Monday, July 24, 2006

!!!See the Strange Thing!!!!

Due to public demand the 'Strange Thing' will be at the museum for another month until August 24th.

Corona Smith writes: A chance encounter with Darren Edwards of x-gf media led to him donating his consumate skill and time to our cause. The result being a short film advertising the extended run.

Thanks are due to Annie, Alfie, Karen, Oliver, Isabelle, Rita, Max and Co for the commentary. The footage was filmed by Corona Smith and rescued in the edit by Darren. The music is taken from 'Missing in Action' a classic lost album by Ringos High.

Read more about the Strange Thing at the !!!See the Strange Thing!!! blog

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Germaine Greer at Hull Truck Theatre

‘This is a literary festival, right? Let’s talk about Shakespeare!’

No one else but Germaine Greer could confound audience expectations at a literature festival by insisting upon talking about literature. And no one else could turn the understanding of a show billed as a ‘non-stop Q&A’ on its head quite like Germaine did by deciding that she would be the one asking the questions and the audience would be giving the answers.

Appearing at Hull Truck on one of the hottest days of the year, and on the day that England were knocked out of the World Cup, the near-capacity crowd could be forgiven for feeling just a little bit tired and emotional. It was a risky thing for Greer to test the audience’s stamina by speaking for over 100 minutes on the subject of her next book, Shakespeare’s Wife, but one which brought unexpected rewards.

Explaining her dissatisfaction with current research on William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, she expressed the view that, typically, academics suffer from ‘higher Oxford stupidity’ when trying to interpret the few historical facts known about Shakespeare’s life. Greer gave an account of the relationship which incorporated a social history informed by feminism and her trademark wit.

Inviting contributions from the audience, Greer drew personal stories and comments from the punters , including Pauline Gift (Roland’s 80 year old mum), who spoke movingly about her experience of discovering she was to give birth to twins: ‘I knew it was different because I could count so many legs...when the consultant told me, he cleared all the furniture which wasn’t fixed down. The last mother to be given the news had trashed the room.’ Weaving contemporary feminism into Shakespearean scholarship, Greer gave a performance which was both eloquent and animated.

It is easy to forget that Greer’s reputation rests on her radical academic research rather than on her appearances on television shows like Celebrity Big Brother. Unusually, Greer steered clear of any fascination with her surface celebrity and reminded us why she is famous: because she is brilliant, witty, erudite and, above all, unpredictable.

From MH

Germaine Greer at Hull Truck by Laura Kilvington

As a enthusiastic follower of feminist literature, I attended the talk by Germaine Greer with the expectation of an intense, second wave feminism discussion like the all societies on the verge of death are masculine (Greer:1984) type opinions which I associated with her.

Instead, the rubric of Greer's discussion was Anne Hathaway, the older and greatly overlooked wife of William Shakespeare, and the subject of her eagerly awaited new more on

George Galloway at Hull Truck Theatre


Chatting to punters outside Hull Truck during the interval , questions were raised about Galloway’s conspicuous love of theatricality and his own celebrity. We wanted to know, do these elements detract from his worth as self-styled spokesman for the disenfranchised and oppressed of global politics? The answer was, for me, unexpected.

Galloway’s show had veered uncomfortably between political rally and stand-up comedy. I had mixed feelings about him: a supposedly left-wing politician who dropped the clause about lesbian & gay rights from the Respect Manifesto; who failed to turn up for the vote on Civil Partnerships; and who consistently rejects women’s right to choose on the abortion issue. And then there was that awkward business with Celebrity Big Brother, Rula Lenska, and cats. The issue of the pink leotard.

And yet, here was a man who had delivered blistering anti-war arguments, stood up to both Bush and Blair, and spoken passionately about the rights of workers and of the victims of western foreign policy.

Round One of his ‘Mother of All One Man Shows’ was an exhibition bout, with Galloway delivering punches to Brown and Blair and to Hull’s John Prescott and his possible successor as Deputy Leader, Alan Johnson. So far, so parochial. Galloway only really comes into his own when speaking about global politics. Going on to present a keenly anti-interventionist argument, there were some glimpses of the passion he displayed at the Senate, even if this was well-rehearsed shadow-boxing.

