THERE’S MAYHEM IN THE TILTYARD

Why Are Men in Armor so Sexy?

Can’t believe how long it’s been since last I blogged, but August has been a helluva month.  I thought I’d have lots of time to sit and relax, think about my novel, do lots of writing…generally move things forward with the help of cake and no ‘day job’ work.  How dumb was that? Instead, it seemed to get fuller and fuller of ‘day job’ essentials.  And the fact I’m on various Boards of arts organisations doesn’t help either, as you’re duty bound to help if requested to do so.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play.  On the pretext of historical research, I finally managed to get up to Leeds to visit the Royal Armouries, to take a closer look at their collection of medieval weaponry and indulge in my passion for swords.  Yes, I have a small collection of sharps, gathered over the years since my re-enactment days; not a really serious collection, but I enjoy the look of surprise on visitor’s faces when I unsheathe one of them and start talking about the balance between blade and hilt etc. (Better stop now in case you all start thinking I really am bonkers!).

Anyway, there I was up in Leeds on a warm and sunny week-end mid-month and visiting the Armouries.  The actual content of this purpose-built museum was excellent – you wouldn’t expect anything else, really, would you? Considering how much Lottery money was spent on building it.  But the building itself was a total disaster…unquestionably one of the WORST designed museums I’ve ever been to, nationally or internationally.  Everything had been shipped up from the Tower of London and other Historic Palaces to this purpose-built black brick mausoleum in what had been a derelict industrial estate next to a scummy stretch of canal.  No signage outside meant you couldn’t find the entrance, and poor signage inside meant you could find anything inside either.  Plus, little real thought had gone into the mediocre shop, cafes and restaurant.  A classic case of corporate funding going hand-in-hand with unimaginative local authority planning, and coming up with the worst of all possible worlds. Which is a real shame, as it should have been world class instead of being world crass.

But it was free entry, and it being a Friday during school holidays there were about a million kids there  all having a great time at the Knight School (which cost extra), and at the Jousting (also extra).  Now, as some of you may know, I’m a proper sucker for a man in armour (yes, I know I’m weird that way) and LOVE Jousting, so happily paid my dues to watch the Red Knight fight the Green Knight to rapturous applause and much booking and/or cheering.

This was theatrical jousting, as opposed to Full Metal Jousting (see Challenge TV Mondays at 10.00 p.m.), which is much fiercer and more authentic judging by the injuries.  There was no un-horsing or blood-shed, but there was plenty of very fine horsemanship and some excellent trick riding.  And as far as I was concerned the Red and Green Knights were both sex on legs in their full body armor, so the expedition was not an entirely unhappy experience.

I also enjoyed the selection of weaponry on display from early Celtic onwards (though not interested in the guns or modern day machinery of war), plus items covering many different cultures including Japan, China and India.  The full-scale model of an Indian war-elephant covered in armor was truly impressive and certainly not the kind of thing you’d want to meet on a dark night in Leeds or anywhere else.

Fully armoured war elephant

Fully armoured war elephant

Apart from that I spent the rest of the weekend with my lovely friends, Olivia and Howard, eating too much, enjoying lots of great conversation, and loving being out of London for a change.

Now, it’s back to the grindstone of preparing for the first Loose Muse event of the year on September 11th, featuring a selection of members of Highgate Poets.  Check the events page for up-to-date information on that and also on the two Anthology launches.  Until then, enjoy the remains of the summer and the gentle drift into autumn, and…

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

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Where are all you short fiction writers?

It’s wonderful that we always have so many great poets coming to the Loose Muse events. Every month, lots of women step up to the mic to blow our minds with their lyrical verse. Having said that, we really don’t want anyone to think that we exist for poetry alone. At Loose Muse we encourage ALL women writers (including playwrights, script writers, flash fictioners as well as short fiction and novel writers) to come and perform. We would love to have even more great short stories submitted, for example, to the anthology.

Here is a great short fiction competition which you still have time to enter if you hurry. You can win up to £1000. Anthony Howcroft, the director of InkTears, is looking for writers who have, ‘enough quality short stories’ to publish a collection. Alternatively, they are looking for writers whose work may go into an anthology. So you could enter a competition and find yourself publishing a collection at the end of it!

It sounds like a great opportunity, so don’t miss out. http://www.inktears.com/Inktears/WritersNewWritersContest.html

Elsewhere, Cinnamon Press has some great poetry collection, novella or short story competitions that are still open.  Go to http://www.cinnamonpress.com/competitions/ to take a look.

Book trust is a great website for listing competitions, so do take a look at that as well, although I’ve often found it slightly annoying that they don’t organise the competitions by date relevancy. No one likes clicking for ages to find out that a competition happened back in January!

So all you short story writers, before you send our your brilliant prose to these great competitions, why not come along to Loose Muse and try them out on an audience?

Love,

Sara-Mae

Loose Muse one-off free open mic event…

 

Hi gang,

Well it’s Anthology time again and the submissions for the next Loose Muse Anthology are piling up very nicely, thank you.  This will be the last anthology that the Arts Council of England grant pays for, as the grant that was given to develop Loose Muse over the past couple of years has now been used up.  I think we’ve done extraordinarily well in growing things, and certainly we’ve been able to make sure that women writers are given a platform to produce and explore new work, and to share experiences and expertise.

The Anthology launch date is set for Thursday, 19th September, and will be held at Cotton’s Caribbean Restaurant – the room downstairs we’ve used for the last couple of launches, and which everyone loves – at 70 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QP, 7.00 p.m. for a 7.30 start.  So put that into your diary at once whether or not you’ve actually submitted work for inclusion, as it’s always a fabulous night, and it’s FREE, always a bonus.  Who knows it might inspire you to take up the pen yourselves, if you haven’t already got the bug.

But before then, there’s an EXTRA LOOSE MUSE EVENT IN AUGUST. 

Yes, even though we’re usually dark in August, and start again in September, this year I thought it would be a good idea to have a SPECIAL OPEN MIC EXTRA EVENT to celebrate all those writers who want to share a bit of their work with us.  Each one will be getting at least 5 minutes, so put this in your diary as a MUST DO event:

LOOSE MUSE AUGUST EXTRA

Wednesday, 14 August – 7.00 p.m. for 7.30

All OPEN MIC for anyone who wants to share their work.

L’Osteria 57 (downstairs) Wine Bar

57 Grays Inn Road

London WC1X 8PP

A £5 donation towards Loose Muse expenses in the autumn would be gratefully received.

L’Osteria is only a 5 minute walk from Chancery Lane tube station, and on several bus routes, so is very accessible.  And, as it’s an Italian restaurant, the food is good and reasonably priced.

Do come along and bring something to read, or just come and listen, have a pizza/pasta and be part of the action.  Go on…you know you want to.

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE GNOME

Gnome-ageddon is nigh!

If you’ve been watching tv over the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen the ad by a leading Scandi furniture store featuring the destruction of rampaging garden gnomes.  When it was first screened, it made me laugh, as I thought it was quite witty.  So imagine my surprise when I read there had been 50 complaints about this ad to the Advertising Standard Board saying it was over violent and offensive, and that some people had found it distressing.

Now, call me old-fashioned (I know my place!), but I find the idea that people were actually distressed at an ad where plaster gnomes (not real, live gnomes, but gaudy figurines made up of plaster-of-paris and painted in garish colours) were shattered by a woman wielding a garden sprinkler jet, is just plain bonkers.

Clearly, the complainers haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers.  The situation in Syria, where hundreds of people are being killed or made homeless every day is distressing.  A tornado leaving a swathe of death and destruction in the US is distressing.  Cuts in crucial services that leave the poor even poorer and thousands reliant on banks or the kindness of strangers is distressing. Female genital mutilation in girl children is very distressing indeed.  And a newborn flushed down the toilet and stuck in a sewerage pipe is inexpressibly distressing.  Gnome attack in a spoof ad just ISN’T, and if you think it is, you’ve not got enough to worry about.  Get a life and get a sense of humour!

