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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.

Venus Papers - eflier.png

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