I Love West Leeds Arts Festival 2010 | Young Writers | Jo Brandon

I've just finished our first workshop as part of the Young Writers' Festival Residency and it was great to meet the other writers and hear about what they plan to write over the festival. I'm very excited about my project. Constantly scribbling little notes that I hope still make sense when I go back to them. I'm mapping West Leeds through poetry using found text like graffiti, posters, photographs - that sort of thing. So if you see me hovering over sweet wrappers at an event, or taking pictures of ordinary looking signs please don't be alarmed - it's all in the cause of the festival! Lots of events to attend and lots of poems to write!
This is my first poem for the festival and it was inspired by the text in the festival brochure - there's so much going on and no two things are the same, so it was a great place to start. Some great pictures on the brochure too; particularly like the dotty hippo and the tea and cakes!


Free, free, free to Fest
to lounge and lunch
imagine sunshine
(there might be some)
if left without we'll head for lights
lamp-posts glittered with new scenes
huddle round to see a place, to see a face
that wasn't here before, shuffle on a little bit
lick your thumbs and flicker through
watch adventures tumble out
at a glance, at a second look
it's more than just a little book:
it's here, it's ours, it's us.

Jo Brandon


By Jo Brandon. Inspired by the image of the daughter and her father in a maroon t-shirt, part of Casey Orr's Comings and Goings Exhibition, The Millspace, Armley Mills, Canal Road, Armley, Leeds.


I've been doing some reading on those Hippo bones from Armley and came across a great article in the Armley News. I still can't quite believe it. Keep having little daydreams about walking up Town Street and having to let hippos pass before I can cross the road. (There has to be a joke in there somewhere right?!)

I'm busy seeking inspiration for my found poems so if you've seen any great posters, signs or graffiti around in West Leeds feel free to let me know via the I love West Leeds Facebook group and I'll go have a look.


Week 2
Really excited about this week as attending some great festival events. Seeing The Unloved at the Palace Picture House on Thursday and popping along to Bramley library again to have a look at the 'Something I want you to know' Exhibition. Was very pleased that I found one of the lamppost galleries in Bramley.
Had a fun workshop with the other writers in residence on Sunday. We wrote some poems inspired by the objects in the museum and Rommi had prepared us a tasty breakfast - much needed to get the creative juices flowing.
I've been experimenting with some new poetry forms over the last week - things like newspaper poetry where you blank out most the text just keeping the words you want to use to make your poem. Also been working with parallel poetry where you use some found text and re-write the text to say the opposite of the original for example:
'The sky was black as night' becomes 'The ground was as bright as day'.
I'm not using it quite as literally as that but if you fancy giving it a go it's a great way to wake your mind up and getting you writing things you wouldn't normally have thought of. The poem that I enjoyed writing the most this week was 'Journey' as I took key words from the number 16 bus timetable route and used them to create the basis of a poem. I've lived in Farsley the past two years so I started that end and worked my way across the bus route.



Down Old Road
we circle the cenotaph

trying to undo the stone
death of those names

like pulling coal
from a spent fire

stand in our church hall
thinking of that green intake

and the grey circus
of unpaid glory

saying 'cenotaph' takes all my breath -
this monument waits till I catch it again

marking a stop

in the red line drawn up
mapping time that's passed

Jo Brandon
(Using found words from number 16 bus route times pamphlet)


The Return

150 years ago workmen
digging clay in the heart of Leeds
discovered huge, mysterious bones

time was no distance to Armley's children
'he lurks in muddy waters', they whispered
pond-bound tadpoles transformed into
'Hippopotamus Amphibious'
'just wait till they grow'

toads became a bald kind of mammoth
any uncollared cat was a sabre-tooth
they longed to get those bones back
fit them together with salt and glue -
to close the wound of extinction

they bite back their discoveries
tongues sore holding secrets
heavier than scientists
and historians can hold
children saw the hippo's footprints
'as big as the biggest boy's hands'
they know the noise it made
'screams like a girl'
they could tell you how it died
'T-Rex got it'

no one writes this down.

Jo Brandon

(Using found text from e-newspaper article from Armley Today 'The Return of the Armley Hippo' published 2nd July 2010)


Week 3

Saw 'The Unloved' and a short film called 'Wasp'. Neither was light viewing but they were a well-selected duo that movingly dealt with issues of child neglect. They were shown by Minicine at the Armley Mills' Palace Picture house on Thursday. The Palace Picture house is amazing. I had no idea it was down there in the mills. It's only about 26 seats so it feels really intimate. It's really old fashioned with red velvet curtains, a piano and little flickering lamps - just what you imagine a real cinema to be. There was an additional treat too because the organisers put on tea and cake. To whoever made that cherry pie - it was delicious! It was really novel to see people balancing cups and saucers in their laps in front of the big screen.

Managed to source some great inspiration and am working on a poem using overheard speech from the night. They also had some of the old style movie posters down there like Gone With the Wind so may try and write a poem using the text from those. One of them said 'Everybody's talking about it! It's Terrific' so I guess advertising has never really been subtle!



Their hands speak differently
to mine:

my hands aspire to hardship
with bitten nails, swollen cuticles,
they never leave my mouth
undoing what I mean to say

their hands don't mince words:
wool is wool, cotton is cotton and
satin is not silk. Their hands accented
with thick veins mapping routes from home
to work on rice-paper skin,
the clammy keeping of smell, smell of earth
and muck that makes dye and leaves dye -
fingers caught red, blue and mostly

I imagine the skill they had with cards,
how quickly they could braid a girl's hair.
Joints fossilising - knuckles swelling and
bending, miming movements once so sprung,
how that muffles what they mean to say:
broader weaves, looser knits
days feel shorter, rings tighten, skin
eats up banded gold.

They tell me to rub Vaseline

into my nails and to never let
my fingers feel the cold.

Jo Brandon
(Inspired by Casey Orr's Exhibition of the same name)


Armley Mill whispers words like dust
carrying the sound of the thing it was
until it crumbled, shed, fled
leaving behind a sense
a space
a memory
of what was here
it doesn't sound the same
when you reassemble
they become an echo;
a shout bouncing off silenced walls
but the mill was quiet except for the sound
of work; work doesn't talk
it doesn't sigh
it is a din of busy, aged hands-
here are the whispers
stitched back together
by new, unquiet fingers:








Words to make us remember making:


And remind us why we buy

Words that help us remember wood is from trees:

Bark Splinter Grain Rings



Post Word Café Blog
I can't believe we've reached the end of our residencies! The performances we did at the Word Café event at Armley Mill was a great way to finish the residency. I loved performing and was delighted that so many of you came to support us.
I'll definitely be heading back over to the Mills for some writing inspiration, especially since I heard this morning what a wealth of ghost stories they have there.
I really enjoyed seeing the other resident writers read and perform their work. It feels like we've all been on this massive journey over the past 3 weeks. Our writing maps where we started, and where we've got to since.
I just want to say a massive thank you to Jane and Rommi for all their guidance, and of course for selecting me to take part this year. I also want to thank everyone I met at various festival events who let me wonder around with my notebook and camera in hand and chatted to me about their experiences of West Leeds.