Dear RTJ friends, fans & followers,
Season’s Greetings! @rtjpoet here to vajazzle your seasonal between-Christmas and New Year biffin’s bridge with my yearly roundup of 2011’s adventures and a look forward to mine and Utter!s plans in 2012.
Well 2010 was a bit of a twat of a year, what with the heart failure, me old Mum’s Benson’s syndrome, getting evicted by mental housemates and a big flood at the end of the year forcing the Jones family out of our ancestral seat.
But luckily January 2011, spent in a B&B in Wolverhampton, was not wasted as I wrote my debut solo show about my 2010 near-death from heart failure experiences, Richard Tyrone Jones has a Big Heart. Okay, so I also became addicted to Civilisation III but recognised the destructive, depressive, addictive thought patterns and snapped the CD in half.
The first read-through of the show in February was a quite-fat one hour and twenty minutes, but still BBC Ouch said it was “raw, at times graphic, and very funny.”
I did extracts of the show throughout the country for the rest of the year, including supporting Salena Godden’s tour with Hammer & Tongue. In that month, we also heard from the Arts Council we’d got funding for another season of ‘Utter!’ and what a season it turned out to be…
Utter! Agony in March was the first of our shows where the themes had been chosen by the facebook group. Here poets answered audience problems, Dear Diedre-style. You can watch ALL the performances, filmed by Sky’s Joe Rigby, on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/user/utterspokenword This was followed up by Utter! Coalition, celebrating (ahem) the first anniversary of the Coalition in May, Utter! Nutters with Liz Bentley and more. I was at the Meadowlands festival near Brighton - sadly, Bang Said the Gun’s poetry tent was a shelter of fun in an otherwise cold, badly organised and empty field.
Me at the squat, Summer 2011 image Rimvydas
Throughout the year I commuted from Wolverhampton into London, and then to West London, to rehearse my show with Anthony Shrubsall, who’d directed Zena Edwards’ hugely well received Security. Another preview got us a rave review in New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/06/making-art-of-traumatic-heart-failure.html Massive thanks to Anthony and to everyone whose floors I stayed on, including a spell in the ironically-named Well Furnished squat in Hackney with Cat Brogan, Captain of the Rant and many other talented, artistic and socially-activated people. Sadly I got a massive dose of food poisoning, caused either by unwittingly sharing a glass of water with a cat or by skipped meat (and since then I’ve had Scroobius Pip’s ‘The beat that my heart skipped’ running through my head with the lyrics changed to ‘The meat that my mate skipped’) and opened June’s Peterborough Festival with the Dead Poets while bunged up with co-codamol and trying to keep in the type sixes and sevens in. In all I lost about a stone.
Nevertheless, on July 1st we raised £600+ for the British Heart Foundation and Cardiomyopathy Association with ‘Utter!’ Heartbreak in West London featuring Zena Edwards, Kevin Eldon, Rob Auton, myself and Tim Wells (who also has a dicky ticker). Next time I think we’ll do it in Camden though…
July also saw my first visit to the Buxton Fringe - Fringe to an Opera Festival! It’s a gorgeous town with some good shows on, though it’s difficult to flyer or to make money. However, we did get good reviews - thanks to Anthony and my Tech Director Lee Nelson, and Richard Tyrone Jones has a Big Heart was nominated for best Spoken Word show - we lost out to IanMcMillan, which isn’t so bad!
It was then up to Scotland for a mini-tour but with a few day’s walking (though not up mountains) in the Lake District to see Simon Armitage read in Grasmere, with Helen Mort and A.B. Jackson. Lovely to see them and Helen’s whippets! And who should I bump into in Wordsworth’s Cottage but Mr. Eldon again and his charming missus Helen. Over lunch I learned Kevin’s got some exciting plans so keep an eye on the listings for them in 2012, and good luck with your new arrival guys!