Round Two saw Galloway take questions from the audience, which ranged from Saddam Hussein’s treatment of the Kurds, to the Palestine problem, to Galloway’s suitability as an MP in a constituency with a high number of ethnic minority constituents, to historical questions about the Second World War.

One member of the audience wanted to know whether the West should intervene ‘in Mozambique’. Having teased out that the questioner was actually referring to Zimbabwe, Galloway delivered a deservedly fierce attack on Western ignorance and spoke for the right of other nations to self-determination To illustrate the absurdity of the colonial attitude, he questioned whether we would support the right of, say, Sweden, to occupy other countries on the basis that they were ‘just helping out’. And of course that argument is a good reductio ad absurdum: what if the Inuit had decided to invade France to sort out last year’s riots; or what if Mexico had decided to occupy Northern Ireland out of frustration with the Peace Process?

This brings me back to the punter outside the theatre. He expressed the view that whatever else Galloway represents and however glaring his vanity, the fact that he is using his extraordinary articulacy to give a voice to the voiceless, matters.

Although I might be sceptical about any politician who chooses to appear on Celebrity Big Brother, angry with any ‘radical’ who rides roughshod over women’s rights, gay rights, and who wears a pink leotard on national television, I have no argument with the courage of Galloway’s discourse in the face of global injustices. That he is a paradox – perhaps embodying the point where the political left comes full circle and joins the political right – is best understood through his tendency to simultaneously court ridicule while also demanding respect.


Did Galloway’s performance at Hull Truck Theatre on Friday 30th June 2006 bring the best and the worst out of the man and the politician?

I found this event to be fascinating as it gave me not only the opportunity to hear and watch at close quarters a politician with such firm and unwavering convictions at odd with the political mainstream as George Galloway, MP, but also to see how language unfolds and is moulded by a politician as a response not only to his ideological position, but also to his situation within the political establishment of the United Kingdom, i.e., that of an outcast. His expulsion from the Labour Party in 2003 was the culmination of a process of marginalization which accelerated since the New Labour clique hijacked the party. Even writing this last sentence posed a dilemma for me: should I call the party Labour or New Labour? To all purposes, as Galloway mentioned, the Labour Party is not only dead, but beyond any possibility of resuscitation. On this, I am in total agreement with his position, as many other people in the audience were, for what I could gather.

I know that many people, while agreeing with much of what he says, distrust the man because of his egotism, clearly expressed in his language and personality. His apparition in Big Brother was a testimony to that, while exposing his media naïveté (was he led to believe by Endemol, the producers, that he could argue politics in the show to ensure his participation?). Did it damage his political prospects? I doubt it, at least not in the long term. I am sure that voters are capable of viewing it within a greater picture. However, we will see at the next general election.

The directness of his language was, for me, a regular listener to BCC Radio 4’s Today programme, so refreshing, as I am tired of the evasiveness and utter blandness of New Labour politicians, strange animals with many skins instantly changeable, and the vacuity of Cameron and his front line, mere façades resembling those found in Hollywood studios.

Much of what Galloway said makes sense, and it is so obvious to normal human beings that I do not understand why other politicians, with a few exceptions, do not see it. Yet we hardly hear this position expressed in mainstream media, either in print or broadcasting, not even in the BBC, particularly after the infamous “45 minutes” fiasco (and the death of Dr. Kelly). The concentration of the press and broadcasting outlets in the hands of a few barons takes care that non-mainstream views hardly even get across to the public. Galloway in Sky News or Fox Television? I don’t think so.

