Cynthia Rodríguez

Writer. Performer. Translator. Filmmaker.
Afghanistan | Braunschweig | Germany | Internet | Nottingham | Poetry | South Africa

Rediscover Communication II: Restless Pens and Foreign Tongues

By on 9 June, 2016

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Last Bank Holiday, the lovely peeps at Mouthy Poets organised Restless Pens & Foreign Tongues, a workshop/open mic as part of Neat Festival and held at Nonsuch Theatre. The month-long festival, based in Nottingham, aims to bring and create interactions in arts and performance within an international context, particularly in the relationship of Britain as part of Europe.

The workshop was led by Melanie Irmey, member of the German collective Loewenmaul and based in Nottingham while she worked with Mouthy Poets for a few months. From the local corner, Chris McLoughlin facilitated the workshop too, and inspired us to write, read and share.

The idea was to explore the complexities and connections of the spoken language, not only in English but — preferably, rather — in other tongues, native, learned or even unknown. Sounds, ideas, new names for old feelings, old words for new images.

Even the WiFi is international at N_Space. :P
Even the WiFi is international at N_Space. 😛

It didn’t mean you had to know another language, but that you had to be willing to know, or even guess one or another. The vast majority of the students only knew English and whatever they could remember from holidays and GCSEs. Leanne Moden, a marvelous writer and pivotal part of poetry in the East Midlands, says she only speaks “English and Bad English”; yet that was certainly not an obstacle. There were a couple of Afghan boys in the beginning, alas they were a bit intimidated and left within an hour. It’s a shame, because it would have been beautiful to listen to their words.

Exploration was key. We were encouraged to describe pictures and concepts in our own language, borrow other people’s, incorporate their words into our work, take fragments of our work and translate them into dialects we had never heard before thanks to the imperfect powers of Google Translate.

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Later, the magic of technology took our interactions to the next level. Thanks to Skype, we held an open mic for and from the members of Loewenmaul all the way to Braunschweig. Through a massive projection on the wall, the poets shared collective and individual pieces in German, English or both. Albeit my knowledge of German comes mostly from hilarious Rammstein song titles (“You Smell So Good“, anyone?) and the most metal egg-free cookies recipe ever, the sentences were strong and powerful. There was one, shoulders naked, who proclaimed something quite immense about how — paraphrasing — “your mother is dead, but she was never alive in the first place”. If any Loewenmaulers could share her name and, in fact, the names of all the lovely performers, it would be majestic.

loewenmaul_chrismcloughlin

Then, from our side, works in English and more. Moden scuba diving into Icelandic, me trolling everyone with Mexican pop culture in Spanish, and this badass South African dude named Pete — again, share name and more work, please — shared an Afrikaans account on the current situation in his country. He later read the English translation, but even the original writing was engaging enough.

That’s what I mean with rediscovering communication. In the end, the words stop needing translation. We sort of develop internal devices like the ones from Stark Trek or Mass Effect, even environmentally-controlled programmes like the one from the TARDIS, and we speak the language of the world and the world speaks our language.

A lot of the people who want to close borders, a lot of the people who want to leave the community, don’t even bother understanding their motherland tongues.

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England | Events | Germany | Language | Leicester | Lifestyle | Literature | Nottingham | Pakistan

Rediscover Communication I: Anerki in the Cellophane

By on 6 June, 2016

These weeks, I have been thinking and experiencing tons of stuff related to bilingual/multilingual communication in arts. Particularly, in writing and sharing words.

Códice Florentino.
Códice Florentino.

Growing up, I always took for granted the fact that I learned English. I had to do it, we had to do it, if we wanted to “be someone” in the world. If we wanted to travel, trade, enjoy entertainment, even save lives with whatever medicine people read on academic and research journals. The older generations in my family didn’t have this pressure on them as the urge of globalisation wasn’t that intense in their youth, so whenever I or my cousins/nieces/nephews of my generation or younger had to learn English at school, sing songs in English or make assembly presentations in English, it would be considered a massive feat. “Oye, que Cynthia anda estudiando maestría… ¡y en inglés!”. But it was never an achievement to us Mexican “millenials” (excuse me, willenials). It was something we just had to do. Like maths. Like operating a computer — another Herculean adventure on its own through the eyes of our parents, but that’s for another post.

Now in England, I have been met with the same awe not only for my ability to learn and communicate fluently in Orwell’s tongue, but for the fact that my first language is not English. They see it as a goldmine of knowledge, a secret code, the keys to a world apart from this one. Due to postcolonial preconceptions being spread through every government department — education included —, a lot of English people old and young never learned another language. At best, they took French or German for their GCSEs and forgot any foreign lexicon once they went to university or joined the workforce. When I started taking Spoken Word more seriously, they told me to share something in Spanish. For the musicality of it, for the beauty and strength of it, and perhaps, in the same way a lot of us honed our English skills through F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episodes and Radiohead songs, to catch a bit of it like flu or anthrax.

