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The Next Big Thing

Last week Roy Gill asked me if I would like to be tagged in his blog as part of ‘The Next Big Thing’. I said yes. It works like this:

A writer answers ten questions about an upcoming publication and they tag five more writers. Each of these writers answers the ten questions by the following week and they recommend five more writers. It grows, week by week.

Before I get to my post I’d like to point out that Roy Gill is ace. He’s an inspiring and talented writer and the best person I’ve found at any literary event to talk to about Doctor Who. I recommend his new young adult book The Deamon Parallel. You can read all about it on his post here.

Now, onward. I’ll answer ten questions about Banana Me Beautiful. The e-book came out last year through Chipmunka Press but the paperback is due out for Christmas so it still counts as new.

What is the title of your new book?

Banana Me Beautiful

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I sent three children’s stories to mental health publisher, Chipmunka. The stories were going down well in schools and I wanted to get them published to help children and teachers to promote dialogue around positive mental health through story.

Chipmunka asked me about my experience with mental health and I explained a bit about my past and sent them a few poems as part of that explanation. They liked them and asked for 50. I said I didn’t have 50 good ones and so they asked for 30. I hadn’t really planned to write a poetry book so I was a bit taken aback!

Then I remembered a conversation I’d had with a close friend a year or so before where I told her I wanted to put together a collection of poetry I’d written as a child, teenager and adult. I realised this was my chance.

I was first published when I was 10 so I’d kept all the poems I wrote back then. I was so bad at spelling though – I’d given up the dream of being a writer by the time I’d got to secondary school. I ended up focusing on art and science instead. I still wrote but in secret. I wrote lots. I also painted depressed bananas – they’re in the book too. The one above is Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles with a depressed banana on the chair. The one below is a depressed banana in prison (imagine a person sat on the floor, sideways on and with their knees bent).

Banana me beautiful

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s poetry with added stories, songs, artwork and photographs.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm. I’m not sure anyone would want to make ‘My Life In Poetry’ the movie.

But if they did… me as a child would be Lucy from the Narnia films (Georgie Henley).

Me as a teenager, Aimee Pond from Doctor Who (Karen Gillan).

*I might just be choosing people I like rather than people who would be like me*

Feeling a bit embarrassed about this question, was just getting carried away and wondering if Maggie Smith could play me as a Granny!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A journey of poetry, art and photography.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s published by Chipmunka Press, the world’s leading mental health publisher. I’ve been working with a couple of agents but not on this.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I started when I was 10, I finished at 28 so that’s 18 years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t know of any other poetry collection that contains work from the same author as a child, teenager and adult but Peggy Hughes compared me to Edward Lear, Dr Seuss and A. A. Milne when I appeared at the West Port Book Festival.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think it was always in me. But more recently I wanted to share something of my struggles as a teenager to help others not to feel alone and to talk about difficult things. The things I’ve written as an adult are a celebration. They’re about self acceptance and they highlight the wonder I see in the world around me.

People who’ve seen me perform have said some lovely things – that my work is life-affirming and an expression of joy. It makes them feel good about themselves. If I can do that even a tiny bit then I’m happy.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book tells a story of so many journeys; progression of themes in writing, growing up, insecurity, self acceptance and much more. The book forward describes it as this:

It’s a journey by poetry, art and photography.
It’s a journey of ages and stages.
Of fascination and fun,
Of hope and despair,
Death and life.

It’s a journey from Banana Slug to Beautiful Bug.

So the combination of media. Also the art science cross over. There are poems about puffins and the physics behind starlings. There are energy saving lightbulbs, a comedy horse songs and a story of a little oak becoming a mighty tree.

Hopefully there’s something for everyone. Find out more on the Banana Me Beautiful facebook page here.

The Writers I’m Tagging

I’m super excited to introduce you to these writers. They will tell you about their new projects on their blogs next week (drum roll please)….

David Bishop is writing a Swedish comic (super-exciting!). I know him as a fellow CBeebies screenwriter, and he’s also a screenwriter for Doctors and a lecturer and many other things.

