The Special Relationship, May 14th 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013, 01:54 PM

The Special Relationship returns with a word fix from our all-star lineup:

Matt Haig - Award-winning novelist and outer-space thinker
Francesca Beard - International performance poet and spoken-word sensation
Matthew Spektor - Columnist, writer and diviner of the Tinsletown subconscious.
Joanna Rossiter - Debut novelist weaving tales of the land and the sea

With new stories from our regular readers, Jarred McGinnis and Sam Taradash, and hosted by the inimitable Guy Caradog Morgan, London’s literary polymath is back.

Tickets £5 at the door, or available from

The Book Club
100 Leonard Street, EC2A 4RH London,
United Kingdom

on facebook

Houses of Parliament, Represent, Kids Company
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:36 PM
I performed last month at the Houses of Parliament for an Apples and Snakes/Freeword collaborative project called 'Represent'.

Me, Beyonder and Steve Tasane worked with Index on Censorship young people's theatre group, TripWires to run creative writing workshops with young people around the UK. We sent our words to Inua Ellams, who turned them into a beautiful and funny poem film. The film was shown at an event in Westminster Hall along with performances by me, Steve, Beyonder and a poetry collective from Kids Company.

It was inspiring to work with the KidsCompany group. I keep looking for excuses and or funding to work with them again, but that's another story. Anyway, on this particular night, I knew that they were going to bring it. Their creative energy is brave and pure and true. It made me want to write and perform something new and particular for the event.

I started writing a poem about libraries and it turned into an acapella folk song.
There will be a moment when I unleash this on the public, but that moment hasn't yet come. Also, I knew Steve was going to do his wonderful piece 'Save the Libraries'.

So then I started writing a piece called 'On Explaining Black History Month to the Aliens', but it turned out to be a 3 minute silent performance art piece.
It was a mime. 3 minutes is actually quite long for a mime.

So then, I wrote the poem 'No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are'.

It's posted in the entry below.

I decided to perform that one, the most poem-ey one, the one not involving mime or singing, which be fair, aren't what I'm known for and maybe that's telling. Discretion, valour, blah.

I've never been in the Houses of Parliament before. It was actually amazing to be surrounded by the concreteness of the historical evolutionary achievement of universal sufferage. To be in the structural embodiment of democratic process.

And my seven year old self geeked out at all the dinky statues of the Kings and Queens, dolled up in their different costumes and crowns, each displayed in individual cabinets on the marble walls.

And I marvelled at the blinged out story-telling of the national Saints George, Andrew, Patrick and David in the central lobby.

Also a moment of click - how a poem about disillusioned and angry students in Khartoum equally represents the attitude to democracy of young people in the UK.

I'm posting some of the KidsCompany poems below, with permission.


"We are the sons, daughters and descendents of fallen soldiers

Since birth we’ve felt trapped under infinite boulders

Children born into a wealthy country

But still were stuck being raised in poverty

We are the generation that will probably never own our own property

So paying extortionate rent is an inevitability

There’s a so-called housing crisis

Apparently there aren’t enough so the prices are sky high

But there are thousands of discarded houses

We are the victims of our own stereotypes

Not all of us are out on road trying to earn stripes

Neither are we all petty thieves stealing to buy commercialised footwear

We are the voices of the voiceless

Yeah a lot of us walk around staring people out so hard they think were soulless

You see since the starting ages of puberty we’ve been convinced were useless

And then you wonder why some of us go round leaving people toothless

We try to keep our heads up but everyone has a limit for how much their mental wellbeing can take

Like a machine, put too much pressure on a part it will break

We’re the new wave of life, that’ll eventually bring to light your foolish mistakes "


"We are bright like the glistening stars, although we lack the courage and confidence to speak up, we are like insects stuck in a cocoon, afraid to break out

We strive for perfection and want to right all the wrongs of the elder generation

We are excellent, unique and wonderful in so many ways, able to make the impossible possible

We are successful, if only we were all given the chance to show off our skills

We are not all useless, lazy, relying on others to find a means in life.

We are not stupid, we see what's going on in society and how a blind eye is sometimes seen as more attractive than finding a solution

We are not weak or scared to voice our opinions if given a chance

We possess unbelievable talents, beyond measure, which have note been acknowledged in society

We shall be victorious in years to come


"We are the future of today, we are the future of tomorrow, with all this sorrow scattered in the street, we’re still trying to achieve

With all the guns and crime, violence, pain and torture, we still hold our head up high

We are the youths who wear hoods to hide our fears.
The tears of our suffering

We are the young mums pushing prams, pregnancy spread like venom and is seen as the only way of to get a roof.

We are the students who work hard as the fees rise higher than the sky

We are not hooligans

We are mis-understood, confused and bruised. We are not fools, we know what’s going on.