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I finally pleased them at the ninth edition of Anerki, that beautiful evening proud of showcasing the best in underground arts in Leicester. Music, dance, mesmerising visual arts, spoken word and stand-up comedy, just to mention a few examples of what you could find on that soirée at The Font. The fabulous Kish aka Zeropence had been excitedly telling me for months to bring something in Spanish, as people set the roof on fire when they see things performed in another language. And I did it because I felt safe. In other areas of the country, you would be met with pale bald tomatoes shouting “English, motherfucker, do you speak it?” like vegetable versions of Samuel L. Jackson. But hey! This is Leicester! We kicked out the EDL and we did the same to Britain First TWICE. So I went waaaay beyond the comfort zone and did something I had never ever done in my 30 years of grazing the Earth.

I fucking rapped.

anerki-skype
Despite all my rage, I’m still just reading lyrics. Still via Elliott Izzard.

And it was hot! People shouting, dancing and clapping, jaws dropping as that cute chubby lady with the Street Fighter necklace was dropping bars or whatever kids today call them. They possibly had no idea what I was talking about, but journalist Terry Mardi said “they felt it”. I also did some artsy Spanglish shit called “Sk*pe”, where I tried to reinterpret “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson and “Mother Mother” by Tracy Bonham and adapt it to contemporary times. It’s on the footage section, for the bold. Like the new layout, by the way?

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If you missed it, I’ll be doing it again on the 18th of June at LCB Depot, as part of Anerki X. This will be an extra special one, on par with the exhibition The Art of Crass, curated by Sean Clark. The main act this evening will be Crass co-founder Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life. Quite an honour to be shouting strange words at people who master the art of shouting strange words. Punk icons. Stick around all day at DIY-related events, workshops and fun for all ages.

Before that this Friday 10th of June, same place and same group of people, will be a spoken word special where a few of us read and recite stuff opening for Crass members Penny Rimbaud, Louise Elliott and Eve Libertine’s Cobblestones of Love, a lyrical rewrite of Yes, Sir, I Will. There will be a barbecue too. Come for the food, stay for the art and words.

(BTW, I got the idea for this title from Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep, a surreal film that was pretty much based on communication breakdown in general. For instance, Duck Ellington.)

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Events | Leicester | Poetry | Short Story

FTRW @ Inside Out Festival

By on 17 May, 2016

ftrw_insideoutfestival

Last Saturday, a few hours before Leicester City raised the Premiership trophy up in the sky, some of us Find the Right Words people read a few things at the Curve theatre as part of Inside Out Festival, a very lovely celebration of arts, theatre and learning.

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The afternoon was compered by Toby Campion, one of the many lovely people who remind me how much I love Leicester, the Midlands, Britain and the world. If you haven’t seen his poems/love letters to this beautiful place, do it now, then come back and keep reading.

insideout_kevinhudson

Of course we were all going to have a Leicester/football poem. Kevin Hudson, for a start, with his comedic rhyme and reason and scarf, to boot. Also, he took us far into the kingdom of Nottingham (you may have heard from that place) on a quest to find a snazzy kitchen appliance and discover only disappointment. Peel your own fruits, people!

insideout_ellierose

Elizabeth Morgan Rose was one of the headlines of the afternoon. Quiet and shy, but her words were strong on their own. Loud, sharp statements about not relying on others and not letting ourselves fall into codependency. Not being someone’s key, someone’s jacket. Screaming is not always necessary to get a point across.

insideout_ohstandfast

Unless you’re Oh Standfast! In that case, yelling is not optional: it’s compulsory. Standfast was my favourite act at Handmade Festival just the week before that, and he came back again to complain about pretentious airplane passengers, dining alone, having housemates when you’re 35 and living in London, honeymoons and a series of peculiar life-sized models. “If you think this is funny, it’s comedy. If you think this is clever, it’s poetry. If you don’t understand it, it’s art.”

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And we wish comedy, poetry and art paid well. Clare Abbott certainly does. She told us about the time she found 45 quid on her daily commute. Some of us know how important and special is that, specially in the creative field. Or in any field that doesn’t involve being a douchebag and ruining people’s lives, to be honest. She also told us about how difficult it is to find jobs, to make ends meet and survive.

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Then some girl read stuff about sports.

