Stick By Me

Stick By Me, Andy Manley, Ian Cameron and Red Bridge Arts, Scotland. Dance Base. 3 – 26 August 2018 (not Mondays). Children’s dance theatre.

Charming, delightful, inventive. These are the words that come to mind on watching Stick by Me, a dance show for 3 – 6 year olds created by Ian Cameron and Andy Manley who previously came up with White which won a Fringe First and other accolades in 2010.

One man-child is dressed in a neat blue jacket with his shirt buttoned right up to the throat. He sits in the middle of a pale blue dance lino, the edges of which delineate his space and out of which he is not allowed to step (very cleverly done – you’ll have to see the show to find out how!).

In his playroom, he has minimal props: a school table and a chair from the infant’s classroom, countless rolls of tape, a cardboard box and an orb of see-through plastic. Like all youngsters he can create fantasies from the simplest things, using what he finds around him, and mostly that’s wooden lolly sticks. Inventive and unpredictable, the stories he plays with them and they with him are the stuff of innocent imagination.

The soundtrack is immensely important – directing our feelings, giving voice to the sticks, moving us through myriad emotions. The easy piano and percussion, the electronic soundscape of kisses and farts is an intrinsic part of the show, like his mind-music, like a non-verbal version of himself.

Initially, Andy Manley utilises mime and facial expression in particular, with subtle, simple movements of a single finger. As the show progresses, he fills the stage with modest movement: guileless walking, unsophisticated running. He is agile, not by any means looking like a traditional dancer, always focused, embodying the kid within. On and off the chair he climbs, corner to corner he capers until, close to the end, he dances a smooth solo, looping and folding, light in his centre, a gentle sort of joy.

stick by me 2
Alan Manley – man-child

The audience is with him throughout, experiencing his disappointments, buoyed up with his exaltation, relishing his discoveries, and when he exits we are sad to see him go and we want him to come back so we can keep on playing together.

Suitable for children 3-6 years old.

Four Go Wild in Wellies

Four Go Wild in Wellies, Indepen-dance is at Dance Base 3 – 26 August (not Mondays), 14.10. 3+ years.

Four orange pop-up tents sit on the stage while the audience waits for Four Go Wild in Wellies to start. We can count the wellies lined up at the front of the stage and a sprinkling of leaves sets the Autumn scene. The piles of clothes remind me of that race where you have to get dressed, putting on more and more as you run it. There is not a performer in sight.

Then the music starts – a plucking of strings, a flute -and a tent shivers. The opening section is a dance but not as you know it. It is original and amusing, neatly timed and immediately engaging. Part by part, the bodies emerge until the four performers are before us in their pants, vests and socks.

This is Indepen-dance, an inclusive company for disabled and non-disabled people who all participate fully and dance skilfully. Directed by Anna Newell (the 2017 Tonic Award winner for ‘women who are changing the face of theatre’), with trills of music composed by David Goodall  who has also won awards, cheerful designs by Brian Hartley and choreographed by Stevie Prickett, this company tours and gives fully inclusive workshops around the world.

A tale of friendships made and broken, Four Go Wild addresses a universal theme in a familiar way. The dancers move fluidly, their movements are bright and likeable. The dance language has been found from the emotions and relationships which are being portrayed and the unsophisticated meaning comes clearly through the lively leaps, pushes and pulls, with the gumboot dance happily reminiscent of the South African counterpart. There is nothing subtle about the use of mime and over-exaggerated facial expressions which match the primary colours of the woolly hats.

Four Go Wild

The choreographic high point is the ‘sad duet’. It begins with a sinking in his torso, a drooping of his chin and develops into apt falls which are interrupted by a fellow dancer placing her body in the way. Repeatedly he drops forward, side, back, and as she catches him in different ways, he is supported and eventually cheered up. It is more inventive and understated than the rest, more effective as a result.


Adele Patrick – interview

Adele Patrick is the Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library. She is a guest curator at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2018 with Revolting Women.

