MARK O'CONNELL

Writer, Author, Bond Fan

Tag: Polari

POLARI – London’s Best Glitterary Salon

Host and Mr Polari Paul Burston.

Host and Mr Polari Paul Burston.

November 13th 2013 marked the night the Polari Salon had its annual Polari First Book Prize. Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan was on the shortlist this year so attendance in spesh clothing and clean shoes was a must. And no, I didn’t wear the Octopussy dressing gown or Roger Moore ski-suit despite hinting on Twitter I would (the many open stairs at the Southbank Centre rendered the Octopussy nightgown a no-no for anyone underneath not wanting to cop a peek).

And what a grand night it was, putting – as ever for a Polari gathering – the great and the good better all together to honour all guises of the queer word – spoken, sung, poetry, narrative fiction, non-fiction, stand-up, performance art and speech. And that was just host Paul Burston’s entrance!

Before the Prize winner was announced, Polari took on its more familiar monthly form. The nights are held at London’s Southbank Centre, cost a very fair fiver and represent two hours (plus interval, book and beverage stall) of the best LGBT readers and writers out there. This month’s menu of salonistas included Rosie Garland, Patrick Flanery, Dee Chanelle, Helen Lederer, Dean Atta and Charlotte Mendelson. It is hard and wrong to underline faves, but Patrick Flanery’s prose was fragile and quick-fire, Dean Atta’s stand-up poetry struck a very contemporary and sadly apt chord (“racism is institutionalised thinking“), singer Dee Chanelle gave the Brazilian street dancers a run for their volume-levels next door and Helen Lederer (a comedy hero of mine) was typically self-deprecating all over the podium.

And then to the grand master-plan, the denouement of the night and Polari’s crowning glory – the Polari First Book Prize 2013. Announced in true “Acadamee Award” style by the quietly incisive VG Lee (a new comedy hero of mine), the Societe Generale sponsored trophy went to Mari Hannah and The Murder Wall. A lovely winner clearly in awe of her charity telethon sized and much deserved cheque took to the stage and made winners of us all. Okay, she didn’t at all. Nor should she. It was her moment and she earned it. Us other four shortlistees got to go home with the ‘win’ that Polari and Paul Burston took us under his sterling wing. Not only have I been asked to read at Polari this year but I have seen first-hand the immense value and support mechanism it represents for queer writers. Writing is a lonely practise at the best of times. Paul himself has rightfully remarked how writing needs a reader to complete the process. Polari allows all manner of voices a podium or chair or even sometimes just a Re-Tweet and gives an audience to so many people, including myself. That is worth its weight in gold. The use of words as help and support versus the use of words to hate and incite is still the centuries old dilemma of language. Even now the use of phrases like “dyke” or “queer” is over-worried by the over-worriers, when it is up to gay individuals to adopt it into their parlance and out of the box marked “abuse”. Included in the audience was Nigerian activist and TV host Funmi Iyanda and out-gay Nigerian Bisi Alimi (now a welcome UK resident having had to flee his home country and family). The pair have their own [and sadly very] valid LGBT story to tell and THIS is where Polari is more than a few dykes and queers supping Pinot from plastic glasses in the name of literature (not that Burston would allow that complacency to sink in – hence his ever changing rota of readers and performers).

Polari and the work and efforts of its alumni, audience regulars (the life and pulse of each monthly gathering), venue owners and just those that pass the word on is one of the greatest LGBT assets in London and indeed the UK (where Polari is stretching its wings north – see here).

Furthermore, Paul and his team of judges give their time and efforts to reading the longlist and shortlisted titles and for my tale of a 1980s Bond fan to even get dropped on the “to read” pile is the stuff of privilege.

The Polari First Book Prize 2013 judges this year:

Paul Burston (Chair of Judges) – author, journalist and host of Polari.

Bidisha – writer, critic and broadcaster

Suzi Feay – literary critic

Rachel Holmes – author and former Head of Literature at the Southbank Centre

VG Lee – author and comedian

Joe Storey-Scott – books buyer

 

The Polari First Book Prize 2013 shortlist:

The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah (Pan Macmillan)

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus)

The Sitar by Rebecca Idris (self-published ebook)

Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan by Mark O’Connell (Splendid Books)

The Tale of Raw Head & Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf (Chatto & Windus)

 

For more on Polari and why you should get along, click here.

 

 

CATCHING BULLETS is shortlisted for the POLARI FIRST BOOK PRIZE 2013!

QUAD SHEET - POLARI SHORTLISTING (1)Splendid Books and I are more than proud to announce that CATCHING BULLETS – MEMOIRS OF A BOND FAN has been shortlisted for the POLARI FIRST BOOK PRIZE 2013.

