Start and Continue with Kate Fox

Kate Fox: The Starting Line, Tuesday 3rd July, 1-2pm, Powerhouse Library

Words and Photographs by Rebecca Audra Smith

At Moss Side Powerhouse Library we wait for the whistle to announce the start of Kate Fox’s show. This show is a promising mix of interactive activities and technology, the Bike of Power is mentioned and I’m already wondering how the event is going to play out. As people arrive, each audience member gets a keypad with which they will become a contestant on ‘The Starting Line Quiz’. 
The Starting Line is being held in a gym hall; the wall is lined with basketball hoops and the floor has the traditional squares and lines. The perfect venue for combining poetry and exercise! Kate Fox introduces a bit of the project behind the event, known as the starting point. She was poet in residence for the Great North Run, and chose to take part in the run, both physically and poetically. This event has its own narrative, which sprung from her residency. Just like a swimmer jumps from a springboard, ‘The Starting Line’ jumped from the poem she composed on her run. 
In welcoming us, Kate begins her performance of the poem, which shall guide us through the next hour. We join in with the chorus chant:
Flow like a river


Flow like a line


Flow like an expert


Flow like time
Then we begin the warm-up exercises. Lady Gaga’s, Born This Way, booms out as Kate and her electronic friends conduct us through warm up stretches to Gaga’s classic ‘Monster’ poses. Having warmed up, it’s time to introduce the Great North Run and we watch a video footage of Kate getting ready. She tells us of her plan to finish the run and recite a poem that she had composed while on the run! Doubled motivational skills. We are opened up to the technologically enabled Quiz with the question:
How do you feel when starting something new?
a)     Excited
b)    Nervous
c)     Confused
d)    A bit of both, you numpty.
An overwhelming majority go for option ‘d’ through their interactive keypads, with the results being instantly delivered in a graph on the screen behind Kate, showing the percentages. Next up, audience participation is asked for and a field of hands start waving immediately. An audience member is picked and climbs aboard the Bicycle of Power. Zach powers the show for 12 minutes for the energy reward of a banana. We leave him to it and move back into the event’s poem, feeling the energy of the piece as everyone joins in with the chant.
Flow like a river
Flow like a line
Flow like an expert
Flow like time
Kate transforms herself into Doctor Kate with the use of a lab coat, and two participants eagerly volunteer to take part. One of them is named ‘Samey Sweets Diet’, the other ‘Varied Vitamins’. Samey Sweets Diet; ‘thinks changing the shade of Haribo means variety’; and gets ready to race Varied Vitamins. Getting ready requires dressing up Samey Sweets Diet in flippers, goggles (should have eaten those carrots) and headphones. The benefits of Varied Vitamin means you race without anything holding you back. As expected, Varied Vitamin wins and Samey Sweets sheds their underwater outfit. We conclude with some feedback letting the audience know how many of them are Varied Vitamins and how many are Samey Sweets. You’ll be pleased to hear 62% of the audience believe they are Varied Vitamin. We move from diet to Bristol Stool Chart! Paula Radcliffe briefly appears on screen squatting inelegantly.
My favourite audience interaction piece is called ‘Fartlek’, a running technique defined as ‘speed play’, that can be adapted to your own personal speed. As Kate Fox put it, ‘Running fast when you feel it, and slow when you feel like it’. So there could be a way to talk or walk in Fartlek!

As the second biker chooses coco-pops, an energy value of eleven minutes to pedal for, we move onto visualisation. Kate asks us to close our eyes and think of something we would like to start, then turn it into a starting line for writing. After a few minutes a few people share their first lines:

‘The excitement of starting a new school flew into my body’
‘The anticipation of starting is flying around the hall’
And we move back to the Starting Line quiz.
Question: For running you need to use:
a)     Your body
b)    Your mind
c)     Both of them
For writing you need to use… see choice above!
90% choose option ‘d’ for question one, 67% choose option ‘d’ for question two. Kate comes to the point of what this event pivots on; both activities use the mind and the body.
Today, pupils, teachers and the audience, leave the event with new starts planned for their daily lives, new starts for their writing—supported by All Write! Competition—and with Kate’s promise at the end that: ‘The only way to finish is to get across the start’.
Rebecca Audra Smith is in her first year of a Masters in Creative Writing: Poetry Route. She co-hosts the poetry night: ‘Stirred at Sandbar’, and blogs both here and also updates her own blog with details of freelance creative writing workshops, reading groups and events here. Follow Rebecca on twitter @BeccaAudra

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