Adele Patrick is a charming advocate for girl power! She speaks carefully and eloquently, amazing quotes encapsulated in almost every sentence, and with her striking style, keen gaze and enthusiastic smile, she’s an easy person to talk to. It was also a pleasant surprise to get a warm hug on parting.

She explains that she is from “a working class background of bouffanted, formidable, feisty, matriarchal women”, and the word revolutionary appears and reappears throughout the conversation, not least in what she calls “my role as an older woman in the movement”. None of her passion for women’s equality has flagged since she started to foment Women in Profile in 1987/88 which aimed “to re-brand Glasgow away from a masculinised culture to be more inclusive for European City of the Year in 1990.”

Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) where she works today, has just been pipped to the post as Art Fund Museum of the Year by the Tate’s St Ives branch. Just now off the London train, she speaks creatively and eloquently in response: “We realised how monolithic the establishment is and were really pleased to be the grit in the oyster. There we were, sitting in the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum where the awards took place) in the belly of the beast surrounded by the Rubens (whose God the Father hangs there) and in the company of the guardians of culture, the old boys’ and girls’ clubs, proud to have rattled cages, but it is also sobering. It would have been a brave decision to give us it.” She went on to explain that they are preparing to unleash their collective response. “We are the first equalities organisation to be in the final, so it is apt to share our experience. Someone told my colleague, ‘well, it is a sexist organisation isn’t it?’ referring to the Women’s Library. There is certainly no place for complacency!” she said wryly.

She is reading Helen Pankhurst’s Deeds Not Words, which is part of the Pioneers and Provocateurs event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with Fern Riddle. She explains that it reminds her both of what the struggle for equality has achieved and how far there is still to go. “The book contextualises the route of change from the first-wave (feminism) through politics, reproductive health and women’s representation. The gestation period for change is so incredibly long; the tenacity of resistance to relinquish power is unbelievable.” This year, 100 since the Representation of the People Act, is “a critical one to do something brave.”

Patrick is one of the Book Festival curators and her theme’s title is the delicious and courageous Revolting Women. She chose Pankhurst (great-granddaughter of Emmeline) alongside luminaries such as Hilary Clinton, and there are any number of other delights to choose from, the most lauded of which are the Herland (say her-land) Salon and the Take-Over Tents. The former were pioneered by the GWL in the Scottish west, so are coming to Edinburgh for the first time. With characteristic excitement she states, “I am absolutely thrilled, it’s going to be utterly brilliant, especially the pay-what-you-can fact of it. It will be a crucible for showcasing what women do, in a safe space and to a mixed audience, because still these types of spaces are few and far between when showing more diverse work.” Heir of the Cursed will be there (aka Kenyan Beldina Odenyo Onassis described as “a caulbearer born of an apparition, a primordial memory, a penny drop in the wee hours” by Sofar Sounds (secret gigs and intimate concerts) giving us her own songs and doing feminist lullaby workshops; and there will also be militant T-shirt printing inspired by the pop-up library titles. (Incidentally if you have any spare white ones, please send them to the GWL).


This year, young women have again been involved in the planning of the programme and taken a leadership role. In the past, those who had done that followed up with a trip to the festival where they met published authors whose backgrounds were not necessarily different from theirs, who had also survived depression or who had experienced similar poverty. It is vital to Patrick that such budding lasses have these opportunities, because “you never know what they will do with them. In meetings with politicians I’ve spoken a lot about how diminished women’s dreams and ambitions can be, the criminal lack of aspiration, the narrowness of expectation for women (also in the education system). I have a vision of a different future because I have seen how remarkable the results can be given a tiny bit of encouragement.”

There are many other fantastic ideas: Every woman writer who is taking part in the Book Festival has been asked for a Spotify list of her choice of revolutionary music to form the soundtrack to the Herland Salon; four powerful women of colour will focus on detoxing institutions (such as museums, see above) in Breaking Down Barriers; Queer Africa (the GWL has strong connections with Nigeria) features short stories of feminism and intersectionality in contemporary Africa; and “part of our aim for the Take Over tents is that the names of the Scottish women who got us the vote will roll off the tongue in the future – we have strident spine poems, manifesto workshopping and we hope to fuel your appetite for change. Obviously there will also be tea and buns!”