He was expelled from New Labour (and went on founding Respect) and has been marginalized by the political establishment and the media, currently the two pillars of political power. He has been accused of being a traitor, encouraging subversion and suicide bombings, and of every other wrong doing under the sun. What we expect from the man? To hang himself? He is a fighter, and he is getting out of the hole he has been forced into. Confronted with the reality of poor or no access at all to mainstream media, old style public meetings along the breadth and length of the country, literature festivals such as the Humber Mouth, and even Big Brother, have become platforms where he is fighting for his beliefs for a just society. The directness and colour of his language, his attacks on morally bankrupt politicians and ministers, his skills to disarm, disassemble and throw back opponents’ arguments, so evident and useful at the American Senate hearing, the repeated use of the words “I” and “I did this or that”, have been moulded by his situation as an outcast, strong willed politician with deep convictions facing the formidable machine that New Labour is without a sizeable political apparatus behind him. Without a formidable ego to confront that machine, he would have been politically dead a long time ago. Somehow, I can see the Scottish lad getting ahead in the rough streets of Dundee.

From Pablo Luis González. More about the event from Pablo at

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ian Duhig chatting to David Wheatley at Zest

The Price of Fish

Although most of us have grown embarrassed by racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other violent exclusions which reveal the sacrificial logic of the modern state, we persevere in vivacentrism - Maud Ellman 'The Ghosts of Ulysses'

For the love of my Methodist boy,
in Fishermen's Bethel I stood
to mouth their strange Wesleyan hymns
till one verse would change me for good:

Ah lovely appearance of death!
What sight upon earth is so fair?
Not all the gay pageants that breathe
Can with a dead body compare.

The wound in the side of their Christ
was the womb of the bride their men sought,
and bright were the children they'd raise,
and right all the ways they'd be taught;

for death to them had little sting
since hard work so calloused their fears:
they drowned all the fires of the Fiend
in blood and in sweat and in tears.

The warmer I grew in my love,
the less did I trust in their Lord;
I read of that trawler from Hull
we lost in the Isa Fjord.

I fled from my Methodist boy,
but tell his name under my breath
whoever I'm with for some warmth
in a life like the wrong kind of death;

through the wrong kinds of nights to find peace
I pass all the wrong kinds of ships
with the wrong kind of bands on their decks
for the wrong kind of song on my lips:

Ah lovely appearance of death!
What sight upon earth is so fair?
Not all the gay pageants that breathe
Can with a dead body compare.

By Ian Duhig for Humber Mouth 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Susie Orbach at Zest

The Body Beautiful?

In an age saturated in advertising, and hopelessly obsessed with fame, Susie Orbach is an opponent of conformity.
With her viewpoints formed during the counter-cultural ferment of the 60s, Orbach remains a Marxist, which, in today's climate, seems almost as radical as cancelling your subscription to GQ, or putting your boot through the TV screen when the latest installment of Big Brother flashes up.
This leading feminist and psychotherapist was speaking at Zest, on Newland Avenue, and created an unsettling vision of the world in which all of us are little more than the play things of big business - causing us to view our bodies as little more than advertising boards.
"Young women are now thinking of their bodies as products, " she said. "It is measure of modernity that this thinking - 'brand thin' - is now spreading across the world."
The idea, a sort of Western thought virus which Orbach terms "body facism" has, she said, arrived everywhere from Latin America to Japan, with increasing numbers of people warping their bodies with plastic surgery or developing eating disorders. Within three years of the first TV broadcasts in Fiji during the 90s, 11.9 per cent of young women were bulimic.
But these obsessions, driven by an alliance of diet pill manufacturers and advertisers, is far from restricted to women.
"The change is happening now," she said. "Pick up a copy of a men's fashion magazine and you will find it no different to a copy of Cosmopolitan from 20 years ago."
This change is part of a wider period of re-adjustment between the sexes, which, Orbach said, is happening now the "econmomic veil" has been lifted and women have financial independence - females now expect the same emotional support which they have traditionally provided for men.
But big business has also snuck into the world of feelings - emotions have been commodified and sold back to us as pills, and now a whole swathe of the Western world is labelled as sufferers of mental conditions they do not fully understand.
"There are towns in America where half the population are on drugs for conditions they have been told they have," she said.
Orbach was, famously, counsellor to Diana, Princess of Wales, an appointment which she said had not compromised her radical politics. "If anything, class-conciousness was a great help - because I knew that the Royals were as messed up as the rest of us."
Orbach is now encouraging others to be more emotionally literate - to live and appreciate the moment, rather than endlessly speculate about the future or look back to the past. "People get in the way of themselves," she said.
'Know yourself' was the message. By the end of the evening, even Orbach had learnt something new. "I have never been cafe entertainment before," she said.

