Tag Archives: Scarborough Flare

Edith Sitwell – beyond the Façade

Fifty years on from her death, I had hoped that during 2014 we would find ways for more people to discover Edith Sitwell’s work, going beyond the myths (some perpetuated by Edith herself) and going further in terms of her poetry than her best known, Façade. I am happy to report, I think we have achieved this.

Earlier in the year we held a performance poetry workshop under the auspices of the Stephen Joseph’s Theatre Out Reach Festival. In April, we had an event during Scarborough Flare based around Edith’s poetry which culminated in a group poem created by the audience . In May, young people took part in a day at Woodend Creative Industries Centre organised with the University of Hull, Scarborough campus outreach. And the Poetry Society ran an international poetry competition for their Young Poets’ Network.

Then on National Poetry Day, the 2nd of October, Dr Deborah Longworth of Birmingham University gave her talk: ‘We all have the remote air of a legend’ The Sitwells, Sitwellism  and Sitwelliana in the 1920s. Fifty people attended and from the rich discussion which followed were engaged and informed by what they heard. Deborah’s talk reminded us all that there are many routes to talking about Edith and her brothers as they were involved in supporting and bringing together all the art forms – from dance to music to visual arts to writing.

Deborah suggested that Edith had been stripped of her rightful place within the fore-front of modernist literature because she and her siblings were too self-promoting. The acolytes of modernism preached that the author should be altogether absent from their work. A stance still argued over by writers today.

I was interested to learn more about the Wheels anthologies Edith edited. I had always been curious about why she had written so eloquently about the Second World War and yet the First had not come into her poetry. I now wonder if it was because she was content with publishing the anti-war and pacifist work of others in Wheels, including that of Wilfred Owen. Perhaps she felt they had more to say than she.

We have another chance to peek behind the façade on November the 1st. Chris Beevers, archivist at the Sitwell seat of Renishaw, will be speaking at the Friends of Scarborough Library meeting. She will be talking about the private woman as revealed through her personal letters. It will fit in another piece of the ever fascinating puzzle which is Edith Sitwell.

Scarborough Flare’s Bright

Scarborough Flare was magnificent and a true showcase of local literary and artistic talent. The best part, for me, was working with like-minded folks and experiencing the creativity flowing over.

My event ‘Taking Tea with Edith Sitwell’ was well attended and received. I even managed to enjoy it, despite my nerves. In the final part of it, with the invaluable help of Felix Hodcroft and Rosie Larner, we created a collaborative poem, which blew us all away. Read it here: http://www.scarboroughflare.co.uk/#!blogger-feed/cxz4/post/6428544556236913615

I also want to give special mention to the Hull2Scarborough Line’s ‘The Remarkable Mr Rutherford’. It not only introduced me (and probably most of the audience) to some very evocative and thought-provoking poetry, but also brought the actors Pauline Collins and John Alderton in amongst our midst. We all sat in the intimate space of the Sitwell Library at Woodend spellbound by the words and performance being woven around us.

Well done to everyone involved in Scarborough Flare, it just shows what can be done with a great deal of volunteer time, goodwill and pertinacity. I feel sorry for those who missed it!

Only two days to go to Scarborough Flare

The nerves, the excitement and the continual checking of lists are kicking in now. I am very proud to be a part of Scarborough Flare, a celebration of local talent. It has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of previous years’ Lit Fests, fuelled entirely by the perseverance, the goodwill and the endless volunteer hours of some lovely creative people.

We have put the hard work in that others may enjoy… so come along and see what it’s all about: http://www.scarboroughflare.co.uk







The Future is Indie!

We have ‘indie’ writers and publishers, guerrilla artists and now ‘indie’ festivals like Scarborough Flare (www.scarboroughflare.co.uk). This is both exciting and daunting.

When I lived in the US working for an anti-poverty non-governmental organisation, I was impressed by the amount of grassroots energy I came in contact with. This is a side of that country which rarely gets into films or the media, it’s not glossy or sexy, but it does get the job done. Though these community actions are not without their difficulties. They are born of necessity where the state is almost wholly absent. They often fizzle once the founding volunteers have been sucked dry of their energy. And they are frequently isolated, unable to learn from other similar projects or from the past. Still I felt there was something admirable in the reflex of folks to get together and make things happen. It was something I was not so used to seeing in this country. Until now.

Leaving aside what the current government is doing to our welfare state and NHS, it is clear that money for the arts (especially outside London) is vanishing quicker than Monty Python’s rat up an aqueduct. Those of us who think that writing, creativity, storytelling, performance, art are essential and not just luxury add-ons to human life, are going to have to learn to shift for ourselves.

Even in this country, we have historical antecedents. Virginia Woolf’s husband set up a press to see his wife’s works published. Some of our best loved poets’ collections were brought to fruition by subscription. It’s really only been in the last hundred years that we’ve had a publishing ‘industry’ as such. Growing from companies created by individuals who loved books to what we have today, for the most part dominated by conglomerates which are profit motivated, risk-averse and overly obsessed by celebrity.

So we have fertile ground for the ‘indie’ and the guerrilla, of which Scarborough Flare is a fine example. Fuelled only by passion, persistence and many, many voluntary hours, it is on track to deliver an exciting and inspiring programme.

However, with my State-side experience in mind, I wonder are we up to the challenge? How will we ensure we learn from other similar endeavours and also from the past? How do we turn ourselves from mere writers into event organisers, volunteer organisers, PR supremos? Are we able to stay open to a breadth of works while maintaining the excellence of our offer?

All of us who are involved in Scarborough Flare should be very proud of what we have achieved this year on so few resources. I personally think the members of the committee have worked a minor miracle in bringing and holding everything together. Now, looking to the future, are we ready and able to keep Scarborough Flare ‘indie’ and something of quality?

(Probably) the Best Literature Fringe in Scarborough

Counting down now to Scarborough Flare – www.scarboroughflare.co.uk – 24th-27th April, an exciting and eclectic mix of literary events, talks, performances and workshops. I love the energy when lovers of words get together and let their imagination soar. Come along and be inspired. Tickets on sale from the Thursday.