As I watched Patrick walk away, I noticed the inscription on her bag: Diversity is being asked to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance. It struck me that her work is all about inclusion – she is not only developing intelligent and ground-breaking projects, but at the same time she has her eye on the deep underlying issues. She is using the knowledge and wit that she has built up through years of experience which in turn has given her an understanding of how to tackle those who still, whether knowingly or unconsciously, oppose genuine equality. “Most people do subscribe to these shared values, but in the work setting in particular there’s a mismatch between individual principles and this lack of alignment that we are seeing.”

For more information about the Revolting Women programme at the Edinburgh International Festival 11 – 25 Aug, see

Are you planning to go to the Book Festival? What is the event you most want to attend? I’d love to know, so leave me a comment if you have time.

We Shall Fight Until We Win – book review

Book Review: We Shall Fight Until We Win, A Century of Pioneering Women. The Graphic Anthology.

We Shall Fight Until We Win is an anthology of pioneering women from the past 100 years. It has been published by 404 Ink (last year they produced Nasty Women whose contributors include our very own Becca Inglis), and Glaswegian BHP Comics, whose alphabet book, The Mighty Women of Science came out in 2016.

From Emeline Pankhurst and Nicola Sturgeon, through Noor Inayat Khan  and Shami Chakrabarti, to M. Thatcher and Mhairi Black MP, this wonderfully active and varied book gathers together 100 years of female power. And that’s just the subjects!

Most strips encompassed in the book have a writer and an illustrator, also female: Denise Mina (words) on Betty Boothroyd  (for eight years the Speaker at the UK House of Commons); Shazleen Khan (graphics) on Joan Bakewell  (author, playwright, Humanist of the Year, and appointed ‘a voice of older people’); Letty Wilson  (graphics) on The Vindication of Diane Abbott .

On top of that, Laura Jones (Emerging Publisher of the Year 2017) and Heather McDaid (The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year) are the Scottish publishing freelancers who started 404 Ink, both under 40 and pioneering ahead in their field, both able to commission seriously skilled young women.


We Shall Fight 2
Nicola Sturgeon ilustrated by J Milton.

Strength and determination abound in this publication, and it starts, as you would expect, with Emmeline Pankhurst, Nicola Love’s  text running, “We were willing to break laws…so that we might force men to give us the right to make them”. In one of those happy coincidences, Charlot Kristensen’s  graphic on page 5 depicts the suffragette rally taking place in the same street in London where 250,000 recently marched to register their feelings about (among other things) the misogyny of Donald Trump.

Each chapter is idiosyncratic with a distinct style and quality: realistic (Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh); caricature (Poison Penmanship, Jessica Mitford); like a traditional comic strip (Jackie Forster); innocent looking drawings (The Radical in the Footnotes, Beatrice Webb); colourful (The 60%) and monochrome (Jeyaben Desai) reflecting both artist and story. “A graphic novel can say more than just words, without cramming it all into text.” states illustrator Maria Stoian.

The contributors involved in this publication specifically depicted women “with multiple sides to them” (Jenny Bloomfield). “It became a project to make it diverse. It’s historical so that was hard” (Heather Palmer, BHP). Above all, We Shall Fight is informative and documents women who have made an astonishing difference: in torture rehabilitation (Helen Bamber), as a WW11 spy (Inayat Kahn), and there is also a group of school kids, The Glasgow Girls, who stood against the policy of detaining children for immigration purposes.

Jenny Bloomfield is right,”it is amazing what you can get across in a small physical space.”

A Graphic Novel of Women, Equality Is Not Won, is an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sat 11 Aug 13:45 – 14:45

Do you often read graphic fiction or non-fiction? I’d love to know, so leave me a comment and we can have a chat.

