Review of Blackbooks special event in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust & in memory of Matt Gilbert. (Feb 22nd 2017)

The event was supported by WonderZoo featuring The Word and BlackBooks / Flameworks/ CAN Culture and Arts Network / Teenage Cancer Trust and The Society of Young Publishers

Words : Pete Golding / Pictures : Reuben McCormack White

Nick Ingram.

What a gorgeous place for an evening of poetry The China House is, even on a chilly, dark wet evening in late February, with the night-lights from the yachts linking up Sutton Harbour and the Barbican. The evening began with the irrepressible Nick Ingram acting as master of ceremonies. This was no ordinary evening as we gathered in aid of Matt Gilbert, a teenage writer and poet who succumbed to cancer recently, at the tender age of just nineteen. All proceeds were donated to The Teenage Cancer Trust. Nick Ingram not only introduced each writer to the small gaggle of enthusiasts who braved the winter travails but belted out four of his own inimitable poems to begin the evening of original works spoken by their authors.

Rosie Barrett.

Rosie Barrett was introduced to us and she read out four of her poems, the first two (Name It and Toys Talking) concerned her teenage son, who had endured the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer, but she managed to put a positive spin on it, which was all the more poignant for having done so. She concluded with One Big Breath In the Midst of Chaos.

Sarah Adams read three of her poems. Gull explored the multiplicity of meanings embodied in that “flying rat,” the sea gull. Similarly she meditated on Choices, about the multiplicity of options, dilemmas and decisions we all have to make. The ever-green Joyce Matthews read three of her homely rhyming verses namely Old Age, Holiday and Cooking, poems that humorously contrast the past with the contemporary. She made us guffaw.

Stalwart Jackie Wacha read us A Policeman’s Testimony which sounded like she was reading the notebook of a humourless constable recounting the burglaries perpetrated by Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood. Original and thought-provoking, indeed, but also funny and telling. Well done, Jackie.

Robert Garnham is a consummate performer, verbally, visually and physically. A man of many hats, one might say. Literally. He read ten poems, mostly untitled, all humorous & entertaining. For instance he concluded by reading There’s A Badger In The Garden Who Thinks He’s On Eastenders which was about a badger in the garden that thought he was on EastEnders! Very droll.

Robert Garnham

Michael Drax part-read & part-sang some of his contributions including a Tribute To Liverpool and Everton FC and a Rhapsody To Home Park to the tune of Land Of Hope and Glory. We got embroiled in his savagely satirical recounting of the life of Ann Boleyn and the boisterousness of Essex Girls on a night out.

After refreshments, Nick Ingram re-commenced the evening with a homage to e.e. cummings. At the beginning of the evening he read four poems, my favourite being The Purity Of Joy which listed the wondrous things that catch your breath. He delivers his lines like a blacksmith banging an anvil.

Michael Dax

In contrast Simon Travers delivered his lines in a whisper including an elegy to the closing of the library in North Prospect entitled Costcutters. Stephen J Grantham read out a couple of his startlingly haunting poems namely They Come At Night and High High High, both very dark, mysterious and somewhat unsettling. We need to hear more from Mr. Grantham.


Thom Boulton, Plymouth’s poet laureate, concluded the evening with a couple of kids’ poems written by primary school children as well as an overheard conversation at Plymouth railway station. He read out four more, including a poem called Mister Goldfish, a poem about loss, entitled Beast, about despair called Abyss and concluded with Hush-hush about the art of bitch-craft.

Ŧhom Boulton.

For those brave hearts that broached the wintery weather, it was worth it. This was an evening dedicated to an excellent cause, The Teenage Cancer Trust, but it was far from sombre, in fact it was fun. If you weren’t there, you should have been because everybody that was there, enjoyed the camaraderie, the poetry and a convivial evening. Many thanks to all those who took part, to those that arranged the evening and those who donated to a worthwhile cause: thank you. Maybe next time you should give it a try. Only cancer is not welcome.

It has been three years since Matt Gilbert passed away from cancer, leaving behind a treasure trove of poems. Wonderzoo’s Peter Davey, over the last two years, working with Gabi Marcellus- Temple of Flameworks Creative Arts Facility, have commissioned artists across Europe to create the illustrations for his book , which will be realised later in the year by The Society of Young Publishers. A dream that will come real for his family.

matt gilbert

‘Every blank piece of paper is
A dream I’ve yet to dream 
Each ink blot 
Is a building block’

(Matt Gilbert)

Teenage Cancer Trust

Society of Young Publishers




Twin Sounds : sparkling cross-cultural evening.