Having said all that, I also love the fact that there are gnomes in the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time ever.  And even more, there’s a place in Western Australia called Gnomesville, in the Ferguson Valley, about a 2-hour drive south east of Perth, where there are thousands of gnomes from all over the world are on display dotted around the forest landscape. I love the quirky eccentricity of that.  But I still wouldn’t any of the plaster variety in my garden if I had one…give me a real life fairy or elf any day of the week.  I’ve always been a sucker for Otherworld Creatures.

Our next Loose Muse is on Wednesday 10 July and, as ever, we’ll have some cracking features. Remember to come early to sign up for the open mic session at the end of the evening (gnome caps are optional).

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

Write Out Loud talks us up a bit

Greg Freeman of Write Out Loud wrote a rather lovely piece on us about the Manchester Loose Muse. It’s great to see that our plans for ultimate world domination are on track 😉

Check it out here:

http://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=37394

Thanks go to Write Out Loud and Greg, for featuring us!

STOLEN HEADLINE ‘SILENCE OF THE MA’AMS’

Alice Jones of the Independent

I read an article in The Independent the other week that really made my jaw drop in exasperation and fury.  Written by young journalist Alice Jones, and headlined ‘In Hollywood its Silence of the Ma’ams’, it referred to a recent report saying that across the 100 highest grossing films at the US box office in 2012, only 28.4% of speaking characters were female, and that only 6% of the films featured a cast where the split of speaking roles was roughly 50/50 men to women.   Whaaaaaaaaaat!!! I hear you gasp!  Yes, that was my reaction too.

 

As Alice wittily (and perceptively) commented, “extra-terrestrials, trolls and cartoon jungle animals probably have more chance of getting a line than a living, breathing actress.”  This is surely a shameful state of affairs, especially when women easily buy as many cinema tickets as men.

 

And when you look at the roles women are actually given in those films it gets even more depressing… arm/eye candy for Neanderthal petrol-head leading men, the helpless/pea-brained girlfriend desperate to take her clothes off and pleasure her hero/man in bed or out of it, or the sidelines PA/Assistant who secretly obsesses about having that big white wedding all of us girls are supposed to yearn for, and not a lot else, unless you’re the likes of Judy Dench or Maggie Smith.

 

With 31.6% of actresses appearing on screen in ‘sexually revealing clothes’, and half teenage girls on screen wearing provocative outfits (as opposed to 7% of teen boys), what kind of messages does that send out to today’s young women…that our worth is only measured by the amount of flesh we flash, or the degree to which we agree to put up and shut up.  No wonder 60% of teenage girls aspire to becoming glamour models.  What else are we told we’re good for?

 

But then the bosses of the big Hollywood studios aren’t known for their imagination.  They fancy us girls will be happy as long as we have a few films about Bridesmaids or some unutterably dull ‘singleton’ (God I HATE that word) still fixated with diets, diapers and dodgy relationships.  Booooooo!

 

A colleague in the film business told me not long ago that Hollywood rarely gets good ideas for films, which is doubtless why they produce such a lot of unmitigated rubbish.  In her article, Alice Jones continues that only 4% of the directors, and 12.2% of the writers of the Top 100 Films are female.  What does this say?  That men write about men, for men, produce films about men for men to relate to, and that women don’t have anything worth writing about or portraying on the silver screen. Odd really when almost all the books currently in the best-selling paperback fiction lists are written by women.  And the stories they’re telling aren’t all cosy romances, or diaries where the heroine is still boring us with the size of her bum, or lack of a boyfriend (without which her life clearly has no meaning).

 

It’s up to us women writers to make sure we don’t take Hollywood’s disgraceful creative incapacity and blindness laying down.  There are 1001 stories by women of real courage, adventure and power that are being lived and written about every day, and we should make sure those stories are told, loud and bold.

 

And talking about bold talent, June’s Loose Muse will be featuring two fearless poets – the marvelous Steph Pike, and the masterful Charlotte Ansell, both making a return visit from their homes up North. Plus Special Guest Angela Stoner winging in from Penzance.  Another promise of wonder, so

Come share the passion, share the joy.

