I’m walking and talking this Saturday the 19th of October, tomorrow. The wonderful people at Overhear Poetry commissioned me to create a walk that would be a writerly response to my home city of Birmingham, so that’s what I’ve done.
This is not a facts and figures tour. It’s a creative look at a city you think you know, an interpretation of space, environment and architecture. But it’s not all me. I’ll be asking you to respond to points on the walk with snippets of poetic text in the style of Ian McMillan’s daily tweets.
Join me tomorrow at 10:30 outside Birmingham’s Roundhouse and delve into the heart of the city. There are a few tickets still available and you can get them here.
It’s the perfect supplement to the Barry Flanagan exhibition that is currently on at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. Yes, you’ve guessed, it’s my short story, Ikon. Simply get the Overhear App, visit the Ikon Gallery, and download an audio file of me reading the story at the Ikon. Sorted.
I’m pretty shattered at the moment. I’m busy with the day job and I’ve lots of writing stuff to get done too. I’m not complaining, I like to be busy, but it would be nice to just stretch out and switch off for a bit. Anyway, what have I been up to? Well, writing, obviously, but not in the way I’m used to. Let me clarify that. I’ve been writing for two Apps, something I’ve never done before. Both are very interesting applications that I think a lot of people are going to love. The first I want to talk about is the Overhear App.
Overhear is an innovative way of sharing poetry and prose and bringing greater exposure to some of the beautiful spaces and places that Birmingham has. It works like this: you download the App, select your city, and then go hunting for literature. For example, my story, Ikon, unsurprisingly, is linked to the Ikon Gallery. You have to physically be in the Ikon Gallery to then unlock my story. When the story is unlocked, you will then be able to play an audio file of me reading the story. There are a whole host of files to collect as part of this year’s Birmingham Literature Festival, and you can also collect poems that were released at this year’s Verve Poetry Festival. The App is free, as is the downloading of the files. The only thing you have to do is be in the correct location to download the file. The really terrible thing is that lots of the venues serve fantastic coffee, cake, beer, food etc. It’d be just awful if you happened to eat or drink in one of them.
The actual writing work for this was fairly straight forward. I had a couple of constraints, most commissions only had one. All of the commissions had to link their story to the site where it was to be unlocked. They didn’t necessarily have to take place there, but the site must have some link to the story. The extra constraint I had was to link my story to the current Barry Flanagan exhibition that is on at the Ikon. This may sound like a bit of a bind, but I found it liberating and challenging all in one – and I like a good challenge.
I’m pleased with the story I’ve produced. It speaks about the nature of art, loneliness, and friendship between males – something we’re not very good at expressing. Do check this out next time you’re in Birmingham, and please let me know what you think.
The Overhear App is available from the App Store and Google Play.
The other App I’ve been writing for has been a very different kind of challenge altogether. Questo is a location-based App. It’s like a cross between a puzzle and a story. You have a physical starting point in Birmingham, and you have to solve clues before you can move onto the next stage of your’ quest.’ It’s a great, fun way to explore a city, to enjoy a story, and to learn a bit about the place you’re in. The challenge for me was to not only have an idea for a story, but to also plan a route through the city, and create clues that need to be solved.
I had to do a fair bit of research for this commission. There needed to be the right proportion of historical facts interwoven throughout the quest, and it had to link in with the given theme. I won’t say what the theme is, but the fact that it launches on October the 31st should give you a clue.
To be honest, the second App, Questo, has been the more significant challenge. I’ve learnt a lot about collaboration and communicating with others, but there have been moments where I’ve felt like chucking it all in. Thankfully, the Questo team have been very supportive and have guided me through the whole process.
Questo is also available from the App Store and Google Play. There is a fee for unlocking each quest. If you do try this quest, I’d love to hear how you got on.
That’s it for now. I’m going to lie down in a dark room for a bit.
My story, Electricity, will be published shortly as part of this wonderful anthology from Mantle Lane Press.
It’s a excellent title for the collection as all the stories are about or misfits. However, thanks to Matt Berry’s Year of the Rabbit on Channel 4 I can now only ever see the Elephant Man as a camp thespian on the make.
You have two chances to hear me read from my latest book, Submerged, next week.
First up is City Voices in Wolverhampton. It all starts at 7:30 at The Lighthouse a few minutes walk from the train and bus stations. City Voices is one of the Midlands’ finest spoken word evenings and never fails to delight with its range and quality of work on offer. I will be selling books.
Secondly, will be the official Birmingham launch of Submerged, and it’s going to be a corker, but don’t just take my word for it check out the line-up here.
She’d put it down to getting older, or perhaps it was the slow process of adjusting to being on her own? Whatever it was, it was deeply unsettling.
The garden gate swung shut with a familiar click as Julie stepped out into the lane.There had been a time when she might have driven into the village. She’d done a lot of driving in the last few years. In some ways it had been a lot like being a young mother again, with a helpless, dependent human to bundle into the car, his eyes somehow pleading, even as his face was blank. Since Ronnie’s death there had been relief, even a guilty feeling of transgression, in leaving the car on the drive, and walking.
He’d been the oldest Young Conservative in the local association when she’d first joined. Joining the YCs had been her mother’s suggestion. ‘You’ll meet…
The keen eyed of you have noticed that Submerged is now out. That means you can go down to your local bookshop, check out the Mantle Lane online store, or search your favourite online retailer and get yourselves a copy.
Those of you who are more outgoing can meet me and some bloody excellent writers for an evening of stories and booze when we launch Submerged on May 15th at The Birmingham Whisky Club.
We’d all love to see you there.
The flyer says it all, but I can’t stress enough how great the other writers are and how wonderful an evening it promises to be. If you like fiction you’re in for a real treat.
The Birmingham Whiskey Club, 76 Vyse St, Birmingham B18 6HA.
There are easy train and tram links to the Jewellery Quarter station from which we are a few minutes walking distance away.
You can also walk from the city centre, which will take you approximately 20-30 minutes.
The following buses stop in the Jewellery Quarter: 16, 60, 87, 8c, 276 & 9.
There is on street pay & display parking available
which is free from 6pm. Or the Jewellery Quarter parking garage is a
short distance from us if that is your preference.
Sweet because my second book, Submerged, is being launchged tomorrow, and bitter because I can’t be there.
Submerged is being launched by Mantle Lane Press at States of Independence in Leicester tomorrow. For full details about the event and all the other create book related events happening tomorrow check out the website here.
I will be in London, marching to stop the madness that is Brexit.