Heroines From Abroad – poetry review

Heroines From Abroad by Christine Marendon translated from the German by Ken Cockburn

Scottish launch 13.7.18

Heroines From Abroad is Christine Marendon’s first collection, and published by Carcanet Press, it is half-and-half English/German, translated by Edinburgh based poet Ken Cockburn. Launched at Lighthouse, Edinburgh’s Radical Bookshop (formerly Word Power Books) in the capital’s Causewayside area, the pair were introduced by Annie Rutherford who leads the Women in Translation fiction reading group there. Alternating, Christine and Ken read the poems in both languages and an illuminating Q & A followed.

Marendon was raised in Bavaria and currently lives in Hamburg. She has a personal and individual approach: “I meditate and try to think of nothing. I don’t read other poets when I am writing. In this act of forgetting, you find things you usually do not find, hear something you otherwise won’t hear.” With a distinctively female voice, there is indeed a dreamy, Dali-esque quality, where apparently unconnected images circle around each other and leave the reader to make connections, to recognise something deep inside themselves. “I am only following my own logic”, Marendon intertwines her hands delicately, “not to hold, grasp it, but watch it and surround it with my words”.

Cockburn initially translated six of Marendon’s poems 13 years ago, saying it was the “wonderful coming together of images” which attracted him. “It was intriguing rather than frustrating that there were aspects which I didn’t get the gist of, that the poems created their own worlds with a kind of dream logic to them.” As if, on waking, there is a tumble of words related to half-remembered visions, or middle-of-the-night thoughts, all co-existing, some of which are too painful to bear scrutiny in the cold light of day, but these Marendon has committed to paper. “we snarl and dig our bared teeth into each / others’ flesh…torn skins hang / sideways to the floor,” (from Fifty Ways).

The poems make new associations, fresh meanings emerge from juxtapositions of words you previously thought you could rely on. Cockburn quotes from Rotunda and Breath, “Your warm handshake has you kneeling / to the saints of motorway slip-roads and service-stations..” and, “My dearest is a / missing feather, a snapped-off star”. (The latter referring to the automotive emblem of a Mercedes which a friend stole.)

Christine Marendon
Christine Marendon, poet.

There are many recurring natural images – water, air, wind and stone for example. In Bahamut, “I am the fish who, coming for air / kisses the water’s surface: / you see the disturbance, the circles it creates, but, me, the fish, / you don’t see.” Memory features strongly: “My memory is a darkroom / into which only blood-red light is admitted.” (from Negative). However when asked, Marendon stated, “I wrote these at different times of my life, they stand alone. But I am almost the same person so there might be connections.”

The book title Heroines From Abroad is a phrase from Rotunda referring to her family matriachs. She explains, “Men are responsible for most translocations and women have to solve the problems and hold the family together when they get there.”

On the page the poems often have the appearance of prose with short, succinct phrases of 2 or 3 words. “The day, / forgotten. There at the edge. Where the darkness / lives.” The first few silent readings in your own head do not reveal a recognisable tempo, but hearing them aloud made more metrical sense. Cockburn stated, “there was a rhythm I was trying to recreate in English.”

Letting her ‘found’ voice be concretised was brave, and ultimately successful. This is an intrinsically creative first poetry collection, and I am guessing that you will find that wisps of fascinating thoughts will be ribboning through your mind long after reading it.

The Guardian’s Poem of the Week

Christine Marendon, No Man’s Land

New Books in German

Info about Christine Marendon in German

They say that the readership for poetry is really low, especially in translation. Do you think that’s right? Leave me a comment and we’ll do our own poll!

Leave No Trace – film review

Debra Granik / USA  / 2018 / 109 mins

At the Edinburgh Filmhouse  from Fri 13 Jul 2018

Leave No Trace opens amongst lush green ferns and sparkling spiders webs. 13 year old Tom and her father Will (played assuredly by Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster respectively) hum contentedly while foraging and collecting firewood. Their life outdoors and outside society is gently established, as is their peaceful co-operation and mutually respectful relationship. One night Will wakes in a state – we are unsure if there is a real helicopter or if it is in his nightmares – and she soothes him with a charming conversation about her long absent mother’s favourite colour. In this easy introduction we learn all we need to about their situation, so that the ensuing development makes complete sense.

