Upcoming gigs

Upcoming Gigs

Click here for my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter @Henry_Raby

Resolution of Sound @ Stained Glass Centre 3rd June 2017

ADAM Festival @ Acomb Library 15th June 2017

Say Owt Slam Clash of Champions III @ The Basement 2nd July 2017

Deer Shed Festival 22nd July 2017

Nerd Punks 3-D @ Edinburgh Fringe, Banshee Labyrinth 20-27th 21.50-22.50

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

20.17 Blog #32: Praise is my Kryptonite

Today is World Mental Health Day, so I thought I’d throw my tattered flat cap into the ring.

I wrote a blog a-g-e-s ago about my anxiety in a social landscape which you can read here.

I constantly have this little voice in my head telling me I’m shit.  I’m worthless.  I’m a failure.  I’m not going anywhere.  After I perform, no matter the response from the audience, seconds after leaving the stage I’ll be strategically analysing everything that went wrong, or could go wrong, with the set and night.  Glass half empty?  More like glass gets smashed.

I had a mentoring 2-days with Third Angel which was staggering useful about funding, company structure and planning for making theatre work.  It seems so natural now, but it took me years and years to even begin to consider applying for pots of money or stepping outside the comfort zone of small scenes because I thought:  “Who would want to give me any money?”  “Who would want to book me for a gig?”  Cos I’m naff, said the brain.

 I shudder at arrogance and ego like Gollum squirms at Elvish rope.  Overly confident poets and artists really get my back up.  They are few and far between in our scene, but their swagger seems alien.  Yet praise is my Kryptonite.  If someone says:  “That were good, Henry” I think they are:  Lying, wrong, confused, stupid as I say “Thank you!”

It’s because my brain, for whatever reason, has been wired over years to see the negative than the positive.  The brain is a muscle, the more you exercise it the more it grows in a certain angle.  I recently did an online CBT course in trying to rethink how you think.  I’m trying to do more mindfulness exercises.  Eat healthy.  Go for walks.  Listen to less angry music.  That’s hard for me.  Love my angry music.  Any further recommendations welcome.

In our last slam we have a number of poets come down to read very personal poems about their identity, sexuality, gender, mental health and survival.  It was very impassioned and beautiful and, I’d like to hope, somewhat empowering.  And that matters in that moment, at that time, in that space.  All strong pieces, all being shared, all being appreciated.  The hierarchy of poetry seemed not to matter a jot (it might have helped our guest, Jackie Hagan, celebrates the mistake, the failure, the incompetence, the imperfection).  

Thanks, poets x

World Mental Health Day is raising awareness, and poetry is a perfect tool to say to an audience “HEY I feel like this!”  Rather than paste over this fear, better to show those cracks as we rebuild the house.

“Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.”

Thanks Well-‘ard Eddard.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

20.17 Blog #31: Punk Publishing

Since I started writing poems, I’ve been trying find ways to put them into the world beyond words.  In my first year I (rather arrogantly) made a CD of recordings using a little Dictaphone without any sense of editing, structuring or whether anyone would actually want the bloody thing (I guess marketing).

I also put some poems out in the form of zines, under the title Snapping Turtle Press.  This was me and my mate venturing into some self-publishing, and we really enjoyed the rough-and-ready DIY element of glue, staples and combining words with illustrations.  I even went to a few zine fairs, but in the end it was just a fun hobby and it takes a lot of energy to keep putting out zines, so much respected to regular poetry zines like Paper & Ink whom I devour.

I always had huge respect for Burning Eye Books, who mainly focus on publishing performance poets across the UK.  At Say Owt, the night I run, we’ve had lots of their published authors, Harry Baker, Rob Auton, Vanessa Kisuule to name but a few.  I am hugely proud to announce I will bringing out a collection of poetry on Burning Eye next year! Woo!

The book is called Nerd Punk, which is no surprise to anyone who knows my poetry.  It’s about growing up, friendship and home plus protest and politics.  And dinosaurs.

It’s been interesting pouring through old documents, zines and my memory to put together all these poems from the last 11 years.  I don’t think there are many poems from the first couple of years of my poetry writing and performing career, and some poems never really made it into my core ‘sets’.  It felt like, if someone them weren’t included here, they would get lost in the mists of time because they never made the ‘cut’ to the live performances.  Similarly one of two were very specific to the context of a show or event and didn’t really need to be part of the collection.  Because I couldn’t include song lyrics, one poems just fell apart as it was built around a Bedouin Soundclash song.

