Ellen

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27 April 2010 Entry: "May Day, May Day!"

April seems to have been one long set of rehearsals and performances.
We gathered for a meal on the 5th Anniversary of Julia’s death, and sat around remembering happy occasions and looking at photographs. We raised a toast to her and talked about planning a literary event in her memory at some point. Then today, trying to sort the huge amounts of boxes of tapes and cds that I brought with me from the old house, I found a cd called Waiting Room - what’s that I thought? I played it and there was Charlie Hardwick singing Rendezvous Cafe - it was the BBC recording of Julia’s blog, edited and adapted for radio, with Charlie reading Julia’s words. Lovely.
We spent a week at Northumbria university getting Cain and Abel up on its dancing feet - wonderful and exhausting (for me) the young dancers would do gruelling hours of rehearsal, then to relax, they put on music and did more dance routines! We even had them speaking lines, reluctantly at first, but once they felt comfortable with the idea, and realised no-one was laughing at them, they just got better and better. Though I say it myself, I think the ending of the play is really quite moving. I am now trying to tidy up (hence the sorting of boxes) as I’ve got family and friends all wanting to come up, to see the Mysteries and stay. It will be a lovely get together.
I was asked to be part of the panel on the Friday 23rd April for the Looking North Conference at Northern Stage. Erica Whyman chaired it with aplomb, but I was charged with putting forward the ‘strong female perspective’. No pressure then. I soon realised that it would be easy to let the other confident, interesting men take all the air time unless I spoke up. I managed to make a joke: Erica was taking a straw poll of the audience - who had adapted their accent to fit in at any time of their lives, and where did their accent come from? I recounted the time I went to hire a car and the receptionist said ‘Oh, you’re from the Radio.’ I read some of Wall, and then after an open forum discussion the speakers went out to dinner. I got to sit next to Martin Wainwright and opposite Fernando Pereira and his wife: we had very interesting discussions about Northernness. In Portugal, the north is the cultured, economic hub and the south is simply the European’s holiday destination. I also had a fascinating discussion about mixing family life and art. The Pereira’s had decided not to have children, as it would conflict with time given to art - and even then, they still found it difficult to agree who was going to take time out to cook! You can cut every extraneous activity out of your life and still not have enough time for your art.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get to see his film Permafrost or hear their discussions as I was at another Cain and Abel rehearsal. I was also launching an exhibition at the Grainger Market called Herstory, that had arisen out of workshops, run by writers and artists (of which I was one) and inspired by International Women’s Day. We sat beside etched glass cubes, and decorated screens, covered by our group’s life stories, drinking cups of tea with a huge range of women: young mums, schoolgirls, elderly ladies and families from Afghanistan. They all got on well, it was a very positive occasion. Then on Sunday 25th I was reading at the inaugural event of Free as a Bard - a new poetry night at the coast, run by Iron Press at The Trojan Rooms. I was on with Valerie Laws, Eileen Jones, Paul Summers and a singer Karen Banning. It was really well attended on a lovely balmy evening. I wish it all the best - it’s good to have new venues giving readings.
By Monday 26th April I was tired, but that was the beginning of the new term! May is a funny month with it’s two bank holidays. I used to go on the May Day march every year, religiously. I find it rather a depressing event now, and anyway, I have an excuse for absence this year - the Hexham Book Festival, where I will be sitting on a stage with three men (again) talking about the North East Literary History book, entitled ‘Fix This Moment.’ I contributed a chapter on Women’s writing in the region; I was asked for a title, and couldn’t think. Then Colette Bryce suggested using Linda France’s new collection title - You Are Her - taken from a public map, with missing letters. Great idea and Linda was very gracious about it.
On the tenth of May I’m zipping to London to read at The Troubadour - a first for me, along with a night of Flambard poets. So if any friends of mine are out there - do come along. And the end of May sees the realisation of all our hard work: the Durham Mysteries. I think the whole event will be quite spectacular, but I may have to lie down in a darkened room for a day or so afterwards.

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