Tuesday, 31 May 2011


Before I was asked to be part of a celebration of John Cage in music/spoken word/dance/multimedia performance, all I knew about Cage was that he was the guy who did the silent piece called 4′33″ .

The more I read about Cage the more fascinated I became. I think the problem is that when you label him as a musician some people get annoyed and say that he was making some kind of anti-music ... I don't see Cage as just a musician: I see him as an experimental artist. His music teacher told him he had no ear for harmony and that he'd come to a wall and wouldn't be able to get through. "So what will you do, John?" he asked. John Cage just said "I'll bang my head against that wall!" That's an attitude I like!

John Cage was very into Zen, and wanted to create art without using his ego. By composing, painting and writing using chance and consulting the I Ching he claimed that his work was free from ego. I first thought he was improvising a great deal, but he called it "considered improvisation" and thought that pure improvisation actually was egotistical ...

- the band who hosted the Cage tribute evening don't totally agree with Cage's view even if they're influenced by him. 4thirtythree always improvise. At rehearsals, in the studio when recording albums, and on stage. I think that's very brave, letting go and just moving on ...

The CAGEungaged gig took place almost two weeks ago at the Green Door Store in Brighton, but the reason I didn't get round to blog about it until today was that I didn't have any good photos, but I hope the images above will give a flavour of the evening anyway.

Apart from music by 4thirtythree, VV did some improvised dancing, John Lake played the piano and Simon Mclennan showed some images. I did some improvised spoken word with Tim from 4thirtythree, read a part of John Cage's Lecture on Nothing, performed my own piece Ode to a skull-shaped maraca, and lastly I had the audience helping me to write a mesostic on my top ...

And what I love is that that whole thing was so random. In the beginning of one of 4thirtythree sets Tim made some noise (sounding like banging metal against the floor, still don't know exactly what he did) and it was totally in the spur of the moment. Some of my friends couldn't help giggling, and when I bumped into Tim the week after the gig he told me the other guys thought that something had fallen from the ceiling ...

The whole process of working with 4thirtythree has been a real eye-opener for me, and I feel that I can take more risks when I'm performing and writing, leaving more things to chance, rather than rehearse everything to perfection. Thank you guys!

Monday, 30 May 2011

What do John Cale & Laurie Anderson have in common?

Answer: Lou Reed. Lou Reed was the reason I went to see both John Cale and Laurie Anderson perform on two different nights at the Brighton Dome in the Brighton Festival.

I didn't go just because I hoped to spot Lou Reed in the audience, I went because John Cale and Laurie Anderson are two good musicians/performers in their own right, but I wouldn't have known about them if it wasn't for Lou Reed. The former was in the same band as Lou Reed: The Velvet Underground (one of my favourite bands) and Laurie Anderson is married to Lou Reed ... Laurie is so much more than just a wife though ... While John Cale was good (even though he looked nothing like I'd expected him to look, and played no Velvet songs) Laurie Anderson was an outstanding astonishing superwoman!

It's hard to explain, but Laurie Anderson's performance wasn't just an ordinary gig. She did play the violin, yes, but the music was more of a backdrop to the fragmented stories she was telling with the aid of visual images. A part of the show was based on the death of her mother. She mixed sad and profound sayings (like "you die three times: first when your heart stops, then when you're a buried or cremated, and lastly when someone for the last time says your name") with comical pieces about her giving birth to a dog ... She also made fun of the fact that your mother's maiden name is suppressed, so suppressed in fact that it can even be used as the secret word that saves you when you've lost the password to your email account ...

I loved the fragmented bits of stories like "it's always raining in my dreams" and the repetition of "I'm thinking of you. And then I'm not thinking of you anymore."

I want to thank Lou Reed for introducing me to Laurie Anderson, even if he didn't do it personally ... Some people left half-way through the performance, and someone feel asleep. Perhaps they'd expected a Walk on the Wild Side ... Either way Laurie Anderson's imagination is wild enough for me, and is inspiring me to be more passionate, and use my feelings more in my creations.

I also want to thank my brother for convincing me to go and see John Cale. I almost cried when he played and sang his song Amsterdam. So it was worth it for that song alone. I love FEELING things.

PS. I have seen Lou Reed in concert ones, so I wasn't too sad I didn't spot him in the audience ...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Writing Freedom

The writers' organisation PEN are fighting for the freedom to write. I went to an event in the Brighton Festival where a bunch of writers told the history of the right to express yourself in writing, and what consequences it might have.

An example that was brought up was Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. This novel has caused great debate, and Rushdie had to be put under police protection as Muslim leaders wanted him killed. In places the book was banned and burned. A translator was stabbed to death because of it, and several other attacks on people related to the novel have taken place.

I find it fascinating that something that someone writes can cause so much trouble. I've always believed that everybody should have the right to express themselves and their opinions, but after listening to the stories told in the talk I realise that things are more complicated ...

What if someone writes something that is racist? I've read novels that I've found very disturbing, and I've felt angry at the publisher for publishing such shit, but I still find it more dangerous to ban books. It's not like the thoughts of the writer don't exist just because they are not in print. And if something provokes you you have the choice of stop reading and start writing yourself.

However I don't think that I would be able to sleep tight if someone had been killed because of something I'd written ... The only thing that happened when my novel, "Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude" was published in Sweden was that I had to take some verbal abuse from my grandma for writing such filthy stuff ...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Book Launch with a Brazilian Beat

If you suspect that your dad, who was reported dead twenty-five years ago might still be alive, would you still want to find him? That's the question Joel in Ed Siegle's debut novel Invisibles has to face. Well, he's pretty sure himself, but when Joel travels from Brighton to Rio de Janeiro to search for his dad he meets local boy Nelson who makes him question his decision ...

I admire the way Ed Siegle managed to pull this story off, with four different narratives (Joel, Nelson, Joel's mum Jackie and Joel's girlfriend Debbie), spanning over nearly forty years, covering the ground and the backstory in both Brighton and Rio.

Invisibles (published by Myriad Editions) is a book filled with a samba beat and a passion for finding the truth.

Being part of the Events Team at Hove Library I'm delighted to host at Brighton Book Launch for Invisibles next week. Please come along!

When? Wednesday 1 June, 6.30pm
Where? Hove Library
How? FREE, Just turn up! Special Wine & Book Deal
Music by the Brighton School of Samba

Ed Siegle's Blog

Friday, 27 May 2011

Double Slam in the Brighton Fringe

Hendrick's Horseless Carriage of Curiosities parked up in Jubilee Square last Friday and is leaving on Monday, so there's still a chance to get a free shot of gin. And if you write a very short story or a short poem you'll get a free gin cocktail in the bar, but you have to read it out to the barmen and barmaids!

Last weekend I took part in two slams in the above mentioned carriage as part of Brighton Fringe Festival. On the Saturday Damian Barr hosted a flash fiction slam, and me and 13 other people entered the stage to read or perform a story in less than three minutes. Not everyone agreed with the judges (Stuart Evers, Vanessa Gebbie & Niven Govinden) but it was good fun, even though the theme was somewhat depressing: "The End." My story was about a woman who wanted a divorce from her doormat husband, but the divorce couldn't go through unless the doormat exploded, and therefore my story had no end ... (Thanks to everyone on Facebook who took part in the debate whether such an expression as "exploding doormat" exists or not ...)

On the Sunday Chris Parkinson hosted a lively poetry slam. The poets had five minutes to convince the judges (Damian Barr, James Burt & Kate Shields)that their poem or poems were the best. Alison Brunette (?) became the champion after having performed a parody of the "When I'm an old woman I shall wear purple"- poem and another one about preferring sex to chocolate. At other poetry slams I've been to the audience are often asked to be the judges, so it was a bit different to have a panel of judges that kept their scores secret. I did my poem dedicated to an ex-landlord which went down well. I'm happy with both my performances and really enjoyed being on stage in Hendrick's Horseless Carriage of Curiosities!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Cosmos, The Cosmetics

The reason I went to see The Cosmos, The Cosmetics show in the Brighton Fringe was that the subtitle said "a spoken word play". I'm always interested in seeing how poetry can be used to create a narrative, and have my own secret (or now not so secret) dreams of one day putting together a one-woman-show, using my poems and other writings. In a way I've done a bit of that when I do author talks at schools and libraries, but I haven't created something that feels like a finished shape or a whole piece.

Through poetic language Nick Field told his coming-of-age story, drifting from one subculture to another, and eventually coming out and finding himself for real. I loved how the very simple stage set worked ... With the help of different tubs of cosmetics Nick illustrated his experience of being a raver and being a goth. From fluorescent lips to black lips ...

A couple of times I got a bit lost or confused when Nick jumped in time and between different episodes in his life, but he always managed to capture me again with his very calm but catchy way of speaking. I was trying to work out if there were any "complete poems" in his play ... I'm not sure and it doesn't matter anyway. The narrative flowed without any awkward pauses.

Most of the time it felt like Nick was speaking to me personally. So many things I could relate to ... The difficulty to fit in within a certain scene (he was too chatty and positive for the goths, I've always found myself being too "rock 'n' roll" for the goths*) and the worry about spots (Nick found that covering his face in thick foundation (?) or powder (?) helped and I used rouge (!) to conceal my spots as a teenager ...) I found it particularly funny the way Nick had to sneak out of his house to avoid being seen in his various outfits and hair-dos by his parents ... I remember times when I ran out of the house before my mum noticed that I was wearing my Dr Martens with a neat dress for a school graduation ... Not to mention the small-town mentality, and all the neighbours knowing what you're up to ...

There were also some very touching moments in the show when Nick spoke about bike accidents he had and how his skin was damaged and he got this "skin paste" to use to cover up the scars, but in the end chose to leave them be. I hope to see/hear more of Nick Field's stuff in the future!

Here's a quote that kind of summarises the show: "There were so many stitch and dye initiations. So many cut and rip, fix together, plagiarise and innovate, mix and match, daub and dab paint rituals."

*My Swedish debut novel "Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude" is all about not being able to fit into a particular box

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Lil' Red Ridin' Hoodie & The Big Bad Wolf

A very unusual take on the traditional tale of the Little Red Riding Hood ... Pyratrix Circus treated Brighton to a free multimedia fire show at the Level (as part of the Fringe Festival) a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed the performance as I think there's something magical about both fire and things that are performed outdoors.

However waiting for over an hour in the chilly May air didn't help. It was also a shame that there were technical difficulties and the spoken words got lost in the wind ... But hey it was FREE and it was a good atmosphere. I just wished that I wasn't a vegetarian that night. The fluorescent vodka jelly shots that were going for a pound were very tempting!

Checking Pyratrix Circus Facebook page it says "Our main character Lil Red is a keen young dynamic activist who wants to rescue her beloved grandma from the big bad wolf. Grandma is a representation of the earth, dying due to the corporate greed of the big bad wolf." And I pretty much got this message despite the sound being crap ... I loved the political messages scattered around the "stage" such as a sign in the McDonald's colours saying "Mc Junk". Proud to be veggie after all!

Pyratrix is touring other festival in the UK and Europe this summer so check them out!

P.S. The fire display in the picture says FEAR MAKES THE WOLF LOOK BIGGER

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

And the Birds Fell from the Sky

I'm exhausted (on the brink of seeing clowns!) after weeks of going to Brighton Fringe & Brighton Festival events. I hope to blog about them all at some point. At least I should have the time this week as I'm broke until payday ... Usually when the festival programmes first come out I feel a bit overwhelmed. There's too much on, and it's hard to pick what shows are worth seeing, and it still feels like I've missed stuff ...

One of the very first events I went to was "And the Birds Fell from the Sky" and that's definitely a show to check out. (There are tickets left for next weekend.)

"An immersive video goggle performance for two people, combining cinema and instruction based theatre to cast the audience as main character in a wild journey to the world of the Faruk Clown. Anarchic, dreamy and dangerous, ‘And The Birds Fell From the Sky’ takes you on a joyride inside your head all the way to the edge of civilisation."

I pretty much agree with the above statement. I went to the show with my friend Kristen and afterwards she asked what I thought was the point of the performance/event/show. And I couldn't really give her an answer ...I told her I felt sick in a good way, which is true. It felt like being inside one of James Burt's clown stories. Basically you get physically kidnapped by clowns ... and somewhere along the journey I got reminded of life: there's no real point, at least not one that we know of ... The only thing negative thing I have to say is that the show felt a bit short - just like life itself.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Creative Writing Summer School

Wendy Ann Greenhalgh is running a Creative Writing Summer School, but don't be put off by the word school ... Wendy is known to have a playful approach to writing, so do sign up if you want to get in touch with your inner writer.

Creative Writing Summer School
4 Wednesdays 8th - 29th June 7-9pm

These inspiring and experimental creative writing sessions, will encourage you to play with language and explore new ways of writing. Each week we’ll focus on the techniques developed by famous writers or creative movements to generate lots of ideas for poems and stories.


We’ll be taking a trip into Surrealism, collaging words and pictures to generate narratives and poetic imagery.

We’ll be emulating the assemblage artists and trawling the streets for found objects or bringing some from home – putting them in a box and creating story and poem treasure chests, where each object tells its own tale.

We’ll be following in the footsteps of the Beat generation, and cutting up and folding out old books, magazines and flyers to create new and unexpected combinations.


With a nod to the Situationists we’ll be going on a ‘drift’ around Brighton, taking photographs of places, people and things that we’ll turn into a lyrical or narrative group snapshot of the city.

The cost of the 4 sessions is £45 and you can book online with Eventbrite or send Wendy a cheque. Get in touch at storyscavenger@gmail.com - if you want more information.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Yesterday I went to see a performance art show in the Brighton House Festival called The Customer is Always Wrong.

Bill Aitchison spent three months as artist in resident in the small Chinese town of Xiamen. He started to create a show based on his time in China, writing it in English, but realising it didn't ring true, so he wrote it in very simple English, and then asked someone to translate it into Chinese. He then learnt the Chinese script by heart, and studied the meaning of every single word and developed it into a very physical performance piece, speaking only in Mandarin. However he had a Chinese girl reading the English translation after each spoken line.

The translation wasn't a professional translation though, it was done in a translation programme similar to Google translate (Bill found the Google version to be "to good", not producing the word by word translation that he was after.) One purpose of the performance was to play with the idea of "Chinglish", refering to the badly translated English that exists in China, and also the bad Mandarin spoken by visitors to China.

Watching and listening to the show gave me the same kind of confusion you experience in a foreign country where you don't speak much of the native language. You could follow the English translation, but you had to concentrate to be able to understand what Bill was trying to communicate. He talked about his experience in China, how he felt "wrong" because he was taller than everyone else and there was so little space. He kind of liked this feeling though, knowing things were "wrong" or "weird" because he was foreign. If you feel "wrong" or "weird" in your own country you don't have an excuse ...

What I found most fascinating was that the Chinese word for tourist is "walking guest" which explains Bill's marching movement when he was talking about tourists. What I found most surprising was Bill standing on the table/till of the Spiral Charity Shop (unusual venue I know!) and dancing to Backstreet Boys (big in China)!

I could relate very much to Bill's performance as English is my second language. He also transported me back, making me remember the five months I spent in Thailand. How weird it is to be looked up to because the local people think you are very rich ... And you are rich compared to them, but not in your own country ...

I love performance art! If you get a chance, check out Bill's stuff on his website and here you can watch a preview video (which doesn't make the performance justice, but you get an idea).

Writing Wisdoms from Tania Hershman

Let it lie, put it away, for at least a week

Write what I want to write

Don't worry about being published

Distraction helps me stay in the zone, don't feel guilty about needing that

Don't worry about the market

Give myself time and space to evolve


Thursday, 12 May 2011

John Cage - Inspired Performance

Next Thursday I'm doing a performance with the band 4thirtythree ...

The gig is a tribute to John Cage.

If you like experimental, improvised, avant-garde stuff ... please come along! We promise not to do 4'33" - which is John Cage's "silent piece", although there might be a lot of silence between the words ...


Friday, 6 May 2011

Solitary Confinement

"I don't have the time." That's the most common excuse I hear among people who want to write but don't do it.

Quite often I fall into that trap myself. It's Friday night ... Well, most likely it's now early Saturday morning. I don't have a clock or a watch and I don't care. (The only time measurer that I've got is my turned off mobile phone.) When I finished work I fell into the Friday trap "It's-Friday-wow-it's-the-end-of-the-week-wow-now-it-all-begins-I-should-have-so-much-fun-go-out-and-get-pissed-or-go-to-the-best-party-ever-or-at-least-go-over-to-a-friend's-place-for-dinner." I didn't do any of those things. (On Facebook I have invitations to an anti- Brighton festival event and an opening of the Brighton festival (fringe?) event and I feel torn.)

Believe it or not my biggest inspiration is BOREDOM. When I get bored enough and there's nothing else to do I create. I feel creative. Tonight I've written stuff. Nothing amazing. But I've put words on paper. I've listened to P.J. Harvey's Is this desire? album, and I've written something that could be the opening paragraph of my new novel.

There's a difference between boredom and boredom. There's one kind of boredom when you feel depressed and miserable. Then there's the kind of boredom that kicks your creative arse ... For fuck sake do something! And that's what happened to me tonight. I didn't even have to force myself. I just felt inspired ... With the help of ...


Red wine. Dark chocolate. The only drugs I use.

The Members were bored ... They created some great songs!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Your Life in 5 Min and 29 Sec ?

The Hallway from The Hallway on Vimeo.

Art Work by Miranda July (everything she does inspires me)