Stone the Crones premier, Saturday 11 June

The first Stone the Crones was a ROARing success – those who were there will know about the ROAR! At the beginning of the spoken word event in the evening I read out a poem I’d written some time before but adapted especially for Stone the Crones, incorporating a ‘chorus’ which the audience could join in on – the lines are:

We are the invisible women
You know that we will roar

After a little warm up we were all roaring in fierce and hearty style, ready to welcome our ten open mic-ers, three of whom had attended our free workshop in the morning.

Our facilitator for our first StC workshop was Anita Karla Kelly. Attending workshops with Anita was a crucial part of my journey to re-finding my creativity and discovering that, all along, I had been a poet without realising it. So I know first-hand how great she is at gently but persuasively leading you on a creative journey to surprising places where you produce words you feel proud of.

And she did exactly that with this group – there was laughter, tears, hand holding, space holding, admiration, respect and incredible words! Very proud to have been there.

Our Saturday evening open mic-ers were welcomed open-heartedly by the audience and brought with them incredible material – poems and stories (mostly poems; one story) about poetry, time spent in a psychiatric unit, the sea, sexuality, dating, families, depression, aphasia, politics and more – invoking laughter as well as fierce energy and moving, thought-provoking moments. There was such balance, range and depth – amazing that it all came together by women volunteering to share their work without being officially ‘curated’ – and I shouldn’t be surprised – that’s the point of StC – it’s just confirmation that Bristol’s older women are creative beings with incredible rich voices and experiences.

For the interval I asked the audience two questions and invited them to answer in the form of poetry. Between us we created this beautiful collective poem.

What have you lost? What have you found?

I lost my youth
I found my voice
I lost my violin
I found my cello
I lost anxiety
I found my lion
I lost my flat
I found freedom
I lost my fear
I found my dharma
I lost all the fucks I had to give
I found within a joy to live

I lost my voice
I found my friends
A golden egg cracked its yoke
Splurged majestic sapphire chick
I lost my haste
I found my inner tortoise
I lost my nerves
I found my confidence

I lost my hair
And found my skin (2nd skin to be precise) (song ref?)
I lost my temper
And found my power
I lost my faith
I found the exit
I lost my patience
I found my motivation

After the interval we had our two headliners. I put myself forward as one of them – it felt appropriate to introduce myself and my work, so people had more of an idea about who I am and why I have created Stone the Crones. The audience were so supportive and engaged – what a lovely lot!

Helen Sheppard was our second headliner. Helen is a former midwife who started to write in her forties – very inspiring! She read poems from her recently published collection Fontanelle – exploring themes of birth, health, loss, and those whose voices are often unheard. Her poems were funny, moving, full of images and stories – fantastic!

Someone asked me how I wanted people to feel at the end of the evening – energised and inspired was my answer – it was definitely how I was left feeling. And it seems others felt the same:

“Life enhancing”

“Loved it ! SO good to roar  together xXx”

“I started writing a meno poem @ 5am!
Thank You
🙏 for inspiring me x”

“It was an amazing event, such a diversity of writing and all so well delivered. I also woke up at 5 and started working on a story.”

“That was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night! X”

The top photo shows our gorgeous venue – the café at Windmill Hill City Farm – such a welcoming, relaxed place to gather. This will be our venue every second Saturday for the rest of the year (with a break in August). I think you can almost hear the hubbub and feel the good vibes of the audience in this lovely pic.

More about Anita Karla Kelly

Find Helen Sheppard on Facebook or Instagram.
Her collection is available from Burning Eye Books.