Thanks to all who made it down for our fourth Venus Papers Stage Show tour date – which was on the fourth (!) of February at Attenborough Arts Centre. Thanks to the fantastic extended gallery space at the venue, we took the opportunity to also present Scott Bridgwood’s, linked Venus Papers Exhibition.
The stage show was attended by a capacity audience. Apologies if you were there and unable to get in – info to follow on the rest of our 2017 tour schedule, crossing our fingers you might be near enough to make another date.
Meanwhile, see here for a lovely review by Sally Jack of Sabotage Reviews
You can get a flavour of how it all looked by taking a look at our just updated online gallery. Here’s a quick pick of the pics – with thanks to lovely photographer, David Wilson Clarke.
A year on from the launch of ‘The Venus Papers’ (Burning Eye Books) and its accompanying exhibition, you are cordially invited to Attenborough Arts Centre for this, the Leicester date of The Venus Papers Stage Show and Exhibition UK Tour.
THE VENUS PAPERS STAGE SHOW AND EXHIBITION PREVIEW
Saturday 4 February, 7pm – 9.30pm (show: 1 hour)
£6 / £4 / £12 for party of 4. For 16+ years
Venue: 0116 252 2455 Or Book online…
A theatrical poetry show of arrivals, departures, landscapes and journeys. What if Venus, the Roman Goddess of love and beauty, washed up on a beach at this moment in time?
Experience tales of 21st century women – every-woman, immigrant, outsider – at a time of social, cultural and political turmoil and change. Written and performed by Lydia Towsey, with live music by David Dhonau and Ola Szmidt.
The evening will include the opportunity to explore a new linked exhibition of Scott Bridgwood’s figurative paintings in Gallery 3 over drinks, Blue Nun and nibbles.
Reacting to Venus Papers poems rather then working as illustrations of them, the exhibition presents a body of work both original and challenging. Exploring the concept of beauty; identity, agency, truth and post-truth, the exhibition looks at the body; dynamic, constructed, electric.
Written and performed by Lydia Towsey.
Direction by Rachel Mars and Nick Field.
Music by Dave Dhonau and Ola Szmidt.
Paintings: Scott Bridgwood.
Design: Kate Unwin.
Curation: Melanie Abrahams.
Choreography: Louise Katerega.
Photography: Ambrose Musiyiwa/CivicLeicester.
Production: renaissance one.
Funded by Arts Council England.
This time last year, The Venus Papers had just come out with Burning Eye Books and my daughter, Ruby Rose was three months old and just off the Three the Hard Way tour bus with Shruti Chauhan and Jean Binta Breeze. A year on, RR is a toddling 15 months and The Venus Papers’ England Tour is fully underway (thanks to the gods and goddesses of Arts Council England). There’s also been Bowie, Brexit, Prince, Trump and Leonard. All things considered, interesting times.
Leaving major world events aside for a moment, I’m learning a lot. The importance of daytime napping (only to keep RR company, of course) the impossibility of nighttime sleeping – the joy of nocturnal reading, at the moment, Women who Dance with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (thanks to VP Tour performers, Ola Szmidt and Ioney Smallhorne for the recommendation) and Mark Waldron’s, ‘Meanwhile, Trees (thanks to Penelope Shuttle for the tip off – I particularly like the one about Wayne Rooney – thinking about the oddness of unexpected juxtapositions…)
I’m probably not the first new mother to boldly say I could write a book on some of the challenges and wonderments so far accompanying the experience. I increasingly think poems on the subject (on any subject) are as personally important as photographs in albums, when it comes to recording and preserving what’s happened. For such poems to be of any interest to others of course requires more universal and shared aspects to be reflected, but this too has made new writing and exploring doubly rewarding. Whether considering the matter of identity and the way one set of roles shift or solidify in relation to the new one of mother. . . to reflecting on a whole new set of considerations – from the good, bad and ugly of children’s TV, toys and clothing – to maintaining (and sometimes fighting to maintain) as a women, and now mother, a presence in public life. Such issues and experiences have been beginning to press themselves into words and some of these into The Venus Papers tour. Some of the new pieces will be incorporated into a second edition of The Venus Papers – whereas some of them, though integral to the story of the stage show will lie in wait for the next book or pamphlet.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Throughout The Venus Papers process I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with some of the most talented and inspiring artists I’ve known… Jean Binta Breeze (longtime mentor and early editor of the VP sequence) – who sings of ordinary women, everyday injustice and the power of love to cut through – in poems (and books*) like ‘Third World Girl*’, ‘Ordinary Mawning’, ‘Anthem for Black Britain’, ‘Love amidst the War’ and so many more…VP Co-Directors, Nick Field and Rachel Mars – whose own, rave-reviewed, current shows reflect upon such prescient themes as work and how it shapes us in contemporary Britain (Nick Field, Work Play) and the nature of competition and envy (Rachel Mars, Our Carnal Hearts).
