I've been interviewed for Macedonian magazine Sh about poetry, photography and fantasy dinner parties. You can read an English version of the interview on Afrodita Nikolova's blog: http://afroditanikolova.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/interview-with-english-poet-patrick.html.
The highlight of my week has to be meeting the mayor of Brighton. She was dressed in her mayoral robe, hat and chain of office plus flip-flops and orange nail varnish.
She was presenting a plaque to a members of a local community group who had succeeded in getting one of the area's parks protected. This is a major scoop in my rather quiet patch and I felt like a proper reporter taking photos and running round with my notepad collecting names and quotes. I got excited when one person used the word "will" because I can write that in shorthand.
It's been two weeks since I embarked on the audacious task of becoming a journalist in 14 weeks at Brighton Journalist Works. The NCTJ consists of a gruelling set of exams and assessments each of which you'd expect to need at least a year to prepare for.
It's amazing though how much we've already learnt. In shorthand we've gone from learning the alphabet to learning how to write whole groups of words in single elaborate squiggles. It shows it is possible to write more that one word a second - essential if we're to achieve the target of 100 words-per-minute. The problem is remembering everything as the words come flying at you. At the moment it's hard to keep up with 40 WPM dictations of sentences we've already prepared.
This week we also learnt how to use freedom of information requests to obtain data that can be turned into exciting and potentially big money stories. This was part of the media law course which is much more lively and interesting than I expected.
Having been introduced to a potential treasure trove of data and statistics we received some words of caution on how journalists misuse them from guest speaker David Schey. He gave an entertaining talk with examples of how companies manipulate data to gain favourable press coverage and how the media misreports statistics. Examples included a proposal from Holiday Inn's marketing department to hire a mathematician to 'discover' a formula 'proving' that long weekends are the best kind of vacation, a story stating that 49% of British households have below average broadband speed and a pie chart on Fox News showing figures adding up to more than 100%.
We also spent a lot of time learning the nuts and bolts of the job. In reporting we practised taking the essential facts from interviews and press releases on a breaking story and putting them into a tight news report to a very strict word count. In production journalism we sharpened up our knowledge of good language and grammar. Having learnt what dangling modifiers are, they won't be appearing in my writing!
Next week we have our first visit to court to report on a case and I expect to have a couple of pieces in the Argus where the course is based. We also have a talk from journalist and blogger The Fleet Street Fox who appeared on last week's Question Time.
Finally I've found time to record another edition of Headstand:
The day I arrived in Brighton the front page headline of The Argus was "Couple Held Hostage By Pitbull." What was the ransom? 100 kilos of Winalot and a pair of old slippers? With drug raids, industrial strikes, gay pride marches and badly behaved seagulls there's always something colourful in the local rag which I'll soon be writing for. You can see more classic Argus headlines here.
I was in Brighton for a couple of days to explore the city that will soon be my home. In September I'll be starting an intensive journalism course at Brighton Journalist Works. The course is based at the Argus and offers plenty of hands on practical experience along with completing the qualifications needed to enter the profession.
For most students on the course the latest chapter in their life story is graduation or even passing A-levels. Mine rambles on for another decade and a bit through various jobs and studies in different parts of the world. I'm looking forward to focusing on the writing which I've been doing and enjoying alongside everything else but I'll have a lot to learn.
I'll be working to tight deadlines, trying to find the latest scoop from friends, shopkeepers, small ads and anyone else who crosses my path. I'll have to get my head round media law and most challenging of all learn shorthand.
This is still an essential skill for journalists and it's not easy to master. The basic characters are fairly straightforward. Each letter of the alphabet is reduced to a simpler form. It quickly becomes more complicated when you start writing words. You remove all unnecessary letters like vowels and double consonants and weld the remaining ones into a single character. The result looks more like Arabic and at the moment any benefit from the streamlining process is lost in the time it takes to read characters and work out how to write them. The goal is to reach 100 words per-minute by the end of the 14 week course. It's going to be hard work for me and the tutor.
The course is going to be a life-changing experience with some great job opportunities at the end. I look forward to doing more of the things I've enjoyed about journalism so far. I like meeting people and hearing about their lives and passions whether they're an international celebrity or someone who lives down the road. I've had the opportunity to do things and go to places that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Also I get to live in Brighton which everyone says is great. During my short trip I discovered a number of things to love about it.
I'll have more to say about all this in the coming months. Wish me luck!
The first Romsey Art Festival opened last Saturday and I had the honour of being involved in two events. First I delivered a creative writing workshop in the afternoon. We explored kennings and haiku and after participants were fired up with inspiration they went off to wander the area and work on their own writing.
The three hour workshop generated some great writing. Sa'adiah Khan came up with the following kennings for string:
Strangle-tracks, Mending lines, knotted roads, weaving fingers, hanging streams.
