Bentfest talks

Next week, Bentfest will host a series of talks on their Instagram Live if you want to tune in. The queer punk London festival will host a few of us at 6pm BST:

Images: Bentfest.

Monday, 18th May, Kirsty Fife zine reading and discussion of class, DIY politics, academia and more.

Tuesday, 19th May, Sop will talk about embodiment, chronic illness, sound experiments and more art.

Thursday, 21st May, I’ll be reading a few poems from my upcoming collection Meanwhile, and discuss writing from the in-between.

So yeah, all these days, 6pm BST, go to Bentfest’s Instagram account, look at their live stream on stories, and join the conversation. 👁‍🗨

Writin from Between the Lines workshop – Everybody’s Reading

10 October 2019
6pm to 8pm
Sharing Space, Portland Building
De Montfort University

Based on the concept of liminality, this poetry and performance workshop aims to motivate those who feel stuck between nationalities, races, genders, bodies, legal and educational status. Open to everyone, particularly refugees, migrants, survivors of domestic abuse and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Here we can create and share work in a safe environment, following prompts and inspiration from other liminal poets and give performance and confidence advice to those who want to speak their truth but don’t know how.

The workshop will be provided by Cynthia Rodriguez, a Mexican-British writer and performer who writes from between the lines based on their life as a non-binary migrant whose ethnicity and background cannot be found in the regular British census.

The workshop will take place at the Sharing Space in Portland Building. Click here for more information on how to get to the building.

It’s a very nice place. It also has tea and coffee making facilities.

This event is organised as part of Everybody’s Reading, a month-long festival aiming to inspire Leicester to read, write, listen and speak. The rest of the programme is also really good and highly recommended.

While the event takes place at De Montfort University, attendants don’t have to be students or staff members of the institution to attend. Just be excellent to each other.

The event is +18 only since difficult and upsetting topics might be discussed. We have a safer spaces policy and assistance in case anyone needs it.

Fernandez and Wheeler – Upstairs at The Western

The past month was a month of losses and disappointment. This month, I am trying to regain my strength, sense of self and trust in other people. Therefore, I am spending it with those who believe, listen, communicate and fight side by side as allies and colleagues.

Last night, I went to see a couple of really good eggs perform Upstairs at the Western. Charles Wheeler and Rosa Fernandez are staples of the Leicester spoken word and poetry scene. So it was really pleasant to see them on their own presenting new and old work for 45 minutes each.

Charles Wheeler successfully completed this year’s National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) challenge in April. He wrote, more or less, one poem a day, partially following prompts but mostly following a main topic. NaPoWriMo happens to coincide with Autism Awareness Month, and Charles is autistic. Thus, the poems are about autism from the point of view of an autistic person. These poems deal with misunderstandings, coping mechanisms, the struggle of survival when the world bombards you through all five senses, well-meaning and ill-meaning neurotypical strangers, researchers who treat the autistic community like lab rats, and violently dreadful puppet shows.

Charles is loud, passionate, and you live – or at least try to — through his words. Wrestling references, science, left-leaning (more like compassionate, I’d say) politics and being “extremely online”. I stand by my back cover quote where I say that he “is one of about five cis men I wouldn’t happily kill”.

Rosa Fernandez is also an outstanding performer and writer. She goes to almost every poetry night in town and charms people from all walks of life with her wit and sass. She has a lot of fun with metric challenges, particularly haikus, and actually released a small haiku scene last year. You can get them from her wherever you find her. She can also deliver sonnets, villanelles and pretty much any other type of metric poem you suggest.

On stage, Rosa is charming and multifaceted. Her show is about her daily routine of “eat, sleep, work (from home, sometimes), repeat”. She plays the ukulele. She reads your future. She gives you biscuits as she sings you a lullaby. She agrees that Jaffa Cakes are cakes and not biscuits, but still brings them anyway. Her slippers are glittery, so I reckon she can walk into the Met Ball wearing them.

David from Upstairs at the Western challenged Charles and Rosa to do a collective piece. So, at the end of the show, they did a round of Cards Against Humanity but change the name to David Against Humanity and the answer to everything was “David made us do it”. So David is guilty of everything, from you losing your virginity to the end of the world. But he is the most guilty (or innocent?) of hosting such excellent poetry and performance art shows in Leicester in such a homely venue.

Something I really, really love about poets like Charles and Rosa is that not only do they speak their truth, but they are still eager to learn and share. Constantly honing their craft, not afraid of asking for advice and not hoarding their wisdom and skills away from others. They are well-rounded people on and off stage, and I am very proud to still consider them friends even after a lot of community earthquakes. They have their head on their shoulders but their eyes on the skies. They talk and they listen. They love a challenge. They have ambitions and dreams, but they still remember who they are and where they come from. A lot of local, national, and international performers could learn from that.

