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small things ghosts

Having somehow managed to survive a hectic year that revolved mostly around a hospital stay and various other levels of madness, this blog has been neglected in a way that so many blogs have been before. Life and writing and existance in general have been put to one side as I tried to get myself back in one piece. But there are two achievements that make everything seem very lovely indeed. I’m very happy to have pieces published in two rather wonderful titles.

Firstly, I have a story featured in the fabulous charity collection All The Small Things, with an international group of writers presenting diverse tales of childhood in aid of Right To Play UK, an organisation which uses the transformative power of sport and play to teach valuable life lessons to children facing poverty, conflict and disease with the delightful aim of “bulldozing the world with a bit of love”. Many thanks to Pia Hansen, Obi Iheme and the rest of the team for involving me in this project. The book is a real treat, and it’s an honour to be included with such talented storytellers for such a great cause.

Secondly, after 2011’s wordPLAY presents A Flock Of Poets as part of the gorgeous Ghost of Gone Birds exhibition, Bloomsbury very wisely preserved the beautiful artwork by Ralph Steadman, Sir Peter Blake and Billy Childish among so many, many others in a wonderful coffee table book. I was thrilled to hear that some of the pieces written for the event would be published alongside the artwork, including my piece “The Last Free Bird In England”. In addition, there is a photograph of me mid-flow, looking like a goddamn human monster (beware of those plosive consonant, spoken worders…). I’m thrilled that our work could be included in the printed record of Ghost of Gone Birds’ fantastic project, and big thanks to the perfect Rebecca Fenton for too many things to list.

As a mere scribbler who chokes when referring to myself as a “writer”, it is a genuine, stomach-twirling delight to have my works not only published, but in books with ISBNs and available for purchase on Amazon. It probably seems like nothing to non-writers, and something totally minor to actual writers, but for someone in my position, I can barely express the excitement. I appreciate that luck often has more to do with such things then talent, and in that case, I’m the luckiest person in the world. Happy new year, team.

Well, I’ve finally got round to creating a seperate blog for stories, mostly because I’m ashamed of directing interested people to this hodgepodge of rambling nonsense as a means of “expanding” my “literary” “career”. So if you wish to read some story tales before you drift to sleep, please do visit bronaghfegan.wordpress.com, where all your dreams come true wait no I can’t promise that. Sorry.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The great auk, like the one I just knitted for Ghosts Of Gone Birds, in aid of BirdLife International’s preventing extinctions programme.
– Margaret Atwood, Guardian Q&A, 29th October 2011

Despite my unofficial retirement from the world of spoken word, I have been coaxed from my sleepy cove of lethargy to participate in a really exciting event. The glorious, unkillable wordPLAY has risen like a phoenix from the flames to present a literary evening in association with the ‘Ghosts of Gone Birds’ initiative to raise funds and awareness for bird conservation causes worldwide, in conjunction with RSPB and BirdLife.

The central event is an exhibition of artwork at The Rochelle School Arts Centre in Shoreditch supplied by visual artists writers ranging from Margaret Atwood (who is honorary president of BirdLife and has crocheted a Great Auk to exhibit), Ralph Steadman, Jessica Albarn (sister Damon), Jamie Hewlett (the artist behind ‘Gorillaz’) and many more…

Doves and British Sea Power are also involved and will be staging a music night as part of the project.

I am giddy to be involved and have been beavering away at a pair of dystopian nightmares to read aloud in my funny accent for your aural pleasure (the nightmare is that they’re not finished yet). Do come on down to Shoreditch, where the beautiful people live, and do your part to save our feathered friends…


wordPLAY London and Ghosts of Gone Birds Present:
A Flock Of Poets
Thursday 17th November, 7.30pm

Anna Mae Selby
Liz Adams
Sarah Day
Bronagh Fegan
Nia Davies
and more

Performing works from their existing collections PLUS new works inspired by pieces in the ongoing Ghost of Gone Birds exhibition

£3 on the door
(with profits going to conservation charities such as RSPB and Bird Life)

No one thinks Wes Anderson is just okay. He may be the ultimate love/hate director, his oeuvre inspiring passion one way or another. It’s not hard to see why. The textbook definition of an auteur, you can spot a Wes Anderson joint at forty paces. The Futura font, mannered performances of well-off, well-dressed, well-meaning idiots stumbling through social interactions in beautifully decorated surrounds, every frame is an artwork. The dialogue is staid, awkward, stagey, witty but tinged with cruelty, sometimes so imbued with deeper significance that it is laughable. Depending on where you stand with Anderson, this is part of his charm or the reason to walk out of the screening. 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited is the most indulgent of his films, a gloriously shot road movie in technicolour, detailing three brothers’ attempts to reconnect following the death of their father. That it is set in India is almost incidental, nothing but a beautiful backdrop to the quibbles and neuroses of three rich white Americans. Enjoyment of the film depends almost entirely on how much you are able to forgive this fact.

