Patti Smith, the virgin mary, and me… Wales Arts Review: Teenage Kicks

Patti Smith by Mappleworth

Patti Smith by Mappleworth

In a major new feature, inspired by the outpouring of affection for To Kill a Mockingbird following the publication of the new Harper Lee novel, Wales Arts Review has been asking writers to name the moment that shaped their lives in those most impressionable of years, that teenage wilderness. The choices are diverse, eclectic, and as inspiring now as they were then. I’m delighted to be part of this – and you can read my short vignette on Patti Smith, the virgin mary, and me here


Sight Specific: visual impairment and hiphop theatre

Last year my long time collaborator the director/producer Andrew Loretto invited me to be part of a research and development project with Rationale Hiphop Theatre, as part of Right Up Our Street.

rationale 3The company were exploring issues around visual impairment at Cast in Doncaster, and with both Andrew and I being ‘viz imps’, it seemed a perfect partnership.


Over the course of three days, we explored, spoke, and moved in space, I shared a disability perspective, talked at length about disability politics, and brought work of my own and other VI artists to the studio. Andrew shaped as well and participated in the rationale 2sessions, and the artistic director, Nathan Geering, gave us tasks, too, and had us on the floor moving with the company – Nathan Geering, Sarah Grace Hobson, Torrell Ewan, and Hung Nguyen.

These remarkable few days are captured in these photos and a terrific video created by Richard Codd / Team Katalyst  which I would urge you to look at:

One of the most inspiring and unexpected results of the exploration, was the IMG_4099wonderful complicite developed between Sarah and I, with her responding to the first piece of disability culture I made when I was in my 20’s and recently diagnosed as having a mild visual impairment: a poem called ‘Fragments on a Fragmentary Vision’. My recorded voice, with Sarah’s choreography is part of ‘Sight Specific’, the performance Rationale continued to develop and will be performing in London next week. Tour dates follow, along with Nathan outlining the progress in this short guest blog:

Rationale Hiphop Theatre 'Sight Specific'

Rationale Hiphop Theatre ‘Sight Specific’








Nathan Geering: Rationale. Sight Specific.

Rationale have been commissioned to work on an exciting new project entitled “Sight Specific” as part of the Gi20 minutes tour funded by Remarkable Productions. For the past year Rationale have been in partnership with Right Up Our Street and have conducted a lot of research and development surrounding hiphop dance and visual impairment. This has lead to some profound discoveries and unlikely links between the two phenomenons. The company have been working closely with Visually Impaired Directors and Playwrights including Andrew Loretto and Kaite O’Reilly. The experience has been life-changing for the company and through working closely with visually impaired artists and partially sighted societies Rationale have realised that visual impairment is not just a disability but it is an exciting unique way to see the world. Kaite O’Reilly said to the company that her visual impairment has made her a better person. This is the kind of empowering message Rationale want to echo throughout our work and to bridge the gap between visually impaired and “Sighted” audiences.

The company’s latest production “Sight Specific” explores the phenomenon of Audio Description. The piece came as a direct response to many people with visual impairment saying they felt that audio description is boring and doesnt really capture the imagination. So we decided to give audio description the “Rationale Treatment” by bringing on board a beatboxer to stretch the boundaries of audio description! The piece also feautres poetry from acclaimed playwright Kaite o’Reilly and the usual high energy hiphop dance that Rationale have become so well known for.

“Sight Specific” is touring in outdoor festivals across the country summer 2015! Be sure not to miss it!!!


Stockton International Riverside Festival – 1st and 2nd August

London – 28th Blackfriar stories – Bankside between the Tate and Oxo Tower, Blackfriars.

Show Times 12:30pm and 5pm.

London – 29th August – Watermans Hounslow – Bell Square, 7-9 Staines Road, Hounslow.

Show Times 1:30pm and 5pm.

Hull – 5th and 6th September –

More info coming soon here…….

Footage from our intensive with Visually Impaired Dramaturg Andrew Loretto and Kaite O’Reilly here

Nadia Kingsley and Fair Acre Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015/16

I started this blog some years ago, to document and reflect on process when making work as a sole author or co-devising collaborator. Between times of r&d, rehearsal, or production, like now, I like to share the platform with guests, and bring new voices and potential opportunities to the readers of the blog. I’m excited today to introduce a guest post from Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press who introduces the press, outlines forthcoming developments and publications and – most importantly – introduces the inaugural international Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition 2015/16.