Marianne Paget keeps winning competitions and her latest triumph was being selected for the Scottish Book Trust and BBC My Favourite Place anthology. Marianne and I have been in a writers group together for over a year now and we first met through CBeebies.

Max Scratchmann is about to launch his autobiographical book The Last Burrah Sahibs. I just met Max last month at Portobello Book Festival but I thought his book sounded really interesting and I’d like to know more.

Marianne Wheelaghan has just launched a new crime thriller Food of Ghosts. I’ve known Marianne as a fellow Leither on twitter for a long time but recently got to know her better at a social media training session I was running at Stockbridge Library.

Sharon Meiring-Jones is a brilliant writer, currently working on her second book. She used to live in Edinburgh and we were in a writers group together for a couple of years. Sharon was published through Chipmunka and that’s how I heard about them. So if it wasn’t for Sharon I’d not be writing this post!

Click everyone’s name to be taken to their blog.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Banana me beautiful, poetry, Writing

 

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Christmas on the Canal

I spent the last two weekends hosting Christmas Crafts and Storytelling on the only canal boat cafe in Edinburgh, Zazou at Harrison Park. It was a little quieter than we had hoped, we didn’t have real life reindeer or a big wheel like Princes Street but we did have a boat, lots of sequins, excited children and snowmen made from socks!

Children and Creativity

I was reminded how wonderfully uninhabited children are when it comes to creativity. The younger they were, the more colourful and creative their sock snowmen became. I’d designed these snowmen to be really simple and easy to make but I hadn’t imagined all the different shapes, sizes and colours that transpired. They became so very individual, just like us.

Parents asked their children questions like “what colour is a snowman’s mouth?” and the children would respond with their pen, wanting to get it right. The younger children made their snowman’s mouth blue or orange and I love that. It’s their snowman, their new creation, it can be any colour they want.

I believe we’re all are creative in some way or another, as we get older we often loose that element of risk and play it safe with our creativity. Children don’t have to be perfect, they’re expected to make a mess and they enjoy experimenting. It helped me to remember to enjoy experimenting and taking a risk.

The children made peg fridge magnets too, I took photos on my phone both weekends and used twitter to share their crafty creations whenever I got a free moment. Most of them are in an album on the banana me beautiful facebook. Here are a few more of my favourites.

Sharing

This was to be a community event, crafts and stories, something for families, something to bring people together at Christmas, but we needed help to let people know it was happening.

Steve, the boat manager wrote an article for the canalside magazine, they even added their own pictures. I wrote a press release which ended up in the Edinburgh Reporter, Edinburgh City of Literature and Innertube Map, masszive thanks to all of these organisations for helping.

We asked the people who visited the boat how they’d heard about the event. One family had come because someone had posted it onto the Mum’s yoga group facebook page, several people had emails from the local food group, one lady said her Mum had heard about it on Princes Street, some were passing, several came from the kidding around Edinburgh facebook page and others from the links above.

Dan from the Edinburgh Evening News boarded the boat to take a photo of Finlay and his snowman. Finlay had a great time with his Dad. Here’s the ‘What’s on Guide’ with a lovely write up too.

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Storytelling

I’d written the story especially for the event to be take place on the canal, it featured a forgetful swan and a singing squirrel. There were chances for everyone to participate, an adult was in charge of splashing (with real water), we all sang the song. Steve the boat owner woofed like a dog and made a big bang half way through the thunderstorm, at this point we were stamping our feet and drumming on our knees. I did a few small story groups, one or two families joined together and we had fun. A small girl said, “can we do that again?” as soon as we finished, her brother didn’t want to do it again, he couldn’t wait to spot the squirrel and the lightning tree from the story, he ran to the window and pressed his nose against the glass, “can we go and see the squirrel?, I want to see the squirrel!”.

And so, even though I didn’t get to tell the story as many times as I hoped, I helped to make a lot of snowmen, angels, stars and Christmas trees. I had a brilliant time on the boat, thanks so much to Steve and to everyone else who helped support the event.

