I’m really excited to announce that my poem dedicated to John Cooper Clarke will feature in the beautiful zine ‘STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard’, which has been created by Dr Tina Richardson and Ally Standing.
This will be displayed as part of the exhibition ‘Loitering with Intent’ at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. John Cooper Clarke has always been a massive influence on me and was one of the first people to make me realise that poetry is for everyone, not just those with good educations.
The exhibition opens July 23rd and will remain open until October.
You can find out more details here: http://www.phm.org.uk/whats-on/ and here: http://particulations.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/between-rollerama-and-junk-yard.html
I’ll be posting a proper update soon, but for now, here’s one of my columns that I write for the paper. TW: Suicide.
It is with a heavy heart that I have to write this column, but I feel these words must be said.
Hours after the first day of spring was announced, I discovered that an old friend had taken his own life.
Although I knew him from years ago in a time of innocence that has now been forgotten, the news struck a raw chord with me.
And the same questions flooded my head that have flooded many a person’s mind when faced with the same news.
Why? Why? Why? Could I have helped? Could anything have been done differently?
These thoughts seem rather useless now. Nothing can change what has happened.
Another young soul has left the world. My old friend had a future and now he is dead.
My heart goes out to his family, friends and others who have been shocked and hurt by the news.
However, I also grieve for all the young people who have taken their lives far too soon.
I think of the other needless losses this year and, through the heartache for today’s younger generation, I feel a sense of anger.
I also feel a sense of duty to speak out. This must stop happening. There are too many young tragedies. There are too many parents left to mourn by gravesides. And there are too many people who still aren’t open to talking about mental health.
However, I also acknowledge that we have progressed. Over the years, through campaigns such as Time To Talk and TV programmes like Stephen Fry’s The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, mental health issues are slowly progressing to the forefront of people’s minds.
It is great that this subject is now more out in the open, but there is still a long way to go in terms of dealing with the black dog.
I can’t help shake the feeling that, despite living through a time where everyone is so connected, I’ve never known people to feel so cut off. There seems to be a loneliness that has fallen over the modern world.
It’s great how we can speak to one another so easily now, especially if we have loved ones who live far away. But I also wonder if it has created too much small talk and not enough longer dialogues.
It seems as though every time I have a proper conversation with somebody these days, they tell me they feel as though they have no friends, no social life, no time to see family and too much work.
I’m not sure if this has always been the case, but I don’t ever remember my generation being so sad.
It seems like there is more pressure on teenagers and young adults than ever before.
For years, teenage and young adult sadness has not been taken seriously by a lot of people. Maybe this is something that needs to change.
What an older adult may see as trivial and easy, a younger adult may see as difficult and hard to cope with.
This is not just limited to age. Different things affect different people in different ways.
We often make jokes about the moody teenager. I often hear the phrase: “You have nothing to worry about at your age.”
Maybe it’s time we start realising that there is actually a lot to worry about, no matter what your age.
Dealing with depression is no easy ride. It is dark and terrifying and sometimes it seems like the light at the end of the tunnel is a complete myth.
But I promise those suffering that things can get better over time. There is always hope and there is always another option.
Now it is spring, the flowers are beginning to bloom and the sign of new life is in the air – 2016 could be a really beautiful year if we give it chance to grow.
Young hearts, don’t burn out too soon. There is so much that is still left to do.
This week I feel I’ve discovered the true power of spoken word.
I knew it was always there, but I’ve never felt this strongly about it before.
I’ve been luckily enough to meet two people who have moved the nation with just their voices. Firstly, John Lydon, secondly, Benjamin Zephaniah.
Some may say that these two couldn’t be further apart, but I believe them both to be extremely similar. They’ve both changed the world for the better and they’ve both resonated with millions of people.
Firstly, we’ll start with John. I rung him in LA the other evening as he’s performing at Bearded Theory, a Derby festival (some of you may know my main job is working for the local paper in Derby.)
I was extremely nervous about speaking to him due to past interviews he’s done, but he was lovely, a real pleasure to talk to. Obviously John is famous for being in The Sex Pistols and generally being ‘rotten’, but there’s a lot more to the man than that.
He says that his music joins people together and I believe he’s right. John said PiL was all about inclusion and the fact that any race, sexuality, creed, colour whatever could come to his gig and feel part of it. That’s such an important thing to me.
Secondly, Benjamin Zephaniah heard my poetry and thought it was alright, which is kinda mad in itself! However, I then took a trip down to Brunel uni to meet him. I can honestly say, despite all the amazing poets out there, he’s the one who’s inspired me the most. I could listen to that man talk all day.
Benjamin lecturing at Brunel
Benjamin is a prime example of social change through spoken word. He spoke about his first ‘hit’ ‘Dis police man keeps kicking me to death’, which is actually a ground breaking track. Here’s the remix below:
He was one of the first people to give black people in Britain a proper voice in today’s society and he did it all through the power of words.
This track also breaks my heart a lot because he told me that it’s about him getting left in a cell by the police and getting beaten for a week straight- which is ILLEGAL, in case you didn’t already know.
