Friday, 12 April 2013

Get your submissions in for Newisland Arena anthology.Dave Lordan On New Planet Cabaret

Guest Post | Dave Lordan On New Planet Cabaret

Dave Lordan is on wordpress, twitter, and facebook. His latest book is the short fiction collection First Book of Frags.
The basic concept behind New Planet Cabaret is Inspiration. Given access to a sizeable national radio audience, how many people could I provoke into creativity with an attractive and suitable overall theme, clear advice,  stimulating prompts and, above all encouragement? I knew many who participated in the project would already be practicing writers and have professional writing ambitions, but I also hoped to involve people who had never written and had no inclination to make a writing career but just wanted to participate for the fun and pleasure of it.
I’ve learned over many years of teaching creativity and creative writing to all kinds of people in all sorts of places that everyone can get a release from being creative, everyone can enjoy it. Creativity is a human inheritance, as deep and wide and as fabulously various as the species it generates and which generates it. New Planet Cabaret is about encouraging creative diversity in both emerging professional practitioners and in members of the wider public whose creativity has, for many different reasons, been less encouraged, less well facilitated, less well-developed.
Arena on Radio 1 is beloved by listeners and contributors alike for its encouragement of emerging artists and new work. I came up with the concept for New Planet Cabaret while bouncing ideas around with Nuala O’Neill, the very receptive series producer for Arena. If emerging contemporary artists in Ireland have a guardian spirit, it’s Nuala. She, along with the rest of the Arena team, has made a historic contribution to culture in this island by creating a broadcast outlet for a new generation of performance and audience-focused artists who are creating work across and between the disciplines of song, stage, and story. Hundreds of songwriters, poets, rappers, storywriters, playwrights, (and some who are all of these things) have received a boost to their careers and a challenge to their talents by the invitation to try to make themselves heard and understood on Arena.
In the main, they have risen to the challenge, producing work – broadly speaking – in the proud vein of experimental populism, work that is innovative and relevant, challenging and comprehensible to Arena’s large, varied, intelligent general audience. Because of its commitment to fostering new work in the living arts, and to helping realise the artistic dreams of the young and unfettered, Arena has managed to post significant gains to the size and reach of its audience, a fact recently reflected in its move from a 7.30pm to a 7pm slot on prime time radio.
I felt, and Arena agreed, that it was time to reflect upon and highlight this very fruitful and perhaps unique collaboration between a popular radio programme and an artistic generation by time-honoured means of an anthology. We would commission wordsmiths of all stripes whose work has enriched the airwaves through Arena to provide us with new work in the thematic ambit of New Planet Cabaret.  Given New Island’s long standing record of supporting new irish writing across a range of genres,  it felt natural to both Arena and I to approach commissioning editor Eoin Purcell to collaborate with us on bringing the project to print.
Alongside the collaborative eclecticism of our cabaret generation is a welcoming inclusiveness, an openness to the contribution of all who show an interest, with the minimum of fuss and bureaucracy. This is reflected in the open mic tradition, which is in bloom around Ireland all year round, whatever conditions are like on the outside. To ensure we incorporated this aspect we decided to throw open a section of the anthology by means of a free, monthly creative writing competition. We could also use the competition, and the buzz created around the project in general, to make that creative educational experiment of a writing workshop over the airwaves.
Over 500 people have taken part in the on-air workshop by submitting pieces to the monthly prompts. Many have submitted to multiple prompts. Others have written to tell  us that they are following and enjoying the course without feeling the need to submit. As is appropriate to a large-scale public education initiative everyone can take part at their own pace and in the way they are most comfortable with. 500 people is 50 average sized creative writing groups, the equivalent of having a course ongoing in every reasonable sized town in Ireland. I am particularly pleased with the high level of involvement of people from rural Ireland, and also by the elderly, two categories of people who may find accessing (and perhaps also affording) creative writing classes difficult. The educational experiment is a success.
In the Autumn New Island will publish The New Planet Cabaret Anthology including the work of the commissioned writers alongside a sizeable section given over to the very best of our competition entrants. It will be the first attempt to bring to print and to radio an anthology in the explicitly cross-genre or even Trans-spirit of the generation of collaborators, hybridisers, experimenters, and mutual inspirers I’m so happy and proud to be a part of. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, New Planet Cabaret is going to include the living work of some of ‘the best minds of our generation’. Watch out for it.
There’s still some time for you to be a part of it. For April I’m sending out an open submission call for writing in any genre,  in any style, on any topic. Send your entry, of maximum 700, marked New Planet Cabaret to by midnight on April  28th.
Dave Lordan will be giving free writing advice along with Colm Keegan at Blanchardstown Library from 5pm to 8pm

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