DSCN6685

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Education, Events

 

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West Port Thanks and One Regret..

Thank you for neighing like horses, buzzing like bees, chirping like birds and shouting “HAPPY BIRTHDAY OWL!” as if you really were popping out from behind a tree at a surprize birthday party. Audience at Edinburgh Books, you transformed a Thursday evening in a cosy old bookshop into a magical forest.

Edinburgh Books

If you weren’t in the forest, you can see Chris Scott’s photos here and listen to event podcast here.

I had a few sleepless nights in nervous anticipation of the event so it was wonderful to see some familiar faces smiling back at me. Old friends, new ones, people I’ve met through social media, Miss Broadly from Flora Stevenson Primary (I met her the week before when running poetry workshops with her pupils) and lots of unfamiliar smiley faces too.

Downton Ladies

They were there, Anna, Adele and Lorna, each in a different place, each with a different friend. Lorna volunteered to throw the giant dice and Adele responded to a last-minute request for a banana (I needed it as a prop). On Sunday night we watch Downton Abbey together with hot Chocolate, treats and blankets, it’s great! Thanks Ladies (:

News and Reviews

Thanks to Phyllis at the Edinburgh Reporter for having me round for tea the day before to record this audio interview and preview for the festival. Thanks to Colin Galbratraith for coming along, joining in and writing such a brilliant review. Thanks to Ally Tibbitt for writing about The Edinburgh Reporter interview, Colin’s review (and near fatal fall) and the podcast in a blog round up for STV local.

West Port Staff

The West Port Book Festival team were amazing, huge thanks to Peggy Hughes and everyone else for looking after me and putting on such an excellent weekend of events.

Happy Memories

The festival holds many more happy memories for me. Janis Galloway’s fascinating talk, chatting with a brilliant new science teacher Su in the Travis. I met Erica who had stood on a banana slug. Erica’s University Emblem was also, the Banana Slug! For those who weren’t at the event, the first poem in my book is one I wrote when I was nine about an imaginary banana slug. Turns out the slug is real.

Say Hello

West Port Book Festival is the first event I’ve been to where I’ve met people who’ve told me they wanted to come to speak to me to tell me how enjoyed my event, but they didn’t dare! I can safely say I was flabbergasted, it happened twice, in the Travis Bar and at the Closing Party.  Maybe if you’re a famous person you get sick of people talking to you but I’m not famous and I was totally delighted to hear someone enjoyed my event. It’s lovely meeting new people and finding out more about them so for the record, if you’re someone I don’t know, I’d like to say hello!

One Regret: Table Tennis

At the West Port Closing Party I played Ping Pong with an old friend, Edd McCracken. I wanted to play nicely, to try to get a long rally going, to play and chat, but no, spins, trick shots and smashed balls were hurtling towards me at rocket speed.

After a few initial protests like “that was fast?” or “you’re spinning it!?” I gave up on playing a ‘nice social game’ and started to fight back. Years of monopoly, pool, connect four and table tennis raced through my mind. Back then I wasn’t allowed to stop playing “Emily will only play if she wins, bad loser!.” I was forced to compete and forced to lose by a sister six years older.

Edd suggested we played first to 7, beat me 7-1 and left. At this point some of the lovely booky people came to the table, to play doubles. There were only two bats between us so we tried phones, they were too small. I grabbed a West Port Programme, it was too weak, four west port programmes, slightly better.

I found myself reaching across my partner Dave Poems to return the ball before he got a chance, I apologised as soon as I’d done it but I kept doing it. And then came the smash, would a pile of West Port Book Festival Programmes cut it on the table?

Whoosh went my programmes, BANG went the ball, narrowly missing Peggy Hughes’s ear and I…. grinned. Soon after she made an excuse about not wanting her pint to get flat and left the table. I realised I shouldn’t be playing and left too.

I could blame my sister, or Edd but really it was all me. Sorry to my table tennis partners. I’d temporarily forgotten about nice social games!

I also blogged about the West Port Book Festival before it happened here.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Events

 

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West Port Book Festival 2011

I’m really looking forward to being part of the West Port Book Festival 2011. It takes place in second-hand book shops, art spaces and pubs in West Port and Tollcross, Edinburgh. Here’s what it’s all about (from their website):

“Our aim has been to offer free events to a diverse audience who share our passion for books, bookshops and fun. We have also been creative, dipping into the dressing up box, casting our eye around for new talent and transforming local shops into intimate, innovative venues.” 

There are loads of exciting and unusual events this year from getting your old books mended by a Book Doctor to meeting a Doctor Who writer. As well as a whole host of brilliant Authors there’s a tea dance, an open mic night, new gaelic fiction, nibbles and a chance for you to release your really bad writing in a therapy session.

I’m part of the line up on the 13th October, 8.30pm at Edinburgh Books. Here’s what the programme says:

“Storyteller, podcast/film maker, scientist, entertainer, singer and poet, there’s no-one quite like puffin-loving banana fan Emily Dodd and her magical blend of song, story and poem. Edward Lear, Dr Seuss and A. A. Milne collide in what promises to be a joyous hour for the young and young at heart alike.”

I was really excited when Peggy Hughes sent the above text through and asked if I was OK with it, the answer was most definitely a yes! Peggy is the Festival Programme Director and she’s also the Communications Officer at the Scottish Poetry Library. I first met Peggy when she came to my Banana me beautiful book launch with Colin Fraser in July. It’s hard for me to take in that the programme is talking about me, I read it and think “she sounds good, I’d like to go and see her” and I can’t quite make the leap in my head that she… is me.

You can collect a programme from one of the venues or view it online here. There’s a funky mobile phone app too. For tickets email tickets@westportbookfestival.org. I’m making an extra programme for my event, it will include all original artwork, photos and a postcard of a depressed banana in prison, like my fringe programme.

I attended the official West Port Programme Launch last week in Edinburgh Books with cake, wine, great chat and short speeches. Mister Tollcross wrote about the launch here, I enjoyed the evening. It was good to see the lovely Sara Sheridan again, she’s in West Port too.  Sara helped me to plan my book launch and read one of my stories ‘Owl’s Birthday’ at it, brilliant. There were space raiders crisps at the launch so here’s a spacey version of a photo I took.

My event is listed in The List Magazine with a slightly different write-up, they describe me as a ‘Eco Activist’, I think they’ve been reading Greener Leith. Thanks to The List for including me.

The Edinburgh Reporter have compiled an excellent list of 5 things to go and see in the West Port Book Festival, thanks for including me in your top 5 Edinburgh Reporter.

I recommend you see it all…

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Events, poetry

 

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Goodbye Changeworks

Friday was my last day at environmental organisation Changeworks.

I’ve been working in the Waste Prevention department for two years. It’s been a total pleasure to work in a passionate and creative team with people I now consider as friends as well as colleagues.

Kathleen my manager made this leaving card, our magic words are ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ so she came up with a new 3 R’s for me (brilliant!). We take worms to nurseries so she’s drawn our wormery (worm house) and me on a banana (we feed banana skins to the worms and sing about in the composting song). My new book is called ‘Banana me beautiful’ and includes artwork of bananas that are people so this card is totally genius!

Thanks to Changeworks for such a great send off, I absolutely love the heather, scarf and butterfly necklace (and love that I was told it’s like I’m flying off as a butterfly, awww!) and it was a lovely night of drinks, food and demonstrating how bad we are at guessing whisky (all I can say is it’s not Laphroaig, and it was…laphroaig!).

My job at Changeworks

I worked visiting Edinburgh schools delivering assemblies, workshops and storytelling. I encouraged schools to finish their food with Mr Silly Sausage, trained eco teams to be Zero Waste Heroes and made paper and compost in bottles. I also spent time developing new resources, organising events, managing projects, writing press releases and writing for the Changeworks website. I delivered training to teachers and local authorities too.