Alex Weinle went for a walk and came back with this:
I am resolved to walk in a loop – but you can’t scribble and walk – I must remember. I must remember. How Suzie got on her bike and laughed and waved. How the bins must go out for those along Gwydir street, but which is it she asks him? The Green or the grey and they battle and rattle the bins together, rumble up and down. I must remember that sound. I am resolved to walk in a loop and I try to avoid the mother on a bike with a flock of daughter bikelets – all en-helmeted and clucking like ducklings – I must remember them. Turn corner one, some fucking twee houses, I won’t remember them. I shall try to forget the well-kept fences and boxed rows of garden centre pansies. Even as I speak, I fail to forget the disappointment of one side of the quadrilateral of my adventure. When you are writing you are not watching, when you are watching you are not writing. I must remember – but not this. I fall in step with some fashionable chap. In one hand he has a jacket rakishly slung over his shoulder and in the other a brown paper carrier bag – either containing a takeaway or something recently bought from a clothes shop. I cannot tell and will not know for the time when I have to remember. Details – deets – are important, even in ambiguity, results with error bars I shall recall and return. Why doesn’t he fall over? Those tight shoes could easily make him trip and then I could remember it. But he does not. This street - so much like the first street but more main street than the second – still twee though. Begonias! I say to you. You force me to imbibe them and I recall because I must remember. What kind of writer finds fuck all in the middle of a festival? I am resolved to walk in a loop but now I speed up because I feel the bits and pieces decaying in my head like cake out in the rain, or like other seventies lyrics I have ever remembered, dissolving a vowel at a time. Fear - I tell you – drives me into the public house where Paolo, how Romsey, serves me a pint of lemongrass beer, which you will chastise me, will not help me remember that: I am resolved to walk in a loop – but you can’t scribble and walk – so now I’m sat down and I must recall; how Suzie got on her bike and laughed and waved.
Sa'adiah also captured the flavour of the festival down the road at Hope Street Yard :
In the evening I was hosting Romsey Poets at CB1 featuring Ian Patterson and Rychard Carrington. Organiser Alex Blustin had done a great job of promoting the event, plastering posters all over the city and the cafe was full to capacity.
I was kept quite busy. Not only was I presenting the poets and an incredible line-up of open mic acts but I was also called on the play percussion during one of Patrick Sheil's poems and play various roles in Rychard Carrington's set including his inner thoughts and TS Eliot. I even managed to add a few of my own poems.
You can listen to my reading for CB1 Poetry, a night that also featured Patrick Sheil. My next major gig is at The Hammer & Tongue final in London on June 8th. I'll be performing in the team slam in the afternoon with Fay Roberts, Leanne Moden and Hollie McNish.
I had a warmup last week as sacrificial poet at the Cambridge Hammer & Tongue doing 5 poems in 3 minutes to an appreciative audience which included Hammer & Tongue founder Steve Larkin and headliner Tim Clare who laughed louder than anyone else.
A video of myself performing with Patrick Sheil thanks to Wesley Freeman-Smith.
Last year I interviewed Nick Stibbs about the group Life is a Gift. Based on schemes such as Freecycle the Facebook group has grown rapidly offering a forum for people to exchange gifts and share ideas about cashless economies and initiatives. Next weekend the group plan to have a gift giving day when you can meet and exchange gifts and ideas. Find out more on the group's page.
The KIng of Dub Lee Scratch Perry was at The Junction this month delivering an energetic set for nearly two hours. I was down the front to get some photos. You can read my review here. The next night I was at the Fitzwilliam Museum for a reading by poet Owen Sheers as part of his residency for the Thresholds project - an ambitious project curated by Carol Anne Duffy. You can read more about it here.
I'm off to meet Patrick Sheil to practise for CB1 Poetry tomorrow. It should be a fun gig with Patrick x Patrick.
February is proving a great month for gigs. Last Wednesday I had the honour of being sacrificial poet at the Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam and what a slam it was! 8 slammers performed rap, witty rhymes, madcap surrealism and more but the winner was Cambridge newcomer Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan whose hard-hitting poem on female genital mutilation in Africa had the capacity crowd stunned into silence. Headline sets from Hollie McNish and Stephen Morrison-Burke added to one of the best Hammer & Tongue nights in Cambridge so far.
For me it was just a gentle warmup for a couple of full on gigs later this month. On Sunday 17th the Rhythm Method Tour comes to The Fountain featuring the terrific Mark Niel and The Anti Poet along with support slots from Leanne Moden and myself. It's all hosted by Fay Roberts. Details and tickets are available here.
On February 28th I will be reading at the Boathouse, the new venue for CB1 poetry. It'll be my fifth headline reading at CB1 - the last was in 2007 when the it was still held at CB1 Cafe. Over the years I have seen some of the most established, widely respected poets read at CB1. It is a terrific honour to be invited back.
I'm delighted to be joined for the event by Patrick Sheil who describes himself on the CB1 site as 'the singer and occasional bassist of Cambridge indie group Moth Conspiracy. His publications include studies of Kierkegaard, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty. He is now employed by Cambridgeshire County Council as a web developer in Adult Social Care. This Patrick has often shared a platform with tonight's main Patrick, and together they have stood firm on a range of Patrick-related issues.'
Two Patricks for the price of one can't be a bad deal. get full details from the CB1 website.
Finally here's a song from Patrick's band Moth Conspiracy:
I have an album of poetry and experimental music available on Band Camp. It's kind of my Christmas present to everyone this year. It's pay what you want so you can give me a Christmas present back if you like.