There is, however, one scene that moves beyond the typical Anderson fare. Kicked off the titular train for a masterclass in bad behaviour involving pepper spray, a brawl over a belt and an escaped, highly poisonous snake, the brothers witness three young boys fall into a river, and rescue two. “I didn’t save mine,” Peter says.

Gone are the backdrops that seem like paintings. The brothers, Peter carrying the boy’s body in his arms, are led into an isolated village, the horizon disappearing into a mirage of nothingness. The father, played by the Indian Brando, Irrfan Khan, rushes forward to receive his child’s body. The brothers are ushered away by an elder. A series of vignettes follow as the village prepares for the funeral, marginally disrupted by the presence of their American visitors. Their luggage is piled together near the livestock. Jack helps make garlands of white flowers. Francis silently communicates with one of the children. Peter, previously filled with doubt over his pregnant wife, nurses a baby. The soundtrack rumbles with keening women. The father sits alone, desolate in a darkened room. He washes his son’s body. He watches, and waits. As the brothers go to leave, they are called back to attend the funeral, and, in standard Anderson slow-mo, join the villagers in white, before the action moves predictably to a flashback of their journey to their own father’s funeral the year before. The film is, after all, about these rich Americans. But for a moment, it transcends their concerns and becomes something atypically simple, uncontrived, honest.

Irrfan Khan is a huge reason for the sequence’s resonance. In a tiny role with no dialogue, he dominants the screen. In comparison to Schwartzman, Wilson and Brody’s performances, all suitably mercurial for an Anderson film, Khan is less affected, depicting raw devastation with such quiet dignity that he makes the three movie stars look like parodies.

But Anderson too deserves plaudits for displaying an unusual subtlety. The Darjeeling Limited, after all, centres around three brothers who are literally dragging around luggage belonging to (about) their father. But in this sequence, he shows admirable restraint. Here, there are no quirky music cues or staged tableaux. The three brothers wear simple white clothes, a marked removal from Anderson’s totemic use of objects and clothing to embody character (the Team Zissou uniforms, or Chas Tenenbaum’s tracksuits, for example). The sequence is practically dialogue-free, unlike the wordy natterings of the rest of the film. The film has gone from the rumbling speed of train travel to the languid pace of quiet village life. For a director so idiosyncratic, Anderson’s decision to show such restraint makes the sequence particularly memorable, allowing the action to breathe and linger.

Anderson takes an observational approach, allowing the action to speak for itself without explaining it for the audience, because it is not important. This creates a universal effect, not getting distracted by traditions a Western audience may not immediately understand. This avoids an intrusive, anthropological eye on the Otherness of Indian culture, thereby allowing the viewer to appreciate the deeper meaning, how a village pulls together to survive a tragedy such as this, the death of a child. Anderson’s delicate treatment makes this the scene to remember once the credits have rolled.

The best part is Beau Brummell at the side there

Good night looters, and commuters,
and watchful nerds on your computers,
soon the embers start to fade
on your rambunctious cavalcade.
The crow bar man with balaclava,
the officer faced with the palaver,
Count you softly each cracked head
as you drift sweetly to your bed.
Think us all what we have proved,
how this has solved each fraying feud.
The sun is forced down by the night
but still this town will stay alight.

image by Reena Makwana

This weekend sees the International Alternative Press Festival 2011 at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL, London Town, and Nest Gallery will be selling a number of zines and artworks tomorrow, Sunday 29th May, 10am-4pm.

I am very excited to be taking part with a sequel to my last zine (Wonderful Creatures And How To Kill Them) entitled More Amazing Creatures And Further Ways To Kill Them. The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I forgot the name of my own zine when making the follow-up. Find out new ways to ensure the permanant annihilation of such critters as the Daddy Long Legs, the Hippopotamus and the Urban Fox. Get them before they get you.