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Stephen Thomas followed with odes to music. To the wonders of vinyl, discovering new things and the little surprises (sometimes embarrassing, sometimes enlightening, but mostly fun) we can have when accidentally putting records in different sleeves. To Amy Winehouse. It seems like a generational thing to write about Amy, particularly in the FTRW environment. She definitely left her beauty mark on all of us. Like a Monroe piercing that will never heal.

insideout_chrismartin

Something that healed well was Chris Martin’s tattoo. A week before ending up under some needles at Market Harborough, he wrote about getting something done. Something that conveyed his love for coffee and his partner. Got an interrobang (‽) in the end, the most precious punctuation mark to never be on a standard keyboard. He loves his children too. So much, he lets them cover him in glitter, “the only thing [he has] in common with drag queens”.

insideout_mikebrewer

After the break, we had the adorable Mike Brewer talking about love. From serious, heartbreaking moments like finding pictures of dead lovers in the attic; to cherishing your smart and sturdy desktop computer called Penny (“she cost a pretty penny and she’s worth every penny”).

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This was followed by ol’ reliable Poetman, who went for a poetry route rather than a singing route but was still hilarious and amazing. A group of teenage dancers certainly enjoyed his performance, and that’s a very tough demographic to reach. But then, they know very well what it’s like to “scroll and scroll ’til it destroys [your] soul”, the wonders of real coffee and all the brands of energy drinks you love to hate or hate to love.

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People came and went according to their schedule. So many things were happening at the festival, the venue and the Cultural Quarter, that we would have different members of the audience for every performer and nearby. When Jodie Hannis got on the foyer, a lot of people were leaving the main stage after seeing Legally Blonde: The Musical. So it was extra poignant to see Hannis talk about CSA, the scars it can leave and the ways you can stop it, while little girls were having their pictures taken by their families posing with cardboard props and a picture of Gaga the Dog. You just wish these little girls never go through that. You just wish Jodie never went through that. You just wish no one does.

insideout_rubykelman

At the end, after tears were shed thanks to Jodie and Toby, Ruby Kelman shared some of her work. As I mentioned before, Amy Winehouse seemed to impact a lot of people in the group, and Ruby had a poem about her too. Plus a few things about love. Cooking with your lover, drinking tea with your grandma, all those links between romance, family, companionship and meals.

Gaga the Dog.
Gaga the Dog.

Performing at such a huge and stunning venue (even in a small, cozy corner) like Curve theatre was fantastic. It was quite a challenge to deal with the ebbs and flows of people coming around, stopping, staying, leaving. But knowing that somehow, one word or another, one concept or another, got into their minds and gave room for communication, was pretty satisfying for everyone involved.

Bonus: Magic!

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Canada | Las Vegas | Media | Music | Poems | Poetry | Portfolio | Sports | United Kingdom | United States | World

El Gordito Goes to Vegas (FTRW Speed Poetry Challenge)

By on 28 April, 2016

It was a fun challenge to do my first stint at a Speed Poet at Find the Right Words. The instructions are easy: people shout topics at you, you go off to write a poem involving some/all of these topics, then you come back and read the results. Here is mine, on the junior doctors strike, Martin Castrogiovanni preferring to party in Las Vegas over playing against his former team, Victoria Wood and Prince leaving Earth, and the Hillsborough disaster verdict. How the feck did I manage how to connect these subjects? I have no idea.

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Culture | Events | Leicester | Podcasts | Poetry

What You Saying? Poetry Podcast

By on 19 March, 2016

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Poetman is a superhero in the making. He has only been doing spoken word for the past 18 months, but he’s already a staple of the local scene. A wonderful thing that differentiates Will Horspool from other poets — besides his use of cool pedals and musical gadgets — is that not only he wants to create and share, but he wants other people to create and share as well. “Spoken word is not dead”, was the name of his open mic in Glenfield. And to keep it alive, he knows it’s very important to constantly plant new seeds.

That’s what What You Saying? is about: a venue for people from all walks of life to share their words and incept new ideas. Rather than sticking to good ol’ reciting, What You Saying? is a poetry podcast and event aiming to inspire new ways to write and speak, perhaps connecting to other disciplines such as music and comedy.

Shed_Poetman
Poetman

For a start, it happens every month (or at least it’s meant to) in the basement at The Shed, the oldest alternative music venue in Leicester, mostly focused on rock and metal. Not your average theatre or jazz café, but what other people would call “a dive bar”. Not really a place to take your parents to (unless your parents are Lemmy Kilmister and Cherie Curie, in that case you’re fucking awesome), but certainly a place full of character and love.

The first What You Saying?  happened last Wednesday 9 March, and started around 8pm. It was meant to be split in two halves, but the response was so overwhelming that it was arranged into three halves (?). All of them with the same gravitas, and mostly recorded for the poetry podcast afterwards.

