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  • Writer's pictureBelle Kenyon

Poets of the future: Simon Corble

Derbyshire-based poet, photographer and performer, Simon Corble, captures the three artistic mediums I love and appreciate the most. Simon is well known for his stunning landscape photography and his poetry performances, with the theatre performance of 'White Light White Peak' being recently performed at the Buxton Fringe. His collaboration with Fly on the Wall will bring his theatre performance and his poetry and photography to life, showcasing the work of an established artist and a love of nature, in Autumn 2019.

Simon Corble Photography

More about Simon:

Besides being co-creator of The 39 Steps stage show, Simon is best known in the North of England for his daring work in wild places throughout the 1990’s with Midsommer Actors’ Company. His adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel The Woodlanders took the company into the forest at Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire and his production of The Hound of the Baskervilles began life on the moorlands at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate. He wrote an adaptation with music of the medieval epic, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight entirely in alliterative verse, which was recently revived in Oxford. His First World War adaptation of the Of Mice and Men story, set on an English working farm, won a Manchester Evening News Theatre Award. Simon collaborated with the Library Theatre, Manchester in 1994 to write and direct The Wonderland Adventures of Alice, which toured Victorian parks all over the country. He has also written and directed for The London Bubble, Lancaster Duke’s Playhouse, and Harrogate Theatre, among very many others.

His most recent poetry commission was for AirSpace gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, where he came up with a small collection on the subject of brownfield sites around the city. He helped start an online magazine for the Peak District, “Frim” in 2014 and contributed very many pieces of both verse and prose to this, along with photographs. He also writes and photographs trails for the Royal Geographical Society, The Peak District National Park and The National Trust – many of these are as audio work.

Simon Corble: A brief autobiography and a discussion of White Light White Peak.

"In 2014, fellow photographer Steve Wake and I started an online magazine for the Peak District – Frim; sadly, it did not survive more than a year, due to other work commitments. It did, however, set me thinking: We noticed how black-and-white pictures seemed to work best to illuminate the poetry, while colour worked well for my prose pieces. Colour seemed to compete too loudly against the quieter voice of the poems.

I had always planned to have my own darkroom, but time moved on and, later, digital photography arrived, making almost anything possible at the click of a mouse. And I had gone into making theatre, not photographs.

I tend to think that I have worked hard at the poetry, while I find people's admiration of my photography vaguely embarrassing. Embarrassing because I have been incredibly lazy about it; never been on a course, never been much interested in “kit” - my current camera I bought mainly because it is incredibly tough; tough enough to withstand my carelessness. I rarely take a tripod out with me, as it's just too much bother and I justify this by saying, “I prefer spontaneous moments.”

Simon Corble Fly on the Wall Poetry

I think the poems have evolved in a similar way though; they have become more and more about the essence of a moment, or series of moments. Perhaps they have been directly influenced by the photography.

I have been asked about White Light White Peak, which comes first, the poem or the photograph? The truth is a right mixture. More often it is the poem, which I then find a way of illustrating, either from images taken at the same time, or from earlier “library” shots; or I have to head back out to complete the sequence.

If a piece starts with a photograph, then I am asking the question: Why did I take that? What did I see and where is it leading? The poem then goes on a voyage of discovery. One such started with a footprint, frozen in ice on a bitterly cold day; it became one of the longest poems in the collection.

It was not long before I realised I had the beginnings of a book in progress. Being something of a showman by both training and nature, the idea to create a live presentation of the material was almost the very next thought. I could see that the book would clearly work, but what about a performance backed by large projections of the photographs? I was unaware of anyone trying such a thing, so I would need to trial the idea before moving forward with either strand.

So, with the book put on hold, a huge amount of 2017 was given over to creating a trial version of White Light White Peak, with many more trips into the field, both to photograph and take sound recordings – the idea was to make the experience as immersive as possible. With invaluable support from Buxton's Green Man Gallery, the first experiment was staged there in the October and pronounced “mesmerising” by the events manager - photographer and writer, Caroline Small. Audience feedback was unanimous – the concept works a treat; “Get on with it!” and, “When is the book coming out?”

Obviously, since the trial theatre performance, over a year ago now, new poems have come along and new photographs; some have screamed, “Put me in White Light White Peak!” I also have a long list of “holes to fill” on the photography front. Adequately capturing a certain stage of the snow's retreat from the slopes below the Kinder plateau, for example, did not become a reality until the day before I first contacted Fly on the Wall. It had been my third or fourth trip out that way and all for one line of one poem, or a few seconds screen time during the live show.

Oh and the title? White Light White Heat, was a track by the Velvet Underground, (about taking amphetamines!) Whenever I pick up my Ordnance Survey “White Peak” map, which I do most days, I look at the cover and the Velvets start playing in my head, but with “peak” for “heat”. Very silly, but I thought the black-and-white photography contains nothing but “white light” so it is highly appropriate.

One thing I have appreciated, over the past few years though: There is no such thing as a truly dull season, or a day without something magical; you only have to let yourself be open to experience."

- Simon Corble.

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