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?

Busking it in Plymouth …

Anyone knows if you walk through Plymouth city centre you will inevitably usually hear and then see a Busker of some description. Ever wondered who the hard-working folk are that provide a welcome soundscape and visual surprise in amongst the busy shopping crowds?

Wonder no more.

Kat Towers – of Plymouth 4 Buskers

Kat Towers of Plymouth 4 Buskers gives us a full picture of just what it takes to be a busker in our city…

Plymouth is a fun place to busk! It has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere that is characteristic of the Devon way of life. People are generally down to earth and laid back. With the amount of cafes around it makes it easy for people to sit outside and relax over a cuppa, taking in the sights and sounds of the city and enjoy some free entertainment!

The fact that the main centre is pedestrianised also makes it easier to play somewhere that isn’t too noisy with traffic and has good footfall.

All the buskers know each other and have a friendly, respectful working relationship.  We follow the timeless unwritten code of busking etiquette which works really well.

Together we provide a huge variety of styles and performances, from the typical guitarist/singers to saxophonists, flamenco guitar, freestyle rap, living statues, pavement art, even tap dance! It is quite local compared to many cities in the UK that see a lot of touring buskers. Most of the musicians you will find in the city centre are native to Devon or have made it their home.

Here’s some more information about some of the most well-known buskers in the city centre…

Phil … loves a bit of Bob Dylan

Phil-  63 year old Phil is a very well-established and long admired busker in the city, having played music here since the 1980s. He’s very easy to spot with his colourful clothes and big bass drum set up. He was born in the Caribbean, moving to Scotland when he was four years old. He trained as an aerospace engineer but then found out he was losing his sight. Knowing his career was over he decided to give busking a try and nearly 40 years on he is still doing it.

He has busked all over the world- from Athens to Helsinki and even across America. He has won the busking championships in Belfast and toured with Mad Dog Mcrea. His travels brought him to Plymouth many years ago and he can normally be found on New George Street, providing a gentle, folky soundtrack to the bustling area. His favourite songs to sing depend on his mood but he loves Bob Dylan. He has been really touched over the years when receiving hand written notes in his case from people expressing how much they appreciate his music and love what he is doing.

Here’s Phil featured in a Mad Dog Mcrea video – LINK HERE

Bess – sound and vocal ability still growing

Then there’s Bess who talks in detail about her  busking background

“ I am 21 and moved from London  to Plymouth when I was 9. Being brought up in a family of musicians and around so many music lovers at and early age made music such a compulsory part of my life. I started out in my school’s choirs; I was very blessed to have so much knowledge fed into me via the great music teachers- about singing, what it takes to have the commitment and loving all different genres of music. I always wanted to be in a band though, so envied and made close acquaintances with people in/out of school that were doing that. Eventually I started to teach myself how to play guitar with support from my dad and some great guitarists I met, so that made me more eligible for being a band member.

Loved playing music with friends a couple years above me, some being Jack Cookson, Amelia Lock, Ella Kenny and Ben Tucker – a band that teacher/muso Ollie Hayne had started. At the same time I was developing my own versions of covers and even writing a few of my own. This was when I was 14/15.

My first open mic I played was the B-bar, Cafe Acoustica and from then on have always gigged as a solo artist in school, bars, pubs and just about anywhere- meeting so many great musicians on my adventures of open mics and gigs. I moved to Brighton when I was 17, attended BIMM and studied songwriting. Had an awesome time there but I was young and had unfinished business in Plymouth that called me back after my year long course.

I moved back and met twice the amount of great people that played cool music which encouraged me to stay here permanently. Eventually these friends and I included, after many great jams, decided to make a band, being the Lincoln House Band. Had so much fun playing covers with these guys in our own funked up, Gypsy jazzle’d way. Have to thank Elani Evangelou, Nic Watson, Jack Joyce, Dan Baker, Stephen Sampson and Rich Palmer for all the great music times at their house partying, recording and out gigging too. Amongst these people Steve was a great encouragement to me as a solo musician and got me into the busking scene around the same time the band started.