Benjamin didn’t come from a family that were particularly passionate about words, he was a black working class young man with a criminal record, now he’s one of the most respected names in spoken word across the globe.
Although I have no experience of black oppression and never will do for obvious reasons, I have experienced homophobia and hate crimes in my youth. Originally, I didn’t think a ‘nobody’ such as myself would be able to make a difference in society, but I don’t believe that now.
The truth is people like you and me aren’t nobodies at all, we’re the true voices of the nation. Our everyday words represent the real stories of the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re just as important as anyone else and your experience and words adds to informing others about the many different aspect of the human experience.
Sometimes I feel like I want to give up, like my voice doesn’t matter and my message will do no good, but when I think of inspirational men, women and others such as these people, I feel that there is hope
It is so easily to feel powerless. People, businesses, countries and more want you to feel like it doesn’t matter what you do or say nothing will change. However, you must remember that the most powerful people in history, the ones that we learn about at school, the ones that moved the world, were just ordinary people. They were nobodies too.
Feminist Poetry Night for Refugee Action at Ort Cafe
On Friday night I performed at my friend’s even for refugees at Ort Café in Birmingham. We raised £500 just through getting behind a mic and performing spoken word. If that’s not powerful then I don’t know what it.
You don’t have to climb a mountain, you can keep climbing hills and soon notice the benefits. So in summary, here’s why your words, written or spoken, can make a positive social change:
1. They can change minds – You may feel your preaching to the converted, but your words could educate and change someone’s opinion about a story.
2. Your words can raise money/ inform people about great causes – speaking, writing or performing at charity gigs can bring real important subjects to a head.
3. They can give people an emotional outlet – When I’ve done poems about rape or sexual abuse, the amount of women that have come up to me afterwards and have said ‘I’ve been through that’ is both astounding and horrific. People can have a release by relating to your words, they can feel as though they’re not alone. Your words can also be a good release for you, I get very low points in my life and poetry is one way that I’m able to deal with them.
Right, so this year I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to blog properly and not just talk about media things, writing things and work things, but proper life things.
I wasn’t quite sure how to start it all off, but I’m basing it on my favourite writer’s blog, Neil Gaiman, and he’s pretty successful, so hopefully this will also be acceptable! I think as well as showcasing what I’m doing it’s also important to showcase the struggle of everyday life, because it’s not all cool people. You don’t just so stuff without struggle! So here we go….
2016 happened, David Bowie died and the world stopped momentarily.
Yeah, it sucked really bad. I loved Bowie, he was a massive inspiration on my new novel, but his memory will always live on.
My friend said: “ David Jones is dead. David Bowie will live on forever.”
2016 has been a massive year of loss so far in the celebrity world and in my personal life, which I’ll speak about at a later date. However, it’s also been a January of new beginnings and a lot of radio work!
At the start of the year a lovely retired science teacher called Fred asked me to edit his radio drama. I agreed, then found out it was about old people who killed youths causing problems on their council estates! Madness!
It took me a full on 12 hour day to get it done but it was worth it and the results sounded great.
However, I forgot how many different sound effects there are for things. Seriously, there are like 12 different cup chinking sound effects and don’t even get me started on how many different opening and closing of door sounds you can get.
Behind the mic
As well as this I got commissioned to present 19 radio shows for the National Careers Service for National Prison Radio. The shows are about helping get prisoners work when they leave prison which is a subject I’m extremely passionate about!
In the studio
Those who know me will know that I’ve worked with the PRA before and it’s honestly an honor to be invited back to do more work. I’m currently recording in London once a week with a lovely producer called Adam Fowler, whose work is seriously amazing.
I’ve even been asked to speak to a group of documentary students at BCU tomorrow! My old tutor must be mad if he wants me to give them some of my twisted wisdom!
So basically, it’s all go at the moment, but I’m hoping all the work is going to pay off.
I’ll leave you with my picture of me and my best friend dressed up at The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Brum.
How’s it been going? As I write this I’m currently on the way to a Rick Astley gig, so I’ve automatically lost all the cool points ever! – Especially since Snoop Dog played Derbyshire last night. However, I am listening to Carter USM so I’m hoping that will redeem me slightly.
Anyway, enough about music. This is an update on what I’m doing. Sooooo first of all I need to give a massive shout out to Edge-Lit which I attended at the start of July. First of all it was held in Derby of all places! Derby is my hometown, so I was pretty shock and impressed! But secondly because it was an amazing day purely for people who write fantasy and sci-fi fiction.
I was in the dealers’ room next to my main man Adam Millard and his beautiful wife – love those people! I also was my first ever panel about grimdark – which I’ll admit was extremely nerve racking but hey ho, we got through it!
I met some brilliant people throughout the day, including the brilliant Kim Lakin-Smith and her lovely family. Looking forward to reading Cyber Circus Kim!
It was slightly mad though as I ended up having to cover an all-night skate at our local roller disco straight after so I was pretty tired. Look there’s a photo of me skating woohoo.
July also saw me performing at House of Sound. To cut the long story short, I was picked out from an open mic session at an amazing poetry night put on by Apples and Snakes called Hit the Ode in Birmingham.