I started full-time at Changeworks in September 2009. In February 2010 I reduced my hours to 4 days a week to have a day to focus on writing. A year later in March 2011 I reduced my hours further to 2.5 days a week and finally decided to make the difficult decision to be a full-time freelancer (yikes!). Changeworks have been incredibly supportive, when my CBeebies programme was taken into development Evelyn brought out the champagne and colleagues later came along to my CBeebies premiere and to my book launch. I am so grateful to them for all their encouragement.

Highlights

There are so many to choose from, here’s my top 10:

On that note, does change work?

Working for Changeworks has totally revolutionised my thinking. I wrote a poem about Energy Saving Light bulbs in response to this change and even jumped in the sea on the 1st January to try to persuade people to consider green new years resolutions. If you knew me before I worked at Changworks, you’ll know this is a big change!

What’s next?

Thankfully this is not really ‘Goodbye Changeworks’. I’ve been working for Changeworks on a freelance basis making films and audio. I’m glad to say this looks set to continue. I’m currently producing a fuel-efficient driving audio feature for the Energy Saving Scotland Advice Centre and making Greenerleith Zero Waste Podcasts that involve Changeworks projects too.

What’s next for me aside from that? Well that’s another blog post…

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Education, Environment

 

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Fringe on a Shoestring

As the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 approaches its grand finale, purse string (along with patience for flyers) may be wearing thin? I’ve been frugally fringing this last week and my top tips, like the shows I’m recommending are TOTALLY FREE!

Paul Dabek – Truant Trickster
6th-27th August 2011 (not 16th & 23rd), 8.25pm, The Voodoo Rooms

He won young magician of the year and makes the most amazing shadow puppets with his hands. He is a mathematical phenomena (he made fun of me for taking a photo of his calculations) and his trick performed in the style of a cruise ship magician is fabulously entertaining. More of a comedian then a magician, he’ll leave you wanting more…

Insider Tip: Arrive early, this is a sell out show! Also, bring ID, despite being 29 I was refused entry to the Voodoo Rooms, I used a mortgage letter to get in (no joke!). Lastly, do not stay in the venue for the following show.

Young Dawkins 3rd – What I Know About Women So Far: 
22nd-25th August, 3.15-4.15pm The Royal Oak

Poetry, music and a journey from a wonderful performer and poet. There’s also a sexy saxophone and base, mmm nice!

The World Press Photography Exhibition, The Scottish Parliament
24th – 27th August, 10am – 5.30pm

Visually stunning, heart wrenching photographs bring you face to face with hard-hitting truth from around the world.

Edinburgh Book Festival: Unbound
Every night from 9pm – 11pm, Spiegel Tent, Charlotte Square

Music, readings, giveaways, storytelling, song, performance and poetry in the cosy Spiegel Tent (ceiling pictured below). The venue is a cross between a circus tent and a wild west bar but with far more atmosphere than either (not that I’ve been to the wild west).

Expect quality and inspiration, I witnessed a wonderful poetic description of St Kilda from Robin Robertson on Sunday, I almost fell off my chair it was so wonderful. Plus there’s free Jura Whisky and slices of Pizza for £1.50. If you hate it, you can leave. Oh and the toilets actually have toilet roll in them and are clean. I’ve been to some shockers this festival, there’s a lot to be said for a lovely loo.

Atomic Canadian Wednesday: Folk-Hop
23 – 25 August 2:00pm, The Royal Oak ,
24 – 27 August, 7:50pm, The Rat Pack

Folk-hop is a mixture of folk, hip hop and poetry. Sounds weird but it’s wonderful. See a ukulele playing lumberjack and last year’s world poetry slam champion Ian Keteku, be prepared to click your fingers, shoot imaginary guns in the air and really enjoy yourself!

Conongate Pop Up Shop, Author Events, 20 QUEENSFERRY STREET
22 – 27th August: 5.30pm

Author events on every day at 5.50pm and there’s free cake too. The books are really cheap and you can visit the shop any time between 2pm and 6pm.