Since going out into the street to play music I have learnt so many good but also hard things whilst wanting/needing to busk. When I first started out busking, I also had 30 hour contract at a nursing home as a Health Care Assistant, so there was no real need for me to go, just went when I wanted to. I enjoyed it a lot mainly because of the positive energy I was creating for people passing by. I got and still get, so much support, beautiful words and compliments to how my voice makes people feel and that I should continue doing what I do. That is what has kept me going through the tough times of when I had to leave my job and become basically a full time busker, during the coldest months.

I now busk on an average of 1-4 times a week, depending on how I feel as I’m still recovering from and still experiencing back problems. Playing music keeps me going though, especially busking and how spontaneously ‘things’ can happen. I almost feel most comfortable playing in the street, as naturally a lot of society block you out so it almost feels like casual playing. On my good days many singular people or small groups sit and enjoy my (sometimes) quite alternative versions of songs that I love to do. Some songs I really enjoy playing but some maybe not so much, and I love the fact that a handful of people passing, feel that from my different performances. My sound and vocal ability is still growing and hopefully I will have made a CD soon that expresses the current feel of the songs I play.

At the moment I’m taking on at least one well paid gig a month and busking to make ends meet, which makes me happy because It means I don’t go to a job I don’t want to do. I’m always the kind of person that has always cared about people in general and how everyone copes in the world we live in. My caring nature in combination with being a musician, helps me connect with humans better than before, in that making it easier for me to hopefully have a positive impact on them and the same is returned to me, when I see them smile. That is why I continue to busk and play music everywhere I can.”

Gavin – loves modern jazz

Then there’s Gavin.

Gavin plays saxophone in Plymouth on a regular basis. He grew up in Bradford and has lived in Devon for many years. He learned the classical flute when he was 12 after being inspired to learn by an angelic female friend, then started to play the saxophone at 18.He began busking when he was 17 to make sure he always had a bit of money in his pocket! He has busked all over England, in Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Germany and New York to mention but a few places. His favourite place to busk so far has been in the historical town of Bath, which enjoys a great reputation as a busking hot-spot. (See him busking in Bath here ) He has had many great experiences while busking. The best thing about busking for him is when people are so touched by the music that it brings tears to their eyes. His favourite music to play is Modern Jazz and he also plays lots of classic pop songs.

Gavin online – LINK HERE

Kat – loves the spontaneity

And there’s me of course  – Kat

“ I am 30, I am originally from Plymouth. I spent my teenage years in and out of college and all sorts of jobs, not really having a clue what I was doing with my life. I eventually found a love of travelling and have travelled to and volunteered in many places including Japan, India, Nepal, the USA and Europe, my favourite being Alaska.

I started busking acoustically in the subways in Plymouth about 6 years ago when I was job hunting after coming back from travelling. I found it really fitted in with my nomadic lifestyle and I haven’t looked back since. People were really friendly and encouraging, often taking time out to tell me how much I had made their day by singing their favourite songs. I think busking is an essential part of the city experience as it can make a big difference to the well-being and happiness of people who have been touched by a song or melody. I believe music has the power to heal the soul like no other art form can. I have busked and played music all over the world, the best being in Tokyo, Japan. I love to play soulful mellow songs, my favourite artist being Billie Holiday. “

The best thing about busking is its spontaneity. You never know who you will find when coming into the city centre and what exciting art you may experience, so it’s always worth a look!  A few of us busk “full-time” so generally you will find at least one performer, any day/time from 10am until 5pm. New George St and Armada way outside BHS are a good place to look!

But locations  depend on the particular buskers, we all have our favourites.

I love BHS because the Original Pasty House is very friendly and supportive, letting us play close to their café. It’s a great place to grab a cup of tea and I enjoy entertaining their customers who sit outside. The top of New George Street is also very popular due to high footfall coming in and out of Drake Circus; Tesco is also very popular due to the seating in front of the store where people can sit and listen while they eat their lunch!

Most people that start out busking are just doing it for fun, but soon become addicted to the highs and lows of street performance! Busking is a great way to gain experience practicing your songs and at the same time make a bit of cash. It is a good sounding board for your music as people are more likely to come and tell you what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy when you are on the street rather than performing in a venue.

You also have direct contact with your audience and get to play for all ages and types of folks from every walk of life. Children can experience the joys of live music, which for a lot of the really young ones is a completely new and incredibly exciting experience. It also gives personality to a town, and brings the area to life.