Me and two other people that had been chosen from previous months were all paired with musicians and asked to put together a piece. I was put with a girl called Electrik and trust me, she is amazing! Listen to her after reading this! (LINK IS HERE.)
This was the first time that I’ve ever collaborated with anyone but yeah, I think it all went ok J GeZ filmed most of it for me so I’ll let you make up your own minds!
INSERT VIDEO FROM GEZ
So what’s next?
Well on Friday I’ll be in London at the wonderful queer feminist sci-fi festival Nine World. I’ll be on a panel speaking about how to write consensual sex scenes.
Here’s a print screen at what I’m reading at:
I’ll also be at Howl in Birmingham performing my first booked 15 min poetry slot – I’m scared but it’s free if you wanna go and details are below:
Not to mention Bloodstock at Catton Hall ARGHHH. Get your rock out and come over for a hug if you’re around.
A few final updates…
Radio doc update – as some of you may know or not know, I’m putting together a documentary on the marvellous Circus of Horrors – the final draft is now almost done. If you wanna listen to hair hangers and sword swallowers it’ll be right up your street! Then I’ll be back to focusing on book no. 2.
Finally, some of you want to know when the next book is going to be out. There’s no set date, but I’ll be working on it straight from the end of August!
I’m always off doing bits and bobs and last weekend I got down to Temples Fest in Bristol. If you don’t know what Temples Festival is, it’s basically an extreme metal festival that involves everything from crust to hardcore to doom. The line-up looked ace so I headed down to get some interviews done.
One of my favourite interview was with Dylan Carlson from Earth. I love Earth so to speak to the founding member was a real honour and, if I’m being honest, a real shock as they’re such a groundbreaking band! Here’s the link to the article – oh and a picture of me and Dylan below. I’m not sure what’s happening with my creepy eye in this photo!
My editor, Guy Manchester, was very proud to be featured in the background of this photo, so proud in fact that he made this picture pointing out that he was there! He said that he was pondering fame. Haha it made me laugh a lot.
My favourite interview of the weekend is below though. I’m a massive fan of Tom G Warrior. I love Celtic Frost and Triptykon so it was a privilege to speak to this man. I don’t normally do a lot of stuff on video so excuse my editing, but I think the content came out great! I will definitely be doing another interview with this man, he is very inspiring.
Finally, Ghold are one to watch on the noise scene. They’re brilliant and I love what they’re doing with their music. They’ve tailored their release so that the digital copy of their music is a different listening experience to the record. It’s hard to explain so watch the video!
Thank you to Lauren from Rarely Unusable, Guy Manchester from LTW for letting me steal his spare room and Nina from Noise Cartel <3
This is an unusual post for me to write, but as I’m waiting for a video to convert, I thought, why not?! I recently interview the wonderful Amanda Palmer, where you can read here if you so wish, and it was a very emotive interview. Very emotive. So I thought, if she can be honest, so can I. This is about as honest as it gets guys.
A lot of people talk about stage fright, I get it bad, just like anyone else. However, I also get it off stage before a speech. I get it when I have to speak to people socially.
I stutter when I speak about myself, I doubt my words, I apologies all the time for being anywhere, even if I’ve been invited, I bite my nails until they bleed, I freak out around anyone and everyone, I spout stupid phrases all the time and I need constant justification.
When I go and read at places, I feel like a complete idiot away from the mic. My nerves got so bad the other night, when the woman announcing the acts asked how I wanted to be introduced I said ‘as the vagina queen’. Yes, I actually said vagina queen.
Funny right? I felt like an idiot. I could see people around me rolling their eyes and looking disgusted. I love vaginas, they’re awesome but that’s not what I wanted to say! I think people a lot of people mistake it for over confidence and being full of myself, but trust me, it’s really not. And it makes things so much harder.
I can be a walking mess around people because I always feel I need to justify why I have the right to exist. I blurt out a lot of stuff that I don’t mean through sheer nerves and frankly, it’s bad. But I know I’m not on my own because probably about 99.9 percent of us do the same.
On the way home the other night I was reading The Sandman, one of my favourite comics by my favourite writer, Neil Gaiman, and in the back he wrote an epilogue. It said ‘never apologies, never explain’ and he is right.
You do not need to justify what you do, you do not need to worry about what people think. You just have to do it and if they like you, then they like you and if they don’t well, oh well.
People experience so much hate for not even doing anything. So you might was well do what you damn well please because people are always going to judge you. It sounds horrible, but sadly it’s true.
However negative a statement it may seem though, I hope it encourages you to be brave.
Speak your mind. Say what you feel, it’s more important now than it has ever been. We have the right as artists and creators to voice our opinions and they deserve to be heard. Words are our greatest weapons and culture is one of the best shapers of life.
So hang on in there, cross your fingers and let your voice loose. Do not be afraid. If a bumbling hippy like myself can go and perform a poem in front of an audience then imagine what others can do.
Whoever you are, I believe in you.
That brings me on nicely to this Baltimore poem. When you speak, say something.