Come Along to The Quiet Compere Tour Finale

As regular readers and people who follow me on Ye Olde social media will know, I’ve been rather quiet on my blog lately. I’ve been away from the land of blogging merrily moonlighting as a poet, honing this aspect of my craft at virtual and hybrid spoken word events. Along the way, I’ve met some hugely talented, splendid people and had a thoroughly good time.

One of the many hugely talented, splendid people, I’ve met whilst poet-ing is The Quiet Compere herself, Sarah L Dixon. It is Sarah’s magnificently inclusive, wonderfully accessible, online tour finale that I’m here to tell you about.

It takes place this Saturday and I’m going to be there, But don’t let that put you off, hey?!

More info/booking details below…

Saturday 12th November 2022 

The Quiet Compere Live and Online Tour 2022 – Finale Online on Zoom 7:30pm doors open 7.45pm Showcase 

Sarah L Dixon, The Quiet Compere of Huddersfield, is taking her showcase, open mic and workshop series to new places. 

The tour brings together a diverse selection of poets of all ages, cultures, styles and experience, designed to entice an audience that may never have experienced spoken word events before. Sarah has been running spoken word events under her guise as The Quiet Compere for ten years. 

Quiet Compere events are unique. There are no lengthy introductions to poets, no-one is designated as ‘top-of-the-bill’ – all platform performers considered equal in Sarah’s eyes. Each line-up boasts a varied and diverse mix of poets, ranging from established local poets, some new to the scene who are ready to stun audiences with their talent, plus a generous sprinkling of nationally well-known poets and performers. 

Co-Host and performer for the evening: Emma Purshouse 

Showcase Poets

George Bastow

Gracey Bee

Penny Blackburn

Mark Connors

Linda Goulden

Helen Ivory 

Jack McLean

Elizabeth McGeown

Jennifer A. McGowan

Mark Pajak 

Please book £10 workshop (4-5.30pm) on Eventbrite (limited half price and free tickets available). 

Ticket link for showcase here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/quiet-compere-live-and-online-tour-2022-stop-9-zoom-finale-tickets-454038410107?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

About The Quiet Compere, Sarah L. Dixon 

A piece about Sarah’s wedding in the style of a Post Mortem report was awarded the acpNews First Prize in Journalism 2007. She has been widely-published, including pieces in Rialto, Spelt, Prole, Lighthouse, Confluence Medway.
Sarah L Dixon worked for the NHS 18 years before she decided to channel her skills and considerable energy into corralling poets into some sort of order. Sarah not only promotes spoken word events but offers regular writing workshops in West Yorkshire. Praise for Sarah L. Dixon 

”Quiet Compere nights have a rare and lovely gentleness.”
– John Darwin, Host of Write Out Loud, Sale, Manchester 

“You set a little powder keg under the palm tree and encourage the evening’s castaways to light the fuse. You’re terrific. My, but you work so hard and affectionately at this game of the imagination.” 

– Adrian Mealing, The Very Grimm Brothers and UK Touring (tour company for Roger McGough, Ian McMillan, Andrew Motion and more). 

Sarah’s Website: http://thequietcompere.co.uk/ 

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Get Involved: Daniel Sluman & Emily Brenchi’s New Disability Reading Group

Do you love reading? Are you based in the West Midlands? Are you a disabled person and/or someone who is into the gloriously diverse and extraordinarily multifaceted powerhouse that is the disability arts movement?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any/all of the above questions then you’re in the right place.

The phenomenally talented poet and author of collections including ‘Single Window,’ Daniel Sluman and the tremendously multitalented actor, writer and disability rights activist, Emily Brenchi have created a new online reading group showcasing the work of contemporary disabled poets.

This inclusive, thought-provoking and awesomely progressive group will introduce readers to some of the finest disabled and chronically ill wordsmiths writing today. What’s not to love?

More info and everything you need to know to join the group can be found below…

Do you have a disability or chronic illness and a love of books? If you’re based in the West Midlands, why not join our online Disability Poetry reading group… 

Hi there! We’re husband and wife writer team, Daniel Sluman and Emily Brenchi, and in partnership with Nine Arches Press and the West Midlands Readers’ Network, we’ll be setting up an exciting new reading group! 

This group will be free to join and will aim to encourage the reading of poetry by writers with a disability or chronic illness. We want to celebrate reading poetry as a social, creative and inclusive experience. 

The plan is to find a small group of people who are based in the West Midlands and are new readers of poetry or have not read much poetry before. There will be 5 sessions of reading activities and discussion scheduled once a month. Each session will be 60 minutes and take place online via Zoom.  

Each session will have a featured poetry collection, drawn from a diverse range of contemporary disabled poets and Daniel and Emily will facilitate the group. As well as the main collection for each session, there’ll be plenty of ‘further reading’ suggestions for all to enjoy. For at least one session, we will invite the author of the book being discussed as a guest! If this sounds like it’s something for you, please contact Daniel at danielsluman@yahoo.co.uk

Come Along to HouseFound Symposium

On Wednesday 2nd of March, I will be a panelist at HouseFound Symposium, a ground-breaking new hybrid digital livestream event run by disability arts organisation, LEVEL in association with Katie (Tom) Walters and Radical Body

HouseFound is a refreshingly original, completely inclusive conference that will explore accessibility in the arts and showcase the talents of creative people who struggle to leave their homes.

Taking place from 1pm to 7.30pm the day will consist of a series of insightful panel discussions hosted by poet & performer Katie (Tom) Walters, followed by four unique livestreamed performances in the evening.

The HouseFound panellists are musician & musical self-expressionist, Elle Chante, artist & writer Bella Milroy, musician & radio DJ Edward Perry (AKA Ban Summers) and of course, yours truly.

The performers showcasing their work in the evening will be poet & playwright Conor Aylward, poet & storyteller Rick Dove and folk-pop singer/songwriter & researcher Cathy Mungall-Baldwin.

You can also expect to hear Elle Chante’s song Origami live, not to mention an engaging, empowering and extraordinary banquet of food for thought shared by everyone throughout the day.

I’m thrilled and overjoyed to be part of this gloriously forward-thinking event with so many profoundly talented, difference-making artists, to put forward plans for a fully accessible creative future for all.

Come along and join us! 

You can register to attend online for FREE or book one of a limited number of in-person tickets. More details about HouseFound and attendance options can be found here:  https://levelcentre.com/housefound/

Recipe for a New Poem

It’s been all quiet on the blogging front for a while but I’ve been scribbling away like a good ‘un behind the scenes, writing poetry and having a rather lovely time doing so. To give you a taste of what I’ve been working on, here’s my new recipe poem.

Take 1 leisurely-attired writer (baggy T-shirt and PJ-bottoms to taste).

Place behind a desk for 3 hours at 17°C.

Pour in half a pint of raw ideas, add 2 tbsps of ambition and 1 of anxiety. 

Whisk until overheated and overflowing.

Tip mixture indiscriminately across several notebook pages. 

Grate generous shavings of grammar and punctuation over the top. 

Add a mug of tea and 2 Hobnobs for spiritual and creative sustenance.

Stir in 1 ladle of fresh hope.

Transfer mixture to pre-heated tablet screen and leave to set.

Slice into neat lines.

Serve in print or at Open Mic gig (for best results garnish with 1 flamboyant hat).

A Book Review: Archibald Lox & The Forgotten Crypt by Darren Shan

I recently had the good fortune of recieving an advanced copy of Young Adult author Darren Shan’s latest fantasy book to review. You can find my thoughts on it below…

Archibald Lox & The Forgotten Crypt is the fourth book in YA bestseller Darren Shan’s fantasy series about a talented young locksmith who travels between Earth and an alternate universe known as the Merge by unlocking magical portals called Boreholes. To get up to speed on the series so far, check out my review of Archibald Lox Volume One (books 1 – 3) here: https://gdbastow11.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/an-overview-archibald-lox-volume-1-by-darren-shan/

As well as being the fourth book in the over-all Archibald Lox series, Archibald Lox & the Forgotten Crypt also marks the beginning of Volume Two, the second trilogy of novels to chronicle the universe-jumping escapades of Archibald (Archie to his friends) and his eclectic entourage of fantastical companions.

The enthralling themes and narrative overtones of the first three stories continue in this latest instalment as the internationally acclaimed author expands the new world he has created to spellbinding effect. He explores the complexly volatile relationship between the Merge’s two main factions. 

