To ACE or not to ACE

It’s been an eclectic lot of stuff I’ve seen this week. Two London Word festival events (Ox Tails and School for Gifted Children), Wax Lyrical (Colchester Arts Centre), Blonde Bombshells of 1943 and Catastrophic Sex Music (both at the Mercury, Colchester).

One clear thing that struck me was the fact that the evenings that most engaged, challenged and excited me had the smallest audiences. Perhaps this is some comment on my artistic taste? I’m simply weird I guess for preferring to sit in a room hearing Joseph D’Lacy read from his bloodcurdling novel Meat, Salena Godden perform The Great Cock or have two performers yell cunt and other obsenities at me at close quarters than hear the lush swing sounds of the blonde bombshells.

But I’m missing the main point here. What really excited me about these events was – quite simply – the quality and fierce poetry of the writing. And across all three events I don’t think any of the writers involved can have been over thirty.

Throughout the week I was reminded of an artice in the East Anglian Times by fellow Wivenhoe resident Martin Newall. Para – phrasing horribly Martin was suggesting art was better without the bureaucratic influence and support of a body like ACE.

Now I’ve had a love / hate relationship with ACE over the years – even predicting (wrongly, of course) its demise in my graduate thesis. But without ACE subsidy at least two – possibly three – of the events would never have happened and I’d have been left with a diet of blonde bombshells* (which was – by the way – excellent for what it was – just really, really shallow!).

And right now it is impossible to assess the impact of those opportunities, to the writers involved. In ten years will I be re calling this moment as one of them picks up the Booker, The Forward, The TS Elliot or lights up the West End stage? Until then I’d like to reserve judgement on whether that ACE support right now was bureaucratic waste of time and money or a wise investment which reaped dividends.

Catastrophic Sex Music by Byshee Coffey, directed by Janice Dunn and produced by Colchester Mercury Theatre is at London’s 503 Theatre from 31 March – 4 April.

Wax Lyrical is part of the poetry link – a poetry tour across the East of England. As well as Salena Godden the evening featured Poeticat, Yam Boy and Ross Sutherland. The next Wax Lyrical features Martin Newall on Thursday 24 April.

Ox Tails at the London Word festival featured Ross Raisin’s Gods Own Country and Joseph D’Lacy’s MEAT. Part of the London Word Festival Reviews of the books at and

*post script – arguably I might have been without blonde bombshells too. The production was originally commissioned by West Yorkshire Playhouse and the current touring production originated at The Octagon, Bolton – both venues heavily supported by ACE!!


2 thoughts on “To ACE or not to ACE

  1. hullo mr linley,

    glad you enjoyed ox tales and school for gifted children. just a quick note: neither events received any ACE funding whatsoever.

    toot toot!

    tom x

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