Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

I haven't got around to doing a review of 2013 yet, and neither have I applied myself to quiet reflection on the year to come.  But meanwhile...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Librarian Action Figure

We all know that Batgirl was a Librarian, right? But even I was surprised to see this: Librarian Action Figure.

In tracking down one of these 'must have' be-cardiganned figurines 'with amazing push-button shushing action' I discovered the librarian it is modelled on: Nancy Pearl was an inspiring Seattle librarian whose projects included 'If all Seattle read the same book'... (...what? it would end up in tatters... that's what), radio broadcasts and a highly successful series of 'Book Lust' reading guides.

Nancy Pearl says the largest problem facing libraries now is:
"We have yet to balance the three important functions a library has in a community: information access, providing people with books... and offering quality programs for our patrons. The pendulum swung way over on the information access side and has yet to right itself. We graduate people from library schools... knowing how to build a website, but not knowing how to recommend a book..."
Wirral Libraries have merged, not entirely seamlessly, with the Council's One Stop Shops. It's not hard to see the logic - I come across a far greater number, and wider range of local residents since working in the library than I ever did in 'Public Relations'. I just hope, as librarians are whittled down, book ordering is farmed out to external agencies and we un-qualified minions are retro-fitted as 'customer service assistants' that we don't turn over too many pages at once and lose our place.

So maybe we need to unleash our special powers - not just the shushing action, but a but more stamping and putting things back into order.

And, of course, we're going to need special outfits...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Movies about Libraries

When I asked why there were no songs about librarians, I was immediately and roundly rebuffed HERE.  Prompted by a friend, who came up with a few of their own, I couldn't resist asking on Twitter what movies there were about libraries, and was met with similar silliness from various tweeps   

Lady And The Stamp    @Gamiliell   

‏Silence please of the lambs    @Gadgerpvfc67  

‏Rumble Fiche     @carrhill 

‏One Fine A Day     @CarolDrummond4  

‏Das Book     @kilt_monster  

‏The Truth about Catalogued & Dog-Eared     @Martinquinn66  

‏‏Tome Raider  and  Dude, Where's My Card?     @Trudski2012

Lost in Circulation     @lumdog2012

‏Me, My Shelf, and Irene    @larrymeath

‏50 First Due Dates     @WiselinePRT 

‏Dewey The Right Thing     @dkobert  

The Da Vinci Barcode     @mitdasein   

Hello Trolley!     @larrymeath   

Rushhhhh     @JPKillham

Mississippi Browsing     @DanCarpenter85

Anyone care to add any more?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sunday Gallery - I may be only an artist's model, but I'm still life

I forgot to mention that I 'sat' for the local art group in the summer... don't panic, it was the portrait class, not the life drawing... ie I kept my kit on!

It's a curious feeling to sit and be perused by more than a dozen strangers, being measured up, sketched around, filled in, fleshed out, greened and purpled.

I was commended on my stillness. It's not a talent much sought after in this world. I'm only wanted in bird hides, the bedrooms of light sleepers... and the library of course.

I had the artists' permission to snap pics of works in progress but have not named the individual artists. Would you like to see what I turned out like? 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Lost Property

I was on relief at another branch this weekend and had occasion to hoik out their lost property box in search of a small boy's lost 'thing.'

I came across this rather lovely collection of lost book marks - kiddies ones with clowns on, little old ladies' flowers and prayers, joyless corporate giveaways and Celtic metal ones that'd rip your page out soon as look at it. There were punishment bookmarks of stiff leather, flimsy hand-crafted affairs, notes from lovers and postcards from the past.

A colleague of mine once found a twenty pound note marking someone's place between the covers. Another swears she found a rasher of bacon.

What's the strangest thing YOU ever used as a book mark?  And can you guess what the other most common item is left in a library (apart from books, obviously?)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Proof, if proof be needed

So one of the important things to do when putting a collection together, or presumably any publication, is to proof it carefully.

If you're anything like me (prone to a lack of attention to detail, and very easily distra.... oh look, a sparrow!) you might want this to be somebody other than you. If you're lucky you could send your work to someone like David Bateman* for a quick comment on the generality of it and get back 3 pages of typos, spellos, syntactical errors and punctuational faux pas.