The Merged (people who favour peace, decency and justice) and the SubMerged (those who would prefer to have violence, intolerance and brutality as the foundations of their society). He also delves further into the tempestuous divisions of the Merge’s extensive royal family whose loyalties are split on either side of the jagged line between these two ideologies. It is against this backdrop of maniacal monarchs and otherworldly antics that this next tale begins.

In the opening chapters of the book we catch-up with Archie when he is back in the Born (otherwise known as Earth ) trying to unlock a particularly tricky Borehole in the Seven Dials area of London’s theatre district. The lock is in the shape of a woman’s face and is proving to be an intriguing challenge for our ambitious protagonist. Archie’s locksmithing potential is now so apparent that he has been taken under the wing of Winston, one of the Merge’s most renowned locksmiths.

Winston is a tremendously wise and experienced character with a haunted past that his facial scars only hint at. The knowledgeable older locksmith resides inside Big Ben and within that iconic London landmark is where Archie goes to study his craft.

Shan delves into Winston and Archie’s teacher/apprentice relationship and illustrates the genuine rapport between the two. Despite Winston’s tough exterior, he is a man of great depth and moral conviction who is proud to pass on his skills to his promising student. In the course of Archie’s studies he discovers more about his mentor’s troubled history and the evil deeds of his former apprentice. Archie also learns about a Submerged royal named Old Man Reap who cast a long and tyrannical shadow over The Merge and its people.

Shan’s gift for character development really shines through in these early sections, the Limerick-based wordsmith is often lauded for his suspenseful twists and action-packed storylines. However, his deft skill with characterisation deserves an equal quantity of plaudits. No matter how inventive the tale or imaginative the creation, whether he is writing about ancient vampires, adolescent zombies or mystically enigmatic locksmiths, Shan imbues every character with an utterly real soul which readers of all ages can relate to.  

As the pages turn the author weaves together a multifaceted tapestry of plot, gradually illuminating vitally intriguing story elements that tantalise us with glimpses into the dark past and potential future.

Throughout this tapestry there also runs a constant thread of adventure that leads Archie to a Borehole which transports him to the cold, snowy surroundings of Moscow. Whilst in Russia’s capital city, Archie is reunited with some old friends from the Merge. Inez (who guided him on his unfamiliar inter-dimensional travels in the first three instalments) King Hugo (a motorcycle-riding Merged monarch with a cool head and a noble heart) and Princess Ghita (a Merged royal who had a small but significant part to play in Volume One) to name just three, Archibald and co soon find themselves embroiled in a top secret mission to secure the safety of an infant Merged Prince whose fate depends on them.

The sequences of the book that take us from Moscow to the various corners of the Merge crackle with high-stakes excitement. Here Darren Shan successfully channels his inner John Le Carré, seamlessly blending fantasy and espionage with magically thrilling results.

Believe it or not, fantastical undercover work, face-shaped locks and regal ructions are just the tip of the iceberg as Archibald Lox & the Forgotten Crypt contains more layers than a planet-sized onion. Shan reintroduces us to memorable characters like the jovial giant, Cal and the tiny tour de force Baba Jen, as well as taking us to many vividly unique places along the way.

Shan has taken to fantasy writing as naturally as a dragon to flight. He has built an ambitiously original fantasy world populated with fully rounded characters who take us on unforgettably compelling journeys. This series is a mystical epic for a new generation of readers.

Archibald Lox & The Forgotten Crypt will be released on 1st July 2021. You can order your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B093H8DPQZ?geniuslink=true

The Imp of Distraction

The Imp of Distraction:

Every writer’s plight

It appears by day

And marauds by night

Its antics unhelpful,

Its smile, too bright

The Imp of Distraction

Is frustration’s delight

The Imp of Distraction:

Every creator’s despair

It shouts in our ears

And tugs on our hair

It steals pens from hands

It leaves canvases bare

The Imp of Distraction

Drives all artists spare

The Imp of Distraction:

Every project’s blight

It causes each typo

And plot oversight

It’s naughty as Puck,

That mischievous sprite

The Imp of Distraction

What a little shite

Staying Human: #APoemADay

Throughout the month of October The Birmingham Literature Festival and their partner organisations across England have been running a magnificent project entitled #APoemADay. Since 1st October (National Poetry Day 2020) they have uploaded a reading of a different poem from Staying Human, the new anthology published by Bloodaxe Books.

