Saturday, 30 June 2012

Reading, Writing, Drawing: Electric Tomatoes are 20!

These drawings are my quick-fire sketches of The Electric Tomatoes in action, at our recent celebrations:

Long before I began writing my first picture book texts as part of my work, I was writing for fun. I have always enjoyed language and always written, whether it was essays, letters, travel diaries, stories or poems. But my writing was pulled into focus 20 years ago. I'd recently moved to Sheffield from London and didn't know anyone, so I signed up for various university evening classes, including a creative writing class, run by the performance poet Matt Black.

At each session, we'd be given random subjects or themes to write around. Sometimes the stimulus was an image, sometimes a word, sometimes a walk... It was fun. When the course came to an end, several of those in the group decided to continue on our own. We kept the format and met every Tuesday night to write for about 90 minutes, read round, then go to the pub to chew the fat. 

The group quickly thinned down to a core of half a dozen and we called ourselves The Electric Tomatoes. Occasionally we perform our work, mostly we just enjoy the writing and sharing.

20 years on, though the line-up has changed a little, myself, Guy and Alison (above) - all members of that original group - are still meeting every Tuesday, and a fourth, Sharon (top), only left us a couple of years ago, because she moved back to Australia (a pretty good excuse). 

The name The Electric Tomatoes derives from a performance poem I wrote in that first year ('Electric Tomato' was a random subject, pulled out of a hat one evening). It seemed fitting to read it again on at our 20 years anniversary party. John (above) read a fabulous, and very funny, poem he'd written especially for the occasion - even better! 

To keep with the tomato theme, everyone attending had to wear red. We ate red food and drank (mostly) red drink. Even our Australian member made it to the party - there's dedication! I invited my SketchCrawl friends too, but it was only Harry (still in school, but already a very promising artist) who brought out his sketchbook and joined me in drawing the performers:

It was a thoroughly creative evening, as well as being enormous fun. Thanks so much to our newest member, Carol, for hosting the whole thing in her beautiful house. 

Here's to another 20 years!


dinahmow said...

Blimey! There must some kind of magnetic pull that draws folk all the way from Australia! ;-)

Jez said...

I really love your sketches, and here's to the next 20 years of your Electric Tomatoes.