Thursday, 28 June 2018

Ralph Dartford in Bradford

Our friends over in Bradford have got a treat waiting for them on Sunday 8 July. Ralph Dartford will be performing 'Recovery Songs' there for Bradford Literature Festival at Theatre in the Mill.  Those of us who saw his show at the Hyde Park Book Club in March will tell you that he gives a gripping and deeply moving performance.

Read Beckie Doyle's review:  https://headingleylitfest.blogspot.com/2018/03/recovery-songs-hyde-park-book-club.html

Here's an excerpt on video: https://vimeo.com/255971581/40611a9470

Tickets: https://bradfordlitfest.ticketsolve.com/shows/1173587780

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Charlotte Brontë in Brussels - Helen MacEwan's talk

Richard Wilcocks writes:


Helen MacEwan's talk at the Leeds Library on Thursday 7 June was received enthusiastically by an audience which appeared, for the most part, to be very much in touch with the works of the Brontës, especially Villette. They must be even more in touch now, because the speaker brought in plenty of material which is new: MacEwan's research, and the observations based on it, is largely original. Her slides showed mainly the older section of Brussels which Charlotte Brontë knew, consisting of historic buildings (like the Pensionnat) which have fallen victim to the greed of insensitive developers. An underground stretch of the Rue d'Isabelle appeared in one of the images on the screen, just about the last remnant of a destroyed world. Villette is greatly valued by Belgian historians for the information it provides about the capital city a few years after the country's independence, information which is unavailable elsewhere. The contemptuous remarks about Belgians made by its author have to be seen in context. 

So were the citizens of Brussels interested only in living quiet, boring bourgeois lives and eating and drinking well? Perhaps there is truth in that, Helen MacEwan told us, but consider what had been going on in the Low Countries for centuries - war and bloodshed. It is understandable that people thought they had experienced more than enough enough excitement. 

Through Belgian Eyes: Charlotte Brontë’s Troubled Brussels Legacy by Helen MacEwan

In this fascinating book, the author once more reveals herself as the current leading figure in the area of Brontë studies which concentrates on the time spent in Brussels by Charlotte Brontë, as a pupil and as an assistant teacher. Her well-known negative observations on Brussels and its inhabitants, and on Belgium in general, are rehearsed, embroidered upon and set in context, and the influence of her experiences in the city on her writings, particularly those relating to her beloved teacher, Constantin Heger, are examined in detail in a discourse which is both scholarly and accessible to less academic readers.

Less well-known ground is ploughed in addition: MacEwan has researched not only what Belgian commentators wrote about Charlotte Brontë, but what other literary figures thought of Brussels and the relatively new country at a crossroads of Europe in the nineteenth century. Many of their opinions were not too different to hers.

Baudelaire, Thackeray, Picard
Charles Baudelaire, in temporary exile from France, wrote posthumously-published notes about the ‘menacing stupidity’ and the boring ‘spirit of obedience and conformity’ in the country contemptuously named by Charlotte as Labassecour (Farmyard) in Villette, and thanked God he was born French. William Makepeace Thackeray wrote ‘…my impressions of this city are certainly anything but respectful. It has an absurd kind of Lilliput look with it.’ The writer and politician Edmond Picard recalled Brussels in the reign of Leopold I as ‘a provincial town that was slowly getting used to its role as a new capital… a town of quiet streets and sleepy squares with grass growing between the paving stones’, an account which, as MacEwan points out, brings to mind Lucy Snowe’s description of her excursion to the old Basse Ville to visit Mme Walravens, just one of many examples which indicate that Charlotte’s detailed descriptions of a vanished ‘little town’ Brussels are essentially accurate.

