Derrick Buttress

As part of the Space project I’ve enjoyed spending time with Derrick Buttress. Derek, at the tender age of eighty, has just had his first short story collection published by Shoestring Press although he has five poetry collections, two memoirs and various scripts for radio and television under his belt. Derrick is our first commissioned writer and will be taking us from the 1930s up to the publication of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1958. He’s going to take us on a personal journey through the market square – a key location in the novel – and share his memories of when it was filled with GIs, communists, and folk doing a celebratory conga in celebration of VE Day.

 

Going to Derrick’s home was a little bit like stepping into one of his short stories in that I knew everything about his relationship with his wife Joan though a couple of comments. Joan was in the front room watching Casablanca, ‘for the seventeenth time’ Derrick informed me. I wasn’t sure if he meant that day, week or the duration of his sixty years of marriage. Later on Joan pulled me to one side and said, ‘you know he spends all of his time up there tapping away on that computer’ and shook her head, like I must be in agreement with her that this was ridiculous behaviour and I’d be better suited sitting down with her watching Casablanca.

 

As part of our public engagement for the Space project, Derrick kindly allowed me to piggy back on to his book launch Sing to Me and we chatted about his market square memories. The event was held at Lee Rosy’s on 11 April which is a lovely little venue – although if you’re planning a similar event there, make sure you keep the door shut upstairs as the noise quickly filters downwards. It was a lovely event with a highly respected audience including John Lucas, Ross Bradshaw, Wayne Burrows, Nicola Monaghan, Michael Eaton, David Belbin, Tony Roe, Al Atkinson, Cathy Grindrod and Aly Stoneman. Derrick then went on to share a story about working as a teenager in a factory full of women where a big breasted bully would deliberately pen him in to a corner and make him blush, much to the amusement of her cackling comrades.

 

After explaining the Space project to Derrick he said he wished he’d known me when he was younger. I can’t wait for new audiences to experience his writing and I hope that at eighty, he gets the wider recognition that he deserves. I can think of no better validation for the arts council than offering this writer a platform into the digital age.

 

Preview of Derrick Buttress’ book launch

Twitter: Arthur Seaton for more info on events

And of course The Space…coming 1 May.

Scribal Gathering of Poetic Dissent

Our Scribal Gathering events are few and far between but when they happen, they’re special. On Friday 4 November we put on a Scribal Gathering of Poetic Dissent to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the ‘Luddite’ rebellion in Bulwell and to show respect to the ‘Occupy’ movement who are currently residing in Market Square. As is often the case with events you are organising yourself, they bring little joy on the night as you’re running around making sure things are going alright and that performers know what they’re doing.

I kicked off the event with a fifteen minute introduction with Motormouf, a young beatboxer from Nottingham who’d previously impressed with performances with Nina Smith and Maniere de Bohemiens. It’s really important when you’re dealing with political content that you don’t start lecturing on the obvious and so we went for a simple format whereby I’d discuss current events and then when I asked Motormouf what he was ‘mad as hell’ about or his opinion of Alessio Rastani – the City Trader welcoming the recession, he’d break out into beatboxing. Then, just when you expected him to continue in this vane, he freestyled a poem about Rosa Parks that was outstanding. Contrast is the key; mess with expectations. I planned this routine in one meeting with Motormouf and it’s so good to work with someone who listens and trusts your judgement. The purpose of the routine was to make him look amazing and me the talentless ‘dumb blond.’ Tis a humble life.

The Lambhorse Cabaret performance was a theatrical masterpiece, creating fake explosions courtesy of balloons and party poppers to bring down the system. They were joined by Stickman Higgins – who I wrote about in my last blog. Stickman is joy personified; he has so much energy it’s like he’s swallowed the sun. He played the part of an elderly Jamaican man and walked around greeting the audience before freestyling as the Lambhorse played on.

The key to large events is variety or else you overdose on the written word. Johnny Crump offered this by scratching on the decks with film visuals projected behind him. We also needed a variety of poets. Aly Stoneman was short and sweet, teasing the audience with her Ms Hood poem – in my opinion the perfect formula as then the audience want more. Joe Coghlan and Jonesy bounced an electric set off of each other, complimenting their differing styles. Debris Stevenson had the audience joining in which got everyone in a great mood whereas Scruffy Dave and Tokin’ John went for more traditional readings. And of course our joker in the pack was Al Needham who has not only made swearing socially acceptable but an art form in itself.

Chester P was our final act and proved that you don’t need a stage persona to perform. Simply exuding personality and being yourself is enough. But who is he? He looked like a crazy old man with autism as he nervously shuffled back and forth on stage on the tips of his toes as he delivered a stream of consciousness that washed over the audience like a tsunami. Every now and then you’d catch a phrase, a joke or a clever metaphor and before the beauty of this observation could settle, bang in came another. Wow.

Of course not everything went to plan. I’d spent ages recording Big Issue Sellers and Protestors in V for Vendetta masks and then recorded audios to be dubbed over the top which related to the film. But these weren’t edited together properly and so our hopes of having an anonymous production didn’t work. This, however, is inevitable when you’re relying on the goodwill and free time of various people to help suture everything together. The event was a collaboration with Dealmaker and LeftLion, photographs were kindly taken by Ralph Barklam with Adrian Towell filming proceedings and Stupeflix made the brilliant video to promote the event. The night was dedicated to Peter Preston who recently passed away and although a free event, we left buckets on the bar for people to donate to the Alan Sillitoe Statue Fund – or to be sick in.

Now we need a theme for the next event. I’m thinking Berlusconi’s Bitches or perhaps updating the Roald Dahl classic…the Fantastic Mr. Liam Fox. So much choice in a corrupt world. Thank goodness for villains, life would be dull.