Pete Golding reviews the massively successful Plymouth / Brest Writers’ Exchange event…
On Saturday, November 29th there was a sparkling cross-cultural evening at the Jill Craigie Cinema featuring some of the best talent from Plymouth and our cousins from Brest.
It featured poets, story-telling, Breton folk music and brash free-form jazz delivered to a near-full enthusiastic auditorium provided by Plymouth University and represents a triumph for Pete Davey’s Wonder Zoo (the architect of this creative soiree)
The event was hosted by our own bombastic Nick Ingram who not only compered the whole evening but began by belting some of his own rhythmic poems about street-life in Plymouth. He was followed by Breton Olivier Cousins who mused about visiting Plymouth and how envious he was of a compatriot because he had a girlfriend from Plympton. I suppose there is a first for everything.
A very spruce Chris Parsons then took the stage and delivered three moving poems including The Night Mother Died about what it must have been like to endure the dreadful Blitz here in Plymouth during the Second World War. Later in the evening Clarence Sophie Dany read an extract of an account in French and English of what it was like in Brest during the same awful period of our shared history of Nazi cruelty.
Alain Le Beuze delivered two poems in French on the theme of loneliness and the need for personal asylum. He was followed by our new local laureate Tom Boulton who read three poems including a humorous imagining of the celebrity status amongst flies of the first flies shot into outer space.
Melisande Fitzsimmons, my personal favourite, read five pieces in French and English including the heart-rending account of an elderly frail Carmelite nun who wandered off from an enclosed convent to die alone in the woods entitled I Find Your Shoes. True story. Truly heart-rending.
Any evening is enlivened by the presence of our own Miss Von Trapp who took to the stage dressed as a cross between Guy Fawkes and a killer clown. With her cello, she engaged us with some audience participation with her macabre version of the sing-song Daisy, Daisy and Magic Moments (which became transmuted into Tragic Moments by Miss Von Trapp) Very funny and very engaging and ended the first half of the show with a wallop.
When we returned for the second half I noticed we had been joined by Oliver Colville MP.
Of course, Chaz Singh and his wife had been there throughout looking radiant in red. To some fanfare we were joined by Plymouth’s Lord Mayor Pauline Murphy. Next on stage was Breton’s Clarence Sophie Dany who I have already mentioned but following her was Harve Bellec who humorously extemporized about the joys and drawbacks of inheriting a giant grandfather clock. The final poet of our soiree was the enigmatic Laura Quigley who recited three poems including the challenge Nothing You Feel Is Real.
The evening concluded with two bands, the first Bepsort, was a bi-lingual Breton folk group sounding, not dissimilar to Irish folk music with acoustic guitars, a concertina and clarinet,saxophone and an improvised drum. It was stomping stuff and some of the audience danced gleefully down the to the front of the auditorium including a resplendent Mrs. Singh. The evening concluded with a very loud free-form jazz trio ( Capri Batterie ) consisting of a beautiful flowing trumpeter, loose jazz drumming and a thumping electric bass. Centre stage was poet Dan Leahy whose weird and evocative lyrics accompanied the cacophonous ensemble not to everyone’s delight. However, those that braved the confrontation were rewarded with some inspired and challenging raucousness that will live in the memory for quite some time.
It was an evening of contrasts; some sweet, some bitter, some sombre, some hilarious, some soft, some loud, some quirky, some intimate but it was great location and, like a hearty banquet, there was something for everyone of taste.
Have you seen our blog on the Plymouth Busking scene?