bella.basura on Instagram

I have recently started posting on Instagram. #bellabasura

I am re-photographing the whole of the Skull Collection for this first project.

Strawberry Fair Skull. Tealight holder, Shoreditch 2018. Gifted by Adam Crawford.

Strawberry Fair Skull. Tealight holder, Shoreditch 2018. Gifted by Adam Crawford.

#theskullcollection

Over time I will be gradually updating the photographs in the Skull Collection archive on this site.

Silver Earring. The Great Frog, Carnaby Street 1982. Collected by Bella Basura.

Silver Earring. The Great Frog, Carnaby Street 1982. Collected by Bella Basura.

 

 


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Mosaicked with Swimming Horses

One-off performance in the Cambridge festival of Ideas
of Mosaicked with Swimming Horses
19th October, Upstairs at Waterstones Sidney Street

Click here for more details and to book tickets
and to view the 2018 Cambridge festival of Ideas Programme

 

 


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Bella Basura Performance Friday 5th October

I will be performing DuckBeak Friday coming at this event. The piece concerns the vaginal speculum and was devised during a writing intensive week run by The Artists Development project at The Cambridge Junction.

Cambridge Women Rising

Friday 5th October 2018
6.30pm – 10pm (doors open at 6.15)
St Philips Church Centre, Mill Road, CB1 3AN

Join the Women’s Forum for a celebration of women’s achievements, empowerment and creativity and explore ways of getting more active & involved in the Labour Party locally

 Talk by Fiona Onansanya MP on being a woman in County Council and in Parliament

 Taster workshops on being assertive; being a councillor; Mindfulness Qi Gong

 Performance: Dodie Carter’s beautiful accordion playing and Bella Basura, writer, performer, bookbinder and blogger, performs ‘DuckBeak’

Stalls: find out more about the Ethnic Minority Forum, Universal Credit, ‘Democracy not Fracking’, Ending Period Poverty; being a councillor

Art installations from Rebel Arts’ Umbilical Cord celebrating inspiring women in Cambridge women’s lives

‘Sew Angry’ will launch the making of a Women’s Forum banner and we’ll continue making this in banner workshops in North Cambridge during the autumn

 Raffle: prizes include signed copies of Conferences speeches, Labour Party Manifesto, a ‘period dignity’ T-shirt, and Shami Chakrabarti’s book On Women.

Books for sale; drinks and home-made snacks

This is a fundraiser for Cambridge Women’s Forum work to support and facilitate the involvement of low income and ethnic minority women in the Labour Party. We suggest that you donate of what you can afford. Enquiries: susanbuckingham07@gmail.com

Recall of Cthulhu

I have been performing this story for about two years, and now seems like as good a time as any to finally post it up on my site – 

The Recall of Cthulhu

The trinket in the charity shop window snagged at my eye. It’s shocking familiarity transfixed my gaze and threw my thoughts off into stark memories that had only just been forgotten.
The tiny statuette was Art Deco in flavour and gleamed with a dull gunmetal sheen.
I knew the piece well, it was part of a popular collectible series. A few years ago they’d been everywhere, ubiquitous in new age shops, tawdry fairy-tat fit only for St. Audrey’s fair.
They came with different gemstones inlaid, different cute poses, different blessings – fertility/protection/love/peace – or with different curses – disappointment/hubris/self-pity/solitude.

The little pewter love fairy, pretty but anodyne, with a ruby red inlaid heart,
had been given to me and my husband, I mean  ex-husband, as a wedding gift from a relative stranger. Although it sat on our “wedding blessings, shelf”, enshrined for many years,
truth to  say I never really liked the thing. It wasn’t my cup of tea, no.,
No, it offended me actually, it was a Lady Cottington fairy, a Flower fairy, a fluffy-bunny new-age denatured, deracinated post-ironic anthropomorphised cherub-fairy.
A Walt Disney  fairy.

Not the fearful fulsome fae in the ancient tales that I have heard whispered in the places hereabouts.
Traditionally, we humans fear the fairies, we lay devotional altars to beloved land wights deep in out-of-the-way places,
we beg the unliving for permission to live,
if they call at our door we dare not invite them in,
yet must not turn them away,
we avoid treading on their fairy paths
or jumping in their fairy rings,
and we never ever eat a single morsel of food at faerie feasts in the Hollow Hills. For fear of enchantment, lest we never return home for hundreds of years.

