MotaMoufEvent 4 the ‘turgid Trent’ is now live on The Space and features four essays by myself and two spoken word videos from Andrew ‘MulletProofPoet’ Graves and Alex ‘MotaMouf’ Young. I want to dedicate this blog to MotaMouf.

I first saw beatboxer MotaMouf performing at the Riverside Festival with Maniere des Bohemiens, a gypsy swing-jazz band from Nottingham. Then a few months later with Nina Smith on the LeftLion stage at Spendour. I was blown away by this teenager with the elastic mouth who was able to adapt his style to any kind of rhythm. I asked him if he would be interested in performing on stage with me at a spoken word event called Gunpowder, Treason and Pot. The conceit was simple: I’d ask him a question and he would make all of these weird noises. Then when I gave up trying to communicate with him and motioned to walk off stage he would burst out with an amazing poem about Rosa Parks (which is published in Issue 49 of LeftLion, out today.) It worked brilliantly and was the latest example of his incredibly versatile talent.

MotaMouf’s inclusion on The Space was not planned and was completely inspired by Kate Tempest’s outstanding performance video for Tongue Fu. I realised we had to diversify our text heavy content and that it would also be great to see him given a voice on such a prestigious stage. As always he was excited and prepared to try anything. A fitting lesson to other performers out there…

The theme for Event Four is ‘Solitude: Is it possible in a digital age?’ I met up with MotaMouf a few times at Broadway and we worked on various ideas. I asked him to think about the electronic noise of modern life such as vehicles telling you that they’re reversing, elevator musIz, Tesco self-service tills, and city buses asking you to join their Facebook group every five minutes. He then went away and worked on a narrative.

During these meetings MotaMouf confessed that he felt kind of typecast as a beatboxer and was currently the front man of a new band called Just James. He was also more in to rap and grime music now. I told him to combine all of these things and to go with what felt right as I had every confidence he’d produce something fantastic.  At the time I was writing accompanying essays about how Alan Sillitoe hated being labelled as a ‘working class writer’ and an ‘angry young man’ and so it seemed a bit hypocritical to limit MotaMouf in a similar manner. The whole purpose of the Sillitoe Trail is to broaden the reach of literature and make Sillitoe’s novel accessible to audiences who may otherwise never have encountered it. Rap and grime are such audiences.  Tick.

The video was shot by NG64bars and is absolutely beautiful. My only instruction was that it had to be near a canal to link to the essays. A really important element of The Space is building up partnerships with other organisations and trying to support and promote each other. Robert Freeman Cooper has done a brilliant job and I’m delighted to be able to bring his organisation in as a partner and promote yet another great organisation in Nottingham as well as an incredibly talented beatboxer. I mean rapper. I mean poet. You know what I mean.

Please note: MotaMouf used to be spelled MotorMouf. He has very recently changed the spelling of this as it is not quite as unique a name as you might imagine.

More Obsessive Reading

It’s been a long standing joke among friends that I take more books on holiday than clean pants but on a recent five day holiday to Middleton-on-Tees I surpassed my own ridiculous expectations by taking eleven. However, I think I can justify the excess. Firstly, as this was a holiday in England it didn’t really matter how many books I took as I didn’t have to worry about smuggling an overweight suitcase through customs. If anything, I’m surprised I didn’t take more with me. Secondly, each book was selected for a very specific purpose. You don’t limit yourself to one friend, so why do the same with books?

The Lonely Londoners (1956) by Sam Selvon was the August choice for book group and so I needed this to take notes to record it for a future blog. So as I’d already read it, this one doesn’t really count. The Collected Stories of Alan Sillitoe was one I could dip in and out of at any point and can be viewed as a snack between meals. As I’m tweeting all of Sillitoe’s work, it’s easier to read short stories and take notes as one story can be tweeted over a whole week. I’m off on holiday again soon and so I need enough tweets to cover this enforced absence which will be uploaded via Hootesuit.

I’ve put off reading the Sillitoe biography The Life of the Long Distance Writer (2008) by Richard Bradford for a long time because Sillitoe’s two autobiographies, Raw Material (1972) and Life Without Armour (1995) are so good I didn’t see the point of reading it, even though it was authorised. But it has functioned as a kind of ‘refresher course’ in his life and work that has helped clarify a few facts for The Space project. As it turns out I’m really enjoying it and it became the book that shared my pillow at the end of play.

The remaining books were all to do with Nottingham, the River Trent or the Nottingham Canal and were purely for research. The fourth location on the Sillitoe Trail is the Trent and I’m still not entirely sure how to approach this and so I wanted to consume as many facts as possible. Portrait of Nottingham (1974) by former Post journalist Emrys Bryson was lent to me by Al Needham and comes with a forward by Sillitoe and was used as a fact checker. Nottingham: Settlement to a City (1953) by Duncan Gray was borrowed from Wayne Burrows and like the previous book is an absolute delight. I particularly recommend Appendix II: Long Row in 1879 which just goes to show how little things have changed. It was from this book that I used the Frame-breakers image to accompany Christy Fearn’s investigation into the Market Square as a historical site of rebellion for Event One on The Space.

The canal books helped piece together how waterways developed to support industry before becoming redundant due to the development of rail and car transport. But the book I couldn’t put down was Portrait of the River Trent (1968) by Peter Lord. It’s a magical read that brings the Trent to life and in places is like an eulogy for a lost lover. It’s certainly a match for Roger Deakin’s Waterlog (2000).

The Space finishes on October 31st and so it needs my undivided attention. Therefore I use the term ‘holiday’ in its loosest sense. It just means paying to stay in someone else’s house while reading, writing and researching. Nothing changes really, other than the beautiful scenery outside the window.