Rest is Noise festival, Britten weekend - on post-war avant-garde British poetry & BS Johnson, and witnessing Anthony Blee

I was especially frightened by these two lectures. The bites format of 15 minutes is as engaging for the audience as it is troubling for the speaker, and these talks would have a fine audience indeed being a part of the Southbank centre's remarkable recapturing of 20th century cultural history through the Rest is Noise festival. Judging how deep to go, or what to cover, becomes a serious issue, and my two talks were on things very close to my heart. I felt a responsibility to do them justice.

The talk on the Avant garde poetry of Britain around the Era of Britten was one of my most gratifying public speaking performances. Not because it was good, but because everyone was saying afterward how the information was new to them and it was easily accessed and understood. And it is important information, to me, that can't be spread wide enough. You can hear it here:

The real highlight of the day was the other speakers though, all genuinely more powerful and clever than I. Diane Silverthorne has inspired me since the first time I saw her speak, I even dedicated a poem to her about Mondrian, and Sophie Mayer is a peer I really admire as a poet and an intellectual. But thank god I asked to switch the original running order just moments before the events began, which I initially was supposed to conclude, because if I hadn't I would've followed the absolutely remarkable Anthony Blee, and fallen quite flat upon myself. 

He is an architect, one of the finest our country has produced, and he was speaking about his work on Coventry Cathedral, a world renowned project he began working on at 24 years of age in 1956. I can't express the brilliance, humility and grace of his account of this time in his life. It was genuinely emotional to watch him recount stories of Sir Basil Spence and Yehudi Menuhin, and breathtaking to see this building, this cultural hub, this national pride, grow from his personal slides and memories. To watch a man who has spent a lifetime at the service of a professional artform, and shone so brightly through that life, reduced me to feeling like a very fortunate, very embryonic and very humbled, witness. I had the chance to meet his whole family afterward, who were as gracious and warm as he was, who were unduly kind about my piffling talk, and the experience left me feeling struck in the most organic and valuable of ways. They seemed people truly open, collaborative, kind and able to navigate these very real qualities through their art / practise. This article reflects some of the man, and I'm definitely visiting Coventry cathedral soon.

For the earlier session, I spoke on BS Johnson, and I refused the lecture format, as he would've liked, I think, and cut up quotes that were relevant and let people pick the order from a box. A lecture in a box. All can be heard here: