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Blog - Richard Downes

A Daisy – A Day

Photo of jugs and cups on a table with writing implements

The Tools Of A Trade

The reviewer faces a debut DAISY day at DAISY (Disability Arts In Surrey). My first disability festival as a contributor. My first reading as a performance poet. But first…. there is always a first before a first. Others got there first. Maybe Armstrong never stepped on the moon and maybe a future of firsts stretches out before us. DAISY Fest has left the Arts Centre, her two days becoming four, touring major libraries. Woking’s gone. Farnham today. Guildford and Epsom to come.

In a dark wood panelled room, presided over by royalty, a workshop led by Colin Hambrook; commences. He throws strategies into a bubbling Halloween weekend cauldron percolating discussion and ideas. The low autumn sun beams through the window. Wordy playtime is warming.

Illuminated by poets, Akila Richards and Wendy Young, collectively the workshop, it’s new starters, re-starters, practiced wordsmiths; read Sandy Jeffs’ ‘A Thesaurus Of Madness’. 3 lines each. Neutral medical terms, derogatory descriptions from the playground and the workplace demonstrate that nothing is disallowed. We all put in. We all take out. We shape our ground. We are led through a version of a renge, japanese, cultural and historic. We have written our first lines. We cut out our favourites, we stick post-its to wood panels. A sub group gathers around them to read back our lines, making new shapes, raising laughter. The cauldron is a campfire. Gin Gan Gooley. A major theme is sharing. Its working. Talent is unearthed. We are welcome. We are exceptional.

Hello lunch break. Hi’ya sandwich. I sit with poets. We talk about the first time. Little moments of magic we experienced in life. The voices that comforted, cajoled, and encouraged as we stepped out with vocabulary and ideas. Little hiccups were discussed. Fact. life gets in the way. The artist must earn his corn. Word survives. Coming in and going out.

Tick tock goes the clock. Afternoon is gig time. The public space of dowdy library shelves, (though not too shabby as I sit with Berger, da Vinci and Grayson), opens into a horse shoe. The floor, the space, between audience and poet. MC Colin sets the rhythm. Speak, listen, stop, silence, applause. The wheel spins away from his poems of psychosis where mad is questioned, bad is judged, fact is thrashed by thought. The spirits in the room call me towards an open mic where I summon DAO poems; 3 Wheels, Martin and Push, interspersing each with a story and finishing on a high with audience participation. Its only is rock n roll but I like it. I leave the mic to smiles, thumbs up, more encouragement. I find a welcome in the community.

Wendy Young don’t get me wrong is so so strong. Introductions merge seamlessly into verse demonstrating that language is of itself poetry when formed to this extent. The wise woman, should she choose to be, sprouts potions, magick from everyday experience, things we know, relate to, film, pop culture, a sense of love of place. A rhythmic rhyming dictionary yielding a host of c’s for the cauldron to soak up; Conservation, Cosmos, Child abuse, Class, Classy, Courage.

Where would Halloween weekend be without transformation. I’d sat all morning next to Akila Richards, the gentle sharer. MC-ed to the stage with shapes shifting from poet to dramatist to community activist Akila stands still behind the mic dancing only to inhabit others. She presents, the mother, the daughter, shapes feminine archetypes and places them in the land, stretching their stories across mountain, sand and river, turning character into universal icon, formed by breath, bought alive by movement.

The magick stayed its course. The cauldron disgorged a meal to be enjoyed. Whoever would have credited a single flower with holding so much power. DAISY welcomes. DAISY shares. DAISY is for everyone.

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Dint we have fun? Magick is exactly right Richard!

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