Another side of busking which people may not realise is that we provide a support network for numerous people on a daily basis. Many people that come and chat with us may be vulnerable or lonely. Having that regular interaction with a friendly face can really make a difference to those people and we fully embrace our roles as a “civil lighthouse”, to quote Johnny Walker, a famous busker .

A lot of the people who sit and enjoy our music may not go out much in the evenings for various reasons such as a disability or lack of money, or they might just be having a terrible day and need cheering up. Street art means that they get to experience a live performance for free, in the day, and feel rewarded by contributing a small amount of money. Brightening up the day of those that need it most is a huge part of any job that takes place on the street and it is something that is dying out, with more chain stores and less community spirit in cities.

People often wonder what practical issues we face as buskers and artists.Busking regulations are different in every city.

At the moment, there are no regulations for buskers in Plymouth. The main problem this has led to is the fact that we do not have any representation, rights or protection. On the whole we have a good relationship with other street workers such as Big Issue vendors and charity workers, but in the future we hope to be able to share public space a little bit more equally between them and ourselves as currently they dominate the pitches available in the town centre.

We have formed an organisation called “Plymouth 4 Buskers” to promote busking and raise awareness of our art. We are hoping this new organisation will lead to some exciting and fun events to look out for in the future. We are also currently in talks with Plymouth City Council, The City Centre Company, Drake’s Circus and The PARC ranger team to come up with a code of conduct that will give us a voice and a fairer allocation of space available for us to play.

The council have been pretty supportive and willing to listen to our point of view so far and we are really excited for the future of busking in Plymouth!

Busking is one of the most unpredictable jobs in the world. You can go out and have the best day of your life, receiving gifts from people, getting lovely smiles all day, basking in the sunshine, getting crowds of people clapping for you and kids dancing cutely to your songs while your hat fills up nicely, or you can be completely demoralised after getting soaked through from rain, breaking all your guitar strings, getting yelled at by someone who doesn’t like your music, getting told to move on by security, and having a pitifully empty hat.

The smiles and the real appreciation we receive from kind strangers totally make up for those bad days though. So when you next walk past a busker, please remember how tough it can be, say hello or smile, and show your gratitude for live street art! Those things are what make busking worthwhile and keep us going.

Kat Towers Music – facebook page 

So it’s time to say – take it away Kat …

Plymouth / Brest writers’ Exchange – a view from across the Channel

Olivier Cousin

Following the blog by Pete Davey about this imminent event, over at CAN Towers we decided to ask some questions of the French contingent for the weekend. So we contacted Olivier Cousin – one of the writers coming over for the weeekend.

We asked him a handful of questions – here are his responses…

What is going on over the Plymouth /Brest twinning literary weekend that you are particularly looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to meeting fellow writers from Plymouth which is a city that – unfortunately I must confess – I mainly know so far as a threshold to the UK (hence my poem ‘To Plymouth, ever moving’ that I will read next weekend) and as a historical city.

Talking to artists should help me grasp the artistic features of the town.

Who is taking part from Brest? And why those people in particular?

Bep Sort

There are a musical band, Bep Sort, and three writers : Alain Le Beuze ( aged 58) who is mainly a poet, Hervé Bellec ( aged 61) who writes novels, short stories and chronicles; and me ( aged 44), a short story, novel and poem writer. Coincidentally we’re all three of us, teachers and not born in Brest – where we’ve been living for a while.

Alain Le Beuze & Herve Bellec

I can’t tell you why these people in particular… only that we’ve kindly been invited by Brest twinning staff to represent Brest as one small part of its writing community.

Why do you think this is happening on this scale this year?

I really don’t know – since I only learnt about PlymLit16  a few months ago.

How do you think this will benefit the cultural / literary and arts scene in Brest and its relationship with Plymouth?

All cross-country literary events benefit culture and literature in both countries. In our case (that of two comparable cities-ports) it will help creators – and people at large – see how different and how near they are in their aspirations and outlook on life both here in Brest and there in Plymouth.

Do you think there will be an expansion of these events over the next few years? Is that your hope?

I’ll tell you when this one is over ! Anyway, it’s always a good thing to show and to link…

Are you hoping for a similar event in Brest soon?

