Nights are drawing in. Campfires are being lit. Our hearts are in need of song, and our minds are suffering the ravages of darkness. Which can only mean one thing: we have a mew exhibition coming.
What There Is Instead of Rainbows is a small, intimate, deeply personal journey through the darkest hours, and will open on November 15th.
And by the most glorious piece of serendipity, thanks to the lovely people at DIY music champions and the most exciting promoters in Oxford, Adventures Close to Home (whom I met when they asked me to contribute to the literature section of Oxford DIY scene zine Wonderland) have invited us to put on a show at Modern Art Oxford on November 12th. This perfect timing means that much of the material from What There Is Instead of Rainbows will be launched at what promises to be our most spectacular event of the year:
Since we started telling stories we have done so to the accompaniment of rhythm and melody, from campfire drums to Patti Smith’s guitar and hip hop. Lyrical Badlads is a celebrationof the fuzzy spaces where music and words continue to overlap. From the rhythms of slam poetry to musicians creating soundtracks for the written word, from soundscape backdrops to cabaret, this is storytelling as an immersive experience.
The night will feature: a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen (not Snow White, that was my very bad) by award-winning slam poet Lucy Ayrton, told through words, belly dance, and gypsy orchestra; a performance from A Man In the Rain, the musical audiobook by Dave Griffiths, former frontman of the band Witches, and his new collaboration Grey Children; experimental electronica twosome To The Moon, known for their handmade costumes, films and puppet shows, who will be performing their own work and providing a soundscape for Literary Death Match winner Dan Holloway‘s prose-poem SKIN BOOK; poetry from Claire Trévien, one of the Salt Modern Voices; words and images from Anna Hobson, author of Tales of Unrequited Love; and I am delighted to announce the participation with tabla and poetry of Anjan Saha, the wonderful host of Literature Lounge and Dark Fairy Tales.
What There Is Instead of Rainbows
In the Bible, after the Flood, God is said to have put a rainbow in the sky as a promise that it wouldn’t happen again. So whenever the rains came and however hard they came, you just had to look up at the rainbow and know that it would be OK. It would end. And it wouldn’t end in a flood. When you find yourself locked in that grey pit of despair, guilt, self-loathing, anguish, white noise screaming inside your skull, slashing at the inside of your head to get out, people often say something similar. “It’s OK,” they say, “you’ll get through it, I know you will.” They mean well. Most of the time. Some of the time, it’s true, it’s just a knee-jerk lazy response they give without thinking because it makes them feel better. The chances are though it won’t make you feel better. When you’re down there in that tight bubble of simultaneously heightened and greyed sensation that is your world, all shrunk down to the exact size of your skin and trying to get smaller, it’s impossible to make a connection with ten minutes ahead, let alone the idea that it will one day be gone, be “better”. And the tragic truth of the matter is that sometimes it won’t be better. And sometimes, even if it does get better, it will get worse again one day. Those well-meaning wishes, the survivors’ stories reassuring us with their “I got through it, so will you”, those rainbows held out to us – sometimes they can feel like the cruellest joke of all. Sometimes what we need most is to know it’s OK not to feel OK; to know it might never get much better but that’s OK too; to know that someone else has reached the depths we’ve reached; to know the noise is there in someone else’s skull too, the universal hum, the cosmic background radiation of pain folded into the fabric of time. When we’re at our lowest point, those moments that reveal the traces of that pain as they intersect the tiny lives of others, like a Hubble telescope pointed inwards, are what there is instead of rainbows.