Nadia writes:

I first met Kaite  when she came to see us in ‘e-x-p-a-n-d-i-n-g: the history of the Universe in 45 minutes’, at Wenlock Poetry Festival. We knew, beforehand, that we both love the same man – Tom Wentworth. Turns out that we both have partners with passata in their blood; and have both, with hair whipping our faces and salt filling our mouths – walked to Black Rock across the sands of Cei Bach.

I run a small press – but it too is expanding at the moment. In October there will be podcasts and blogs on a new fancy website – from 9 poets, and 4 ecologists on the subjects of spiders, frogs, stinging nettles, and grey squirrels – with an invitation extended out to everyone to send in poems that come out of these prompts and provocations  – to be published in the first four poetry ebooks in the Maligned Species series.

In November 2015 submissions will open to our inaugural international poetry pamphlet competition – judged solely by Jonathan Edwards. One of the categories is for anyone and everyone; but the other is restricted to those who haven’t yet had a pamphlet or collection published. This is the first time I hand over the decision of publishing to someone else – but oh! How lucky am I ! I adore ‘My Family and other Superheroes’, as did the Costa Judges this year – and to read alongside Jonathan Edwards at Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016? Would it be wrong if I entered ?!!!

In 2016 I am so proud to be publishing  John Siddique, Roz Goddard, Emma Purshouse, Andrew Fusek Peters and Lisa Blower – covering three new genres for Fair Acre Press: 6 to 11 yr poetry, Wildlife Photography (hardback, full colour), and general fiction – as well as poetry – twice !

I am working on Kaite, and her agents…. I have read ‘Persians’ – the poem play that won her the 2010 Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry. I have read ‘The Almond and the Seahorse.’ Both are extraordinary – gripping, humane, funny, dark, truthful – all in a light, confident touch. What a vital creature Kaite O’Reilly is! See you on the beach, or over a plate of spaghetti soon, Kaite xx


Nadia Kingsley runs Fair Acre Press


Though much of the above is not up on the website yet – if you would like to keep in touch, there will be a mailing list from mid October, but meanwhile:  facebook: Nadia Kingsley  Twitter: @fairacrepress

The Inaugural International Fair Acre Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015/16

SOLE JUDGE: Jonathan Edwards

About Jonathan Edwards:

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, ‘My Family and Other Superheroes’ (Seren), won the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His poems have won prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, the Ledbury Festival International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award, and appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and The North. Recent projects include a British Council literature exchange to India and a residency at the Dylan Thomas boathouse in Laugharne.


Jonathan Edwards says:

It’s a great honour to be involved in judging the Fair Acre Press poetry pamphlet competition. Pamphlets I think are so important, and one of the regrets of my writing career so far is that I didn’t publish one myself in advance of my first collection. That initial opportunity for a writers to dip their toes in the water, to try something out, and to begin to build a reputation before a first collection appears – that’s such a valuable thing. Look at the list of writers who went on from successful pamphlets to wonderful first collections in the past few years, and it’s clear how important this stage is. That’s why I’m so pleased that the Fair Acre Press competition is unique in having separate categories for writers who have and haven’t previously published, giving new writers a real chance. For previously published writers, there’s that opportunity to think about the potential of the short form of the pamphlet, what can be done across that space, with a sequence or group of poems, to create a memorable and beautiful short collection.

In terms of what I look for in poems, I think that’s evident from the sort of poems I write. When the world tragically lost the great American poet James Tate this year, the Poetry Society published a tribute to Tate which included this quote from the great American: ‘I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best. If you laughed earlier in the poem, and I bring you close to tears in the end, that’s the best. That’s most rewarding for you and for me too. I want ultimately to be serious, but I can’t help the comic part. It just comes automatically. And if I can do both, that’s what I’m after.’

That sums it up really. I look for work which is accessible, entertaining, which makes me smile or laugh, but which also packs a real emotional punch and is memorable. I love form too, though that’s not the same thing as saying you need to include a villanelle to win. Impress me, move me, make me laugh or cry, make me remember your poems. Good luck!

