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flyer showing four of the Norwich Dandies dressed up in their glad rags

Art collective extraordinaire, The Norwich Dandies, are planning Dandifest! a two week happening, launching on Monday 28 April 2014, running through the May Bank Holiday, and ending on Saturday 10 May 2014. The Norwich Dandies, established in 2010, have worked separately on a vast array of projects, but always have the most fun when they work together. An impressive line-up of Guest Artists will be announced in the run-up to the launch.

Feedback from Helen Jones, after MindOut’s Wellbeing Day in Brighton. “The Norwich Dandies were a delight… They artfully created a corner of creative inspiration and got everyone involved… whatever their level of skill… they were generous, gentle, gorgeous and we can’t wait for them to come back...!”

Current Norwich Dandies are:
Eloise O'Hare, artist and campaigner, currently co-organising the Norwich Rising event, Drum For Justice, an international One Billion and Rising event on Vanentine's Day, highlighting violence against women. Eloise also works for Hospital arts and is a leading campaigner in stopping junk mail to save trees.

Chrissy Sabberton, artist, performance artist, and campaigner, explores the way women are portrayed in the media, and wears a lot of pink.

Dugald Ferguson, artist and actor, is currently working in Berlin. His multi-media show Torrents of Rapture, received Arts Council England funding, and has been seen in London, Madrid, and Brighton, where it touched the hearts of millions.

Ann Nichols, photographer, photojournalist, and campaigner, regularly photographs protests, campaigns, and celebrations. Her work often features in the media.

Vince Laws, founder of the Norwich Dandies, is a poet, artist, and campaigner. Channel 4 News broadcast live from Vince's last happening - a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the Winter Olympics. He was Arts Council England funded for the B.Right.On Festival last year.

Dandifest! will centre on St Margaret's Church of Art on St Benedict's Street, Norwich, with art, poetry, politics, live events, workshops, photography, and whatever else turns up between now and then.

If you want to get involved, get in touch. Volunteer Dandies are always welcome. Contact The Norwich Dandies via vincelaws[at]

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 25 February 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 1 March 2014

Human - first and foremost

Late last year I was commissioned to produce a visual piece based on my poem 'Human'. I had no idea what the end result would be. I was told to do what I wanted. 

I started by re-reading the poem with the commission in mind. The commissioner had said how he liked the way my work contains layers, and how the phrase 'human first and foremost' resonated. 

I was struck by how well another phrase from the poem, 'such a fuck off fabulous host' suited the commissioner. He likes good food and drink, both as a host and out dining. The Biblical meaning of 'host' combined with the profanity of 'fuck off', appealed to me.

I have part of my poem 'Diagnosed' written on a large mirror in dripping blood: 'If I believe in fate I can't cheat it' and for a while I thought about putting 'Human' on top of that. I have another canvas 6 foot wide, 2 foot high, which hangs above my fireplace, it is a constant 'work in progress', and I considered using that. I cut out empty medication boxes and sprayed through them. I tried this onto a roller blind too. 

Eventually I hit upon using a piece which was dark and gloomy, called 'I just stopped taking my medication', which I had made specifically to fill an ornate frame I'd bought at auction. It was hanging above the stairs. I took it down. I turned it 180 degrees and re-made it. It slowly developed. I added collage. Tintoretto's 'Adam & Eve' got painted over. So did lots of other stuff. It slowly grew. It went white. It went orange, yellow, and purple. I used household paints,and then acrylics. Finally I got to red and green. I wanted it to have vitality. I wanted it to have the human touch. Mistakes. Vs. Dust.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, H.I.V.
Human first and foremost,
A maker of mistakes.
The mistake I made,
Was to fall in love.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

I is Immunodeficient - 
I catch more germs than most,
Of course I prefer to think germs think me
Such a fuck-off, fabulous host!

V is for Virus,
It contains both I and Us.
We’re all human first and foremost, 
And in the end, all dust.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 22 January 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 22 January 2014

Killing themselves may not be their Intention…

I’m HIV+ and dealing with depression and in practical terms that means I lack energy and I get anxious and I find paperwork and officialdom daunting. I’m on Employment & Support Allowance and Housing Benefit and receive lower rates of DLA for care and mobility. That said, I undertake permitted work, I can earn up £92 per week on top of my benefits, though work has been scarce. 

