Neville Gabie’s Collective Breath at the SVA

Pluck a number from out of the aether,
Preferably, a numerical palindrome,
Indicating a Janus-like equality:
One thousand one hundred and eleven, for example.
1,111 is a number symbolizing a union
Of the individual and the collective:
A fusion of self and society:
‘I am he as you are she as you are me
And we are all together’ –
Which is where the aether comes in.

Neville Gabie has WOMAD-collected
The exhalations of this number of people,
Bagged them and fused them and released them
From a Brobdingnagian–like apparatus,
In a release of collective air that took 49 seconds:
7 times 7;
And even a solitary 7
Is a magical number at the most quotidian of times –
But seven to the power of seven is an alchemical,
Numerological representation of Interdependence:
The self and society, a harmony of parts,
A state of social beatitude – peace through diversity:
We all share the same air, equally, communally, globally,
With no airs and graces, affectation, and putting on airs,
In theory;
In theory,
No pollution, respiratory problems and global carbon-credits.

So Neville Gabie’s Malmesbury collection of breath,
Is nothing like the exploits of the failed aerial flight
Of the medieval monk of Malmesbury,
Instead the Connemara release of Collective Breath into Atlantic skies,
Over an ocean’s waves, breakers, currents, spume and spray,
Echoes the wireless pioneering of Gugliemo Marconi:
The sound of our interconnectedness:
‘I am he as you are she as you are me
And we are all together.’

FGR vs Bristol Rovers

Not Sherwood FOREST
Nor Lincoln GREEN,
Not Robin Hood and Little John,
But Dale Vince and David Drew;
Not outlaws and poachers,
But leftwingers and goal poachers;
Not the pollution of ‘The Gas’,
But the clean power of the wind;
Not the lawlessness of ‘The Pirates’,
But the traditions of the handloom weavers and spinners;
Not the slaving profits of Bristol,
But the anti-slavery arch of Archway:
COYFGR Levellers and Diggers,
Let’s try to turn the world upside down.

Forest Green v Dover Athletic

My seat was down the front, right by the pitch,
With a view right out to open fields, new leaf trees,
Scudding clouds, a grand sky horizon, and two billboards
That tried to send their message down to the New Lawn:
‘Neil Carmichael, A Better and More Secure Future’,
But David Drew was oblivious to this as he walked around the pitch,
As was Dale Vince, applauding the manager at the end,
After the news came through that Macclesfield had only drawn,
And so this team from the little market town of Nailsworth,
Was definitely through to the play-offs.
The afternoon was a great reminder of why football still counts:
The awards to the women’s team denoting some equality of status,
The name Ecotricity, the union jacks in green,
The banner referencing Martin Luther King,
The ground on a street called Another Way,
The vegetarian cuisine in a meat free zone,
The minute’s silence remembering the fire at Bradford City,
Broken only by the sound of a solitary aircraft flying high above,
The boys walking around, rattling their buckets:
‘Any spare change for the youth teams?’
When it’s like this, I can like football again.
See you Wednesday.

WITHDRAWN: An exhibition by Luke Jerram, Leigh Woods, 18th April – 6th September


‘Informed by conversations’ with seafarers, scientists and marine specialists, ‘Luke Jerram has created a new engaging installation for Leigh Woods’, so as to provoke questions about climate change.
‘Visitors will discover a flotilla of fishing boats which have mysteriously arrived in a woodland setting high above Avon Gorge … The scene immediately prompts questions – how did the boats arrive here and what previous voyages have they been on?’
 I am especially looking forward to seeing The Tempest there, staged by the Butterfly Theatre, July 11th – 17th.
Walking through Leigh Woods, on a blossom bluebell Sunday,
Along a primrose path from Paradise Bottom to Davy Jones’s locker,
We discovered five beached boats within the coppiced forest:
Gloria Jean, Joanne Marie, Martha, Seahorse and Grey Gull,
All marooned on the bone dry, tinderbox, cracked earth of a covert
(Like so many Anthropocene marine fossils),
Vessels that once rode the foam flecked tides of time,
Far beyond the confines of the Avon Gorge,
Wheel and rudder high above Bronze Age sunken forests,
Writing a wake for each Great Flood’s chronicle,
With a spring tide song of the sea, a siren song in the leaves,
A maritime threnody, recounting long lost worlds:
A shingle-shape of submerged churches, merchants’ houses,
Quays, wharves, inns, alehouses, pilgrims’ paths, abbeys,
Cowled ghosts, cursing sailors and bleached bones,
A tidal daily meal for ravenous crabs and eels.

And over there, amongst the hearts of oak, flies Ariel:

“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.”

And there, amongst the forget-me-nots, stands Prospero:

“The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

Swing and Clare Walk Recollections

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I walked down to Stroud Valley Arts through Rodborough Fields,
Medieval ridge and furrow still just visible in the April evening light,
Cracked earth and shallow stream talking to me with John Clare’s voice,
Lamenting the past and fearful of the future –
And so along the industrial archaeological edgelands of Stroud,
To John Street: ‘Where its only bondage was the circling sky’.

Twenty or so of us gathered here, to discourse on Captain Swing,
Mechanisation, new technology, loss of jobs in the here and now
(As well as the autumn and winter of 1830),
Blandscape, enclosure, the poetical legacy of John Clare,
All the while listening to the ska sound of ‘The Guns of Navarone’,
In a typically Stroud post-modernist mashup.

We then processed to the Swing/Clare film at the Brunel Goods Shed,
Thence to the River Frome, via blue-brick Midlands Railway,
Discussing Clare’s anthropomorphising of landscape,
Pondering on the palimpsest implications of wood anemones,
Until Captain Swing letters were left by Capel’s Mill,
And the sky blazed red in Sussex in the winter of 1830
(Whilst all the while the dogs frolicked cheerfully in the water).

Readings of Clare were collectively shared, hedgerows were dated,
Tolpuddle’s legacy was juxtaposed with that of Captain Swing,
The history of allotments and common land was pursued,
Until we ascended to the peak of Rodborough Common,
Where Clare’s incarceration within the asylum,
And the possible causes of his madness were portrayed
Through presentations, performance and readings,
As the sun set red across the tide full River Severn.

Dogs played, toddlers played,
As the red light silhouette shift
Changed us all to a band of gypsies,
At Helpstone, in 1830,
While John Clare read to us,
Gilded by the glowing sun.

And the tricks we played with time.

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Stroud Goods Shed, January 10th 2015

It’s an atmospheric railway station
At Stroud, at night, slipping into gas light time,
And it’s a great venue, Stroud’s good shed,
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel,
Built back in broad gauge 1845
(Where was the stone quarried?
If time could run backwards,
Where would the goods shed go?),
Inter-war legend still proudly proclaiming
To passengers to Paddington:
But inside, you can still scent the ash and steam
And still hear the clangour of the wheels and points,
While outside, the tail lamp of an express
Disappears into the Stroud valleys’ darkness,
With only the signal lamps or weavers’ candles
To stipple the damp winter gloom of the past;
But tonight, Jack Wimperis has rekindled the shed,
With a 3-D scintillant refulgence,
A dazzle of artful light that sends railway
Timetables spinning into a vortex
Of illumination and bright colour.

And I swore I saw, over there in the corner,
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, himself,
Top hat, fingers in his waistcoat,
Smouldering cigar,
Smiling a gentle smile of approbation.