Saturday, 28 May 2011

A busy start then....nothing!

So the world didn't end.....which is nice. Especially as I have a holiday coming up and I don't think my insurance covers acts of God. Last weekend was really busy. I had the pleasure of performing at the Rickmansworth Festival courtesy of my good friends at then we headed to a friend's birthday party (See my previous post for my poem about David).

On Sunday I has a nightmare journey to London as the high strength winds blew trees on the track. I ended up driving to a station on a different line to get there. I was late for my course on "Writing satirical Comedy" but thankfully didn't miss too much of it. I really enjoyed it and I have to say, if I lived in London, I would ALWAYS be on a CityLit course. It's a wonderful resource.

Following the announcement last week of my appointment as Milton Keynes' Poet Laureate, I was on the BBC local radio Breakfast show and I had a piece in the local papers. The irony is I probably won't be performing here for a few weeks though I'm busy elsewhere.

I'm a frequent contributor to BBC 3 Counties and  I normally write a poem for them when I go in. This week's is below and the best thing is, I can recycle it in six months when the rapture doesn't happen again on 21 October.

Best wishes
Keep writin'and recitin'

Link to Poet Laureate story below

Apocalype? No!

So the world didn’t end
As some religious folk were warning
And I have to face the disappointment of
Another depressing Monday morning

You see, thinking the world was checking out
I made a few rash decisions
And when they become public knowledge
I’ll be the object of shame and derision.

I called up all my exes,
Told them they were whores
And that their sisters were prettier than them
And then, what is more

I youtubed a certain video
Of one wild and frantic bedding
Then sent the link to her fiancé
The day before their wedding.

On Friday I insulted my work colleagues
I really caused affront
I let management know what I really think
And called the boss a ..very bad name.

I’ve borrowed money from loan sharks
Thinking I’d never pay it back
And I blagged a hundred grand
By selling my council flat.

So the police will be after me
The situation’s getting urgent
Today I either face the music
Or find a good plastic surgeon.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

40th birthday poem for David

There’s a maxim used on occasions like these
By both the humble and the haughty
You’ll hear it said a thousand times
“Life begins at forty”.

Let me tell you I’ve passed that milestone
And those who said it were naughty
I’ve found the opposite is true
Your life is over when you’re forty

You start to get tired and lose your zest
Your body less athletic and sporty
Soon you’ll need a Zimmer frame
Because you’re almost dead at forty

Hairs fall from your head but sprouts out of your ears
Your skin becomes wrinkled and warty
When you look in the mirror, your Dad’s face looks back
So kiss goodbye to your looks now you’re forty

Sex used to be twice nightly now it’s yearly, nearly
Spicy talk rarely ever makes a fresh sortie
Yes, ironically your sex life is screwed
Now that you’ve turned the big forty

But is not all bad news, Alzheimer’s awaits
Soon your mind will be thought-free
So you won’t remember all these negative traits
So drink up and celebrate being forty.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A Poet Laureate for Milton Keynes

This is the text from a Press Release sent out today.

Milton Keynes has joined a growing list of towns, cities and counties in the UK by appointing their own official Poet Laureate. Outgoing Mayor Debbie Brock awarded the title to Mark Niel in recognition of his efforts to promote poetry and local poets through his work with Tongue in Chic as well as representing Milton Keynes at performances across the country. In addition Mark was a key contributor and judge for the Mayor’s recent Royal Wedding Poetry Competition. The Laureateship is an honorary title which will support the Mayor’s ceremonial role at various civic events throughout the year. The announcement was made at the Council’s Annual Meeting on 17 May, 2011 by Debbie Brock. Debbie said,

“Mark is a great ambassador for Milton Keynes and a brilliant poet, he engages with many schools and groups across the city. I look forward to reading about Civic life in the future represented in verse”.

A delighted Mark responded,

“This is a great honour which took me completely by surprise. I’ve always been proud to represent Milton Keynes and now I can do so officially, that’s a wonderful feeling. I hope to encourage others to read, write and listen to more poetry and continue to find opportunities to showcase the wealth of talent from our town”.

