We did it!!
3 solid weeks living with Les Compagnons in Emmaus Dunkerque and Camille Faucherre and myself created a 40 min sound poetry theatre piece called ‘Une en Trois’.
The project wrapped Friday night at L’Entrepot (the university’s main music/theatre venue in Dunkerque). IMO it was a strong show; dynamic, original, well performed and socially and geographically relevant to Dunkerque.
The audience were great – about 100 people really engaging with some out there sound poetry theatre. Full audio of the show is here
I have to thank La Generale D’Imaginaire for facilitating the residency, in particular Donatella, Celine and Valerie who have been so supportive and helpful. Also Camille Fauchere who showed an incredible confidence, strength and creativity in his work on the project. Lastly I would like to offer my humble and sincere gratitude to Les Compagnons of Emmaus Dunkerque – merci beaucop mes amis – bonne chance/bon chant
I’ve learned so much artistically from this residency in terms of how to create sound poetry and techniques to create a theatre piece. It has also challenged my political thinking as to what a society is – at the end of the project I ask myself how can I conceive of one coherent organism that can support the human truths of all the people in the places I have visited – Les Compagnons, the migrants in Calais, the celebrated Poets being hosted by The Queen in Buckingham Palace, the Roma Gypsies about to be evicted from their village in Dunkerque. Its deep territory, and while I am perplexed by my attempts to make sense of it all, I am very much enriched as a poet and a person by the process of asking how to find the one truth of how to make all this work – the closest I’ve got so far is ‘with wealth comes responsibility’ – WORD!
Une en Trois went live last night!
Camille Fauchere and myself did a preview show in a local bar here in Grand Synthe, Dunkerque.
It was good to get the first one out of the way and bring that experience to rehearsals today. We have a performance tonight here, in Emmaus Dunkerque, where we have been resident for the last 17 days.
Its an intense piece
Camille Fauchere and myself finished our script yesterday: Its a three act spoken word theatre show. The show is titled “Une en Troix” (1 in 3).
Today we began rehearsing Act 1. It is set on the beach at Dunkerque during the 1940 evacuation. Written in the first person we recreate the war zone in sound poetry interspersed with poems. As the act progresses we bring in music and Camille speaks a eulogy to the 11000 men who died in the evacuation. It was genuinely touching today when we ran the act and Camille had a hard time saying the words without breaking down.
The memory of the German invasion is written into the earth here. Cycling through the flat farm land in the region the reality of that time hits home to me. The retreating French, Belgian and British armies followed by the German Panzer divisions and infantry seem to ghosts throuigh the fields – lone farm houses stage running battles in my mind – bridges burn trying to stall the pursuit – its truly terrifying to imagine how the French people of the region must have felt as they saw there homeland ripped up into a killing field.
We try to do justice to their memory.
Back in Unis Cite this morning for a follow up session to our workshop last Friday (please see previous post Residencie Du Compangnie Generale D’Imaginaire #3 15.11.13) Camille Faucherre and myself created the following exercise for the group;
write down 1 word for;
what you do at Unis Cite
your best friend
an action for one of the words
an image for one of the words
a place for one of the words
a memory for one of the words
anything you want with the remaining word
For step 1 I got;
laughing/holding my wife/a frozen machine/a grave/light
Then you use the words from step 2 to write something.
November freezing laughter in the empty Felin streets – my coat getting thinner on my back – I’m left outside now my heart has moved to you and you’re not home.
In the marina – the boats asleep secret behind the harbour wall – a 12m weekend holiday yacht left like Wednesday 1am on wooden stands – I climbed inside the cockpit, burrowed down among the folded sails, and curled into my warm of you beside me; shivered a prayer to the light at the end of the harbour wall for another morning to break.
The young people wrote some strong stuff, we had a sharing of the work and it felt like they really got a lot out of the simple structure.
Camille finished off with his sound poem sans visa vite
Walking between the lines is the job of a poet: My role as YPL has massively widened the lines I walk between.
Yesterday I had lunch here in Emmaus Dunkerque with three Algerian Compagnons then got on a train to London to attend the Queen’s Reception to Celebrate Contemporary British Poetry at Buckingham Palace.
It was good to represent Wales at the party – to keep reminding people from the rest of the UK that we have a lot of good work happening in Wales and that they need to figure us into all their plans for developing a wider culture of dynamic social poetry for the UK. Those conversations confirmed what I already suspected; Literature Wales are in the vanguard of spoken word innovation in the UK and are delivering exemplary project work in social engagement through literature.