It’s been an interesting journey going back in time (and I do love nostalgia).  Revisiting and editing old pieces, realising that the structure is much sharper as it has been shaped by performance.  Rather than chunks being added to a poem, the poem has become more streamline and I hope the pieces are stronger for this.

So keep an eye out for the collection in (hopefully) April 2018.  No doubt I’ll be shouting about where to buy it and have a book launch.  I’d love to get out there in a tour if anyone’s up for booking me around that time, drop me an email henry@henryraby.com

Thursday, 14 September 2017

20.17 Blog #30: Make it till you fake it (or: Say F Off to the Pay Off)

Life is not mathematics.  Energy + time + money does not = happiness/money/sucess

For a long time I think I bought into the myth, prevalent in the Arts for sure, one day you will 'make it'.  You will be the actor/writer/director that you idolise.  I sometimes feel, far even beyond politicians, that artists are placed on pedestals.  Glorification.

There's a constant phrase bandied around that your energy + time + money will 'pay off'.  Well, not always.  Some people are just in the right place, and right time.  Some people are thrown opportunities at them.  Some people have to work twice as hard because their have the world stacked against them in a sexist/racist/classist/ablist world.  Sometimes you work hard in the wrong direction.  Like a wonky swimmer splashing in the wrong direction:  land was off to the east.  Sorry, you spent hours swimming to the west and nothing but emptiness.

I wrote about this in another blog about The Land Of Should.  Expectations and assumptions are not always healthy for artists.  I should be getting paid gigs, I should be working on an album I should be getting up earlier, I should be healthier, I should be better.

And, yes, if you do put a lot of energy into a task you will get better.  Practising guitar or a new language.  Getting better at free-writing, getting better at learning poems, getting better at mic technique.  But career-wise, it's trickier.  We talk of 'paying off' like it's a reward.  It has its origins as a gambling term from 1905, only in 1951 recorded as meaning 'to be profitable'.  The greasy hint of money hovers around the phrase.

When does something 'pay off'?  2 weeks?  5 years?  When you hit 30?  When you don't worry about money anymore?  When you've impressed our 12-year old selves?  When you've impressed your parents?  When you win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Essentially, I think there's a difference between a 'goal' and a 'reward' and a 'pay-off'.  Rewards imply you are given something for your service or attitude or achievement.  There's a power structure (maybe with Christian undertones) that someone with more authority 'rewards' you.  I don't like that very much.  Goals can be small  Goals can be achievable.

So the 'payoff' in a film is when you stick it out, and then something much more exciting happens at the climax.  You paid into the film, and the payoff is the end result of your attention.  But of course the whole time you are making and working should be a ups and downs and waves and slumps of experiences, not a journey leading to one single point.

I guess this is one of the lessons I need to learn for myself, and use this blog to remind myself:  The arts are bloody hard.  Don't expect anyone to hand you anything just because you did work in the past.  Just because your CV is impressive.  Just because you have put loads of time, energy and money into your projects doesn't mean at some fixed point there will be a specific, financial, appreciative career payoff where someone gives you ALL the commissions and ALL the awards and ALL the gigs and ALL the respect.  There is no magical point.

It's a road, not a upwards climb to a plateau.  But, along this road are many celebrations, victories and successes.  Try to acknowledge them.

Monday, 4 September 2017

20.17 Blog #29: Refresher on Freshers

10 years ago Tony Blair has just transferred from being PM to a memory, and Gordon Brown was sat in Office, continually making the mistake of not calling a General Election.  The following year, the Banks would crash.  ULP!

Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs were now well-established mainstream stalwarts and a hundred thousand white indie lads found other white indie lads to make jangly guitar pop in a great swathe of WHOA-OH-OAH-OHS.

Memes were just kinda like the little stick guy who goes ‘I see what you did there’ and ‘close enough.  No one had played Pokémon for 8 years.  UKIP were getting big, but they’d get bigger.


September I started University, a year after most of my chums.  I took a Gap Year, and was all the better for it.  Done a bit more travelling, discovered a bit more music, discovered a bit of more of drinking culture.  Read loads of Pinter and Beckett.  Its cliché, but I did ‘find myself’ in the fact I was more comfortable, much more of an adult now I was 19 rather than 18.

