Guest blog: The Water Station: ‘Living Human Silence’ by Phillip Zarrilli

‘On 28 September 2015 director Phillip Zarilli published a feature in Exeunt on the links between his performance of Ota Shogo’s “Slow Theatre” play currently touring Norway and the European refugee crisis. It is with great pleasure I reproduce this here, with thanks to Exeunt magazine:

Ota Shogo’s The Water Station: Living Human Silence.                              By Phillip Zarrilli

Hilde Stensland (Norway) and Jeungsook Yoo (Korea) in 'The Water Station' by Ota Shogo. Nordland teater September 2015

Hilde Stensland (Norway) and Jeungsook Yoo (Korea) in ‘The Water Station’ by Ota Shogo. Nordland teater September 2015


Three years ago when Birgitte Strid, Artistic Director at Nordland Teater, invited me to direct the first major production of The Water Station with an international cast since the 2004 production I directed in Singapore, we had no idea that at this specific moment in time there would be thousands of people on the move around the perimeter of the Mediterranean and across Europe.

The Water Station has a very simple structure: in nine scenes a series of refugees/migrants/travellers are on the move coming from a far distant place, and are continuing on the still longer journey toward some place beyond. Some are individuals traveling alone such as The Girl, or Woman with a Parasol; others are in pairs Two Men, or Husband and Wife with Baby Carriage; or in a group: The Caravan. They appear along a pathway. Just behind the pathway is a huge heap of discarded ’junk’—objects left by those on this long journey. Once they appear along the pathway, each individual, pair or group encounters and interacts with a constantly running stream of water flowing from a broken water faucet into a pool of water in a catchment area. Each of the travellers encounters the water in their own way. Some observe or encounter another traveler. All eventually continue their journey toward whatever lies beyond. From the audience’s perspective, where these travellers have come from and where they are going we do not know. They eventually pass out of view…heading somewhere.

Navtej Johar (India), Rune S. Loding (Norway), Leammuid Biret Ravndna (Sami community/Norway)

Navtej Johar (India), Rune S. Loding (Norway), Leammuid Biret Ravndna (Sami community/Norway)

First created and performed in Tokyo in 1981 by Ōta Shōgo and his theatre company–Theatre of Transformation (Tenkei Gekijo), the production subsequently toured central Europe and the US in the mid-1980s. Ōta and his company were searching for a way to stage “living human silence”—how to turn down the volume or “noise” in our everyday lives in order to be present to the realities of our immediate environment. In that moment of quiet the audience become ‘witnesses’ to what is before us today in the immediate present…people on the move toward somewhere else.

In London on Thursday, 17 September 2015 Chinese artist Ai WeiWei and British artist Anish Kapoor initiated an eight mile London Walk as an artistic act on behalf of the refugee crisis in Europe. Both have major exhibitions currently open in London. Speaking to The Guardian, Kapoor explained how “This is a walk of compassion, a walk together as if we were walking to the studio…Peaceful. Quiet. Creative…It is important that artists are not outside the equation, we don’t stand on the sidelines. Artists are part of the story of a response, we cannot stand aside and let others make the response.”

Nordland Teatre’s production of The Water Station is inevitably “part of the [current] equation”. The Water Station is an artistic response to the age-old realities for peoples across the world of migration–those seeking refuge, fleeing persecution, and/or those returning ‘home’ after long-term conflicts. The Water Station reflects Ōta’s childhood experience. Along with other Japanese ex-colonists in China at the end of World War II, as a six-year-old Ōta and his family had to undertake an extremely long and exhausting two month journey of repatriation from China back to Japan. Along with the other Japanese being repatriated, he and his family walked almost endlessly for miles and miles, living in tents, and occasionally travelling by freight train as well by boat. The same experience of course was happening in many locations throughout the world with movements of other people at the end of World War II. In China, the Japanese had been permitted to take what belongings they were able to carry; however, during their long trek, many people on their long road of return discarded what they could no longer carry. As one biographer notes,

‘The themes, scenography and style of [Ōta’s] theatre can be related to these childhood memories. His intense concern with the ontology of human existence can be traced back to the need for sheer survival in his early childhood. A sense of the hardship of living and of the proximity of death characterizes his plays. Wide, bare landscapes through which characters travel, carrying their scanty belongings, provide the setting of all…of his Station plays written between 1981 and 1998 …The weak, disabled, and unwanted are featured in many of his plays.’

With its slowed down everyday movement, this non-verbal performance lasts 100 minutes and creates a completely different experience for an audience from narratively driven, text-based theatre. In his theatre aesthetic, Ōta developed a process of ‘divestiture’–discarding or paring away of anything unnecessary including spoken language so that actors and audience alike are taken out of their everyday world in order to focus on the irreducible elements of our shared human existence—what Ōta calls “the ‘unparaphrasable realm of experience”. The script for The Water Station is a sparse 20 page document—a simple record of the basic staging and images Ōta and his company devised from a diverse set of source materials. Although this is a non-verbal performance, as Ōta explains, “there are words here…you simply can’t hear them.”

