Monthly Archives: April 2014

Straight out of Coventry…

The HCE team arrived in the more-than charming surroundings of Much Wenlock for the last day of the Wenlock Poetry Festival 2014.

Arriving late morning we descended on a book stand at the Edge Arts Centre and went to meet and greet other writerly-types from across the UK, of course, we are far too anti-gauche to name-drop directly, needless to say it was a pleasure to mingle in such distinguished literary circles!

In search of refreshment, and nourishment of the spoken, chewed and spat-out word, we visited the George pub for the final open-mic of the festival on the theme of nature and place. The event displayed a vibrant mix of the earthy-toned geography of the Shropshire valley landscape and humourous recitals of people in flux and out of time from once familiar places – it was great to see poets from Birmingham, Wigan and Derby share their respective points of view from lands high, low and, like Coventry, flat.

We continued on to other pubs, Talbot, Raven et al and visited the rather brilliant Wenlock Books which has great coffee, a fine typewriter and most importantly a brilliant array of secondhand books as well as a rather charming set of brand new poetry tomes.

 

Monkey read, monkey type (Wenlock Books)
Monkey read, monkey type (Wenlock Books)

On a passing note, much of Much Wenlock, The Talbot pub in particular, suggested a distinctly older poetry crowd, perhaps the reckless youth were hung-over following an excess of rhyme from Friday night into Saturday morning, but nonetheless it was a shame to see the lack of younger poetry-lovers…that being said, we missed the Foyle young poets (13-17 year-olds) reading, so perhaps everyone was there? Regardless, this spurs us on to boost engagement both on the page and in person.

Three Go Mad…in Wenlock

At 4.30pm we came around to the Old Pottery, two poets in tow and the third punctual upon arrival. All three read a poem featured in issues of Here Comes Everyone magazine, as well as other selected works.

L-R: Neil Laurenson, Dwane Reads, Antony Owen
L-R: Neil Laurenson, Dwane Reads, Antony Owen

Neil Laurenson (Worcester) kicked-off the affair with a series of nuanced and understated poems that prick as much at political absurdity as they do at the national pomposity of museums and “public” gardens, with a liberal dose of Karl Marx thrown in.

Dwane Reads (Derby) burnt through a fierce set of his brilliantly orated poetry that is both yelled and cooed (sans audio assistance) with poetry that is forhright on social injustice and tenderly empathetic (and very bloody funny to boot).

Antony Owen (Coventry) worked through three collections of hard-won imagery evoking the Coventry blitz and modern conflicts with an eye and ear towards challenging the myopic racism and social divisions that remain prevalent throughout many parts of the UK.

All three poets were greatly received by a small but keen audience – SP would like to thank Wenlock Poetry Festival for having us, our poets for reading and the loyal listeners who shared the experience with us – we hope to return in 2015!

Adam Steiner, 1/3 of SP/HCE.

 

Write & Eat meets Food Union – The Story So Far…

SP Creative Projects Lead, Adam Steiner, looks back on 5 months of food, fury and creative fun!

The Write & Eat meets Food Union project – a collaboration between The Pod, a Coventry City Council mental health community resource, and Silhouette Press – has now been running for 5 successful months. Following a series of summer creative writing pilots in 2013, we have worked alongside The Pod and an award-winning chef to cook healthy and affordable food that also tastes good and engaging new audiences in creative writing.

Soured cucumber and mango salad (with harissa yoghurt)
Soured cucumber and mango salad (with harissa yoghurt)

How Does It Work?

The set-up is simple: the free sessions are open to everyone and people come to The Pod mid-afternoon, where we utilize the training kitchen space where cook and then eat together in the welcome space of The Pod’s Revive Cafe. Everyone involved works from a series of themed recipes, such as Veggie Blitz, Valentine’s Day and Healthy Ready-Meals (after Jack Monroe) which means that a variety of food is on offer and people are encouraged to work together and pitch-in with other tasks such as washing-up or cleaning down the kitchen area.

Shortly before eating, I run a brief poetry workshop which often yielded interesting work as I encouraged people to work around spur words from the recipes and to think about different aspects of the cooking.

Why Food Union?

The Pod project aims to work with members of the community to build their capacity and resilience in cooking healthy and tasty food on a budget.

Healthy,tasty home-cooked ready-meals!
Healthy, tasty home-cooked ready-meals!

 

 

 

 

The Pod recognised the growing pressure of welfare reform changes upon everyone who is in receipt of benefits as the system gradually changes into the potentially confusing Universal Credit scheme – in particular the impact this is having upon the people they work with who often live with severe or enduring mental ill health. A strong emphasis is placed upon the sustainability of the food, we often work from a budget of £40 of locally-sourced ingredients, the majority of which is bought fresh from Coventry indoor market, and we feed on average 20-30 people (a cost of less than £2 per head).

The project has provided different people different benefits or opportunities: some people wished to expand their cooking skills by producing cost-effective food that they can produce en-masse and store as an alternative to unhealthy and over-priced ready-meals; others simply attend to enjoy a sociable cooking environment or learn more about writing poetry from challenging themes. Food Union is currently evolving to work more closely with local volunteers, universities and the community.

You can browse more of the individual session themes on the Write & Eat project page, here is a quick overview of some of the food and poetry produced so far:

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