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online gathering




On 29th February 2020 I organised ‘A Leap in the Dark’, the last (as it turned out) in a series of fund-raising literary cabarets which included nights dedicated to Finnegans Wake and Moby-Dick.


That Leap Year night featured music (from Helen Ottaway and Melanie Pappenheim), poetry (Apollinaire’s Zone delivered in French and English by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo and Michael Hughes); ’24/7 Brexitland’ (a satirical broadside written and performed by the poet Amy McCauley), polemic (Tony White and Natalia Zagorska-Thomas), performance (a blazing monologue by Tim Etchells) and the world premiere of Amy’s extraordinary Propositions, now published by Monitor Press. There was plenty of grub, and whiskey. We all had a great time, and so did the audience.

A few weeks later the first lockdown started. 

I wanted to keep the balls rolling so started running subsequent events online, although at that time I hadn’t yet heard of Zoom. I wrote about the idea here:


Our first Leap gathering was on Friday April 3rd after which the programme ran twice weekly on Fridays and Saturdays, featuring poets, authors, translators, musicians, singers, indie publishers, artists, film-makers and other creative types. We had opera, conceptual ceramics, book launches, indie press showcases, close reading masterclasses, film premieres, poetry in French, Greek, Spanish and Irish, quizzes, auctions and an ill-fated attempt at live bingo.


I pulled the plug after the fiftieth Leap and took a month off before launching a new weekly series called Carthorse Orchestra. These began in October 2020 and ran for 12 months, and another fifty shows. 


In the course of these two series more than 300 talents have contributed from around the UK and all over the world: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the USA. Our loyal invitation-only audience is likewise global.


These gatherings are free to join, so donations to The Trussell Trust are welcome. (It’s a food bank charity that does a lot of good in these hard times.) 


A Leap in the Dark and Carthorse Orchestra have together led to the development of a loose-knit company of regular contributors and a loyal core audience. After the fiftieth Carthorse, which was also the hundredth gathering, I threw in the towel as I had a book to complete and edit and submit and needed all my time and energy for that. But there are plans for other programmes in the future - a series of one-off events in December 2021 and after that, who knows? 


My thanks are inadequate but heartfelt - to all the contributors  who  donated their time and energy and talent free of charge; to the audience both loyal regulars and one-off visitors; to the indie publishers who have curated evenings: Bluemoose Press, CB editions, Les Fugitives, Henningham Family Press, Galley Beggar Press, Nightjar Press, Sagging Meniscus Press and Tramp Press. 

Below is a list of all fifty Carthorse Orchestra gatherings, held on Saturday nights between October 24th 2020 and October 2nd 2021, with thanks to all who took part.





Carthorse Orchestra 



1  Oct 24 The Night the Clops Turn Back


At the first in a new series of weekly gatherings to see us through the dark months ahead we’ll have three songs from the artist Georgia Boniface; Tim Etchells will talk us through Forced Entertainment’s acclaimed tabletop Shakespeare (currently online Thursdays to Sundays at 8pm); Oscar Mardell joins us from Auckland to read his latest prose piece ‘Rex tremendae’ and we’ll have contributions from Susanna Crossman (France), Paulette Jonguitud (Mexico), David Holzer (Hungary), and Kevin Boniface (Huddersfield).  


2  Oct 31 Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus


For Hallowe’en we’ll be exploring Mary Shelley’s durable creation, from its origins one stormy night on the shores of Lake Geneva to its many subsequent manifestations in popular culture. We’ll be joined by the poet and biographer Fiona Sampson who will consider Shelley’s life work and legacy, Gary Lachman on the movie versions, Marie-Elsa Bragg on the troubling theological implications of re-animation and author Owen Booth will read his wonderful story with a title far too long to include in this paragraph. We’ll have a celebration of the actor Ernest Thesiger and a few beneficial shocks along the way. 


3  Nov 7 MERDRE! PSCHITT! On Alfred Jarry and Pere Ubu


Peter Chrisp, Lisa Wolfe, Rachel Genn, Frank Wynne, Kevin Davey, Natalia Zagorska-Thomas, David Holzer.


4  Nov 14 Edward Carey, M. John Harrison and friends


Edward Carey, M. John Harrison, Jen Hodgson, Linda Mannheim, Wendy Erskine, Emma Devlin and Helen Ottaway. 


5  Nov 21 Is anybody there? 


Two Songs by David Bremner, performed by Elizabeth Hilliard (soprano) with David on piano; Peter Chrisp and Lisa Wolfe produce some ectoplasm; Lisa Morton on Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances; James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover  - Dan O’Brien in conversation, with readings by Stephanie Ellyne; Marie-Elsa Bragg shares some thoughts on the afterlife; David Collard recalls an encounter with the medium Doris Stokes.


6  Nov 28 Celebrating the Conchy


The Republic of Consciousness Prize, with contributions from Declan O’Driscoll, Kevin Duffy, Will Eaves, Neil Griffiths, Eloise Millar, Sam Mills, John Mitchinson, Alex Pheby, James Tookey, Laura Waddell and Frank Wynne.  


7  Dec 5 Spring Journal launch


Lucy Caldwell, Susanna Crossman, Emma Devlin, Jonathan Gibbs, Michael Hughes, Helen Ottaway, Melanie Pappenheim, Ian Patterson and Guillermo Stitch


8  Dec 12 On Derrida: An Event, Probably


Peter Salmon, Vlatka Horvat, Tim Etchells, Drew Gummerson, Nicholas Royle, Lindas Mannheim, Wendy Erskine and Joanna Walsh.


9  Dec 19 A Christmas Carol with the Carthorse Players


Georgia Boniface, Kevin Boniface, Susanna Crossman, Kevin Davey, Emma Devlin, Rónán Hession, Laura Hopkins, Amy McCauley, J O Morgan, Helen Ottaway, Melanie Pappenheim, Samuel Skoog, Aea Varfis-van Warmelo and Andrew Zec 


10 Dec 26 The Pale Usher’s Boxing Day Lock-in


A private function. What happens at The Pale Usher’s Boxing Day Lock-in stays at The Pale Usher’s Boxing Day Lock-in.


11 Jan 2 We’ll Never Have Paris


In 2019 Repeater Books published the acclaimed anthology We’ll Never Have Paris. 


Edited by Andrew Gallix, this ambitious collection brought together eighty of the most talented and adventurous writers from the UK, Ireland, USA, Australia and New Zealand to explore the French capital through short stories, essays and poetry, creating a vivid portrait of Paris as viewed by English speakers today — A Moveable Feast for the twenty-first century.


With readings by Susanna Crossman, Sam Jordison, Wendy Erskine, Joanna Walsh and Nicholas Royle.


12 Jan 9 We’ll Never Have Paris (part deux)


With Laura Waddell, David Hayden, Heidi James, Gerard Feehily, C. D. Rose, Eley Williams, Alex Pheby, Jen Hodgson and Paul Ewen with Loren Ipsum, a short film by Julie Kamon based on a text by Andrew Gallix. We'll always have We'll Never Have Paris..


13 Jan 16 Trauma: Essays on Art and Mental Health


An event to mark the launch of Trauma: Essays on Art and Mental Health, a new anthology of essays that range from the personal to the political, from the raw to the reflective, exploring topics such as grief, insomnia, anxiety, schizophrenia, meditation, abusive relationships, work, and the connection between madness and creativity. 


Trauma is edited by Thom Cuell and Sam Mills, co-founders of indie publishers Dodo Ink, who will curate the evening. With Monique Roffey, Susanna Crossman, Venetia Welby, Jude Cook, Azad Ashim Sharma, Marina Benjamin, David Lynch and Christiana Spens.


14 Jan 23 Sagging Meniscus Press


An evening curated by the New York publisher Jacob Smullyan, with M. J. Nicholls, Stephanie Ellyne, Stephen Moles, Guillermo Stitch, Seth Rogoff, Jesi Bender, Aaron Antsett, Thomas Walson and Elizabeth Cooperman. 


15 Jan 30 QUEER anthology launch with Frank Wynne


An evening of poetry, prose, music and performance to celebrate the publication of this major new anthology.


