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The Venus Papers at JW3, London

07/01/2017

Thanks to all who made it down to The Venus Papers at Jw3 – and to the remarkable Helen Ivory, Dzifa Benson and Julie Felix. Pictures below, it was a real privilege.

The Venus Papers at JW3

06/26/2017

venus-banner JW3

This Thursday (June 29th, 8pm) we’ll be bringing The Venus Papers to the wonderful JW3, London. This latest outing will be our sixth tour date, and we’re REALLY looking forward to it. As well as presenting Venus (in all her 6ft cerise shell, forest of lightbulbs, looping, cello-ed, fluted floating) the evening will also include stunning performances from two of my favourite writer/performers – Helen Ivory and Dzifa Benson – and the legendary singer/songwriter, Julie Felix.
JW3 itself, also looks pretty lush, with a well stocked bar and array of suitably classical soft drinks, beers and cocktails – ‘Old Fashioned’ and ‘Cosmopolitan Mediterraneo’… to sparkling water, tonic and ‘Eager Juice’… If drinks were a mix tape.
All in all, we can’t wait. The van is booked, the set is ready. Ola has her loops and David has his cello. Come if you can, it’ll be really lovely – look, here’s a link to some films and interviews – and here’s some more on the amazing Dzifa, Helen and Julie.
– See soon, Lydia.
Dzifa Benson

DZIFA BENSON

Dzifa Benson was born in London to Ghanaian parents and grew up in west Africa. She does four main things – writes, performs, curates and teaches. She has performed her prose and poetry nationally and internationally at venues such as Tate Britain, Southbank Centre, Glastonbury Festival, the Houses of Parliament, on tour with the British Council in South Africa & UK and at the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris. 

An experienced workshop facilitator, she has run writing workshops at the Royal Geographical Society, the British Library and Apples & Snakes in schools and for the creative industries. She has been a music reviewer for the Guardian, reporter and specialist researcher for the BBC.

Her writing has been widely published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Poetry Review, Time Out, the Manhattan Review and Philosophy Now. In  2008, she was commissioned to take part as a core artist in BBC Africa Beyond’s cross-arts, collaborative project, Translations and was writer-in-residence at the Courtauld Institute of Art from 2008 to 2009. 
 
In 2011, she received an Arts Council award and wrote her first opera as a librettist through The Singing Word Opera Development workshops at the Royal Opera House. She is currently developing The Spit of Me, a project inspired by the story DNA has to tell us about identity and migration. 

Helen Ivory

HELEN IVORY

Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist.  Her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is the semi-autobiographical Waiting for Bluebeard (May 2013). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is tutor and Course Director for the UEA/Writers Centre Norwich creative writing programme. Fool’s World , a collaborative Tarot with artist Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press) won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award.  A book of collage/ mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me was published by KFS last winter and The Anatomical Venus is forthcoming from Bloodaxe.

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JULIE FELIX

Julie Felix is an American born, British-based folk recording artist who arrived in the UK in the 1960’s and rose to fame the same year. She became the first solo folk performer signed to a major British record label, Decca Records. In 1965 she was the first folksinger to fill the Royal Albert and was described by The Times as “Britain’s First Lady of Folk”.

The resident singer on the BBCs Frost Report, presented by David Frost, she was given her own TV series, Once More With Felix in 1968. Directed by Stanley Dorfmann, this was the first colour series to be produced by the BBC, and was sold to nearly every country in the world. Guests on her show included: The Kinks, Leonard Cohen, Spike Milligan, Richard Harris, Dusty Springfield, Donovan and Led Zeppelin’s lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, amongst others. Julie was one of the primary artists to appear at the legendary Isle of Wight Festival where Bob Dylan made his comeback appearance after an absence of 5 years – audience members include George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.

During the height of the Vietnam War Julie sang to a record-breaking 27,000 people at New Zealand’s Western Springs, urging the Kiwis not to engage in conscription. In the late 1970s she moved to Norway where the title track of her 1976 album Hot Chocolata went to number 1 in the Singles Chart. In the late 1980s she participated in a peace march through Central America. She returned to her house in Hertfordshire, England, and began singing for Latin American refugees, for women’s and gay rights and for peace projects including protests against the war in the Gulf.

In the 90s she set up Goddess Tours, arranging trips and pilgrimages to sacred sites throughout Britain, Turkey, France and the American Southwest. A string of albums later (21 and counting) in 2008, she appeared on a BBC Four programme in which stars of The Frost Report gathered for a night celebrating 40 years since Frost Over England; Julie sang “Blowin’ in the Wind’ – having recorded a double album of Dylan’s songs in 2005, on Remarkable Records.

Julie is still singing for peace and equality – she joined Brian Eno, Tony Benn and Mark Rylance in a London concert for Stop The War.  “Don’t Attack Iran”. In June 2013, she performed at the prestigious Leicester Square Theatre to celebrate her 75th birthday.

Her star continues to shine bright. In the words of Steve Harley:

“There are those among us who just have to play and sing; to whom there can be no question of quitting; to whom their work is not a job, but a calling.  Julie Felix is one such musician…it’s a tough business, music. Only the good and the genuine last the course.”

Touring Venus

05/13/2017

Fresh from Canterbury’s wonderful Wisewords Festival and a special performance at Royal Albert Hall, here’s an up to date flyer, including a couple more summer tour dates. I’ll be at WOMAD on July 28th – which will probably involve at least a bit of Venus. Meanwhile, we’ll be adding more dates for the full 6ft scallop shell show, soon…

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Venus in Leicester

02/10/2017

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

and here for one by writer, Siobhan Logan.

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.

 

 

The Venus Papers Show and Exhibition Preview – Leicester

01/17/2017

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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.

The Venus Papers – On Tour

11/21/2016

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.

Living, hoping, raising a child, let alone a daughter, in a post-Trump (post-truth) world is a scary prospect, but as Toni Morrison said:

“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.

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Venus on Tour: 2016/17

01/04/2016

 

VP Cover 2015 Burning Eye

Lydia Towsey
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.

 

Reviews:

 

“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.

 

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For more information: Lydia Towsey: secretagentartist@hotmail.com / http://www.venuspapers.wordpress.com

Producer/Bookings: renaissance one inspiring literature – writers, events and tours http://www.renaissanceone.co.uk hq@renaissanceone.co.uk +44 (0) 2072728386