General · Poetry

WRIOTE TOUR DIARY/ MEGA ADVENTURE

It’s a bit late, but I finally dedicated some time to reflect on the WRIOTE tour with Ren Aldridge and Efa Supertramp. I had aspired to write a long entry dedicated to all the adventures we crammed into five days but we’ll see how we go.

I can’t quite remember how the tour came about but Efa, Ren and I decided that it needed to happen, if only for us to have a chance to hang out. The great thing about these DIY tours is spending time with people you would only catch at a gig or festival. Efa lives in London now, Ren is in Vienna or on endless tour with Petrol Girls  and I’m in Bristol so our lives have kept us busy. The WRIOTE tour was meant to be a chance for us to catch up personally and creatively. Ren as well as having her essay TOUCH ME AGAIN AND I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU featured in Nasty Women, has also made another zine cataloging various projects and essays about things like fucking up. Efa is on the verge of releasing her second zine on the concept of space and what that means to different people in the DIY/activist community and has been doing some music collaborations (check out Grand Collapse’s track Though Bloodshot and Blurry). And I have just released Better Watch Your Mouth and was eager to take it on the road.

Ren and Efa had already done four dates in Germany when i met up with them in London at Astbury Castle where we were doing our stuff at a house-show. We were all shattered from lack of sleep and hangovers, it was nice to start on the same level! Ren had been uming and ahing about what to do for her set and I was pretty excited to see her perform stuff from PASTE, a performance art piece that I had heard a bit of previously. Needless to say it blew my mind. I’ve watched some outstanding poets but this made my hair stand on end. It was so powerful that even watching it on the third or forth night it still held my attention completely. (PASTE is at FemRock in July) It was the perfect evening really, I literally curled up in a chair and read from the book before lots of tea and then bed!

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Efa at Astbury 14/05/2017

We all had a loooong sleep and hit the road for Brighton mid-afternoon on Monday. From this point on, we were driving in Efa’s car which was brilliant! Our show in Brighton was at the Cowley Club which I’ve actually never been to so I was excited to go inside and snoop around the books. We stayed with Paul and Beth from POG who graciously fed us and took us down to the venue and also supported us with an unplugged set! It was a quiet show, but they are always my favourite, I like the intimacy that performing poetry can provide. It was also amazing to see my very great friend and wife Chloe and to share a beer with her on a bench.

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Boho Galeto!

Brighton is one of my favourite places to visit so there next day I insisted (though I didn’t need to) that we had an ice cream on the beach! It was definitely a big highlight of tour. I love the prioritising that comes from visiting a city four one night only – you take advantage of treasures, like ice cream, or Loving Hut, or endless rows of musky denim. Ah, Brighton.

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We left the excitement and sunshine of Brighton and headed back up the M25 destination Cardiff! Our show was to be at the Transport Club, a working men’s club that has survived gentrification and the irritating trend of venue closures. I have been to either gigs or club nights in a few different venues like this and it is weird how these places are now sought out for alternative music and performance because much of our beloved venues are closing or have noise level restrictions. As a DIY community these spaces are integral for us – they are meeting places for us to socialise, to come together to support and enjoy our friend’s (and favourite) bands. To help develop and also critique ideas, to basically form the foundations of identity for DIY punk. Without venues tours become harder and harder to do, and with so many venue closures, especially accessible venues, it’s starting to feel small to me.

But I digress. The Transport Club in Cardiff is a perfectly preserved Dad’s Disco Haven, with original 1970’s decor, carpets and smell. I was immediately taken back to my childhood and family parties, being forced to wear the pink poofy dress, dancing on my Grandad’s feet. There were a lot of tables and chairs so we arranged them cabaret style, which seems to have worked for us on this tour. The show had been arranged by A-Grrrls and Afiach (run by Efa) and was a benefit show to raise funds for Movement for Justice. Efa slaved tirelessly over cake which she wouldn’t let me eat any of the entire tour until this night! (Totally worth the wait!) We were also joined by Glittasphyxia who read some great poems and Think Pretty, a punk two-piece local to Cardiff.

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The night went really well, I ate a load of cake, we cleaned up the venue and went back to stay at Uncle Cosmo’s! We had gloulash for breakfast before heading to the beach, in the rain, saw some pretty cliffs and coastlines, got damp, got chips (a nod to Efa’s completely ridiculous and amazing driving to get said chips, cough hazzard lights in a bus lane cough). We parted ways with Serena (Glittaphyxia) and headed back over the Severn to Bristol!

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Ren, Efa and Serena at the beach, looking pleased!

Hydra Bookshop was always going to be a good gig. I had booked this in as part of the tour and the best thing about being unplugged is that you really don’t have to worry about amps, drum kits, backlines, etc. We arrived, full of food and a bit sleepy. Our Bristol date had the best attendance on the tour, it was nice that so many of our friends turned up to watch and support us. It was just the three of us performing and each night we switched the order around so that we all went first, second and last. Ren went last and her set went down like a storm. Everyone was engaged and her essay about fucking up resonated with a lot of people in the room.

It was another early night with tea for us, cuddled up on the sofa laughing. These are the moments I love best about tour, and something I was looking forward to doing with these two powerhouse women. The next day we went to Kino for some lunch, I had too much coffee:

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Ren, who had been on tour with Petrol Girls since the March had reached her limit and decided to head back to her parents that evening and not do the last date in Bath. Before she left we hung out at mine, played some music and branded each other with WRIOTE stick and poke tattoos.

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WRIOTE stick and poke!

 

So Efa and I parted ways with Ren and headed to our last tour date in Bath. Bath is a very beautiful but weird place. We ate noodles at a tiny noodle place that wouldn’t let us drink our club mattes so we had to drink them on a bench. It was like binge drinking if caffeine had an age restriction. We missed Ren a lot but it was lovely to hang out with Efa, who I’ve never really spent one on one time with before. She is a extremely awesome person, both of us come from different working class backgrounds, me from a city council estate and Efa from the mountains in North Wales. We bonded over laughing at the ‘wealth’ of Bath and it’s inhabitants but I think we both learnt something from Ren on tour, which is to not be so quick to judge, and even the smallest step towards equality is a positive one.

As it was just the two of us for the night, we decided to combine our sets together. We hadn’t really prepared but the mix of my personal poetry with Efa political songs worked quite well and an idea sparked in my head that the WRIOTE tour should happen again, with more prep and collaboration between the artists. We want to keep running with this notion of conversation and DIY spaces for more than just loud punk bands. We want WRIOTE to grow, to exhibit more voices, to create a different sort of artistic collaboration that is performative and engaging. So, if you didn’t manage to catch it this time, WRIOTE will definitely be back next year.

I am grateful for the experience of DIY touring and for sharing that experience with Efa and Ren. I realised after a very rough couple of weeks that since Stace had died, I had not really taken a break. The tour came at the right time. It gave me space to breath, to relax and prioritise. It also helped me regain my strength and some sense of identity. My mental health has been bad, flaring up because of grief but to go off on the road with two friends and shed some of that weight has helped me enormously. I love you guys!

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