I’ve been very lucky this year, Brighton Festival has been packed full of some of my wonderful writers and poets. And I’ve not even told you about Jeanette Winterson yet.
But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, before Winterson there was Liberty and Carol Ann Duffy:
‘On Liberty’ was an event to ‘highlight the role our Human Rights Act plays in protecting us all‘. Shami Chakrabarti hosted the evening of readings and music, joined by Ali Smith, Neil Bartlett, Jackie Kay, Alison MacLeod, Rachel Holmes, Bidisha & Billy Bragg.
Liberty campaigns for civil liberties and human rights in the UK. As director of Liberty, Shami was a very passionate and enthusiastic host. Readings ranged from fiction to accounts from asylum seekers, with Billy Bragg adding a musical element to the evening.
[Agnes and I met Alison MacLeod before the event, she was absolutely lovely!]
I didn’t take many notes from this event, it was far too engrossing. Rachel Holmes read an account from an asylum seeker’s time in the UK and Bidisha spoke about the work she does with asylum seekers and as much as I enjoy the bookish side of the events, it was these parts that particularly moved me. The time those seeking asylum spend in England is degrading and disgusting, I was never more thankful to live the privileged life I do than in that moment.
Considering the current political climate, now more than ever is an important time to support such a crucial organisation.
Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy, poet and Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2014, was joined by LiTTLe MACHiNe a musical ensemble that sets poetry to music.
Carol Ann Duffy (CAD) took the audience on a wonderful journey through her poetry. She has a very dry sense of humour which catches you off guard. It felt at first as if she was reading short stories, which was a reminder to me that not every poem reads as it is written. I soon eased into the form, and found a real enjoyment to CAD reading aloud.
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him—
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.
– Mrs Darwin, Carol Ann Duffy
My favourite poem read was Mrs Schofield’s GCSE, combining hilarity with intellect. You can read it here.
Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it.
– Mrs Schofield’s GCSE
The poem was a response to a woman who complained to their MP about another of CAD’s poems being included in an exam paper. The MP spoke to the exam board and her poem was quickly removed from the paper with, ‘This page has intentionally been left blank’ in its place. CAD then said something slightly naughty that she sternly told us not to tweet, oh how I giggled.
After the interval, LiTTLe MACHiNe took to the stage. I can’t remember what I thought they would sound like, but they exceeded expectation.
Here is them singing, So, we’ll go no more a-roving by Byron
Also, they have a skull maraca, which says it all really.