I guess it will happen in Brest too, with writers from Plymouth. But the main thing is to set up an event which would allow sufficient exposure of Plymouth writers; for the moment there is no literary festival such as PlymLit in Brest. Maybe we’ll steal ideas from you when we’re in Plymouth…


Get information on the weekend by clicking this link

Plymouth / Brest Writers’ Exchange 2016


Spearheaded by a variety of people involved with Plymouth CAN  – the Plymouth / Brest Writers’ Exchange events take place over the weekend of 28th, 29th and 30th of October as part of PlymLit16.

Within CAN, we are proud that in recent months we have been promoting and championing grassroots events that sit alongside and within the main event. The most recent example was the highly succcessful exercise in arranging for Year 9 Students at the Plymouth School of Creative Arts to interview artists taking part in the Plymouth Art Weekender. To hear the Red House Radio interviews – click on this link.

Enough of that however –  Wonderzoo member and CAN activist extraordinaire Pete Davey, sets out just what we can expect to experience during the weekend.

Pete Davey with turban and G’n’R  T-shirt :  of course.

” We are part of Plym Lit 216 Festival that is happening all over the city for over a week. But we’re hosting a weekend of poetry, prose and music from the best of Plymouth and Brest France to celebrate cultural shared values from both sides of the channel and to keep our links open to the EU when it comes to art and culture.

We have events with Waterstones on the Friday evening.

On the Saturday night (see below) we have our big event at The Jill Craigie Cinema, (Plymouth University : Peninsula Arts).That sits alongside a play called Merc’h An Eog  performed by Teatr Piba which is  happening at “The House” at the University.

Then on Sunday we have a writers workshop working Plymouth Timebank at Union Corner, Union Street with a free Buffet, which we will explore some of the weirder aspects of writing and poetry in a collective manner for the first edition of a journal which will celebrate the Exchange of ideas between Plymouth and Brest.

It will be carried on after the workshop online;  then finished next year in Brest and then realised in book format online and in print.

There are a host of people taking part over the weekend.

Capri Batterie

CAPRI-BATTERIE:  Art in a constant state of transformation with an unrestricted approach to improvisation that embraces the philosophy of ‘freedom’, as an affront to oppression in all its modern day manifestations. This is music-making unafraid of ideology and charged with abstraction in which they coalesce the aesthetics of industrial rock, free jazz and noise.

The reason I booked them was for a few reasons. Firstly, Tim Sayer taught me about music and sound and sonic arts and film when I was doing my degree, and showed me how to mix up things and not be A to Z but be weirder and weirder like Alice in Wonderland. Another great musician and writer is Sam Richards (not on this bill) but he, Tim and I once did a one-off show using my voice and these folks taught me one thing above everything – and that is if you have an idea and others say it won’t work then do it.

nick ingram
Nick Ingram

NICK INGRAM: A published and independent writer living in Plymouth. Nick has been a regular columnist, blogger, and film writer for varied local outlets. He has also published two books: Dionysius Williams & Other Southwest Observations, and the more recent Some Notes From A Small Dent Of An English City.

Nick is a great writer and another member of the WonderZoo crew and is more Punk than most Punks but he would never believe that. Nick does all our events as our MC and is outspoken and loud and fun and gets the audience going with unrestrained behaviour at times.  A true living surrealist with a big heart and love for the written word and a highly political person that is ready to rub folks up the wrong way but a writer with a true independent mind and there are not many like him today; a free thinker who is not scared to say what he thinks and that’s what makes him a good writer.

Chris Parsons

CHRIS PARSONS: Plymouth’s own American poet and author of A Short Step Journey. Shortlisted for this year’s Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, and has just been made Poet in Residence for Go Palace Plymouth – the group who are trying to restore the Palace Theatre on Union Street to its former glory.

Chris is much like Nick Ingram : a free thinker and the same with the written word. I first meet Chris a few years ago through our love of photography and I got to see her write her first short poems and kept onto her to write more and what a book A Short Step Journey is and it’s been a real pleasure to see her grow into a really truly good writer and one of the best to come out of the South West.

Laura Quigley

LAURA QUIGLEY: Laura is an award-winning Plymouth writer who writes across mediums and genre: fiction, non-fiction, audio-plays, theatre and articles. Her literary non-fiction including: Bloody British History Plymouth, and South West Agents, are best sellers. Also Laura regular gives presentations to history and writing groups, and has made appearances at festivals. She has recently been awarded a Arts Council Grant to complete her latest book, A Song For The Burning, which will be released later on in the year.

