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Leicester Riot Grrrls

By on 23 August, 2016

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Leicester pretty much has everything: excellent food, lovely people from everywhere in the world, high-quality sports, and an ever-growing cultural scene. A significant chunk of this rise in arts, music, performance, spoken word and dance is not funded by the establishment, the government or big corporations. You can find these underground acts whispering in the corner of an open mic event at the pub or exploding on an improvised stage at an independent gallery. It could be considered punk in principles and D.I.Y. in aesthetic: if you want something to happen, make it happen in your own terms and flipping the bird at “gatekeepers”. If they don’t let you in the building, make a raucous party on the streets.

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We would assume that, with such notches under its belt, Leicester would also have a social activist scene. People questioning authority on behalf of certain cultural groups, ethnic groups, gender groups, those who are often unheard or afraid to share their voices even in the independent cultural scene I love and praise so much. How many middle-class baby-booming white men have to spread themselves like Marmite all over workshops, open mics, performances and other events when they could easily knock the door on the BBC and get their own show any time? How many topics are avoided and unquestioned, experiences left unshared, injustices being ignored? For a start, where are the women? The young people, the queer, the unemployed and underemployed, the working class, the cry-myself-to-sleeps, the disabled, the large-and-unashamed, the anarchists?

Where are the Riot Grrrls?

It’s the same thing Gemma Wicks and Meri Everitt were wondering. There have been Riot Grrrl or Riot Grrrl-inspired communities in several cities and countries, either tangent or online, ever since the manifesto was released in 1991 on Bikini Kill’s zine; some of them expanding, updating and improving the lifestyle and the scope of who is allowed in and what to fight for. Today, intersectionalism is key, and all women are real women, all non-binaries are non-binaries. People are what people are. But at least nowadays, there wasn’t a movement like this one in Leicester.

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Leicester Riot Grrrls started as an idea on Facebook. It has its own closed group, a safe space to ask questions and help each other through sorority. There is now a public Facebook page where we share news, pictures and cute/enraging/edifying things. But what would a geographically-specific group be like without – gasp – human interaction?

The group meets ideally once a month. The first meeting was in July, upstairs at Firebug. It was quite successful and people came all the way from Nottingham and Derby to participate and maybe make something like this happen in their towns. So I guess we’re pioneers in the East Midlands? We had a bit of an open mic and I am amazed by the quality and passion of all the performers; some of them regulars in the local and regional circuits, some of them shy and terrified kids who had never done it in public. This is an excellent opportunity for them to practice, share, and keep doing things here, there and everywhere.

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There are a few smaller groups within the group, and they each specialise in one kind of activity or project. The music jammers, the book club, the film club, the zinesters, and anything else that comes by. You’re all welcome to perform, share your writings and your readings.

The next Leicester Riot Grrrls meeting is on the 31st of August at Duffy’s, a very friendly Irish pub just around the corner from Firebug. If you want to be part of it, organise stuff and believe in the ideals, feel free to join! We’ll also be hanging out at that thing called Leicester Pride at Victoria Park on Saturday 3rd of September.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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

Drink and Draw Monterrey

By on 7 December, 2015
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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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Austria | Comedy | Culture | Events | Leicester | Photography | Short Story | Theatre

Emergency! at The Y: how it went

By on 12 October, 2015

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Arts | England | Events | Leicester | Lifestyle | Literature | Poetry

Everybody’s Reading Wednesday: perfumes, hills and blue fairy lights

By on 2 October, 2015

Tuesday wasn’t a good Tuesday, so on Wednesday I tried to keep myself out of the house as much as possible and do as many activities as I could to stop staring into the abyss. Fortunately, Everybody’s Reading Festival is happening this week and Leicester is flooded with literature. What a wonderful time to get lost in words and all things related!

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Arts | Culture | Events | Leicester | Lifestyle | Literature | Short Story | United Kingdom

Emergency! at the Y

By on 30 September, 2015

emergencyThis Sunday, 5pm, I’ll be performing along three other wonderful up-and-coming artists at The Y theatre. Dori Kirchmair, Rose Hale, Lindsey Warnes and myself will each have a slot doing our best in comedy, theatre and spoken word. I’ll be opening up with storytelling and audiovisuals. It’s my first time ever performing in Britain, so I would lie if I said I wasn’t nervous! Anyway, here’s the description:

What happens when you find yourself in a situation out of the ordinary? Out of your definition of ordinary? The stories in Comfort Zoned are about people who discover there is more to life than what they used to know and embrace. Terrifying, thrilling, leading to improvement or disappointment, but never back to where they were before. Having a celebrity infatuation way beyond your teenage years, wearing an item of clothing society deems inappropriate on people like you, finding out that your hateful beliefs won’t take you to heaven, going on a neon adventure during working hours, or just hula-hooping your way through bureaucracy hell to make your British dream come true.

