Today on Ujima – Coping with Lockdown

Given the extraordinary circumstances through which we are living, I decided to devote the first half of today’s radio show to talking to some experts about mental health. First up was Subitha from CASS Bristol who are your one-stop shop for mental health support if you live in the Bristol area. She’s followed by Dr. Dominique Thompson who is a former GP and has written a number of books on mental health, specifically for students.

In the second half of the show I was delighted to welcome back Tamsin from the Popelei Theatre Company. She and her colleagues have launched a Women in Lockdown project, calling for 4-minute monologues featuring women who, for various reasons, are restricted in their movements.

I only had three interviews this week. I was keeping the fourth slot free for some boat-dwelling pals who were being treated very shabbily by Bristol Harbour. Thankfully we made enough noise on social media for them to get picked up by the BBC so they didn’t need me. I got to play some fun music instead.

You can listen to the show via this link.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Jama – Free Your Mind
  • Richie Havens & Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Trouble in Mind
  • Bat for Lashes – Peace of Mind
  • Bob Marley – No woman, no cry
  • Patti Labelle – Messing with my mind
  • Jamiroquai – Music of the mind
  • Dreadzone – Heat the Pot (especially for Aliette & Tasha)
  • Afro-Celt Sound System – Whirl-y-Reel 2
  • Donna Summer – The MacArthur Park Suite

Introducing Women in Lockdown

My good friend Tamsin Clarke of the Popelei Theatre Company has been in touch about a new project that she is launching called Women in Lockdown. The blurb says:

This is not the first time in history that women have been isolated behind closed doors, and it won’t be the last.

Popelei are looking for writers to submit brand new theatrical monologues to the Popelei Seed Commission 2020, under the theme ‘Women In Lockdown’.

Popelei invite you to write and send in a new short monologue (maximum 4 minutes) for a female character who has had some kind of restriction placed on her liberty. Her freedom could be restricted physically, psychologically, emotionally, sexually or anything you can imagine. Her locks and bolts could be very overt or they could be very subtle. Her story could take place in past, the future or the present.

She is not a victim, she is someone who has found her own way of operating and communicating in a restricted world – be that quietly or loudly.

Popelei are looking for 25 writers (of any gender) to write these pieces, and 25 actors (of feminine gender) to peform them. Actors will need to be able to make video recordings of their performances as the final show will be displayed online. Chosen writers and performers will be paid £100 each. The deadline for submission of scripts and sample work is 5:00pm on April 10th. The full submission guidelines are here. Good luck!

A February Heads Up

My speaking schedule for February is starting to firm up, and a number of events are starting to post their programmes. I’ll do a full schedule later in the month, but I did want to share one thing with you. It is this.

Yes, that is me giving a talk at The Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon. How cool is that?

The description is a little weird. I’m sure that’s not what I submitted to Schools Out. But the talk is about a play. It is a play by Byron, not by Shakespeare. And the story involves Ashurbanipal and Romans and Byron’s alleged bisexuality. It should be fun.

By the way, if you are coming to the Historical Fiction Research Network conference in Salzburg later in the month then you will get the academic version of this talk which will be more about sources and translations, and probably a little less about Byron’s sex life.

Today on Ujima – Books, Theatre, Trans Pride & Tobias Buckell

My first guest on today’s radio show was Kate MacDonald of Handheld Press, a wonderful local publisher based in Bath. Kate will be familiar to people on the UK SF&F circuit as she was at FantasyCon and BristolCon. She doesn’t just publish SF&F, but when she does it is pretty spectacular. You will have heard me enthusing about her Vonda McIntyre reissue, and she has had great success with a Nicola Griffith book. On the show we talked about a book by Rose Maculey which inspired Brave New World. John Clute gets a starring role in the story of how Kate got to publish that one. And if we’d had more time we’d have talked about the new Sylvia Townsend Warner book, Of Cats and Elfins, which has a Greer Gilman introduction and a Neil Gaiman front cover blurb.

That was hard to top, but for the second section of the show I welcomed Nick Young from Creative Youth Network and two wonderful young actors who will be performing in The Edge, a play about the dangers of reality TV. The play is written by my friend Edson Burton, and will be staged at Colston Hall later this month. As the advertising says, it will be an immersive live performance. You’ll have to listen to the interview to find out just how clever they have been.

In part three I welcome Lowie Trevena, the new LGBT+ Affairs correspondent of Bristol 24/7 to talk about the upcoming Trans Pride South West. Lowie did a preview of the event for the paper yesterday, and we went a lot more into detail on that. We also talked about what it means to be a non-binary person, and how non-binary does not mean androgynous.

Finally I re-ran parts of my 2014 interview with Tobias Buckell to celebrate his win (along with Paulo Bacigalupi) in the World Fantasy Awards last weekend. Their book, The Tangled Lands, won the Best Collection catageory. In the 2014 piece Tobias and I talk about hurricanes in the Caribbean, climate change, and some interesting regional politics that allowed Tobias to create a unified Caribbean state for some of his work.

You can listen to the show here.

The playlist is as follows:

  • Pipe – Christina Aguilera & Lewis Hamilton
  • World in Union – Ladysmith Black Mambazo (feat. PJ Powers)
  • Screen Kiss – Thomas Dolby
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
  • History – Shea Freedom
  • Sticks and Stones – Jackie Shane
  • Hurricane Season – Trombone Shorty
  • 007 – A Fantasy Bond Theme – Barry Adamson

Today on Ujima – PapayaFest, Discrimination at Work, Fungi & Ellen Datlow

I did a radio show today. Here’s what went down.

I started out with a visit from my good friend Tamsin Clarke. We kept our clothes on this time. As you may recall, Tamsin is from Venezuela. She has been putting together a festival of Latinx culture called PapayaFest. It will feature Tamsin’s theatre productions and a great line-up of bands and DJs. Because Tamsin has such great topics for her plays we ended up talking about Simón Bolívar, matriarchal families and the current state of feminism in Latin America.

Next up I was joined by Karen and Erin from Bristol Law Centre. They have come up with an interesting new way of funding employment discrimination cases and they wanted to get the word out there. I was pleased to be able to point out what good work they do, and how necessary they have become because of the current government’s actions designed to make recourse to the law something that is only available to the very rich.

Guest three was my friend Esme who has got involved with mushrooms. They really are fascinating life forms, and most people have no idea how many types of fungi there are, or how crucial they are both to the ecosystem and to many modern industries. There will be a Fungus Day at Arnos Vale Cemetery on Saturday, which I’d be very tempeted to go along to if I wasn’t booked elsewhere.

And finally I ran part of the interview I did with Ellen Datlow at TitanCon. This extract includes how she got her job at Omni, what “best of the year” means, who is the only writer ever to have scared her, and why she once turned down a story by Margaret Atwood. The full interview will run in Salon Futura at the end of the month.

You can hear the whole show via Ujima’s Listen Again service here.

The playlist for this month’s show is as follows:

  • Simón Díaz – Caballo Viejo
  • WARA – Leave to Remain
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela – Hanuman
  • Elsa J – 9 to 5
  • Carlos Santana – Flor d’Luna
  • Janelle Monáe – Mushrooms & Roses
  • Sade – Nothing can come between us
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller

Today On Ujima: Students, Clothing, Theatre & Feminism

Today’s show began with two wonderful guests from the University of the West of England. Noor and Josie are part of a small group who are pioneering an organisation called Equity within the university that will help Black & Minority Ethnic students get the best out of their education, and find good jobs afterwards.

As we all know, the academic system, and the jobs market in the UK, discriminates against anyone who doesn’t fit the default stereotype of white and male. However, much can be done by finding role models, or as I prefer possibility models, that give people the confidence that they can beat the system and suceed in life. I’m delighted to find that UWE is the first university in the country to actively try to help BAME students in this way. If you happen to be a Person of Colour who works in or near Bristol, please take a look here to see forthcoming events where you can help inspire these students.

Now if only we could do something similar for trans students…

My second guest was Jo-Jo from the gender-neutral clothing company, Max Tariq. It is, apparently, Bristol’s first and currently only such label. Jo-Jo and I chatted about the philosophy of gender neutral clothing. We discussed how such clothes could be for anyone who foudn them attractive, and how “gender neutral” doesn’t mean dull and vaguely masculine. We also talked about making clothing climate-neutral.