Here is the list, or most of the list, of the performers that evening:

  • Ruby Kelman, a young promise and regular at Find the Right Words. She recites in an adorably awkward manner, like she is confessing her love to you and fears you won’t reciprocate (of course you will, who wouldn’t). One of her love declarations was dedicated to Amy Winehouse, the doe deer blinded by the paparazzi flashlights, and not the fabricated product of said members of the press.

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  • Stefan Seniuk, a rock and roll poet and “The Devil’s Bard”. Clearly influenced by the Beat Generation, punk and rock icons and the teachings of Dr John Cooper Clarke, he invites people to join the chorus like they do with bands in the arena. “We’re All Whores”, he made us chant at some point, and it was actually kind of true.

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  • Tyga, again someone relatively green in public, but delivering words way beyond her years. A street image with street stories, taking us out to clean our own rubbish and mop our own vomit as members of society. Someone to definitely watch out for.

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  • Joe Doyle, mainly a musician, and compère of his own open night at Manhattan 34. One of his stories was about a fly-killing bully, a monster who uses all kinds of items to catch those (apparently) smaller than him, yet performed in a funny voice and poise to remind us that these bullies are nobodies in reality.

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  • Jodie Hannis. She likes fish tacos over sausage sandwiches, and is not afraid to say it. A recent tenant at the House of Verse, and someone we will certainly keep seeing around.

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  • Oscar Prince, who still relates the name “Fergie” to a certain Scottish duchess and not the lead singer of Black Eyed Peas.

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  • Trevor Glyne Locke, who has been writing for decades before we were a figment of our parents’ imagination. Surprisingly, this was the first time he read in public, and he took us back to a decade we didn’t live, riding his scooter all over the world.

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  • Some broad who talked about pepper spray, swimming, cutting your hair in the loo and paraphrasing R.E.M.

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  • Philip Petersen, roaring laughter and roaring voice. An impressive presence in and out of stage.

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  • Douglas Deans, reciter of truisms and complainer of the same things that annoy me in life. Quite a figure on the rise in local theatre. You can’t miss him.

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  • K12, who is only in college and yet he can demolish you with his turbo fast speech and his pulverising topics. A previous contender in Heard of Mouth, and someone who needs to come out and slam more often.

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  • Daniel Nicholas, the enfant terrible of East Midlands comedy. He was attacked by bears, yet he didn’t win an Oscar. You will see him around because of course, you will.

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  • Zeropence, also in charge of his own interdisciplinary open mic night: ANERKI, every last Thursday of the month at The Turkey Café. Excellent tempo and flow, whether a capella or in a musical collaboration.

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  • James Cull, a metal musician who hadn’t read poetry in public before and ended up sounding cuter than a lot of us. Appearances can betray those who don’t know that metal folks can actually be the nicest.

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  • Pavel Peytchev, another metal poet with a soft heart, worried about the woes of today, sensationalism, deceit and the way media manipulates the masses.

In between acts, Poetman performed both by himself and with Peter Prick, prick by name and prick by nature, rambling over funky guitars and making us question ourselves as he questions himself.

Shed_PoetPrick

If you want to hear and download (because you do, right?), just click on this as you please. Also, visit Poetman’s website and follow him on all social media to stay in touch and know everything he does.

The next What You Sayin? live Poetry Podcast is on Thursday 21 April, again, at The Shed.

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Freelance | Lifestyle | Office

The World Imposter Club

By on 8 February, 2016

howdidigethere

Times have not been swag at all. Not cool. Not coral. Not tubular or whatever kids say today. Between still hurting from a film fallout, being played like a violin twice by a large corporation which promised to employ me, a fresh medical diagnosis I have no idea how to control, and the illness and demise of my favourite furry creature on Earth, my heart has been filled with equal parts solitude and equal parts fear. Too unsafe to build trust in people (and above all, myself), too overwhelmed by a fog of loneliness and grief. Also, every time I go 9-to-5 job hunt I’m reminded I have failed as a freelancer and that none of my skills and experiences matter at all if they don’t generate an income. I doubt I’ll be ever be able to make it, and think that the little I’ve achieved so far has been a fluke and it’s one blow away from crumbling into ruins.

Not looking like a lebensborn supermodel grandchild with the language acumen (and accent) of Stephen Fry hasn’t helped much either.

Let’s say I cry a lot and that sometimes my biggest achievement is to make it to the end of the day alive and in one piece. I have been rather prolific with writing, going to workshops and reading in public, but it’s all a distraction to stop thinking about my dead dog and my distant family. Most of my poems have been elaborate pleas that basically say “don’t kill yourself because the system wants to destroy you and you’d be doing the job for them and that’s not punk”. Little did I suspect that there were others feeling the same way and needing to hear those words either. Yep, even skinny Caucasian belles a five-minute drive away from their extended families, who don’t have to think twice about using the right prepositions, who did their GCSEs and seem to have an impeccable reputation in the world of arts, crafts and farts.

