I'm pretty sure it was Robbie Burns that wrote”'Oh would some power give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us!” Tonight some eight or ten innocent diners at THE BLOC BISTRO found themselves at the front of an audience of WONDERZOO enthusiasts. To see ourselves as others see us! Did it make their night? Or did it blight their night? But, if you want to know what they felt, try out our podcast, for which we have HiP.P to thank, for recording and broadcasting.   
                                        Thank you HiP.P. Much appreciated. 

MERRIS LONGSTAFF opened up our evening by reciting a recently composed piece entitled My Life, which was a heart-breaking autobiographical poem about being part of the so called Windrush generation and the on-going hostile environment promulgated by our current ruling elite. We are ever in your debt, MERRIS, and you are always cherished here.

BRIAN HERDMAN is definitely not a beat poet. But he is a damn good poet, lyricist, singer & guitarist. He took us on a epic excursion through time, from primordial soup to Jimi Hendrix, from China through to contemporary politicians who 'eat in private and defecate in public.'  BRIAN claims he 'is a simple man, put a drink in his hand and he's happy' but there's much more going on here and the sweep of his imagination is matched only by the accomplishment of his delivery. In a word: awesome!  

CRAB & BEE took us on an imaginative odyssey across Plymouth commencing at Lee Moor to some garden allotments somewhere, from Billacomb to Magog, drifting through place and time, seamlessly synthesising the ecology and mythology integral to the our city. They touched on themes of pollution or the 'cellophane seals of [the] plastic apocalypse' or pitching 'kelp against rock' in their verbal and visual presentation of the erosion of our precious habitat. Quite a voyage. Quite extraordinary.  Quite something.

To say ROB C FORCE is just a singer, song writer & guitarist is not to do him justice. He excels at all three and, as if that wasn't enough, he has stage presence & a sparky sense of fun. He sang the title song from his album I'm Looking Forward To The English Spring as well as giving us a history of Union Street and answered comprehensively the question: What is a Janner? An excellent rendering of excellent songs with excellent guitar accompaniment. What more could you ask for?

KRISTIEN HARRIS is a magician and a poet, a combination unbeknown to me, at any rate. Until now. He explained how he became a magician, engaged the audience with card tricks, hat tricks, swallowing pins and re-regurgitating them. Unfortunately not exactly apposite for a podcast. But then, you should-a been there! Why weren't you? He claims there is a  magical red thread through which we are all connected and, after this, I'm a believer! 

HELEN MOORE concluded the first part of our evening and kicked-started the second half. HELEN has edited the fourth issue of  the Client Culture magazine entitled Hope and Fear. She informed us this issue contains interviews, poetry, photographs & art connected to the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth. I was particularly taken with the poems of BRIAN HERDMAN and ROBIN OLIVER as well as the interview with marine archaeologist MALLORY RACHEL HAAS. If you want an alternative narrative, I recommend you buy a copy forthwith. It retails at only £4!

GRUNGE & CELEBRATE YOUR HEARTBEAT [featured LORNA McTAVISH COULSON & other percussionists] began with GRUNGE admonishing us about the grotesque  excesses of consumerism which reaches it apogee at Christmas. Damn-it, we know he's right. 

LORNA McTAVISH COULSON on the other hand had a more spiritual appeal. She issued drums and rattles to all those assembled and [with her ensemble of percussionists] we sang & celebrated our heart-beat. LORNA called. We responded. 'We dipped our feet into the water to the flow of life.' Enchanting and exhilarating. 

HEL B. decided to get political, referring to Her Feminist Agenda. She announced she wants to live in a world where victims are believed, where  suicide is not an option and where words kill fascists. HEL B. only recited four poems as [she explained] her journal had been purloined. Whoever you are, give it back! Now! Despite this, HEL B was rapturously received and applauded exuberantly. 

ROISIN'S BROTHER took us to meet some of his rather eccentric family, as only a consummate storyteller can. We met two of  his uncles, both of whom were called Conor but only one of whom was in the IRA. We met his grandpa, who had eating issues. We learnt that there are worse things than finding half a slug in a salad. We learnt a new word “Catho-holic” and we learnt it is not obligatory to worship God. Thank God for that. ROISIN'S BROTHER's got the gift. 

WILLIAM TELFORD delivered four biting stories which ranged from weirdness at work, to the wonders of the semi-finals of Strictly, to the true meaning of Christmas. The stories are seemingly candy-coated, humorous even but, beneath, they are sardonic and acutely observed. For instance the true meaning of Christmas is not really about Christmas at all but peer pressure to conform and the pervasive influence of celebrity culture on youngsters. WILLIAM is a highly imaginative writer, a favoured performer and he undoubtedly provided a crescendo to a quite astonishing evening. Thank you  WILLIAM!

Finally! I'd like to thank Pete DAVEY, Gabi MARCELLUS-TEMPLE,  Chiori BENNETT and the staff at The Block Bistro for arranging this quite wondrous WonderZoo event [the last of 2019!] as well as all the performers for their wonderful contributions and, HiP.P, for doing the sound expertly and arranging the podcast. It has been a tumultuous year, one way or another, with an enormous number of impressive writers and amazing artistes performing for us. Thank you one. Thank you all. Recklessly I'm going to predict that 2020 will surpass 2019. Listen to our podcasts. Go on. Better still, come and join us.