DEADLINE : November 30th 2015

SUBMISSIONS OPEN: November 1st 2015


CATEGORIES: Both categories are open only to those aged 18 or over.

1. Open to all
2. Open to those who have not previously had a pamphlet or collection published (this includes self-publishing as well, and includes any publications published up to and including 30th November 2015)

PRIZES: There will be two winners – one from each category. Each will receive the same prizes of:

Publication of the submitted pamphlet by Fair Acre Press, with editorial input from Nadia Kingsley

A Launch Reading at Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016  alongside Jonathan Edwards                         (all costs involved in travel and accommodation will be at your own expense)

30 complimentary copies of your winning pamphlet

A ten percent royalty on sales

40% discount on further copies of your pamphlet you would like to buy, as well as 40% discount on any Fair Acre Press publications

Your pamphlet will have an ISBN. It will be submitted to The Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice submission; and to the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Award; and offered to The Poetry Library, as well as sent to the British Library, and other UK libraries (if requested by them)

Fair Acre Press will send 5 copies out to review – (you are welcome to suggest where to) – and is very happy to send out more, if you foot the bill ! (cost price of pamphlet and p&p)

RULES: please read the rules below before entering this competition. Submissions that do not fulfill the requirements will not be judged, and the entry fee may be forfeited.

ONLINE ENTRY: this will be available on this website from November 1st 2015. I’m afraid postal entries cannot be accepted but I do hope you know someone with a computer who can help you if necessary.

RESULTS: will be announced on the Fair Acre Press website on 4th March 2016

THE PROFITS: from this prize will be ploughed back into Fair Acre Press to support future publishing of poetry. Fair Acre Press really does appreciate your financial support, as well as your interest in this competition.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: including details of what to enter and how to enter – see below

Nadia Kingsley – founder, owner and editor of Fair Acre Press says:

I am so delighted to have this year’s Costa Poetry Prize winner – Jonathan Edwards – as the sole judge for this – our inaugural poetry pamphlet competition. This means that he will read all the submissions, and the winners will be his choice alone.

It feels kind of odd to hand over control to somebody else – but I KNOW I will love his choices – because his own poetry is so fantastic. I have read, re-read and then re-re-read My Family and Other Superheroes and I have seen Jonathan read at 2014 Wenlock Poetry Festival – both are joyous experiences!

Terms and Conditions for Fair Acre Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015/16

There is a standard fee of £12 per entry

Make sure you enter the category you wish to enter

You may submit as many collections/ entries as you wish.

Your name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript

Online entries can be submitted up to midnight on the 30th November 2015

You will receive an automatic online confirmation of your submission, once your submission is completed.

The two winners will be contacted directly. The results will be posted on the Fair Acre website on 4th March 2016

No postal entries are accepted – sorry. We do hope you can find someone to help you with an online entry – or try your local library if you are in the UK.

Entries are welcome from around the world, but must be written in English.

There is no theme, but we do not accept poetry written for children.

Your work

Up to 30 sides (known as pages) of poetry – each page no longer than 30 lines.

These thirty lines include any title and any line breaks between the title and the first verse; and all line breaks between the verses.

That probably sounds very complicated – but it is so we are sure we can publish it at the high level of production that we are used to, and so that we will be printing a pamphlet with a maximum of 36 pages. This will then be eligible for submission to the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award.

Here are some examples:

ONE PAGE may include, for example, the maximum of:

A title, a line break, then a poem of 28 lines that is not divided into any verses OR

A title, a line break, a poem which is made up of seven verses of 3 lines each, with line breaks between each.

Of course it could be one long poem, 30 single paged poems, or anything inbetween.

Poems may have been published elsewhere, but must not have previously appeared as a published collection.

Copyright remains with the authors

The judge’s decision is final. If in the judge’s opinion no collection achieves a high enough standard, no prizewinner will be chosen.

Entry in the competition will be deemed to be acceptance of these conditions.

Fair Acre Press is able to embark on this competition adventure thanks to the support of the Arts Council England: in that they have made the technology behind its smooth running achievable for Fair Acre Press. It is not in place yet ! But will be by 14th October 2015.

