Thursday, 28 March 2013

Charlie and the Tengo Factory

Graeme and I had a day and one night in the busy town of London. We started at London Marlybone with two places in mind: the Roald Dahl Museum and The Barbican. The Barbican event was the main reason we were visiting London as we had tickets to see Yo La Tengo. "Yo La what now?" Is the reply I received from people who knew nothing of the band. Yo La Tengo apparantly means, "I have it now" in Spanish. Often referred to as an indie, rock band from New Jersey, but I wouldn't hesitate to say they are Yo* much more than that. The musical trio grasped the Barbican with melodies that poised pleasantly with the animated backdrop of cut out trees. The set reminded of  the cardboard tree pieces from a High Ho Cherry Oh board game.

The Roald Dahl Museum was equally exciting, nestled in the sleepy town of Great Missiden. Although the weather was being grey and grumbly, the musuem was a delight. Graeme and I measured ourselves against the character height chart, I measured up to Miss Honey from Matilda which very much pleased me and Graeme was Mrs Twit which was a little unfortunate for him.  I also sat in a replica of Roald's famous chair and pretended to write a whizzpopping story. Afterwards we visited the gift shop and bought a few souveniers of keyrings and stationery. We then took a walk to Dahl's grave which was decorated with flowers and his favoured yellow pencils.

* I couldn't resist

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

January Blues. Short story for The Shrieking Violet fanzine

I have been submitting stories, recipes and articles and once a pattern for making your own pumpkin felt toy to my friend Natalie's fanzine; The Shrieking Violet for over 4 years. The Shrieking Violet is a Manchester based fanzine, which includes recipes, travel writings, transport articles and features on personal fascinations. It has recently been recommended by arts and culture blog, Creative Tourist.
 My first submission was a poem about a stuffed raggy teddy bear I had made named Mismatched Teddy bear, which is featured in the first issue of The Shrieking Violet in 2009. The most recent Shrieking Violet features one of my short stories named January Blues. It tells the tale of a young girl and her father making gingerbread after Christmas whilst recovering from a great loss. If you live in Manchester you may be lucky enough to pick up a Shrieking Violet fanzine from various creative outlets including The Cornerhouse in Manchester and Oxfam Vintage for free, (although they are in short supply so keep you eyes peeled.)

To see the online version, or to submit a feature yourself:  Have a look here:

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Flicking through the pages of the new Cook supplement in the Guardian on Saturday I was shocked to see the Hot Pink Spelt flour beetroot bread recipe I had submitted last week. I am so delighted to have been selected and published for the Reader's recipe swap and hope lots of budding cooks have the chance to follow my recipe.

Here is the link to the site:

This is light and fluffy with a sharp, tangy taste from the beetroot. It's perfect toasted and spread with homemade chutney. Rebecca Willmott, Lancaster
Makes one loaf
400g strong white bread flour, plus extra to dust
100g spelt flour
1 tbsp fresh yeast
25g butter
2 medium-size peeled and cooked beetroots, finely chopped
A pinch of salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon or crushed thyme (optional)
350ml water
Oil, for greasing
1 Put both flours in a large bowl along with the yeast and mix. Crumble the butter into the mixture until it resembles fine crumbs.
2 Add the chopped beetroot, salt and sugar and mix thoroughly. You can also add cinnamon or thyme to make it sweet or savoury. Add enough water to make the mixture sticky, then mix until firm.
3 Lightly flour a clean surface and knead the dough for five minutes until it's firm.
4 Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for 1½ hours until it has doubled in size.
5 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Knead the dough lightly, place in an oiled loaf tin and leave for 20 minutes, then bake for 50 minutes.
6 Leave to cool for a few hours to let the yeast settle down. Slice and enjoy!

Hot pink beetroot and spelt flour bread Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Critical Voices Project. December 2012.

Just before Christmas I took part in a workshop with The Puppet Centre at Battersea Art Centre in London. The Puppet Centre champions and preserves puppetry theatre through means of workshops, festivals, bursaries and by publishing an online magazine: Animations Online. This is regularly updated with reviews from puppetry enthusiasts around the world.
The Critical Voices Project workshop focused on how to write successful reviews for the stage, in particular the art of puppetry. We were are asked beforehand to bring in a review that we loved or hated. I brought in a review from a Country exerpt from The Guardian. Although not stage related the beautiful descriptions and utility of the brambles and the animals dwelling in them gave an alternative look at how something natural can be reviewed.
The workshop also included some guest speakers including the editor of Cabaret magazine, and previous editor of Puppet Notebook, Eleanor Margolies. The workshop included different tips on how to review, such as writing in between intervals rather than during a show. We were thrust into our first assignment that night which was to write a review on the play Midnight's Pumpkin by theatre company, Kneehigh showing at the BAC for Christmas. I found the show very enjoyable to watch even with a critical eye. I think the most useful advice I received was to write naturally, to be critical but not too critical and most importantly to be concise.  It is also crucial to think how would the performers or directors may feel reading your review. This is something I considered when re-writing my review on the character of Midnight, who on my first draft I knocked down for being too quiet and dull. After helpful advice from my mentor Eleanor I was able to offer a more constructive and now positive look at how potent Midnight's role was. This was an excellent workshop and I gained a lot from it. I look forward to writing more reviews for The Puppet Centre soon.

Midnight’s Pumpkin

Kneehigh at BAC 8 December – 13 January 

The opening phrase of Midnight’s Pumpkin “Out with the old and in with the new!” exchanges the traditional tale of Cinderella for a new show biz style of storytelling. With a dash of pantomime and exuberant narrative including a talking pumpkin, dancing mice in dressing gowns and live musicians providing a pop soundtrack, Midnight’s Pumpkin shows typical traits of a Kneehigh production.

The character of Cinderella, named Midnight, is played by Audrey Brisson .A timid girl dressed in thick hipster glasses and a stripy jumper . She is given little script but her bland costume and mouse like gestures powerfully contrast to the slapstick stepsisters who strut in with artificial accents and artificial wigs. Midnight’s aerial skills and astounding singing voice also give her character strength and dynamism which makes her stand out amongst the louder characters.

The talking pumpkin narrates the story, interacting with the audience, actively commenting on the stage directions and placing his pumpkin costume on hapless audience members. The interaction continues during the two intervals when the wooden crates on stage are opened and audience members become part of the show by dancing, dressing up and singing with the actors. This gave the show an almost amateur and slapdash feel but directors Mike Shepherd and Emma Rice’s focus on participation is particularly strong in bringing the show to life and smiles were spread across the Battersea hall.

Midnight’s Pumpkin is a festive and experimental show. The contrast between Midnight and the exuberant  stepsisters and girlish Prince Charming give Midnight a subtle and human focus. Her movement and outstanding singing voice are able to shine above her lack of dialogue. It does feel at times the show was trying to fit too much in; with two intervals and little opportunity for character development, but the show provides a fast and fun retelling of a classic fairytale by a becoming classic theatre company.