The film is based on the novel ‘My Abandonment’ (author Peter Rock, 2009), and is not about the system letting people down, indeed the supporting characters are full of kindness and understanding, albeit within limits which are as equally extreme as living the forest life. Leave No Trace clearly establishes our collective standards – group living, state scrutiny, lack of independent decision-making and measurement of sanity through online questionnaires. In reality there is a double desertion: our impotent battle hero forsakes a normal life, and the so-called civilised world cannot embrace him on his required terms.

Throughout, the contrasts are vivid: machinery tears down trees for a flora and fauna information board to be erected; the shopping journey across the Portland bridge is noisy with grinding metal; the organised rows of Xmas trees are a stark pretence for a wilderness; and the quiet of their one-time living room and sofa as they lock the door behind them for the first time, is a deadened sort of silence compared to the vibrant tranquility of the woods.

Without having to spell out the issues at play, Granik and her fellow screenwriter Anne Rosellini with whom she collaborated on Winter’s Bone  which won the Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film in 2010, allow us to comprehend the subtleties of this insurmountable situation. We fully empathise with Tom, a most mature teen, as she struggles with Will’s needs, and the skilfully crafted conclusion (poignant eye contact, absence of words and a single elegiac violin) allows us to open our hearts to him as well.

Leave No Trace 1

Neither patronising nor sentimental despite many tender moments, the essence of the story is encapsulated in the differentiation between the communal bee hive (“They can kill you if they want to, so it means a lot to have their trust”), and the isolation of the spider in its web. As the requirements of father and daughter diverge despite their love, we leave the cinema better informed about the results of war on families and the reality of the ‘damaged’ veteran. More, we know that its impossible to hide for long.


You might have seen on one of my other blogs that I adore walking! The forests in this film look amazing but I haven’t ever been to the US. Have you walked there? Is it really that beautiful? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Maquia, When the Flowers Bloom – film review

Film Review – Maquia, When the Promised Flower Blooms directed by Mari Okada.

3 stars

This is the first Japanese anime film I have seen so I am coming at it with fresh eyes. The story concerns the maiden of the title, Maquia, voiced by Manaka Iwami, who lives in a sci-fi / fairytale world of two contrasting parts (rural and urban) replete with dragons, and a damsel in a tower. Maquia is an Iorph, a race of blond, slim, feminine-looking beings with only a slight hint of a nose, who never outwardly age beyond their teens.

Opening with a super-colour, blue-green idyll of animated landscape (this style of film pays great heed to the setting), the action moves slickly between this and the cityscape of shiny metal towers and darting sky pods. It is made clear from the start that loneliness will be the result of any couplings between Iorphs and others, and indeed that is what transpires: Maquia finds a human baby, raises him lovingly, he grows up but she does not, and eventually she leaves him to live his own life.

It is a tale of adolescence and motherhood, refugees, and repeated promises by Maquia not to cry (although there is also a warning: “emotions you hold inside, will burn away”. There is a central metaphor of weaving, and much is made of phrases such as “the weft of life” and “the cloth will remember”. I am repeatedly reminded of the older Disney films (Cinderella, Bambi) as Maquia attempts to manipulate the emotions with its grand, orchestral scores and meaningful dialogue. Mari Okada is the screenwriter and director, and she is one of the most prolific people currently working in the anime industry today, winning the 16th Animation Kobe Award for her work.

Maquia 2

Erial is the orphaned baby (Miyu Irino) who she prises from the grip of his mother – this instinct, they spell out, is strong even in death. As Maquia struggles with aspects of her new role: protection, responsibility, whether she can start an adult relationship at the same time as being a mum; we are reminded that this is not a childish story and the characters are not simplistic. She is severely limited, even in danger, by her eternally youthful appearance, and that in itself is a serious theme in this age of body manipulation. Maquia matures in response to both the horrors life throws at her and her ‘son’s’ natural developmental stages, and gains wisdom in the process.

Addressing serious subject matter using a seemingly innocent form, Maquia has the potential to stimulate both the intellect and the feelings.

How does this anime film compare to the others you have seen? Drop me a comment and let me know!