No one has their lives sorted. We are all screaming into our pillows and we are all shitting our pants.

azilliondollarscomics
Image: A Zillion Dollars Comics.

The other day a young family guy with quite a career in theatre was sharing an open call to a performance event. This would be right up his alley, knowing his involvement in the scene and also knowing that he is quite talented, quite privileged in a sociological tumblr way (WhiteCisHetManTeenageMutantNinjaTurtle) and that he possibly knew the people involved in the soirée series. Heck, he’d already done several things at that venue. A very, very important one, by the way. He could have easily walked into the place like three horses walk into a bar.

Yet he commented he was too insecure to present his project. It was about something he was very passionate about, something that fitted with that session’s theme. But he didn’t feel good enough.

Every time I submit material to perform, the dance before daring to do it is pretty much like that one scene from Fight Club. Fighting against oneself, pulling one hand away from the keyboard and being slammed to the floor by invisible forces. And this person who organises other projects was feeling the same inverse impulse, the same invisible forces, telling him not to share his work.

inferiority
Image: Gemma Correll.

Earlier on Wednesday, I went to a networking meeting. Yes, I still go to networking meetings albeit feeling like a complete imposter. The trick is that they don’t know you’re fake. Now they know. Oops! Either way, a friend and colleague came around for the first time in months. It happens that she was dealing with grief and disenchantment as well and she had barely got the strength to leave the house. She felt like she wasted many perfect opportunities and she had to start from scratch.

She’s an illustrator and designer who could easily, easily, work for Disney and make a fortune in America. Or even here in Britain. She could animate the most endearing Christmas advert with her eyes closed, I bet. Yet again, that bloody fear took over and wrapped her like a smelly blanket. Or like a snake, gangrening your limbs until you can’t hold a pen. The fear doesn’t attack the talentless — in their case, mind you. Or at least it doesn’t attack people with nothing to say.

Image: Death to Stock Photo.
Image: Death to Stock Photo.

To avoid being home alone, I go to coffee shops and faff about on the laptop. Other young people go there and have talks with their friends and loved ones. 80 percent of the time I overhear them, they complain about unemployment or underemployment. About, again, the fear of doing things. They are also stricken with self-doubt and remorse. Comparing themselves to others who seem to have it better. Others who might in turn compare themselves to others. Or maybe to these same people who were comparing themselves to them. And I compare myself to all these people. And probably you do as well.

Bigger people go through these feelings and fall on these patches. My husband keeps telling me about Jonny Wilkinson (British Frenchman of the Year, Saviour of the Rugby) fearing that someday someone would “realise” he’s “a bit of a fraud“. The same with Gary Lineker, but I can’t find the source because I’m shit like that.

Even Maya Angelou was shitting her pants:

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I don’t know where I’m getting with this ramble. All I can say is that if you feel like this, you are not alone. People of all physical and reputational sizes go through this. Specially at this day and age, stability is an illusion and the key to being able to do something is doing something. Even if that something is just staying alive.

And if you feel like a fraud and like no one believes in you, always remember this tiny potato:

Image: Emily's Diary.
Image: Emily’s Diary.

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Fashion | Lifestyle | Office | United Kingdom

The Flying Shoes

By on 31 December, 2015
Image: Incessant Doodling
Image: Incessant Doodling.

I used to volunteer at the Oxfam near my house. A few years ago, I was mostly operating on the till, greeting people, charging them for their acquisitions, sorting out refunds, or simply establishing conversation with good neighbours while enjoying our limited playlist. Haven’t seen it to this day, but the Dirty Dancing soundtrack gave me so much life.

With my nerves situation not yet under control, it was a challenging role, but it was rewarding. Many times I realised there were other people going through battles, and whose highlight of the day — like mine — was going to the shop, looking at pretty things, maybe being able to afford them and get them for a fraction of the original price.

Sometimes the customers and window-shoppers were extremely vulnerable people, seen as vermin by the highest political powers, referred to with “it” pronouns by the most rotten crème de la crème. Old people talking to themselves, a stout ginger man who wore gin as perfume and who always left with a tchotchke, estranged parents, young families with a weak grasp of the English language, struggling students. To know that this little shop helped them satisfy their needs, be them temporary happiness, acquiring presents and important items that otherwise would have been out of their reach, or just succeeding at socialising and leaving the house, was such a nurturing experience that improved my life in the process too.