The Listen Again system is still playing up occasionally. You can listen to Noor & Josie here. Jo-Jo’s interview got dropped, but I have the archive recording and will be putting him up on the podcast soon.

Next up was Yasmin from the Mandala Theatre Company. She’s putting on a play called Castaways at The Station (the old fire station building in which Ujima’s studios are located) tomorrow night. It is a pay what you can afford event, so money is no excuse. If you want a ticket, or just to learn mre about the play, go here.

I kept the final half hour guest-free because I wanted to have a bit of a rant about the whole Kavanaugh debacle over in the USA. I chose some powerful feminist music to go with it. Along the way I also managed to talk about the WASPI fiasco with women’s pensions, and the awful two-child limit on tax credits.

You can listen to the second half of the show in full here.

Not included, because I am slightly nervous about the lyrics, was the new Amanda Palmer song, “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now”. The video, which is absolutely NSFW, is here.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • Big Mama Thornton – Let Your Tears Fall Baby
  • Bessie Smith – Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  • CN Lester – White wedding
  • Prince – Raspberry Beret
  • Minnie Ripperton – Young, Willing and Able
  • Erykah Badu – Drama
  • Janelle Monae – Americans
  • Lady Gaga – ‘Til it Happens to You
  • Alicia Keys – Superwoman
  • Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

The first two tracks are, of course, a nod to Black History Month. The Gaga song is particularly powerful and I’m glad I found it.

I’ll be back on air in two weeks with my friend Olivette Otele to do Black History Month properly.

Today on Ujima – Trans, Music, Suffragettes & Coercive Control

Today’s show started with a first for me, a live phone-in. Ben has only done one before so he did very well getting it sorted eventually. I’m very glad he did because I had a great chat with Kate O’Donnell about her show which is coming up on Friday. Tom Marshman was in the studio with us providing cover when the phone wasn’t working, and talking about his own part in the evening.

My second guest today was the amazing local singer, Ruth Royall. She has an absolutely fabulous voice, does her own production and plays a lot of the music on her recordings, and is basically just hugely talented. I got to play a brand new song that has never been heard on radio before.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour failed to record, which is annoying, because you will miss the great chat I had with Lucienne Boyce about the special day we are putting on at M Shed to celebrate 100 years of votes for (some) women. The good news is that you can still come along to the event. You can find out more on Farcebook, or download the programme here.

I will be playing hostess in the Studio Room all day, much as I do for LGBT History Month events. I’m also on the final panel which is pretty high-powered. It has belatedly occured to me that I need a costume, or at the very least a sash.

The final segment of the show featured Charlotte Gage of Bristol Zero Tolerance talking about a form of domestic abuse known as Coercive Control. Basically this is where one person in a domestic set-up tries to completely control the behaviour of another. There are various levels to it, but it can get very serious and anyone who is being victimised in this way can now seek help.

The playlist for the show was as follows:

  • I Am What I Am – Amanda Lear
  • Any Other Way – Jackie Shane
  • 4U – Ruth Royall
  • Heart on Fire – Ruth Royall
  • Wind in My Sails – Ruth Royall
  • Sister Suffragette – Glynis Johns
  • March of the Women – Ethel Smyth, perfomed by Plymouth Choir feat. Eiddwen Harrhy
  • No Man’s Woman – Sinead O’Connor
  • I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

All Change at Trinity


Next week is rather busy as far as trans-related events in Bristol goes.

On Monday Jack Halberstam will be at the Arnolfini presenting “A quick and quirky guide to gender variability.” My colleague Yaz previewed that event on yesterday’s Women’s Outlook, which you can listen to here.

On Thursday the fabulous Surat Shaan Knan will be in town to launch a residency of his Rainbow Pilgrims exhibition at Bristol University. (That event is sold out.)

And on Friday Kate O’Donnell presenting her one-woman show, You’ve Changed at the Trinity Centre. The write up for the show is as follows:

When there’s no rule book, you just have to write your own… It’s fourteen years since Kate transitioned and a lot has changed. However, where gender is concerned, are we still stuck in the dark ages?

Through song, dance, hard-won wisdom and hilarity You’ve Changed shines a light on the ins and outs and ups and downs of transitioning. Challenging the idea that “genitals equal gender” Kate literally bares all; getting her own out on the proverbial table. She’s changed: that’s clear, but have you?

