R&J: take 2 – tickets still available

My piece for Romeo & Juliet: take two at the ArtistsWorkhouse in Studley is ready to go. The short two-hander is called the point of light. It is paired with Sheila Farrell‘s beautiful artwork a small light which will be in the exhibition. We are one of ten writer and artist teams presenting on the night.

The first performance is on Friday (8th June) at 7pm and the second is on Saturday 16th June, also at 7pm. Tickets are still available from Eventbrite at £7 (price includes refreshments). The last time that I looked there were still £5 early bird tickets available.

The exhibition (free entry) runs from Saturday 9th-Sunday 17th June, 11am-4pm (closed Monday and Tuesday). There are more details on the art\write site.

On a practical note… Parking: There is free parking available behind the closed Royal Victoria pub opposite ArtistsWorkhouse (B80 7AU). Alternatively there is a public car park at Pool Road (B80 7HJ) which is a short walk away.

Romeo & Juliet: take two

Romeo and Juliet has started previewing at the RSC in Straford. It plays there until late September and will then go to London. Why mention it? art\write are using the play to inspire ten collaborations between writers and visual artists. I am one of the writers and have been teamed up with artist Sheila Farrell.

It has been a interesting process and we’ve had some good conversations. The work in progress is, I think, promising. The written piece will be a 5 minute two-hander.

art\write have run similar projects before but not with the writers and artists working so closely together. It will be fascinating to see the results.

The performances of the written pieces are on Friday 8th June and Saturday 16th June, both at 7pm. The shows are at the Artists Workhouse in Studley (more details below). Tickets are £7 each and numbers will be limited.

The exhibition runs from Saturday 9th June to Sunday 17th June, 11am-4pm, (closed Monday and Tuesday).
R&J 1

R&J 2

Coming soon-ish

I am one of ten writers writing new, short plays inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for an art\write show and exhibition. I am working with visual artist Sheila Farrell who will be contributing to an exhibition of art works on the same theme.

The performances and exhibition will be at the Artists Workhouse in Studley in mid-June. More information to follow.


I wish you had met him

My piece for the Portraits 2 show on Sunday evening will be called ‘I wish you had met him.’ There are some great writers and I think tickets are still available.

flyer smaller

Portraits II


I’m writing again.

A year ago I wrote and performed a solo 5 minute piece Thinking Inside the Box for the Bee Box event at the Chapel in Bromyard, Herefordshire. My friends had set up an art show and they asked ten writers to produce short pieces to go with it.

In October there was a similar project, The Needle Makers Project, at the Artists Workhouse in Studley, Warwickshire. My five minute piece is called Cacophony. Just a tip: don’t ask people to clap their hands as an essential part of a piece when they’ve all been given a glass of wine.

I’ve enjoyed this new (for me) form and the chance to use my live interpretation skills and perform.

The next in the series will be the Portraits II project (see above). The Portraits exhibition has now closed but some of the art works will be brought back for a ten writer show of 5 minute pieces at the Artists Workhouse on July 9th. I don’t know what my piece will be called yet.

There are some more details on the Plays and Production page.

I would ride five hundred miles…

…And I would ride five hundred more

Today I hit 1,000 miles cycled for the year. This means I’ve managed to maintain regular rides since January1. Who would have thought it: I’m back on the bike.

Last Christmas I was over 13 stones in weight which pushed me into the ‘overweight’  zone on the BMI calculation. This made me unhappy and was rapidly reducing my potential wardrobe (including my official kit at work). Something had to be done, I thought, and then forgot about it.

Luckily a few days later Strava, an on-line training log I use, sent me one of those automated emails that links to a video of your achievements for the year. I didn’t expect it to be riveting viewing but I was interested to see what my annual mileage for 2014 was. It was zero. I had unintentionally created a Beckettian YouTube piece.

I suppose it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. I’d finished my season early in 2011 (2,634 miles) and 2012 had petered out in April (only 1,338 miles for the year). The new job didn’t sit easily with a regular training and racing schedule. Still, I’d got a few rides in during 2013 (well, 80 miles worth) and I assumed that I’d done the same in 2014. Not so. It looked as if I needed a New Year’s resolution: ride your bike and lose weight. Except I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike. - Fausto Coppi2

Despite this, on the 3rd January I rode my bike for the first time in over 12 months, admittedly only for 13 miles. The roads were icy and it was raining and blowing a hoolie. After that I felt virtuous, tired and a little apprehensive. Luckily they were the worst conditions I’ve had to endure so far or I don’t think I’d have persevered.

The ‘plan’ was to try and ride two days a week and to reduce what I ate. Since then I’ve dropped 34lbs in weight and put 1,009 miles on the clock. I did miss a couple of weeks with a cold but recently I’ve started to add an occasional third ride a week. Now the weather is better I aim to ride 80-100 miles a week3.

