Video released of “Stories We Can Tell” project

Screen shot from the video

I’ve posted here previously about the really successful young people’s project that we (All Across The Arts) ran in Rochdale culminating with a super event at the Middleton Arena.

Today I’m posting a link to the short video about the project.

Here’s the link:    CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

The narration is by project organiser Steve Cooke and the video shows the kind of work and benefits we were able to deliver for a very diverse group of young people by giving them the tools and the support they needed to tell their own stories in the best way to suit them.

The gains in confidence and skills by the young people were highly visible as was the development of their social skills. The team members Steve, Rebecca Whitehead, John Cooke, Ray Stearn and myself all found the project inspiring and rewarding and the venue, Vibe Youth Music in Rochdale, enabled all of the work to be carried out in a safe, comfortable environment with studio facilities for discussions, composing, recording etc.

Aside from my role as poet I also surprised myself when asked to produce the video. I’ve recorded video often enough before but recording sound and editing to add still images, subtitles and content from PowerPoint was all new to me. I loaded some suitable video and audio software and set to learning in order to produce the finished work; this was just one of area where the project helped me to develop.

 

Heathfield School, Rishworth – poetry day

 

Monday the week saw a very busy but very rewarding day working with children and staff from Heathfield Primary School at Rishworth in West Yorkshire.

Working outdoors in the school’s own woodland we made lots of autumn and forest themed poetry with every year group in the school from 3 year olds in the Foundation stage through to the 10 year olds in Year 6.

I was really impressed by the enthusiasm and attention of the pupils and the staff and they should all be proud of what they have achieved. For that day we were all poets and I look forward eagerly to seeing the artworks they’ll be developing from their poems.

Here’s what the school tweeted to me after the session and above you can see a recent post on their twitter feed with photos taken by teachers on the day. It is so nice to receive such feedback but even better to hear the brand new work from children and witness their sense of achievement.

A great day, thanks to all at Rishworth, especially Miss Robinson who organised the day.

Image of Tweet from Heathfield Primary School

Tweet from Heathfield Primary School

Write Out Loud – Sale – 15th Nov 2016

After driving around a little while my satnav tried to work out where I was I took a short walk to the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale (SEE HERE FOR MORE INFO)waterside-arts-centre

First impressions: I was met at the door by a very helpful staff member who asked me whether I was a guest or audience member, checked my name and politely directed me to the bar where the event organiser would be. A good start and credit to the venue.

As I walked into the bar Sarah Pritchard the organiser introduced herself and introduced those who were already present including her co-host Mo and my fellow guest Laura Taylor. I’ve seen Laura perform some time ago but not met her for a while. Although I arrived on my own in a location where I knew nobody I never felt alone – this was certainly one of the most welcoming events I’ve attended.

Once the poetry started the two co-hosts each read a couple of pieces before Laura delivered her set including comments about how her poetic journey had developed and some truly excellent poems – body could fail to be moved by her first poem about a difficult childhood which is very cleverly written and very powerful. Laura has sometimes been seen as a punk poet, a protest poet or a political poet but tonight she showed real range and versatility as a poet.

A number of open mic slots followed and although I din’t know most of the names other than Cynthia Buell Thomas and Joy France I was impressed by the work presented and thoroughly enjoyed listening.

It was then time for my own guest slot and as I chatted about my own journey in poetry I read poems that seemed to fit including On the Edge, Seahorses and the short anti-war Truncated.

After my set it was time for a break after which everyone, including the guests, was invited to read another poem before the evening ended with warm and sincerely meant applause and lots of chat between all of those present. It was also nice to meet and chat to Paul Neads of Flapjack Press.

Nobody rushed off early which is a sign of a good night – thanks for having me as a guest poet and well done to the team!

Guesting at Write Out Loud – Sale – Tues 15th November

I started writing poetry as a result of working with college tutor, and now friend, Eileen Lee a good number of years ago. A year or two later through Rochdale library service and in particular Janice Brown, who helped us to set up a writing group based in the library, I found myself on stage for the first time for a National Poetry Day event.

Picture of myself performing at the Marden Poetry Jam - hosted by Julain Jordan

Reading at Marden Poetry Jam – hosted by Julain Jordan

Developing as a poet involves reading and listening to other poets and in that regard Write Out Loud was the organisation that really got me up and running (CLICK HERE for website) and gave me the confidence to take my work to new platforms. I have attended their events in Middleton, Bolton, Wigan and Marsden both reading my own work and listening to others. Founder Julian Jordan was always, and remains, very supportive and in the early days I was massively impressed by poets like Pete Crompton, Tony Walsh, Gemma Lees and Scott Devon. Seeing and hearing these poets made me want to take my own work further, to develop my own style as they had and to get out there and share the stuff that burns inside of me and has to be written.

I am therefore really delighted to be a guest at Write Out Loud’s session in Sale on Tuesday 15th November. The recently relaunched event takes place at the Sale Waterside Arts Centre at 7.30pm and I’m looking forward to renewing old acquaintances and making new ones….