As the show involves nudity, it is a 16+ event.

The event is being staged by my friend Tom Marshman through his Beacons, Ikons and Dykons series. Tom will be doing a short introductory performance before Kate. And afterwards he has asked me to chair a Q&A discussion about issues raised by the show. Goodness only knows where that is going to go.

Anyway, I have it on the best authority (CN Lester) that Kate’s show is amazing, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing it.

Today on Ujima – Art, Literature, Feminist SF and Vampires

Today’s show was full on culture, starting off with the fabulous Amy Powell from Bristol Art for All, an amazing organization that looks to provide cheap or free art courses that anyone can be involved in (even a total klutz like me).

Next up we had Amy Morse from the Bristol Festival of Literature previewing all of the fabulous events they have lined up for this year. The Festival is bookended by Bristol Horror Con (on Friday 13th, naturally) and by BristolCon (on the 28th). Of particular interest will be Stories of Strong Women – Unconventional Heroines on Friday October 20th. This features not only me, but also Lucienne Boyce, Virginia Bergin, Jean Burnett and Becky Walsh.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Talking of Virginia, she was my guest for the third segment of the show. Most of the discussion focused on her latest novel, Who Runs the World, which is a YA take on the classic “world without men” trope.

And finally I welcomed Anna and Orla from the Food and Theatre Company who specialize in immersive dining events. In October they will be staging Loco Lost Boys in the tunnels beneath Temple Meads station, where the audience can enjoy a fine meal and hopefully avoid becoming a tasty snack for the local vampires.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

It being Black History Month, I decided to have all of the music from amazing black women who are no longer with us. We did the whole gamut from Josephine Baker to Whitney Houston. Here’s the playlist:

  • Aretha Franklin – Respect
  • Josephine Baker – Blue Skies
  • Billie Holiday – These Foolish Things
  • Big Mamma Thornton – Let Your Tears Fall Baby
  • Bessie Smith – A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Ella Fitzgerald – Everyone’s Wrong But Me
  • Memphis Minnie – Doctor Doctor Blues
  • Whitney Houston – Love Will Save the Day

On the subject of Ujima, we are running a fundraiser for disaster relief in Dominica tomorrow night at the Watershed. It is 10:00pm – 1:00am, so not the sort of time I can be in Bristol, but if you are around please consider dropping by.

Yesterday on Ujima – Gareth, Fitness, Trans Theater & Stopping Violence

It was a very full show as always on Women’s Outlook yesterday. I started out talking to local author, Gareth L. Powell, about his latest book, a short story collection called Entropic Angel (after a story originally published by me in Dark Spires). We also talked about the differences between writing short fiction and novels, the forthcoming Eastercon, and Gareth’s forthcoming space opera series.

The second slot featured Phoenix Liberty Rain, who is a fitness trainer. April is Health and Wellbeing month on Ujima, so I’m doing my bit despite being one of the most unfit people you could hope to meet. Thankfully Phoenix is very unlike your average fitness trainer. She works entirely online (and has been doing that for 9 years, so it is clearly a viable business). She doesn’t insist on diets, and she doesn’t make you go running in the rain before dawn. She does, however, recommend weight training for women. And she thinks that the main benefit of her courses is the self-confidence they give people. She’s my sort of fitness trainer. And given that she works online, you can sign up for a course from anywhere. This is her website.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Hour 2 began with Alice Nicholas and Maddie Coward of Creative Youth Network talking about a play called Eclipse that they are staging in the same building as our studios later in the month. The play is about a young trans boy, and it sounds like Alice and her team have done a great job on the story. I’m hoping to get to see this one.

Finally I welcomed Nazand Begikhani and Gill Hague of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at Bristol University. They were going to be launching a book last night at Watestones, and they talked to be about their work around the world, and specifically in Iraqi Kurdistan, to combat violence against women and girls.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for yesterday’s show was as follows:

  • Cameo – Word Up
  • Savage Rose – Lonely Heart
  • Beyonce – Get Me Bodied
  • Daft Punk – Doin’ it Right
  • Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Tears of a Clown
  • Amanda Lear – I Am What I Am
  • Tracy Chapman – Behind the Wall
  • Donna Summer & Barbara Streisand – No More Tears

Next week marks the debut of our new team member, Zakiya. She’s also heavily involved in Ujima’s environmental initiative, Green & Black. I’m looking forward to hearing what she does. Yaz will be back with more social campaign news at the end of the month.