This is Cynthia Rodríguez’ debut performance in the United Kingdom, and the first one in over five years. Cynthia is primarily a writer, regularly involved in literature and film, now returning to the stage as a storyteller and taking herself out of the comfort zone just like her characters. Back in Mexico, she was involved in the first Writing Jam in her hometown and several public readings.

So yeah. Come and see me perform Comfort Zoned and get ready to be enraptured. *cringe*

Emergency! at the Y. Sunday 4th of October, 5pm, pay what you decide.

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Beliefs | Culture | Events | History | Leicester | United Kingdom

Richard III: Funeral for a King

By on 29 March, 2015

Richard III facial reconstruction

If you live in Leicester, you now know this story by heart: king dies in battle, king’s body goes missing, king’s body is found several centuries later — of all places — underneath a car park. Regardless on your views towards the king’s possible behaviour in his lifetime, monarchy in general, and the whole concept of life, death and the afterlife, the reburial of Richard III was a big event and a unique opportunity for all of us. We were witnessing history, and we had seen it unfold for the past 18 months almost like a motion picture. Someone found something: was it? Wasn’t it? It was, and now it was our turn to say goodbye and send that something back underground but with a much nicer setting above.

richardIII-ceremonyleaflet

The reburial celebrations began last Sunday, when Leicester University said goodbye to the remains before sending them to their resting place in the Cathedral. My husband and I live a five-minute walk away from campus, and that’s when we found out that the monarch was basically our neighbour. Before that, whenever we used to take a walk around Victoria Park and we would pass by the tall grey buildings of the university, we would notice this loud humming sound coming from a basement or ground floor. “It’s King Richard in cryogenic suspension”, I would joke. “It’s the fridge where they keep his remains, like Walt Disney”. I didn’t know it was partially true. I don’t know if that humming was the fridge where they kept him, or if he was kept in a fridge in the first place, but he was actually there. After all, a dedicated team from this university discovered the skeleton’s identity using DNA samples and comparing them to those of one of the last descendants of the Plantagenets.

We went to this goodbye ceremony early in the morning. There were people who came from near and far waiting in front of the Fielding Johnson Building. Children, elderly and people with dogs. Without the solemnity nor the weeping of a funeral. More like a family event or like waiting for a celebrity to come out of their hotel. Leicester Uni was effectively Richard III’s bed and breakfast for a while, and it was his time to check out. There were seats under a gazebo for the very important people, right in front of rows of benches exclusively lined up for the media. Still, more people connected to the university and the discovery were brought along to stand up on a side, kind of blocking the view from those of us behind the fence. You had to tip toe to be able to look at the coffin, built and designed by the Canadian carpenter whose DNA was used to prove a positive match. Selfishness aside, if they were as part of history as the VIP guests, they deserved seats too.

richardIII-ceremony

The ceremony was solemn and ecumenical, open to the general public and people of all faiths and none. It’s a shame a member of the audience had his children running and shouting in the background, not even respecting the one-minute silence. Imagine if these children did that to him at his funeral. If we still had scribes with scrolls, he would be remembered for centuries to come for the wrong reasons. Archaeologists and anthropologists would scoff at him and his offspring.

Once the ceremony was done, they took the coffin to Fenn Lane, Dadlington, Sutton Cheney, and in some sort of exorcist closure, to the site of the Battle of Bosworth. We didn’t follow them, but we got to see the funeral car leave the university.

richardIII-car

After Market Bosworth, they took the remains to the Bow Bridge and St Nicholas Church. From then on, they dragged the coffin on horse carriage all the way to the Cathedral, not before parading around certain spots of the city centre. One of those, the curve in the Cultural Quarter, by The Exchange bar, the Serbian church and the Curve theatre. That’s where we went to see him in the afternoon. It wasn’t as crowded as Humberstone Gate or the Clock Tower, but it was special and close to our hearts — we get to spend several times a week around that area thanks to work and film meetings.

richardIII-curve

When they said “horse carriage”, I thought it would be the coffin inside a car dragged by horses, or at least protected by a crystal or something. Not just there, lying flat on a plank on wheels, right in front of us. A physically small coffin for a physically small king, the way people were in Medieval times. Raw and real, no mysticism whatsoever. Living people cover and hide themselves more than this.