Featuring Aea Varfis-van Warmelo, Roz Kaveney, Rónán Hession, Adriana Jacobs, Jeremy Tiang, Lawrence Schimel, Jeffrey Zuckerman, Max Lobe, Ros Schwarz, Andrew McMillan, Anna Halager, Cat Fitzpatrick and Keith Jarrett.


16 Feb 6 The Thirties revisited


“History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme” said Mark Twain. In Britain the 1930s, that ‘low dishonest decade’, are often portrayed as a period that rhymes with our times, given the rise of far-right political movements, public demagoguery, widespread austerity, vast inequalities in wealth, mass unemployment, pervasive anxiety and a loss of faith in democracy. Is that really the case?


With Nick Hubble, Luke Seaber, Elinor Taylor, Peter Salmon and Kevin Davey.


17 Feb 13  A Veritable Smörgåsbord


All smörgåsbords are veritable of course, but some are more veritable than others. This week’s Carthorse brings together a brilliant new literary prize-winner, a neglected Edwardian author, a pocket opera, some spellbinding thoughts about how we think, wonderful lockdown art from the United States, feminist polemic, off-trail love poetry and reflections on proximity. 


Featuring Jake Goldsmith, Riva Lehrer, Ray Davis, Susanna Crossman, Sam Mills, Edward Carey, Rachel Genn, Marina Benjamin, Aea Varfis-van Warmelo and (uncredited) J O Morgan. 


18 Feb 20 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2020/2021 


Curated by Sam Jordison and Eloise Millar of Galley Beggar Press and featuring: Marcus Cheetham, Gordon Collins, Emma Devlin, Edward Hogan, Rashad Hosein, Andrea Macleod, Lotte Mitchell Reford, Nora Thurkle and Lauren Van Schaik. Special guest Stephanie Ellyne.


19 Feb 27 Niven Govinden: Diary of a Film


Niven launches his latest novel Diary of a Film with guests Stephen Kelman, Alim Kheraj, Paul Mendez, Emma Patterson, Sunny Singh and Saskia Vogel.


20 March 6 Carthorse Birthdaystra 


On 29th February 2020 the original Leap in the Dark took place in a derelict and freezing Conservative Club in Paddington, a few weeks before the first lockdown began. This show is the 70th in a continuing series that ran to 50 Leaps and (to date) 20 Carthorse Orchestras. This first anniversary show reunites four of the original performers with longstanding regulars, and two newcomers.


With Kevin Boniface, Susanna Crossman, Caroline Hett, Paulette Jonguitud, Oscar Mardell, Eimear McBride, Amy McCauley, Helen Ottaway, Melanie Pappenheim, Guillermo Stitch, Aea Varfis-van Waremelo and Frank Wynne. 


21 March 13 The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: the opera


A unique opportunity to see and hear the celebrated 1987 opera in the company of the librettist Chris Rawlence. With contributions from Michael Hughes, Rachel Genn, Lawrence Weschler and others.


22 March 20 New Balkan fiction with Istros Press


Susan Curtis of indie publisher Istros Press curates a Balkan showcase featuring fiction, biography and film from Mitija Cander, Daša Drndić (read by Stephanie Ellyne), Feyza Howell, Dušan Šarotar and Faruk Sehic.


23 March 27 The Night the Clops Turn Forward


Carthorse Orchestra began on October 24th 2020 - the night the clocks turned back. Here we are, six months later, on the night the clocks go forward and British Summer Time begins. An eclectic first half features Wendy Erskine (recalling Derry band the Undertones), clothes designer Georgia Boniface (presenting her spring line from her Yorkshire atelier), Shelley Hastings (reading from her work in progress), poet Jacqueline Saphra (sharing some of her hundred lockdown sonnets) and our regular reader Stephanie Ellyne (remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti).                   


The second half, curated by Amy McCauley, has a theme of ‘touch’ and features Nick Powell, Aea Varfis van-Warmelo, Gav Clarke, Nia Davies and Nathan Walker. 


