doors opening?

As one project comes to an end, it would be easy to wallow, but looking forward is something I’ve always done. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always had ideas about what I wanted to do next, what new opportunities might raise their heads, so, as the Dursley Festival  Beginnings & Endings project starts to wrap up (just a little finalising to do) , and HUG performances in Bath are over, I’m making new plans.

In the next few months I hope to move the Gallery at the End of the Lane to its new site. I’d like people to apply to do residencies- artists, writers, poets, musicians, whoever might benefit from some special quiet time in a magical environment, and I can then apply for some funding perhaps to offer small bursaries…

You can read more about the experience of a residency here….

I’m in the early planning stage of my multiple choir project and am looking for good sites (with lots of concrete and echoes) for the performances to take place. And I’m making enquiries about another reminiscence project that might take place at my old university. And on top of that I’m busy writing, including work for the Needlemakers’ project which will take place at the end of October in Studley in an old needle factory, now artists’ studios.

And of course there are all my lovely piano and singing students, and people who come to art classes. So life is hardly dull….


HUG in Bath -Verity Standen

It’s horribly clichéd  to talk about journeys and experiences but that’s just where I’ve been for the last two weeks.

After 10 or more hours (3 days -3 or 4 hours at a time)  of pre-first performance rehearsals we, a few singers who perform regularly in HUG, plus a group of us who auditioned at the end of August,  have just completed  a run of up to 4 performances a day.

HUG is a truly immerse experience-the audience members wear blindfolds and sit on chairs that have been choreographed, before the unaccompanied singing begins, gradually building up into a swirling mass of sound that must feel as if it overpowers and drowns the listener at some points.

Using breathing patterns and a variety of singing and humming techniques the listeners are alternately cosseted and challenged by sound while taken through a dance of hugs, some formal,some intense and personal, all the while having to totally trust their hugger who has complete  power and control.

It is an extraordinary position to be in, as the hugger, for how often does one have total control of a situation and yet be 100% giving? It is empowering, moving and incredible to be the hugger, how much more so it must be to be the huggee ,  to hand over the metaphorical keys and be completely cared for. It is hardly surprising that tears flow and emotions run high.

Nor is it surprising that, after  the experience of a few performances, our minds and bodies start to attune to the dynamics of a room of blindfolded people.  When we enter the room we can already feel the reactions of the huggees-we can tune in to their fear,  their openness,  their ability to relax,  their anxieties. We are reprogramming our bodies to use those unlabelled senses that have evaporated through  social sophistication and modern life, those senses that perhaps were what helped humans develop, all those generations ago, into what we are today.

It has been a remarkable experience only heightened by sharing it so closely with others. The process has exposed all of us in ways we didn’t know we could, in such a short space of time.

The performances are now over,there is a massive hug shaped hole in my life but I’ve been left with  some good friends, incredible musical experiences stored in my mind, wonderful memories of extraordinary hugs  and the knowledge that I have the confidence to hug anyone. Chosing to be intimate with a stranger is an extraordinary thing but ultimately empowering for both the hugger and huggee. We can make good choices in life and these gestures of shared experience are definitely  among the best.





South Preston Street

This is an an Edinburgh side street that links Causewayside to Newington. I was dawdling along it today as it was the last bit of proper flaneuring I had time for on this trip.

Just look beyond the Victorian tenements and there are lots of fascinating details that give away all kinds of clues about the area.

Here are a few:

And not far away more delights-travelling out of town down past the University:

And this morning I wandered round Stockbridge and the area round the Scottish  national gallery of modern art. (BTW fantastic exhibition on at present on surrealism -I strongly recommend you go if you’re interested in art)

I loved the Edinburgh take on a Scottish castle for a primary school-children have already gone back  to school here. And the old Salvation Army building in its militaristic red  brick practically next door. And then a slice of the backend of work-industrial units tucked behind a thoroughfare- yet I was as usual drawn to them and the stark warning.




Edinburgh Fringe Festival -Us/Them

Is it possible to make an audience laugh when you portray the worst of human nature? In 2004 Islamic  extremists took hostage over 3000 children at a school on the Russian  border with Chechyna. You may remember it in the news. More than 300 children died in he carnage of booby trap bombs shooting collapsing building and general mayhem that lasted over 3 days.

And this is what the play is about.  Yet we laughed, we tittered,  the actors played with chalks,  twine, and balloons- arguing over the chalked up diagrams of the layout of the school for the first ten minutes or so- dance and physical theatre developing themes of division and misunderstanding, sexual difference and hierarchy which carried on throughout.

The booby traps and wires entangled with a web of string through which the actors danced and writhed; helium filled balloons’ long string tails hung down into empty space, question marks punctuating the 3-D space and bombs exploded as they were punctured.