I’ve found that the short rides and extra recovery time have allowed me to build fitness gradually. My stamina has improved but my strength is still not good (though being lighter helps on the hills). I’ve enjoyed seeing the progression in my fitness and my Strava friends have encouraged me from a distance. On-line support isn’t as good as the banter of riding in company though. I’m too slow for most group rides but I did treat myself to a day at the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit riding with old friends. I didn’t hang on for long, but with a lap of less than a mile I had plenty of company (and there’s a club house with tea and cake).

One thing I didn’t want to go back to was the turbo trainer when the weather was bad. Instead I bought a set of rollers. I’ve used them twice and have only fallen off once, which is not too bad. I do recommend them for comedy effect if nothing else.

I’ve recently bitten the bullet and joined the local Eastbourne Rovers Cycling Club. I’m not fast enough for club rides yet but hope to get there in the next few weeks.

I don’t suppose this new enthusiasm will last – the second part of the year has the potential to be a lot more complicated than the first half – but I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of cycling again, which is good. I enjoy the way it pulls you into the moment and puts everything else on hold (something to do with oxygen debt and present tense risks I think). I hope I manage to keep the wheels turning and the miles ticking over.

1 This distance would not have impressed Tommy Godwin who averaged over 200 miles a day in 1939. Nor would it be significant to Steven Abraham and Kurt Searvogel who are trying to break his annual mileage record this year.

2 Coppi is supposed to have said this when a reporter asked him what it takes to be a great champion. My aim is somewhat lower.

3 This compares to 150-200 miles a week when I was racing earlier in the millennium and 300 miles a week when I was a young rider.

Bodiam on the telly and another year’s work

A new TV series ‘Castles: Britain’s Fortified History’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04t9h6l) starts tonight at 9pm on BBC4. The series is presented by Dr Sam Willis. The programmes trace the story of Britain’s castles and their unique role in our history, art and literature (it says).

Bodiam Castle features in next week’s episode on 11th December. I was there when they shot the scene but I don’t know if I make the final cut!

Also on TV (but not featuring Bodiam) is ‘Secrets of the castle with Ruth, Peter and Tom‘ on BBC2. Episodes 2 & 3 are still available on iPlayer and episodes 4 and 5 are still to come. It’s an excellent series set at Guédelon in Burgundy. Guédelon is a fantastic project – they are building a 13th century castle from scratch using (as far as possible) original techniques. The project is scheduled to take 25 years to complete. We saw a scene being filmed when we were there in September.

Meanwhile December at the castle means lots of work. It’s also a lot colder all of a sudden. We’re not grumbling though* – Winter can be a lonely time of year for a live interpreter at the castle. Most shifts at the moment are solo affairs and visitor numbers naturally drop away. December means working with colleagues and lots of excited visitors. I hope it sets us up for our first January with 7-day-a-week opening for many years.

This season has seen many changes at the castle, many of them in live interpretation. We’ve stepped up what we offer and on the whole it has been successful. The increased live interpretation element has been extended through most of next season. This will, I hope, allow us to consolidate and improve what we have achieved.

* Not too much.

A Taste of Britain

Bodiam Castle features in episode 1 of BBC1’s new programme ‘A Taste of Britain’ with Janet Street-Porter and Brian Turner. You can catch it on iPlayer here for the next 13 days. I get a walk on part at about 18 minutes in!

Inside Kent Magazine

The team get a mention on page 106 of May’s Inside Kent Magazine, which is nice. The relevant paragraph says…

To add to the charm of the castle, there are a number of volunteers [sic], dressed in era-appropriate  garb, who will inform you of the life within a busy castle and tell tales of many interesting things that would have occurred within. I was surprised at how these colourful characters added such significant depth to the overall experience.

I particularly like that last sentence. I add the [sic] as the team has a core of staff live interpreters working in conjunction with volunteer live interpreters.

The team is working hard on presenting our ‘May Games’ programme of presentations this month. We’re also preparing next month’s programme which will consist of some ‘Untold Stories’.

It’s been a hard few months building the new team and trying out new ideas but we’re learning a lot and, I hope, interpreting the castle imaginatively and entertainingly. I look forward to having a bit of time to reflect on it all.

Onderox Magazine

The live interpretation team have received a review in Onderox Magazine (in Flemish). I’m not quite sure how significant Onderox is, but it’s nice to be international.

Google translate renders the section on Bodiam as…

The medieval castle
For a portion of history we pull back inland. Bodiam Castle, in a small village, dating back to the Middle Ages, was built by Edward Dalyngrigge, a wealthy soldier. He constructed it as a residence for his family, but also as a defence against predators. The outside walls still look as they did, but once inside you will notice that only a few of the rooms are left. That is more than compensated for by theatre pieces that actors [sic] stage here daily. With the ringing of a bell, the visitors are invited to sit and see – of course in English – a scene from the life of several hundred years ago. Children from a primary school visit and watch with fascination. Since 1926 Bodiam Castle is part of the National Trust, which ensures the continued conservation and keep it accessible to the public. After your visit to the castle, you can take a walk in the estate and relax in the Wharfside Tea Room.