Then a mini-tour of Scotland: Rapunzel Wizard’s Demented Eloquence in Aberdeen. Possibly the greyest city I’ve ever been in but picturesque to see seals basking along the Don and the old town. A rugged (and cold) charm. Then brilliant gigs with Robin Cairns in Glasgow’s Last Sunday at the Rio and a workshop and gig with Harry Giles’ Inky Fingers. The Forest cafe will be sorely missed… unless they manage to buy it back!
Back to London for #rtjbigheart at the Camden Fringe. I learned a lesson after the first night when I had a few bloody Maries to celebrate our success then got defibrillated walking up Primrose Hill next day, had to go to hospital and missed the second gig. Alcohol leaches essential electrolytes from the heart making my heart even more wobbly, so I’ve since given it up. (Almost) completely. Apologies to anyone who missed it, but the third and fourth nights went very well - more good reviews…
I’d recommend doing the Camden Fringe for those who live in London as a cheaper alternative to Edinburgh, or as a warm-up. But try to do as many gigs as you can as then the registration fee becomes proportionally cheaper - but be warned, the Camden Head is a VERY hot and uncomfortable venue, unless they succeed in installing the promised air-con.
And on the Saturday afterwards the first ever MisGuided tour of Camden went well despite smaller numbers due to fear of rain. We met Dylan Thomas with a Pakistani accent, visited Sylvia Plath’s house and met a dying Martian on Primrose Hill. UUuuuuuuuuu-llaaaaaaahhhh!
Sadly, ‘Utter!’ Puppets had to be rescheduled, due to some minor rioting or fear thereof, for the end of August. As usual, the Ted and Sylvia Plath story in Puppets divided opinion somewhat…
It’s a mark of how much my drugs regimen has shrunk my heart that I then managed to walk Hadrian’s Wall with friends, a longstanding ambition. (Having almost died has made me much more conscious of ticking off the things on my bucket list, though admittedly some of them have been ticked off due to medical inadvisability, ie skydiving, bungee jumping, driving a monster truck etc). It took me nine days rather than five, however, but I managed to fit in my first ever visit to Newcastle (and a performance at Pink Lane Poetry) plus a visit to Lowther castle in the Lake District.
Then, back up to Edinburgh for the Fringe - well, a week of it, where I talent-scouted, helped at Tim Clare’s Poetry Takeaway and did two performances of Richard Tyrone Jones reads some stuff off bits of paper at the Free Fringe. Frankly the first performance was crap so I completely rewrote it in about three hours for the second one, which was much better. And one single, packed, Utter! raised another £100 for charity. So why didn’t I do #rtjbigheart there this year? Well, I wanted to get the script right this year before raising some money to do it properly next year.
So in September I started fundraising in earnest for the show using www.crowdfunder.com - investors get rewards including copies of the book, tickets and bespoke poems. No-one took me up on the £500 option including a writing retreat in Cyprus and a wig made out of my own hair but there’s always the next show. After an initial panic we in fact busted our £2100 target, raising about £2350 after the website took their cut. Thanks so much to all my sponsors!
Also in September, all the winners of the ‘Utter!’ Paid Gig contest of the last two years returned to a packed Monarch pub in Camden to compete for audience votes and £125. All performers were as good as you’d expect proven winners to be but Natasha Moscovici won with a longer, less comic poem about being chatted up by a soldier who’d shortly be back in Afghanistan. Simon Munnery topped us off with clever humour and music from his show Hats off to the 101ers.And thanks to Apples & Snakes I discovered how nice Plymouth is - will be back there on tour with Matt Harvey in 2012!
October is usually my busiest month, what with National Poetry Day and Black History Month (I keep getting booked because of being called ‘Tyrone’). Gigs with Little Lamp in Brighton, Captain of the Rant’s Basement Sedition, Hackney, a 50th birthday poetry party, and workshops for schools and online with Young Poets Network. Then the first ever Utter! Luton in Luton with John Hegley and his nephew Paul, a talented guitarist - a massive success with the Hat factory packed out.