Mark is a home grown talent who only took the stage as a poet for the first time three years ago. Publication in local magazine “Monkey Kettle” encouraged him to take his first nervous open mic at Madcap for the “Poetry Kapow” event. Since then, Mark has done over 200 gigs, and won many “Poetry Slams” including the Camden Crawl as well as Bristol, Wenlock and Ledbury Poetry Festivals. Now establishing himself as a headline act and a poet for people who don’t like poetry, Mark has graduated to headline performer and started to make appearances at leading Festivals. In July, he will make his debut at the prestigious Latitude Festival. Mark was chosen to represent the South East region on the Apples & Snakes “Public Address” Tour last year.


“Beautifully performed” Miriam Margolyes

“A bravura performance” Buxton Fringe Festival

Friday, 13 May 2011

Big in Bangalore!

It's been a great week for another side of my writing. Although I have concentrated on poetry recently, I also write sketches, sketches and comedy murder msyteries. Some of these are available through Lazy Bee Scripts I occasionally find out that scripts have been bought to be performed and as a result, some of my sxcripts have been performed all over the world, generally in schools or by amateur companies.

This week however, when I checked I was amused by the juxtaposition of two script sales. One was to a school in Surrey and the other was to a professional theatre company in Bangalore. I was slightly bemused by the second as you can imagine. "Human Relations" is based in a restaurant where a couple are having dinner. She thinks it's their one year anniversary but he works in HR so treats it like an annual review and hilarity hopefully ensues! The feedback from Bangalore has been really positive as the IT industry employs so many people and the companies are western to the HR processes are familiar to them. My script was one of five short plays put together to make a themed evening featuring skewed relationships under the title "Together in the City". The good news is Tortilla Theatre Company hope to repeat the show across India.

The other bit of good news is that one of my one act plays is being staged as the first production of a new professional theatre company at the Buxton Fringe Festival. The poster has just been produced and it is here below for your pleasure! If you're planning to go to Buxton in July, please go see it!

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Some days are just sad

One of the good things about Facebook is that people remember anniverseries. Today is the 10th and 30th anniverseries of the deaths of Douglas Adams and Bob Marley respectively. Two very different people who meant so much to their fans and both sadly missed. It led to this poem which took me places I didn't expect to go so it's below.

I've enjoyed a good week so far. On Saturday night, I was part of the Whose Turn Comedy Impro Team that did a slot at Cabaret Clandestino in Oxford. It was great to see a new poem to me, Chris Redmond for the first time who was excellent.

I took a slot at Scribal Gathering last night which continues to go from strength to strength. Tomorrow I plan to go and see the wonderful Tim Clare in Northampton. My next gig is next Wednesday at Kings Heath when I headline "Rhymes" in Birmingham alongside Donna Scott, Fay Roberts and Danni Antagonist, hosted by Lorna Meehan. It's at 8pm at the Station Pub in Kings Heath on Wednesday 18 March.

Have a good week

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x

Nostalgia is a lot smaller than I remember it

I want things to be the way they were;
the way I like them.
I want Bob Marley,
Douglas Adams and Kirsty McColl back.
In exchange death is welcome to
Simon Cowell, Ann Widdicombe and
everyone who has ever been on “The Apprentice”.
I’d also throw in every professional footballer
who doesn’t understand
what a lucky bastard they are
or how long it would take to earn
their weekly wage
working in a call centre.

I want the roasting barbecue summer of 1976,
ice creams on Scarborough beach
when penny slots actually cost a penny.
I want to watch the sun shuffle West for the night
and be shushed asleep by
soft breaking waves on the shore.
I want breakfasts that now would bear a
Government health warning:
Bacon, sausages, fried bread and eggs,
toast cut fresh from a cottage loaf and
tea you could use to stain window frames.
When gyms were for boxers
and not for the public.

Before Thatcher,
when Britain made things
instead of outsourcing them to Asia.
When building societies were mutual,
not privatised and owned by Spaniards
and watching television was
as simple as one, two, three.
You knew when to sleep
because the TV turned Cinderella
at midnight, morphing into
a simple analogue dot
and the verb spin had just one meaning
and headaches never lasted beyond the day.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The euphoria subsides (a little)

Well the big wave of euphoria has abated somewhat as the routine of the day job kicks in but I still have little ripples of pleasant memeories kicking in from the weekend.

