Naked Lungs

I was asked to read at the launch night of Naked Lungs a Birmingham based spoken word night in the heart of the city. This happened nearly two weeks ago and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect; spoken word nights can be a bit hit and miss and this was the first one. I’d met Chris Baker two weeks before and we’d chatted about what he was after, I was impressed with his enthusiasm and laid back approach to getting a project like this off the ground and promised him some stuff for the launch magazine. The magazine was the clincher really, not only would Naked Lungs be a spoken word night but it would also comprise a magazine that would feature work from all the writers on that night’s bill.

The Greenhouse Cafe is the venue for Naked Lungs and a mighty fine venue it is at that. Situated in the Custard Factory, the beating heart of Birmingham’s creativity, it is cool without having to try too hard, they do good green tea which was enough for me to give it a ringing endorsement.

The bill for that night was Seasick Fist, Annie-J, Garrie Fletcher (me,) Ben Jones and Keiran Goddard. I didn’t know any of them and I was that busy leading up to it that I didn’t even Google them, if I had of done I might have had an inkling of what a treat I was in store for.

Seasick Fist is young, vibrant and almost electric with words. He attacks the mic at such a rate that you’d be forgiven for thinking that someone had gone crazy with a diction machine gun, cutting down the rows of onlookers with nothing more than well aimed words. Annie-J is a wonderful poet that reflects upon her grandmothers courting rituals whilst extolling the virtues of playing Tomb Raider, both of these proved to be insightful and very funny. Both these performers had recounted their thoughts almost entirely from memory so I let the side down by having to read direct from my story, well, it is nearly 3000 words. I went down well and was really pleased with the crowd’s reaction to my story ‘Kowalski’ which is a tale of an elderly Polish man befriending a young Pakistani boy. Keiran Goddard was the last on and treated us to a fine selection of poems from his next collection, tales of rag-and-bone men, lost loves and city streets, which I shall definitely be checking out. However, for me, the evening was stolen by the marvellous Ben Jones and he wasn’t even in the room! Ben found himself double booked and unable to attend so he sent along a Powerpoint and audio track to stand in for him. Ben is a philosophy lecturer at Halesowen College and the flyer had promised ‘Free form philosophy, live on stage.’ Ben’s presentation, even though it wasn’t live, was enthralling to say the least. For twenty odd minutes he kept us all hooked upon his every word as he ruminated upon the philosophy of masturbation, yes, wanking. A few people I’ve mentioned this to have looked at me aghast to say the least but it wasn’t sordid or cheap; it was well constructed, painfully funny and penetrating (no pun intended.) Yes, it really made you think about wanking.

Anyway, those wonderful guys at Naked Lungs have posted a video of snippets from the first evening with a gorgeous soundtrack. Check it out, see what you missed and make sure you’re at the next one.

Mortal Airships

I’m currently reading the wonderful Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve to the boy. He’s completely immersed in it, loves the fast pace of the story and the incredibly rich world that Reeve has created for his characters. You can read my review of this book on this very bolg, just click here. However the boy was having trouble visualising the airships that feature in it so I drew him one.
He was rather underwhelmed by my attempt. Kids eh?

My stab at the Jenny Haniver.

Reading Challenge Update

I’ve just completed the first of my six books for my summer reading challenge. Inspired by the Reading Agency’s challenge to borrow and read six books from your local library I identified six from my own bookshelves that I’d not read yet. I know I should be getting books from the library but I now have a whole book case of books that are on my ‘to read’ list so it made more sense for me to get stuck into them.


The first book I read was Steve Claridge’s (with help from Ian Riley) Tales from the boot camps. I’ll be honest it’s not a great book but as a Blues supporter and a huge fan of Mr Claridge I just couldn’t resist it. I’ll post a full review later but for now I need to choose my next book.

Ok. That didn’t take long. My next book will be Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman.


You can find out more about the summer reading challenge here.

Reading Challenge

The Reading Agency has set a challenge to the young readers of the UK. The aim is for people to read six books, borrowed from their local library, this summer. The library will record how well the reader is doing and the more books they read the further they progress through the challenge from bronze to silver to gold. More information regarding this can be found here

I thought I’d give it a go myself with a selection of the many unread books on my ‘to read’ shelf so I’ve picked out these six.


I’ve already read The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith this summer so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some of her short stories. Being a Blues fan ( that’s Birmingham City not any of the other pretenders to that title ) I couldn’t resist Tales from the Boot Camps by Steve Claridge when I saw it in a charity shop in Wales. Girlfriend In A Coma was in the same shop. I’ve read a couple of Coupland novels in the past and enjoyed them so I’m hoping this is as good. Continental Drifter was picked up in Buxton over a year ago, there’s high praise all over the cover and it’s been a while since I read any decent travel writing. Pigeon English sounds just like my kind of thing, gritty, urban and short listed for the Guardian First Book Award in 2011. That just leaves The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell. I’m a big fan of Mitchell despite the fact that whenever I read his stuff I feel like chucking it all in, as a writer, I’m not suicidal, honest. Mitchell is just so brave, imaginative and confident that I know it’s going to be something I’ll love.

So there you go. Six books for the summer, I’ve also got a couple of poetry books on the go as well but I tend to dip in and out of those so I’ve not included them. I’ll let you all know how I get on and maybe you could let me know what you’ll be reading this summer?

City Voices

ImageLast night I read my short story Kowalski at Wolverhampton’s City Voices. City Voices is run by Wolverhampton’s Literature Officer, Simon Fletcher. Simon is a writer and poet, mentor, teacher and runs Offa’s Press a small poetry press based in Shrewsbury. Simon runs a tight ship, each reader has a 15 minute slot and performs through invitation only. I’ve read here twice before, the audience has always been warm and attentive and the readers top notch. I was on first as Simon said he wanted it to start with a safe pair of hands which was very flattering.Now I’d timed my story at around 17 minutes and thought that Simon would be ok with that but he was quite firm and asked me to maybe leave something out of the story. I thought about possibly reading some shorter stories but then decided to stick to my guns and read it in full. I was a bit nervous about reading, not because I’m reserved in anyway but because this was the first time I’d ever read fiction out in public. Now I’ve previously read out quite a bit of poetry in public and I’d shared my fiction with the writing group I’m involved with but as far as I was concerned this was a step up.

The reading went well, very well. I got three or four laughs throughout the story which was excellent as it’s not a particularly comedic piece but there are touching moments of fragility within it that warrant a laugh, and a rather loud, rapturous applause at its conclusion. I was dead chuffed with the praise I received afterwards especially as it came from Simon Fletcher, Jane Seabourne and John Edgar. I think that the most important lesson I learnt from this is to believe in yourself, your material and most importantly, if you are going to run over your time slot don’t tell anyone.

On the night it was great to hear Lee Hamilton break his reading cherry, watch out for him in the future, he has a keen eye and a dry wit. Jane Seabourne is a rather wonderful poet and it’s well worth getting hold of her first collection ‘Bright Morning.’ What really made the evening for me was seeing John Edgar perform for the first time. I’ve heard John’s stories a few times on Radio Wildfire but seeing him perform in the flesh was really something. John owns the stage, he has ‘real’ presence and is totally unflappable. He was nearing the end of his first tale when someone opened the door to the bar and said, ‘Are you open?’ Without missing a beat John looked down at his fly, checked it with his hand and said, ‘No, but thanks for asking,’ brilliant.

Check out the links below for Jane and John and if you do live in the Wolverhampton area get yourself down to City Voices, you wont regret it.

Jane Seabourne

John Edgar

Simon Fletcher

Offa’s Press