I mentioned before that a piece of my writing is on display alongside a photo on Banksy at MShed in Bristol. A couple of people weren’t able to make the exhibition, so asked if I could put the writing online somewhere for them to read. Well, my mum asked. So here you go ma! My friend Pam and I went to the exhibition for the launch party – pictures are below.
Of course you know me. We’ve met before. But you don’t remember.
You try desperately to remember. But my face is a greasy penny, slipping between your fingers into the cracks of the pavement, escaping into Bristol beyond.
We met on Park Street. I had my high visibility vest and my stepladder. We passed in the street. You turned as I passed, but the harder you looked for me, the less you could see.
You followed the paint drips down the street and thought that you caught me, red handed – paint brush in hand, stencilling the wall. You shouted, angry. Vandal! Trickster! You rushed me. Knocked the ladder. I fell, and shattered into a thousand pieces.
You panicked. Swept me up, and threw me away. But as you looked into the bin, you saw every tiny shard start sprouting arms, and legs, paint brushes, and stepladders. A tiny army of teachers, nurses, ambulance drivers. Wearing monkey masks. Dreaming of revolution.
I was seeds on fertile earth. From a two-armed man to a seven nation octopus, swaying around with dangerous ideas, minds of their own, and spraycans attached to their tentacles.
Of course you know me. We’ve met, remember? You shook my hand.
The nice folks at RoathCardiff asked me to write a short piece about Roath for their ‘Roath People’ series. I don’t live there any more, but lived there for many years of my Cardiff career (including some years as a wee one, between being born and the age of about five). I’ve always loved the place.
I wrote a review of Green Man 2012 for Plastik Magazine. You can read the full review here (with embedded videos/images) or see below for text.
Green Man 2012 – festival review
Disclaimer. You’ll see by the photographs, this was a fairly muddy festival. It didn’t rain all weekend long (in fact Saturday and Sunday afternoons were blazing hot). But there was enough rain to make it pretty squishy underfoot. I’ll try and keep the mud and rain descriptions to a minimum and concentrate on the “festival experience”. Mkay?
You all know how the weeks leading up to any UK festival go these days. Every morning, you check the weather. Before you go to bed, you check the weather. The week before, you check the weather at least three times a day, and usually on at least three different websites before assuring yourself – no, it’s not going to be a mudbath this year…
In the week leading up to Green Man, there were no such happy thoughts. I’m a 100 per cent fair weather festival fan – I’ve never relished the idea of wading around through mud soup for three days. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at the festival site on Friday afternoon, right in the middle of a three hour downpour, to go and fetch tickets and then park my campervan in the live in vehicle field. (See? Told you I was a fair weather festival goer. No tent for me).
After managing to dodge various caravans and horse boxes that had got stuck in the mud around the live in vehicle area, my companion and I parked up next to some friends, who were having their first weekend away from their two young kids since before the first one was born (around four years ago). (Their family situation will become relevant later, so read on).
They had already put away the best part of a bottle of rum by the time we got there, so we hurried on with the wellies and ponchos, packed away some bladders of cider in a rucksack and headed into the festival.
For those of you who’ve never been before, Green Man festival is situated in the beautiful Black Mountains near the River Usk. The site is in the middle of beautiful rolling countryside, mountains and hills. Even with a touch of light drizzle, it’s blimming beautiful.
Friday was spent doing that first exciting ‘let’s explore the festival!’ for a couple of hours. This consisted of hiding from the rain in every bar tent we came across, before making it up the slippery hill to the Far Out! tent, where the Friday night line up was a breathy, electronic indiepop affair, with Errors, Lower Dens, Cass McCombs and Junior Boys providing the warm up for psychedelic rock headliners, The Bees. Highlight of this tent was definitely Glasgow band Errors – a pleasingly noisy start to Friday night.
We then headed to Chai Wallahs for some of New York’s finest, rapper and beatboxer Joe Driscoll.
After we’d got a bit funky to that, we thought we’d investigate some comedy, as Robin Ince was on in the Comedy Stage. Unfortunately, due to usual amounts of ‘buying drinks/buying food/need to roll a fag/need to buy some chewing gum/can I just eat a pie’ faffing, we got to the stage just as the throngs were leaving as Robin Ince had just finished.
We made the journey back up the hill to Chai Wallahs to see Bristol funk band Yes Sir Boss. I had so many plans – going to see main stage headliners Mogwai, going to listen to the sweet sweet voice of Cate le Bon. But no. Without the responsibility of their children for the weekend, my friends (remember them?) went a bit nuts. They drank their cider, downed a bottle of rum, drank every warm drink on offer in Chai Wallahs (chai brandy, whiskey coffee, rum hot chocolate … mmm …). They wanted beats, dammit! So the sludgy ground and orange candle glow of Chai Wallahs became our home for the next six hours.
I’ll run you briefly through the excellent acts we saw: after Yes Sir Boss was Solid Steel new school talent, DJ Cheeba, who played an excellent DJ/AV set. All your standard big party tunes with accompanying visuals and effects. After Cheeba was Hackney live hip hop band, Lazy Habits, followed by a dark and bass heavy set from DJ Switch – electro, house, classic hip hop, dubstep – it was all there, plus a tent full of friendly people who were fairly mud free – apart from one girl who was trying to do some rock and roll dancing with a guy she’d just pulled, and ended up instead doing a face plant into the mud. Ouch.
At five am, we dragged ourselves round the entire perimeter of the festival trying to find our way back to where we were camped, to try and sleep and get ready for round two.
There aren’t many mornings where you can lie in bed and listen to the sounds of Cardiff’s Sweet Baboo playing his first set with a full live band as the songs waft up the hill towards you. Saturday was one of those mornings. Sweet Baboo must have been the busiest musician on the Green Man roster for 2012, with five appearances in total (by himself and also in other bands). When he plays solo, his tunes are quirky and intimate. With a full band behind him, they’re warm and inviting, and wrap themselves around you like an off kilter cuddle at 3am. In short, it was very good. If you get the chance to see him play like that, I’d recommend it.
Given the epic Friday night session we had had, Saturday was a much more relaxed affair. Highlights were beatboxer and guitarist Philip Henry with violin player Hannah Martin (truly amazing), experimental electro-rock duo Rocketnumbernine who scared the crap out of everyone with their stage show (that consisted of a young boy wearing a tiger mask and doing weird movements to the music), lovely American folk from Dark Dark Dark, and upbeat Senegalese rhythms from Nuru Kane.
I’m pretty ashamed to say that by about seven pm on the Saturday, my resolve to see everything on that night was starting to fade. We headed back to the campervan for some booze and food, but got distracted by the prospect of a warm, log fire-heated shower. We were, of course, absolutely stinking with mud by this point. So we fetched towels and headed to the Buddha Field where I enjoyed the best festival shower ever. Best two pounds I spent all weekend.
After getting back to the campervan and getting clean clothes on, I realised there was no way back out for me. So I got a cup of hot chocolate, got into bed, opened the windows and listened to Yann Tiersen and Metronomy as their sets rolled up the hill and into my van. It was most, most agreeable.
One of my favourite parts of any festival is the festival radio. Lying around in your tent on a Sunday morning, trying to muster the energy to get up and eat a Mars Bar or at least drink some Lucozade. Unfortunately there was no festival radio at Green Man this year, so Sunday morning’s soundtrack was the plinky plonky folk of Seamus Fogarty followed by a walk around Einstein’s Garden.