I just thought I'd share a couple of the things he picked up on in the first version of The Silence Museum:

untidy bottom of “previously published” paragraph

two different styles of ellipsis on same line

inconsistent capitalization of line-starts

'a lone parenthetic comma'    and    'rogue hyphens'

"For “Flambe” the “é” you need is in the Insert menu.(“Menu”! I made a funny! Ha ha ha ha etc.)"

"Almost unbelievably, this line definitely needs another comma.  Insert it bravely!"

I thought it would be nice to thank him in the front of the book. 'Thanks to David Bateman, who taught me everything I know about ellipses'**  Then I decided to include an additional short poem about him in the collection, but I didn't send it for re-checking because it really was very short, and mentions how he taught me everything I know about ellipses. You know what's coming here, don't you? I spelled ellipses with just one 'l'.

Dho!... I mean Doh!

What's the worst typo or similar you've missed until it was too late?

* David Bateman is an excellent 'silly and serious at the same time' poet, by the way. There's not much of his stuff on the web, but check out the link for his classic 'World's Greatest Impressionist' poem

** There's only ever three dots in an ellipsis

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Book Launched! Woo hoo!

My 'pin drop' cover wasn't high res
enough so I had to change it.

Such fun!  I had my first proper book launch in the library on Tuesday night and it was such a nice event (if I say so myself!).

I hadn't expected big numbers, but it sort of grew so I ended up in the exhibition room upstairs with a lovely audience of 50 people!!

I was really nervous because of the people I knew were coming - old school friends, ex colleagues,  poets, the parents, library folk, friends and acquaintances, many of whom hadn't seen me perform before. There was a decent number of borrowers too, who'll look at me in a different light now!... and the Boss of All Libraries (not her real title) who was hugely supportive.

I'm often asked if I have a book and, with 99 poems published and 24 placed in competitions, it was time bring some of these together as a collection. I know I should have touted it around 'proper' poetry publishers but I grew impatient to get something out, so published it myself. The themes emerged as 'silences' - our unspoken feelings, yearnings and secrets... with some humorous pieces for light relief.

The 75-page collection is available HERE for £7.99 + post and will eventually be on Amazon (but if you email me at clare [at] clarekirwan [dot] co [dot] uk I'll send you one for £6 + post).

Friday, 9 August 2013

Funny Submission Guidleines #2

My first post of Funny Submissions Guidelines went down well, so here are a few more entertaining ones. These are all markets for short fiction, by the way.

The Canary Press:
Payment: We strongly believe that writers should be paid for their work, especially considering what the Kardashians are paid and the price of alcohol these days.

Not really a submission guideline, but I love this on the same site:

"...join our email list we will never give away your email address or send you spam, except at Christmas time when, if things are going well, we may send you some actual spam...which will last for years in your kitchen cupboard."

Penny Dreadful (Haunted Press)  Yes, even you, as wretched and forlorn as you may well be. We want you to submit to us... (their acceptances are on the snidey side, too!... See my post Finding Acceptances.)

Some zines offer services above and beyond to their authors: Space Squid promises: "...not to give your name to the FBI after we find out what goes on in that freakish head of yours."

Flash Fiction zine, Whiskeypaper is much more charming: "We cannot pay you for your story but we love you the same. And we will respond to your submission as soon as possible. We know how it feels to wait and wait and wait. We will do the best we can. We appreciate your patience and sweetness."  and:  "We dig kindness and light."

But sometimes the years of trauma just leach out into the guidelines of more seasoned publications. You can sense the frustration in this fromDaily Science Fiction: "We do not accept reprints. We do not accept reprints. Also, if you were wondering about reprints--nope, we don't take 'em"


"Don't send us another until we send you a response. You can send us another as soon as we send you a response (either "Yea" or "Nay). After, not before. (If that's confusing, ask Grover at Sesame Street. He's really good at prepositions." 