My lucky list of award winning and talented collaborators (vicarious brag) goes on – early contributors, the talented musician, promoter, arts advocate, and researcher, Corey Mwamba and filmmaker, Keith Allott – final musicians/composers, David Dhonau and Ola Szmidt, creators of a live soundscape to stop a heart…set designer, Kate Unwin – what this women does with paper, colour, light – and activism…; Louise Katerega, visionary choreographer and dancer/campaigner for disability rights; Scott Bridgwood, figurative painter (father of my child, cupcake of my heart, strange art-imitating-life muse, bright lit parallel to an imagined Botticelli) and Melanie Abrahams, curator and lead producer at Renaissance One, literary production company dedicated to a presenting as diverse a social and cultural picture of the world as possible. Each, in their own work and this one, is yet another challenge, candle, call-to-arms and crack in a wall.
Taking Botticelli’s Venus as a starting point – the first recorded example of a female nude painted and exhibited life size – and also, someone arriving on a beach, naked and vulnerable – The Venus Papers engages with society, politics and culture, including the European migration crisis, Brexit and range of other contemporary issues, from the way the tabloids set agendas to breastfeeding in restaurants. At a time of such great challenge, it’s easy to feel powerless – but making work about it, travelling round, talking to others and sharing perspectives – whether similar or different – feels like a start.
The tour hits York this Saturday for our last show of the year. Here’s a flyer, with the full list of dates to follow in a month or so. As we’ll be in York and I’m from Leicester, I’ll be remembering not to mention Richard III – and reflecting on the differences between this, the original York and the New one (post Trump…shambles and Shambles…) As for Yorkies – I may eat some of the chocolate (even though like Trump, they say they’re not for ‘girls’)…small dogs rest assured, I’m a vegetarian.
The Venus Papers
Available for readings & workshops 2016/17
What if Venus, the Roman Goddess of love and beauty, were to wash up in the 21st century?
‘The Venus Papers’ (Burning Eye Books, Sept 2015) relocates Botticelli’s Roman Goddess to a UK beach, now; how would she respond to what she’d find – and what would she do next?
In the collection’s connecting poems, Venus’s progression from innocence to experience is mirrored across numerous journeys and landscapes; from a dancing mother to a psychopathic Barbie, murderous mozzarella and road trip across the Spanish Badlands.
By viewing Venus as everywoman, outsider, traveller and immigrant ‘The Venus Papers’ explores how women in particular are viewed and affected by cultural, political pressures in contemporary Britain and beyond.
Performances are available in various formats, from writer solo to fully staged, with music, visuals, 6ft shells, etc. See here for pictures from the book launch and drop us a line for full details and/or to discuss requirements.
“Lydia tackles deeply important political subjects, but in ways which are original, poetic, fascinating – defamiliarising what the media inures us to.” Jonathan Taylor, novelist
“One of the new intriguing voices of her time.” Jean Binta Breeze MBE
“She manages to locate the story in a contemporary setting and it speaks to a modern audience. I applaud the achievement.” Mahandra Solanki, poet.
“An accomplished collection that exposes slices of our world and others from tender and surprising angles. Really is good to delve into and come back trailing seaweed and with widened eyes” Shamshad Khan, poet
“Eloquent, witty, rhythmically tight…these poems are wry yet also compassionate, curious… there’s an impressive control here.” David Belbin, novelist.
“This is a clever re-imagining for our times as Venus experiences almost the full gamut of contemporary Britain as a new arrival: an interview with a Customs Officer, her treatment in the tabloids, shopping at Primark, diets, education. And she needs a job … I felt warm sun, lapping waves. Magic.” Sally Jack, Sabotage Reviews.
“In picking poems to read at her launch, Lydia was spoilt for choice.” – Emma Lee, Poet.