Wonder Woman V0.1

International Women’s Day is coming up tomorrow. I’ll be in Bristol doing training, then in Bath for their Reclaim the Night march, so I’m unlikely to get any blogging done. So I am doing something today instead.

We’ll hopefully see the Wonder Woman movie later this year (and fingers crossed DC won’t have butchered it the way they have done with other major releases recently). Diana first appeared in a comic in 1941, but she is not the first Amazon princess to have captivated America. The photo below is of a 24-year-old Kathryn Hepburn taking the part of Antiope in a stage play in New York in 1932. Antiope was a younger sister of Hippolyte and therefore Diana’s aunt. She famously was either kidnapped by or ran off with Theseus and became Queen of Athens. The play was a huge success and led to Hepburn being spotted by a Hollywood talent scout.

Yesterday on Ujima – Manuelita, Barnett, Pinborough & WEP

Yesterday’s radio seemed to go off OK. Here’s the traditional round-up post.

We began with a live interview with the fabulous Tamsin Clarke of the Popelei Theatre Company. Much of the conversation was about Manuelita, the one-woman play based on the life of the South American revolutionary leader, Manuela Saenz. We also talked about theatre more generally, and about other projects that Tamsin is currently involved in. If you are in Bristol on Saturday evening and you don’t have a ticket for Against Me! then you can catch Tamsin and friends in Carved, a Christmas dinner of absurd anarchical performance and cabaret for the sinful and undeserving, at The Cube.

Next up was an interview with David M Barnett about his forthcoming novel, Calling Major Tom. David and I recorded this at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature back in October, but there was no point airing it until now as the book isn’t out until January (and then only as an ebook). Obviously I had to play Amanda Palmer’s version of “Space Oddity”. Not only is there the Bowie connection, but David’s editor, Sam Eades, used to be Neil Gaiman’s UK publicist.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with the interview I did with Sarah Pinborough at BristolCon. I think this is the first interview I have done that involved two large glasses of Merlot. Sarah is great fun to interview. She has a great story to tell too. Thanks are due to Gareth Powell because I based a bunch of the questions on Sarah’s Guest of Honor interview, which Gareth conducted.

Finally on the show we had my report on the Women’s Equality Party conference. That includes a whole lot of comments from people who were at the conference, including Stella Duffy, Catherine Mayer and Sophie Walker. I was joined in the studio by my colleagues on the show, Frances and Judeline, and was pleased to see that they liked what WEP was doing.

You can listen to the second half of the show here.

The full playlist for the show was as follows:

  • Edwin Starr – War
  • Cat Stevens – Peace Train
  • Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness
  • Amanda Palmer & Jherek Bischoff – Space Oddity
  • Martha Reeves & the Vandellas – Nowhere to Run
  • Diana Ross & the Supremes – Reflections
  • The Temptations – Ball of Confusion
  • Sly and the Family Stone – I Want to Take Your Hand

Amanda aside, all of those tracks were taken from the soundtrack album of the V&A’s new 1960s exhibition which I reviewed here.

18th Century Surround Sound

Bristol’s Old Vic is apparently the oldest working theatre in the UK (The Globe is of course, a modern reproduction). This year it will celebrate its 250th anniversary. As part of that they are doing a lot of historical work, and today the folks at Bristol 24/7 revealed one of the cool things that will happen.

Back in the 18th Century, there were no sound systems in theatres. You could have an orchestra, or people could make noises on stage, or backstage. But what happened if you really wanted to wow the audience? Obviously an 18th Century play wasn’t going to involve a Imperial Star Destroyer flying overhead, but it might involve a thunder storm, or simply wish to indicate that Thor is having a bad day. Should that sort of sound effect be required, the Old Vic was prepared.

The theatre has something called a “thunder run”, a series of wooden tunnels up in the roof along which a collection of different sized balls can be rolled. The overall effect for the audience down below is a very convincing rumble in the skies. The Old Vic plans to resurrect this system, which hasn’t been used since the 1940s, and use it in some modern plays. I hope it works, and that it turns out to be LOUD!

