Friday, December 04, 2015

Nine shows in nine months

This year has been rather hectic. It's been a long time since the last post but as Phil Crippen once said 'A blog is not just for Christmas' and now whoosh! the year has almost gone. So I'd better write something. The Bolton International Writing Project managed to put on nine shows and even more workshops, starting in March. There were two at the International Family Centre in Halliwell, two at Bolton Community College, two at the Octagon Theatre and three at the Friends' Meeting House. We have covered writing in twenty-eight languages with well over 300 participants, producing our first book with another one due just after Christmas. Some of the writing has been put to music and other pieces have been choreographed. 
  It has been a steep learning curve but the outcomes and impact have been very encouraging. 

   Next year, we will do less shows, maybe six, as we want to bring other activities to the Project, including cookery. 

   Last night was a humdinger of a show. We started with a Keynote presentation of photos and names of everyone who had been involved with much applause for those present, then heard reading from Ahmad (Arabic), Daniela and Teodora (Romanian), Mia (Czech), Aleksandra (Polish x 2) Ali (Farsi), Shpresa, Fllanze and Esmere (Albanian), Nazmi (Tamil), Islam (Arabic) with translations read by the authors or by Gaye, Katie and myself. We had a Russian song from Irina, poems in Yoruba from guest poet Abi, singing in Swahili from Assani, Gazele and friends (Nitawimbia Bwana) and finally Bollywood dancing led by Anna and Sasha. 

   Such was the atmosphere of the evening, that as soon as the dancers started, loads of people joined in and copied their moves. I am very grateful to all those who made food especially our Albanians and Irina, to Kevin for the sound and lighting, to Paul for the video and Simon who not only did the door but took some stills as well. Thanks to Phil at The Friends Meeting House for putting up with us.  The audience voted in the feedback especially for Ahmad's story about Mothers, Nazmi's Autobiography of a Plastic Bottle and the Swahili Singers who just brought the house down. A great show to finish the year. Videos of parts of all shows can be seen at

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Good start to the International Writing Project

This publicly funded project has really got going with a launch event on 17th March for the funders and partner organisations to meet up with the volunteers and then last week we had a workshop and showcase involving nearly seventy people at ACIS with seventeen languages, translating, music and Bollywood dancing. Meanwhile hundreds of students around the borough are busy writing in their languages in preparation for the other events of this year.

To see all the photos and events to come,  go to

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Charity night at the Veda Mandir

  Last night I was invited by Ila Kothari to a red nose charity event at the Veda Mandir in Bolton. It was my first time at a Hindu Red Nose Event and great fun.

I bought some books

and the catering was excellent!

There were terrific cakes on sale like these

but the highlight of the night for me was the Hindi Karaoke with amazing voices.

I got nowhere close with guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, my 1850 being a whole 400 out of the actual total. I did win a prize in the tombola and bought some incense with which to relax. Two people volunteered to act in a Gujarati play I'm involved with in the writing project. A great evening with lovely people. Thank you, Ila, Kala and Jivy and friends.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Two Exceptional Performances

  Tuesday saw the long awaited live screening in cinemas in 23 countries of the Royal Ballet's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, direct from the Royal Opera House. Sarah Lamb as Alice was sensational. Zenaida Yanowsky nearly stole the show with her Queen Of Hearts and the supporting cast were all beyond reproach. A fabulous evening. The set was virtually another character, showing that traditional themes do not need traditional sets and demonstrating just how far we have come with digital technology.

  Then last night at The Lowry, the two blondes and myself  splashed out on a gala dinner before the first night of The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Night Time, a new production fresh from Broadway, having its premiere in Manchester before going to London. This is going to be a huge success. An ultra modern set, exceeding even that by the Royal Ballet, turned a good story into an exciting, amazing production. This is a must see for everyone. Excellent casting. Just to finish an already terrific evening, we won a prize of six bottles of wine in the raffle. After a spate of funerals recently, this week has brought a welcome change to the household. And tonight is the Live From Worktown Christmas Party here in Bolton. Hard to contain one's delight.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Ballet Rambert: Rooster: The Lowry, Thursday 2nd October.

