Finding my feet
Posts – creative non fiction, poetry, articles, photography, events in Brighton and London, the natural world, progress in my garden, my allotment, trying to place my marionettes, my films and sometimes a touch of home-spun philosophy.
I come from a family of marionette makers and performers and performed with my own marionettes for several years before marriage, motherhood, divorce, teaching, painting, singing. freelance journalism and later in life writing poetry.
I moved to Brighton ten years ago with my partner, having spent most of my life living in London and following the death of my mother. I had cared for her for the last ten years of her life and blogging indirectly helped me to cope with grief,
For latest post please click the following link,
Poetry – My love of poetry was rekindled by studying for a day a week at Sussex University for a year with John McCullough. I have also attended courses at Arvon, The Poetry School, Troubadour, New Writing South and workshops with Jackie Wills and Brendan Cleary.
Small successes in Brighton came gradually. I had a two stories and three poems published in local anthologies I won a competition in Hove and surprise surprise was long listed in the Bridport Prize and for a pamphlet comp. with Cinnamon Press.
I still thought I was too old and had left it all too late. But I had helped with Pighog Poetry Nights in Brighton for three years, read poems at a few Open Mics, some in Lewes others in London so gradually gained a bit more confidence.
No one really filled me in on the necessity of getting published in respected poetry magazines or on the workings of small presses. Luckily I was wise enough to get some mentoring before launching somewhat recklessly into self published my first collection ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ A friend did all the technical stuff and luckily it sold quite well and I could order 10 at a time.
Eight years later and with much more work ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter.’
The Puppeteer’s Daughter – A second collection of poems published August 2016 – available in City Books 23 WESTERN ROAD, HOVE and at the Open Art Cafe in Nevill Road, Rottingdean at £6.95. It is also available from Lulu and Amazon. Please click on the link at the side of this page to purchase.
The following endorsements are probably over generous but never mind
The poems explore the complexity of life as the daughter of marionette makers and performers. But there are also poems concerned with life, love and loss, also the seaside, artists, allotments and the eccentricities of life.
Some of the poems were written during a residency in Postman’s Park in the City of London, thanks to The Poetry School ‘Mixed Borders’ scheme with London Parks and Gardens Trust. Some of the happiest days of my life!
Fifteen poets took part, each one writing poems in one of London’s open Spaces. The event is called ‘Open London Squares Weekend.’
This is our white rabbit busy on a stint peddling poetry along the seafront before he collapsed from exhaustion!
‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ came out six years ago. A few poems had been published in Writing Magazine.
On sale in City Books 23 WESTERN ROAD, HOVE. TEL: 01273 725306 and the Open Art Cafe in Nevill Road, Rottingdean.
John McCullough ‘Ann’s poetry covers the big topics of love and death with originality. Take for instance the title poem which is full of surprises yet also wonderfully poignant.’
Kiersty Boon ‘This collection of poems, fully illustrated by the author, is a wonderful journey from a magical childhood of puppets and seaside towns. The delicacy of the difficult stages of life and memories experienced are offset with humorous anecdotes and magical tales for young and old alike.’
The colour version is lovely but unfortunately had to be priced at £18 due to the cost of colour printing so is only available on line from Lulu.
Above – The West Pier – pen and ink. Robin my eldest son as a child – oil on paper.
‘The Hole in the Wall’ Started as a picture book poem that I illustrated myself about twenty years ago. When I couldn’t get it published I put it aside, but since moving to Brighton I made it into a film and put it on youtube.
(Update on this story added to Home Page November 2018)
What a surprise when The Dry Stone Walling Association discovered the film in November 2018 and and asked if they could produce the book and sell it on their site.
Picture Book available from The Dry Stone Walling Association on the following link
Writing background – As a daughter of puppeteers scripts were always needed and I wrote ‘Plays for Pelham Puppets’ (a joint effort with my mother at the age of 10). I was pleased with my monologue for a witch. My mother’s playbook and later our joint venture were published in the late 50s to complement the work of Bob Pelham who was both a friend and the creator of Pelham Puppets. Both had several re-prints.
I vaguely remember I won a car in a competition for a slogan for a cake mix at 30. But I was married at the time and we were moving, so my husband insisted we took the money instead. A few years later my poem about divorce was published in The Times Magazine Supplement and I had three poems read on Radio 4 and two poems published in Writing Magazine at various times.
As a single parent I have always had to work at other things than writing. But I wrote a book called ‘To Lizzie with Love’ about my experiences of teaching gypsies/travellers on a permanent site in South London. They kept horses and goats and had many traditionaI skills. But I couldn’t get it published (which has been the story of my life) so I adapted some of it into a play called ‘Travelling Nowhere’ and it was performed at The Young Vic. I was invited to become a member of SWWJ (Society of Woman Writers and Journalists)
This link is to poetry from one of my favourite blog page
Memoir Some aspects of this will become prose, poetry and film.
‘Chasing the Rabbit’
I was born with a cleft palate in London during an air raid. It was the same week that a bomb narrowly missed landing on Buckingham Palace.