And finally...Apex Magazine throws down this gauntlet: "If you are rejected, don’t get angry—instead, become more awesome. Write something better, and better, until we have to accept you."

Friday, 2 August 2013

Brought down to size

I was brought back to earth this week after I've been insufferably full of myself lately. I'm interested in other people's views...

I had my first '1 star' review on Amazon. A Mrs E Carlill from Stroud thought I was 'A bit odd'. No shit, Sherlock. The words 'unsettling', 'dark underbelly' and 'shaky ground' appear in my own description of it. Previous reviews use 'quirky' and 'twisted. But Mrs Carlill went for it anyway.

Now, am I alone in thinking that if something is adequately described, well written and  absolutely free it is entirely unreasonable to just give it one star?  What score would she give something that mis-represents itself, is full of typos and causes serious offense? I'm not losing sleep over it: it still averages 4.5 stars and her review is more about her own choices and tastes than my work, but is it fair to be quite so damning?

If something isn't to your taste, do YOU put the boot in or just walk away?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Brother – Killed by Radiator

So this is the story I nearly named my collection after, but didn't - mum wasn't keen.

It's in Tales from a Broken Biro: There Will Be Ink, and is a true story - as true as I remember it all happening when I was 8.

Brother – Killed by Radiator

News traveled on short white socks as fleet as angels: my brother was dead.

It was a rainy playtime – he’d been playing off-ground-tick between the desks in a downstairs classroom. I didn’t see it but always imagine his thin, pale limbs crushed beneath the monstrous weight of that ancient radiator.

It was a fine old school.  The desks were autographed by generations of previous occupants: surfaces scarred, and undersides tattooed. In the big class downstairs, would one desk have my brother’s name carved into it?  It didn’t seem the sort of thing he’d do.

Not like me – I’d chalked pictures of made-up gods in the playground and invented a new religion (which was frowned upon).

No-one in her class ever read as well as him, Mrs Fransom had told my mother. “A lovely, quiet boy.” People always said that sort of thing about him.

I, on the other hand, was troublesome.  We were new to the area, and I’d blotted my copy book early on by wetting myself halfway through ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ because I’d been too scared to put my hand up.  It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t.

My brother lay beneath monstrous plumbing as rain threw itself at the windows. He probably didn’t even cry. He just lay there, splayed out on the block flooring, gazing towards heaven like a martyred saint in a library book.

And it turned out quite quickly he wasn’t dead after all, but, just for a minute, I was giddy with the possibility.

(c) Clare Kirwan

N.B. No brothers were harmed in the writing of this story

Thursday, 18 July 2013

How to win a poetry competition - top 10 tips

As a regular entrant to (and occasional winner of) writing competitions it was eye-opening to be administrator of a poetry competition recently and see the process from 'the other side' with 356 entries, both online and by post.

First, what doesn't work: an A4 'do not bend' envelope, first class post, two months prior to deadline and posh paper make no difference at all if the poem's poor. A better poem triple folded, second class, last minute is still far more likely to win. (Someone even attached a full CV - entirely superfluous as decent competitions are judged anonymously based solely on the poem.)

Taking entry fees off some poets felt like taking sweets from babies and I worry about unscrupulous competitions whose aim is solely to make money - especially beware of ones where the entry fee is big and the prizes small. (Winning Writers lists contests to avoid).

I was only the admin, but I looked at the entries with interest and, as I've been placed a few times in competitions myself, began to get an idea of what judges are looking for. So here are my top ten tips on getting placed in competitions:

1. Read the instructions!  I received entries with no cheque, no contact details, in file formats I couldn't open etc. Many poets put their names on the poem itself - despite instructions not to! - or double spaced their poems so they spread onto two sheets when the rules clearly said one sheet only!

2. Don't write everything in capital letters. The rules may not state this, but just don't. See Capital Idea

3. Check for mistakes in spelling and puncutation 

4. Pay attention to detail - edit carefully, make sure every word is the right word and has earned its place in the poem. Get someone to look it over for you if you can.