Al Alvarez at Central Library

'It aint over until you've copulated with the camel....'

You can call me Al

To see Al Alvarez, who, I'm ashamed to admit, I knew little about in advance of sitting 12ft away. He was a funny old stick, has lived a full life and spoke for a good 40 minutes on finding your voice as a writer, before he invited questions from the audience. It was interesting, mildly amusing, the looped mic/amp system kept breaking down. This poet-cum-poker player was very clued up, though lost his thread a bit (an addled style that added to the evening) and was a tad bashful about his own writing (yet not averse to reading a couple of his own ditties). Related to his life as a freelance ("that's when things start to get tricky") and listened in awe when he got round to talking of his friendship with Sylvia Plath (she relied on his feedback when Mr Hughes buggered off) and chuckled when he told us of his short spell as an Oxford don ("I dreamed of being an Oxford don and I was, for a year. Fucking hated it.") A healthy crowd, too, most of them looking like poets or poker players or both themselves. Indeed, I'm sure when the bulk of us buggered off the doors were locked and a high rollin' game started up.

From Dave Windass @ Killing Time

'It aint over until you've copulated with the camel....'

The turn card comes. The board doesn't look great, except for those two hearts, which might hold promise for someone with two of their own in the hole. With one more card to come, they would now have a four to one - 20% - chance of seeing another heart and completing their flush. Al Alvarez is, of course, aware of this. He knows he is ahead at the moment, but would lose to that heart, should it appear. Jim, the only other player remaining in the hand, checks. Al barely pauses. "I'm all-in," he announces, and pushes his stack of chips towards the centre of the table. Jim ponders this for some time. He has more chips that Al, so has the bet covered should he lose. Other players, devil's advocates, mischievously point this fact out to him, egging him on to call the bet. Eventually, he does. With no more bets to come, the players turn over their hole cards, the ones that only they can use. Jim has the two hearts, but no made hand, and Al, ahead with the highest pair, shakes his head. Mathematically speaking, he knows that Jim has made a mistake. In the long run, he would lose money in this situation. But one hand in poker is not the long run. The final card, the river, is turned over. A heart. Jim takes the pot - about £30. Al Alvarez fishes another £20 note out of his pocket and I count him out some more chips.

We are at a table tucked away at the back of Zest, playing no-limit Texas Hold Em poker. It seems that everyone plays poker these days, and our game attracts quite a bit of interest. But the global explosion of poker is a recent phenomenon, fuelled by the internet and multi-channel television. The main event at the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas (where else?) will this year attract around 10,000 players, the vast majority of whom will have won their $10,000 entry online. The winner will take home $10million. In 1981, when Al Alvarez wrote his seminal work on poker The Biggest Game In Town, 75 players competed for a first prize of $375,000. These were the very best poker players in the world, and Al Alvarez was there writing about them and, worryingly for the five of us at the table with him tonight, playing with them and learning from them. In 1994 he played in the $10,000 event himself. In fact, had he finished just two places higher in a tournament game in East London last week, he would have been £35,000 better off and instead of being in Hull tonight would have been playing a tournament with a £1million prize fund, so £20 was not too much to worry about, surely? And yet for the serious player, every game is important, whatever the stakes. Al Alvarez is a serious player (the cover of his autobiography, Where Did It All Go Right?, shows him at the poker table), and to be outdrawn is annoying, but as well as being a serious player, he is a seriously friendly guy, happy to sign books, tell his poker stories and even take bad beats.

