Francesca Beard – Writer/ Performance Artist
Francesca Beard has been called 'brilliant' by the Scotsman, 'spine-tingling' by the Independent and 'The Queen of British performance poetry.... One of our finest cartographers of the human heart' by London Metro.
She has performed her poetry all over the world, from a Colombian prison to Namibian Bush Schools to Bangkok Book Fair with the British Council and all over the UK, in theatres, arts centres, festivals and clubs. She has taken seven shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and toured her one woman shows, 'Chinese Whispers' and children's show 'Animal Olympics' nationally and internationally. In 2008, she was on attachment to the Royal Court as one of the country's most promising emerging writers. She has been a writer in residence at the BBC White City, the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Police. As a workshop facilitator, she runs sessions in schools, galleries, libraries and theatres across the the UK for many agencies, including BookTrust, Creative Partnerships, Apples & Snakes, the National Theatre, the Arvon Foundation and with the British Council internationally. She is currently developing an interactive story-telling programme for live and digital platforms with Marc Boothe and B3 Media, supported by ACE, with a recent digital residency at The Banff Centre, Canada.
(photo taken by Carlos Cazzuro at Kosmopolis, 2011)
My name is Francesca Beard.
Well, I’ve got two names, an English one and a Chinese one.
Francesca’s my English one, except of course it’s Italian and it means Lady from France.
Which doesn’t really describe me.
My Chinese one is May Yee which means beautiful and useful and that doesn’t really describe me either.
I was born on the 1st April, by caesarian section, after a 36 hour labour.
It left me with a life-long fear of being late - but hey, no birth canal trauma.
Unfortunately, my mother was exhausted so I spent my first days in an incubator.
Even now, I can't abide greenhouses, or to be touched.
My first word was fish, but it was my little brother who was the surreal one.
Here is an early example of his work.
"Once there was an egg and it growed up to the sky.
Black was it's face and it's face was all black and it fell down to the ground with a plomp and that is the end of my egg song."
He was the original geek - he went to school when he was still in nappies. Had a big head - very unstable. And this weird voice, very deep, with a lisp and some unaccountable regional accent.
"Theska, theska, he'd say, don't sister me, I'm busy."
My father was a turf accountant, but he called himself an astronaut for tax purposes. He was typical of his generation in the 70's - obsessive, with mellow tendencies. He'd do feng shui like it was tetris.
"Keep off the grass, Ah Foo",
said my mother. Ah Foo means Spacey, in Chinese, or quite literally, trousers falling down.
My mum was called Lian Choo, which means 'Lotus Pearl' but rotten banana if you say it wrong and if you say it like I just said it, it means 'Filthy Penis'.
She was a gambler, like her mother and grand mother before her.
She didn't really like gambling, being the most scrutable woman you could meet, but it went with the whole drinking, smoking, violence thing.
Once, when I was six years old, she took me along to a mah jong convention at the Singapore Hilton. I got bored and wandered off to the basement where a kindly waiter gave me a bowl of magic orange smiles. Actually they were tinned mandarin segments, but the juice leaked into my brain and for years, I could see the shapes of music.
Even now, when I stare up at a really blue sky, I can taste the frequency.
That's me, what about you?
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