 

Agnes

TODAY MANCHESTER, TOMORROW…THE WORLD!

I know….I know….. It’s been weeks since my last blog, and I’m reeeeeally sorry for that.  Blame it on a combination of The Back Ache from Hell (a recurring problem), and a ‘day job’ that’s taken most of my time and energy over the past couple of months.  April seems like a long time ago, but there was a lot happening, so this will be a bit of a journey into last month, tho’ future blogs will be more current, honest, so bear with me.

Loose Muse launched its 3rd Anthology on the 4th April (OMG…that was over 6 weeks ago!), and the whole thing was truly FAB.  Despite arctic temperatures and SNOW, it was a fantastic success, with dozens of the 40 writers whose work had been included there to help us celebrate with tremendous enthusiasm and gusto.  It was lovely to see so many loyal LM fans there to enjoy the moment, as well as lots of newbies also caught up in the excitement.  For me the best thing about producing these anthologies is the fact it really does seem to make a difference to those whose work has been included.  When I get e-mails from people saying things like, “I was about to give up writing when I got your notice saying one of my poems was going to be published.  Now I feel encouraged to go on…”; or, “You’ve given me the incentive to take my work further…”, well, it makes all the hard work totally worth while.

 

The latest Loose Muse Anthology

Local poet Aryamati with moi  at Manchester’s Loose Muse Night

I Still have lots of copies to sell before I break even, so if you know anyone who might be interested in buying a copy, they’re only £8.00 each (+ £1 p&p), available from me on agnespoet@googlemail.com

Claire Booker performs ‘Last Man in Watford’ at London launch

And then on April 17th we had our first Loose Muse Manchester event!  Yeeeeehaaa!!!  Thanks to the marvellous Steph Pike, a local poet and activist of enormous talent and energy, we had a fantastically successful first out-of-London LM event.  Steph and I had been collaborating on the idea of a Manchester gig since she featured last year.  She worked really hard to get a great venue, spread the world to local women writers, plus securing two truly terrific Manchester writers to feature – Rosie Garland and Rebecca Audra Smith, who were both terrific, and whom I hope to feature in London later in the year.  Accompanying me for the 1st LM Manchester was the multi-talented Claire Booker (a brilliant travelling companion),who read excerpts from her short plays + a few poems, while I read poems from my slender volumes + a few new ones.  We seemed to go down reasonably well – they didn’t thrown rotten tomatoes, so it must’ve been OK.   The quality of open mic-ers was top notch too, and I’m hoping all that talent will be reflected in submissions for the next Anthology.  Deadline for that’s mid-July for a launch date in mid’ish September.

The plan is to make the Manchester event regular, taking place 2-3 times a year to start with. If things work out we’ll have a combined second Manchester event and Anthology launch up there mid-late September, to complement the launch in London.  This idea was greeted with enormous enthusiasm, so hopefully we’ll get a strong and vibrant platform going there for women writers too.  Seeing the beginning of this kind of network is really exciting, and I have all kinds of plans for the future to make Loose Muse a real contender…. as I say….tomorrow…the WORLD!

The next Loose Muse event in London is on July 12th, at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden.  If you missed her last time, this is another chance to see Steph Pike rock’n’roll it all the way from Manchester – if she doesn’t knock your socks off with her poetry, well, you’re not really alive.  And as if that wasn’t enough, the fabulous Charlotte Ansell is making a very welcome return to the London scene from her house-boat in Rotherham.  Charlotte’s one of my all-time faves, and her awesome poetry never fails to hit the emotional target.  Plus we have Angela Stonerwinging in from Penzance as a Special Guest!   Talk about a bevy of nationwide talent! You’d be mad to miss it!!!!

Also, check out Claire Booker’s marvellous review of the anthology launch here: http://bookerplays.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/a-tale-of-two-cities-loose-muse-hits-london-and-manchester/

 

So come share the passion, share the joy.

Agnes

Loose Muse Spring anthology – grab your copy now!