Staying Human is a deeply moving and powerful collection that gives readers and in the case of this project listeners, insights into the lived experiences of international poets from all walks of life. Each poem features unique content that is personal to its individual writer whilst at the same time speaking to something profoundly relatable within all of us. It is an anthology which evokes compassion, empathy and reveals the inescapable universality of the human condition.

The daily readings released by The Birmingham Lit Fest and co are performed by an array of hugely talented creative people including Birmingham Poet Laureate Casey Bailey, writers William Gallagher, Garrie Fletcher and Alex Townley as well as Birmingham Young Poet Laureate Fatma Mohiuddin to name but a few. 

I was also asked to lend my humble Midlands tones to proceedings and recited Longing by Teresa Samuel Ibrahim. 

I feel honoured to be a part of such a poignant and far-reaching collaboration. The #APoemADay playlist is still growing and becoming more impressive with every new addition. 

Listen to the #APoemADay playlist as it expands on The Birmingham Lit Fest’s Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/BhamLitFest

Check out my reading of Longing by Teresa Samuel Ibrahim here: https://soundcloud.com/user-467684198/longing-by-teresa-samuel-ibrahim-read-by-george-bastow

Alternatively if you feel like completely immersing yourself in this beautiful project, you can find all 31 readings here: https://soundcloud.com/user-467684198/sets/bham-lit-fest-2020-staying-human-anthology

The Word Bin Podcast

 I was recently asked by writer, publisher, artist and all-round creative powerhouse Nadia Kingsley to feature on The Word Bin Podcast.

The Word Bin is a wonderfully engaging and thought-provoking daily podcast created and curated by Nadia. It invites people from all walks of life to discuss the words and phrases which they find most grating to their ears and gives them the chance to throw them in the Word Bin.

To hear which word I consigned to the linguistic rubbish dump follow this link.

https://thewordbin.podbean.com/e/the-word-bin-episode-72/

You can find out more about Nadia Kingsley and her numerous brilliant projects at:

https://fairacrepress.co.uk/about/

In a Town Near You…

In a town near you, an enlightened slug discovers the meaning of life whilst meditating in the shadow of a compost heap.

In a town near you, a police cadet chastises a fallen angel for shedding its wing-feathers on the public footpath.

In a town near you, twelve gynaecologists queue in the chip shop for an audience with the ghost of Socrates.

In a town near you, an albatross’s grandma warns it against the dangers of hard drugs ahead of its maiden flight to Bristol. 

In a town near you, the broken heart of a retired mariner slowly mends over a bowl of apple crumble.

In a town near you, Thursdays are limited to one per fortnight to save on calendar-printing costs.

In a town near you, it is frowned upon to leave axe-murderers outside charity shops unattended.

In a town near you, four in every five ducks prefer wholemeal to white bread according to a recent survey.

In a town near you, the local population is outraged by the council’s decision to ban yodelling at the bus stop.

Cabbage leaves are legal tender, banjo lessons are compulsory for all persons over the age of six and every Chinese takeaway comes with a free top hat. 

These are all merely facts of life in a town near you.

An Overview: Archibald Lox Volume 1 by Darren Shan

The bestselling Young Adult author known to the world as Darren Shan has been busy for the past few years, writing an eclectic array of novels for older readers under the pseudonym of Darren Dash. But now four years on from the conclusion of his Zom-B books Shan is back on YA territory with the first three instalments of his brand new Archibald Lox Series.

1 Archibald Lox & The Bridge between Worlds

2 Archibald Lox & The Empress of Suanpan

3 Archibald Lox & The Vote of Alignment

The release of these books (which collectively make up volume 1 of the series) not only mark Shan’s long-awaited return to teen fiction but also the beginning of his first full-blown fantasy saga.  An excitingly compelling change of pace from an author often billed as ‘The Master of YA Horror’.