Earlier in the evening, he regaled a somewhat larger audience (certainly larger than the "six men and a dog" he had told me he expected) with literary anecdotes and musings as he discussed his new book The Writer's Voice. For someone who describes The Biggest Game In Town as "the only book I have ever enjoyed writing" he is remarkably prolific. Three novels, eleven books of non-fiction (on just about everything, it seems; he has written about suicide, divorce, mountaineering, poker, sleep, and the art of writing, amongst other subjects) and four books of criticism have come from his pen or keyboard. There have also been four collections of his own poetry (some of which he reads for us tonight) and he has edited two other poetry anthologies. He credits his absolute disbelief in an afterlife with inspiring him to live a life so full of activity. After speaking about his work and life for a pleasantly rambling forty-five minutes or so, he answers some questions from the audience, revealing amongst other things a desire to have written a book about space, but of course he would have had to go there and no publisher seemed willing to pay for that. I buy his autobiography, a genre I despair of and usually avoid. Of course, he is happy to sign it for me.

Later, at the poker table, Al posts the small blind and I post the big blind. Everyone else folds back round to Al, who calls, and I check. There is 40p in the pot, 30p of which is in blind bets that have to be made before the cards are dealt, and only Al and I are still in the game. None of the five communal cards help either of us sufficiently for us to risk further bets, and we turn our cards over. My pathetic Jack high beats his even worse Nine, and I have won a pot from the great Al Alvarez. In fact, at the end of the game, four of us have made a profit, while Al has fewer chips in front of him than he started with. It's something for us to tell the grandchildren; the night we beat Al Alvarez at the poker table. Yet Al knows, as well as I do, that one night of poker is not the long run.

From James Russell

Friday, June 23, 2006

John Pilger at the Ferens Gallery

'The best audience...the best questions'

Forgive me for not being an absolute authority on John Pilger (I'm still ploughing through 'Hidden Agendas'). That's not the issue. I went to see his sell-out talk at Humber Mouth because he represents the kind of journalism I admire and, if I'm honest, long for in my own career.

The kind of journalism I fell in love with more than a decade ago when I discovered the reports of Martha Gellhorn, one of the finest journalists of all time who bore witness to sixty years of war and world events. She wrote how it was, from the ground up, amplifying the voices of the little people trampled upon by the powerful. I stockpiled her books, read and re-read them and still do ('The View from the Ground' is my most precious, a blueprint for journalism).

Pilger coming to Hull for me was the next best thing. Gellhorn is dead and I'll never get a chance to hear her speak, especially about Iraq, about Blair, about Bush. Pilger knew Gellhorn: they talked. And like Pilger, Gellhorn had a sharp eye, a sharp intelligence and a sharp tongue and she used all three with guts.

Strangely, Gellhorn too was tall, leggy, white-haired in her later years, and handsome. At the end of the talk, I queued with others to have Pilger sign his latest book (I'll plough through that one next, I promise). I asked him, ''What would Martha make of all this that's going on in the world? Would she still be angry?'' He looked deadly serious and said, ''She was angry up until the day she died.''

Lee Karen Stow

John Pilger at the Ferens

By Martin J Deane

Blair is the most right wing Prime Minister I have ever known. And that includes Thatcher!

In a wide ranging talk on Tuesday night, John Pilger shared his experiences of nearly 40 years of investigative journalism giving a flavour of the man who, over 40 years, has made it an art. In his opening remarks, John Pilger said how he used to cover northern England for the Daily Mirror and how it was always its labour history that first attracted him to Hull.

His new book just out, Freedom Next Time, formed the basis of his talk covering 5 countries and looks at the kind of freedom each country has achieved.

It may not be rocket science but there are so few people of his calibre in mainstream journalism that many Britons may have never heard of the Chagos Islands, nor what we did to its people, or are convinced that peace and justice rule in Afghanistan or believe that going to war on Iraq was a good thing - were it nor for him.

As well as outstanding articles and books such as Heroes, Pilger has made films like Breaking the Silence on the U.S. agenda behind Afghanistan and Iraq, and Palestine is Still the Issue (remade in 2002), on the persecution of the Palestinian people by Israel.