Polari is a monthly literary salon held (more often than not) at London’s Southbank Centre. Masterminded by author/writer Paul Burston, it is a queer / LGBT showcase of a brilliant rainbow-hued spectrum of writing, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, performance, works-in-progress, theatre and song.

Previous readers have included Jonathan Harvey, Celia Imrie, Damian Barr, Jake Arnott, Neil Bartlett, Rikki Beadle-Blair, Andy Bell, Sophia Blackwell, DJ Connell, Maureen Duffy, Stella Duffy, Fenella Fielding, Christopher Fowler, Patrick Gale, David Hoyle, VG Lee, David McAlmont, John McCullough, Will Self and many more. Oh, and of course yours truly (January 2013).

The POLARI FIRST BOOK PRIZE is an annual award to honour the best in LGBT writing. CATCHING BULLETS and myself never once imagined we would be rubbing shoulders with a range of very skilled books so are doubly chuffed to find ourselves on the final shortlist. The winner is announced on November 13th 2013 at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre.

POLARI First Book Prize

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of “the World’s Best Gay & Lesbian Hotspots” for 2013! – ArtInfo.

“Lively, funny and inspiring – a gay-themed salon of interest to anyone remotely interested in literature, whatever their sexual bent. Paul Burston’s achievement in consistently bringing together writers and performers who will stimulate and inspire is remarkable” – Patrick Gale

“Always fun, always thought-provoking – a guaranteed good night out” – Sarah Waters, Tipping The Velvet.

“London’s most theatrical salon” – The New York Times

“London’s peerless gay literary salon” – The Independent on Sunday

 

For more details about past, present and future Polari nights then head over to the website. The evenings are a great and relaxed showcase of good writing, creativity, thought and ideas. A bar and book store is always at hand as are great views of London at night, whatever time of year. Though be warned – Polari often sells out quick so get in early.

 

@Mark0Connell

@PolariSalon

@PolariPrize

CATCHING BULLETS at 2013’s BooQfest!

Mark O'Connell / (c) Richard Hedger Photography / 2013I am delighted to be in attendance at Northampton’s glittering celebration of all LGBT writing, BooQFest! I will be there joining a panel discussion on gay playwriting (@ 1130, Royal & Derngate, Saturday 14th 2013), chatting about CATCHING BULLETS and queer memoir writing (@ 1300, Royal & Derngate, Sunday 15th 2013) as well as signing some books and taking in the great event for myself! Cannot wait.

It is a great (and free) literary weekend and well worth popping along to.

 

 

 

2013’s BOOQFEST highlights already include :

We have some of our favourite 2012 authors returning to Northampton (because they loved it so much the first time!) We’re pleased to invite back VG Lee (Always You, Edina) and Joseph Lidster (Wizards vs Aliens, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood).

This year, one of the themes explored by BooQfest is performance of the written word. In fact, to open the festival, critically-acclaimed writer Rose Collis will be performing her original cabaret-style musical show ‘Trouser-Wearing Characters’. V G Lee will be here to help us explore how play writing is contributing to the Queer conversation by treating us to an excerpt from her one-woman play The Lady of the Wild West Hill which she performed at Brighton Fringe in May. She will also take part in a panel discussion with other playwrights including Ben Weatherill (contributor to The Gay Stage) and Mark O’Connell (Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan).

Riding on the success of writing for the brilliant and original CBBC series Wizards vs Aliens, Mr Lidster will join Mr Russell with other authors including Lesley Davis to discuss the mysteries behind their specialist genre – Fantasy! Speaking of fantasy, we are very excited about having our first graphic novelist attend booQfest – Martin Eden. He will be creating gay, lesbian and trans superheroes just for you! And Crin Claxton will be around on Sunday 15th to talk about hir latest ghost whispering book The Supernatural Detective.

Some of the solo author appearance so far include Mr Polari himself Paul Burston (The Gay Divorcee) coming to talk about his work and this years Polari First Book Prize, gay soldier James Wharton will read from his latest book Out In The Army and chat about what it is like to be gay in the army and Musa Okwonga will talk about homophobia in sport and playing for Stonewall.

Another event not to be missed is PROJECT OUT 140 created by Shelly Telly. In this hour, on Sunday 15th at 3pm, we will explore coming out stories told in 140 characters or less (the character limit of a Tweet). Shelly has collected 140 of them in a tiny book called “OUT140: The Little Book  of Coming Out Stories” which costs £1.40. Her choir have even put some of them to music!

Add to that more solo author book readings, Q&A sessions, book signings, workshops some Storytelling from the fabulous Alex Ultradish, and it’s already looking to be a great weekend – and all completely FREE!
For more details go to booqfest.webs.com

 

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