25th January 2018, The Swan Hotel, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1LN
"There is a comfort in shortening days, / in dark-at-five and damp roads shining" begins Angela France's poem Cold Comfort, from her new collection The Hill, and there was comfort indeed in settling down in the Coach House at the Swan in January to experience Angela's excellent show based on and around the book. The show is a layering - of Angela's readings, images and recordings, some about the natural details of the geographical feature in question, Leckhampton Hill, near Cheltenham, and others the enormously effective voicings of archive material surrounding the true - and celebratory - story of how ordinary people reclaimed the land beneath their feet. The book's clamour of voices (including fox and 'brock') and the shape of language on the ear, makes for a rich and rewarding narrative - gorgeous to listen to and see, then a real treat to read and savour later. And there was more mesmeric sound from Robert (Bob) Walton, whose gorgeous poetry, lyrical and witty by turns, shared the platform with song, saxophone and finger piano (all his!) for a set that also made a point of being 'celebratory, against the current grain'. Particularly memorable was Making a Herringbone Harris Tweed Garment, from his new collection, Sax Burglar Blues, which is also a layering, this time of repeated lines, of colour and of things from the natural world - "She sews the black and grey and blue, the dye / of the mussel-bed, the myrtle, the kittiwake, / wave, machair and sky". And as if this wasn't enough, we also had a truly impressive collection of voices in the open mic (an honour, in fact, to present them all) - thank you to Pey Oh Colborne, Stephen Payne, John Hawkhead, Rachael Clyne, Mark Sayers, Michelle Diaz, Crysse Morrison, Rosie Jackson, Anne Gregson, Paul Brokensha, John Powell and Peter O'Grady.