  Four major pieces of modern dance were performed by Rambert  last night. The Strange Charm of Mother Nature, choreographed by Mark Baldwin, was based on particle science, each dancer representing a quark. It was a varied piece with so much going on it was not always easy to know where to look, a feature of some modern dance. The best passages for me were the slower, lyrical ones which were beautifully interpreted.
   Dutiful Ducks was a text sound composition from Charles Amirkanian, choreographed by Richard Alston. Very different and thought-provoking, this was a short piece of almost disintegrated language interpreted brilliantly by a lone dancer.
   The most impressive dance of the night for me came next in Sounddance. with electronic sound by David Tudor, a bit like the sort of radio static one might pick up from outer space, which was unnerving, unpredictable, chaotic and mesmerising. Merce Cunningham choreographed the seventeen minute piece originally, which starts and ends with a void and is open to many interpretations - is it about dance itself? Creation? A staggering performance that brought lengthy applause.
   The last piece was Rooster, a celebration of the music and times of the 60s and 70s, choreographed by Christopher Bruce and set to songs by the Rolling Stones. Now over twenty years old, this still retains its original vitality, humour and appeal. My favourite was the very slick choreography for 'Sympathy for the Devil.'

An excellent evening that was challenging and rewarding for the appreciative audience.

Black History Month

  October is Black History month and celebrations take place worldwide. The Bolton version of this month is funded by One Bolton, Bolton At Home and Bolton CVS. Around 120 people attended the opening ceremony yesterday in one  of the lecture theatres in the Central Library. The event was organised by the African Community Association of Bolton.
   The Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton opened the event. The Mayor spoke well about the benefits of integration and diversity for  Bolton. Nat Biney, the Chairman of ACAB, introduced a varied programme of events. One involved school children telling us about inventions by black people which few of us knew about: the potato chip was invented by a black chef; the fountain pen was invented by a black person. These are just two of a long list we were given by the children.

   Further entertainment was provided by a group of children from Starting Point, Bolton's International Family Centre, introduced by Caroline Lynch, who performed an impressive set of African drumming. Then Bollywood music and dancing were provided by Monica, Anna and Sacha who  got many of the schoolchildren present to join in with the moves which was great fun. A buffet lunch concluded the opening ceremony, the prelude to a month of planned activities to heighten awareness of Black History.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Live From Worktown Poetry Festival: International Day

       I was very grateful to be given a full day for an idea I had to celebrate the different languages in Bolton. I started by doing the rounds of shops and cafes in town, talking to people and trying to get them to write something in their language. It was not easy, but eventually some of them agreed. My first writer was Ranjan Rajani who wrote in Gujarati, thanks to a friend of mine, Bhakti Kotecha who put me in touch with Ranjan. Maria Arcuri, whom I already knew, agreed to write something in Brazilian Portuguese and Natalie Smalley, an established poet, provided some work in Russian.
     With only one or two maybes besides these I was struggling but then I met Mustafa Kaynak from Bolton Language School, having been put on to him by another Mustafa I knew from the Town Cafe. At Bolton Language School I also met one of the teachers, Syla Asghar, who was instrumental in getting her students to write for the event. All the writers did a very rough English translation.
     We held an afternoon workshop as part of the Festival and some helpers came along to polish up the translations by offering the writers various choices: my wife Susie, Kath Brown, Margaret Challender, Abi Idowu and Syla Asghar all helped. We did a rehearsal for the evening performance and practised using a microphone.
     The evening session was in two parts: the writers and English readers did the first hour and the second hour was devoted to Anjum Malik, a high profile Urdu poet from Manchester. At the end of the first session, all the writers were presented with a Certificate of Recognition which listed all the skills which they had demonstrated in the afternoon and evening sessions. 52 people were present. Anjum said that she had performed all over the country and abroad and never seen anything like it before. Her own set was excellent as usual.

this link will take you to the festival website. Page 2 of the archives will give you more reports on these events. You can also look at the Gallery and Video sections for more on these events.

     I hope there will be more to come from this initiative and want to include more languages and more writers and performers in future events.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of these events!

The writers were:

Ranjan Rajani
Maria Arcuri
Helenum Losasa
Kasia Niedbala
Natalie Smalley
Fazal Abdul Samadu
Majdi Elmajdob
Belen Laserna
Nina Nikolova
Abi Idowu
Syla Asghar

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Grey Mare, Monday 10th February

  There were a few more players in attendance on Monday and a couple of new voices in great harmony. For a change, as the regular bass player was on holiday, we had an excellent double bass which fitted in very well.

  I managed to forget the camera and the phone so no photos again but next time...  I did a couple of Gershwin instrumental numbers and an old Michael Murphy song, Calico Silver. Highlight of the evening for me was a Tom Waits G minor blues by Eric and Ian that was really well performed.