Image: morgueFile.
Image: morgueFile.

One particularly grim afternoon, a scrawny woman of colour came into the shop. Frizzy hair, shaggy coat and tattered clothes that had seen better days. She was around her early 20s, but her complexion looked like it had survived Great Wars. Confused, she wandered around the shop, frequently turning her face to the window: a child was waiting for her across the street, too embarrassed to be seen with her. Perhaps he was her brother, her cousin, her son, but he wished there were no bonds.

Suddenly, she stopped in front of the shoes section. A pair of trainers caught her wandering eyes. They were some size 7/8 Converse animal print ankle boots with fur around the edges, and were in near mint conditions. The most basic Chuck Taylors are at least 23 quid during sales season, but this particular special kind was £4.99 in our shop. All proceedings went to feed and empower the most vulnerable communities, so anything we got was extremely helpful. After measuring the shoe soles to her worn out kicks, she grabbed them and rushed to the till, carrying with her a stench of booze and poppers.

—These shoes are gooorgeous! — she exclaimed with childlike joy in her voice. —They are amazing! I need to get them.

I agreed with her, as I was enchanted by them earlier that day but found them too big for my size 6 feet.

— I need to go get some money. Can I keep them with you? — she asked. I told her we took cards too anyway and she could buy them right away, but she said she had to go and check the ATM to see if she had enough money.

We’re talking a fiver here, people. She didn’t know if she had a fiver on her bank account. Or at least a fiver to spare, after bills to pay and food to eat.

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She came back ten minutes later, same dynamic, child waiting for her on the pavement across the street in front of the estate agents. She had great news, a shine in her face and a five pound note in her hand.

— I’m getting them!

As soon as she got them, she took off her old sneakers, put them in her washed out messenger bag and put on the Converse instead. She left floating in the air and spreading a million thanks, and it was not because of the booze and drugs. It was pure joy. She was experiencing the comfort of new, pretty shoes that fit, and she was flying.

Image: iStock.
Image: iStock.

When middle-upper class vintage hunters go to charity shops and get things they don’t need, it affects people like this lady. Even worse, when middle-upper class vintage hunters go to charity shops, get things they don’t need and sell them on the Internet for its original price. Not only they make profit that could help the original people the charity shops are dedicated to, but potential consumers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy anything. They take away their opportunities. They, so to say, cut their wings and make them fall in the ground face first. We had a frequent shopper who bought our Ted Baker donations, sold them on eBay, and came back to get a refund on the ones he couldn’t sell.

But at least he didn’t show it off in a cutesy manner on social media, like this wanker did:

“Do I know anyone with tiiiny feet who would like these shoes? Size 4. too pretty to leave in oxfam”

Charlotte Curtis, from Black Heart Creatives, got particularly upset about it with all the right reasons. People with low and no income, specially people with dimensions away from the arbitrary Western average, struggle to find clothes and accessories that fit them correctly, make them look presentable and help them to navigate society and be able to move on and try to improve their existence. To have people with their entire lives sorted use their privilege, come and take away any fragment of joy the underdog could ever reach, is just disgusting.

I’ve previously spoken about the importance of available office wear for femme-presenting plus size people, and this also applies to those who can’t afford going to shows like Style XL, who can’t afford to go to John Lewis or Dorothy Perkins, and in particular to people with big and small feet who can’t get their shoe sizes online.

Yes, there are people with “tiiiny” feet who would like those shoes. No, they don’t know you. You may be repelled by them, and after reading you, they might be repelled by you. They could have put those shoes to good use much better than your imaginary friend you wanted to impress and that other twitter person who ended up buying them from you. They could have gone to an interview, got a job and sorted out their debts little by little. They could have gone to the club and have a good time. They could have gone to a date with sexy results. They could have been celebrating the New Year in style. They could have been happy just like you and me; maybe just for the instant they got to grab those shoes, try them on, check on the ATM if they had any money available, come back to the shop, buy them, put them on and leave the shop floating, flying, smiling for once. Feeling like they belong, for once.

And don’t say it’s just fashion. You damn well know it’s just not fashion.

Image: Smart Works.
Image: Smart Works.

PS: if you want/need clothes and shoes but can’t afford them, here are some useful resources as presented by Curtis on her blog. I’m still gutted The Circle folded for lack of funds while people like Paul from our shop and that git from twitter get to buy and resell.

Smart Works

Suited & Booted

Dress for Success

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Arts | Culture | Drawing | Drinks | Events | Lifestyle | Monterrey

Drink and Draw Monterrey

By on 7 December, 2015
drinkdrawmonterrey-tables
Image: Murall.