Many poets were there, including National Poet for Wales Gillian Clark, who was one of the 5 poets who read at a performance in the throne room. Gillian’s beautifully worked piece stood out as being the most directly personal of the poems presented.
I also have to mention that, once again, Bethesda was in the house! The first person I bumped into in the queue was a fellow poet and resident of Bethesda – Pesda am Byth Boyeee!
My friend declined my idea of a photo of us together to put into Llais Ogwen as they said they were keeping it quiet from their Welsh Nationalist friends. Now, I know some people would decline the invitation to meet the Queen on republican grounds, and I understand, respect and have sympathy with that choice, but I chose to go to the palace to try and represent for the people who don’t have an invite to sit at the establishment table – to walk between the lines that separate the most privileged people in our society from the dispossessed. That’s a big part of what being a laureate means to me. It was good to be there.
When I got off the train in Calais this morning Camille Faucherre picked me up in an Emmaus van loaded with electric radiators, blankets and food we delivered to a squat housing female migrants. The women living there are caught in transit between countries – trying to get into the UK to work and build a life there but left stranded and homeless in France. Vulnerable as they are the women are increasingly being lured into sexual exploitation with promises of entry to the UK. Sadly, prostitution is the price many women are beginning to accept as the cost of entry to the UK. The situation in Calais, including video of Police evictions, is being documented at http://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/
As we took the provisions into the refuge there were women sleeping under blankets on every available piece of floor. It was a far cry from Buckingham Palace and the champagne reception I’d been at 12 hours previous– its almost too much to comprehend.
If I can’t make a poem out of this, I have no right to call myself a poet.
This is a poster on the wall of the Foyer here at Emmaus.
The message is;
7m squared is the size of a parking space – for 1000′s of people its the size of the place they live
Today Camille Fauchere and I prepared the narrative for our shows on the 28th/29th November. The show is in 3 sections -
The evacuation from Dunkerque beach in 1940.
The founding of Emmaus to save homeless people from dieing in the freezing winter of 1954.
A homeless man seeking residency in Dunkerque now.
The three acts are tied together through the story of 3 generations of a family – Grandfather, Father, Son.
The son character builds a Bidonville (Shanty) one element per act:
First the floor is the sand from the beach where his Grandfather died.
Second the walls from pallettes made by his father in a factory here.
Third the roof is made of his hopes and aspirations.
Tidy and powerful!
Camille and me were buzzing at the meeting where we pulled it all together. He’s a sound poet, specialising in turning words into sounds. So ‘impact’ becomes ‘IIIIIiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmmmPACT!’.
Its a new style for me, but I’m definitely down with it
Workshop 1 with Unis Cites
This morning Camille Faucherre and myself ran a writing workshop with young people working for Unis Cite – a volunteer organisation who offer opportunities for 16-25 year olds to contribute to their communities. Unis Cite volunteers provide service to Elders, Disabled People and any one else in the community who is vulnerable or in need of support.
Unis Cite visited Emmaus Famille yesterday, where I met Elise Deblock, the Unis Cite coordinator for Dunkerque. I suggested to Elise that we run a workshop and she was very gracious in giving Camille and myself the opportunity to work with the young people today, and again next Friday morning.
We only had a one hour workshop so we delivered the increasingly well travelled MARTIN’S MEANING MACHINE (although today it was in French, delivered by Camille, so we will call La Production Verdieu du Camille). All of he 54 participants wrote a short poem about what Unis Cite means to them. I wrote on too:
En preferement de service
j’habite en assistance
avec la tete d’humilitie
un porte ouvert du communitie
bon voyage du foyer mes amis
The young people volunteer themselves for their work with Unis Cite in the real sense of the word. Many of them have found school unrewarding and are building their work and life skills through while giving service to people who need help. I applaud them for their initiative and motivation – RESPECT!
Bon Appetit Mon Petit Tu Sa
This morning Camille Faucherre and myself went with Compagnon Helvi to pick up food from the food bank and deliver it to the Emmaus shop in Dunkerque.
The food bank is a central warehouse for the North of the Flanders region, holding supplies of soon-to-be out of date food donated by supermarkets. The warehouse we visited estimate that they distribute 40 tons of food a year.
We took our place in the queue behind The Red Cross van; they were loading up with supplies for distribution to refugees and families in poverty.
Camille has drafted a piece for today that hooks on Bon Appetit Mon Petit Tu Sa. I added the mon petit bit – my first poetry in French!