24 April 3  Carthorse OrchEaster


Dan O’Brien reads from A Story That Happens: on playwriting, childhood & other traumas 

‘Dog’s Best Friend’ by Dan O’Brien performed by Terry Kinney 

Galley Beggar Press short story prize winner Edward Hogan reads ’Single Sit’

Charles Boyle on the latest CB editions publication Strange Annals by Roy Watkins

Reading by Roy Watkins

Remembering Leema (part 1) performed by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo

Natalia Zagorska-Thomas on the British vice of self-effacement 


25 April 10  Weatherglass Books launch/Two debut novels


Music from David Bremner and Elizabeth Hilliard

Neil Griffiths (Weatherglass Books) and debut author Isobel Wohl discuss Cold New Climate

Magic with Oliver Catford (1)

Alim Kheraj/Tim Boddy Queer London 

Line by Niall Bourke (Tramp Press, published April 8th) 

Linda Mannheim and Wendy Erskine undertake a close reading of a short story by Ruby Cowling


26 April 17  Wrestling, with French literature


Music from Helen Ottaway

A song from Alice and Liliane Crossman

Introducing Les Fugitives with publisher Cecile Menon

Poetics of Work by Noémi Lefebvre, translated by Sophie Lewis

The Fool and other Moral Tales by Anne Ernaud 

Magic with Oliver Catford (2)

Sarah Elizabeth Cox on Victorian wrestling

Toby Litt on Wrestliana 

Roland Barthes on the grunt ’n’ grapple game

1970s telly wrestlers revisited


27 April 24  Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun, Foulness, Remembering 

             Leema and 100 Lockdown sonnets


Jacob Smullyan on The Exacting Clam

Jeff Chon’s Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun

Charles Holdefer reads from Magic Even You Can Do, by Blast and Bring Me the Head of Mr. Boots.  

Corina Bardoff reads her short story ‘The Quellers of the Flood’ 


David Henningham on Foulness and Henningham Family Press

Remembering Leema (part 2) performed by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo

Magic with Oliver Catford (3) recorded?

Jacqueline Saphra reads from 100 Lockdown Sonnets



28 May 1 Mayday! Mayday! 


Music by Helen Ottaway 

Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) with Kevin Davey, 

Annie Janowitz, David Holzer and Stephanie Ellyne

Close-up magic with Oliver Catford

Ben Pester reads from his debut collection Am I in the Right Place? (Boilerhouse Press) 

Four chapbooks from Nightjar Press:

     Tower Block Ghost Story by T.S.J. Harling  

     Two Degrees of Freedom by Simon Okotie

     The Elevator by Imogen Reid

     The Keeper by David Rudkin


Readings by T.S.J. Harling and Simon Okotie 

Georgia Boniface: Yorkshire couture


DC on Jono Trench (1939-2021)


29 May 8  Prose, poetry, religion, werewolves, zombies, wrestling


DC on Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Jonathan Gibbs long listed Times Audible Short Story Prize read by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo

Rufo Quintavalle reads from ’Shelf’

Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey

Wes Brown on wrestling narratives

Sarah Elizabeth Cox on lucha libre masks


30 May 15 cartgorse orchestra 


Curated by Susan Tomaselli

with music by David Bremner and Elizabeth Hilliard

and guests

June Caldwell on Nuala O’Faolain

Alice Lyons on Russell Hoban 

Nathan O’Donnell on Oliver Goldsmith

Eimear McBride on collaborating with Beckett (pre-recorded)

Niamh Campbell on John McGahern

Ronan Hession and Phillip Hancock in conversation


31 May 22 Significant others


Julian Evans on the EBRD Literature Prize 2021

The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated from the Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway (Peirene Press). Shortlisted for this year’s EBRD Prize 

Cas Stockford on Turkish poetry in translation 

Dancing on Ropes: Translators and the Balance of History by Anna Aslanyan

Insignificance by James Clammer  

Charles Boyle on Leila Berg’s Flickerbook with readings by Natasha Lehrer

Remembering Leema (part 3) performed by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo POSTPONED


32 May 29 Panenka (You may wish to note the above) 



Panenka launch event with author Ronan Hession and publisher Kevin Duffy of Bluemoose Books