I have a fairly quiet week except for hosting a charity quiz  on Friday evening and doing a turn at Cabaret Clandestino on Saturday night as part of Comedy Impro troupe Whose Turn?

I need to do some adminy things like re-order postcards and pamphlets from the printers and think about booking gigs for the summer./

In the meantime, a little silly stanza for you

Keep Writin' and Recitin'


Sad Chef

Our Italian restaurant chef
is an incredibly morose man.
You can taste it in the food he cooks
Even his pizza's dead pan!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Wonderful Wenlock

I have spent the most fabulous weekend at the Wenlock Poetry Festival. It has been a real delight to experience and be part of the Festival so here are my potted highlights of the weekend.

Denise and I arrived on Friday afternoon (after Denise had watched the Royal wedding on TV) and we settled in with our hosts for the weekend (Many thanks David and Jen) while I went to check in with the Festival office and books tickets for that evening.

We went to see Ian McMillan and his orchestra which was a fantastic experience. Ian was on top form and this was the first time I'd seen him with his five musicians backing him. It was simply a highly enjoyable 90 minutes. Ian was sharp, funny and obviously relished a full house and the wonderful acoustics of The Edge theatre. The skill of the musicians were showcased and they produced a wonderful sound which seemed to be much bigger than the sum of their parts. What seemed obvious was how much Ian and the musicians enjoyed themselves and the audience certainly did too.

The highlight of the show for me was the improvised piece by Ian and the band based on suggestions from the audience which were beards, mathematics, Doncaster Rovers Football Club and Alternative Voting. The rhyming story that emerged was a premier league conspiracy to keep Doncaster out of the Premiership using AV taking into account the number of female bearded fans. It was a polished evening of words perfectly married (appropriately enough).

We then made a mad dash down to the Priory Hall which hosted this year's Slam. I was the inaugural Champion last year (which led to the invitation to be part of the Festival this year). I did a quick poem to allow the judges to deliberate ( one of the judges was Miriam Margoyles who described my poem as "Great and beautifully performed"). In a hard fought contest, Emma Purshouse deservedly emerged as this year's winner. That rounded off Day One.

Day Two and I went to see John Hegley doing his children's show "Animal Alphaboat". John is a consumate performer and communicater whether his audience is adults or children and this show was no exception. John has a demeanour which brooks no hecklers and yet he can encourage an audience to join in when needed. He expertly talked to children without talking at them them or above their heads and there were plenty of laughs for adults as well as the children.

After lunch, I went to run my Performance Poetry Workshop which I really enjoyed. After this, we rested until the Friend's Party in the evening where it was a pleasure to mingle with some of the key supporters of the Festival, Committee members and other poets.

Day three was the day of my show "Poet in Motion" at the Pottery. The show tells my story of coming out as a poet at my first open mic less than three years ago (actually three years ago this very day) and the 200 gigs since, winning Slams and finding a niche of the poetry circuit. The Pottery is a lovely venue and the room was comfortably full with a receptive and appreciative audience it was a real pleasure to perform for. I really enjoyed playing the gig and I was pleased to receive some lovely feedback from the audience. After that, I went to be part of the "Poetry takeaway" a brillant idea from Tim Clare. You can order an original poem freshly written by a team of poets on any subject. Tim and his team have a mobile "burger" style unit now and poems are can be "open" or "wrapped". It was a challenge to work quickly and to a specific brief but it was great to write poems for birthdays, wedding days etc. After that, time for a final cup of tea before we headed home.

Wenlock is a small but perfectly formed poetry Festival spread over one long weekend. All the venues are walkable from each other and the quality of the line up was exceptional: Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, John Hegley, Ian McMillan, Jo Shapcott and many more. It's also great that Performance Poets are represented and they include a Poetry Slam. If you can, put next year's dates in your diary now! (13 to 15 April, 2012)

Keep writin' and recitin'