In my little warm ups, I knew I had the poem in my head, and recited it to my mum and my boyfriend. However, when the time drew nearer, I got nervous! On stage I had just warmed up, said my first stanza, then saw myself in the mirror at the end of the room. I looked down and noticed the people in the front row willing me to go on, listening to hear more words that would utter out of my mouth, but none came. I froze when asked a question, I felt myself go to jelly! My nerves had set in and like a rabbit caught in headlights, I admitted defeat. As I came away I could hear people saying 'ah' and, frustrated in myself, I cried, I wanted to run away.
Reluctantly I stayed and listened to the others with their brilliant poems coming out left, right and centre, almost word-for-word perfect. Then I was asked to do it again! I asked someone to help me by throwing sentences at me if I forgot, which they did a lot, and then I realised I hadn't given them the last stanza, but I remembered it! Again, people came back on stage and repeated their poems before me, by then I was settling in to a false sense of security, and was convinced they'd forget me and move on - but oh no, up again I had to get. By then I had got sick of myself, and said to the audience: I'm afraid I don't have another poem to give you. After reciting the start of the poem from the paper I was able to then say it all without looking, but by this time I had had enough, I said I don't feel I am a poet and stood down. The people were so lovely and supportive but I had let the side down, and had we practiced continuously all week in front of people, then I would have been prepared to give the poem to the world.
The day of the carnival came and I was dropped off by car and arrived at my destination half an hour early. That didn't matter but then we couldn't find where the information desk was because it was not properly signposted. There were no chairs, little cover from the rain and we were hidden behind portaloos. I was quite frustrated!! Then the carnival started up and due to where we were situated I couldn't see much of the action, but saw a few huge puppets and a mass of bright colour. Now, I have been learning African dancing for eight weeks, and one of my teachers had said that she was to be playing the skeleton. But, the costume I thought she was going to wear was being worn by a man. Another skeleton costume later and yes, that was her, having great fun and scaring everybody and her acquaintances who didn't have a clue until afterwards that it was her!
The African dancing happened later, and unlike the poetry that I had decided to call off after the night before's shocking performance, I was keen to get something right. Dressed in bright yellow trousers, a green sarong and little black patchwork top, I was ready. Then one of the performers turned up, and it looked like he'd forgotten his costume. Someone pointed to a phone booth and when he opened it there was no poster on the other side. It looked like the plan for a change had failed, but then he emerged fully-clothed in his costume. Standing on the pavement dressed in our colourful costumes and warming up, passers-by started wondering what we were doing, and stayed to see us perform. The dancing was a huge success; with a drum troupe and seven dancers, including the two teachers, we pulled it off and had a ball - even though I was dancing on a road that had a dip in it. The second dance looked a little different to how I'd seen it performed last, then the final two dances were freestyle and we tried to encourage people to join us, but few did. We were exhausted by the dancing but it was brilliant fun and I'd definitely dance again. It's a shame that the dancing and the poetry has ended now, but I'll be looking out for other things to do, so watch this space!
Photos of the Cowley Road Carnival can be found here