Today on Ujima: Lovecraft, Planetfall, AIDS and Cinders

Today’s show on Ujima began with me interviewing local writer, Jonathan L Howard, about his new book, Carter & Lovecraft (which I reviewed here). We talked a fair amount about Lovecraft the man, about the World Fantasy Awards and the controversy surrounding the trophy, and about how and why Lovecraft might be relevant today.

Next up was Emma Newman. She couldn’t make it into the studio (too busy) so we did a pre-record over Skype. Emma and I talked mainly about Planetfall (which is excellent): about 3D printing, small isolated communities, mental illness and the need for diverse characters in books. We also talked a bit about Emma’s year of horror, about Tea & Jeopardy, and about the forthcoming Split Worlds live role-playing game and masked ball (tickets for which are available here).

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with Sheila Ollis from The Brigstowe Project talking about the current state of the AIDS epidemic, both in Zimbabwe and among immigrant communities in Bristol. While it is good to know that AIDS is now survivable, it was clear from talking to Sheila that there is still a very long way to go, especially in communities were myths about the disease are still widely believed.

Finally I welcomed my colleague, Andreeja, and Nick Young from The Creative Youth Network. Nick is directing a modern re-imagining of Cinderella using the young people from CYN as his cast and crew. Andreeja, as well as working for Ujima, is the social media guru for CYN. Nick and I could probably have talked for a very long time about fairy tales, and I did send him away with a recommendation to read Cat Valente. Along the way we referred to this article in Bristol 24/7, and I had a bit of a rant about this particular show at the Hippodrome.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Lucky Star – Labi Siffre
  • Tokyo – Lianne La Havas
  • Take the A Train – Duke Ellington
  • We were Rock n Roll – Janelle Monáe
  • Hound Dog – Big Mama Thornton
  • Together Again – Janet Jackson
  • Independent Woman Part I – Destiny’s Child
  • Unstoppable – Lianne La Havas

I was particularly pleased to play Big Mama Thornton. Her version of Hound Dog was #1 on Billboard for seven weeks in 1952, selling almost 2 million copies. But because that Presley guy covered it no one remembers her any more.

My next show is going to be on December 30th. I rather suspect that no one will want to be on it and I’ll just play music for two hours, but if anyone is keen to be interviewed let me know. I can do pre-records on Skype so it doesn’t matter where in the world you are.

Today On Ujima – Feminism and Fringe

Yeah, I have been back on the radio again. Paulette is still in Jamaica so I was allowed to put the whole show together myself. What I wasn’t expecting was that I’d end up learning to be an engineer on the job. I’ve had a bit of training on the desk before, but this is the first time I have actually done it live myself. There were a few very minor gaps in the flow where I had a panic as to which button to push, but mostly it was very smooth. Huge thanks are due to my colleague, Jack, who was keeping an eye on me and pointing out when I had forgotten something.

Anyway, the show began with discussion of the current furor in the UK over the election of Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of the Labour Party. As I said on the show, I’m not a Socialist, but the behavior of the mainstream media, the right wing of the Labour Party, and even the Prime Minister has been so childish that you can’t help but have sympathy and respect for Corbyn. I’m not surprised that there has been a flood of people joining Labour since he was elected. My colleagues, Judeline and Jack, offered their opinions.

Next up I talked a bit about the Ascent of Woman documentary series that is airing on BBC 2 at the moment. I’ve talked a lot about it here already, so I won’t go into that again.

After the news we were joined by Tom Parker and Jasmine Atkins-Smart of the Tobacco Tea Theatre Company. You may remember Tom from his appearance at BristolCon Fringe. The they have been up in Edinburgh performing in a play called The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in which Tom played Doctor Watson and Jasmine played Sherlock. We chatted a bit about what it was like being at Fringe as performers, about the theatre scene in Bristol, and about Sherlock as a cultural phenomenon.

Next up we were supposed to have Cezara Nanu of Bristol Women’s Voice talking about modern slavery. Sadly she had caught a chill, probably from running the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday (where she was raising money for refugees) so we gave the actors a little longer and then covered the slavery issue as well as we could by ourselves. Judeline and Jack had done some great research.

