A note on: English PEN Modern Literature Fest III was a grand night

The third time I have curated this mini-fest alongside / for English PEN, whereby contemporary English writers present works written in tribute to a writer who is part of the Writer's at Risk programme, writers living under oppression around the world. http://www.englishpen.org/ This time we slightly scaled down the rather grand one day festivals of past years, bringing it to Kingston and the historic All Saints Church, as part of my Writers Centre Kingston programme.

8 authors presented pieces of writing, some new, some from past years. The spirit was one of considered celebration, of sadness, in places, of frustration, but moving beyond the somewhat stifling requirement at the heart of the event, asking authors who are generally safe and sound to speak about those who are not, and who are not because they chose, in most cases, to refuse silence. This contradiction has often led to overloading, with writers unable to express themselves, stopped up by a kind of shame. But in a more intimate setting, with a group students, volunteers and local people watching on, this felt more like a community taking note, making sure there was something, instead of nothing, to mark out those suffering were being thought of. All the videos are here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2LmXtC6HArB9k2QSLWQGJA/videos

A real highlight for me this year is that it spawned Kingston University's first Student PEN Centre, led by Alan Boyce. I'm happy to say this relationship will continue and next year's English PEN festival will be just as good I'm sure.

There's a nice report of the event here too, by Tice Cin https://www.englishpen.org/campaigns/english-pen-modern-literature-festival-2018/ 

They event featured MONA ARSHI FOR ZEHRA DOGAN / TONY WHITE FOR AHMED NAJI / HELEN PALMER FOR ME NAM / SARA UPSTONE FOR DAWIT ISAAK / ADAM BARON FOR CAN DÜNDAR & ERDEM GÜL / PRUDENCE CHAMBERLAIN FOR  PATIWAT SARAIYAEM & PORNTHIP MUNKHONG / ELEY WILLIAMS FOR TSERING WOESER / DAVID SPITTLE FOR AHMEDUR RASHID CHOWDHURY

Writers poets, novelists, playwrights and artists come together to continue English PEN's relationship with innovative contemporary literature. Each of the ten British writers will present poetry, text, reportage, performance on the day. The new works celebrate and evidence the struggle of fellow writers around the world, in solidarity.

The event is intended as a call to membership for writers, artists and readers in a time where we face perilous challenges to our freedom of expression and fundamental rights and hard fought liberties, both internationally and here in the UK. As the world changes so remarkably, and so rapidly, and on a global scale, it is vital the political will of our time and this generation of young, dynamic writers is directed purposefully to the work of English PEN, the writer's charity. The hope is this festival, away from creating new members of PEN, begins involvements and connections which will have exponential resonance for decades to come. www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen  Curated by SJ Fowler and Cat Lucas.

Please join English PEN You can join English PEN here http://www.englishpen.org/membership/join/ and if you are a writer, poet, artist, or someone who is passionate about defending our fundamental freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, please take the time to do so and become a part of the future of this extraordinary organisation.

A note on: RICH MIX: Access All Areas

A nice little chat with the Rich Mix folk, chatting about some of the new plans I've got with the amazing arts institution coming this 2017! https://www.richmix.org.uk/blog/rich-mix-access-all-areas-sj-fowler

SJ Fowler is a poet and artist whose accomplishments could outweigh those of most artists double his age. His work has been translated into 21 languages; he has been commissioned to create work for BBC3 Radio, Somerset House and The British Council, and has taught at Kingston University, Tate Modern and The Poetry School, but name but a few. With so many events lined up for 2017 at Rich Mix, we felt it was only right we caught up with him to find out more about the man himself and his work.

In your own words…who are you, and how would you describe you work?

I’m a writer and artist. I’m interested in what I take to be the truly contemporary, that is often called experimental, and I’m an associate artist of Rich Mix, having performed and curated events here since 2010. It has been my home in many ways, I’ve had so many beautiful nights in Venue 2!

What’s your favourite part of working at Rich Mix?

