i hate manchester literature festival

Yesterday was quite annoying. Between them the Literature Festival and Science Festival managed to make a bit of a hash of the reading at the Museum of Science and Industry. Ross Sutherland and Tim Clare had their lecture on OULIPO and constraints in writing stopped after the first half because the event was running late, Tony Walsh then had to go on sooner than he thought, and seemed to be feeling the pressure of time, and apparently a third person, a scientist I hadn't seen billed, was due to speak after that. I'm actually quite aggrieved that I only saw part of what I paid to see, especially as the lecture was informative, entertaining and well delivered, with some good poetry along the way. What was even more irritating is that I left before what I'm sure was an interesting third (final?) section because I thought I had voluntary work to do. As it happened though the guy I was due to visit had left the particular project he was attached to, but nobody had thought to let me know. I left early, did some jobs connected to voluntary work, and got soaked on my way across for no reason. So I now have to phone up my volunteer coordinator to find out what the hell's going on, and figure out a way I can catch the rest of Ross and Tim's lecture.

On to the positives. Tony Walsh's poem Zeroes and Ones is probably the most ambitious piece I've seen him deliver, and very well constructed. It's a long piece, but the dynamics of it are such that it apparently naturally peaks and troughs and carries you with it. The delivery was good, despite a slight hollowing and muffling of sound due to the lapel mic Tony was using. I would have been happy if it had been a bit longer, though doubtless the combined festivals would have foud some way to cut it short. Although the actual writing didn't owe much to some of the more experimental work I've been looking at lately, the content did touch on areas that reminded me of Christian Bok's Xenotext, among others. Because of what I thought was the need to leave early I didn't have a chance to stay and catch up with Tony after the event, or even on the break after he read, which probably looked a bit rude. Blame my voluntary work.

What I saw of Ross and Tim's lecture was, as I said before, very entertaining and well delivered. A multimedia - or at least powerpoint, video snips and music - extravaganza. I would thoroughly recommend it. But it wasn't a good advert for the Literature Festival. In previous years, because I find the programming so dispiritingly conservative, I've tended to avoid the festival altogether - I never want to see or hear another Carol Ann Duffy poem in my life. And I get very bored with the belief that all performed poetry has to be mildly amusing - fuck off! If I want a laugh I'll go to a comedian who knows what they're doing. This year I went to two events, Adrian Mitchell, which was excellent but with a very reverent and formal atmosphere, and yesterday, which was rudely truncated. It's confirmed a lot of predjudices I have about these sort of events. Who wants to be battered about by strict timings? Who wants to sit politely in formal rows with a clear delineation between audience and performer? Who wants culture to be something given to them, rather than something they have and take? Why aren't literary events more like gigs? I think next year I may be persuaded to give the festival a miss altogether - especially as my more radical tastes will be better catered for by parts of the Bury Text Festival.

The other upside to yesterday, aside from Tony's poem, and what I was allowed to see of Ross and Tim, is that I was able to swing by Cornerhouse and buy the new Vertigo, and a copy of Dominic Berry's Tomorrow, I Will Go Dancing. Both of which managed to avoid getting wet in my backpack, despite the pissing rain. More on Dominic's book another time - and yes, I'm aware I haven't written anything on the latest ifpthenq or Parameter magazines yet. Give me a chance.

Links and stuff to follow.



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