The sheer energy expended in dance and movement and the raw emotions of channeling young people dealing with an impossible situation, expecting to be rescued by their fathers on tractors with axes and knives, was almost exhausing to watch. You know the outcome is set yet you wait hoping they  will survive.

The smallest of gestures – the line of blood running down a cheek, to the drama of the terrorists changing position every two hours- so poignantly expressed. There were moments when I had to remind myself  this is theatre-the subtlety of control of movement more akin to dance than theatre.

The production is created by a young people’s  theatre company in Ghent. Now I like Ghent-even though it poured with rain all the time I was there… but now I would rather like to live there a while, if only to see a lot more work of this remarkable standard.



Bernard & Beatrice’s Complete Guide to Modern Art

A Spaniel in the Works theatre production, tonight’s  performance at the Imperial Hotel, Stroud, was a riotously funny very intelligent an witty race through modern art,  from impressionism to BritArt.

A fluid performance  from caberet to declamtory performance,  and singing and joking spontaneous  asides, I hadn’t laughed so much for a long time. Offenbach illustrating  the Fauvists, Parklife transformed into Britart, A Perfect Day becoming “it’s the everyday, culture from the streets, becomes artistic treats, something good”,  a Madonna medley illustrating expressionism and “Bernard” as Alan Bennett as Pablo Picasso at the bateau lavoir, completely side splitting funny.

It is such a shame that there were so few  in the audience as the energy levels were incredible and the writers had put a truly impressive amount of research  to create this piece. And most importantly, it was a great  night out.

Spaniel in the Works is performing at the Stroud Theatre festival 9-11 September ad well as in Worcester  and Gloucester at the end of August.


Stroud Art

I visited the Subscription Rooms today to pick up tickets for Thursday’s ‘Bernard & Beatrice’s complete guide to modern art’ on at the Imperial Hotel near Stroud train station. First performed at the V&A, this should be an entertaining  and irreverent flying broomstick of a trip through contemporary art and how we got there, via Duchamp’s urinal and Damian’s cow.

So I decided to pop into the gallery and discovered Hannah Ferguson’s exhibition, “Between the Lines”. She uses a hollow ball filled with black acrylic paint to make random marks on paper or canvas and then turns them into paintings or leaves them as visual poetry. Personally I go for the black and white poems but can see the attraction of the coloured works which often have gold copper or silver leaf added for extra textual detail. I had a good chat with her about her work which is always an added bonus. Definitely worth seeing and you may just come away with a very livable with piece of contemporary art!

Having been away from town for a while, I’d missed reading about another exhibition on at present in the ex Millets shop on the corner of Kendrick Street. Unfortunately  only open on Fridays and Saturdays and by appointment, Adam White’s “Unlikely things happen all the time”,gazed at though plate glass windows and door is an extraordinary exploration of real and imagined finds, fossils and amber, glass, resin and perhaps ceramic, and remarkable enormous watercolour and mixed media (from what I could tell…) images. I won’t have time to be able to go and see them up close but even through the window the exhibition looked fascinating and exciting. I always like seeing work that experiments with media and concepts and this does both in ample proportions.

what’s happening

To those of you who hang on every word I write (all 3 of you, on a good day, I suspect) sorry I’ve been a little tardy recently.

Hoping to buy a house- a mix of probably Georgian and Victorian, a bit of a project, but very exciting. It’ll mean a move to Stroud, so I and the boys will be able to cut down on car miles- and Michael will be able to roll out of bed into school, if it goes through! I’ve been house hunting for a while and till now not managed to find the right place at the right price, so let’s hope this one is a goodie. It’s tricky trying to find somewhere that I can teach piano from- so not disturb the neighbours, somewhere for students to park, enough space to not have to take over the living room with pianos and music…. And that is good for getting into town, most importantly, to the station, and for the school/school bus.

Warning :there will definitely need to be a housewarming /stripping the walls/carpets party.

And in the meantime, despite it being the holiday season, I’ve been busy teaching music and art, and looking for inspiration.

Rubbed down the pink side table  from the set of three I’m doing for a good friend, today, and another coat of teal green on the largest one. It’ll be painting the decoration next- the most exciting bit of doing up furniture. I’ll be taking inspiration from some Poole pottery. with  beautiful floral designs. Note how the pink is an exact match!



Today’s comes from a lovely little bistro in Stroud that I’d walked past so many times, and never gone into (but then there are an awful lots of places in Stroud I’m yet to discover)

I even managed to get the contact details of the guy who made these fabulous shelves from the lovely owner who went to the trouble of ringing to check the number he had was up to

date! I’m thinking my ever increasing collection of books, and my vintage ceramics, and cookware -somewhere I have some lovely Tala madeleine moulds I bought in a little junk shop in Cornwall years ago- they’d look brilliant!