A F Harrold – a man for all seasons, ‘except summer, which is a bit hot on the whole’, is also known as ‘The Eccentric Englishman’, and ‘The Giant Redhead’. He has other titles as well, including ‘being one of the few poets who makes his living from his art’ He has spent years writing things down and reading things out and, along the way, has amused hundreds, making people smile wryly and chuckle happily.
He comperes two monthly events in Reading - Poets' Cafe and Bohemian Night. “A.F. Harrold is definitely one to watch: he scales the Olympian heights with the effortless ease of a Robert Graves" . We don’t know who wrote this but nothing more aptly describes AF when he appears on stage. He is sheer power, magnetism and a master of the unexpected!
And, he’s Write Angle’s April Performance Artist - not the first time he’s appeared as its guest. His popularity brings him back again and again. AF, (the A, for Ashley- the F for Francis) is internationally renowned, a poet with an’ unimaginable imagination’ – ‘well known and loved’ - he’s known as a Poet’s Poet, spouting poem after poem – as well as running a comedy rock band, and performing for adults and children, in cabarets, schools, bars, in basements, fields and, we get the feeling, wherever he’s asked – as long as it’s unusual and challenging.
He does things with words that aren’t always normal - on the stage, on the page and in the bath. That said, some of the things he does, he says, ’are quite normal’. Fans of Douglas Adams, will know he did much of his work in the bath or 'took baths to avoid work'.
AF’s performed at many poetry, cabaret and comedy events around the UK, as well as in poetry slams, including Rhythm & Muse, (twice) and the Rose Theatre (2010) as well as the Corner House and, word is, ‘he gets funnier every time’! He’s won slams in Birmingham, Brighton, Cheltenham, London, Oxford, Reading, Windsor and possibly other places. He’s also lost Slams in a number of places including, Cheltenham, Exeter, London, Oxford and Vancouver. He’s performed in Canada, Denmark, The US and Australia- so far ...
Of his work - he describes his latest novel, ‘The Education Of Epitome Quirk Standard’, as ‘funny, with coruscating thrills too churlish to describe, since without giving the plot and twists and turns and sheer rollercoaster expectations, it’s difficult to speak sensibly about it. Set in 1917 with no normal protagonist. The ‘chap’ on the front [of the book] is a dog called Nigel Spigot’. While Brian Patten calls it ‘weird and wonderful – a 21st century take on Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Only someone as eccentric as Mr Harrold would plunder the 18th Century novel and come up with something so funny. It’s either going to be a cult book or forgotten – hopefully the former.’
Meantime, his other books, ‘Flood’, 'I Eat Squirrels', both, collections of poems, have been reviewed as ‘wears its scholarship lightly, often with a formal dexterity, deeply satisfying. A.F. doesn’t censor his extraordinary and generous imagination; he enters the territory between this world and whatever comes after it, writing so clearly and tenderly about death, memory and love that I felt both bruised and stroked.’ (Catherine Smith) while Bernard O’Donoghue says, ‘These poems are so immediately engaging –there’s a danger of missing their depths. - verbally scrupulous, exact and minutely observant. These poems are the real thing: serious about being human and being at home in the world.’
AF reports ‘normal children might not like it. There’s stuff that's not exactly normal. - also things which are exactly right. - disgusting things happening with horrible food; animals acting oddly, people who don’t wash, doughnuts that can’t escape, pirates too nice for their own good and dogs who seek revenge for terrible wrongs. Oh, it’s all good stuff and funny too. Though intended for children, there’s nothing to stop grownups reading this book'.
Of ‘The Man Who Spent Years in the Bath, 'mainly about people, famous and unknown, fictional, and factional. The title poem is a long narrative tale, sad, wry and touchingly amusing, about reaching out for your dreams. The rest of the book is less good’ says its author..(we don’t believe it) ‘George Eliot dancing a fandango, a voyage to Trousers Island, an analysis of the etymology of jammy dodgers – this volume has everything one has come to expect from the canyons of A.F. Harrold’s extraordinary imagination. Except yaks. There are no yaks. Which is curious.’ – Elvis McGonagall
‘Postcards From The Hedgehog’ his first book of comical entertainments: poems, prose and pictures. Mainly concerning itself with animals and the possibilities therein contained. ‘a very silly book indeed, not recommended for high-minded academics or butchers. (Unless they’re the sort with senses of humour, perhaps.)’ Rachel Pantechnicon’s review ‘‘Postcards from the Hedgehog sustained me for the whole duration of a bus-ride to Mortlake, and made me forget that I was having to stand. By the time we reached Barnes pond I was even tapping my foot, I think. Every poem contains moments of pirouetting genius, although I didn’t understand the one about the artificial spider.’
Finally, ‘Logic And The Heart’, was reviewed as ‘‘Written with all the metrical energy and wit familiar to audiences of A.F. Harrold’s work as a performance poet, these sensuous love poems speak also with an impressive delicacy and resonance. Inhabiting that threshold world between the material and the dream, thought and feeling, logic and the heart, he charts with true musicality love’s loss and gain, its twilight territory ‘in the silence between breathing’.’ – Jane Draycott.
And who can forget AF when he performed his ‘Last Will and Testament’ at Write Angle. It brought the house down with laughter!
He writes and performs; owns many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard and should be seen by one and all!
View the Youtube of AF Harrold's performance at Write angle's Gala Performance at the Studio@TPS on 31st March 2009