On September 8 I went for a medical assessment as instructed by the benefit system. On September 14, and again on Sept 28, I received my E&SA direct into my account as usual. In October I noticed my bank account was getting closer and closer to my overdraft limit. Finally, yesterday, October 27 I went through my bank statements and worked out what was missing and phoned the DWP.

The nurse who had examined me at the medical assessment deemed me fit for work and so my E&SA has been stopped. I now have the option of appealing or going on to a lower rate, i.e. Jobseeker’s Allowance. No one informed me of this decision, so in the meantime I’ve had to top up my bank account with a credit card.

I saw my GP today and he assured me I am not fit for work, and I am not to blame, and that he will support me as necessary. I’ve written to my Tory MP asking for help and to have the E&SA reinstated. I see my psychiatrist tomorrow, an appointment I already have as she is helping me deal with anxiety. I see a disability rights advisor in a week to make my E&SA appeal.

I’m lucky. I am articulate and have friends who support me. But I feel very much as if the rug has been pulled out from under me. The poem that keeps going round and round in my head is this one:

what does it mean to self-harm?
self-harm is a broad term for many acts that cause personal harm,
from not looking after your needs - to scratching, cutting, burning
or hitting yourself, swallowing or putting things inside you.

why do some people self-harm?
self-harming is a way of dealing with unbearable feelings. You
may be overwhelmed by painful emotions. Injuring yourself
may help you cope.

is self-harming attention seeking?
self-harm is often treated with mistrust. If someone you care about self-harms,
you may feel helpless when faced with their wounds,
and your own feelings may cause you to blame them.

is self-harm an attempt to commit suicide?
self-harm is about trying to stay alive. Many more people self-
harm than commit suicide, and most people don't risk their lives.
Of those who do - killing themselves may not be their intention.


Posted by Colin Hambrook, 31 October 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 11 November 2010

Vince Laws gets out of a spot of bother with the BBC

No Complaints So Far…

I do like firsts, don’t you? Last week was Refugee Week and the giant Fusion screen at The Forum in Norwich screened a whole series of short films made by the participants around the theme of ‘Identity’.

In some ways it’s easier for a poet. I turned up at the BBC Open Studio with my script - the poem Human, something I’d already worked on for a considerable time, honing and crafting - and two volunteers filmed me on the streets of Norwich. Back in the studio, I recorded the poem in one take, and now just had to edit the film to fit the beat of the poem. By mid-afternoon, I was finished.

“Oh you won’t be finished yet,” said the lovely Wendy, ‘you’ll want music and effects.” She put the headphones on and watched Human once and there was a tear in her eye. Powerful poetry needs little adornment. “Let’s see what Gary thinks?”

Gary liked it too, adding only two transitions, so the pictures melted more smoothly one into another. “Pity about the swearing,” he said. “We’ll never be able to show it.”

And there it is, on a 26-foot wide public access screen in Norwich, without a bleep. A small sign at the entrance warns visitors the screening contains some adult language. “It’s all about context,” said Richard, the Fusion manager. “We’ve had no complaints so far.”

You can watch my poetry, film Human on youtube above - but you have been warned…

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 13 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 13 June 2010

DAO is pleased to welcome a new blog from visual poet Vince Laws

Disability Pride
Tonight, June 4, I’m performing at the Norwich Arts Centre, at a Disability Pride benefit gig. Tomorrow, June 5, I’m showing visual poetry in the Disability Pride art show at the Forum in Norwich.

One of the pieces is called Human. I wrote it for World Aids Day 2009 and then wondered how to make it visual. I decided to write it out letter-by-letter on my empty HIV and Hep C and side-effects empty medication boxes and bottles. A week before I was due to show it, I gathered together all my empties and started writing with a marker pen. Oops!

I only had enough to get past the first stanza. ‘Fortunately’ my partner at the time was also HIV+ so I added in all his bottles too. That got another stanza done. I even stole the dog’s worming tablet box, but had to admit defeat, and displayed the result as a ‘work in progress’ in a Norwich church and a Brighton nightclub.

I’ve realised that the longer it takes me to complete, the healthier I’ve been, so I’m pleased to announce that Human at the Forum is still short of the very last line!

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, H.I.V.
Human first and foremost,
A maker of mistakes.
The mistake I made,
Was to fall in love.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

I is Immunodeficient -
I catch more germs than most,
Though I prefer to think germs think me
Such an absolutely fabulous host!

V is for Virus,
It contains both I and Us.
We’re all human first and foremost,
And in the end, all dust.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 4 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 June 2010