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beccipoet

Handing out words

Month

June 2015

A City of Foxes is on the move!

So it’s been quiet for a couple of weeks while I attempt to get my head together, re-organise and add to the script, practise and consider my new game plan. I now have a few exciting developments to report with A City of Foxes.

Firstly, ACOF is going to the Free Fringe in Edinburgh! It will be at George Next Door between the 16th and the 22nd of August, starting at 13.45, as supported by the PBH Free Fringe. I’m really excited by this. It means a whole new audience for the show, a whole new selection of people to give feedback and a whole new opportunity to make the show even better. I’m hoping it can gain a little exposure and develop as a piece, even just by virtue of me performing it for seven days straight! So, if you’re in Edinburgh during this time, get yourself to the venue. It’s a forty five minute show just after lunch, a great way to spend that sleepy part of your afternoon. The show will wake you up again enough to go and consume loads more amazing art and shows during the rest of the day!

Secondly, it’s now only a few weeks until the show goes on at the Reading Fringe Festival. On the 17th July, I’ll be performing A City of Foxes at the Purple Turtle in Reading town centre. Tickets are only £6 and the Reading Fringe Festival is a really amazing platform for South-Eastern artists. It’s run on an entirely voluntary basis by a group of incredible, enthusiastic, kind, creative and inspirational people. It will be a brilliant four day festival, packed with the best art that Reading has to offer. And believe me, it can offer some truly incredible stuff!

So, I’ve got a couple more opportunities to really nail the show over the summer, which is awesome, and I’m truly looking forward to getting back on stage and performing a story that has become such a huge part of my life. I’m immensely proud of this show and everything it has achieved so far. It’s a hard push being a relatively unknown poet, but this piece has taken me on an amazing journey and I want it to be as successful as possible. As a result, I’ve now started a campaign on crowdfunder.co.uk. You can find it here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-city-of-foxes/widget.js/

I have one month to raise as much as I can to make this project a success. The aim is £600, but any small amount that my friends, family and supporters can give in order to give this project a longer stride will be amazing. The plan, after the summer, is to take it on tour around small communities, schools, residential homes and organisations, along with workshops about identity, Britishness, and self-expression through poetry. This is a project meant for the community, it is something to open eyes, open hearts, and open mouths who wouldn’t normally have the confidence to speak. I want this to be a story of hope about building a better, more inclusive, more open society that accepts, celebrates and relishes the diversity of its citizens. If you believe as strongly as I do about the importance of ending bigotry and encouraging inclusion, please support A City of Foxes on crowdfunder.co.uk. There are further incentives in that there are rewards for certain amounts pledged, ranging from a publicly blogged thank you from me to special and exclusive artwork from the project.

A City of Foxes is a story for small people. It isn’t just for theatres and stages and show lights. It’s for classrooms, for living rooms, for kitchens. It’s for pavements and public parks and gazebos in fields while wellie-deep in mud. This is a project to change lives. It’s already changed mine, and I want to share it with as many people as I can to make as big a difference as I can. Any support that anyone can give will be hugely appreciated, so give what you can, come and see it in Reading and come and see it in Edinburgh! It’s got miles to go before it’s done!

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A City of Foxes: Where Do We Go From Here?

Cut back through life to two days ago. I’m standing on a small stage space in the Roundhouse, Camden. We’ve just finished a very speedy tech run. One of the stewards gives me the thumbs up that they’re opening the house and I’m thinking Oh God Oh God Oh God…

Why am I thinking that? I know this story inside out. I mutter it to myself while I cook dinner. I regularly perform it in the shower and give vivid and moving renditions of it to my pet rabbit (from whom I get standing ovations every time, but that may just be because I’m holding a carrot to keep her interested). I know this piece. I wrote it. It came to me eighteen months ago on a bus in Wembley, Durga’s pre-teen face grinning at me through the mists of a murky Monday morning. Since then, I have nurtured this story. I have grown with it. I have got to know these characters like more than family. Like the deepest recesses of myself.

I’m not nervous because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong. I’m nervous because I love it so much I want it to mean something. I want people to see it and be better for it. And I’m scared that won’t happen.

The house opens. A few people traipse in. The auditorium has a capacity for 52 but when the lights go down, there’s probably only about twenty people. I know four of them. The rest are strangers. I think of all the people who said they’d come and for whatever reason, (late trains, hangovers, traffic, illness, all legitimate and understandable) were unable to. Now I’m worried. The house is more empty than it is full. Oh well, that’s hardly surprising. It’s only little old me. Nobody knows who I am. Why should they invest forty five minutes of their lives in a piece they’ve never heard of by a person they’ve never seen? I ask the audience to come forward a little, quip that it’ll ‘make me feel better about myself’. They laugh. I smile. I’m trying not to feel terribly anxious that there’s only twenty people here. The steward gives me a thumbs up again and I start.

It takes a while. I’m thinking where’s this person? And didn’t that person say they’d come? And I saw him outside! Where is he? But it’s testament to how well I know this piece that I can perform it without thinking about it. It’s part of me now. Like breath.

Eventually, my mind shuts itself up. It says, So what they didn’t come? Their loss! These people did! Give them a show!

So I do.

I tell me story with as much honesty as I can. It’s simple, this story. A City of Foxes is about fear. It’s about loneliness and loss and acceptance. It’s about people and whether or not they treat other people like people. I have worked very hard to be sensitive with my two characters; the people I care about so much they keep me awake at night even though they’re only in my head.

First, there’s little Durga. She’s a British teenager of mixed race Indian and British heritage. She likes football. She wears purple cowboy boots. She’s never been to India but her late Grandmother was a Sanskrit Hindu; a language that is now only spoken in a few regional areas of India.

Then, there’s poor old Martha, a white English woman, estranged from her son and still mourning the loss of her six year old daughter, Bethany, forty six years previously. She can’t stand change. And she can’t stand Durga.

I tell their stories with as much love and compassion as I can. And d’you know? They’re laughing with me when I make fun of my two damaged characters. Their faces fall when Durga cries. They’re terrified and upset for Martha. At the end, for twenty people, they make a lot of noise.

I ask for feedback and offer questionnaires. But the audience don’t need telling twice. They tell me they cried. They tell me it made them laugh. They tell me I told a heart-warming, vivid and compassionate story. I get an email from one audience member that evening, telling me how much he enjoyed it.

Alright, yes, I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t fill the house, but what can I expect? I’ve only been performing for two and a half years and it’s only in the last eight months that people have really begun to notice that I’m there. I’m not a big name. I’m not even a big person. But twenty people came to see my story and twenty people walked away, having told me their lives had been enriched as a result.

So this is not an ending. This is a very exciting beginning. Durga’s and Martha’s story is not over. It is being performed again on the 17th July at the Reading Fringe Festival, and will go on being performed for as long as I can find space for it, even if that space is the high street in Reading Town Centre or the corner of the London Road.

To those twenty people who came to see me speak and hear my characters come to life: thank you. I enjoyed telling it as much as you enjoyed listening to it. And I want to tell it again and again and again. I will keep telling it for as long as people will keep listening, and probably for longer. Because the Durga’s of this world need acceptance for who they are and the Martha’s of this world need to learn to love the Durga’s. We are not wholly defined by our race, our nationality, our so-called ‘Britishness’. We are defined by whether or not we’ll help a terrified old woman who falls in the road, or by how we begin to understand our own prejudices.

If you missed it, come to Reading on the 17th July. I’m not done yet. And neither is this story.

ACOF flier 1

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