Host your event at Gwdihw and you’re off to a good start gwdihw.co.uk/--it may translate as owl but Gwdihw is synonymous with good times. Any event I’ve ever been to there is embellished by its charm and innate vibe. Even non-events become one – the times I stop in on the way home for no particular reason other than to stop in and stay a while, make my day.
The purr of a good-sized crowd signalled distinct interest in the Cardiff launch of Bare Fiction on Wednesday night, January 29th at Gwdihw. A new literary magazine offering poetry, fiction, theatre, review and comment, Issue 1 was chunky and full of promise www.barefictionmagazine/, and the launch event would be giving voice to its contents.
Bare Fiction editor, Rob Harper (herein referred to as Ed), stood at the door greeting people warmly and doing a great job selling the magazine (no gratis copies for the launch of this non-profit venture). I didn’t begrudge paying the £8 cover price, and was persuaded, uhm, offered the chance to pay £10 to get the mag plus their series of launch postcards.
Heading to the bar, smiles and the warmchill that filled the air told me it was not an ego-bound event, and I continued to feel good and glad I was there.
More than happy to see Boyd Clack stretched out on the two best seats in the house. (I respect his unorthodox approach, deserving of a chapter -- a footnote at least -- in An Actor Prepares.) When he vacated, I took his place, front-and-centre, just as the proverbial curtain went up.
‘Hellooo, Cardiff.’ Ed kicked off enthusiastically, telling us that, after a successful launch in Shrewsbury, he’d ‘balls’d up’a London launch as it was too close to Christmas, and that he was thrilled to be back in Cardiff.
At the risk of seeming easily impressed the performances hadn’t even started and I was already rating this a top event. Venue, top marks; audience and atmosphere, top marks; and especially genre, top marks: a literary event with readings, open mic, and performances in a cool venue with a receptive audience.
My entire body responded when Ed told us he was an actor and his raison d’etre for Bare Fiction was to provide an opportunity for writing for theatre to be published. Well done that man, for having the vision, and for taking the leap to publish prose, poetry and scripts; to provide a bold and broad platform for words -- a platform which lends itself beautifully to live events, enables the organic inclusion of performance of theatre pieces as part of a reading, and marries writers from different disciplines, encouraging discussion and the prospect of collaboration.
After Ed with ‘School gates’ and ‘If’, Georgia Carys Williams’ gravelly-smooth voice read from her short story 'The Bereaved' from Rarebit anthology (Parthian Books) followed by Richard Owain Roberts reading from 'Disneyland' (same anthology).
Georgia Carys Williams
Richard Owain Roberts
I stopped drawing when Kirsten Jones started her rhyming and rhythming ‘You Have Got a Brain’. (Interesting fact: the piece, first performed down a mine at Big Pit for the Senghennyd Mining disaster centenary, was written for all who lost their lives in Wales from mining disasters.) Jones’ was a touching telling--a mother to her son--and a satisfying performance of a poem that was alive with characters and rooted emotions.
Boyd Clack’s invitation to take the stage was a takeover. It was difficult not to be struck by his deliberate slow, steady stride, his smile and his silence. When he found his spot, his stance and his pointed, purposeful words stabbed the air: ‘This poem is about.... Do people care what a poem is about?’ I don't think so. I don't.' Clack’s various readings included 'Cold, Cold is the Wind that Blows', a poem from Issue 1 of Bare Fiction, which included a powerful, memorable line: ‘In remembering I could tear out my tongue’. Watch Boyd Clack here
I’m not sure whether the audience totally got him – but for me, his was a complete live performance: not just engaging, but fusing with the audience, reacting to someone who’d walked out, and warning: ‘If anyone walks out whilst I’m reading this one I will smash a glass and….’
Ed again, with 'Snakes Alive' and 'Bobbed I by the Town', then an open-mic interlude which prompted a burst of spontaneity and improv: Charlie Hammond; Iwan ap Huw Morgan; Jack Ayres; Mark Blayney.
Iwan ap Huw Morgan
Associated editor Lisa Parry read some of her new poems. Well-observed and worded, her ‘baby poems’, as she calls them, which she produced, like it or not, reflect on her experience of motherhood.
Dan Tyte read 'Onwards' (from Rarebit), and a short excerpt from his debut novel 'Half plus Seven,' out in April. Tyte’s words and stage presence dare you to pay attention. He reminds me of Jon Voight in his Midnight Cowboy days. I noted the details of his invite to what his publishers call a book launch, he calls a piss up: Porters Bar, Saturday 22 February.
Rachel Trezise then read an extract from her new novel. Raw, honest, heart breaking and hilarious, 'Say Porthcawl', will be in Issue 2. Watch out for it.
Ed was thanking us for coming and drawing the event to a close when a backpacked guy barged into the bar. Looking for a hostel and a fight, he must be in the wrong place, I thought. I admit I felt threatened and was still on my guard when the guy pushed his way onto the stage. Neil Bebber's one-man short play 'Breathe' which is in Bare Fiction Issue 1, was the last act – a coup. A daring piece of work, Gareth Pierce’s performance was convincing and compelling.
What sustained me throughout the evening was my enjoyment of the genre. I grew up in New York City in the sixties, which conjures up a time of happenings and hip events like poetry readings. The reality is I was too young to go to any -- my first ten years of life spanned the 60s, though I am really a product of the 70s, and actually, a quick referential glance at Wikipedia tells us, ‘the original Beat Generation writers met in New York in the 1950s… In the 1960s, elements of the expanding Beat movement were incorporated into the hippie and larger counterculture movements.’ So my memories are infused with this culture but I really only caught the tail end of it.
Unlike fashion, which also goes around and comes back around, but which invokes in me a ‘can’t go back, won’t go back’ reaction, I am inspired and excited by the opportunity to live through these times culturally, the 2wenties, which are mirroring the coolest hippest most liberating times creatively in my relatively short, but equally relatively long, lifetime.
For info about buying and subscribing to Bare Fiction, go to: www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk