Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What an amazing day! Radio 2Day Part 1

It is now five days since I was the “Bard of 2Day” on BBC Radio 2 and the smile is still on my face whenever I think of my time spent as part of the Radio 2 family. I received so many messages of support as I tweeted, facebooked etc. that I felt I owed a fuller version of events to those who were sharing in the experience. I’ve decided to break the blog into two or three episodes as there is so much to share.

The day started bright and early as I set THREE alarms in the hotel (My phone, the TV and I placed an early morning call) to make sure I didn’t sleep in on the big day. As it happened, waking up wasn’t the problem; getting to sleep was! I was so excited and looking forward to the day, I couldn’t sleep so read, watched TV and did some work in between unsuccessful attempts to nod off. In the end I got about three hours sleep but managed to get up at the sound of my first alarm call.

Ablutions and breakfast completed (in that order) I headed off to the studios, a ten minute walk away. On entering the sixth floor there was an immediate buzz about the place as a band new to me called The Musgraves (who are brilliant, please check them out) were sound-checking in preparation for two live broadcasts. A quick tour of the studios and facilities included a brief introduction and handshake with Graham Norton and then to Lynn Bowles (Morning Travel Guru) and Alan Dedicoat. It was a strange being introduced to strangers whose name and voice you knew so well you felt they were already friends. I’m pleased to say that everyone I met was friendly and delightful, in spite of such a big undertaking as 2Day which inevitably caused some disruption to their usual routine. 7am was soon upon us and we were off!

The idea of “2Day” was to give a taste of the breadth and depth of the station whole content squeezed and squashed into one 12 hour period with a different presenter each hour giving you a taste of their show. If you like what you heard, you then know when to tune in to find them next time. I was mainly based in an area that usually acted as the Green Room for visiting guests but for 2Day was the live performance area. The sofas had gone and the Elton John grand piano was pressed into service and as the day was live streamed on the website there were also plenty of cameras which led to the unusual need for a make-up specialist for the radio!

Soon it was time for the Musgraves (http://www.themusgraves.co.uk/) to be the first live performance. I was amazed at the sound they made so early in the morning. They performed their forthcoming single “Comfortable Shoes” as well as a cover version and you can see the performances on the 2Day http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00s8ncn Based in Birmingham, the band consists of Matthew, Tom, Matt and Lesley-Marie and they appear to play dozens of instruments between them. After they performed, I performed a poem for them “The Lozells Prayer” which is about Birmingham and they really liked it. They will be touring soon and I highly recommend you seeing them live.

Graham Norton’s hour finished and he handed over to Zoe Ball whose live singing guest was Clare Teal, a radio 2 presenter herself as well as a renowned jazz singer. Her performance of “Get Happy” was bright and zesty and a great way to carry on the buzz everyone was feeling, especially around the live performances.

It quietened down in London for the next hour as the first of the outside broadcasts took centre stage. Tony Blackburn, live from Blackburn (I bet he’s glad he isn’t called Tony Falklands!) I started to work on the poem that I would be broadcasting whilst listening to the studio feed. I was completely unprepared for the goddess that is Paloma Faith performing live, but that is the next instalment!

Keep writin’ and recitin’


Monday, 14 May 2012

Manchester Utd poem

Dear Manchester United fans. No offence meant but you've had it your own way for about a dozen or so years so it's time to man up and take a little teasing.

Manchester Untied (sic)

Is there a sight more joyous
Than United in second place,
Or Wayne Rooney’s smug millionaire grin
Wiped off his Mr Potato Head Face?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Review "Wizard" by Dominic Berry

Review “Wizard” by Dominic Berry The Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone 1st May, 2012

“Wizard” is the first theatre show from Dominic Berry a Manchester-based performance poet. Let me start by declaring an interest in that I’ve met Dominic on the Poetry Slam circuit and we have expressed admiration for each other’s work. However it is a giant leap from poems performed in three minute segments to a 75 minute stage show that features heavy use of rhyme. So, can a poetry-based show engage an audience for an extended period? Well in my opinion, this show doesn’t just engage; it’s a triumph.

“Wizard” starts off as a story of a “normal” person encountering his strange neighbour locked out of his flat. Taking a chance to help him, they form an odd couple friendship where one does the regular 9 to 5 routine which starkly contrasts with Wizard’s world inhabited with talking kettles and magical quests. It is an indication of the strength of writing and performances that the use of rhyme enhances the story without being clunky. Ben Jewell offers an excellent foil in supporting roles that allows Dominic Berry’s central performance as the Wizard to fly.

What starts out as a tale with quirky charm takes a darker turn when you realise we are not in the realms of Harry Potter but in the world of anxiety-induced agoraphobia.  The creation of a world of spells, carpet-goblins and keeping score in quest gaming style is a safe haven from a hectic, violent modern world and who’s to say that isn’t preferable sometimes? Poetry has often been used as part of the healing humanities and in “Wizard” a sensitive subject has been well researched and forms the backbone of a moving and sometimes unsettling story. Life is sometimes unsettling and these episodes are well acted and the feeble attempts at “care” by a stretched to breaking public service highlight the feeling of helplessness that many must feel.

Excellent lighting and sound effects thoughtfully support the changes in mood and tone to produce a great theatrical experience. This is a wonderful show with lots to commend it and it is currently on a limited tour.  You should go and see it while you have the chance. Yes it is that good; in fact it’s wizard!