Tim Etchells and Joanna Walsh on Seed 

Tony White on Piece of Paper Press

Lynn Buckle What Willow Says

Brutal Arithmetic with Laura Hopkins


33 June 5 Pantomime Carthorse


The front end

Remembering Leema (part 3/4)

Trauma anthology with Lily Dunn and Zoe plus two readers


The rea


Amy McCauley curates the rear end with

Nicky Arscott

Emma Devlin 

Sam Skoog and Seren Oroszvary (Aphos Prologue)

Natalia Zagorska-Thomas,  


34 June 12  Doing time in the Balkans


Translator John Hodgson reads Fatos Lubanja’s untitled/unpublished Prison Stories (Istros Books) 

readings by Michael Hughes

Fatos Lubania in conversation with publisher Susan Curtis  

Single-cell Organism - a one-act play by Bruce Sherfield with Rufo Quintavalle           

Adam Mars-Jones reads from Batlava Lake (Fitzcarraldo editions)

CD Rose The Blind Accordionist (


35 June 19  The Dinner Party Revisited with Susanna Crossman


and her guests Chiara Ambrosio, Clare Archibald, Dr Pragya Agarwal, Marina Benjamin, Saudamini Deo

Rachel Genn, Shelley Hastings, Paulette Jonguitud, Julie Lagarrigue, Sam Mills, Jessica Sequeira

Isabella Streffen and Venetia Welby


36 June 26  A History of Women’s Poetry in Ireland


With co-editors David Wheatley (Aberdeen University) and Ailbhe Darcy (Cardiff University) and guests.

Music by Elizabeth Hilliard and David Bremner performing Siobhán Cleary's Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoire setting part of the 18th Century poem by Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonail. A previous performance is at ( ) (7m)


37 July 3 Things Are Against Us


Part 1

Things Are Against Us: Lucy Ellmann/Galley Beggar Press launch event plus 

Stephanie Ellyne readings
Close reading of a Lucy Ellmann essay by Wendy Erskine


Part 2

Fiona Erskine Phosphate Rocks

Oscar Mardell readings 

Remembering Leema part 5

David Henningham on Foulness

Launch of J O Morgan’s debut novel Pupa 


38 July 10  Cahors Orchestra: Under the Influence


Part 1

DC on Cahors, Hemingway and Connolly, and that Rouen honeymoon lunch

Melissa McCarthy on blueness

Oscar Mardell reads from Great Works 

Wes Brown on wrestling and kayfabe 

Charles Boyle The Other Jack

Julian Stannard reads ‘Better Now Or Better Now Or Better Never?’

Part 2


Joanna Walsh/Susan Tomaselli launch Under the Influence with guests

Dimitra Xidous, Fernando Sdrigotti, Rachel Genn and Owen Booth 



39 July 17 Clambake Orchestra


Exacting Clam launch curated by editor Guillermo Stitch and publisher Jacob Smullyan with Kevin Boniface, Steven Breyak, Elizabeth Cooperman, Jack Foley, Jake Goldsmith, Kurt Luchs, Paolo Pergola, Dawn Raffel, Alina Stefanescu, Kevin Sirois, Thomas Walton and others


40 July 24 Specs & drugs & paperbacks


Part 1

Alba Arikha on Bohemianism 

Through the Looking Glasses: Travis Elsborough on his new history of spectacles

Two poems by Julian Stannard
White Spines by Nicholas Royle 

David Holzer on strong medication


Part 2

Curated by the American indie KERNPUNKT PRESS with

Jesi Bender, ’N/A’ Operah, Aimee Parkison, Jason Teal


41 July 31 Writing on Film


Joanna Walsh (curates)

Lauren Elkin on Agnes Varda

Maria Fusco on Donald Sutherland 

Matt Longabucco on La Maman et la Putain (Jean Eustache, 1973)

Carol Mavor on dance and choreography 


42 Aug 7 Grub first, then ethics

On The Trussell Trust

Tom Jones: lusty dining

DC on the Rouen honeymoon lunch 

Lucy Ellmann’s sandwiches (read by Stephanie Elleyne) 

Guillermo Stitch reads the sexy feast episode from Lake of Urine 

W. H. Auden’s ‘Grub First, Then Ethics’ read by DC


Interval: Will Grove-White/Toby Litt Dancing in the Kitchen.  