Whenever you can, please read their stuff. Go to open mics and poetry events in your area. Go to workshops and hangouts if you can afford them. If not, ask for concessions. Get their zines in the flesh (in the paper?) or read them online.

Manchester Punk Festival

Punk is not just three chords, spiky hair and badly sewn black patches. Punk, above all, is ethos. Out and loud, no middle men, making it work with what you’ve got against a mainstream current that gives advantage to oppressors. Honesty, no fucks given, actual free speech, in unity and solidarity with those who get the short end of the stick. Breaking the law that needs to be broken.

So you can be punk in music. In comedy. In art. In poetry and performance. And I’ve been invited to do the latter at Manchester Punk Festival 2019 in a couple of weeks. The festival takes place on Easter Weekend (19-21 April ) through different venues across the Deansgate/Oxford Road area.

The poetry people will be at The Thirsty Scholar every day during the early afternoon. On Friday, you will get to see and hear the words of Geneviève L. Walsh, the best goth in Halifax. Before her, you can see Martin Appleby from Paper and Ink Zine, and Kit Rayne from Umbrella Poetry.

Source: Manchester Punk Festival.

I will be performing on Saturday 1:30pm sandwiched between the open mic (come and read your stuff) and the fantastic Bridget Hart. So if you like bespectacled heartbroken fem/mes in their 30’s who love Sleater-Kinney and their friends, we are your people.

On Sunday, you can see the colourful Suky Goodfellow all the way from Scotland, writer and facilitator Simon Widdop, and stage organiser Henry Raby from Say Owt. Great stuff.

Of course you can still go for the lols and for the music. And the atmosphere, food, and so on and so on. Some band queens got together and are releasing a special edition beer if you want to try.

Besides performing and being a spoken word dork, I will be seeing a few acts and bands. Looking forward to see Martha, Rachel Fairburn, Suggested Friends, Charmpit (been meaning to catch them for aaaaages), Big Joanie, The Winter Passing, Fresh, Cheerbleederz, Perkie and Crywank. Plus whatever I get to discover in between.

The full lineup, plus some tips about enjoying both the festival and the city, are available now on the Manchester Punk Festival website.

Ugly Music by Ugly Fem/mes

Bringing a semi-recycled two-week old Facebook rant-ish into the wild. Last week, Gemma Wicks and I had a meeting with Kristy Diaz (Nasty Women, Track 7) and she brought up a similar comment. About how even in the experimental, radical, queer-friendly circles of music, arts, and media, beauty stereotypes were still perpetuated and conventionally attractive cis white women were still favoured.

A few Saturdays ago, the fabulous Steph Horak and I went to Nottingham to a field recording and production workshop facilitated by Aja Ireland aka AJA. It was held at The Malt Cross, a multi-level pub and arts centre famous for having its own sandstone cave. We played with chains, drumsticks and all sorts of obscure musical instruments on the walls and tubes of the cave, recorded some of the sounds and later went back to the classroom so AJA could show us some of the things we could do with the files on Ableton.

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She also showed us her setup. So many drone otherworldly pedals.
In the meantime, something kept bothering me. Three-quarters of the students were your average men. Most of them were asking the questions. Then almost everyone else was young and stunning, like out of a NYLON magazine fashion spread. Same with the examples of performers mentioned.

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AJA in her raw splendour. Picture by Xenia Onta.
I was drafting a long rant about how, in the noise scene, people who weren’t men happened to be conventionally attractive, white and skinny. Grimes, Pharmakon, Jenny Hval, Cosey Fanni Tutti in her hayday, Aja and Steph themselves, and that we needed more ugly fem/mes making ugly music. I was gonna say that even the Japanese sinewave queens like Sachiko M could swap clothes with the Western primitive curls and still fit in them.

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Hail Wavy Mum. Sachiko M picture by Carmen Chong.
But then it would’ve been hella hypocritical because:

  • At least this wave of noise beauties is teaching us beasts how to carry on through workshops, videos, etc. like AJA’s workshop, which I’m mega thankful for!
  • Here I am wearing one of AJA’s costumes designed by LU LA LOOP who also designs for Grimes, so even murderfats can make a murderous mess on stage and look alright at it.

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It’s just a matter of being noticed by promoters/venues/festivals/media/artists looking for openers, and not being patronised I guess? Trolololol. Like, bitch, I ain’t gonna eat your backline. I’m mostly vegetarian.

If you have any examples of “ugly” women and non-binary folx who make experimental, noisy, “ugly” music, please let me know. The closest I can think of is ANOHNI, but she doesn’t make the music – tho the audiovisual concept is hers. Her last album was produced by Oneohtrix Point Never, who is a freaking genius but yeah, show me your queer fats fiddling with pedals, plz.

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And the Oscars didn’t want dearest Toñita singing her own song at the ceremony because of course they didn’t. Picture by Rafa Rivas for AFP.
 

 

Returns

Coming back to this blog after many many months of neglecting this lovely space.

I might just copy/paste Facebook rants and reflections in case they get Zucc’d.

Things in my life have changed a lot. I found out I was not a woman. Nor a man. Nor anything, really. Try using “they” pronouns for me.

I moved out from Clarry Park into the West End and I love it. Currently typing this at the local library, basking on sunshine for the first time in ages. Damn global warming.

If you could vote for a few faves on the Saboteur Awards, it’ll be good:

Shruti Chauhan for Best Spoken Word performance. Totally adore her work on family, language, friendships and the sky.

Find the Right Words for Best Spoken Word Regular Night. Such a patient and open-minded venue for all levels of performance.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta and Ben Connors for Best Collaborative Work. A fabulous zine about the intersections between queerness and race and much more.

This zine, btw, features my poem “Spidergirls”. So yay.

See you around. Expect more updates and changes around here.

Rediscover Communication I: Anerki in the Cellophane

These weeks, I have been thinking and experiencing tons of stuff related to bilingual/multilingual communication in arts. Particularly, in writing and sharing words.

Códice Florentino.
Códice Florentino.

Growing up, I always took for granted the fact that I learned English. I had to do it, we had to do it, if we wanted to “be someone” in the world. If we wanted to travel, trade, enjoy entertainment, even save lives with whatever medicine people read on academic and research journals. The older generations in my family didn’t have this pressure on them as the urge of globalisation wasn’t that intense in their youth, so whenever I or my cousins/nieces/nephews of my generation or younger had to learn English at school, sing songs in English or make assembly presentations in English, it would be considered a massive feat. “Oye, que Cynthia anda estudiando maestría… ¡y en inglés!”. But it was never an achievement to us Mexican “millenials” (excuse me, willenials). It was something we just had to do. Like maths. Like operating a computer — another Herculean adventure on its own through the eyes of our parents, but that’s for another post.

Now in England, I have been met with the same awe not only for my ability to learn and communicate fluently in Orwell’s tongue, but for the fact that my first language is not English. They see it as a goldmine of knowledge, a secret code, the keys to a world apart from this one. Due to postcolonial preconceptions being spread through every government department — education included —, a lot of English people old and young never learned another language. At best, they took French or German for their GCSEs and forgot any foreign lexicon once they went to university or joined the workforce. When I started taking Spoken Word more seriously, they told me to share something in Spanish. For the musicality of it, for the beauty and strength of it, and perhaps, in the same way a lot of us honed our English skills through F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episodes and Radiohead songs, to catch a bit of it like flu or anthrax.

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I finally pleased them at the ninth edition of Anerki, that beautiful evening proud of showcasing the best in underground arts in Leicester. Music, dance, mesmerising visual arts, spoken word and stand-up comedy, just to mention a few examples of what you could find on that soirée at The Font. The fabulous Kish aka Zeropence had been excitedly telling me for months to bring something in Spanish, as people set the roof on fire when they see things performed in another language. And I did it because I felt safe. In other areas of the country, you would be met with pale bald tomatoes shouting “English, motherfucker, do you speak it?” like vegetable versions of Samuel L. Jackson. But hey! This is Leicester! We kicked out the EDL and we did the same to Britain First TWICE. So I went waaaay beyond the comfort zone and did something I had never ever done in my 30 years of grazing the Earth.

I fucking rapped.

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Despite all my rage, I’m still just reading lyrics. Still via Elliott Izzard.

And it was hot! People shouting, dancing and clapping, jaws dropping as that cute chubby lady with the Street Fighter necklace was dropping bars or whatever kids today call them. They possibly had no idea what I was talking about, but journalist Terry Mardi said “they felt it”. I also did some artsy Spanglish shit called “Sk*pe”, where I tried to reinterpret “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson and “Mother Mother” by Tracy Bonham and adapt it to contemporary times. It’s on the footage section, for the bold. Like the new layout, by the way?

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If you missed it, I’ll be doing it again on the 18th of June at LCB Depot, as part of Anerki X. This will be an extra special one, on par with the exhibition The Art of Crass, curated by Sean Clark. The main act this evening will be Crass co-founder Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life. Quite an honour to be shouting strange words at people who master the art of shouting strange words. Punk icons. Stick around all day at DIY-related events, workshops and fun for all ages.

Before that this Friday 10th of June, same place and same group of people, will be a spoken word special where a few of us read and recite stuff opening for Crass members Penny Rimbaud, Louise Elliott and Eve Libertine’s Cobblestones of Love, a lyrical rewrite of Yes, Sir, I Will. There will be a barbecue too. Come for the food, stay for the art and words.

(BTW, I got the idea for this title from Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep, a surreal film that was pretty much based on communication breakdown in general. For instance, Duck Ellington.)

Drink and Draw Monterrey

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Image: Murall.

I’m in my hometown Monterrey for a couple of weeks taking care of family business; and while I’ve been mostly visiting relatives and arranging serious stuff, I’ve also had the chance to touch base with local happenings in matters of art and expression. Thus, I was thankful to attend the second edition of Drink and Draw Monterrey.

Image: Murall.
Image: Murall.

Drink and Draw is a brilliant idea that has been executed in places like New York and London, and that now seems to attract more and more young adults thanks to the explosion in art therapy and self-care. As colouring books for grown ups become instant unapologetic best-sellers, it should be quite natural to take the solitary enjoyment of creating and enhancing drawings and turn it into a social and amicable activity. You know, just like going to the movies, sports clubs, karaoke nights and, yes, the pub.

The Monterrey chapter is organised by Murall, a multidisciplinary school devoted to teaching and spreading information on all things related to arts and design. This independent learning centre features experts in illustration, visual arts, and industrial and graphic design; and while they include workshops and courses in their roster, they aim to reach as many people as possible regardless of their level of artistic expertise. Events like this one are great ways to offer a non-judgemental space for exposure, expression and relief.

Image: Murall.
Image: Murall.

Last Thursday evening, Murall invited people to bring their weapons — pencils, pens, brushpens, markers — and join the battle at The New Black / Beauty Lab, in the recently galvanised Barrio Antiguo cultural quarter. After paying 20 pesos (less than 80p in GBP) to cover expenses, visitors could drink all the Indio and Dos Equis they wanted and draw to their hearts content on blank sheets of paper covering rows and rows of tables. They could sit next to their friends and strangers (potential friends), appreciate each other’s works and have a chat while decompressing or focusing.

Draw-o-Matic

Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsGuests weren’t the only ones drawing: a few recognised talents took their turn to operate the Draw-O-Matic. For an optional tip, people could sit in front of the artist through a pitch black contraption, wait five minutes or less and finally receive a portrait of themselves through a “printing” slot. A lot more exciting than a phone booth, to be honest. Here are a couple of renditions of some random chick done by two different artists.

Los leo con esta cara. Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

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First, poor illustrator and tattoo artist Roberac did a graphic description based on witness testimonials (his own) of  some tired-ass hag reselling tamales outside the tamales stadium.

Fat and sassy. Fassy.

Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

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Then, Dynamite depicted the same seater as a bespectacled fat and sassy bombshell. The difference a pair of glasses can make. Reading glasses and glasses of booze, for sure. Now I get why no one suspected Clark Kent was Batman.

We certainly need this to happen again and again. Events like Drink and Draw Monterrey not only bring creative kinds together, but inject Barrio Antiguo and the entire city back with the life it once had, with a vengeance. Insecurity issues kept the once flourishing area shut for nearly five years and killed the Barrio Antiguo experience for at least one generation of youngsters who will never fully know what it was like to have a pizza at Cafe Iguana, live indie history watching an international act face to face at Garage, or bounce between rivals Antropolis and McMullens. Thanks to these kind of events, young people will get to live and love the nightlife and look at it bloom all over again. And for that, we are thankful.

Emergency! at The Y: how it went

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A couple of Sundays ago, I had my first official public performance in Britain, and the first ever in five years. It was all part of Emergency! at The Y, a periodical showcase of new talent in arts, theatre, music and general entertainment in Leicester. I had already attended as an observer, and was really fond of the concept: sharing your work with an audience, perhaps as a rehearsal or perhaps as a result, open to honest feedback and in constant conversation with your colleagues, your crowd and your compere, getting to know each other and helping each other expand and improve.