Laura was one of the first people to believe in me and support BlackBooks-Word events and has backed this project whole heartily and given me support when needed. I cant thank her enough and her dark stories in her books are much inspired by real events based in historic themes and heritage and hidden stories that are just thrilling. Laura’s latest book, South West Secret Agents – True Stories of The West Country at War is her best book so far and happy to say I have a signed copy myself.

miss von trapp
Miss Von Trapp

MISS Von TRAPP: This murderously, witty and quirky, dark cello cabaret and Steam Punk Artist, is well known for scything her way through the Plymouth and Southwest festival and writing scene: with songs of menace and deadly deeds. She released her first album online last year: Songs To Die For. And most likely you will – with laughter.

Shes Fun and dark and surreal and make you laugh so much and the best Steam Punk Artist in the South West. I wanted Miss Von Trapp has I love her dark humour and she gets the crowd going and signing and laughing till death do them part.

Tom Vowler

TOM VOWLER: Tom is an award winning novelist and short story writer. His debut collection, The Method, won the Scott Prize 2010, and the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize 2011. He is co-editor of the journal Short Fiction, and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Plymouth University, while completing his PhD. His second novel, That Dark Remembered Day, was published in 2014.

Tom will only be on our Waterstones gig and Toms lyrical descriptions and appreciation of words always create unease with good plots and the use of language just ripples throughout Toms works. I think he’s one of Plymouths best writers up there with the likes of poet Kenny Knight they are truly amazing writers who know how to use words to get the best out of the reader.

So the main events are as follow :

FRIDAY 28TH OCTOBER: A Book Signing With Readings And Talk. 5.00-7.00PM. Waterstones Bookshop, New George Street, Plymouth. 

SATURDAY 29TH OCTOBER: An Evening Of Poetry & Music. 7.30-11.30PM. The Jill Craigie Cinema, Plymouth University. The centre piece event of the weekend. Both Plymouth and Brest Writers will be performing their work, along with music from Brest folk group BepSort and Plymouth’s own Capri-Batterie, along with the fantastic murderously quirky cabaret artist Miss von Trapp.

SUNDAY 30TH OCTOBER: A Writers Workshop. 11.00AM-2.00PM. 96 Union Corner, Union Street. With Buffet. A workshop in which we will explore some of the weirder aspects of writing and poetry in a collective manner for the first edition of a journal which will celebrate the Exchange of ideas between Plymouth and Brest and develop into a live blog

In terms of the chosen venues – I wanted a book shop (Waterstones – New George Street)  a major main venue (Pen Arts ) and then a workshop that helps and supports its local community and gets them involved; and 96 Union Corner in Union Street is just that.

And I have been asked – “why is this all happening this year?”

And my response to that is that Plymouth is on the up with creativity at the heart of the city with events like Union Street Party and Plymouth Art Weekender and new places like Ocean Studios opening up in William Yard.

I was asked by Plymouth Twining could I do something to give it a face lift and get younger people involved and this got me thinking with everything else going on this was the right time to do something and yes we did it in ten weeks – put the events together, found the artists and venues and accommodation and got all the different groups to support us CAN, Plymouth Artists Network , Flameworks, The Brest –Plymouth Twinning Groups, Peninsula Arts, Waterstones, Stonehouse Timebank, Plymouth Culture, Airey and Coles and the Romanian Society of the South West. We were also asked to be part of PlymLit16 Festival. Everything has just come together and it’s truly amazing that everybody has done their part to make this all happen.

At the end of it all – the overall aims of this Project are to promote the work of writers and performers based in Plymouth and the South West and, further,to establish cultural links with Brest in France, thereby benefiting both the local community in Plymouth and our partners in Brest France. These events will involve the first WonderZoo cultural exchange with our Brest partners.

It is envisaged that this event will be the pilot for an expanded multi-city event comprising arts, literature, music, film and food. There will be further opportunities for other groups, students and artists to become part of a wider exchange programme, working together for the benefit of cultural and social cohesion in Plymouth and Brest and keeping our links open to the EU in these uncertain times. We can also say that  Plymouth Culture are supporting us to make the next festival get the funding it really needs to make it bigger and better than this year – which is going to be truly amazing.