Last of the Ragged Talks,  Leith on the Fringe
25th, 26th & 28th August, 12.45 – 13.45pm

Away from the busyness of the fringe, Hidden Gem award winners Leith on the Fringe host lunchtime ‘Ragged talks’ every weekend. Topics include the Edinburgh Poaching, Music in India and more. With just three talks left, it’s worth a visit. I’m doing the last talk of the series, Banana me beautiful (that’s the name of the talk, not a new expression). I’ll be performing some poems (and a comedy horse song) from my new book (based on my fringe show) and sharing a bit about my journey. Hope to see you there!

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Events

 

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Banana me Beautiful: The Fringe Debut

Argggghhhh! I’m in a fringe show, why, why, WHY did I agree to it? What was I thinking? (Panic, stomach pains, sleepless nights, trouble getting out of bed…..)

That was me a week ago. But then, last Thursday I did my first show and…… LOVED IT! I had so much fun, the audience were fab (there were 20 people, although some of them were staff and others performers). And they joined in and chatted (to me, not to each other) and it was just wonderful.

I’ll tell you a bit more about the show. For those who came to my book launch, the fringe show is based on it, only shorter, sleeker and with badgers (I said badgers were a story for another day, that day has come!).

If you’re new to me, the show’s based on material from my new book, Banana me beautiful and it’s poetry, stories, a comedy horse song and lots of anecdotes and optional audience participation.

At one point you throw a giant dice to decide what comes next, here’s what your role could bring

  • The science of seismic surveying through song (hokey cokey cover)
  • Happiness defined by me age 9 (poem)
  • The story of a poor forgotten owl (story)
  • A poem about wanting to pull the cord in the disabled toilet
  • Guess my favourite bird (riddle)
  • A poem about the battle to take authority over negative thoughts

If you want to try before you buy (I don’t blame you) you can watch the live stream of the first show here, I start at 26 minutes (how fancy, Leith are loving the live action).

Reviews

A man I don’t know (@shuggie88) tweeted this following the last show:

Thoroughly enjoyed Late in Leith @LeithOTfringe . Seriously guys, give it a go, it’s the place to be. @edfringe

A lady I do know (Beth Godfrey) wrote this on the facebook:

Funny, gentle, endearing, inclusive, respectful, encouraging. Musical, lyrical, playful. Wonderfully you. Well done

You can read a review about my book launch (which is similar to my show) from Helen Caldwell.

The lovely folding hand-made programme (see photo at the top too)

 

Here’s the programme, I even carved a banana slug into a piece of lino and printed banana multiple banana slugs to go in it, now that is effort! You’ll be given one of these and an original limited edition artwork postcard (of a depressed banana in prison) if you come along.

Other News

In the spirit of the fringe I wrote about how to stalk comedians on 12books12months and it made the STV local headlines too, happy stalking!

I’ve also done a couple of interviews recently, find out what makes me tick creatively (and why I have a love hate relationship with twitter) on the wonderful Clear Minded Creative.

Find out what inspires me as a poet on Poet on Poetry (and I was poet of the week!)

Banana me beautiful book reviews

Lastly, if you haven’t read my book yet, here’s a couple of recent reviews that may help. Firstly, an extract from the wonderful Death Rat Fanzine:

From humour, to heart wrenching to visually captivating… For anyone interested in poetry it is a must, and anyone interested in the development of a human being, it is fascinating…

Read the rest of this review in Death Rat Fanzine.

And from Sara Harkins, Executive Editor, CBeebies Scotland

‎I found it very moving and inspiring, very beautiful and very brave – many congratulations

That’s all from me, but please come and see me in the fringe:

  • Live in Leith at 9pm on Thursday 4th, 11th & 18th August (with two other live music acts for just £5). More info on facebook, it’s at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall (Leith on the Fringe). Quote Citizens of Leith for 2 for 1 tickets!
  • I’m also in a 2 day continuous poetry marathon at the Forest Cafe at 1.15am (in the early hours of the morning) on Friday 12th August, read more about it on 12book12months.
  • Or at a free Ragged Talk on Sunday 28th August at 12.45pm 
 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Events, Media

 

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