Last weekend, Battleaxe had a really good time going to Hastings Literary Festival Events, both with Philosopher and with writing/poetry friends.
|Sir David Hare opens the Festival|
The festival, the first one in Hastings, was organised by two former Hastings Writing Group chums – Marcia Woolf and Sam Davey. Total respect to them – they worked like maniacs to organise and deliver such a massive programme – jam-packed with events from Friday lunchtime until Sunday afternoon, in a variety of venues across Hastings and St Leonard’s.
Philosopher and I went to the opening session at the Opus Theatre on Friday, with David Hare, the Festival patron, and actor Julian Sands reading some of Hare’s poetry, which has never had a public airing before. I chatted briefly with Sam and Marcia – both clearly anxious but well into their stride.
|Juilan Sands reads David Hare’s poems|
Now, here’s a funny thing. A couple of weeks ago I booked us a winter break in Florence – I have never been there, and Philosopher last went about 50 years ago. As I booked at the cheapest possible time of year, was able to pay for a hotel on the Arno, between the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi (the Hotel Degli Orafi). Turns out it is the very hotel where ‘Room with a View’ was filmed. Needless to say we dug out the DVD. Who stars in the film? A young and beautiful Julian Sands…. Not surprisingly, we wanted to have a look at the older Julian Sands. In fact, he looks quite good. David Hare gave us an entertaining talk – he was born in Hastings – who knew?
One thing he said spurred me into action a bit. For ages I have been vaguely thinking of putting together a collection of my poetry and issuing it for my 70th birthday – in aid of a suitable charity. Turns out, David Hare actaully did that very thing, for his 70th. I thought, well, if he can, so can I! It’ll be a big job – choosing the poems, writing the bits to go with them – finding an illustrator – a printer…
The David Hare poems that Julian read were entertaining, but more like little monologues than real poems. Many were about his wife, the fashion designer Nicole Farhi, who is predictably French, glamorous and with wild masses of hair… (she’s Lady Hare, someone said…). I do slightly wonder how interesting we’d have found the readings if the poems had not been by/about famous playwright and glamorous fashion designer… The TV people were right behind me and Philosopher so we had to keep our mouths firmly shut.
Anyway, later I went down to the Old Town – met up with poetry friend Jill in the Crown for some food before going on to the Electric Palace for a poetry event. The Crown, predictably was heaving. I guess the Hastings traditionalists must loathe it – full of extremely hip people, fancy menu and a range of obscure beers on tap. Mine was called Diddlums Hockey Bog Dyke or something. When it came it was cloudy, fizzy, very cold and tasted faintly of toilet cleaner. I made a fool of myself by taking it back to the bar. ‘It’s supposed to be cloudy and fizzy, and of course it is served cold’, quoth a bloke with a little beard and round glasses. Food was fine though.
The poetry evening was excellent – hosted by our own Antony Mair, who leads our Stanza group, with guest poets John McCullough and Jackie Wills, who both read their work and joined in an interesting discussion about their writing process.
|Jackie, Antony and John|
It is always helpful to hear how much time poets spend drafting and redrafting their work – I know every time I look at one of mine I see something I want to change. It’s like painting the garden furniture (of which, more another time..) never totally finished to one’s satisfaction. I rarely look at a poem and think ‘that’s it, that is the best I can do.’. I guess if I am going to put a collection together, I shall have to….
Next morning I went to the Grand Rue de Pera Cafe in Queens Road for a Festival ‘fringe’ event – our Stanza group poetry reading. The cafe is Turkish – kept by an exiled journalist from Istanbul called Barbaros. We have started having our monthly Stanza meetings there… The place was absolutely packed, much to our surprise. I read three of my poems – it is always a bit nerveracking but went OK I think. I do have the capacity to read loud enough and slow enough, but friend Judith gave me some feedback and said I shouldn’t not move about so much. Readers may remember that Jill and I went to a Live Canon course on Performing your Poetry earlier this year – I do think it helped. I had done as recommended and put my poems into a reading book – indeed better than shuffling bits of paper.
After, I went with Jill, Judith and others to the Jerwood. We had lunch and then went to a workshop on Flash Fiction, with a bloke called Michael Loveday. It was excellent – well worth-while. Flash fiction is very close to poetry – trying to get a lot across in a very few words. Every word has to count.
Next, a brisk walk up the sea-front, again with Jill and Judith, to the White Rock Hotel where we went to hear Patrick Gale, in conversation with another poetry friend, Andrea Samuelson. Met Philosopher in the hallway, brandishing a gin and tonic! That room is not great at the best of times – low ceiling and right on the sea-front so if you open the windows it is noisy. It was absolutely packed – the event was sold out, and very hot and stuffy. Patrick Gale had lots of interesting things to say about his writing, and even passed one of his workbooks round – unfortunately it didn’t get to me at the back of the room. He lives near Sennen Cove in Cornwall – our friends met him one time on Nanjizel Beach… dunno where we had got to… He also plays the cello. Philosopher got us a signed copy of his latest novel ‘Take Nothing with you’.
However, to make themselves heard Patrick and Andrea had to stand up – and I could see her getting paler and clammier – until she fainted…. great drama for a moment while she was helped from the room – but Patrick carried on with a question and answer session. Some time later, Andrea, the trooper, returned to much applause.
By this time, unsurprisingly, I had a raging headache. Philosopher and I were supposed to grab something to eat and go on to the Kino in St Leonard’s for more David Hare and the film ‘The Hours’ but I couldn’t face it – we went home.
So, Literary Festival? A great success, I’d say. Roll on next year. However, the Hastings Observer got totally the wrong end of the stick. I know educational attainment in Hastings is supposed to need improvement, but still…
To finish, here’s Julian S and Helena B-C at the window of the Room with a View. Could we have booked that? Yes, but on payment of another 120 euros per night. Gulp. We will have a room Without a View…