Sam Skoog: Bucket Men

DC/Stephanie on condemned prisoners’ last meals  

Nigella’s eggs in purgatory



43 Aug 14 Golem Girl 


Part 1

DC on the Trussell Trust

David Hayden reads ’No Stories’

Fiona O’Connor on women in publishing

Remembering Leema (part 6) performed by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo confirmed


Part 2

Riva Lehrer, Golem Girl 

with her guests Helene Wecker and Michael Chemers, 


44 Aug 21 For Rukshana


A special programme prompted by events in Afghanistan to raise funds for Rukshana Media, an organisation that supports women journalists and reports on women’s issues.


Part 1

Natasha Lehrer reads a statement from Rukshana Media founder Zahra Joya 

J O Morgan reads ‘The Splendour Falls’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

DC on Tennyson, Turner and ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ 

On the events of September 22nd 1934 

Coal Face screening


Part 2
Fatima: Afghanistan’s first female tourist guide

On phonoaesthetics and word aversion 

Poet and author Patrick Mackie on Mozart in Motion

Cosi fan tutti from the New York Met (overture)


45 Aug 28 Spring Journal revisited

Part 1

First anniversary of the complete reading of Spring Journal

Lucy Caldwell  and Michael Hughes read Canto XV of Autumn Journal and Spring Journal

Jonathan Gibbs: Spring Sequel - a new canto read by Michael Hughes

DC reads the opening of Autumn Sequel

Spring Journal selected cantos 

W H Auden reads ‘The Cave of Making (in memoriam Louis MacNeice)’

Wherever We Are When We Come To The End by Richard Barnett

Seesaw by Carmel Doohan


46 Sept 4 Horse, cart, some poets 


Hosted by CB editions publisher Charles Boyle with

Dan O’Brien, Beverley Bie Brahic, Philip Hancock, Caroline Moore, Nuzhat Bukhari, Will Eaves, Patrick Mackie, Dai Vaughan(read by J O Morgan) and Andrew Elliott (read by Michael Hughes)


47 Sept 11  Cher’s hot arse carrot (anag. 9,9)

J O Morgan reads Roz Kaveney's 'Ballad of Death and the Maiden'

Helen Ottaway: Dedications (recorded, introduced by Helen with Melanie Pappenheim)

Kevin Boniface Letter from Huddersfield 

Paulette Jonguitud Letter from Mexico City 

Susana Crossman Letter from Dinan

Oscar Mardell Letter from Auckland

Venetia Welby Dreamtime (Salt) 

Roz Kaveney on her Selected Poems

David Holzer on strong medication 

Cher & David Bowie medley


48 Sept 18 Remembering Leema


Remembering Leema by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo performed in its entirety by the author and Samuel Skoog.

49 Sept 25  The Burgess Shale

Three Graves by Sean Gregory, the author in conversation with Wes Brown 

Andrew Biswell (International Burgess Foundation)

No End to Enderby film introduced by Graham Eatough and Stephen Sutcliffe

DC on Burgess

Film clips


50 Oct 2 The Knackers Yard  

     A final canter around the paddock, and it's a three-part show 

Part 1 For whom the bells toll


     Ring Ring Bell (Helen Ottaway)- a film with music

     Lauren Elkin on No. 91/92 notes on a Parisian commute

     Paul Stanbridge on The Encyclopedia of St. Arbuc


Part 2  Plugs

     Forthcoming books from Carthorse favourites Sara Baume, Ronan Hession, Michael

     Hughes and Wendy Erskine and our favourite indie publishers

     A cohort of leading indie publishers also announce their 2022 lists


Part 3: Another Leap in the Dark

     The original company, last seen together on 29th February 2020, reunited for one night only.


      Tim Etchells, Michael Hughes, Amy McCauley, Helen Ottaway, Melanie Pappenheim

      Paul Stanbridge  Aea Varfis-van Warmelo, Tony White and Natalia Zagorska-Thoma

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