Florencia Cordeu (Argentina) and Bjorn Ole Odegard (Norway)

Florencia Cordeu (Argentina) and Bjorn Ole Odegard (Norway)

Given the current refugee crisis, The Water Station has tremendous immediate resonance for all of us within the EU and throughout the world. This production has been planned around an internationally/ethnically diverse cast of ten including Jing Hong Okorn-Kuo (Chinese Singaporean), Jeungsook Yoo (Korea), Navtej Johar (India), Florencia Cordeu (Argentina/Chile), and six actors from Norway including Leammuid Biret Ravndna from the local Sami community, as well as Bjorn Ole Odegard, Ivar Furre Aam, Rune Loding, Stein Hiller Elvestad, and Hilde Stensland. The international cast reflects on-stage the historical, world-wide nature of issue of those seeking refuge during and after conflicts whether either of the two world wars, the horrific period of post World War II Indian partition, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Rwandan genocide, or the current Syrian conflict. Each has produced its own massive ‘refugee crisis’.
But according to Ōta, The Water Station is located not in any single one of the above specific historical instances of migration due to conflicts, but rather “anywhere and everywhere, [in] a place out of time.” One critic described The Water Station as a “quiet chamber piece that speaks in the rich language of silence to the neglected part of the soul”. Writing in The Straits Times, Clarissa Oon described the 2004 Singapore production of The Water Station I directed with an international cast from eleven different countries as

“…a wordless…tone poem whose silent chords struck notes of exile, loss and fraying endurance…[T]he water station [is] an oasis of sorts for thirsty sojourners…[E]ach sequence…told its own story through stillness and the most distilled of movement…[E]ach performer shed his name, cultural marker, and actorly ego. Voices silenced, their bodies were subsumed into the chamber piece, which in turn became an exercise in quietude…the emotions felt frighteningly raw.”

After the premiere run at Nordland Teatre in Mo I Rana, ten miles south of the Arctic Circle, the production tours the district of Nordland with performances in far-flung locations above and just below the Arctic Circle–Sandnessjoen, Mosjoen, Bodo, Svolvaer, Sortland, Stokmarkness, Narvik, Hamaroy, and Bronnoysund.

If we look back far enough, all of us will discover migration in our family histories. I am an Italian-American who migrated to Wales sixteen years ago. My paternal grandfather migrated to the US from southern Italy at the end of the nineteenth century seeking religious freedom. My paternal grandmother’s family migrated to the US from Oxfordshire several centuries ago. Viewing the current production of The Water Station today is equally an act of witnessing, and an opportunity for reflection on what one witnesses both within and beyond the theatre. The roads of Ota Shogo’s play lead through contemporary Europe, to far-flung locations around the world, to traverse our own stories.

Read more about Phillip Zarrilli’s work on his website here

The Price of Self-Employment. Guest blogger: Sophie McKeand

Last spring I met the lovely Sophie McKeand on a Writing for Live Performance  Masterclass I was teaching at Ty Newydd Writers’ Centre on the southern coast of the spectacular Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. I was recently reading her blog and one recent post in particular caught my attention: ‘The Price of Self-Employment’. This is a brave subject – something so important and yet so seldom discussed widely in our industry. I asked Sophie for permission to reproduce her post – and I include details of her biog and links, below:

Sophie: I’m not sure how I imagined the journey when first setting out as a freelance/self-employed writer seven years ago. It’s been a difficult but ultimately rewarding expedition, especially considering the only thought was: forward and onward and don’t look back.

The ego has been shredded, rebuilt, blasted apart, glued back together and shredded again. At 39 I earn a third of the salary I did when I was 27. I don’t own a house or have savings or a pension anymore, and instead of my company car I share an old Renault Espace with my partner (also a freelancer).

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Was it Gary Snyder who said we should aim to be ‘famous for fifteen miles’? This is my mantra (although admittedly I work slightly farther afield that that).

Working geographically, as opposed to by genre, means I’m involved in communicating with people across the whole spectrum of my community. Studying to pinpointed PhD depths seems a little redundant here so adopting a more rounded approach means I’ll facilitate poetry workshops with 10 eight-year-olds, or eight ninety-year-olds, or 250 year 7s. I work with people with early stage dementia, NEETS, gifted young writers, adult learners and people with mental health issues. Each group has wildly varying support needs and expectations, and each workshop has to be tailored specifically to meet those needs. I’ll also have at least three or four other workshop plans ready in case of any ‘eventuality’ (yes I have plans B, C, D, E and F in my suitcase every time.

A large percentage of the people I work with have had their enjoyment of literature strangled by a didactic curriculum set by careerist politicians (not the fault of teachers) and this has instilled a fear, not a love, of creative writing. People have become terrified of verbs, pronouns, adjectives, grammar, spelling and punctuation, which is a shame because language is free and belongs to us all.

In these sessions I focus on our shared understandings of language. I want our group to concoct a nourishing, creative stew of ideas, thoughts and imagination to devour. Metaphor, simile and image are the building blocks of great poetry and we all use them, it’s just a case of recognising when we do and learning how to nurture that element of thought.

There is absolutely a skill to being a writer. Developing a philosophy behind the words and understanding the editing process are the next steps for anyone thinking of taking the writing further, but for these initial workshops, for those hours, I want people to forget about how they should write and to just have fun writing.

I’d love to be able to do this for free. Unfortunately that’s not possible. I still have bills to pay. On a good year I’ll earn maybe £14k (pre-tax), on a quiet year £10k (at least then my tax bill is small). I’m lucky my partner in business is also my partner in life, and he’s incredibly supportive. Work wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun without him and as a freelance partnership (he’s a graphic designer and partner in an independent record label)  we manage to pull in enough to pay the bills and have a comfortable, although not extravagant life.

One of the elements I struggle with most is finding suitable rates to charge. At one end of the scale I’ve been paid £130 per one-hour workshop (fees were set by the project coordinator) and at the other end I’ve been offered £15 for one hour because ‘that’s more than the usual hourly rate for staff here’.

I was very grateful for the former, although I wouldn’t dream of asking for that, but declined the latter. This is not because I’m overly precious or egotistical. When you book me you’re paying for eleven years of work: three years of a degree then a year freelancing whilst working full-time before leaping into full-time-self-employed.

When you book me for a half-day please understand I’ve spent at least that time again planning the workshop, sourcing materials, photocopying/printing, researching and imagining just how it will all come together to create a meaningful experience for your group. When you book me for an hour it’s unlikely I’ll be able to work anywhere else that morning.

You don’t have to think about holiday pay, sick pay, tax, national insurance, maternity pay or public liability insurance. There’s no redundancy package or notice period when you decide to use another freelancer (which you absolutely should to ensure your group/s have access to a full range of styles and approaches). I can’t have a bad day, be ill, have the car break down or have a family crisis on a day I’m coming to you because you might think I’m unreliable and not book me again. Perhaps all ‘arty’ people are like that? No. No we’re not. I’m not even going into the raft of DBS/disclosure certificates I have proving that I’m not a danger to anyone.

On top of that I have to ensure I’m still writing. If I’m teaching something I should be actively engaging with that practice myself, so a ‘holiday away’ tends to involve staying at the oasis of literature that is Ty Newydd for a week. This means I’m confident my writing and workshop facilitation are of a high standard.

I perform at events and festivals, give readings and submit work to various publications because these are the benchmarks supporting my assertion I’m a suitable person to come and work with your group. I also make a point of creating at least one or two voluntary projects in my community each year because it’s an important element of who I am and being self-employed allows me the time to do this.

I wouldn’t change any of this. I love every minute of work and wake every morning knowing that, whatever I’m doing, it’s generating creativity and inspiration in my community. I’ve been involved with truly dedicated people at National Theatre Wales, Literature Wales, Oriel Wrecsam, Age Cymru, The Wales Millennium Centre, The Hay Festival, Barnardos, Clwyd Theatre Cymru, Night Out/Noson Allan and various other local, regional and national organisations over the years, and I’m grateful that most try their best to ensure artists are paid a living wage.

I’m living the dream.

Or at least I’m living my dream of working with words in my community and using poetry as a way to help people find their own voice. Witnessing participants discover the confidence to read out work they’ve just written and knowing I helped them achieve that is, to put it bluntly, totally awesome and worth every penny I don’t now earn.

I know budgets are tight, and this can force people to just focus on the bottom line when considering booking a freelance writer, but having the opportunity to work with a writer, musician or artist on a creative project can  make a genuine difference in people’s lives – it’s changed mine incomparably.

Sophie McKeand biog

Freelance poet and workshop facilitator in Y Gogs. Longlisted for the Poetry Society‘s National Poetry Competition in 2014, published widely including in Poetry Wales, Dark Mountain, Earthlines and Adbusters with new work forthcoming in Tears in the Fence (Sept 2015). Performs regularly at festivals and events such as Wenlock Poetry Festival, Green Man, Wilderness and Dinefwr. Works as a freelance workshop facilitator with Literature Wales, Arts Council Wales, Oriel Wrecsam, Age Cymru, Barnardos and more. Organises National Theatre Wales’ Word4Word in Wrecsam and sits on the ntwTEAM Panel (2014). Dysgu Cymraeg.

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…..