Poetry Without Pretention – Kick Starter

The Gloucester Poetry Society are in their inaugural year – from a little seed idea it has gone from strength to strength. With a growing and inclusive members list, and it has organised the first poetry and spoken word festival that Gloucester has seen, which will be happening at the end of October 2017 :)

This has been an amazing endeavour, growing from the local community and gaining steadily with national and international recognition. Already the society has been involved in fund raisers and community workshops, giving back to the society and landscape that has fostered it’s development. It has even been on tour!

As part of the festival and to mark our First Year Anniversary there is to be a book – a lovely book full of the richness and diversity of the Society. It is a book that needs to be, it is a book that will be going out digitally but it should also have a physical incarnation – a beautiful locally printed but globally available book.

It is to be published by my small press The Wiggly Pets Press but we need some help. There needs to be a cash injection to get the process rolling, this is not a vanity press, the poets are not paying to be published nor would I ever ask such a thing! And to be honest the poetry speaks for itself – they don’t need a vanity press but the world does need their poetry and I want to be able to give it to the world.

So we have a kick starter where you can help us raise the capital and get some delicious rewards in return (not least of which is the poetry itself!).

Rewards range from origami made by members of the society, to fine art prints by the wonderful Jason Conway to… Wiggly Pets! Themed bespoke wiggly pets made by me… for you – if that’s the option you choose :)

Looky at examples of Wiggly Pets:

Well what is it?

Wiggly Pets Mummy!

Ballet WigglyPet and WigglyWoo

One of my life mantras is that Science and Art are for everybody not just the privileged elite and I have focused huge chunks of my life on making these areas accessible to people – accessible to as many people as possible. Sometimes this takes place on a global stage sometimes it is in a pub or school or community centre with 2-30 people. Sometimes it is just passing on some craft materials to someone so they can try something.

This means when I was approached by Zack at a poetry event in Cheltenham and asked if I was interested in starting a Gloucester Poetry Society, I jumped on board without hesitation. The society runs on volunteers, membership is free unlike most poetry societies and it does as many events and workshops as it can for free. We rely on venues being kind and the odd donation and so far the generosity has been amazing!

We have even taken ourselves on the road and do regular events in the surrounds like Cheltenham and Stroud – this is a wonderful turn over of the “culture” structure that was in place when I first moved to Gloucestershire. It is considered that Cheltenham has the culture and Gloucester doesn’t but more and more I was meeting people from Gloucester at events elsewhere and finding little hidden art gems around Gloucester. It has culture – a wide, rich and varied range – it just doesn’t tend to shout about it!

The book is us shouting about it, of course this is just what the book and Gloucester Poetry Society mean to me – they will have different meanings for the other members!

So back to me… or rather The Wiggly Pet’s Press. What is it, what’s it doing and why?

When I was little my dad worked at the Pheonix Docks in Rainham Essex (also known as the Mulberry from the WW2 legacy), and he would walk along the River Thames made flanks and find bits of victorian rubbish: clay pipes, glass jars with marbles in, bits of ceramic dolls. He’d collect these and had the idea of reconstructing the dolls and so found that there was some stuff called puppen fimo which could be used to mould dolls and baked in the oven at a low temperature i.e. unlike clays and ceramics, no kiln was required, it could be done in the home with normal kitchen equipment.

Off he went to the local craft supplies shop and bought some fimo. Fimo is a polymer clay, basically it is plastic with a solvent in it that makes it malleable, until the oven’s heat drives off the solvent. You can form it just like clay and unknown to us at the time – it comes in a huge range of colours and as it turns out three different hardnesses.

Initially he picked up Fimo Hard, it was stark white and quiet hard to actually use and form into shapes. There were some little bits left after his experiments so I had a play. At the time I was in my mid teens and was still playing with coughs plasticine – I had some idea of making animations but had no camera but I was story boarding and making up characters all ready for when I did.

The first thing I made was a bear with little hat and flower – mothers day was coming and I needed a present!

Then I started making little creatures – I was obsessed with the idea of animation still and I love the plasticine stop motions such as trap door and morph – I’d grown up with Tony Hart on the TV. I also used to draw comics for my family on a Sunday afternoon after Sunday School whilst watching Time Tunnel and 40, 000 Leagues Under the Sea and I had this notion of little helpful creatures who always got things slightly wrong.

The first wiggly pets were made sans arms and had to be painted afterwards. I’d planned to drill holes through and add bendy pipe cleaner arms for easier animating (I still had no camera).

And that was kind of where they stayed for a few years – until my Dad found that the craft shop had a new and different type of fimo in… Fimo Soft! And it was in so so so many colours!

This coincided with me being laid up on crutches whilst three people I knew ran the London Marathon – I sat and watched it on telly and made little wiggly pets in their favourite colours, holding trainers and with post run wraps around their shoulders announcing it was the London Marathon (I can’t actually remember if it was the year 2000 or 2001 :/).

These wigglypets had arms – the fimo soft was much easier to use and to get to stick to itself and I nicked a few of my mothers seed beads to be the middle of the eyes.

I then spent the next few years making everyone wigglypets – there were 21st Birthday wigglypets presented in wine, pint and shot glasses, ones in rowing boats, with wizard staffs, holding pot noodles, playing guitar, on little base boards with “you’re 50” cakes (I discovered a lot about the limits of the clay – like if you make something to thick the clay cracks and it’s not good if you forget to tell people they are cooling in the oven and they pre heat the oven on heat temperature for pizza! cough cough bark).

Then I met Alaric who thought they were so cute that he helped me buy the fimo soft in bulk – people commissioned wigglypets and then finally I got a camera! Well I say me but it was actually a wedding present to me and Alaric and it was digital and unlike the other cameras I’d had these were not just point and click – I could focus the damn thing!

The wigglypets began to go on outings and have adventures and I took lots of photos with the idea of turning them into a comic book. Stop motion I realised pretty quickly was still out as I had no way to run the photos together and I needed to build back grounds and have it set up in a corner and we lived in a flat and only had one camera and the little tripod Al got me for the purpose was just too flimsy and moved the framing around too much.

By 2006 I was working on the idea of the webcomic with them again except… I was really into blogging so I decided to set it up as a community blog (the community being the wiggly pets) and do photo stories. These were much easier for me to put together with the tech I had than a comic was and I could share it. This was the Wiggly Pet Blog – which should have been better than it was but our house was flooded in 2007 and we were out of it for about a year.

However I kept writing and making and trying and slowly other creatures and story forms added to the mix such as the WigglyPet’s arch nemesis the Snobberlinks and the Muse Monsters… and then I started printing little booklets of the stories and stapling them together because the people kept asking, and then I made colouring sheets and poetry ebooks for download and then… suddenly it was The WigglyPet Press and then there were actual print books and….

That leads us to now and the next phase of The WigglyPet Press – Poetry and works by others – either published by the press or in association (i.e. Indie publishing collaborations). It has been a long and twisty journey but I hope that there will be some support out there for this next part of the adventure!

Oh and I might also now be working on cuddly versions of the WigglyPets but more on that later! :)

Posted: Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 @ 8:36 am
Categories: Festivals and Events, Poetry Collections.
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