Sunday, June 22, 2008

Talking, more talking

Something about this time of year sees every activity under the sun taking place at the same time. I've another window open, with the Tony Wilson Experience going on live at Urbis, and the composer Steve Martland and poet Simon Armitage speaking, twenty hours into a twenty four hour period. Armitage has just written a book about his interest in music, "Gig." He's recently formed a band, and kind of sees his poetry life as a replacement for him not-being-in-a-band. As he says, his reputation nowadays depends on the poetry, so it creates a pressure that's perhaps not there when he's doing music - that's just fun. Last night, Paul Morley and Irvine Welsh talked about how the "middleman" and the "media" are being so damaging these days - as a stop on talent, and that other models; print-on-demand, ebooks etc. will work around the edge of the mainstream.

It's interesting, all this talk... I've spent the last week in a different talking environment at New Writing Worlds in Norwich ; and how different it was. The Tony Wilson Experience came about as a way of "passing on" from old talent to new talent; and though I've been enjoying the talks, despite the low-band video streaming, it has been a bit one-to-many. Manchester's a highly creative city, in terms of the amount of people making good quality material, but it still seems to lack something in terms of the opportunities. In terms of the arts, its only really music - whether classical or contemporary - where there seems real opportunities. Manchester's publishing scene, for instance, is tiny and subsidised; and the university creative writing courses have been as likely to import the talent as use what's already around. Later today, hurricanes willing, the Poets & Players garden party creates another city subset: readings from Carole Ann Duffy and Matthew Welton amongst others.

Armitage, now, is talking about how writers need to have passion - and also need to read, as well as to write. It's the simple advice that's the best. When I first read Armitage, it gave me a reason to start reading poetry again, after university had turned me off poetry. I'm still wrestling with some of these conflicts.

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