The Fae are dark, and among us still.

More than that, and I’m going to speak my mind now, the gemstone at the figurine’s heart laid waste to the spell of unconditional peace promised by the fairy talisman. The cut ruby was a product of murderously cut-throat gemstone mining, human rights abuses and land-rape par for the course and if you think about it, if you think about such things, that’s a very heavy karmic charge to be carrying. The piece was, in its totality, an enduring damnation of the vanity and disingenuousness of New Age commercial pretensions.

No wonder it all ended in divorce.

Strawberry Fair 2017. Photo by JS Watts

Strawberry Fair Wild Strawberries Stage 2017. Photo by JS Watts

I scrutinised the trinket through the plate glass window, I could swear, I really thought, it was the same, it seemed to me, the very same.
But it wasn’t. I knew it couldn’t be, because after the Decree Absolute, just before I moved out, I buried that love fairy, upside down, anointed in cat shit and toxic toad spit,  leaving Tinkerbell forever in sprite-ish torment, under the offering table to the unspeakable, beneath the onerous shrine of Cthulhu – blasphemous, swooning,
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn,
at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

 

 

 

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The Worm of Haftvad

Last weekend I had a wonderful time at a storytelling event at Buckden Towers. A group of us stayed all weekend sharing tales from the Shahnameh, a Persian text by 10th century poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi. The schedule organised by Marion Leeper was wall to wall storytelling, it was pretty intense but rewarding and enjoyable with long breaks to chat, make new friends and eat loads of food, biscuits, cake and pudding.

Here is the script of the tale I related.

Haftvad and The Worm

The tale I am about to tell reputedly happened during the reign of King Ardeshir almost 1800 years ago, and it was related to Fedowsi in the tenth century by a travelling snake-oil salesman.

High atop a precipitous mountain, somewhere in modern Iran there still stands a glorious citadel built in mud. It has become known to us as Arg-e-Bam – the castle that exploded.

It’s turrets gaze out over the surrounding country, a magnificent mountain castle keep of unparalleled splendour, it is still the world’s largest adobe building, more extensive and breath-taking than the ancient mud ziggurats of Ethiopia.

But who built this opulent fort? we ask ourselves, which munificent princeling created this enduring wonder? – the answer is nobody knows, his name has not come down to us through history, it has been buried in the shifting sands of time. Arg-e-bam was founded by a man with no name.

But I am getting ahead of myself, at the beginning of the story there is no mountaintop citadel, there is only the modest town of Karajan.
That distant town nestled in a rich fertile valley crescent, cupped between the shore of a clear glassy  lake. And  the abundant forest foothills of a craggy, scree-riven  mountain. Karajan, A small dead-end of hard-working tranquillity.
This small moth-eaten town at the far end of a minor tributary path that meanders on into a circuitous ancient route that leads on to the laden caravans and the astonishing marvel of the ancient Silk Road. (gong)
In the  town of Karajan – that scraped a paltry existence through the crafts of spinning and weaving –  there once lived a man with seven sons who the Shahnameh tells us was called Haftvad. Now the strangest thing about Haftvad was that he had no name, Haftvad simply means “The Man with Seven Sons”.

So, Haftvad had no name and neither did his sons. But the strangest thing is that Haftvad also had a daughter, and he took no notice of her. He took notice of his singular beautiful daughter, the most important person in this story. Haftvad’s daughter, who also has no name. Haftvad’s only daughter,  his one daughter, his first, his number one, his prima. And because I think she deserves better than to be nameless, I shall call her Alif, like the first letter of the  alphabet.

The people of Karajan lived in a state bordering on poverty. And like his neighbours, Haftvad made a living in the town, a small living, more than just surviving, but not much more.  It was a poor but cheerful town.

The people worked hard, carding and spinning and weaving the most exquisite fabrics.  Even the children worked hard. The boys spent their nights high in the mountains with their herds, or days in the fields tending fibrous crops. And each day, from early in the morning the girls, the unmarried maids of the town, tramped out into the hillsides, with their heavy distaffs and their bales of wool, and they  spent their day on the hillside, spinning, not returning until nightfall, laden with skeins of yarn. These were poor resourceful girls who were able to spin most anything into thread of some kind. They could spin cotton, linen, stinging nettles, hemp, , they would spin sheeps wool, goats wool, rabbits wool and when they could get it – they would spin the finest, beautifulest, most sought after yarn of all, from the wool of a worm.

girls spinning illustration from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh

The thread the girls spun was taken down into the town at nightfall and stored to be weaved into long bolts of fine cloth by the rest of the townsfolk.

Like most of the girls and women of the town, Alif’s dark sleek corkscrew hair was twisted and coiled up with a beautiful woven headscarf, she looked very fine. Indeed, all the girls and women dressed well, they were poor, but lived in a town where off-cuts and remnants of luxurious cloth were bountiful. All the maidens of the town were impeccably dressed, and wanted only jewels and shoes to be mistaken for princesses. They lived the opulent lives of a rag man’s daughter.

This rhythm of life persisted through time, unchanging and consistent until one strange day when Alif found a worm.

That day started the same as any other fine autumn day. The girls gathered at sunrise and made their way through the fall trees, their leaves tipping orange. They found a clearing in a mulberry grove and spun with laughter and gossip and hard work. At lunchtime they sat in a circle and chatted over their food together.

Fedowsi tells us –
It was just  at that moment Haftvad’s daughter found
A windfall apple lying on the ground
And picked it up – now listen carefully
Because this story’s quite extraordinary:
She bit the apple then, but as she tried it
She saw a little worm there coiled inside it:

Well now, we’re all familiar with the story of the maiden, the snake and the apple, and I can almost hear you calling out: “No! No! Don’t eat the apple! Don’t eat the apple!”.
But have no fear, this story is about Alif, not Eve, it’s not about a priviledged trustafarian snowflake cupped in the palm of gated-community paradise. This story is about Alif a practical down to earth girl, a lowly spinster living in a threadbare textile town, somewhere south of the Silk Road.
So Alif restrained herself, looking at the maggot in the mulberry apple,

She scooped it out and gently found a place
For this small worm inside her spindlecase.
And as she took up her cotton she said
“By God I swear, today I’ll spin such thread,
Helped by this apple’s lucky worm, that you
Will be amazed at what I can do!”
The girls began to laugh – in their delight,
There faces glowed, there teeth shone silver-white”

Which just goes to show that although they were poor they could still afford toothpaste.

Well, come sunset that day, the girls gathered up their spindles and counted the skeins of yarn they had spun. And true to her prediction, Alif had spun much more than she usually did. The other girls were agog at Alif’s productivity. “That truly is a magic worm!” they exclaimed “You should take good care of it” “it is a blessing” Alif agreed as she marked the amount on the ground then ran like wind-bourne smoke to show her mother how much she had completed. From that day on Alif fed the worm each morning and kept it safe in a box under her bed. Alif said to herself “I am going to spin so much thread, by the grace of this worm, that I’ll never be poor again”.

– And so, Alif fed the worm everyday
And the worm increased in size day by day
Alif’s spun more and more thread by the week
Her father grew richer and richer every month

Alif looked at the growing worm and admired it’s smooth sleek scaled black skin. And here’s the strange thing she noticed about the Worm – it had a tiny weeny wincey mouth and the hugest fat stomach you have ever seen.  So it could eat only the smallest of morsels, but could never eat enough to fill it’s big empty belly. And Alif wondered for moment if the Worm was a metaphor for greed, but then she stopped herself because she was a down to earth parochial girl and the fancy Chinese concept of a hungry ghost was beyond her comfort zone.

Every morning Alif fed the worm a piece of the apple, and however much cotton there was, Alif magically spun it into thread.

The image of the girl miraculously spinning preternatural amounts of yarn often appears in European fairy tales. And generally the girl is tricked by some disguised evil magician so that her only escape from forever spinning is to solve a riddle by guessing a name, or hand over a newborn child or kiss an ugly reptile. Not so in this story because  – the Worm, like almost everybody in this story, has no name to guess, Alif has no first born son to sacrifice, and although she’s poor, she’s not about to go snogging with a maggot, however beautiful it’s black and orange crackly skin. Alif has standards.