New page for “Examples, samples etc.”

A photo of some old and new dip-pens

A bunch of pens

Over the last week or so I’ve been busily updating parts of my website to make it easier to find things quickly. One of main changes is this new “Examples, samples etc.” page where you can quickly access some of my work.

I’ve also been adding a few audio recordings of some of my poems taken from recent performances in Rochdale and Oldham and these have been included this new page along with written versions.

Photo of Seamus reading on the radio

Reading on the radio – photo courtesy of Hannah

Other changes to the site include another new page “Events & appearances” where you can easily find out about where I am reading my poetry and running workshops, complete with links to recordings, reports and reviews from the events where available.

 

 

Picture of Seamus reading with a large Union Jack projected in the background

Reading at Eroica 2016

 

The Rochdale Fringe at Vibe 2016

Following my brief comments of the Fringe Event for the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival at Vibe, Drake Street, Rochdale here are some more of my thoughts and impressions of the event.

Firstly the place was very much busier than it was at last year’s first event and the crowd, as might be expected, added greatly to the atmosphere inside Vibe, assisted by plentiful supplies of biscuits, cakes and confection and of course the range of hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks. Some of the performances on the day included:

 

Falinge Park Hight School: Bilingual Stories – a group of young people from the school had written stories, mainly from personal experience with versions in two languages. Reading for the first time in such an environment is a challenge to many experienced readers and these young people deserve great credit for their confidence and delivery as well as the stories themselves. Powerful and emotive.

Edwin Waugh Society: Lancashire dialect – celebrating the tradition of Ned Waugh and others in Lancashire Dialect the performers gave us a selection of works from well known exponents (including Waugh himself) and some newer work using the same style and language. All were well received by the audience.

Tapestry Road: Song and music – powerful songs with a hint of jazz lifted the late morning and it would be easy to forget that it was Sunday morning rather than Saturday night. Very competent and entertaining with strong vocals from both singers and excellent backing from the drummer and bass player (double bass that is).

Pulling Threads (TCWG): Battles of the Somme and Jutland – The group a subset of the Touchstones Creative Writing Group performed their mix of drama, poetry and song commemorating these famous First World War battles created for the 100th anniversary. I’ve seen this performance before but have to say that it has become slicker and smoother running which has added the the already substantial power of the piece – it is fair to say that there was not a single person in the venue who was not visibly moved by this performance. A great credit to those involved and a real challenge for the next performer on stage – yes that would be me!

Fortunately I was able to tie in some song lyrics and reorder my own set so as to build on and then gently steer the prevailing mood in the room.

Robin Parker: Poetry – Robin has created a series of poems inspired by the artist Vincent Van Gogh and shared a series of seven poems each influenced by a particular painting as the specific paintings were projected for the audience to see. A creative and effective set and a demonstration that inspiration is always there should we just choose to go looking for it.

Becky Langan: Guitar – Becky has developed he own style of playing guitar with lots of percussion on the guitar body, harmonics, hammer ons and bending of notes mixed with finger-style and chords to create something quite unique. A series of  tunes without words created strong emotions and had very much the feel of film soundtrack with wide soundscapes belying the fact they were produced entirely from a single acoustic guitar – inspiring stuff.

Chris Bainbridge: Poetry – Chris shared a selection of his own poems and work from people he has worked with in his work for the Stroke Association – the work really had the power to convey some of the issues and feelings faced by both stroke sufferers and those who care for them – moving and enlightening.

Weaving Words: Poetry and presentation of competition winners – Weaving Words took the stage as the last act of this Fringe event and Jackie Philips, Marian Tonge and Eileen Earnshaw each performed some of their poems. All were very well received by the audience who were amused, provoked, informed and entertained and occasionally challenged by these representatives of a small writing group which nevertheless generates some great work.

Having been one of the judges I was delighted to be invited on stage to announce the winners of the group’s poetry competition and the winners were:

  • Adult – Joint First – Jackie Philips and Gillian Holden
  • Under 18 – First – Ashleigh Haigh

Four hours of poetry, music and drama absolutely flew past and the event is sure to go from strength the strength in the future.

 

 

 

Rochdale Literature Festival Fringe – Vibe – 23rd October 2016

The Fringe event at Vibe on Drake Street in Rochdale had grown this year. Over 70 people crammed in this morning to see and hear a range of acts and they were certainly not disappointed.

Organiser Steve Cooke and compere Norman Warwick professionally introduced the acts, smoothed the technical issues and put everyone at their ease.

After some last minute alterations to the programme I was to follow a performance by Touchstones Creative Writing Groups (Pulling Threads their performance arm) who gave a very powerful and moving performance of their 1st World War commemorative piece. A quick change to my set saw my short poem about our government’s decision to bomb Syria prefaced by an appropriate verse from “Where have all the flowers gone” by Pete Seeger.

