, it's problematic because privilege and power are oppressive. Some people get a good education and its advantages. Some don't. 

When people talk about being alienated by "Oxbridge Wankers" or "absurd academic terms" they are talking about being alienated by a system which priviledges rich, white males. A system filled with intersecting oppressions. 

Academia is problematic because it isn't even meritocratic: I know very many clever people who the system hasn't recognised as clever because of the way that various oppressions intersected for them. Because they didn't have the "right" language, the "right" attitude, the "right" body.  

But even if it was a system based on "merit" it would be problematic because who decided that we would priviledge clever people over others? What systematic power structures are served by valuing intelligence over kindness for example. Why is the ability to argue valued more than the ability to empathise? 

Words have power. They help enforce power. It isn't just our fear of new things that can make us resist words, it is often the baggage those words contain. They can sound like they are trying to keep you at arms length. That they are only for clever people. That they are not for you. 

Intersectionality is a word we need because of the nature of our culture. We have to describe the world around us. And our world is one where oppressions and priviledges intersect. Some people resist the term because of their privilege, others because of their oppressions. It's important to remember both responses happen. I reckon that most resistance is probably a mix of both. 

So to sum up what I'm saying:

To acknowledge that people can have a negative response to the term intersectionality because of intersectional reasons is an intersectional thing to do. 

But acknowledging this doesn't invalidate intersectional analysis or practice. It is part of intersectional analysis and practice.