Finally we touched on an issue that arose out of the media panic over Mr Corbyn, the idea of women-only railway carriages. That naturally broadened out into the topic of safe spaces in general. I chipped in with the issue as to whether trans women were allowed in women’s spaces, and put poor Jack on the spot as our representative of men.

If you want to listen to the show you can find the first hour here and the second hour here.

The playlist for the show was as follows:

  • Tracy Chapman – Talking ’bout a revolution
  • Bob Marley – Revolution
  • Elvis Costello – Watching the Detectives
  • Isaac Hayes – Shaft
  • Mavis Staples – Eyes on the Prize
  • Nina Simone – Young, Gifted and Black
  • Duke Ellington – Take the A Train
  • John Coltrane – Blue Train

War of the Worlds: TNG

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the HG Wells novel, The War of the Worlds. It was first released in 1978, and you can get an idea of its popularity by the fact that it is still going strong now. In 2006 Wayne created a stage show so that the work could be performed live, and in 2013 a performance at the O2 Arena in London was filmed. Last week I picked up a DVD of it, and having now watched it I am pleased to have done so.

Obviously the new version has a very different cast. The seemingly impossible job of replacing Richard Burton in the part of The Journalist has fallen to Liam Neeson who does a remarkably good job. Obviously someone as high profile as Neeson isn’t going to be able to tour with a stage show, so his part appears on a giant screen. There’s a lot of green-screen work, which looks horribly amateurish compared to something like Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, but does the job. Much more impressively, there are short sections in which Neeson appears on stage as a hologram, interacting with the live actors. That’s appropriately science-fictional.

Neeson doesn’t sing, of course. When he is required to do so his part is taken by Marti Pellow, formerly of Wet Wet Wet. Again it is a tough ask to take on songs originally recorded by Justin Hayward, but Pellow does OK. In any case I’ll forgive him a lot for the way he disposes of the idiot interviewer in one of the bonus features. Mr. Pellow is clearly a fan.

The original stage production saw Jason Donovan take the part of The Artilleryman, but for this production he has moved sideways and plays The Parson. He’s very good indeed. Kerry Ellis, who plays Beth, The Parson’s Wife, is a great singer but can’t match Donovan’s acting.

The part of The Artilleryman is taken by Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs. He too turns in a superb performance. Wayne has got in a specialist rock front man, Will Stapleton of Jettblack, for the song, “Thunder Child”, and that works well too.

One of the most obvious things about the new version is that it has gone totally steampunk. The stage dressing, and even the outfits of the orchestra and band, are now all very clearly from an imagined version of Victorian England rather than the real thing. There is a little more material now that Wayne isn’t limited by the length of two vinyl albums, so the story is a little easier to follow, but you have to look for most of the new stuff.

From a musical point of view the best thing is the presence of Chris Spedding and Herbie Flowers (whom I believe were both on the original recording). However, my eye was caught by the woman playing harp and percussion. It turned out that she’s Julia Thornton, who has toured with Roxy Music and is part of The Metaphors, a band formed by Andy McKay and Phil Thompson. Cue squee from the aging Roxy fangirl. She also has good taste in corsets.

Strangely the albums appear to be only available as expensive imports in the USA, but the whole of the original version has been uploaded to YouTube if you want to look for it. Here’s a taster.

Today on Ujima: BristolCon, Maya Angelou & Thomas Glave

First up on today’s show I had the fabulous Roz Clarke in to do a quick preview of BristolCon. We may have mentioned several people that you know. It gave me a warm and cosy feeling to note that almost all of the authors we mentioned had been on the show themselves at some point in the past.

At the half hour point I handed over to Paulette who had Rachel de Garang in from Breathing Fire, a black women’s theatre company, who are putting on a show in honor of Maya Angelou. I didn’t catch all of the content, but it sounded fun. With Rachel in the studio was performance artist, Joanne Tremarco, from the Nomadic Academy for Fools. They are in Bristol at the moment and Joanne’s contribution is something called Women Who Wank.

Of course we are not allowed to say wank on the radio. Tommy Popcorn and I were highly amused at the gymnastics Paulette went through to get the point over.

I provided all of the music for the show. Two of the songs Paulette played are from Maya Angelou’s 1957 album, Miss Calypso. She has a great voice, and was clearly thinking along feminist lines even back then.