New poetry on the heart theme at Camden School of Enlightenment (@camdenlight), a trip to Kent, confusing Norwich Writers’ club with Martin Figura & Helen Ivory, Kiss the Sky in Hampstead. On a personal level I was really really pleased to eventually find a place to live in London with www.sanfordhousingcoop.org - security of tenure with an artistic left-leaning community! I celebrated with a writing trip to Cyprus…
…where I visited #occupycyprus in the Green Line in Nicosia (much nicer camping weather, started work on all the poems commissioned by my lovely Crowdfunders, and put together drafts of the book of #rtjbigheart and my next one. I’m either going to call it ‘RTJ: Writer of Wrongs’, ‘Crush All Liberals’ or possibly ‘Birthday Chimp Rape’. Let me know which title you think would work best…
In other words, 2011 has ended a much better year for me than 2010, health, home and career-wise, with too many people to thank than is actually possible - you know who you are! But a year much more of preparation and convalescence than next year will be…
SO, WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR 2012, RICHARD?
I’m glad you asked me that, because I was going to tell you anyway. 2012 is going to be MASSIVE! So much stuff that Utter! will be taking a back seat for me (although the next one, March 8th, will be a poetry/comedy/bingo special at the Montague Arms, New Cross, with myself, Ben Target and Frog Morris). But it will be taking a back seat to….
RTJ has a Big Heart tour
I find out if I’ve got funding from the Wellcome Trust in January, and the Arts Council in April. With it, it’ll include projection from www.patternfightperformance.com - with or without it, the book will be launched in May and I’ll be touring all over the UK doing the show and associated writing workshops for all ages to promote it. So if you’d like me to do so at your venue, GET IN TOUCH with me to talk where, when, and numbers. At the moment I should be hitting Wolverhampton, Luton, Plymouth, Birmingham, the North-East, Aberdeen, Glasgow, the Canterbury Fringe, London, Norwich, Peterborough, Worcester, Manchester and Liverpool - but I’m particularly looking to do some out-of-the way places I’ve never been to before…. like Berlin, Ireland or Swansea.
Education - Shake the Dust
I’m very pleased to be a Shadow poet on Apples & Snakes’ nationwide slam for young people - like an X-Factor for poetry. I’ll be telling youngsters ‘you’re fired’ and training up the rest from February up to the finals when we try to corner the prestigious June Number one slot in the Amazon poetry charts. In addition to this I’m available to book for normal schools work, especially around Book Week and National Poetry Day when I can come to your school/workshop/place of work, inspire you to do some crazily good writing then type it all up for you in e-book form. Get in touch for prices.
Director of Spoken Word, Free Fringe
I’ll be up in Edinburgh throughout August doing my show, and ‘Utter!’ for the last half of the Fringe. Once again I’ll be Director of Spoken Word, programming excellent free spoken word shows at the Banshee Labyrinth and Royal Oak. In 2012 the official brochure should, for the first time, include ‘Spoken Word’ as a separate section. I still have some slots left, especially for those who’d like to do 5-day runs. Look up www.freefringe.org.uk to read through the info, then if you’re interested, email me a proposal.
Oh, and if anyone in Edinburgh is interested in doing a room-swap, in case they wanted to come and stay for the Olympics, say, in August…. get in touch and we could both save hundreds… ;0)
Should be doing a bit of tour guiding of North American students around Europe, especially around April. Means I’ll probably have to go on a tax-deductible ‘research trip’ round Northern Italy in February. Tough life isn’t it? But I’m still up for doing MisGuided tours of your area - a fun mix of cultural facts and lies, the challenge being to guess which is which, guests and poems. New ones written from £600, or less if I’ve already devised them, which I have done for Archway, Brixton, Camden, Crouch End, Hackney, Hoxton (kids), King’s Cross, Newington Green, and Stoke Newington.
So my New Year’s resolutions are a) Do more poetry performance b) Do more poetry workshops and c) Do more poetry. What are yours?
Seasons Greetings & Happy New Year - I’ll probably be at the Ideas Bank with the #occupylondon lot, they’re having a rave… @rtjpoet x