richardIII-curve-carriage

The Cathedral ceremony was invitation-only, but they still screened it at the Clock Tower and Jubilee Park. We went to the Clock Tower to sit down on a bench, watch and listen. I have never been to Leicester Cathedral, but the inside looked stunning on screen. Tall ceilings, shades of bronze on the walls, gold and red here and there. During my Master’s Degree, I went to cathedrals all over the West Country for research and assignments; and I once saw Anna Calvi in Manchester Cathedral. Perhaps I should go more often and explore cathedrals now in the East Midlands. Merely for the architecture, art and acoustics. You can see why contemporary gigs are still held in this kind of places: the choir sounded majestic. The voices were majestic themselves, singing songs from Plantagenet/Tudor times, a trip down a memory lane we didn’t get to walk.

richardIII-cathedral-clocktower

As I’ve said before, it’s not a matter of beliefs, politics or religion: Richard III’s reburial events were still very humbling. Friendly reminders that regardless of status, nobody lives forever and that the rest of the world doesn’t die with us. It just goes on and on an on. Dogs will keep running, children will keep screaming, people will keep looking and the city will keep waxing and waning, waxing and waning, in circles forever. A few days later, Benedict Cumberbatch — apparently, Plantagenet blood — read a poem on the reinterment ceremony. It was easier to “meet” the king than to meet the actor. If you still want to meet the king, go to the Cathedral and look at the tombstone. If you want to meet the actor, speak to his agents and wait a hundred working days. Or walk around London forever until you stumble upon him on the Underground.

We are the same in the end. We all have bones, and sooner or later we’ll all be buried.

richardIII-couple

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Africa | Bristol | Events | Japan | Mauritius | Music

Reporte UK: Zun Zun Egui

By on 18 March, 2015

Last Wednesday, we went to The Musician to see Zun Zun Egui. I had written about them as part of a Reporte UK for La Pop Life a few months ago, and I was more than excited to see them.

They were exciting, friendly and inviting. The show was opened and closed by ritual songs where we sang along and brought in the spirits of music to bless us. There was a lot of comedy between songs and direct audience interaction, Kushal playing with you face to face, off the stage, for several seconds at a time.

Zun Zun Egui, Leicester, The Musician, 11 March 2015

This is what I wrote about them back in the day, and the reason why I was exhilirated when they announced a gig in Leicester. Here you can access the original, something I encourage you to do as usual, so you can also check out all recommendations done by my partner in Anglophile crime Sam Valdés from Sloucher.

Reporte UK: Zun Zun Egui

A band to follow up close in 2015.

Their name means “Group of Trees” in Basque, but it sounds like “Quick, Quick, Crazy” in Japanese. Both the story behind their name and the nationality of their members, from the islands of Mauritius, Japan and the UK, make it look like a small model of the UN, although their concept goes beyond the stereotypes of the It’s a Small World ride from Disneyland.

They got together in Bristol, where singer and guitar player Kushal Gaya stumbled upon keyboard player Yoshino Shigihara. They started playing with several friends, including bassist Luke Mosse and bassist Matt Jones. It was with these natives that Kushal and Yoshino formed this project, joining their international experiences and their love for the DIY culture and improvisation.

Their first LP, Katang, came in 2011, after several raw and deranged EP. It was then that they began to mature their sound and perfectly amalgamate genres such as afrobeat, ethio-jazz, punk funk, tropicalia and no wave. Adam Newton came to replace Luke, while Stephen Kerrison added more guitars to the combination.

For their new LP, Shackles’ Gift, they took shelter under Andrew Hung’s wing, another very dear former Bristol alumni and member of Fuck Buttons and Dawn Hunger. The idea for the album started to take root when Kushal took his partners to play in his homeland Mauritius on March 2013 in order to celebrate Independence Day.

There, they found strong pride and inspiration in the island’s history and its ability to rise by itself after escaping the grasp of the French and the English barely 45 years before.

Mauritius has 12 official languages and a national eclectic cuisine (research Shelina Permaloo, another Mauritian/Brit, winner of the 2012 edition of  MasterChef). Just like its food and culture, Mauritian music is adventurous and finds inspiration everywhere. For instance, the sound the sugar cane grinder makes in the fields. Kushal related this to industrial music from the UK, when ensembles such as Throbbing Gristle emulated the noises from factories and their machinery.

Coming from the idea of African folk music as precursor of futurism and avant garde, Zun Zun Egui dived into as many regional genres as possible and passed them through a filter of Western psychedelia, dub, and rock n roll. A delight impossible to describe in a few paragraphs, but worthy of its own academic dissertation for a PhD… or simply worthy of being enjoyed.

Their latest album, Shackles’ Gift, is now available everywhere.

Note: If you want something more explosive, brainless and primitive, listen to Melt Yourself Down, Kushal’s other project.

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