I’m in my hometown Monterrey for a couple of weeks taking care of family business; and while I’ve been mostly visiting relatives and arranging serious stuff, I’ve also had the chance to touch base with local happenings in matters of art and expression. Thus, I was thankful to attend the second edition of Drink and Draw Monterrey.

Image: Murall.
Image: Murall.

Drink and Draw is a brilliant idea that has been executed in places like New York and London, and that now seems to attract more and more young adults thanks to the explosion in art therapy and self-care. As colouring books for grown ups become instant unapologetic best-sellers, it should be quite natural to take the solitary enjoyment of creating and enhancing drawings and turn it into a social and amicable activity. You know, just like going to the movies, sports clubs, karaoke nights and, yes, the pub.

The Monterrey chapter is organised by Murall, a multidisciplinary school devoted to teaching and spreading information on all things related to arts and design. This independent learning centre features experts in illustration, visual arts, and industrial and graphic design; and while they include workshops and courses in their roster, they aim to reach as many people as possible regardless of their level of artistic expertise. Events like this one are great ways to offer a non-judgemental space for exposure, expression and relief.

Image: Murall.
Image: Murall.

Last Thursday evening, Murall invited people to bring their weapons — pencils, pens, brushpens, markers — and join the battle at The New Black / Beauty Lab, in the recently galvanised Barrio Antiguo cultural quarter. After paying 20 pesos (less than 80p in GBP) to cover expenses, visitors could drink all the Indio and Dos Equis they wanted and draw to their hearts content on blank sheets of paper covering rows and rows of tables. They could sit next to their friends and strangers (potential friends), appreciate each other’s works and have a chat while decompressing or focusing.

Draw-o-Matic

Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

Guests weren’t the only ones drawing: a few recognised talents took their turn to operate the Draw-O-Matic. For an optional tip, people could sit in front of the artist through a pitch black contraption, wait five minutes or less and finally receive a portrait of themselves through a “printing” slot. A lot more exciting than a phone booth, to be honest. Here are a couple of renditions of some random chick done by two different artists.

Los leo con esta cara. Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

First, poor illustrator and tattoo artist Roberac did a graphic description based on witness testimonials (his own) of  some tired-ass hag reselling tamales outside the tamales stadium.

Fat and sassy. Fassy.

Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

Then, Dynamite depicted the same seater as a bespectacled fat and sassy bombshell. The difference a pair of glasses can make. Reading glasses and glasses of booze, for sure. Now I get why no one suspected Clark Kent was Batman.

We certainly need this to happen again and again. Events like Drink and Draw Monterrey not only bring creative kinds together, but inject Barrio Antiguo and the entire city back with the life it once had, with a vengeance. Insecurity issues kept the once flourishing area shut for nearly five years and killed the Barrio Antiguo experience for at least one generation of youngsters who will never fully know what it was like to have a pizza at Cafe Iguana, live indie history watching an international act face to face at Garage, or bounce between rivals Antropolis and McMullens. Thanks to these kind of events, young people will get to live and love the nightlife and look at it bloom all over again. And for that, we are thankful.

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Poems | Poetry | Portfolio

Lust LP

By on 27 October, 2015

Written at the Perfume and Poetry workshop at Lush as part of Everybody’s Reading Festival, later performed at Find the Right Words. Based on Lust by Gorilla Perfume.LustLP

Just because someone won’t touch you
— someone who really likes you —
never assume that no one else will,
never assume that the world ain’t your oyster.

Stand up and walk, carry that smell around
like a train on a dress,
like a train on its way
to everlasting success.

Like the tail of a dragon
who is ready, just ready,
always ready to fight.

Keep on carrying that smell
like a tale you won’t tell
but that you and the world will remember forever.

A blush on their cheeks,
a secretive wink,
a furtive kiss or two in the dark.

But above all things you, you, you and you
since you are yours and I am mine
and our love will not tear us apart.

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Austria | Comedy | Culture | Events | Leicester | Photography | Short Story | Theatre

Emergency! at The Y: how it went

By on 12 October, 2015

emergency-cynthiarodriguez

A couple of Sundays ago, I had my first official public performance in Britain, and the first ever in five years. It was all part of Emergency! at The Y, a periodical showcase of new talent in arts, theatre, music and general entertainment in Leicester. I had already attended as an observer, and was really fond of the concept: sharing your work with an audience, perhaps as a rehearsal or perhaps as a result, open to honest feedback and in constant conversation with your colleagues, your crowd and your compere, getting to know each other and helping each other expand and improve.