I was lucky that my mouth was mended several months later but I had problems speaking clearly as a child. Strangely my mother just forgot to tell me about this until I was about 30!
When my father returned from active service my parents became marionette makers and performers. We lived in our grandparents’ house on the edge of Highgate.
We had a room set up as a theatre with red velvet tip up seats from a cinema and people came to see our shows.
The world of art, mime and stagecraft were part of our lives as well as the insecurity. that goes with a bohemian life style. We were rich or poor depending on the sun and the season.
My sister and I sometimes missed school. Summer seasons were from June until early in October. Once we were left in the care of our extremely patient grandparents until the end of the school term.
My mother did a tour with a show in Germany and once performed in an ice show in Morecambe. At such times my father continued to create new marionettes at home.
At eighteen I was billed as the youngest professional puppeteer in Britain and gained an Equity card when performing at Eastbourne Hippodrome. I toured in Variety’ with cabaret marionettes and was once on the same bill as Max Miller. Later we all worked on the TV version of The Goon Show’ – ‘The Telegoons.’
At 23 I married, had two sons but divorced 8 years later.
Our final reunion as a family of puppeteers was in 1968 when we made the marionettes and performed in the film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier.
By this time I needed a new career, so trained as a teacher with a modest grant. When I had qualified I taught in a primary school and also studied with the OU for a BA. Later I taught gypsies on a permanent site and art in a comprehensive school.
My career moved on and I became Head of Education working with other professionals to run programmes for young people in security. Three years later I moved on to work for Streatham and Tooting Institute in Lambeth as a manager and in charge of Community Education Development.
I studied a day a week for an M.Sc. in Life Course Development so when Adult Education, (as we had come to know it) finally collapsed, I retrained to become an NLP therapist, working freelance for Primary Care Trusts and for two charities.
Following my father’s death, my mother moved nearby. When she died in particularly sad circumstances, I realised I had not only lost my mum but my best mate.
In Brighton I did Jill Edwards course in Stand Up Comedy partly to cheer myself up. At the end of it I auditioned and got a place in the New Acts Night at the Komedia, Subsequently doing gigs often for charitable events.
The Creative writing//poetry at Sussex University followed with the inspirational John McCullough.
I have been making films for years. Originally on Hi 8, later on digital. I became a member of a film club OVFM and sometimes won minor awards. Some are on youtube with thousands of hits, others have just an handful.
I loved making this one. Virginia Woolf’s garden.
Marionettes update and website.
I have had a website for our marionettes for over fifteen years. It is old in terms of website design but still have affection for it.
please click on the link http://www.puppethouse.co.uk/
Our marionettes have performed since 1949 in our marionette productions, including – our puppet circus, singers, dancers, musicians, underwater ballet, our own plays and extracts from the classics including Alice in Wonderland.
Link below to a series of films – remakes of some extracts from our shows
Alice in Wonderland – was the first and hardest one to make. It is my favourite and was made a couple of years before my mother died In her late 70s she climbed up into the loft of my house in South London to operate some of the characters. The boat scene in the garden was a labour of love and took forever.
Our puppet circus.
A circus was always part of our show which included a strong man and an acrobat on a horse. Unfortunately some of our marionettes were stolen so I could not include them. Ironically the strong man turned up at an auction along with some other favourites such as ‘Mademoiselle de Paris’ a few years ago. I hasten to say the seller was completely unaware they had once been ours.
A re-construction giving a taste of our puppet circus that was part of our show performed at Buckingham Palace for a children’s party given by Her Majesty the Queen – sadly without the sparkling repartee from our clowns (my mother and father) but subsequently I found a recording on an old tape.- Please click on the following link
In 2014 – As part of their commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War BBC South East filmed the conservation of the marionettes and interviewed me about my family’s role in performing with them in the film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier in the 60’s. We all went to the Duke of York’s Cinema for a special showing of the original film.
In 2015 – There are artifacts and posters from the various films, a model of the car made by Emett for the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.’ I know because I helped to set up our contribution with the dedicated and creative Marcus Bagshaw, the curator at the Grange, and had a quick preview of the wonderful things which would be on display..
Our marionettes were part of an exhibition called ‘CINEMA BY THE SEA’ an exhibtion ar the The Grange Museum and Art Gallery In Rottingdean 2015 -2016.
I am always seeking places to display all or some of our 200 marionettes that are currently in storage.
Writing my blogs! This is a labour of love.
Another of several passions in life is our allotment on the Weald –
This is the history of creating our allotment. We got it after three years on the waiting list. Basically a small muddy field with an abandoned pond so naturally it became the subject of a blog!
I write another site with tips for coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder – winter depression. I put up posts on a regular basis because I have this condition myself and want to share how NLP may keep symptoms at bay.
Recently I made a podcast with some of the poems from my first book with limited success. But I come from a family that believed it is best to start somewhere!
The following link goes to some of my rhymes, poems and films for children.
Retire to the seaside? Think very carefully
Brighton’s beach is not like this!
Please note I seldom if ever mention other members of my family still in the land of the living! I adore my grandsons all doing interesting things but it is really a case of respecting everyone’s privacy!
If you have got this far thank you for your patience. Ann