Last night Malvern’s ReCon hosted the second ConFab Cabaret organised by Amy Rainbow and Catherine Crosswell. This time I was involved in a bit more than just Prepare to Share (2-minute open mic slots): I was running Fox Pops – an element of audience participation; would it work? Only one way to find out…
As in ConFab’s debut, the eclectic main acts were excellent and varied. We opened with anarchist (flogging cds and books) poet Rapunzel Wizard who laid into middle class pretentions with gusto. (If one contemplates shop lifting, he suggests one should take him with one as a distraction; store guards will always watch a crusty. (Actually, in my experience as a shop manager, it’s often the unremarkable quite smart bods who do the lifting – so his advice might work. But not in my shop.))
Johnny Gash and the Bleeding Catfaces deserve some well-paid festival gigs for their clever and danceable songs – great sax, too.
A lively band of sharers brought a couple of minutes each to the Prepare to Share slots: really good fun – recommended!
Meanwhile, I’d stationed friends by the door to hand out paper and pens as punters arrived. For Fox Pops intro I mentioned the new Walenty Pytel Buzzards statue in Rosebank Gardens and asked the audience to dream-up their OWN statue for Malvern: what? why? where? and so on; a couple of lines. For example: a statue of a donkey (traditional rides up the hills) outside Brays Department Store (*Groan*). The results would be collected at the break and the best ideas would be shared before the final act.
I was anxious no one would bother but everyone was enthusiastic – even performers scribbled something – and so, by the start of part two I had a big bundle of slips. The writing was often a bit wonky: spotlights on the stage, audience lights low. Also dark for deciphering wonky writing so I retreated to the hallway to make my selection. In the hall I could hear music, I could hear audience appreciation but no words. I scurried through the papers, thinking, “I’ll get back before the songs end.” Only when applause and whistles and cheering resounded did I realise I’d missed an entire act.
Yes, I completely missed the burlesque act, Scarlett O’Sparkle. Sorry: I cannot describe it – or her. But my male companions assured me she was terrific.
To make sure I didn’t miss anything else I came back to the bar and sat on the floor – there are under-counter fairy lights around the walls so I could scan the Fox Pops papers. Consequently I could appreciate the incredible performance talent of the night’s “Mystery Guest”, Dreadlockalien. My not-a-poet-but-tolerates-it-because-he’s-lovely husband (and, by the way, I’d booked the event even though it was on our 25th wedding anniversary: he is a noble soul) was in complete awe; he said, “Couldn’t have a better performance ANYWHERE for tonight.” (I hope he wasn’t including if we’d just stayed home. Ahem.)
I’d seen Dreadlockalien hanging out very quietly at the back of the room and thought, “I know that bloke”. But, then, I know so many people by sight I couldn’t place him until, sorting out my own space in the running order, I saw Mystery Guest and it suddenly clicked – having been to a workshop he was involved with in Birmingham a couple of years ago. On stage he’s awesome; off it he’s diffident. His poetry is passionate, deep and hits you where it matters. His performance skills are second to none, mixing beat-boxing, melody and rap with effortless energy.
Al Barz was the man who had to “follow that” but he’s so totally different (from just about anything!) that it was no problem. His poems are read to electronic keyboard accompaniment and his dry humour shines through. Shades of Ivor Cutler, as Amy said in her intro for him.
A couple more Prepare to Share slots – including a request for Dreadlockalien to do another poem (yes!) – and then I read out a selection of the Fox Pops statue ideas. I’ll append some of them below.
The final act was the brilliant Brenda Read-Brown. I once gave her a standing ovation (but no one noticed as everyone was milling about trying to get to the bar; bloody poets). She’s an adventurous, determined woman who lives life to the full but can’t quite so much at present having fallen off a ladder in January which is causing some long-term pain and mobility issues. (And the pain killers are hassling her speaking voice which must be incredibly annoying.) But she’s still dynamite as a performer, her poems are passionate, intelligent and run the gamut of emotions: not afraid of anything.
Fox Pops (1)
What statue would you like to see in Malvern? why? where? and so on: a couple of lines to share.
There were several varieties of answer (all anon):
A whole bundle had drawn what they would like. This might be fine here (if I wasn’t so lazy I could scan them) but not so helpful at a spoken word event:
One sketch showed “Aeolian pipes along the ridge.”
Another just said (in caps), “A BOOB” with accompanying picture in case I might not know of such things.
Some were kindly to some locals:
“I’d replace the Elgar statue with a statue of Neil Collins: he’s done more for the Malvern music scene than Sir Edward only without the Pomp and Circumstance”
(He runs ReCon, amongst other ventures.)
Or, “A pair of monks overlooking the Priory by Ed Elliot – he lives here and deserves work.”
(I googled him this morning: he did the fabulous snow sculptures around Malvern.)
Others were rude (but not about locals):
“A statue of Jeremy Clarkson for people to throw dog [poo] at”
And in the same vein:
“Anything with a big phallus which lights up at night and flashes.”
Some of us were after fine art:
“Who? Kylie Minogue. Why? Because…”
Or “Statue of David Beckham naked.”
“Anthony Gormley’s ‘Invisible Man’ statue – can’t see it happening, though.”
“A sculpture of a caff on the Beacon. With real tea.”
(And real loos – yes please.)
“A pedestal so that anyone who felt worth being celebrated could stand up there for a day.”
(Try the trig points for that – but a bit drafty.)
“The Clangers (because they’re ace”
“A giant plastic dinosaur! Why? Who wouldn’t want a giant plastic dinosaur?”
“KING KONG! Because it’s plastic and large.”
“A small Jack Russell. His name is Trossachs. The look in his eye says ‘I’ll bite you in the bollocks … if I could reach.”
There are many more but I have RSI now so, to finish a heartfelt, brilliant:
“Anything at all but at a 45○ angle – like the rest of the place.”
It really was our 25th anniversary yesterday. Here’s what we looked like then, so long ago colour film hadn’t been invented and girls were allowed to marry at 14: