Monday, 13 January 2014

Spoken Word London

Deep in the Dalston/Stokey borderlands, down a half-hidden flight of stairs that lead into an underground cavern, lies a night of spoken word hysteria...

Every other Wednesday Vogue Fabrics plays host to Spoken Word London

The format is beguilingly simple: twenty slots, five minutes each. No stars, no features. A democratic, egalitarian, and completely open (and free!) spoken word night that quickly reveals the seething talent of London's young literati to those brave enough to enter. It's an amazing evening of lyric and narrative fun. 

But with the second and fourth Wednesday of the month now filled, what is a young person about London town to do on the third Thursday of the month? Particularly the third Thursday of, say, January. The sixteenth of January 2014, for instance. As in the one coming up. Where could you be guaranteed a night of witty wordsmithery, glorious gung-ho garrulousness  and celebrative cerebrality?

Yes, you guessed it folks,  it's NUTSHELL LIVE!!!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

English PEN

English PEN, stalwarts of the ongoing global defence of the role of literature as a means of developing mutual understanding and, therefore, staunch defenders of freedom of expression, are having a fundraiser.

On Sunday the 12th of January at the Tricycle Theatre in Kentish Town there'll be a screening of
Under Milk Wood, the film of the radio play by Dylan Thomas. Tickets can be booked here.

Of course, you don't need to go all the way to Kentish Town in January to support the role of literature
as a means of developing mutual understanding. In a much more immediate fashion (both temporally and spatially) there's the fantastic Nutshell Christmas Quiz! Huzzah! 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Eyewear Autumn Party

Nutshell had the fortune to be in attendance at the Eyewear Autumn Party last week and it truly was a poetical extravaganza. 
Eyewear Publishing, launched in 2011 by Todd Swift, is still relatively new to the crowded UK publishing scene but is quickly gaining a reputation for itself, producing beautifully designed hardcover editions of wonderfully wrought poetry. 
The Eyewear Autumn Party featured poetry from the lips of Don Share, relaunching his until recently out-of-print debut Union, an exciting reading from Mariela Griffor launching a new & selected collection The Psychiatrist which was full of revolutionary fervour, Barbara Marsh read from her new collection To the Boneyard and the well-travelled Sheila Hillier with Hotel Moonmilk made entire a spectacular evening of wordly enjoyment. 
The event, kindly hosted by the London Review Bookshop, was absolutely chock-a-block, with the collections leaping off the shelves and people quite literarily (geddit?) spilling out onto the streets of Bloomsbury. 
It was heartening to see so many people coming out to support small-press poetry, long may it continue! 

STOP PRESS: Eyewear are launching their first foray into prose fiction. The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War by Sumia Sukkar will be launched at Foyles on November the 8th.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Until the Light Goes Out

Nutshell had the recent pleasure of attending a glorious night of poetry-fuelled fun. Every first Monday of the month the Library Bar in Highbury plays host to Until the Light Goes Out an evening of poetry, music and general performance mayhem.

Brought by way of Irina Juahiainen and Michael Clift, the night has been running since February 2013. Since then it has garnered quite a following, when we arrived there was little more than floorspace to sit on!

The format is to have the night captained by two featured performers afloat upon a raft of open-mikery. Last Monday saw featured poet Chip Grim, showcasing ringside themed poetry (a little like a politicised, literati Jake LaMotta), and Jessie Pie (sans band) finishing off the night with some sing-along Americana style guitar with a swansong that threw more than a nod to the Stoke Newington based great John Hegley.

Free, regular poetry events are rarer than a well-funded library service this far north of the river so it's good to see an evening of wonderful wordsmithery being done just right.

The next Until the Light Goes Out is on the 7th of October.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Where's my Nutshell for 2011??

The British Library and many of you would like an answer to that question, it turns out. And indeed it seems a very reasonable question to ask. Where is the much awaited Nutshell for 2011?

Well, it doesn't exist. That's right, a few unexpected things have happened, and a few delaying agents have popped round to the Nutshell headquarters, so now that we're ready to roll, we find that the year is coming to an end, and that it really would be much better if we called the whole 2011 thing off and went for 2012 instead.

That's the thing with being all independent and free (yes, we're back to free for the next issue, it turns out we really don't like charging for Nutshell), you don't have to come out when the office decides, you can pretty much come out whenever you like. That is not to say that we only like coming out sporadically, far from it: we'd like to come out weekly! But it does mean that when it's only one person working on a project like this, helped by people that are also doing it in their spare time, the timeframes expand, the delays increase and accidents are absorbed much more slowly. This is why we don't say yes to people asking to subscribe to Nutshell. We love the thought, but we don't want to disappoint.

This is also the proof that Santa doesn't exist. One big red man alone would never manage to keep that Christmas deadline every year, coordinating all those helpers who really have their own projects going (most amazon sellers are, in fact, Santa's helpers. Same goes for good sellers on Ebay.)

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Having said all this, I am happy to update you letting you know that Nutshell is in very good form, it is scheduled to come out Jan/Feb 2012, it is absolutely packed with amazing stuff, it will be the first issue to be printed in full colour, the new graphic designer Mauro Sommavilla worked on it for ages and did an amazing job... it's all going swell. Unless of course you're pissed off we're late. Please don't be! The way we see it, all other aspects of life require us to worry, hurry, lose sleep etc. This really really shouldn't - we hope you agree!

Much love,


Saturday, 25 June 2011

If only Angela Carter wrote the news

One of my all-time favourite authors, Angela Carter, started her working life as a journalist in south London, reporting local news for The Croydon Advertiser, before she achieved literary success. Reading her rich descriptions of a world that only she had the eyes to see has made me wonder what it would be like to open a newspaper and read an article written in the style of The Bloody Chamber or The Magic Toyshop.

Since 2009, one Israeli daily has given its readers a chance to read news written by fiction writers and poets. For one day a year, timed to coincide with Hebrew Book Week, the journalists and editors of Haaretz, a publication often referred to somewhat derisively as Israel’s “thinking man’s newspaper,” give up the reins to a selection of Israeli and international writers, who take over on every section of the newspaper for an edition where “writers write the news.” Even the weather forecast is a poem!

I awaited the day of the 2011 Writers Edition, 15th June, with the kind of excitement that I used to reserve for birthdays when I was a child. This year, 53 writers had come on board to cover current events and give readers “a look at the news through literary eyes,” as the newspaper says on its masthead.

So what does “news through literary eyes” actually look like?

The news section echoed the Israeli public’s sense of ennui over the Arab-Israeli peace process, and the widespread sense of disappointment among the electorate in its government, much like the newspaper’s usual political stance. Four writers were featured on the front page.

Novelist Nurit Gertz used Sartre’s famous line “Hell is other people” to express her dislike of Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman in a scathing analysis of his stubbornness and myopic take on Israel’s foreign policy. “With Lieberman,” writes Gertz, “since there are no other people, hell is I – and one can imagine how hellish it is to live in a world where, at every corner, as in a hall of mirrors, one can see just one image – that of Avigdor Lieberman.”

In what read more like a short story than a typical newspaper article owing to its use of the present tense, short-story writer and graphic novelist Etgar Keret reported on his experience accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an official visit to Italy the week before the edition was published. At a press briefing, Keret ask Netanyahu a question about the perception that Israel is passive and reactive in the peace process, and the feeling that people either love or hate Israel. Netanyahu answers partly with “this conflict is an insoluble conflict because it is not about territory,” and says that a practical plan for resolving it is to reiterate this idea at every opportunity. Keret speaks for many Israelis when he says “I try to smile, but after this conversation I just can’t summon a smile, or hope. Just despair.”

Poet Haim Goury laments the “withering” of Israeli socialism “in the face of privatisation, and the rise of the national and religious right” in a piece discussing the relationship between Zionism, Communism and the Soviet Union in the years leading up to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and throughout its history. Today, he writes, “Israel is undergoing haredization from within, and is shunned, and cursed at and delegitimized from without.”

On a more positive note, Sami Michael, novelist and prominent Israeli activist, reported on plans to make Haifa, a city with one of the most mixed Jewish and Arab populations in Israel, a member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), an association of more than 20 cities around the world that give refuge to persecuted writers, in partnership with International PEN.

The Haaretz editorial, “It’s all thanks to reading”, reminded readers of the centrality of reading and writing to the accumulation of knowledge, and challenged them not to abandon books in the Internet age “which presents an opportunity and a challenge to reading’s future.”

The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa adds his two cents with an op-ed originally published in the Spanish daily El Pais last year. Here he advocates for the legalisation of drugs to end the violence caused by drug cartels, particularly in Latin America. Although the beauty of the original Spanish is lost in translation, his assertion that drugs should be legalised because no-one has the right to criminalise the things they don’t like, “including people picking their noses in front of you,” transformed the piece into a comment on the safeguarding of individual liberty in general, and the dangers of paths that can lead “to the suicide of democracy.”

American novelist Jonathan Franzen’s editorial piece, an adaptation of a graduation speech originally published in The New York Times, started off as an ode to his new BlackBerry, and turned into a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of true love and heartbreak in an imperfect world in which people are growing more and more accustomed to the narcissism and mediocrity of “liking” things, Facebook style.

Is there actually a difference between these writers, and normal journalists and editors? Could fiction writers permanently replace the entire staff of a newspaper? I would like to think that they can’t, that word limits and editorial guidelines would be too much for your average writer of fiction. Aside from that, aren’t journalists meant to carry the mantle of objectivity? Isn’t their main role meant to be guardians of the truth, as opposed to masters of the written word?

Postmodern theorists ask whether there is in fact a world out there which exists objectively for all of us, and question the extent to which a newspaper is a reflection of this world “out there.” In a way, I think I would prefer to read a newspaper that did not print breaking news from its local reporters, or reprint stories straight from the wires, but instead featured beautifully written, thought-provoking pieces by a hand-picked selection of the kind of writers that I like to read, dead or alive – which sounds, I guess, a little bit like that game where you name your ideal dinner party guests.

The Haaretz Writers edition is a creative, innovative stroke of genius, and I wish that more newspapers would take such a risk, or indeed, that Haaretz ran the edition more than once a year.

The idea, however, seems better than its execution. I was disappointed at how similar in style the articles were, at how little I got to see of a writer’s individual literary style, and at the absence of creative risk-taking within the articles themselves, with the exception of Keret, whose piece felt as if it was structured like a story. The world seen through literary eyes did not seem that different to me than the world seen through the eyes of Haaretz's regular reporters, and I did find myself thinking, as I read, "if only Angela Carter wrote the news..."


Alona Ferber

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Tempest - Little Angel Theatre

It is with tears in my eyes that I set upon writing this review, for The Tempest at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington was such a wonder and joy to behold that I am still moved now.

What a sweet, unassuming place the Little Angel Theatre is, hidden in a little court off Cross street it would be impossible to just walk past it and notice it unless already on your way there to see something. Tipped by a friend, we managed to catch the last night of this sold out production of The Tempest and I am so glad. A mixture of puppets and people, this child friendly production was superbly acted and never patronising. All the actors not only perform multiple roles impeccably, with an ease that leaves the audience not quite sure just how many actors are in the play and a transport that makes their throats knot and noses tingle; they also double up as master puppeteers, dancers and excellent singers and musicians, playing a variety of instruments.

Gross Caliban is here a clunky, 2-people puppet that is utterly frightful when enraged and sweet when in a more delicate, vulnerable attitude. The other main puppet, the floaty Ariel, is fine and subtly animated and its interaction with Prospero is one of the most moving elements of the play.

As well as deeply moving, this production is terribly funny at different levels, sweet in the father and daughter moments between Miranda and Prospero, exhilarating when Trinculo and Stephano are on stage, and unpredictable when the actors leave the stage and interact with the public. Even the seagull puppets are riveting!

Finally, the lighting and sound effects were seamless and essential to the atmosphere, particularly fine were the shadow play, and choral and orchestral moments that seal the union of Miranda and Ferdinand; as well as the particularly suggestive opening, which sees Prospero light up the tempest with his staff as if with a giant match.

It's sad not to be able to tell you to go and watch it as alas! it is no more. But as a huge part of the charm came from the theatre itself, so intimate and special, and the puppets, which when well made like in the Little Angel Theatre, are twenty times as magical to behold as any computer generated thestral, I feel confident that you'll be just as ecstatic as we were tonight to see any of their future adult productions. Alternatively, you if you have any young friends between 3 and 6, you might seize the opportunity and catch the forthcoming production 'The Magician's Daughter', running from the 28th of May to the 10th of July.

After going to the Little Angel Theatre once, I am sure you'll also want to take one of their adult puppet making courses, so I guess we'll see you there!

-- Faye Fornasier

Friday, 6 May 2011

Latitude 2011

Today might not be sunny and warm, but surely you can remember the cleverly timed string of sunny days that blessed this country over Easter and the Royal holiday, if you can’t that’s probably because you are still sun stroked or were abroad on an anti kingdom trip. Either way, we're here to tell you that now it’s officially possible to envisage hanging out in a park and sleeping in a tent of your own free will and not just because you’re homeless. For a few months coming up we can confirm that the outdoors won’t kill you… it’s time to start thinking about festivals, and we’re thinking Latitude.

The Nutshell team went to Latitude last year for the first time and it was wonderful so this year not only we want to go again, we want you to be there too. Here’s a list of 5 indisputable reasons:

1. Sheep the colour of rainbow and the most bucolic of settings. I’m not sure why, but blue, green and pink sheep do exist outside the realm of hallucinogenics and they’re at Latitude, sprawled about on the field by a sleepy river, looking happy and chewing grass. Thick forest surrounds the main stages, with some smaller stages deep inside among the trees… We have to say, the location is perfect, and it kind of makes the festival.

2. The literary presence. There are several tents dedicated to poetry and literature. These are large, cool areas sheltered from the scorching sun and equipped with comfy cushions. One can very well wake up early in the morning, have a quick shower and then come here and settle on a cushion to see who’s reading what, not exactly dozing back to sleep but waking up gently to the sound of a poem or a story. If this doesn’t sound blissful I don’t know what does.

Later in the day, things warm up and the tents get packed, and the good thing is: they get packed with lovely people. The line up is super and the atmosphere great. Damn we do love those shady tents!

3. The comedyyyy. How blissful rocking up to the comedy tent at random times and finding ourselves sitting there in stitches for hours. The comedy tent is huge and really crowded, you’ll have to walk over people to get to an empty patch and that’s probably when you’ll be picked at by the comedian on stage. A tip: outside the tent we found some sofas lying about, if you see a free one, drag it all the way to the tent and use it. They’re the most comfortable way of watching comedy, they'll swallow you whole and you'll literally forget yourself.

4. The music. This year we feel like we're in a time warp, it's just a jump to the left and a step to the right and Suede appear, together with Echo and the Bunnymen. Those of you brave enough to admit it can join us right now and get really excited about these comebacks, what a treat! Also, remember when OMD meant Original Manoeuvres in the Dark and OMG absolutely nothing? We do, and we can't wait to be there and see how they hold the stage. The great thing about this year's line up is that Latitude combines good oldies with really fresh new bands, without forgetting the sweet inbetweeners like Paolo Nutini, The Cribs, Paloma Faith, KT Tunstall, The National, Eels, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan and British Sea Power.

5. The rest! Theatre, Cabaret, Film, Ballet, Contemporary Art... who knows what will impress you and capture your imagination, what will Sadler's Wells and the English National Ballet will come up with or what will happen at Pandora's Playground. One of the best things about festivals, and what it should be all about, is discovery and experimentation. Wandering the grounds finding new things to like.

We can't wait!

Paolo Nutini - Headlining on Saturday at the Obelisk Arena

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Sunday, 24 April 2011

By The Rivers, Brixton Hootananny

I’d never been to the Hootananny in Brixton before. From Brixton underground you walk down a road unpromisingly lined with council estates and massive car and textile units. The venue has a peripheral outer gate and a pair of typically truculent bouncers. There are fried food stands in the front garden and a man wants to know if I’m on the weed tonight. Inside the dance area fills up quickly when the first band of the night, By The Rivers, arrives on stage. They deliver a really bright energetic set that has the whole house dancing. When not themselves playing, the wind/brass section of the band do their own little dance in one corner of the stage which is really fun and amusing to watch. The whole band looks so comfortable and happy performing and of course that lifts the audience. A few clips below.


Ian McLachlan

Monday, 11 April 2011

Pepe Belmonte involved in serious bike accident - tour cancelled but support event organised for the 16th of April

On 31st March Pepe Belmonte was just about to start off on a tour to launch his critically acclaimed debut album 'The Hermit's Waltz' but was involved in a serious bike accident after being knocked down by a speeding police van.

On Saturday 16th April, he was supposed celebrate the final night of his UK tour. Instead his friends are hosting a very special fundraising night for the Beatroot Rendez-Vous founder who is currently recovering from the accident.

We friends hope to raise some funds to help him do his tour once he's better.

The proposed line up is set to include:

Jenny Lindfors
Benjamin Folke Thomas
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou
Frank Doody
Jack Day
Trent Miller
Grace Banks
All the Queens Ravens
+ many more!

When: Saturday 16th April 2011

Where: The Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, City of London, EC1R 3BL

Time: 8pm - 11.30pm

Price £4

**Make sure you get there early if you definitely want to get in because we expect it to be packed out!**

News about the crash

Some early 'The Hermit's Waltz' Reviews

Pepe Belmonte

Pepe Belmonte 'Family State Blues' -

Pepe Belmonte 'Mountain With a Moving Peak' -
Pepe Belmonte 'The Hermit's Waltz' -

Pepe Belmonte 'Glory of Love' -

Pepe Belmonte 'Pending on my Mind' -

Pepe Belmonte 'Mistletoe Kisses' -

For more information about Pepe Belmonte and Beatroot at the Betsey please contact Jody VandenBurg