John Pilger spoke on Afghanistan, South Africa, India, Palestine, Chagos and took questions from the audience...Read more at

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jonathan Coe at Pave

'We're all going to die...but first we're going to rot'

These were the immortal words of BS Johnson, the avant-garde novelist whose insight into the human condition was so raw, brilliant and painful that it led to his suicide at the age of 40. It was this man that acclaimed British novelist Jonathan Coe focused on in his recent autobiography, ‘Like a Fiery Elephant: the work of BS Johnson’.

Author of six best-selling novels, including ‘What a Carve-Up’ and The Rotter’s Club, Coe has been described as ‘one of the UK’s funniest serious novelists’. He first became aware of BS Johnson at the age of 13, when he and his family watched ‘Fat Man on a Beach’, an unlikely (and undoubtedly rather unusual for the early 1970s) documentary about Porth Ceiriad Bay in Wales, featuring 40 minutes of Johnson reading poetry, playing in the sand with found objects and delivering wonderfully random dialogue such as: “Cut to a bunch of bananas.” Expecting a tourist programme about their favourite holiday destination, the older members of the Coe family were as unimpressed as they were unaware that only two weeks after this funny, unusual and inventive little film was made, BS Johnson had killed himself. But in the young Jonathan Coe, the seed had been planted. He would later spend seven years of his own life trying to uncover the story of Johnson’s.

Speaking at Pave in conversation with Dr Melanie Williams, Coe’s interest in and knowledge of his subject was evident in his eloquent responses to questions asked by Dr Williams and the audience. His talk was illustrated with two short films, BS Johnson’s ‘You’re Human Like the Rest of Them’ and the last fifteen minutes of ‘Fat Man on a Beach’. Both films were not without significant effect. In ‘You’re Human Like the Rest of Them’ the main character Haakon forces us to take a look at the futilities of our existence; pervaded throughout with a sense of unrelenting dourness, the film nevertheless displays a wickedly dark humour with Haakon’s stark and exasperated declarations about the horror of mortality often contrasted with blank looks from colleagues and the occasional yawning schoolboy.

Even if you were not aware of the tragic outcome of BS Johnson’s life, ‘Fat Man on a Beach’, whilst appearing to be light-hearted enough, has an undeniably poignant feel. Sitting in various poses on the beach, Johnson reads poetry, throws bananas into the sea and ruminates on the oddities of life. Although his tone is jovial enough, his eyes show a seriousness that sits uncomfortably with his antics. The film finishes with a widening shot of him striding off into the sea – again, something that is impossible to view without thinking of the reality of his suicide.

So what did we learn about BS Johnson? That he was a man whose work was highly experimental, as illustrated by ‘Travelling People’, ‘Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry’ and his ‘novel in a box’, ‘The Unfortunates’ to name but a few of his works. He was an intense, passionate yet clearly funny and likeable man. He committed himself to the pursuit of truth in fiction, and he struggled to reconcile his creative beliefs with the reality of his work and the demands of fiction. Sadly, when he committed his suicide, the literary world lost one of its greatest and most innovative talents.

CB and SH

More from Eldred Jiggle at
Chips (With Gravy) On My Shoulder: Fat Man on a beach in a swanky bar at the end of my street in Hull

