Sunspots finale: Nottingham Lakeside Arts, January 26

'Are you planning for your nebula? The things you'll leave behind?' So, the Sunspots tour is done. Sunset was at Lakeside Arts on the campus of The University of Nottingham, my alma mater and the place partly responsible for the allusiveness of Sunspots. When I was a student the pavilion was closed, or lying doggo, but now it's a vibrant and prestigious arts venue.

 Photo by Matt Buck

Photo by Matt Buck

Looking out over the lake again, I remember one winter term when it froze over and we would run into the middle, jump up and down to make cracks in the ice, then sprint in giggling terror to the shore. In the house tonight there are friends, students, an ex, and my favourite tutor from student days. As usual, before the performance I feel I'm treading on thin ice but that's part of the appalling thrill of doing this show.

 Setting up and testing the brilliant screen at Lakeside Arts

Setting up and testing the brilliant screen at Lakeside Arts

The sound and visuals here are outstanding: Jack's films look glorious and I have a nice wedge monitor to keep an ear on my vocals. For the second time on this tour, I brought the flugelhorn with me and I try to make it sound as beautiful and mournful as possible. The lights are very intense and for much of the show I can't see the audience at all. At times I feel I'm talking into empty space, which is how the Sun feels at the very end of the show, so it's entirely fitting, if a little uncomfortable.

I meet a good friend and her son after the show and he told me that his A-levels are English, physics and music and he thanked me for squeezing them all into one show! That comment alone made the whole project worthwhile. By the way, his little brother went on to become BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016: they're a family of amazing musicians and if I'd known he was coming to see my efforts on trumpet and flugelhorn I would have had an even rougher time with pre-show nerves.

Earlier in the day, Tom and I talked with undergraduates about writing, publishing, performing and touring and being able to feed back some experience and insight to Nottingham students was very satisfying. I remember writers visiting when I was an undergrad here and how they made writing seem . . . possible. I hope we had a similar effect.

After the show, in the pub and in the hotel, a few of us talked about David Bowie into the early hours. I'm finishing this piece off in October 2016 and my friends are still having conversations about him whenever we meet up. In fact, today I wrote a poem about his narration of Prokofiev's wonderful Peter and the Wolf. Anyway, it's time to move on to new projects but here are some nice comments I received about the show. No one else will print them, so I might as well.

Hello Simon, I was so impressed by your show last night. I hadn't thought really deeply about what to expect – a reading of the poems certainly (which I got) but not the amount and variety of other elements – cinema, loud music, trumpet playing, singing! I loved all of it. I liked the loud music and I was very struck that your reading of the poems didn't seem at all underpowered by comparison. You performed them so articulately – I heard them the better I think for the contrast with all the amped-up sound. Amped-up intellectual firepower held its own . . . And they are such good poems. I've pulled your book off the shelf again. I was very moved by some of them and duly castigated as a poor, bare, fork'd animal by others. I thought the modulation from the kind, lovable, sun – praised Smart-fashion – to remorseless sun (or as  you say 'wounded-animal-sun') brilliant. Hats off!—Mike Sims
It was a joy and privilege to see your show on Tuesday. We listened intently to every word and no word was lost. Reading the poems afterwards is fantastic, because we can remember everything being said/sung/acted on stage. [Name withheld] is a real fan and thought the evening was wonderful. He's still quoting from it. I think it was a revelation for him to see poetry, music and visuals weaves so beautifully together.—Name withheld

There are also a couple of reviews at the end of these links:

Humber Mouth Festival

Oxford Times