To counter the relentless negativity of today's news and to cheer us all up on dark winter days, Merry Monodies was a new departure for us - our first poetry and film event at 20th Century Flicks video lounge in Bristol. We premiered comic poems from 1850 to the present day, followed by the Marx Brothers' classic 'Horse Feathers'. With choc ices, popcorn and drinks, our mental health improved quite a few notches. We may do it again soon!
December '21, we put together a new collaboration with the wonderful musicians from Ensemble26. Mark, Steve, Isabel and newcomer Esme Allman joined Ensemble26 regulars Tom Norris, Ellie Fagg and Eleanor Meynell in exploring poetry, spoken word, classical and contemporary music. The event included newly commissioned poetry from the team and Tom Norris's own composition, as well as old favourites - including Astor Piazolla's Oblivion and works by Mendelsohn. Great to be performing live again!
Highlights from 2022/3
Poetry is at the heart of our work - off the page, performed, interpreted in music, sound, art or dance. Alarms and Excursions is proud to break new ground in poetry and spoken word, either by performing our own work or by championing those for whom we have the greatest respect. We prefer to go our own way, especially into uncharted territory. Take a look below at our projects, grounded firmly in poetry!
Summer 2023 - it's festival season!
After such a busy 2022 (see below), Isabel has continued her collaboration with photographer Jo Shepherd. A taste of what we created was presented to their largest audience to date, at the Square Club, Berkeley Square, Bristol in July 2023. Both are now working on expanding the format to a full show, ready to tour. Also on the bill that night were Adam Horowitz and Anna Maughan.
Isabel's work continues to be widely published, in the anthology from the very topical Hot Poets team - Liv Torc and Chris Redmond, for the 7th time in Jerry Jazz Musician, and featured on classical music FM station WMNR Fine Arts Radio, a major station in Connecticut, USA. She has also been performing in Weston Super Mare, Wells and frequently in Bristol.
In the spring, Isabel came third in the Nailsworth slam, hosted by the ever wonderful Sara-Jane Arbury and Elvis McGonagall. She also won third place in the Wolves Litfest competition.
The main event this year was the biggest ever Clevedon Literary Festival - 51 events, no less than six of them featuring poetry:
Thursday 8th June - The Curzon Cinema in Clevedon brought the cream of Bristol's spoken word talent - RAISE THE BAR, the South West’s leading spoken word events organisation, featuring: Spoken word film - a Bristol-made beauty that will open your heart; a multi genre set from DJ Ngaio (Booty Bass) British and Nigerian syncopated rhythms and bass; spellbinding spoken word performances from Southwest based Danny ‘Craft-D’ Pandolfi, Saili Katebe and a set from the current Bristol City Poet (2022-24) Kat Lyons. Headlining this event was Vanessa Kisuule, Bellatrix and Rob Auton.
Saturday 10th June - we welcomed BBC Wondermentalist Matt Harvey, with MATT & JO’S SATURDAY NIGHT FLAVAS. Writer, poet, enemy of all that’s upsetting, Matt Harvey’s publications include The Hole in the Sum of my Parts, Where Earwigs Dare and Mindless Body Spineless Mind. Matt performed new poems from his latest book Careless Whisker, inspired by the darkly comic and curious art of Claudia Schmid, interspersed with lively pieces about vegetables, dogs and petty theft, and there were referecnes to sperm banks and soft furnishings!
Sharing the stage with Matt was Jo Bell, inaugural Laureate for the Canal & River Trust. Working with poetry talents from Ian McMillan to Brian Patten, Jo is a performer, playwright, producer and a few things that don't begin with P. For six years she was the director of National Poetry Day; sometime programmer for Ledbury Poetry Festival and occasional broadcaster. Supporting Matt and Jo we featured Bristol based legend Tom (T.S. Idiot) Stockley and Jenya ‘Jen’ Korotynska, giving us a unique Ukrainian perspective.
Jo followed up with a workshop on Sunday 11th June - HISTORIES – A WORKSHOP WITH JO BELL encouraging people to use history - both personal and global - as a stimulus to write new poems. I am delighted to own a copy of Jo’s 2015 poetry collection Kith (Nine Arches Press) containing many of the poems written during her time as Canal Laureate.
Slammers performed in an environmentally themed slam in association with Rhyme Against the Tide, hosted by Weston's own Sophie Shepherd. LIFE'S A BEACH! (Sunday 11th June)
Choreographer Mel Simpson brought us an open invitation to writers, artists, enthusiasts and the curious, to dive in and explore the style of modernist Doris Hatt, sparking the audience's creativity in PAINTING, DRAWING or WRITING with colourful nostalgic dance and held poses, jazz (Sidney Bechet), and parasols!
Saturday 10th June we launched the 2023 Clevedon Literary Festival poetry and short story competitions, full details of which are now on the festival website.
In addition, many of the rest of the festival’s participants are also involved in the poetry scene (Noreen Masud, Zakiya McKenzie, Lora Johnson)
Isabel has also been judging a major competition this year: more details will be posted here shortly
And in 2022...
Elvis has not left the building!
As part of Clevedon Literary Festival, on Saturday 11th June we hosted a spoken word spectacular featuring Alarms stalwarts Mark Mr T. Thompson, Steve Tasane and the wonderful and much missed Cynthia Hamilton. Our headliner was Elvis McGonagall, Gie’ing it Laldy as only Elvis can! We also co-curated the rest of the programme which featured open mics, a host of speakers, events and masterclasses for adults and children, drama, live music all day at Clevedon bandstand, artist in residence, Doris Hatt’s Communist Coach and a bracing walk on the pier!
