Arts | Culture | Derby | Events | Gender | Leicester | Lifestyle | Mental Health | Nottingham | Race | Sexuality

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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Culture | Gender | Lifestyle | Nottingham | Poetry | Race | Sexuality | Spoken Word

Cutiepocking Notts Pride 2016

By on 26 July, 2016

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After Coventry Pride, and after all the gross stuff going on with the world, I felt it was my responsibility to get more involved with Pride and speak out as a member of the community. So, going the extra mile, I’ll be performing not once but TWICE at Notts Pride this year.

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First, at the Mouthy Poets Queer Zine launch. The zine was conceived by Dean Atta at his Queer Poetry Masterclass, as a way to show the resulting exercises and similar material. It was a very fruitful experience, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. It features work by Atta, Alex Bond, Denise Dee, Petra Mijic, Neal Pike, Barbara Schaefer, Beccy Shore, Milla Tebbs, Joni Wildman and yours truly. The launch and readings will be at Lee Rosy’s Tea on Broad Street, 2:30pm. But please, be there from 1:30pm to enjoy the full Poetry Corner and see regular performers from Write Minds Wiff Waff.

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Later, the end (or the beginning?) will be near at the QTIPOCALYPSE, an open mic for Queer Trans and Intersex-Identified People of Colour (or like you can pronounce the acronym, Cutiepock). It’s organised by QTIPOC Notts, a group that was just set up last November and aims to give space to people of colour with diverse genders and sexualities who may not feel comfortable in the average mainstream LGBT community. Allies are welcome to watch and listen. Hosted by the grand Dr Angela Martinez Dy, better known as El Día. It will be upstairs at Rough Trade Nottingham, also on Broad Street, 7pm.

So yeah, come to one. Or the other. Or both. I recommend both. Also, everything else at Notts Pride. Marching, listening to music, making music, looking at pretty things, getting pretty things, celebrating our identities and fighting for recognition with words and glitter.

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Film | Nottingham | Poems | Poetry

Film Haiku

By on 7 July, 2016
Image: Morgue File.
Image: Morgue File.

On Monday, I went to Nottingham for a workshop with Leanne Moden in preparation for the Words for Walls contest organised by Nottingham Uni. Since the workshop was hosted at Broadway Cinema, most of our freewriting exercises were film-centric. This was the first one: writing one or more haikus about some of our favourite films without mentioning their names and letting people guess. Here are mine, and now I will ask you to guess from each plot which films I’m talking about. Answers in the comments section, please. 

1.

He had just one job,
but his car proved that he was
a real human being.

2.

Village of the damned?
Get ready for these bad boys:
have a Cornetto.

3.

“Slicing up eyeballs”.
Pixies said what I had to.
Forgot piano.

4.

My voice for these legs,
alas life under the sea
was better than this.

5.

Back in our homeland,
sing “This Corrosion” to me.
All alien robots!

6.

“I did not hit her”.
“You are tearing me apart!”
Catch the football now.

Still angry about the state of the world, but here’s some light fun as a method of self-care. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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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