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I just spent 4 very crowded days in London,doing all kinds of fun stuff, some of it with lovely people (and some by myself)

First up was 'An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer' at the Hackney Empire, which was tied in with Neil and Amanda guest-editing an edition of the New Statesman magazine.

Despite the New Statesman having made a real mess of the ticket sales, I was fortunate enough to have not one, but two good friends who offered me tickets, which meant that not only did I get to go, but I also got to put friends in touch with each other so they could go too - so there ended up being 5 of us meeting up before the event (although we did not all get to sit together at the event ) for drinks and food and general catching up.

We drank beer (after a struggle with an entirely un-trained bartender) and bumped into further friends and acquaintances, and we ate delicious ramen at Tonkotsu, before we headed to the Hackney Empire.

After a brief introduction on behalf of the New Statesman, Neil and Amanda came on stage, and Neil read a new poem, Credo, (which is published in the magazine) then there was a mix of Amanda and Neil's performances, and a number of special guests.
Guests included Roz Kaveney, who is a writer and activist, performed a very personal poem, comedian (and transvestite vegan) Andrew O'Neill who performed what may have been the longest drawn-out joke ever, (and later, a wonderful reconstruction of the genesis of the 'knock-knock' joke....Writer Hayley Campbell, who read her piece from the magazine, a horrifying picture of what may happen if google and twitter ever publishes all our un-sent drafts, and comedian and writer Mitch Benn, who, in keeping with the 'saying the unsayable' theme of both the evening, and the magazine, performed a song written in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders.

Neil, Roz Kaveney, Haley Campbell, Andrew O'Neill, Amanda Palmer (and bump) Mitch Benn

Although the evening had a theme, and a set list, it was fairly free-form it was fun - everyone on stage seemed relaxed, despite the variations on the running order (Neil kept looking at the list in front of him and gently trying to follow it, but I think Amanda was seeing it more as a guideline than a binding list, and I suspect they were both a little jet-lagged!

But despite the slightly free-form style (or perhaps because of it!) the evening worked well, and little things like Hayley Campbell being introduced after, rather than before, her reading  with a mix of light-hearted and more serious takes on the theme of saying the unsayable, the age of outrage, censorship and its effects - Neil read a (very funny, but also scary) article about hosting a table at the PEN benefit where Charlie Hebdo received an award, and his story Babycakes (which he described as the only story he has written which disturbed him)

Amanda playing the Ukulele Song
Amanda played 'The Killing Type' and parts, by way of illustration, of 'Oasis', and there was discussion, and conversation. It felt very intimate; we, as well as those on stage, were among friends.

As always when seeing Neil and Amanda on stage together, I loved seeing the obvious and open affection between them, and enjoyment of one another's performances.

At the end, Amanda returned for an encore, playing the Ukulele song, with  a short, pregnancy acid-reflux induced interruption.

It was a whole lot of fun,and I think, on appearances, it was mostly fun for those on stage, as well as those of us off stage.

And yes, I have now bought a copy of their New Statesman edition!
Thanks again to Hellie and Lyle,who booked tickets.

There are a couple more pictues on Flickr, all from the curtain call, as photos were not allowed during the performance itself (and anyway, I was concentrating on what was being said!)
marjorie73: (Default)


I was feeling a little pessimistic about Tuesday, as it was my birthday, one of the ones with a bit fat 0 on the end, but I am fortunate in having some very good friends, one of whom booked tickets for us to go to the Foyles event of Neil Gaiman reading the whole of his new children's book, 'Fortunately the Milk' at the Central Methodist Hall in Westminster, and another friend came over too, and was generous enough to take me out for (a truly superb) lunch, so I began to feel more cheerful.

Birthday Candle!
I don't think I can do justice to the lunch. It started with snails, and finished with chocolate parfait and salted caramel ice cream, and Nathalie clearly told them it was my birthday...

There may have been some wine involved, too.

Fancy ceiling

We all met up outside the venue, and without ever quite deciding to do so, we wound up waiting for the doors to open, which meant we were very close to the front of the queue and able to sit in the front row once they let us into the hall. Inevitably, we bumped into several friends and acquaintances. The hall is an amazing venue - huge auditorium with a massive dome (and a stonking great pipe organ!) and has  a fascinating history -



Andrew O'Neill

It was built  on the site of the old London Aquarium, to mark the centenary of John Wesley's death, and opened in 1912. The first ever meeting of the UN General Assembly took place there, and it has hosted speakers as diverse as Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Lama (not all at once, obviously)



And now Neil Gaiman.



This was no ordinary reading. The evening was introduced and compered by Andrew O'Neill, who started out by explaining he had a list of words he isn't supposed to say on stage, which he carefully read to us so we would recognise them when we heard them (including 'Bum', 'Number 2s' and 'Beyonce'), experimented with how loud, high and low we could all sing and let us in a brief but rousing chorus of 'We Will Rock You'.

Then we had music, from TV Smith and Tom Robinson. With some audience participation.

It was a lot of fun, and all before Neil even came on stage.

Once he did, things got even better. Which was quite an achievement.

Chris Riddell, who illustrated the (UK) version of the book was there to draw pictures as the story progressed - lovely pictures, especially the careful labelling to ensure that we could not miss the Milk. (after all, as Professor Steg says, "Where there is milk, there is hope")

Neil read the whole of 'Fortunately the Milk', with help from friends who played the Green Globby Aliens, Pirates, Worshippers of Splod, Wumpires, Ponies, Dwarfs and Space Dinosaur Police Officers.

Grumpy Pirates, as read by Mitch Benn and Tom Robinson
I thought my Dad was the World's Best Reader of Bedtime Stories With Funny Voices, but I think Neil may just have beaten him. (although to be fair, my Dad has never had the opportunity to read to 2,000 people, supported by such a talented cast)

It's hard to pick out a favourite part of the evening,

Lenny Henry, Space
Dinosaur Policeman
but I think one of the true highlights has to be the moment when Neil read out "Ah-Ha!" and a small child in the audience responded with a loud and triumphant "AH HAA!", and brought the house down. It was such  lovely proof that the s/he was really absorbed in the story!


One of the final special guests was the lovely Lenny Henry, who appeared in what I am sure will come to be known as a landmark performance in his acting career, as the Galactic Police Dinosaur. (lots of people can play great Shakespearean roles. Not eveyone can manage a Galactic Police Dinosaur)


Tash, Andrew O'Neill, TV Smith, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Niamh Walsh,
Lenny Henry and Siobhan Hewlett

all too soon, the story came to an end. I'm not sure who was having more fun - the 10 or so people on stage, or the 2,000 or so in the hall.

The final treat of the evening was a brief appearance by Amanda Palmer herself , who performed her 'Ukulele Anthem' (with an extra milk-related verse)

A perfect end to a perfect evening.


My friends and I then took a walk through Trafalgar Square to admire the giant blue cock, and finished the night with dim sum.

It's true what Neil said on his blog, though.There were no ladies jumping through rings of fire, and no human sacrifice. Although the milk had a close call.

So, based on my experience, I would say that if any of you are considering turning 40 in the near future, and are feeling down about it, there are a few simple steps you can take to combat those aging blues:


1. Make sure you have some amazing friends who will provide good company, and treats.

2. Get Neil Gaiman to write a new kids book and read it to you with a large backing ensemble.

3. That's it.

Honestly, if I had known turning 40 would be this much fun, I would have done it years ago

Full set of photos here
marjorie73: (Default)
At the gig on Monday, Amanda announced that the venue would be open again on Tuesday afternoon for the art, so I decided to go back.
The gallery was deserted so I was able to spend as long as I wanted with the art works.

On Monday, I'd found myself wandering around, and every so often I would see a picture and thinks "that's gorgeous, I wonder who made it?" and then I would read the label and, about half the time, realise that it was an artist I already knew of - some, like Kyle Cassidy and Molly Crabapple I was expecting, (you can buy prints of Molly's pieces here)
Molly Crabapple's art
Others, like Raliel, I should have anticipated but hadn't,Other artists included Judith Clute, Michael Zulli, David Mack, (I immediately loved his pieces, but it took a long time for the penny to drop and to realise that he also did the art work for the 'I Will Write With Words of Fire' prints from neverwear)

Some of the artists were new to me - I immediately fell in love with Vladimir Zimakov's linocuts,(also available as prints)

and was impressed with the photography skills of one Neil Gaiman, who seems to be a newcomer as a visual artist...

I was impressed, too, with the ability of one Amanda Palmer to draw so well, in addition to the singing.

Kambriel's gorgeous 'The Killing Type' dress presided over all, with bullets (or shell cases?) in the bodice..

Alone in the gallery, I was terribly tempted to see if I could take it off the mannequin and try it on myself. I didn't, but when I tweeted about it later, Kambriel said she would have let me, had she been there. I wish she had been!
Kyle Cassidy's 'Bed Song' art
But there was one piece of art which I kept returning to. The set of 5 pictures by [livejournal.com profile] kylecassidy, of people, naked, in bed. I kept returning to them because the pictures are beautiful, of course, but also because they felt so real - the people in the pictures. The pictures were beautiful, and so were the people in the pictures.Every curve, every line, every sign of lives lived. Seeing them on Monday night, during Amanda's show, I loved them. Seeing them the following day, in the quiet of an empty gallery, I was moved to tears.

(22.06.12. Edited to correct attributions)
marjorie73: (Default)
So, as everyone must know now, Amanda Palmer decided to fund her new album via Kickstarter, and was spectacularly successful. I initially signed up just for the CD level reward, but then, after failing to get tickets for the public gig on Wednesday, and realising that I really wanted the Art Book, too, Not to mention the fact that every Amanda Palmer gig I have been to has been so much fun that I would always go to one, given the chance, I decided to take the plunge and back at that level. All of which resulted in my getting on a train on Monday, to go to London, to the Kickstarter Backers' VIP Art Opening and Gig..
I think it is fair to say that the gig lived up to and beyond my expectations!
The gig was at Village Underground, in Shoreditch, and was easy to spot. For a start, the club has several Underground railway carriages on the roof, and to be going on with, there was a typical Amanda Palmer queue outside - lots of happy people, dressed in a vast range of styles from ballgowns and dinner jackets to the most casual of clothes. While we queued, we talked, and as we got closer to the entrance a young gentleman (who we later learned is AFP's cousin) arrived and serenaded the queue upon the bagpipes!