5. A strong opening grabs the attention - pay special attention to the first few lines... and the last few.

6. A strong voice or character engages the reader more than abstract content

7. It has to stand out from the competition - so send poems with surprising and interesting subject matter

8. The same is true of titles. Spend time thinking of a title that adds to the poem

9. Read it aloud - judges will often do this and there may be the odd awkward rhythm, or phrase that jars

10. I'm a chronic deadline-hugger. I've still been placed in competitions despite only entering a day or two before the deadline. However half the entries I received were in the last week, and I couldn't help thinking it might be better to arrive before the rush - if only to ensure the postal service and computer systems don't thwart you at the last minute! Just a thought.

Good luck!  And remember - it's all subjective. What one judge puts aside another may love.

Incidentally, the winner and runner up of the one I was involved with are HERE.

p.s. If you're new to the blog and wondering what my credentials are, check out this list on my website.

Ready to win? Here's a list of where to find details of poetry competitions in the UK and beyond:

  • The Poetry Library - lists reputable competitions
  • MsLexia - writing magazine for women, but the listings page is good
  • Prize Magic - the name sounds dodgy but the guy who runs it is keen and thorough
  • Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog very detailed competitions calendar... and there's so much more on the site, it's well worth a visit

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Free Flash!

To celebrate this weekend's Wirral Festival of Firsts, my flash collection will be available FREE from around 9am today for 24 hours!

On Saturday 13th July there are more than 70 music acts - acoustic, rock, unplugged, rap, gospel, folk, jazz playing for FREE in the bars of Hoylake from 1pm until late... and did I mentioned the Jazz Parade through town at 1pm?  I'm running a Flash workshop as part of First Write at Hoylake Library from 11.30am and then I'll be having some festival time!

On Sunday 14th July we have a 2 mile exhibition of  'Art on the Prom' with displays and workshops at Hoylake Community Centre, and entertainment in and around the Parade Gardens (including me around 4pm!) . Such fun! 

To pick up your FREE copy of my collection of 24 flash fiction stories, click here: Tales from a Broken Biro - There Will Be Ink. And don't worry if you don't own a Kindle - it's easy to download their free reading apps and then you can read it on your PC, laptop, tablet or electric toothbrush (just kidding about that last one!). 

And if you read this too late, it's less than £2 when it isn't free, so click on the link anyway.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

An interview with National Flash Fiction Day's Calum Kerr

My guest today is Calum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. He lives in Southampton with his wife -  the writer, Kath Kerr -  their son and a menagerie of animals. His new collection of flash-fictions, Lost Property, is available from Amazon or from the publisher, Cinder House.

So I tidied up Broken Biro Towers - sweeping puns under the settee and tittivating the double entendres - and settled down to ask Callum a few questions about flash (or 'micro', or short short) fiction:

Why flash? What's so good about short short stories?

Because a novel tries to give you all the answers but a short story, especially flash, does little more than pose questions. Given nothing more than the outline, the reader then has to paint it in for themselves. It’s more satisfying, I think, and stays with you longer.

Also, from a writer’s point of view, you can experiment, try things, play around, without the long term commitment of a novel.

Flash in a pan or here to stay?

Well, it’s only had the name ‘flash-fiction’ for twenty years, but it’s been around a lot longer than that. People are already challenging that name, so I imagine it will fade out, but the short short story will always be with us, I think.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Can I quote Douglas Adams and say ‘a mail order company in Cleveland’? Seriously, though, it comes from everyehere, things I see, things I hear and overhear, things I read, things I watch on TV and in the cinema, and more than anything from my experience of being alive, interacting with friends (and enemies) and family, and from experiencing emotion.

Slice of life or twist in the tail?

Both. Neither.  I’ve written both, but I don’t privilege one over the other. Twisty ones can be all about the punchline, which weakens them as stories. Slicey ones can be all setting and no plot. I think I try and find a middle ground. The ending might be a surprise, but it is truly formed from the content that comes before it. Slice of life, with a twist, then.

What's your No.1 tip for someone just experimenting with the form?

Just go for it. Write whatever you want, as often as you can, and don’t worry about the quality. It’s about feeling your way and that’s something you only get with practice.

And No.2?