Thank you Arts Council England. You really are A.C.E. !

Meanwhile if you would like to be sure of updates on social media:

FACEBOOK: become friend of Nadia Kingsley
TWITTER: follow @fairacrepress

Balance and confidence: The tricky tightrope of being freelance



It’s tricky, being a freelancer. We need to exude confidence but avoid arrogance, appear reliable and professional, whilst maintaining a creative edginess. We have a precarious vocation, but can’t be seen to court convention or the prosaic. Being the innovator or blue skies maverick often gets us jobs (and certainly pushes on form and content), but some ideas can be too ‘out there’ for commissions – and when the means to support ourselves relies on a regular income, the rope we tread is high and tight indeed.

Quite how we support ourselves in this increasingly challenging and, frankly, anti-arts and culture climate is a perennial problem. I have no solutions, just a steadfast impulse that we need to be true to ourselves. We write and create for many different reasons, and for me the sense of communing with myself, knowing my thoughts and reactions in response to the times I inhabit is a pleasure I can’t underestimate. This alone, however, doesn’t put grub on the table. In this capitalist system we need to work, and the product of our labour needs to be valued in monetary terms. How we go about making a living whilst having a life is a constant negotiation, but there are a few things I’ve observed which I feel don’t help.

For years I’ve seen artists and writers trying to second guess directors, producers, editors and literary managers, or considering shaping their emerging work towards whatever is currently doing well. It’s an understandable impulse, but deadly. Never try to jump on a bandwagon. Whatever is currently trending would have been seeded over eighteen months ago. By the time ‘your’ version amounts to something, it will be very much out of date.

I’ve also seen colleagues compromise ‘too much’ with the work, and that can leave a taint on the tongue. I’m all for collaboration and negotiation – I have grown substantially as a writer by exploring avenues I would never have travelled if left to my own navigation. It becomes a problem when artists or makers by their own admission feel they have conceded in some way, or given too much to a premise, aesthetic, or product not conversant with their concept or plan. Finding the balance between being a flexible and responsive team player and the assured primary creative is essential, and something that requires fine tuning. Again, we need confidence, but not egotism.

And as to what ‘they’ want…? What every director and literary manager and producer I’ve ever spoken to is looking for is fresh work made with energy and skill and passion, about subjects that matter to you, communicated in a way that has resonance to all, relevant to now. They want strong, developed, realised ‘voices’ with something to say. They don’t want mynah birds, or would-be mind readers. They want to be surprised, moved, excited. They want to hear what you think is important, in the form and aesthetic you want to use. Given the insecure nature of our profession,and the hourly rate which would defy any notion of ‘minimum wage’, much of our remuneration for the effort put in is not in financial form.  Even more reason to check the balance and trust your own voice and your own passions.

Pain and truth and learning…. the playwright’s progress…

So what really goes on when you’re writing a play? So often I see narratives that miss out on the difficult bits – those moments where, in my experience at least, the learning happens. In these sanitised versions the play somehow falls, fully formed, onto the page and thence into the mouths of actors in the rehearsal room… Where’s the sweat, the not-knowing, the doubts, the sudden moments of clarity and certainty? Creativity comes from problem solving. I move on as a writer when I’ve struggled with something – and if not learnt something new, have found the strength to let something go.

And so onto the blogs by dramaturg and playwright David Lane. I featured some of his earlier blogs on first idea to final draft here. David emailed me again today with an update on his ACE-funded writing process public engagement blogs. ‘I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences more widely,’ he wrote, ‘particularly the painful and truthful ones!’ Which are the rare ones – and the ones I like to read, to absorb, recognise, and hopefully learn from.

So with David’s permission, I share them with you….. Painful and truthful blogs on the writing process…..









A director’s perspective on research and development: Phillip Zarrilli on ‘Cosy’

I’m often asked about the research and development process attached to any project – What goes on? What purpose does it serve? The answer differs from project to project, depending on where in the process the r&d may take place. Sometimes it is to scratch the surface and begin exploring possibilities around a concept, perhaps collaborating with a team of actors/devisers/co-creators. For my work in progress ‘Cosy’, an Unlimited commission, the polished first draft was already in existence, written between productions over the past few years. I wanted to ‘hear’ the text in the air and outside my head, to try out some new sections, put it before an invited audience to get feedback, and to then reflect on possible future revisions.