Previously handled by KLiC, this was the first time Naomi Peart and the theatre directly managed Emergency! at The Y, so the organiser was as nervous as yours truly. There’s a first time for everything, and this was hers and this was mine. We were together on this. Besides a few rookie mistakes (Where’s the coffee? Where’s a competent technician? Where are we and what are we meant to be doing? Where’s’ the extense event advertising you so dearly promised?), things went  hunky dory and you could tell Peart and crew — featuring the stunning and shining Kirsty Munro as mistress of ceremony — have a passion for making things happen and provide a safe venue for free expression. On that we can agree.

“The donkey goes in front”, as we would say back home; so I opened the evening with Comfort Zoned, my multi(eh?)media storytelling extravaganza. Silly me and silly tech didn’t allow it to be as multimedia as initially expected. Never trust tablets to present audiovisual material, and never underestimate the power of  USB/external drives. I did and I did, so the visuals I so intrincately crafted (on Paint.net and PicMonkey) were not to be seen and in the end it was just me, a spotlight and the music. The feedback was positive and the show seemed to work better this way, with people solely focusing on my words and sound without being overwhelmed, leaving images to their imagination. I was nervous and went too fast on a couple of stories (particularily the fast-paced ones), but it was amazing to let people immerse in my world and connect with all these characters and their circumstances. People liked “First Crush” and “Somewhere in Lanzarote” the most. The power of self-identification was there, and so was the power of getting to know the other. A particular feedback note I liked said Comfort Zoned was “[e]njoyable, humorous and enlightening to issues of being a woman and living through particular times and ages”. For this, I’m forever grateful and willing to polish, enhance and keep presenting the show wherever possible.

emergency-dorikichmair

Next, we had Dori Kirchmair, an enchanting Austrian who has even presented a TEDx Talk, and this is technically what she did. To those of us who have always wanted to go to one but never had the time, place or money, it was a wish come true. Her presentation, Resonance, was as scientific as it was metaphorical, on the ways we connect with people, the environment and our own feelings. About how something so small and “insignificant” can pluck our strings and retune our psyche like an instrument. About how our brains are like a party where all our sensations convey, a bit like a grown up version of Pixar’s Inside Out. A night out where everyone around you is a dickhead, but everyone around you is you, and you have to acknowledge yourself and your dark sides to be able to see the light. Own yourself, calibrate yourself and get going well-tuned back into life.

emergency-rosehale

Of course, you could achieve that with a bit of meditation if that’s your thing, and Rose Hale‘s Transitions helped greatly. Her series of nature photographs present changes through seasons and changes through life, insects evolving and plants ageing and growing. Drastic changes we barely notice until they hit you, going as softly as animated transition effects and tenuous minimalist music. Hale’s slideshow brought peace to some of us, while scaring some younger audiences. Is it because the idea of growing and approaching death every day is still alien to them? Is there something inside they just want to avoid? It might be my Mexican morbid nature, growing up surrounded by sugar skulls and black humour poetry, but once you take for granted that life comes and goes for everything and everyone — you, me, butterflies, trees, your dog, your mum, your children, the Sun, foxes, grand civilisations, planet Earth, the stars, the Universe — there’s a sense of tranquillity that makes any ordeal easier to carry. Surfing on the tides of change.

emergency-lindseywarnes1

Speaking of surfing, Lindsey Warnes Carroll took us on a holiday, threw us in the pool and made us dive to the deep end of self-doubt and literature nerdom as part of her 40 Odd Tales. We read out quotes from the Beckett Bucket, witnessed her and Munro go through a session of Speed Pinter, heard her recite in perfect redneck inside the Tennessee Williams Tunnel, and could taste the increasingly-bittersweet cocktails of her stages in life. Of our stages in life. Make the games and dynamics larger, and you could create a more personal Dismaland; but instead of worrying about paparazzi and capitalism, cringing at negative reviews from everyone you’ve ever known as read by a coconut secretary, drowning on a small bucket and being attacked by tinfoil and bubbles.

emergency-lindseywarnes2

Accidentally on purpose, there was a leitmotif across all four performers. We may or may not have known each other before, but we had more things in common than our fondness of the stage and our gender identification. We all spoke about changes, about not being the same once a thing, a moment, a milestone in time and space happens. Stumbling upon all creatures big and small, the devil and the angel in the details, turning the page of a poisoned book and never going back to what we used to know. Trees losing leaves, butterflies departing from their cocoons, connecting with our truth in our emotions, reaching stages that looked so far from us before and now make us forget there’s anything else. I ignore if Naomi went for a general topic when she arranged the line up or if all submissions were accidentally connected, but it worked in flawless harmony.

emergency-lindseywarnes3

The next edition of Emergency! at The Y will happen on the 13th of December. If you want to get involved, contact Amy Christer on AChrister at leicesterymca dot co dot uk as soon as you can. It will be great to see you on stage this time.

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