What’s going on when there’s beggars on the street asking for a pound or two in a city of wealth,

What’s going on when we see adverts to send money to Africa
Yet We’d rather adopt a dog.

Black, white, we want equality

Brown and grey the colour of poverty.

Green and yellow prices should be cut down like the trees in the amazon.

We need a hand, we’re tired of getting pushed in the sand,

We need a home, we’re tired of being alone

We need our education, we need to be valued,

We need to achieve".


We are young, we learn

From the footsteps of our seniors

To guide us, to teach us, to condition our minds

And possibly one day to promote us to the next generation

As inspiring leaders, please don’t give up on us

Even though opportunities turn to rubble around us

Leaving us with life and little other options,

We shall adapt slowly to them, and form our own.

Each new generation brings a new set of uncontrollable talents

Being wasted like left over food.

Seems like many communities are destroyed every year

For new car parks

With nowhere to play, the young ones rush to the streets

Like a tidal wave to the cliff

Passing in and out of traffic

Like a thread threading to various fabrics

Give us back our communities, and together, we’ll all give birth to a seed called unity."

With a shout-out to Monique, whose poem isn't up here yet but was blazing brilliant so please send it and thanks to Leo and Amberley who run the Kids Company poetry collective, outside of funding, because they give a *u*k.

World Poetry Day: No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:13 PM
I'm reposting one of the poems from my British Council blog post for World Poetry Day here, with a little introduction:

I went to Khartoum with the British Council to work with a group called 'Makaan Arts.'

I gave the group the prompt ‘Democracy’ and asked them to respond with one line.

We went round the circle and heard

‘Democracy – a lie’, ‘a scam’, ‘a piece of rotten meat they sell and force us to swallow’

… so on and on, until the last participant, tall and thin, said mournfully,

‘No one knows how beautiful you are.’

He was talking about democracy, but it seemed as though he was referring to all of us, about ourselves and each other. So I gave this poem, about my extraordinary and enlightening time in Khartoum, that title.

No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are

Before I flew, I googled
‘Sudan’ ‘dress code’ ‘customs’,
Read how women get flogged
For daring to wear trousers.
In a floor-length orange kaftan,
Courtesy of the ’70s and my mum,
I climb shotgun into a dust-covered,
Immaculately interiored sedan.
The taxi driver is an old man,
He asks if I work for the UN.
‘I’m a poet’ I tell him.
In England, in my experience,
People often react to this with scorn.
One guest at a wedding thought I’d said pirate.
Her hostility was so in line with the usual response,
It took a full five minute argument
Before we discovered she’d heard me wrong.
Even then, her face barely stood down.
But the taxi driver exclaims ‘Poet!’
Like I’d said ‘Pediatrician’ or ‘Pastry chef’.
He asks what kind of poetry, says he himself
Writes verse, is inspired by nature,
Shakespeare and the Koran.
He asks where I come from.
I don’t have a simple answer to that question,
But say I live in London.
He expresses polite appreciation for
Various colonial legacies, the postal service,
The drains, the education system,
Which he grew up in.
He asks me if Khartoum is as I expected?
I say, I’ve learnt a couple of things –
I tell him the students I work with hate the word
Democracy, describe hypocrisy, the shiny scab,
Sealing in corruption, a barrier to healing.
The taxi driver sighs and smiles.
‘This Government does not like dissent,
They do not understand,
To be strong, they need strong opponents’.
He negotiates an anarchic roundabout,
The indicator tocks, a dialectic metronome.
‘And the other thing you learnt?’ he asks.
‘Don’t believe everything you read on the internet’.
I walk into the workshop, kaftan flowing.
Inside, participants wait, heads bent to smart phones.
All the girls wrapped tight in skinny jeans.

Francesca Beard, Khartoum/London January/Feb 2013

Khartoum, World Poetry Day
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 11:29 AM
I wrote a blog post for the British Council for World Poetry Day.

Here's the link.

I like the comments in particular:)

BookSlam at the Clapham Grand this Thursday
Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 01:21 PM
£6 Advance Tickets:

(This promises to be An Especially Great One - and BookSlam is always great..... )

Gazumping the horror of Valentine's day, Book Slam has put together a celebration of the mistakes, disappointments and T&Cs of love to launch Dan Rhodes' brilliant new collection of stories, 'Marry Me'.

Joining him on stage are Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh, who write and perform together and separately, like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Their poetic play, 'Dirty Great Love Story', won a Fringe First in Edinburgh last summer and comes to Soho Theatre in March.

Plus suitably downbeat music to keep you out of the mood from the exceptional Aidan Moffat, best known as one half of the erstwhile Arab Strap; and terse verse from those averse to what's worse from Book Slam's favourite flaneur, Tim Key.

There will also be a guest so special we cannot tell you their name because we'd then have to kill you, and everything will be glued together by the sublime Francesca Beard. If this doesn't get you chilly under the wind-cheater, nothing will ...

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