Einstein’s Garden is one of my favourite parts of Green Man, where there are stalls and stands around with learning activities for kids. When I say ‘learning activity’, you think – ‘boring’. But actually there were stands called things like ‘The Egg and Sperm race’, and Cardiff and Bristol Universities teaching kids about the solar system and about how molecules in corn flour and water work. There were also enormous hula hoops to play with. It was awesome. My friend Matt compered at the solar stage there, and did some freestyle poetry about Higgs Boson. I’m not even kidding.
Einstein’s Garden was followed up by some time spent sitting on a wall listening to the wonderful rhythms of Ghostpoet and then some serious headnodding to Alt-J, Cardiff band Islet, and Three Trapped Tigers all up at the Far Out Tent (and it was, truly, far out).
This was my first festival experience with kids in tow, and although the line up for this year’s Green Man wasn’t as strong as previous years, it’s still for my money the best UK festival of its size, in no small part down to all the extra little bits that you can do if you’re there with family. We spent ages in the Future Generations area playing massive Hungry Hungry Hippos and listening to a samba drum workshop – but the festival is small enough to walk across in about ten minutes. A great time at Green Man, as expected – let’s just pray for less mud next year!
It’s been over a month since my last post. Very slack. Lots of boring and sad personal stuff going on at the moment so excuse irregular updates….
In news of what the haps, the We Are Cardiff storytelling project that I set up with my friend Adam has been a real success – we have had 10K views so far and have linked up with some similar digital portrait sites in San Francisco, Melbourne, and beyond. For news of that, check the hack flash blog, and to read some of the stories, visit the We Are Cardiff site.
I’ve been working on a novel since November 2010 (got part of my dirty draft down thanks to NaNoWriMo, which I didn’t finish, but was useful nonetheless) and last weekend my mum helped me put down the structure for it – the structure was the thing I was having the most difficulty with. I’m no good at things like that – thinking logically and analytically and putting things into a sensible arrangement. My mother, on the other hand, is a dab hand, and helped me shape my bizarre plotline into a logical shape (still bizarre, of course).
For updates on how that’s going, best get me on my Tumblr.
My friend Adam Corner has recently moved to Kampala in Africa for the next six months, doing some research on climate change. You can follow him on Twitter @AJCorner and check out the Hidden Heat blog he’s updating while he’s over there.
Neil Cocker (our very first We Are Cardiff story!) is putting together the second TEDxCardiff conference which will be held on Saturday 9 April at the Millennium Centre when I, annoyingly, won’t be here to attend (don’t cry about it though as I’ll be road tripping down the west coast of the States with my good friend Hannah. Things could be worse, hey?). Some pretty impressive speakers have already been announced. Keep updated with the TedxCardiff blog or Twitter. Neil is one of the busiest and most productive people I have ever met. He and I have been attempting to arrange having a cup of tea together for about three months. Let’s hope it happens soon!
Adam Chard – my co-hackflash conspirator – has been tinkering with his website and it is looking nice nice. Adam is a Cardiff based photography and design bod and is responsible for some of the nicer posters and CD covers you might have been seeing around Cardiff recently.
And, um, that’s it for the timebeing. I’m back to the novel structure grindstone that I’m cunningly avoiding by updating this. Laters!
Recently, I started blogging for Groupon, representing Cardiff in amongst their pack of UK city bloggers. Groupon is a website that offers spa days/meals/tickets to the ice hockey/abseiling/tea tasting/other such things for discounted prices, provided enough people buy each deal. It offers some pretty cheap offers, perfect for presents and treats, etc.
Hilary Mantel – If you have a good story idea, don’t assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.
Michael Moorcock – Carrot and stick – have protagonists pursued (by an obsession or a villain) and pursuing (idea, object, person, mystery).
Michael Morpugo – Record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys.
Will Self - Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceeding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in . . . the edit.
Will Self – Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.
Colm Tóibín – Finish everything you start.
Jeanette Winterson - Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.
Alexis Grant has a great post on her blog listing some great podcasts for writers. Alexis is a journalist currently writing a travel memoir, and her blog Aspiring Author is good reading for other aspiring authors.