Pensionnat Heger
The Professor and Villette are often valued by Belgian historians as sources of knowledge about the Brussels of the mid-nineteenth century, and not just its layout and buildings. A surprising amount of evidence appears to have disappeared. Charlotte’s time at the Pensionnat Heger is covered fictionally in great detail, and much of the fiction can be taken to match the facts of life in a girls’ boarding school at the time. MacEwan adds rich pages of information about comparable schools of the time, their regimes and their intakes. As for the citizens about whom she was so scathing and dismissive, especially her fellow pupils and the girls she taught as a sous-mâitresse, it could be that she got it right, in spite of the fact that she spent much of her time confined, stricken by boredom and loneliness, in a school which she considered to be a type of convent. She was not much of a teacher after all: evidence for this can be found in accounts of her early experiences at Roe Head School in Mirfield. MacEwan balances Charlotte’s negative opinions against those of others, including those of former pupils who actually enjoyed their time at the Pensionnat, which appears to have been, according to them, less rigorous and more friendly than other schools.

Constantin Heger
So was Constantin Heger a little too friendly as a teacher, or just more or less in line with modern, less-authoritarian practitioners? He is arguably the most significant fictional brusselois in literary history. In a chapter with the title ‘Grande passion and petite pluie: Charlotte and the Hegers’ which will be read first by many, I suspect, MacEwan refers to Claire Harman’s biography, which was launched to coincide with the recent bicentenary. This begins not in Haworth but in Brussels. Charlotte, in her second summer, ‘depressed and tormented by her feelings for Heger’, is moved to confess to a Catholic priest in the Church of St Gudule. It ends in Brussels too, in the study of the 78 year-old Heger, who is writing a letter to another former pupil at the Pensionnat, Meta Mossman.

Addressing her in affectionate terms, he includes: ‘Letters and the post are not, luckily, the only means of communication, or the best, between people who are really fond of one another…’ which has led some to speculate that he was flirtatious and to wonder ‘what else went on’ with Charlotte, who might have been one of many. Jane Eyre’s long-distance communication with Rochester comes to mind, and Lucy Snowe’s description of Paul Emmanuel in Villette: ‘his mind was… my library, and whenever it was opened to me, I entered bliss’. Of course, MacEwan weighs this against other views of Heger as a mediocre and unimaginative pedagogue. Whatever category he fell into, Charlotte created various versions of him in her novels, a fact unknown to those (the majority) who read just Jane Eyre, unaware of her experiences in Brussels.

Madame Beck
The portrayal of Madame Beck in Villette, probably based on Madame Heger, has been praised in Belgium, amongst other countries, as a masterpiece, full of psychological insights. Some who knew her recognised a number of similarities. Others, especially those close to Madame Heger, like her daughter Louise, thought of the portrait as a libellous caricature, and the whole novel as a work of revenge and ingratitude. Yet others detect a certain admiration as well as antipathy in Charlotte’s mind: Lucy Snowe compares Madame’s abilities to those of a police commissioner or prime minister. Here and throughout the book, MacEwan deploys all of the available evidence when dealing with autobiographical elements.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Robert Devereux - Tudor music and poetry

An 'In Between the Lines' event

A Rehearsal of the Life and Death of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex


27 Jun 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm           Free

Show Map

The Leeds Library 18 Commercial Street, Leeds, LS1 6AL

Tudor song and drama with Jenny Hill and Simon Nisbett ('Merry Melancholy')

It is 1624. Richard and Susannah, a lutenist and singer, are preparing a concert to mark the publication of a book – Gervase Markam’s Honour in his Perfection – dedicated to Robert Devereux. Although he was executed for treason more than two decades previously, during the reign of Elizabeth I, he still has a huge following.

The play tells of his eventful years at court, his stormy relationship with the Queen and his early death. The character of Richard is based on Richard Mynshall, whose handwritten lute book has survived to the present day.

The playwright, Jenny Hill, is a poet and a singer who has founded three choirs, specialising in the field of early music. Simon Nisbett taught the guitar in schools for many years before making the lute his first instrument ten years ago.


The music in the play is provided by Thomas Campion, John Dowland, Daniel Bacheler and Philip Rosseter. Lyricists include Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, George Peele and of course Robert Devereux.