I got the studio back for the final half hour and played a pre-record of an interview I did with the Jamaican LGBT activist, Thomas Glave, when he was in Bristol the other week. Amongst other things, we discussed anal penetration, which apparently you are allowed to say on the radio. I also played a couple of songs that have Kenneth Williams levels of innuendo in them, both about gay sex. I may also have had a thing or two to say about Mike Read’s pro-UKIP single, which I am delighted to note he withdrew from sale shortly after the show was broadcast.

If you want to listen to the show, you can find the first hour here, and the second hour here.

Frogs

Yesterday evening I took myself up to Clifton to see the latest production by our local feminist theatre company, Hecate. Their stated aim is, “to reinvent Classical and Modern theatre with an all-female cast.” The production I saw was of The Frogs by Aristophanes.

You’ll note that word “reinvent” in the aim above. That does not include replacing all of the male characters by women. Most of the characters in Frogs are male. However, the chances are that very few modern theatre-goers know who Euripides and Aeschylus are. So this modern version has replaced them with Will Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

The play is a lot of fun, and being feminists Hecate could not resist making the Bard a bit sexist. Well, quite a lot actually.

There are five actors in the production. All of them take at least one major role, and get to play part of the frog chorus, which seems to have a rather larger part than in the original. I thought Bella Fortune’s Shakespeare was superb, but I was also very impressed with Melissa McCarthy as Charon and Pluto, and Gemma Reynolds’ aging rock star version of Dionysus. And that’s being unfair to Hannah-Marie Chadwick (Xanthias) and Maya Grant (Austen), who were also very good.

Sadly the play is only on for a few days. Saturday is the last night. Catch it if you can.

Ribbit.

Today in Bristol – Harkaway, Chartreuse & Frogs

Today on Women’s Outlook I’ll be running the interview with Nick Harkaway that I made last week at Mr. B’s. You can listen online via the Ujima Radio website. I’ll post the Listen Again links tomorrow.

Also on the show is Philippe Bonneau. I so enjoyed the talk about Chartreuse that he gave at Independent Spirit that I wanted to share it with everyone.

In the evening I’ll be off to the theatre. I’ll be seeing a performance of Frogs by Aristophanes, put on my by pals the Hecate Theatre Company.

Today On Ujima

Paulette is on holiday, so hosting of today’s Women’s Outlook show fell mostly to me. My thanks to Jackie for giving me 15 minutes off for a breather. Aside from that I did a whole two hour show.

We began with an interview with James Peries of Bristol Old Vic, talking about the show he put on as a memorial to the Jamaican/British playwright, Alfred Fagon. This is a fascinating, if somewhat depressing story. Fagon moved to the UK from Jamaica in the 1950s and, after spells in the railways and army (where he became a boxing champion) he moved to Bristol and got involved in the theatre. Acting led to writing and production, and he got as far as having one play produced on BBC2 before his untimely death. The way in which he was treated by the Metropolitan Police following his death is a national disgrace, and I’m very pleased that a statue of him was put up in Bristol. The award named after him, which benefits young African and Caribbean playwrights, is producing some tremendous results.

By the way, if you are in Bristol, you may want to check out the Old Vic’s production of Great Expectations. The part of Miss Havisham is being taken by Adjoa Andoh who will be better known to you as Martha Jones’ mum in Doctor Who.

The second half hour of the show features Suzie Price-Rajah who is part of the team organizing the Art on the Hill art trail in South Bristol this coming weekend. There’s load of amazing stuff going on. I wish I had the time to go along.

The whole of the first hour is available via the Listen Again feature here.

As noted above, Jackie took over for 15 minutes at the start of the second hour, I think talking mainly about garden gnomes. I’m back after that talking to Suzie again, this time about her career as a diversity trainer.

The final half hour had me talking to Marti Burgess and Delroy Hibbert about the Media Diversity UK campaign, which you may know from the @WritersOfColour Twitter account. Much as I love doing radio, and have my own little piece of the diversity jigsaw to push forward, I very much want to see these folks do well.

The second hour of the show is available via the Listen Again feature here.

When I get the time I will make both the Alfred Fagon and Media Diversity interviews available as stand-alone podcasts.