In the opening story Archibald Lox & The Bridge between Worlds we are introduced to Archie, our intrepid young protagonist whose life has been rocked by a tragic event. On the morning we meet him Archie has decided to skip school for the day and wander around his home city of London to clear his head. He is standing on a footbridge over the River Thames taking in the familiarly iconic sights of the Houses of Parliament and  the London Eye, when he sees a girl running towards the bridge with two sinister white-suited men in deadly pursuit. As the girl makes it onto the footbridge Archie notices her start pulling strange faces. Before he has time to react to her crazily contorting facial expressions, he realises that the stones at her feet are moving apart, revealing a portal beneath the surface of the bridge. The girl’s two white-suited assailants, one armed with a stiletto knife and the other with an axe, almost catch up with her but she jumps into the portal and closes it behind her. Archie is shocked and amazed by what he’s just witnessed and is equally shocked and amazed that no one else around appears to have noticed any of it. The weapon-wielding duo take their leave and Archie is free to continue his day as if nothing ever happened and live the rest of his life in uneventful bliss. But his limitlessly curious nature soon gets the better of him. As if being governed by some higher power he discovers his own way of unlocking the portal and takes a leap into the unknown.

The rest of this tale (and indeed the entire volume)  follows Archie as he embarks on a multitude of enthralling adventures in the fantastically surreal parallel universe known as The Merge. The ideally suited first person narrative allows us to experience all the sights and sounds of this new world from Archie’s perspective as he encounters the bizarre terrain, fascinating people and terrifying beasts to be found around every corner. Along his way he bumps into the girl  he saw on the bridge, a fearless, resilient and wise youngster named Inez. She’s about the same age as Archie and decides to help the well-meaning but hapless human boy navigate the multifaceted landscapes of the Merge.

We travel with the two main characters as they go from vibrantly colourful wonderlands to sparsely populated ghost villages where nightmarish Hell Jackals roam and beyond to majestically opulent cityscapes. Every chapter is packed with a mixture of surprise, action and suspense as they meet allies, face-off against enemies and adapt to whatever situation they find themselves in. Alongside the regular doses of high octane hijinks that flow through volume 1 like a river of adrenaline, Shan also uses Archie’s conversations with Inez to steadily reveal pieces of information about how the Merge works. This creative sleight of hand technique allows both Archie and we the readers to learn details about the world without slowing the pace of the plot. We find out about the Merge’s uniquely vast metamorphic geography and its connection to Earth, the divisive power-struggle amongst their Royal Family and much more.

This trilogy also contains some of arguably the most accomplished and imaginative world-building of Shan’s career to date. So many of the alternate universes to be found in contemporary fantasy/sci-fi are merely superficial constructions put in place to prop up weak plots or give writers a shorthand for epic. But in this case the work Shan has done to make sure his new universe’s geographical and societal foundations are solid is evident in every chapter. In its own way The Merge is as absorbing and comprehensive as Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Every aspect of life there has been precisely thought out,  whether it’s the characters’ mushroom-exclusive diet or their playfully inventive vocabulary. Escapism at its sophisticated finest.

Many of the characters we are introduced to in the course of these three yarns are among the most vividly memorable Shan has ever created. In book one Archie makes the acquaintance of King Lloyd, a charmingly eccentric, other-worldly wise monarch with glass eyes and teeth who sports a pair of red fluffy slippers. Book two brings the protagonist into contact with the titular Empress of Suanpan, a fiercely maniacal dictator with the appearance and dress sense of a sweet old grandma and book three sees him discover the agilely artful ways of two Merge subcultures, The Mice and The Rats. Although volume 1 is separated into three instalments, the author’s signature blend of fast-flowing prose and slick, engaging storylines ensures that they all read with the fluency of one well-paced novel. There is certainly no shortage of Shan’s trademark cliff-hangers and there is quite literally a macabre undercurrent to these stories as a river of actual blood winds its way through the narrative. Not to mention a closing plot twist that will leave even the most deductive readers with their jaws on the carpet.

I believe that the Archibald Lox series has the potential to be the author’s best work since The Saga of Darren Shan, it has the magical, dream-like overtones of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and the captivating, world-hopping drama of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I can’t recommend it highly enough, perfect for fantasy fans of all ages.

Feel like taking a trip into The Merge? Book one,  Archibald Lox & the Bridge between Worlds is available for free worldwide on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Archibald-Lox-Bridge-Between-Worlds-ebook/dp/B086LKBHD6