So, in the story of Haftvad and the worm there seems there is no quest, no riddle or tribute to pay. The magic worm gave Alif the ability to spin monumental amounts of thread and asked nothing in return beyond it’s basic needs of food and shelter. And over time Alif’s prodigious output is such that her family are no longer able to keep up, they need to employ people, more and more people, to help weave the copious thread into cloth…

After a time Alif’s father began to notice her and wonder at her miraculous skill, the source of his burgeoning wealth and he questioned her. “You spin so much that it seems that you’ve taken a fairy for a sister”.

Alif laughed because she knew there were no fairies in this tale. “it’s from the apple and the little worm inside it” she said, then she showed Haftvad the miraculous worm and explained everything to him.

At this point the story totally changes direction,  and Alif simply disappears from the narrative, it truly now becomes the story of Haftvad and the Worm. Because at this moment, Alif’s father – Haftvad –  instantly took control of the situation. Haftvad assigned assistants to care for the worm and he used his new found wealth to build a castle keep on the nearby mountaintop for the Worm to live in. And as Haftvad’s wealth grew he assigned courtiers and soldiers to attend the worm and he extended the castle keep into a grand Fort, where the worm was indulged, safe secure and comfortable. The Worm continued to grow. As Haftvad’s wealth grew he incorporated a magnificent citadel around the fort on the mountaintop. And Haftvad assigned Viziers and Generals to serve the giant worm. Although in truth the Generals and Viziers franchised out the day to day care of the worm to some dodgy private security firm. Haftvad realised that his continued wealth was dependant on the whims of the worm and he did all he could to appease it, keep it safe and keep the money rolling in.

And the town prospered, and the women and girls of Karajan were soon able to afford the jewellery and the shoes to make them the very simulacra of princesses.

Alif, of course, kept on spinning, she was the goose that laid the golden egg, endowed with the blessing that turned to a curse. Like Ariadne she had to spin for her life.

And as this is no fairy tale, it is as it always is in real life Haftvad’s conspicuous wealth and power attracted the attention and envy of malcontents, thieves and kings. At first Haftvad easily suppressed these attacks by the grace of the magic worm, and through a combination of largesse, cowardice and the brute force of his seven sons – each of which commanded an army of 10,000 soldiers a piece. Haftvad grew in power.

Alif spun on as was her destiny, the eternal spinster silhouetted, momentarily glimpsed through the dim light of history.

Haftvad’s fortress citadel became so well-known that they say even the winds of heaven didn’t dare blow around it.

Twice King Ardeshir himself rode  against Haftvad and twice the King was trounced.

Defeated, the King and his armies returned home. The Worm’s reputation went before him. Skirmishes broke out but as soon as the soldiers heard of the tale of the almighty worm they lost heart and fled. So it was that finally, Ardeshir resorted to underhand methods, he devised a cunning plan to kill the Worm itself and break it’s spell. And so in the end the Worm was brought down through a combination of trickery, flattery  and ill-conceived drinking games with the worm’s guards.

As the Citadel trembled and shook from the explosive death throes of the Worm, King Ardeshir pronounced from the ramparts of Haftvad’s vanquished citadel “I fed the worm molten lead; his power is gone.” Hadvad and his sons were executed and their names were erased from history.

High atop a precipitous mountain, somewhere in modern Iran there still stands a glorious citadel built in mud. It has become known to us as Arg-e-Bam – the castle that exploded.

It’s turrets gaze out over the surrounding country, a magnificent mountain castle keep of unparalleled splendour, it is still the world’s largest adobe building, more extensive and breath-taking than the ancient mud ziggurats of Ethiopia.

Submissions for Edgewords Renewal Anthology

The deadline for Edgewords Renewal Anthology draws closer, next week in fact, so please do get your finger out and send us your wonderful SHORT fictions and poems. There is a word limit of 300 words or 30 lines – details are on the Edge Cafe website – here.

The new anthology is edited by Munizha Ahmad-Cooke, Lisa Evans and Jean Dark. We have had several very wonderful submissions already, and the 19th September deadline is now looming. We are still waiting for you to send us YOUR contribution.

We recently recorded Munizha’s beautiful piece -Ripe – which appeared in the first Edgewords Anthology, you can listen to our reading of it here.  It was recorded a few week ago at Lisa’s, in the home studio she shares with her partner Colin. So many thanks to Colin for making the recording, we had such a lovely afternoon!