Just turn up but to ensure your seat ring 0113 245 3071 or register here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/headingley-litfest-between-the-lines-event-a-rehearsal-of-the-life-and-death-of-robert-devereux-tickets-45651583114?aff=ebapi

Charlotte Brontë in Brussels

An 'In Between the Lines' event -


CHARLOTTE BRONTË IN BRUSSELS

7 Jun 2018 7:30pm - 9pm

The Leeds Library 18 Commercial Street, Leeds, LS1 6AL


This illustrated talk is to promote Helen MacEwan's much-acclaimed new book: Through Belgian Eyes: Charlotte Brontë’s Troubled Brussels Legacy.


Helen MacEwan
MacEwan once more reveals herself as the current leading figure in the area of Brontë studies which concentrates on the time spent in Brussels by Charlotte Brontë, as a pupil and as an assistant teacher. Her well-known negative observations on Brussels and its inhabitants, and on Belgium in general, are rehearsed, embroidered upon and set in context, and the influence of her experiences in the city on her writings, particularly those relating to her beloved teacher, Constantin Heger, are examined in detail in a discourse which is both scholarly and accessible to less academic readers.

Less well-known ground is ploughed in addition: MacEwan has researched not only what Belgian commentators wrote about Charlotte Brontë, but what other literary figures like Baudelaire and Thackeray thought of Brussels and the relatively new country at a crossroads of Europe in the nineteenth century. Many of their opinions were not too different to hers.

It's free. Just turn up but to make sure of a seat ring 0113 245 3071 or register here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/charlotte-bronte-in-brussels-tickets-43502331645

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A A Dhand - 'City of Sinners'

Read our local pharmacist's latest crime thriller. Enter the competition too!

Book launch & MAJOR competition to find Yorkshire's next big crime-writer!
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The time has arrived! "City of Sinners" is due for release on Friday June 29th at Bradford Waterstones and I would love for you all to join me and host BBC 5 live radio presenter Phil Williams (who has a cameo in the book!) as we explore the novel and the Harry Virdee series.
The launch also kicks off a weekend of crime at the Bradford Literary Festival AND a major competition to find Yorkshire's next big crime-writer... see below
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Major writing competition in association with Bradford Literature Festival, WME agency and Mayfair Group Investment

Time to give something back! I'm delighted to announce that Yorkshire based company, Mayfair Group Investment have donated a substantial amount of money to provide a UNIQUE opportunity for up to TEN writers to attend a writer's residential course at the well-respected ARVON foundation in Yorkshire where AA Dhand and Simon Trewin will help them with their novels. The six-week competition window will open at the launch of "City of Sinners" at Bradford Waterstones where more details will be provided. As a preliminary heads-up, writers will be asked to submit the first 5000 words of their crime-novel and up to TEN will be selected for a year's mentorship. WME agency will also consider representation of one or more of these authors.  

Get tickets >>
Crime-writing workshop at Bradford Literature Festival with AA Dhand and agent Simon Trewin

Want to kick-start your entry to the competition above? Then get ahead with this workshop where author AA Dhand gives you the cheats, hows and why's and agent Simon Trewin tells you what he is looking for and how to make your novel stand out from the crowd.

Get tickets >>
Into the mind of a serial killer - join AA Dhand and former Bradford detective's Andrew Laptew and Stephen Snow as we explore the criminal mind

How does the criminal mind work and what can we learn from the detectives who helped to bring down some of the most notorious murderers of our time including the Yorkshire Ripper and the Crossbow Cannibal Killer. Not only a fascinating view into the darker side of human behaviour but for aspiring authors, a view into a world they may be writing about in their novels... 

Get tickers >>

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

LCA Open Mic evening at HEART

Event Organised by Leeds Combined Arts


Audience Comments
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A very enjoyable variety of recitals humourous and those with a message to ponder over. It was the first time I shared my poem in public.  It was well received and has encouraged me to attempt a few more.

Great. Lovely to hear so many people speak. Thanks to Carol Downing for rearranging things. It's been a good informative evening.

A very good night's entertainment.

Good event. Never been before.

They know how to run a poetry evening, lots of laughter, fun and diversity.

Richly varied content very well executed.

Lively and creative. Carol did an excellent job in hosting.

A very diverse and enjoyable evening!

Good event.