I didn’t go far, gentle reader.  York is only 25 minutes away on the train and my grandparents would visit with my Dad regularly, with gift aides full of biscuits and…biscuits.

After a year of being out of education, I was keen to get my teeth stuck into lectures and essays.  My course focused on the academic approach to theatre-making:  ideas, language, theory, concepts.  The physical workshops supplemented the seminars.  I enjoyed myself, and meeting new people.

Freshers week I joined a whole host of societies.  Student Radio, Student Newspaper, Film-making, Theatre, Tea-Lights (comedy), Punk, Rock, Music Library and probably a load of others that have slipped into memory, their membership cards lost to time.

So why am I typing this, for my own sweet swathe of nostalgia?  No, like most of my blogs, it’s a gentle outpouring of thoughts to try and offer some insight to the world out there.

University was hard for me.  It was brilliant, but also hard.  I had such a tight, beautiful friendship circle back home in York, it was hard to recreate anything resembling that network.  Even though I made some totally wicked mates I’m still in contact with today, I had to deal with an intense feeling that I ‘wasn’t doing it right’.
Though probably not true, my general anxiety (which I now understand more) meant I felt like I was always out of the loop.  I struggled to find somewhere to live in 2nd year as everyone else seemed to have found mates, a house and a new life like a breeze. It felt like parties happened on my periphery, I wasn’t always in the Theatre shows.  I was the weird one.  Obviously not true, but true enough in my head.

I hope not to offend any friends I had at Uni, you were (and are) rad super awesome people.  But the vastness of University was a hard slog navigating so much.  I think there were some moments which were the hardest of my life.  Certainly the hardest up until that point.

I was going to post a link to an article, but all you need to do is google 'student mental health' for a whole heap of stats which may be hard, if somewhat unsurprising, viewing.

So I’d like to offer some advice for anyone starting University, or restarting, or generally existing in a space outside their comfort zone:

·         It’s OK to think things aren’t going right.  They might be going right.  They might, in all honestly, be going totally wrong.  But it’s OK to feel like you’re failing, you’re not weak for acknowledging your fears and concerns.
·         Find a world outside Uni.  I went to a lot of music gigs and got chummy with people in the ska-punk scene, but also found solace in the theatre and spoken word/poetry.  The Uni scene is a bubble, it’s nice to pop out.  Same for visiting another nearby city, I was often jumpig on trains to Manchester, Bradford and Huddersfield.  Good space to think, trains.
·         It’s obviously depending on money and geography, but nowt wrong with visiting home.  Either as a special mega cool event, or just to sleep in your own bed for a change.
·         Don’t try and forcibly re-invent yourself.  But do try and think outside whatever box you currently felt like you were pinned in.  It is your chance to try something new.  This could be anything from going veggie to forming a band to getting involved in politics to dying your hair to going for nice walks to whatever. Or just making more pasta dishes, watching new films or doodling more often.
·         Having been out of ‘education’ for 7 years I have learnt two very very big lessons.
1.  Value those 3 years where you can learn, explore, feed and debate in education.

2.  Post-Uni, never stop learning.  Dictate your own education.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

20.17 Blog #28: Pay-30p-if-you-decide

Doing PBH Free Fringe gives you thick skin. People can pay-what-they-decide, I've had, like many chums on the FF will have had, people walk past and not give me a penny for 60 minutes. As someone who struggles to value their art (and their very existence) this can seem like a sadistic pastime. One chap gave me 30p, I almost prefer the non-payers as at least they refuse to engage with the choice of a value.

So far I've averaged £2 per person. But this is the very core of DIY: Disseminating power to individuals rather than enforcing a structure. The choice, and power, lies with the individual audience member.

It's hard to not impose a narrative on your audiences. It's easier to assume their bored than unable to pay.

It's easier to assume you've given them a shit time than they misunderstand the value of your work.

It's easier to assume they have judged your work as poor quality than the simple fact by 21.50 they have run our of money.

And yet, standing with a bucket post-show is a tool and we still need to gauge, as well as engage, our audiences. So, like Jorah Mormont (for a fruitlessly unnecessary amount of time) I must grow thick skin, see people value me and not afford very much.