Edit like crazy. Any piece of writing needs editing, but flash even more so. Did the first draft come out at 400 words? I bet you could make it 200 without missing the point and, in fact, while making the whole thing stronger.

Who are your favourite flash fictioneers / recommended reading as examples of the form?

David Gaffney was the first flash-fictioneer that I read. He has such a wonderful ability with the tiny tale. Sawn-Off Tales was where I started, and as soon as I get paid I’m going to buy his new one, More Sawn-Off Tales. I also enjoy Tania Hershman and Vanessa Gebbie. Kevlin Henney writes amazing things, as does Valerie O’Riordan. Oh, and Jenny Adamthwaite has my eternal jealousy for what she achieves.

Anything else you'd like to say about flash fiction?

Yes. I think what’s interesting about it is that it’s new. The form has been around for ages, as I said, but it’s only in recent years that it has been classified and arguments still rage over what exactly it is. This means we get to make our own definitions, to help mould this form into a shape, or, more likely, explore how the ways in which it’s impossible to mould, to categorise, or confine. It’s a very exciting time to be writing a very exciting form of story.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Me and The Scaffold

Claim to fame: I've now been kissed by every member of The Scaffold.

Born in the 60's, I missed the band's heyday though I inherited a load of vinyl singles from the daughter of a neighbouring magician (don't ask) so I sort of grew up with Lily the Pink and Thank U Very Much and their lesser known b-sides like I'd be the First.

But when I listened to them as a kid little did I know my path would cross and recross theirs:

Mike McCartney (Paul's big brother) lives in Wirral and in 2008 was declared the borough's Cultural Champion. I was working in the Council's press office and was at several events where he was the guest. I even had to pop round to his house once for a DVD of pictures he'd taken for some launch. I wasn't invited in. On meeting him a couple of times since, I didn't think he'd registered me. But on Saturday, at the launch of the Festival of Firsts, he greeted me with a big smacker... although I'm fairly sure he has no idea who I am!

Roger McGough is, of course, now an elder statesman of British poetry. He's vaguely linked (not sure exactly how) to Liverpool's Dead Good Poets Society, of which I am a member, but lives down south and rarely shows his face unless it is to paying audiences. I did spend one rainy morning on a bus with him when local poets were drafted in as extras for a Channel Five shoot of his bus/ apocalypse poem. But last week he chose me as winner of the Alsager Poetry Competition, and... well, you can read it here if you missed it!

John Gorman was the one I knew the least but now know best. I never saw  TISWAS - we were a BBC family - but since he moved back to Wirral a few years ago he's been actively inciting poets, artists and other 'creatives' to bring a new artistic fervour to the borough. He created the Wirral Young Poet Laureates (a platform to frighteningly good young poets) and brought warring tribes of bards and odesters out onto the streets in poetry flash-mobs. He is also founding father of Wirral's Festival of Firsts, during which, last year, he invited me to write my first play: Enola Gay - and made sure I did!

I've seen John and Roger do a double act and I've seen John and Mike bring a packed Echo Arena to their feet with their classic songs...But I've still never seen them all in the same room! What do you think... shall I start a campaign for the re-invention of Lily the Pink?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Balls in the air

Like a new pet or a small child, you know that when I'm quiet I'm 'up to something'.

Fear not! I haven't been chewing your slippers or peeing on the kitchen floor, No, I yearn for slippers, dream of peeing on... ahem. It's just that I've been busy with many things. I've had, like Wimbledon, many balls in the air.

In the last week I wrapped up the poetry competition I've been administrator of, celebrated various birthdays with meals out - including  a full-day mystery tour for mum (I didn't know where I was going either!), entertained my Missionary Uncle, did loads of promotional stuff including a festival newsletter, got my first poetry collection* out in the nick of time, had a Big Scary gig, took part in the local Poetry Proms and was media liaison person at the Festival launch. Also the usual 20 hours work in the library.