Isabel won the Rhyme Against the Tide slam in January 2022 and has headlined this year in Wells, Great Yarmouth, Charlton (S E London) and performed in slams in Cheltenham, Ledbury and Stroud. Her work has been published a second time in the Dhaka Review.
Mark Thompson published his second collection - More Mixed Messages; he also appeared on prime time television in September, and he has a new website - take a peek here. His next collection is now available, courtesy of Burning Eye books. New recordings are out for Davide Stramaglia who wowed audiences recently on Italian television; James Hodgson has been building a studio at Graceland Dagenham while curating Sydenham Arts; Emma O’Rourke has a one woman show in North London, running as this piece is being written; Depi Gorgogianni splitting her time between London and Athens with lots of projects on the go; Rosemary Yung has been globetrotting, also fetching up in Greece this autumn; Patricia Hammond has posted that “she is making an appearance in a major film which (she) cannot talk about yet, that is set to be out later this year or early next (all I’ll say is I’m wearing green feathers)” and Sabina Virtosu is soaring to new heights in small planes. (Shout out to Joe Duggan too!)
Next year is shaping up nicely; we have had a successful try out of next year’s tour - Isabel White’s Phantastic Ekphrastic Show, a possible new residency, another new collection… watch this space!
“I am lost for words in a way that you are clearly not. I feel like I’m opening a box of handcrafted chocolates every time I open your emails. They are exquisite and delicious.”
An Oxford University Initiative. Building on initial contacts with Lancaster & Sussex Universites, we were privileged to present at this conference in Birmingham City University over the weekend of 1st and 2nd February 2019, with a thought-provoking piece on the state of poetry on page and stage in the UK today. Find out more about this fascinating project by following the link here.
Wash House Poets
Alarms & Excursions founder Isabel curated the only monthly poetry & spoken word performance event in the City of London since the 1970s. This was presented in the former public baths at the St Bride Foundation. Having completed its third season, Wash House Poets has taken a break.
Wash House brought you the cream of the performance circuit, as well as exciting newcomers and the odd interloper. We hosted John Hegley, Michael Horowitz, Daljit Nagra, Jessie Pie, Phoebe Stuckes, Dudley Sutton, Tim Wells & many, many more. Find out who else by clicking on the programme link below.
Jah Burns - Loud up dis gone puddin!
Not many people know that starving poet Robert Burns signed up for a job as bookkeeper on a plantation in Jamaica in 1786. He did not go in the end, but stayed to become a champion of underdogs everywhere - our kind of guy! (With two events under our belts, over 80 people turned up for Jah Burns - bekilted Colin from Guyana, Juan Pablo from Chile, Ida from Italy, our attentive Romanian waiter (thank you - I didn't catch your name - click on the image for the full menu), even people from Bethnal Green for goodness sake! (See the pics in our gallery).
After a barnstorming event in January 2016, the 2017 show sold out in 24 hours, this reprised event brought us new audiences...
With our friendly restaurateur Mel Nugent (Blue Mountain Cafe, East Dulwich) stirring the pot, we added a sprinkling of Tam O' Shanter from Alain English (the Scottish guy) Racheal Joseph and Isabel, songs from musician Glenn Bassett and dancing courtesy of the amazing ceilidh band Step Lively! Will ye no come back again? Aye we will!
You can see some of the images from both events here.
"A touch of magic at every corner. Tracey and I danced to the end of time and beyond all weekend after that!"
Mike says - "This gig is nuts!"
Marinade of the Ancient Rhymer
Ah harrrr Jim Lad - we've wrecked another Hesperus in St Leonards and Sydenham this summer with our new take on Coleridge's old potboiler, thanks to this 'Motley Crüe'. While some of the regulars are touring, stalwarts Irène, Robin and Isabel are here ably assisted by David Mosey (guitar), Graham Campbell (man in black) and Rosemary Yung (pipa).
Return of the Codfather
As Part of St Leonards Festival 2016, we curated the poetry elements of the programme, including Return of the Codfather, a day by the sea for the fish (our charabanc of poets) leading the Grand Parade, followed by pop up poetry and spoken word all over town.
Residencies and Workshops
A key component of Flotsam were the workshops run by Will and Steve, the fruits of which were demonstrated at our main event in the Turner Contemporary in Margate.
2018 brought us a chance to build on the workshops we ran the previous year at Sydenham School, Sydenham High School, The New Generation Leisure Centre and the Riverhouse Arts Centre in Walton on Thames. Isabel ran the first of this year's programmes as part of the Spring Margate Bookie Festival, working with a dozen young people at the Turner Contemporary in Margate. (More workshops followed in Sydenham in 2019).
Previous residencies include:
First Stop Darlington, a charity supporting young people who were homeless, substance abusers or with mental health problems. We worked with the service users and local photographer Helen Shannon on a major exhibition to mark the 10th anniversary of the charity.
Brendoncare, an old people’s charity based in the western home counties. We ran workshops and readings encouraging residents to tell their stories using poetry, spoken word and storytelling.
We have also run short residencies for the St Bride Foundation (2013), Urban Photofest (2015), Sydenham Arts (2017), St Leonards Festival (2016/17) and Platform 7 (2009 to date in Margate, Brockley, Catford, City of London...)