The Nest table will also feature the beauteous work of some incredibly talented artists such as Anna Lincoln, Emily and Anne, Siobhan O’Brien, Rebecca Strickson, Bella Szyszkowska, Alice Marwick, Emily Howells and Reena Makwana.

Nest is an all-female collective of exciting artists (and the odd munchkin such as myself) and always has something unique and beautiful to share, so be a mensch and get yourselves down to see Nest and all the other exciting artists.

Today is Tuesday, when our beloved wordPLAY returns to the whiskey-soaked wonderment of the Good Ship for more wordsmithery, creation, larks and literary spectacle. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm, it’s £3 in and all proceeds go to Cancer Research UK. And the line-up is mind-bogglingly amazing. We worked very hard on it, and it has been really wonderful getting the opportunity to help organise another event. It would be really, really lovely to see you all there if possible. And afterwards I’ll lead you, Pied Piper-style, to the best chip shop in London.

Two bits of excellent news:
Firstly, the wonderful team at Storm In A Teacup have released issue 2 of their titular zine, once again featuring alternative female artists and writers dealing with female-positive topics and creating delightful things. I am extremely pleased to say that I have a story featured amongst the illustrious company, and even moreso that Bex Massey has created an illustration to accompany my piece. One of the most wonderful things is to have done something that inspires another person to make art, so I’m very excited and humbled. The zine also has a cocktail recipe, so you know you want to get some of that. It’s available from all good zine fairs and by e-mailing storminateacupzine@gmail.com. Big thanks to Elizabeth Martin.

Secondly, wordPLAY is making its triumphant return to the Good Ship in Kilburn on 15th March in aid of Cancer Research UK. We have pulled together a splendiferous array of writers and performers to say words at you until your head explodes with joy and also hydrogen. It’s a line-up so deliriously awesometacular that we aren’t even having music this time around. And it’s hosted by me, and you know how you love to hear me say things in that silly accent of mine, as well as the much more capable and coherent Nancy Clarik with moral support and gentle guidence of the beauteous Becca. So do come and support our charity, and you will be rewarded with an evening of unequable literary lyricism from a group of massively talented peoples:

Booker-longlisted, pioneer of the New Puritans, and thoroughly excellent fellow MATT THORNE

Wickedly wonderful poetry from Carol Ohemaa

and our spectactular guest stars
Liz Adams

Sam Buchan-Watts

Sophie Buchan

Jack Kelly

Leslie Tetteh

then don’t forget to poke me in the face and tell me you love me for letting you know all about the art that’s running wild in the world.

I am very super extremely happy to announce that wordPLAY is returning for another charity event, this time in aid of Cancer Research UK, on 15th March 2011 (so close to St Patrick’s day you can practically smell the alcohol on my breath.). We’re in the process of confirming the line-up, but it’s looking pretty special.

Once again, I will be hosting, and will try to be a little less flustered, a little more prepared, and not at all inclined to refer to everything, absolutely everything, as “lovely”*, when I blank on every other adjective under the unrelenting, staring eyes of our beloved audience. After the November event, someone came up to me and told me how funny I had been, adding, of course, anything you say would be funny in your accent. THANKS. So I’m aiming for a slight improvement on that.

BUT YES THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS! I haven’t heard good news like this since yer one strolled down the other side of Mount Sinai (Bible reference).

P.s. I love parentheses.

* except for when I referred to myself as being “shite”. Just to switch things up a bit.

I was never good with poetry, because, for all my fine qualities, I lack discipline. I always thought my attempts had their own rag-tag charm, but there’s something about a well-constructed poem that can be dazzling. And I know for a fact that I get five page views a day, so I am setting a challenge to anyone who dares make beautiful words.

A pantoum is a poetic form without set length, subject or rhyme scheme. It is comprised of quatrains. The second and fourth line of each stanza reappear (with some variations) as the first and third line of the next stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza return as the last and second lines of the final stanza.

For example

Milltown Auspice by Ben Jahn

How to explain his death – with humour
The best jokes start serious:
He fell asleep on the beach with his pockets full of bread
Seagulls carried him away –

The best jokes start serious:
The Governor went north (the mills full of men) God knows
Seagulls carried him away –
It was a thick-fog day, and still

The Governor went north (the mills full of men) God knows
How to explain his death – with humour
It was a thick-fog day, and still
He fell asleep on the beach with his pockets full of bread*

God, it’s dreamy. Send attempts to bronaghfegan[at]hotmail[dot]com and I’ll write you something in return.

*from McSweeney’s 31