Previously handled by KLiC, this was the first time Naomi Peart and the theatre directly managed Emergency! at The Y, so the organiser was as nervous as yours truly. There’s a first time for everything, and this was hers and this was mine. We were together on this. Besides a few rookie mistakes (Where’s the coffee? Where’s a competent technician? Where are we and what are we meant to be doing? Where’s’ the extense event advertising you so dearly promised?), things went  hunky dory and you could tell Peart and crew — featuring the stunning and shining Kirsty Munro as mistress of ceremony — have a passion for making things happen and provide a safe venue for free expression. On that we can agree.

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“The donkey goes in front”, as we would say back home; so I opened the evening with Comfort Zoned, my multi(eh?)media storytelling extravaganza. Silly me and silly tech didn’t allow it to be as multimedia as initially expected. Never trust tablets to present audiovisual material, and never underestimate the power of  USB/external drives. I did and I did, so the visuals I so intrincately crafted (on Paint.net and PicMonkey) were not to be seen and in the end it was just me, a spotlight and the music. The feedback was positive and the show seemed to work better this way, with people solely focusing on my words and sound without being overwhelmed, leaving images to their imagination. I was nervous and went too fast on a couple of stories (particularily the fast-paced ones), but it was amazing to let people immerse in my world and connect with all these characters and their circumstances. People liked “First Crush” and “Somewhere in Lanzarote” the most. The power of self-identification was there, and so was the power of getting to know the other. A particular feedback note I liked said Comfort Zoned was “[e]njoyable, humorous and enlightening to issues of being a woman and living through particular times and ages”. For this, I’m forever grateful and willing to polish, enhance and keep presenting the show wherever possible.

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Next, we had Dori Kirchmair, an enchanting Austrian who has even presented a TEDx Talk, and this is technically what she did. To those of us who have always wanted to go to one but never had the time, place or money, it was a wish come true. Her presentation, Resonance, was as scientific as it was metaphorical, on the ways we connect with people, the environment and our own feelings. About how something so small and “insignificant” can pluck our strings and retune our psyche like an instrument. About how our brains are like a party where all our sensations convey, a bit like a grown up version of Pixar’s Inside Out. A night out where everyone around you is a dickhead, but everyone around you is you, and you have to acknowledge yourself and your dark sides to be able to see the light. Own yourself, calibrate yourself and get going well-tuned back into life.

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Of course, you could achieve that with a bit of meditation if that’s your thing, and Rose Hale‘s Transitions helped greatly. Her series of nature photographs present changes through seasons and changes through life, insects evolving and plants ageing and growing. Drastic changes we barely notice until they hit you, going as softly as animated transition effects and tenuous minimalist music. Hale’s slideshow brought peace to some of us, while scaring some younger audiences. Is it because the idea of growing and approaching death every day is still alien to them? Is there something inside they just want to avoid? It might be my Mexican morbid nature, growing up surrounded by sugar skulls and black humour poetry, but once you take for granted that life comes and goes for everything and everyone — you, me, butterflies, trees, your dog, your mum, your children, the Sun, foxes, grand civilisations, planet Earth, the stars, the Universe — there’s a sense of tranquillity that makes any ordeal easier to carry. Surfing on the tides of change.

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Speaking of surfing, Lindsey Warnes Carroll took us on a holiday, threw us in the pool and made us dive to the deep end of self-doubt and literature nerdom as part of her 40 Odd Tales. We read out quotes from the Beckett Bucket, witnessed her and Munro go through a session of Speed Pinter, heard her recite in perfect redneck inside the Tennessee Williams Tunnel, and could taste the increasingly-bittersweet cocktails of her stages in life. Of our stages in life. Make the games and dynamics larger, and you could create a more personal Dismaland; but instead of worrying about paparazzi and capitalism, cringing at negative reviews from everyone you’ve ever known as read by a coconut secretary, drowning on a small bucket and being attacked by tinfoil and bubbles.

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Accidentally on purpose, there was a leitmotif across all four performers. We may or may not have known each other before, but we had more things in common than our fondness of the stage and our gender identification. We all spoke about changes, about not being the same once a thing, a moment, a milestone in time and space happens. Stumbling upon all creatures big and small, the devil and the angel in the details, turning the page of a poisoned book and never going back to what we used to know. Trees losing leaves, butterflies departing from their cocoons, connecting with our truth in our emotions, reaching stages that looked so far from us before and now make us forget there’s anything else. I ignore if Naomi went for a general topic when she arranged the line up or if all submissions were accidentally connected, but it worked in flawless harmony.

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The next edition of Emergency! at The Y will happen on the 13th of December. If you want to get involved, contact Amy Christer on AChrister at leicesterymca dot co dot uk as soon as you can. It will be great to see you on stage this time.