Sunday, 23 June 2013

Meet me Halfway: My Year in Exeter So Far

It's hard to believe that Summer Solstice has come and gone. That the long dark, cold, wet winter which started back in March 2012 and only relented at the end of May 2013 will soon be making it's approach. Today, the longest day of the year and midpoint of our annual orbit of the sun, I reckon is a good time to take stock and look back on what I did with the whole first half of the year.

NYE 2013

I was lucky enough to spend NYE at The Grapevine in Exmouth with my band Lazy Lizard. Wearing a carnival head dress and a brand new frock from Exeter's best dress shop, Off The Hook, we had an amazing night and I was feeling pretty good.

Exeter CAMRA Festival of Winter Ales

This is one of my favourite annual Exeter events. More than 60 amazing real ales on tap at this fabulous beer festival run by our local chapter of CAMRA every January. If you're a fan of real ales in Exeter it is a must do. If you're a local you are certain to find someone that you know there toasting a pint so you can raise a raiding party or just bowl up on your own and you're guaranteed a good time. I've been twice now and it's always full of friendly people and of course, delicious ales, ciders and even a few ginger beers.

Artist Michael Buckland

I met London born, Exmouth based, artist Michael Buckland one evening whilst checking out Melosa that The Grapevine in Exmouth. Tucked away in a corner, I could see him taking in the surroundings and scribbling way in his note pad. As he got up to leave I got a sneak peak at the drawing he'd done of  our table of friends an was in awe of how much detail he'd captured such a short time. A few weeks later he popped up on my Facebook and somehow we arranged for me to sit for a portrait. I was honoured. Such a lovely experience.

Tony Law at Exeter Phoenix

Irreverent, surreal and joyful Canadian comedian Tony Law played his first show at the Exeter Phoenix back in February. It was brilliant. He's amazing. I'm not telling you anything more about he elephants though.

Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots at RAMM

As part of Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots, I have been researching the history of black American GIs who were based in Exeter during WWII. It has been a fascinating journey that has taught me so much about England, American, historic and current attitudes to race, my family, my culture, and my city. There are lots of different elements to the project. Interviews, research and storytelling will help us to present a website, school materials, and even a guided tour to the wider public, helping to spread the word about some of Exeter's multicultural histories. In March we did our first storytelling evening at RAMM to an audience of more than 100 people. Everyone in our volunteer group and from the Global Centre, worked so hard to make it happen.

Exeter Pride at Exeter Phoenix

Exeter Pride has been going for a few years now and there are so many brilliant people working to make it on of the best pride celebrations in the South West. My band, Lazy Lizard, played at the March 2013 post parade party and it was oh so much fun. There was a conga line during our set and more importantly I got to wear the shiniest dress I could find from Jane Norman.

History of Exeter's Black GIs

In April, the Global Centre hosted a book launch for Marika Sherwood's latest title 'World War II: Colonies & Colonials'.  I was honoured to be asked to speak alongside this marvelously inspiring woman. She is a prolific writer and historian who's explored all aspects of BME history in Great Britain and subverted histories around the world. Her latest title is one of more than 50 publications that she's penned and is a must read.

Exeter Respect Festival

Exeter Respect Festival 2013 was just brilliant. The weather was fabulous and they organisers really worked hard to use every possible resource to put on what is probably the city's largest annual event. Bringing together live music, community groups, faith groups, and local businesses, it was a great celebration of the diversity and energy of our city. I was lucky enough to participate as a performer with my hip hop group The Bitterati on the PhonicFM stage and event more randomly, we were on ITV Westcountry!

Photo by Clive Chilvers
Cheers to all my Exeter friends and neighbours for making this a great year so far!

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