The Big Scary thing was a paid guest poet gig at a leading literacy organisation's annual conference. I was already nervous before discovering the delegates had been invited to bring and read out their favourite poets: Neruda, Keats, Henri etc... . Also it coincided with the Andy Murray semi-final and there was a very large screen at the venue - which they did turn off - and a smaller one at the side - which they didn't! At key moments all eyes were on the match, even as I spouted - which was ever so slightly off-putting!

I could try to compete with Keats, but not the Tennis On.

* more to come about this... only had 30 copies printed and it needs some tweeking

Sunday, 30 June 2013

McGough... and a cough

Me & McGough with matching poetry pants
You know that scene in 'Outbreak' when the carrier sneezes in the cinema? There was a moment on the stage on Friday night when I could have brought down the Great and the Good of Alsager with one unguarded 'Atchoo'.

Starting with the Mayor, the vicar and the manager of the Co-op, I could have spread contamination out across the poetry cartels of South Cheshire, the art-loving innocent of North Staffordshire and elderly fans of sixties bands just days before The Rolling Stones rolled on the Ralgex one more time.

Let me explain: I have a streaming cold at the moment. But that wasn't going to stop me meeting one of my poetry heroes: Roger McGough. I'd been invited as 'one of the top three prizewinners' to read my poem at his gig for the Alsager Summer Festival, and I'm delighted to report that I won! Hurrah! Huzzah! And I read my poem (in what I like to think of as a sexy, husky voice - dues to nasal congestion and a raw throat), and I managed not to have a coughing fit during any of the more poignant moments of Roger's performance  - although it was touch and go with the boy and the red ball on the beach.

But despite my mentioning I was full of cold, Roger, amused by my mentioning someone had once described me, rather disturbingly, as 'Roger McGough in a bra' had gone in for kissing in the French style... erm... I mean both cheeks, not tongues. I live in fear I may have done for him. The same thing probably happened to Nelson Mandela. Well, not exactly the same.

Who killed Roger McGough?
I said the poet, with my hacking cough.
I killed McGough

I could launch an attack on the poets of England this way:

Who killed Carol Anne Duffy?
I said the poet, with my nose so stuffy
I snuffed out Duffy

Who killed Ian Macmillan?
I said the poet, with a lack of penicillin
I killed Macmillan...


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Is any of this real?

Sadly there's no date on this picture - any clues?
For all my talk of notebooks the other day, we are firmly en-meshed in the digital world, are we not?

What a strange world it is:
  • I have written a 'virtual' book (Tales from a Broken Biro: There Will Be Ink) on my computer and published it online.
  • People can buy it on (and read off) a screen.
  • I am promoting it using Twitter to friends I've only met in the ether, and they to their wider networks
  • I have already sold (and given away in yesterday's promotion) a total of 100 copies, including more than 20 in America

In the first 48 hours it even reached the top ten Amazon Kindle Bestsellers in the free short story category, alongside (okay, a bit under) names I see every day at work - Carole Matthews and Stephen Leather.

Is any of this real?  (Answers on a virtual postcard)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

There Will Be Ink

I've only gone and done it!

My first collection of short fiction is now available on Kindle!  It's called Tales from a Broken Biro: There Will Be Ink and contains 24 short stories, most have which have been published at some point in journals and zines but are thrown  gathered  herded collected together now like a bunch of awkward people at a party.

It's a snip at £1.98, and hence cheaper than buying me a congratulatory glass of wine, but I'm offering it for FREE on Saturday 22nd, which is National Flash Fiction Day.

Whether you buy it or download it free, I'd be delighted if anyone wished to write a short review on Amazon and give it a rating.

Two of my stories are also in this year's NFFD Anthology: Scraps and another in Lost and Found, the University of Chester's High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature collection to be launched next week.

I am one excited bunny.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Take notes!

Note to self: always write down the interesting things as soon as you hear or think them.

History drawls a veil over exactly when I started to do this: I should have wrote it down, that moment I first put pen to paper knowing I would otherwise forget that witticism, perfect line, cunning plot, great title, cracking dialogue.

So I never go anywhere without a notebook, and if you want to be a writer, neither should you. My most recent acquisition is this fab personalised one from The Dog's Doodahs.