So get along! ”

[ As a note to those who use social media – we are using #PlymBrest as the twinning weekend hashtag – alongside the official #PlymLit16 ]


Here comes the Weekender…hashtags at the ready…


So – we are just under a week away from Plymouth Art Weekender.

Everyone is talking about it … or should be. Building on last year’s initial success – to me, as a practicing artist – there seems much more of a buzz about this year. More events – more participants – more venues.

If the impetus can be maintained – there is every chance that each succeeding year will be bigger and better.

So the focus needs to be – let’s get everyone talking and reporting about what’s on, what they’ve seen, what others should see – was it brilliant? or merely great?

Let’s get the buzz err buzzing…

This is where our network comes in. Plymouth CAN is the sum of its parts. It’s me – its you who’s reading this – anyone involved in any way with culture and the arts in Plymouth. Whether you are a participant or someone who attends events ( and most or many  of us are both ).

What we need from all of us – to really make an impact in the coming week – is online involvement via social media to really let people know what is going on. The more people share then the more people who are not part of our ‘tribe’ will get to hear about it. That’s more engagement – more buzz- and a bigger and better  Weekender in 2017 …

Though the bid was not successful – the level of online participation during the City of Culture bid a few years back was phenomenal. If we can achieve 50% of that in the coming 8 days we’ll have done alright.



If you use social media – we want you and your laptops and phones.

In the run up – check twitter, facebook and instagram for #PAW16 #Weekender #cityofmakers being used – especially #PAW16 . It’s simple – when you see it share it where you can. What Plymouth CAN would like is for you all to use #PlymouthCAN as well when you are sharing – in that way we can get a sense of what impact our network is having on the sharing of information.

If you are part of an event – publicise it online (why wouldn’t you? ) and use #PAW16 & #PlymouthCAN  – hopefully it’s becoming clear …

Once the Weekender is upon us – and you’re out and about – take photos, write quick reviews, do live broadcasts, anything basically – and then share everywhere using the hashtags. And as in the run-up just keep an eye on what’s being shared and pass it on as described. It would be great to see #PAW16 trending nationally – just like we did during the City of Culture bid.

We’d also be happy to receive longer blog posts from you – more considered pieces – that can be published once the Weekender is over.

But – final call to arms – post and share like you’ve never done before – including this blog !! 

Steve ( My Dog Ate Art )



Looking to the future of Plymouth’s past

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Plymouth History Centre …. the story so far

Born from a need to protect and safeguard the future of some of Plymouth’s most valued archives and historic collections, Plymouth now has a unique opportunity to create something truly special, a History Centre the city can be proud of and visitors will talk about. ( Read and see more on the official site by following this LINK )

The project has access to a rich and varied resource of material and stories, from films to images, artefacts, to prize collections and documents. This project also offers greater scope to add to an already popular activities and events programme, so there will be many reasons why people will want to visit the centre over and over again.

Situated between Plymouth University and Plymouth College of Art, the Centre will form the heart of a developing Cultural Hub. Aspirations for the centre include: an archive for Plymouth and the southwest, a museum with stories of Plymouth, how we reached out to the world and brought the world back to Plymouth, a location for contemporary art exhibitions and major touring shows, a new tourism attraction showcasing our treasures to visitors and a heritage and a cultural centre the city can be proud of.


Emerging plans include the refurbishment of space in the existing Grade II listed museum and library buildings with a contemporary extension to the rear, plus St Luke’s Church in Tavistock Place. The plans have now been passed by the planning department.

The Plymouth History Centre is a major scheme in the heart of Plymouth, a symbol for Plymouth’s current regeneration and a museum for the future. The vision is to transform the existing museum and art gallery on North Hill (which has existed since 1910) into a new, unique visitor attraction.

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There are so many stories to tell. The History Centre will shine a light on them all and make them available to the people and visitors of Plymouth in a way that has never been seen before.

Plymouth has a rich and colourful history featuring pirates, pioneers and military might. Peppered with fascinating stories and larger than life characters, much of Plymouth’s great history has national significance well beyond the city’s boundary.

The History Centre is expected to open as the flagship building for the Mayflower 400 commemorations in spring 2020.

Hopefully, once the new development is open, there will be spaces for CAN members to put on their own forms of art, have workshops, and also have stalls for displaying their work and other opportunities.


This blog has been written by Michael Moore – from the Friends of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. ( Michael is a Plymouth CAN Steering Group member)

Other info and links