Initially upset the original event was cancelled or postponed, but we decided to give the poetry a go and whilst we didn't perform ourselves we were amazed at how many talented poets there were.

Very stimulating and varied work.

My own event was censored and this was there replacement.

Very good poetry evening. I have been a member of his group for over 10 years and the poetry was as usual very good. I particularly thought June Smith's poems were very funny and I enjoyed John Coopey's Scottish accent take-off on his poetry.

Sorry we couldn't stay for the whole evening, but we enjoyed very much what we did see. Thanks.

Good varied evening though it was a shame the scheduled event was cancelled.

Wide variety of styles in a comfortable setting. Very supportive audience. No airs and graces.

Very good.

Great evening. Will come next time.

Very good, a chance for budding poets to get together.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Poet James Nash at Weetwood Primary School


Sally Bavage writes: 
A sunny and bright morning greets the Weetwood Primary School poetry assembly, hastily re-arranged in the intimacy of the classroom after the blight of snow that scuppered earlier plans.  Year 5 – some as young as nine, some as 'old' as only ten – have been studying the poem The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. It complements the work on a gothic theme that they have been working on this term – and we certainly got atmosphere dripping from every line. Poets extraordinaire!

Mr Inglesias, headteacher, commented on the project as a whole: “Brilliant!  The creative arts have an impact on the whole child, and this work supports a robust curriculum that we offer here to prepare a child for life.”  As Joanna Parker, the class teacher in charge of the development of English, echoed: “This work is very valuable.  It's an opportunity to work with a published author and discuss the power of language and the writing process.  And it was fun!” 

James Nash, the poet commissioned by Headingley LitFest to deliver the poetry workshops, assisted by LitFest volunteer Rachel Harkess once again, commented to all: “Drafting and redrafting – it is valuable to learn that losing words may be a gain for the quality of the writing. Sacrificing some, even favourite, bits may mean Less is More”.  Yong Waters, teaching assistant also agreed.  “The children are loving it, they are bursting with ideas and embracing an understanding of how to write, and write better.”

The modern-day Listeners – parents, school staff and LitFest volunteers – were treated to poetry that was both “Powerful – and creepy!”  The work imagined the Listeners in the poem were the ghostly presence in the house upon which door the Traveller knocked.

'The screaming echoes in my ear'

'I am lying at my grave'

'Caught between two worlds, I look back at the graves'

'Scary dark shadows, I see the Traveller, I wish for life'

'My family are died, They died in this house, I saw my family in the shadows'

'I can't breathe, Moonlight smites the door'

'I must listen to the Man, Who must travel in the world of Men, And who looks so like father'

'My family stays in my head, They never leave'

'The light of the cold moon'

'Ghosts, neither dead nor alive'

'I sit on the stairs, listening and watching'

'I am isolated from the rest of humanity'

'The dark creaks'

'I am a phantom, Lurking in my own house'

'I am history'

'They are looking for me … am I dead?'

'It is night, midnight, in the haunted house'

A refrain of 'It got louder, and louder, and louder' makes one poem really sinister

'Leaving me alone in the empty void I call home'

'I have been blinded by the doubts'

'I watch as everything fades … I fall'

… 'There is a smell of rotting flesh, and some of old blood'

'I am trapped between life and death, I hate Humans'

'The Listeners watch me all the time with their black eyes'

'My vision keeps on flickering … between two worlds'

'Owls hoot in the swaying trees'

'The clock in my heart doesn't tick any more, Had I fainted or was I dead?'

As one parent commented afterwards: “This work is crucial for broadening horizons and cherishing the art and importance of language.  Poetry is an art for that has so much to offer children and needs to be supported.”  Another contributed that “Poetry helps give the children the experience of using words and language to change their environment and engage with the world and society around them.”

Last word to the young people themselves.  When asked what had been the best thing about the project:
Writing in poem form
Using our imagination
Getting our brains going
Getting into the world of the story

What will they remember about this project?
Thinking about the best vocabulary
Using imagination
Show you've got talent
Face your fears -the more you do, the better you get
All the creepy stuff!