On getting to the head of the queue there was the inevitable frisson of fear lest my name turned out mysteriously to be missing from the guest list (happily it wasn't!) and then the pleasure of being given a goodie bag, which included a mask and a free book, and stickers, and a felt-tip pen (do not forget the felt-tip pen, best beloveds). And all of this before the gig even started.

Village Underground is a big, warehouse style space - all red brick and girders, and made a good backdrop for all the wonderful art.

There was time to look around, and admire it, and to trade the little cards marked with 'The Very Hungry Caterpiller' for drinks at the bar, and to admire the outfits of the other guests, and then, and then, the music started.

First up, Princessin Hans - who sang to us of passive-aggression, got lots of audience participation, and ROCKED in a wonderful silver dress and almost equally wonderful ginger beard...


And later, Amanda chatted with us, and encouraged us to talk, and drink, and admire the art, and swap books,
And we did. and I think it was round about that point in the evening that I got to meet up with twitter-friend @MsClara, who is even more beautiful and entertaining in person, (and her husband, the marvellous Mr. Mitch Benn. And then there was a further musical interlude, this time with strings, by Jherek Bischoff - wonderful, beautiful, wordless music.
and it was the kind of evening where you sit on the floor of this space, and close your eyes to focus on the music, and then you open them and realise that the person who just sat down on the floor next to you is Neil Gaiman...
Then - the invasion of the Grand Theft Orchestra - there were masks, and flashlights, and a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress, and saws and knives and a loudhailer and new songs and old.
And the music spilled out into the audience, and the audience surrounded the band, and at some point there was a singalong 'last christmas' too, although I can't quite recall why..
Amanda sang 'The Bed Song', and 'Trout Heart Replica' from the new album, and Neil sang 'Psycho',
and EVERYBODY sang 'Map of Tasmania' and the 'Ukulele Anthem'.
and then - did you remember the felt-tip pen, best beloveds?
This was the writing on a rock star part of the evening,

There was so much love and so much happiness and laughter...
And then evening started to wind down, and there was chatter, and hugs, and signing of books (did I mention there was a book in every goodie bag?) Amanda and Neil visited a couple of 2nd hand book shops in Charing Cross Road to buy books for everyone, and Amanda was telling us whether each book we showed her was a 'Neil Book', or an 'Amanda Book' (Mine was a Neil Book, and one day someone browsing my bookshelves is going to wonder why I have a copy of Micheal Chabon's 'The Final Solution' signed by Neil Gaiman, and I will explain it is because it has Sherlock Holmes, and because Neil was married in Michael's living room, and they will probably give me a funny look and move on. And I won't care, because to me it will be another reminder of a wonderful evening, full of friendly strangers and magical art, when Amanda Palmer kissed me.
marjorie73: (Default)
It's been another very long week, but hopefully things will be more fun, and much less hard work for the next few weeks, as I have lots of things to look forward to, and several short weeks:

Way back in January, we saw that the wonderful Mr David Tennant was going to be appearing in 'Much Ado About Nothing' with the equally wonderful Catherine Tate, this year, so a group of us (Me, my sister, 2 friends, and 2 friends-of-friends) agreed to go - we booked tickets, way back then (Stalls, baby!) and on Tuesday evening, we are going! I'm so excited. I love going to the theatre, and I love David Tennant as an actor - I saw his 'Hamlet' in Stratford on Avon in2008 (about 2 weeks before I started this blog, as it happens!), which was anamazing experience, so I am SO looking forward to seeing him in Shakespeareagain, and also to see him with Catherine Tate, who I have never seen live before.

I'm also really looking forward to spending time with my sister & friends - we haven't yet decided what to do with the afternoon before the show - we may all be splitting up to check out different exhibitions & such, but we've then booked what should be a very nice restaurant for a pre-theatre meal, and as my sister apparently has zillions of points due to hotel stays (for her job) she and I get a nice hotel room for no money at all, too. It should be alovely couple of days, and of course having Tuesday & Wednesday off work makes for a nice, short, working week, too :-)

On Wednesday evening I am going to see  Jason Webley play, in Bristol, which should be fantastic - I gather this may be hos last European tour for a while, so I'm glad I can see one of the shows.

After that, we have a bank holiday weekend, and I'm planning to go down to Devon to spend the weekend with my parents, and I belive that my other sister and her fiance will be there.

Then the weekend after that, I am back in London once again, to see Amanda Palmer, and then to see Neil Gaiman at the  British Library, which also gives me a free day in london, so I shall have the opportunity to go see another exhibition or two, and maybe even a show, if I can get a last minute ticket for something on the Saturday night.

So all in all, I have a lot to look forward to. And that's before I even have my summer holiday! (This year, I am actually leaving home!)

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