We had more than 4 hours in the Market Theatre to set-up and do run-throughs to our heart's content. The technician Stuart was really on the ball and worked the lights and sound throughout our show. I even had a dressing-room and bottles of water provided! I can't tell you how much these little details help.
Suffice it to say that I had such a happy, relaxed afternoon in Ledbury that we delivered our best ever show that evening. This was 'Poetry and Physics Under the Northern Lights', a fusion of solar physics, performance poetry and powerpoint images of the aurora. I was working with Dr Darren Wright of the University of Leicester, reprising a show we'd first staged at London's Science Museum and later in the National Space Centre in Leicester. Darren delivered several well-judged introductions to the causes of the aurora and current research, illustrated by some stunning animation sequences, including images of the aurora seen from space. You could tell how much this captivated the audience by the questions later, covering cycles of solar activity as well as how and where to best see the Northern Lights.
My own strands explored first the mythology of the indigenous arctic peoples and then the story of the sun-dust's journey through space. We had a very warm and responsive audience who were game for a bit of interaction, delivering gusty cheers during the 'Auroral Football' poem. The intimate space of the Market Theatre allowed me to move amongst them too in 'Last Breath Singing' as I travelled 'this stairway ... lit by the torches of friendly spirits.' Afterwards I whizzed out to the stall run by the Three Counties bookshop and they sat me down with a pen to sign copies of my book, Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights Journey. It was lovely to hear feedback from enthusiastic audience members. Here's some of their comments:
'Wonderful blend of the science and the poetry - it worked so well!'
'I'd have loved to buy this on a CD - great poems.'
'You should go on the Hurtigruyten ships in Norway - they'd love this show!'
and from the organisers:
'Many attendees have remarked during the week how much they enjoyed the event and how good it was to have something so very different on the menu. Best of luck with your future efforts to illuminate others on the Northern Lights and the mystical side of science!'
At the close of a really enjoyable evening, Darren and I were presented with our own Ledbury 2010 glazed bowls. This is typical of the welcoming bonhomie of the festival. Ledbury Poetry Festival is blessed with volunteers such as Pat and also Jenny who kindly offered us accommodation for the night. Many thanks for all the hospitality.
I am certainly planning a return trip to Ledbury, with time enough to properly experience the enticing programme of big name poets and interesting poetry themes and activities. But first I will have to wake myself up!