A director’s purpose and focus for research & development hadn’t really occurred to me before (oops!). In my experience as a playwright, my own needs have always been paramount, so I’m grateful that Phillip Zarrilli, director of ‘Cosy’ let me reproduce his report on our two days research & development last month here:

'Cosy' r&d. Photo: Mike Salmon

‘Cosy’ r&d. Photo: Mike Salmon

Just as the initial two days of research and development on ‘Cosy’ have been of great benefit to Kaite O’Reilly as the playwright, our process has been immensely beneficial to me as the director. Very early in our process (1-2 May 2015) we auditioned a wealth of disabled and non-disabled actresses. We then spent one and one-half days (June 17-18, 2015) working on the script in the rehearsal room in Cardiff, and had a reading of the script-in-hand for an invited audience at Graeae Theatre Company’s Studio in London.

My first task as director of ‘Cosy’ is to assist Kaite in developing the best script she can within the context of what appears to be a ‘family drama’. Throughout our process, including our two days of research and development, I have provided dramaturgical feedback to Kaite as she has been refining and further developing the nuances of the script for the reading.

My second task is to actualize as best I can the potential of Kaite’s script through my work as we select the best cast we can for the six wonderful roles Kaite has written, and to guide the actors’ as they work on the nuances and complexities of Kaite’s script. ‘Cosy’ has a cast of six women including Rose (76 year old matriarch of the family); her three daughters—Ed (56), Camille (early 50s), and Gloria (late 40s); her granddaughter (Camille’s daughter, Isabella, 16); and Rose’s ‘friend’—Maureen. For the two day R & D period, we cast the core ‘family’ with five Welsh actresses: Rose [Sharon Morgan], Ed [Ri Richards], Camille [Ruth Lloyd], Gloria [Llinos Daniel], Isabella [Bethan Rose-Young]) who created a wonderfully dynamic and complex family at the reading. Finally, we cast Welsh actress, Sara Beer, as the quirky ‘companion/friend-to-Rose/outsider-to-the-family’.

Our first day of R & D began with a simple reading of the script so that Kaite could hear and respond to her first draft. After this initial reading we had an extensive discussion of the script, allowing actors to raise questions about their roles, and discussing some of the unique demands the script has for actors—the juxtaposition of the comedic element arising from the family dynamics once the female clan has gathered at the family home with the existential impact of how an aging woman faced the ‘facts’ of her aging and the loss of agency that confronts women as they age.

Having directed the premiere productions of two of Kaite’s other plays, ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ (Sherman Cymru, 2008), and ‘the 9 Fridas’ (Taipei Arts Festival with Mobius Strip and Hong Kong Rep, 2014), I know how difficult a task it is to guide actors toward the kind of nuanced playing of the types of characters that Kaite and the complexities of the situations in which she places her characters.

The cast of The 9 Fridas. Photo: Phillip Zarrilli

The cast of The 9 Fridas. Photo: Phillip Zarrilli

Our remaining session on the first day of development, and final session in London prior to the reading of ‘Cosy’ were devoted to (1) trying out new text Kaite was writing in response to the initial reading and our work on the script; (2) having ‘working’ rehearsals on each of the five scenes in order to begin to explore the nuances of each scene; and (3) providing directorial feedback to each actor on the playing of specific/key moments in each scene.

From my directorial perspective, it was a ‘luxury’ to have these days to work with this potential cast of six. In our day and a half of development work with the cast collectively provided our audience with a highly credible initial reading of Kaite O’Reilly’s second draft.

These two days together have allowed me to get to know each of these actresses as individual professionals, as well as how they might work together on Kaite O’Reilly’s dynamic and highly complex script.

What plot is – in a sentence

There are books written about plot – how to… what it is…. and a plethora of other elements. Yet I came across this today from Kate Mosse and it made me smile and go, yes….

Kate Mosse said you get to the end of a novel and say:

Of course! Because that’s what plot is – the hidden chain of cause and effect that takes a whole novel to explain.”