Analyse, dissect and, yes, assume to better my craft, and rationally therefore my value, as the two are linked in the cold hard context of show + bucket + monetary value + lack of eye contact.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

20.17 Blog #27: Our Mutual Friend and Our Mutual World-Building

My favourite author, Franz Kafka, had a great affinity for the work of Charles Dickins.  You can see in his work the attempt to employ Dickins’ style:  Larger-than-life characters, exploring the workings of a city through a protagonist and ‘world-building’.  Especially in books like The Castle and America.
I made the comparison because in 2016 I adapted Kafka's The Castle for Hull Truck Youth Theatre, and this week had the great privilege of seeing their version of Dickins’ Our Mutual Friend by Bryony Lavery.  I used the term ‘world-building’, a phrase which probably needs unpacking by more literary scholarly people elsewhere, but in the context of theatre, Kafka and Dickins are excellent tools to ‘build worlds’.  In Youth Theatre, it’s practically essential you build the world around the characters.

In a Youth Theatre show, you often have a vast array of young people.  The Dumb Waiter or Abigail’s Party or Art certainly exist within a world, but it’s a small world of a handful of actors in a single room.  But Youth Theatre can boast much larger casts, and can use this to their advantage to build societies, scenes, locations and, essentially, a whole world.  The river dwellings, the dust mounds, the High Society toffs, the pubs and the water itself all become locations full of movement and character.  There’s never a dull moment, and the world constantly whirls from place to place with effective pace.  There’s a core cast of characters who present the inhabitants of this world with vigour, all scrabbling and searching for better lives in this grey Victorian land.  Meanwhile the chorus of Mutual Friends shape the world around them: building, exploring and expanding.  It is testament to director Tom Bellerby’s experience with this group, able to mould them into a flawless tight, whirling ensemble.

The end result is an effective telling of what could be a complex story.  It never gets too bogged down in each individual moment, but finds the overarching themes.  Plots, subplots and sub-sub-plots are all marvellously packaged by a tight ensemble.  I could smell the filthy river, the pampered Houses, the stale taxidermy shop.  This is a great success on the part of the creative team as well, the eerie and ever-moving crooked wooden set providing a suitable platform for the cast, not to mention the chilling, ever-present musical score.  Lavery's script is fast-paced, but takes time to tell a few good character-driven joeks before rattling off into another part of London.

In The Castle, I tried to conjure a cold, desolate village of inhospitable pubs, quiet secretive streets and the brooding presence of the Castle itself.  The ensemble of Hull Truck built this world marvellously, but allowed room for perversely flamboyant characters.  It is here that Youth Theatre can really achieve what a ‘professional’ cast of adults cannot. 

I also saw another Youth Theatre show last month.  In The Blue Road by Laura Lomas, recent commission for Derby Theatre, Dundee Rep and the Royal & Derngate, the cast portray a post-apocalyptic world.  Tensions are high, danger lurks and food is scarce.  But what helps define the dystopian world is the backing chorus, their poetic musing on the past, on the present, on hoe, opens up this world beyond the handful of teenagers discussing their options to a larger tale about human struggle.

As someone who visits, and runs, a number of nights where performances are tied to a single mic and a single performer, it is a pleasure to see shows which take me beyond into a huge, sprawling world and navigate the characters within.

Monday, 14 August 2017

20.17 Blog #26: How To Learn Your Poems (ish)

Ah, Edinburgh Fringe.  So close, yet so far.  6 days until my show opens, and here I am.  Furiously learning new poems.  Nothing ever changes, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I have probably annoyed my housemates (and neighbours) in jabbering around the front room, paper strewn around like litter, trying to get those words off the page, onto my head and onto my tongue.

Nevertheless I thought I’d take a break from pouring over poems to just give some quick thoughts on Learning Poems.

Normally my advice for people learning poems is, unfortunately you just learn them.

But here’s some handy tips in that process.

1.  Stand up.  Wander around.  Move your feet.  For me, it gets the blood moving, gets a little bit of a beat.  You find the highs and lows of the poem, where the energy hits certain beats.  I’m a fidgety person, and I like to use that habit in learning by getting moving.

2.  Break down the poem into sections.  This helps if you have verses, or a repeated line.  Find the checkpoints, where you need to get to, where you’ve come from.

3.  Keep having a go at it without the page.  Don’t glue yourself to it.  If you’re getting it wrong, check rather than constantly stare at the infuriating page.

4.  Intense bursts.  Go over and over it, but then take a good breather. Let it sink in, let it cement.  Go make some food, read a book/magazine.  Have a dance.  Write a blogpost.

5.  Don’t panic.  If all else fails, turn the page into a prop.