Follow this link to send your submissions to us – Edgewords Renewal Anthology

The Edgeworders. by Victor Manuel-Ibanez for Oblique Arts. 2017.

The Edgeworders. by Victor Manuel-Ibanez for Oblique Arts. 2017.

The first Edgewords Anthology was published last year, and came about through a series of Creative Writing workshops during September and October 2017. We were lucky to have the support of Oblique Arts, The Edge Cafe and Cambridge City Council who made the project possible.

Here is a photograph of the writing group by Victor. I think we look like a rock band! In fact, we are pausing during a workshop, at The Mayan Pyramid near Snakey Path on a writing expedition to Cherry Hinton Hall.

 

Edgewords Renewal Anthology Submission Form

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New to The Skull Collection

Jonny’s Skull.

This beauty used to sit on Jonny Marvel’s mantlepiece, in the Upstairs Lounge at Chalmers Gardens (Top Manor).

Jonny's Skull

Jonny’s Skull. Lifesized soapstone skulll with glass marble eye socket. Sculpture by Jonny Marvel, collected by Dan Cooper. Donated July 2018.

I knew of Jonny from the chaotic cavortings of Theatre Ov Thee Absurd days, and often went down to the old Boatrace to gawp at the shenanigans. I got to know and love Jonny better years later (2004) when we worked together at Libra Aries Alternative Bookshop on Mill Road, lots of cups of tea and hilarious conversations later, the council offered me a flat a few doors away from Top Manor. That’s when we began working together on the sadly-unfinished Sex Toy Library spoken word and soundscape Project.

I must have stared into the skull’s beady glass eye for over a decade of hanging out at Jonny’s. It was just one of many wonders and splendours Jonny kept around his flat.

But the skull always caught my eye. It eyed me, and I eyed it. But we never really saw each other clearly until very recently when  Dan Cooper brought it over to me during the clearance of Jonny’s flat. I had always thought it was grey-ish, Jonny’s lighting style was always atmospheric. But when I saw it in broad daylight I was astonished to see it was almost white. It was to be donated to my Skull Collection, and hopefully exhibited at The Edge Cafe in December, when they are hosting a retrospective of Jonny’s artwork for a month.

I was sad to see it had lost it’s beady eye, but ADie HiDef donated some marbles, so with the help of Toby Ilsley and some blu-tac, Jonny’s Skull may soon be entire again.

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Jonny Trilogy Part Three

A Last Poem For Jonny

Jonny Marvel's Head by Toby Ilsley 2018

Jonny Marvel’s Head by Toby Ilsley 2018

This is a room hung with grief
Swags of bombazine and
Weeping weeds wilting
Sick with perfume
There are no selfies
Nothing of us close friends sitting
Talking laughing weeping
Talking furiously to keep the madness
On the other side of the door
This is the place of the end
Doors curtained off
With dust-pleated damask
No social media here
Just straight talking
And jags of silence
So there’s nothing to show
for those times of grace
nothing to offer
to the land of Instagram
nothing to show
but I don’t want to leave here now
don’t want it to be
time to go now

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On Turning 55

Here’s my birthday poem, which I performed at the Edgewords Open Mic on saturday.
ENJOY!

Cat Woman by Toby Ilsley 2016

Cat Woman
by Toby Ilsley 2016

I am that old lady
Your parents warned you
Not to become
I am Cat Lady
Old Lady
Spinster
Childless
Bookish
No filter
Not silent
Not schtumm
Ha Ha Ha!

I am that old lady
Alone and cat-ridden
Silently scribbling in the night

I am that old lady
Your parents warned you
Not to become
I am Cat Lady
Old Lady
Spinster
Childless
Bookish
No filter
Not silent
Not schtumm
Ha Ha Ha!

Dream Damaged

I have just posted up my first attempt at a Youtube video.
Dream Damaged

Derelict Elm 14

 

 

The text is one that I’ve had knocking around for sometime. It’s one that I used extensively when working with Jonny Marvel on Thee Sex Toy Library Experiments during 2015 to 2017. I have reused the text here with sounds, samples and support from Eli Saxman and Shakey Navel-Bones. The images are of a supposed derelict Elm in Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge. June 2018.

 

 

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