My poem from the empty warehouse yesterday is drafting up like this:
Une boite du Vide
(The box for Empty)
Footsteps echo here
one at a time
crush settled into dust
after work ended
Only the clock remains
the rack of cards beside it
hands still moving meaningless round the day
9am – the car park stillness
10am – the office phone silence
11am – blind photocopy blank
midday – reception sans receptioniste
sans appointment diary
sans purpose to exist
its an anomaly
an abstract factory
pour la productione du zero
montel un boite du vide
Too Much Room for Nothing
From the 12th-29th November I’m a resident poet at Emmaus Dunkerque, in Northern France. I have been invited by Generale D’Imaginaire http://slam-lille.com/to work alongside French poet Camille Fauchere. Its a tremendous honour to be asked to be a resident here; to be trusted with the facilitation of this project, and for my work to be considered of a quality that people and organisations want to support what I do – its humbling really; I just want to do my very best to justify their confidence.
As always, I’m proud to be introduced as La Gallois (The Welsh) and to know that my contributions to the cultural life of Emmaus are, in a small way, adding to a positive international perception of Wales.
Emmaus http://www.emmaus.org.uk/is a residential community for homeless people. The community supports itself through recycling disused furniture – the Emmaus ethos is recycling materials for rebuilding lives. There are over 40 Compagnons (companions) living and working here at present. Everyone works together on the various jobs the business provides in exchange for a small stipend, accommodation and three great meals a day. All the food we eat here is donated by supermarkets from their stock that is going out of date – we eat like Kings! Merci Monsieur Carrefour!
Camille Faucherre and myself are developing a performance of original spoken word in response to our time living here. Our schedule is to work alongside Los Compagnons in the morning, and in the afternoon we write. Then at 5pm we run a writing workshop for Los Compagnons to develop their own poetry and spoken word contributions to the performance. We will première our show here at Emmaus on 28th November, and the we go again on the 29th at the university in Dunkerque.
There are people from so many different countries here, from Europe, Northern and Central Africa, from Arab states, from Pakistan; every person with a unique story, but sharing the common themes of leaving an old and looking for a new home.
This morning Camille and myself accompanied Compagnon Gerrard to a recently closed furniture factory. Emmaus had arranged for us to take away some podiums which will be stripped down and used to build shelf units. The story of the factories closure is a post-industrial fable:
Ikea make a deal with a furniture making factory in Dunkerque for the factory to make Ikea furniture. To fulfill the orders the factory will have to treble their current output . Happy days for the factory! Ikea gave the factory a loan (at interest) to buy the new machinery and take on the extra staff they needed to meet their orders. All systems go! Once the factory went into production Ikea came back to the tableoffering half the fee per unit they had previously negotiated. Under the pressure of the debt the company had taken on to finance their expansion, and with their predicted income halved the business collapsed. 200 workers lost their jobs at the factory. Several other businesses dependant on supplying the factory have also closed, directly affecting approx 1000 people’s livelihoods. Merci Beaucoup Ikea.
As we unloaded the wagon at the Emmaus warehouse, Compagnon Helvi said to me “Too much room for nothing!”. This afternoon I’m working on a poem about our visit to the factory (working) titled Too Much Room for Nothing.
too much room for nothing
too much box for empty
la montel une boite du zero
YPL Outernational in Autumn 13
Represent! Represent! Following on from my trip to New York in September and the world coming to Cardiff in the form of Womex in October, I’m working in Finland and France this November.
I don’t mean to sound pompous, or big headed, going on about my travels, but a big part of being the Young People’s Laureate for Wales is showing people around the world what a great pool of talent we have here, and at present its my good fortune to be one of the people embodying that.
And working outernationally is a reciprocative process, so not only do I poet my back off for Wales everywhere I go, I also get to learn new skills and up my game so when I get home I’m more effective in engaging and inspiring young people to empower themselves through their creativity.
The two trips out this November have both come about through my appointment as Young People’s Laureate raising my profile as an artist. First I got an email from W/ord in Helsinki inviting me to headline their spoken word festival. I’ll be performing alongside poets and hiphop artists from Sweden, Finland and Germany – its a real honour to be invited, and I’m quietly well pleased that a Welsh poet has got the headline slot. W/ord booked me after hearing about my work as YPL and then seeing together on youtube.
An mp3 of that piece is available for free download @ audio
The same thing happened with my invite to France. A Parisian poet named Camille Fauchere checked the youtube piece and through the support of Centre Generale D’imaginaire (love that name!) has arranged a 3 week residency for he and I to work together in Dunkerque. Our collaboration will create a live performance premiering on Nov 29th, and will also incorporate workshops with a refugee community in Dunkerque called Les Compagnons. Some of the people living in the community have actually been deported to France from Britain – there will be powerful stories to tell, and a language to find that can carry their imprint out to the world- more info on that as it unfolds.