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Aspects of evil

AS a novelist who says she loves an argument, Lionel Shriver cannot have been disappointed by the reaction to We Need to Talk About Kevin.
The American author and journalist - currently based in London - was fielding questions on her writing at the Humber Mouth literary festival at Zest. And although the event briefly touched on her latest release, Double Fault - a novel about love in the world of competitive tennis - it was Kevin, the book which caused controversy for its depiction of a murderous boy which drew the most questions from the audience.
Shriver read an extract from the book, which had won the Orange Prize for fiction in 2005, in which Eva, Kevin's mother, expresses her ambivalence to the news she is pregnant. Her ambivalence, once Kevin is born, hardens into dislike. The horrific events which follow, when Kevin guns down seven of his classmates, a cafeteria worker and a teacher, led to the book being condemned by Catholic websites for being 'anti-family', and Shriver parting company with her agent.
"She loathed it," Shriver told the crowd at the Newland cafe bar. "She thought it was evil." The novel, Shriver's seventh, was touted around in a hostile climate.
"It was post 9/11, so there was a general feeling that America would not tolerate violence in its culture. But if anything, America became more violent."
Shriver's determination to get the book published was vindicated by the award, the sale of film rights and something of a personal victory against her former agent - marrying her ex-husband.
And wherever Shriver goes, the novel continues to draw strong responses - even if some are a little baffling.
"I had one reader berate me as to why Kevin had not been sent to see a psychiatrist, and that was from someone who was not even an American! " she said.
The book had drawn on the spate of school shootings in America - such as the Columbine High School massacre - and Shriver focusing on the thought that there are no barriers to what we do in life.
"There is nothing to stop me picking up a knife and cutting myself, or walking out into the road in front of a bus, " she said.
"That realisation can be very dangerous for some people."
Shriver had shyed away from interviewing those connected with the shooting incidents, and instead researched the killings on the internet.
Despite the reams of information she had pulled up about the events, Shriver felt conclusions could not be drawn.
"There is no reason why" she said.
Shriver continues to write journalism, but says she is constantly developing characters for her fiction every time she meets people - melding them into a "slurry" of personalities for her to draw on at a later date.
Later, as she sat in the corner of the room busily scribbling autographs and chatting, I went to get my copy of the novel signed. We exchanged a couple of pleasanteries, but I could not help but notice the intensity of her gaze -which had raked across the audience during her reading. Up close it was penetrating, even uncomfortable. Whenever you meet a writer, remember that they steal a little bit of your soul.

Sumo wrestling with the greats

LATE evening, and Marcel Proust and William Burroughs are deep into a sumo wrestling match. Well, paper versions of them to be exact. It is the first night of the Humber Mouth literary festival at Zest, and although the organisers have pulled out all the stops for this year's event - with guests from Germaine Greer to John Pilger - their skills do not, yet, extend to re-incarnation of literary giants.
Sumo Basho - a literary origami - is one of the highlights on stage at the Newland Avenue cafe-bar, which is heaving with festival guests and renegade writers and artists from across Hull and Yorkshire.
Weaving his way among the tables at the event, which began at 6pm and exploded into racous life about 15 minutes later, is Simon Bradley. Simon, here for the evening with Becky Cherriman, is a man on a mission. A mission to save, or at least subvert, the art of conversation. Working under the name Conversaction, the pair encourage people to doodle and note down words on A4 paper as they chat to others. These sheets are then scanned onto a webpage,, turning these snippets into art.
Simon and I talk for about an hour. Looking at my own piece of paper, onto which I have cryptically scrawled "Yorkshire" and "intuition" alongside reams of loops and spirals I doubt whether my own efforts will prove particularly inspirational - with its sentence fragments, it looks more like a transcript of a George W.Bush speech. But Simon assures me the art is in the act of recording - and a visit to the website proves these seemingly random doodles can generate a logic, and a pattern, all of their own.
As my own conversaction finishes, there is another literary journey on stage as Sean Burns reads North - a hallucinatory account of a trip down the A66, leading to the "chemical flare" of Teeside. As evocative as the writing is, many are deeply into their own Conversations/Conversactions by this point and Sean struggles slightly against the background swell of noise.
Sidewinder take over from Sean, with a melodic wash of music which forms a backdrop to others meeting and sharing ideas. I talk with Lee Merrill Sendall, an artist who was gifted a previously undiscovered creature by a Hull allotment owner called Arthur. Apparently, the remains of the creature, which had been stored in Arthur's shed ever since the Second World War - when he had brought it back from Africa - will be on show at the Hull and East Riding Museum later this month.
Following this chat, I am unlikely to be surprised by anything, not even the Sumo Basho, which reaches its conclusion with a victory for George Galloway. Despite a few boos from the crowd, you can bet the firebrand politician would have lit a cigar and had a smile to himself - literature has always provoked a disagreement or two.