Maybe the staff. Sounds trite but I’ve performed or put on well over 300 events, worked with a lot of venues and very few can match the level of personal investment, hospitality and unpretentious industry of people working at Rich Mix. I’m always treated with such gentle respect, nothing is too much.

What was your favourite song of 2016?

I didn’t expect that question. I think it came out at the end of 2015, but maybe John Grant – Black Blizzard. I don’t have one really.

What was your favourite film of 2016?

Again I don’t tend to have favourites but maybe, off the top of my head, I liked Embrace of the Serpent. Jungle Book was pretty great too, Fred the Pig and The Pangolin live long in my memory.

 What was your highlight of 2016?

The most satisfying personally was the first English PEN Modern Literature Festival which I curated at Rich Mix on April 2nd 2016. I asked 30 writers to each write about a fellow writer, but one supported by English PEN, currently at risk in their own nations. English PEN are the writers’ charity and for such a long time I had wracked my brain as to how my skills could be of any use to their genuinely extraordinary work. This, in a tiny way, was such a magnificent day, so full of energy, reflection and heartfelt solidarity, that I felt sure, for perhaps one day, I wasn’t completely wasting my time. It was so good it’ll happen again on April 1st 2017, at Rich Mix.

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Aside from the above, I’m happy to be presenting a new short play for Rich Mix’s centenary of the Russian Revolution program. It’ll be alongside 3 other playwrights, four mini-plays in one night, over three evenings in June. It’s about the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, a hero of mine. It’ll be very weird.

All we need is rest - Nov 18th for the Hubbub at the Wellcome centre

http://www.wellcomecollection.org/events/all-we-need-rest Very happy to be part of the Being Human festival in my very first event related to the Hub residency at the Wellcome trust, where I will be hovering around for the next two years and in intense residence from January through to April. This event will be a drop in session from 12 noon to 2pm at the wellcome trust Hub space itself, near Euston. I'll be there with Patrick Coyle and James Wilkes doing some martial arts demos and performances.

"What does 'rest' mean to you? When, where and how do you rest? Rest can seem hard to find, whether in relation to our exhausted bodies, our racing minds or the hectic city of London. Should we slow down, or should we embrace intense activity? What effects do each of these states have on the health of our bodies and minds? How have people at other times and in other places thought about and practised rest?
Join Hubbub, an interdisciplinary research team, at the start of their two-year investigation into rest and its opposites. The new Hub space at Wellcome Collection will be specially opened to the public for a free, drop-in lunchtime session. Try out interactive demonstrations in poetry, neuroscience and the history of medicine, and hear mini-talks on state-of-the-art research into rest. Find out more about the experiments in the arts, humanities and sciences that Hubbub will be running over the next two years and how you might get involved.
The Hub is a pioneering location for creative work that explores what happens when medicine and health intersect with the arts, humanities and social sciences. Its first residents are Hubbub, an interdisciplinary team investigating the dynamics of rest and its opposites, as they operate in mental health, neuroscience, the arts and the everyday."

Mount London should be climbed

Sometimes the publication of such a beautiful book as Mount London goes by, and is properly celebrated, as this one has been, but it still feels somewhat improper that it passes by so quickly. The volume looks as it is, which is an all too rare quality in life; a truly unique achievement by Tom Chivers and Martin Kratz. The essays, which are as varied and agile as the subject matter, are utterly complimentary for their difference, and some of the writers have been real discoveries for me, as Ive read through the volume. Im also very happy with my piece in the book, being as it genuinely represents something about me, my style here is my subject. I thoroughly urge it upon people. The launch was really wonderful too, fine readings from Joe Dunthorne, Chrissy Williams et al. It felt like the heart of London's most spacially aware writing community had convened
 http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2014/03/mount-london/ 


Marianne Morris reading at Enitharmon, London - Dec 17th

Enitharmon are a publishing house with a powerful history, loyal to figures like David Gascoyne, vital to the lifeblood of British 20th century poetry and they are really putting out some exciting poets and collections at the moment. One need look no further than The On All Said Things Moratorium - a selection of Marianne Morris work from the last ten years. http://www.enitharmon.co.uk/