Loose Muse - Spring 2013

 

 

Want to get your copy of the latest Loose Muse anthology? Just email or call Agnes Meadows for details.

It’s only £8 for the Spring edition and £5 for back copies.

Agnes Meadows

Tel:             07789-901-667          E: agnespoet@googlemail.com   www.loose-muse.com

 

 

LAUNCH EVENT – 3rd Loose Muse Anthology of New Writing by Women

Featuring the work of 40 UK and international writers, 33 of whom will be reading on April 4th!

Loose Muse - Spring 2013

Thursday 4th April @ Cottons Caribbean Restaurant – Downstairs Bar

– 70 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QP – Free Event

Doors open at 7.00 for a 7.30 p.m. (sharp) start.   

Agnes Meadows (founder and Chairwoman) will be hosting.

Agnes Meadows

Writers featured include:Sue Johns, Chikodi Nwaiwu, Steph Pike, Patricia Foster, Sarah Reilly and many more…

Patricia Foster

Sue Johns

Steph Pike

SOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO SAY GOODBYE

 

 

When the weather is relentlessly dreary, winter stretching ahead in a louring canopy of grey on grey, it doesn’t help to  hear a friend you’ve known for  more than half your life has died.

 

Just when you’ve finished writing a poem acknowledging there will be things you never get to do, places you won’t ever get to see, lovers you finally acknowledge will never be yours, someone else you cared about for decades is added to that ‘never ever’ list.

 

My friend Linda, who spent years planning all the marvellous thing she was going to do when she retired, but who was struck down with cancer only months after that retirement. So she never got to do any of it – to busy struggling with treatments, tests, medications, and hospital visits.  And the moral of that has got to be, don’t postpone having the life you want to have, filled with the things bringing you joy.  Because Fate is cruel, and the only day you’re certain of having is this one.

 

My friend Linda…a talented, smiling woman whom I shared so much laugher with.  For years we lived in flats opposite each other in Central London.  I didn’t have a ‘phone at the time (hard to believe, but true), so if I wanted her to come over for a coffee and a natter, I’d ring a hand-bell out the window, the signal for her to come over.  It never failed to amuse us, and passers-by would often wonder what the hell was going on.

 

She was the first person I told I was getting married in 1986.  I was living in Istanbul, had met and fallen madly in love with a young Turkish musician, but too broke to call everyone back home to let them know my plans.  So I called Linda and asked her to spread the news to friends and family (including my mother – it was years before she forgave me for not calling her first!).  It was midnight when I finally got through to my pal.  Erhan and I were booked with the Registrar at 8.45 the following morning; we’d only got permission to marry late that afternoon, and I was flying home the day after, so things were a tad tense.  I explained all this to Linda, who shrieked enthusiastically before asking, her tongue firmly in her cheek, if he was a waiter.  The fact he was a classical musician and his parents were both opera singers calmed her down a lot. But we laughed about that for years.

 

She and I shared a love of fireworks, Cornwall, Cornish cream teas, castles, and the gardens at Sissinghurst.  We had the same sense of the ridiculous, loved cheesy jokes, Tommy Cooper, Morecombe & Wise, and music in all its forms.  She had a fine singing voice, but was too nervous to make a career as a performer.  She didn’t share my wanderlust, being perfectly content to stay in England, but loved hearing about my foreign adventures and followed my trips with avid interest.

 

And when she met the man she subsequently married, she was as nervous as a teenager.  I had to calm her down with lots of tea and cake.  It all worked out beautifully, and he was her devoted partner until the day she died.

 

If I was to sum up her life in a few words, I would say, hers was a quiet life lived in laughter, surrounded by love and friendship.  And that’s got to be something to celebrate.  I know I’m not the only one to miss her.  So goodbye, my lovely.

 

The next Loose Muse is another celebration of talent and friendship with two featured poets – Kate McLoughlin, and Isabel White, both wonderful but in very different ways.  April’s Loose Muse is on April 10th, at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, for more details see our events page.

 

Hope to see you there,

Until the next time,

Love

Agnes