Some people complain I am 'stealing their ideas'. These are usually people who will never do anything useful with the ideas they have, and ideas that are doomed to die young and unfulfilled. Plagiarism? No? It's a Public Service!

You have to be careful, occasionally I don't write enough and just find random words staring back at me that mean nothing:

the Darth Vader of fairies

synchronise your mothers

regurgitated garnishes from previous incumbents

Apostrophe wife

fake town?

I still keep notebooks, especially for journeys, but some are too lovely to use. And now I jot ideas on my phone or iPad, too, ready to transpose into a Word document... which now runs to over 70 pages. You do the math.

Then be afraid.

Do you make notes? 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

'It's like your gran... turned into Beyoncé'

This is a big week for Liverpool and for libraries. After a three years closure, the Liverpool Central Library has reopened following a £55million PFI-funded refurb.

(They probably want their Borrowers back, too. We inherited a few for a while, but as will all things library-related, they have to be returned.)

As the Daily Mail said:

'It's like going to meet your gran and finding she's turned into Beyoncé'.

It is indeed a breathtaking building: like a high-tech Hogwarts it has layers of floating walkways hovering above a central area which spirals upwards to a quirky out-of-kilter dome. The old-world splendour of the Picton Reading Room and Horny Library sit surprisingly comfortably alongside the chrome, glass and on-trend big letters/bright colours.

It's a building that lends itself to being a library (see what I did there?) and a very beautiful place to be and I could quite happily live there.  Ooh, I have library envy.

They even have books.

But while the media response to what the Liverpool Echo calls the city's 'new cathedral of knowledge' has been rapturous, these are times of austerity, and the money to run it has to come from somewhere.

Three Liverpool libraries have been closed, 76 jobs lost and opening hours reduced to help fund the City Council's commitment to the landmark building agreed by the previous LibDem administration.

It's very automated too - a subject I'll be coming back to. There are computers everywhere and free wifi throughout but it'll be interesting to see how many actual staff there are and how the borrowers react to space-age borrowing.

But with so many libraries are closing (give yourself a scare by checking out this map) it's good to see that so much has been invested in a new one - may it shine like a beacon of hope across the land!

Talking of beacons, the reopening last night as part of Light Night, where the city's arty farty smarties compete to lure the public to be dazzled by late-night shenanagins.

I managed to miss most of it, except for this rather groovy kaleidescope of light projected onto the Oratory of the Anglican Cathedral. The patterns were made by shards of stained glass.

(And that's the second time this week I've been forced to use the word 'shard'. I'll have the Poetry Police after me at this rate.)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

A funny week... in a very 'literal' sense

Ian MacMillan welcomes everyone at the door
I don't get out much, but I've had four nights of laughter on the run!

First up was Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure at the Echo Arena. I've followed him since the 90's and he's one of my fave comedians. I love his surreal logic and improvisations. Genius!

Monday was my first time at Liver Bards - a rumbustious cornucopia of performance poetry. The co-hosts are a comedy double-act (but shhh ... don't tell them)- Steve rambles and disorganises while Dave attempts to keep accountant-style order. But you can't herd poets.
Next, as part of Liverpool City Council's poorly-advertised In Other Words literary festival, was an evening with Barnsley bard Ian MacMillan. With his BBC Radio 3 show and poetry aficionado credentials I thought he'd be more serious...and taller. But his gigs are inclusive (he met everyone at the door!), hilarious, fast-paced, anarchic and did I mention inclusive? This meant a lot of audience participation - singing and co-creating a unique epic poem to music. He's coming to Hoylake next year - you have been warned!

Last night was Flash in the Dark - the finals of a short horror competition run by Writing on the Wall . It wasn't supposed to be funny and much of it wasn't (my zombie mood piece 'Homecoming' had been shortlisted) - some truly gruesome offerings and well-deserved winners. But the guests, Les Malheureux, were even better than I expected - quirky short fiction performed by two of my flash heroes: David Gaffney and Sarah-Clare Conlon to a musical and visual landscape. Witty and unsettling.
*Note to self - MUST get them to Wirral!

What tickles your funny bone? Who are your favourite comedians?