On the Road (so far)
“I read Lydia’s Venus papers from cover to cover – brilliant. Thank you.
She says so many things I’d like to say only better.” – Penny, Shrewsbury
“The Venus Papers was one of my favourite Birthday gifts!” – Hollie Waters, Cheshire.
“Just arrived home from the Lydia Towsey book launch ‘The Venus Papers’ and paintings by Scott Bridgwood. What a great event ! Lydia recited some passages from her book with such ease and attention to detail with her voice and mannerisms, accompanied by haunting live music. She was both poignant and witty . Scott’s paintings are simply wonderful.” – Louise Ellerington, Leicester.
Because for days I have written nothing on this particular bit of screen, I think I shall have to write a couple of things in quick succession. I have a cup of tea, poised to my left, there should always be tea.
The main thing to say is that the whole launch thing went very well. 100 people came, looked, listened, mingled and cleared us out of the all the tortilla chips and books we could fit on tables. Scott also sold 5 paintings (to date/at time of writing) Hungary, A Woman, Love Poem to Botticelli, Incanto and Prayer. The exhibition stays up until Oct 18th and I am tomorrow dropping a shoe box of ten more books to Attenborough Arts Centre as people have apparently been wanting to buy them, hurrah! I am particularly proud of the shoe box. It presents innocently enough but once contained a pair of black brogues, compressed moonlight about the faces, cloth roses, tiny as texture, dark as night. On the lid of the box I have cello- taped a blood red Venus flyer. The shoe box itself is snow white, putting me in mind of the fairytale femme fatale herself, rustling to a string quartet accompaniment. It is a good shoe box. I am sure the front of house staff of the Attenborough Centre will immediately recognise its quality.
The other thing to say is that Scott, also at the centre will be hanging one final image, a limited edition litho-print, 1950’s film poster style Venus thing:
He will leave a small supply of these next to my shoe box. Even rolled, they would never fit into a shoe box, not even one of those long ones, the ones that look a bit like shoe boxes, but aren’t at all.
I should say a few more things about the launch, which I will, but meanwhile here are three reviews of it/the book, by the brilliant:
Very good of them to say. All power and nice things to their elbows.
See here for a sneak 4 page (Polar Bear, October, Night Train…Leaves…) preview from The Venus Papers book: and here for full launch details plus where to book your free ticket.
As Tuesday approaches, we’re all very much looking forward to it all.
Here’s a picture of Dave the composer, mid-rehearsal multi-tasking:
Where do the weeks go? It’s been two since my last post so here’s an update on everything. Not everything, of course, though I did have a very nice takeaway last night.
Lovely BBC Radio Leicester interviewed me about the book and launch. I spoke to a nice man called Ady Dayman while little Ruby Rose went for a wheel around town with Scott. Afterwards we went to the Registry office to make her many names official – I forgot to mention this on air – though I did give a run down on her outfit and sleeping habits. See here and listen from 36.1 for the whole happy-making thing.
The Leicester Mercury did a feature on the front page of their women’s section – see here.
Media aside we’ve had confirmation on several other very exciting things. Thing one, our launch event will be in partnership with the Centre for New Writing (University of Leicester) with Dr Jonathan Taylor giving an introduction to the book. We’ll also be in partnership with Renaissance One, with Melanie Abrahams coming up from London to compere.
Finally, it seems our 4ft clam shell will (afterall) go to the ball (Attenborough Arts Centre). It looked like being far too large and cumbersome to get down there, but then we remembered the 25 massive canvases we’ll be taking and the large removal van they’ll be going in and suddenly – less of a problem. Who doesn’t love a 4ft clam shell at a party (rhetorical question, do not send answers on postcards).
See below for info on Jonathan Taylor and Renaissance One. Clam shell selfies (sel-fies not shell-fish) to follow.
Jonathan Taylor is an author, critic and lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015) and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring Press, 2013). His website is http://www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.
Renaissance One is an organisation that produces and curates poetry and fiction events, spoken word, festivals and tours. Independently funded and convivial in ethos, it champions writing and speaking through wide-ranging activities. This year it has created projects with over twenty writers including Caryl Phillips, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves, Michael Brome, Aly Stoneman and Patience Agbabi. Its founder, Melanie Abrahams, is an experienced curator, public speaker and producer. http://www.renaissanceone.co.uk