I was pleased to be invited by fellow hub member Jack Hughes to perform at his Pompey Writers: The Literary Culture & Heritage of Portsmouth event held on the 23rd April at The Square Tower. Especially since I'm a Lancashire lass myself.
All I was asked to do was a ten minute piece on a Pompey writer - easy - I mean there's lots to choose from Susannah Rowson; Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, H.G Wells and Sir Arthur Conan - Doyle. But it was so hard. I fought the desperate desire to jump on to The Hubs Facebook page and demand to know what everyone else was doing. The truth is I still feel like a foreigner. I still need to use my Sat Nav every time I drive into Portsmouth and I have never yet successfully managed to park in the city.
Despite having read lots of classics including most of Dickens work, I have to admit I prefer his work in the film format. So I decided on a tongue in cheek piece about his work and strange choice of character names. I wrote it confident that I would be able to edit and review it before the night but unfortunately life got in the way. I woke up on the 23rd with a thumping headache and a temperature of 39.5C. I longed to cancel but I know from experience, organising events like this are hard enough without people cancelling at the last minute, so kids in tow I managed to arrive late just missing the start of the talented Mr Matt Wingett in full Sherlock Holmes costume. It was fabulous to see some of the 20 x 20 crowd from the ReAuthoring Event. Christine Lawrence read from her book Caught in the Web. It was so different from her pre - ReAuthoring days, she owned the space, used prompts and made me wish I had spent more time on my own performance.
My youngest child was excited to see a book she had her eye on from Waterstones, The Amber Room, by Tom Harris and forced me to buy her a copy on the night because his reading left her gagging for more. She was hoping that Zella Compton would be reading from her book The Ten Rules of Skimming because she had missed her last reading due to a school holiday, but I was spell bound by her new poem written for the night. I always enjoy poetry reading, and the fabulous Maggie Sawkins from Tongues and Grooves did not let us down. There were zealous shouts of 'let's go for a curry,' when she was reading a piece about the many wondrous things you can do in the city. Once again I missed my opportunity to ask the incredibly talented Tom Sykes if he's had a collection published. I love the observations he makes in his writing, his ability to see the entire world in a gob stopper is unique.
I was also able to see some of the faces from The Hubs Facebook page perform in person, Lynne Blackwood and Anna Barzotti added an exotic feeling to the evening. I will certainly keep my eyes open for them reading again, they definitely left me wanting more.
They say you learn something new everyday and despite living down here for a number of years it was the first time I knew that Portsmouth 'apparently' has a bit of a bad reputation. I honestly thought Southerners only complained about the North of England. I'm still confused over what people could think is wrong with the place, it is on the South Coast which seems quite posh to me. It use to be called Spice Island very nice, it's loaded with history and lots of pretty spots. So that part of the evening was lost on me. I also found out that there is some sort of competition between Portsmouth and Southampton, which is probably due to sport - but I'm not sure of all the facts.
My first impression of Portsmouth has been from the people and there is a wonderful exciting writing community in this talented city ready to welcome any new faces with open arms.
The event was covered on South Today and Radio Solent