My set then included “A platform I don’t know”, “Infinity”, “Mental stuttering”, “Funeral poems”, “Come on Hat” and ended with a poem about my uncle Pat called “Come on hat”.

You can find a recording of A platform I don’t know by CLICKING HERE

I’ll add or link to a review of the event in the next few days.

A week is a long time in poetry (or is it?)

jam-seamusOr of course it is, and of course it isn’t!

Thats the beauty of poetry, you can make of it what you will.

This stuff is all about words, meanings and how we put things together; for example in the line above “make of it what you will” means to you can interpret something as you desire (“will” understood as the expression of the future tense) but can equally be read as you can make of it the thing you are going to make (“will” this time understood as the expression of an inevitable event).

That’s the thing with poetry, it can be taken in different ways, the writer can decide whether to determine what the reader or listener is likely to hear or the poet can leave the reader to create their own interpretations. Anyway enough of this grammatical chicanery; a week is a long time in poetry.

So is a week a long time in poetry?

Sometimes it can feel that way as an anticipated event draws near and preparation is done at a nice leisurely pace, other times when there is to be too little time to prepare that week can fly by in what seems like an instant.

This week for me involves lots of work on our upgraded kitchen (tiling, electrical sockets and a bit of decorating so far) as well as  3 poetry events and hopefully a bit of time to think and to write something new. The literary content of the week looks a bit like this:

  • This evening we’ll be relaxing in Littleborough at Robin Parker’s open mic event (at the Red Lion from 7.30pm). Last year this was a really pleasant evening with the chance to see and hear some brand new poets and to catch up with a couple I’d not seen for quite a while. This event has the added bonus of being within walking distance from home.
  • Tomorrow I may be delivering a workshop although even at this stage the exact details are still to be confirmed because I’ve been asked to step in as a last minute replacement for the facilitator who has been unable to take part.
  • On Friday I’ll be heading off with my wife to see author Joanne Harris (writer of novels including “Chocolat” with her new book “Different Class”) as part of Rochdale’s Literary and Ideas Festival.
  • Finally on Sunday as part of theFringe events for the 2016 Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival I will be delivering a 20 minute set at Bar Vibe on Drake Street. The event will kick off at 11.00am with Steve Cooke opening and introducing Norman Warwick, back briefly from his retirement in Lanzarote, and a string of local talent in writing and music. I’ll be taking the stage at 13.10 and expect to bring some new and some old, some happy and some sad and of course I’ll probably change my mind depending on the prevailing mood of the event.

So this week is a busy one poetically and that makes it feel like a relatively short week in poetry after all.

 

Oldham Library on National Poetry Day

Now as the metaphorical poetic dust settles on National Poetry Day 2016 it is time to look back and reflect on a busy and rewarding day. My day started with an early trip to Pleckgate High School in Blackburn and my morning there is the subject of its own blog post HERE. In the evening after a quick change and a bite to eat I was off to run a session for Oldham Libraries.

Way back in May I had a message from Oldham Library asking if I was available to run an evening poetry session for National Poetry Day in October. A little discussion followed around the nature of the session required, times and fees and the session was duly booked. Some basic biographical information, detail of the workshop and a photo were provided for publicity purposes and all was set with 5 months still to go.

A few days before the event I was contacted by the super-helpful Sam Thornley from the Library to enquire if there was anything I would need for the session and make sure all was in hand. On the day it was Sam who met me as I arrived at the Library, showed me to the performance are and to the dressing room complete with tea and coffee and a key so that I could leave things securely. This this was the first time I’ve been offered a dressing room; I found myself wishing that I’d not get ready before leaving the house.

I started the session by sharing a few of my poems and a couple by Seamus Heaney and Pablo Neruda and followed that up with a brief chat with the participants. It turned out, as it often does, that some people were already fairly accomplished writers with a number coming from various local writing groups, others were keen to refine or develop skills and techniques whilst some others had not yet written any poetry at all.

I based the session on my Power of Poetry workshop (see details of my workshops HERE) and everyone got involved in discussion and creating something brand new. Samples of some lines/thoughts from the participants are shown below:

img_2585

 

As we headed home Sam was already collecting the first feedback from participants so that the next morning he could email me with some feedback including:

  • the audience found the session to be fantastic!
  • We have had many rating the workshop as excellent
  • one lady told us it was “life changing”; many have even requested that we host similar events more often in the future.

I am of course delighted with this feedback and look forward to further opportunities to work with Oldham Library.

 

Pleckgate High School – Blackburn – National Poetry Day

A bright and early start took me over the rather beautiful hills to Blackburn while the sun was coming up and before the roads got too busy. I arrived at school and having signed in I was taken to the library to prepare with coffee and a biscuit kindly provided by librarian Carol Holland.

The programme for the morning was to include two sessions for children from Year 8 and one session for children from Year 7. Then I’d have a little time to relax before lunch and an open floor session for students and teachers. With a bottle of water and flipchart at the ready I was ready to begin.

The first 45 youngsters were ushered in and we were ready to roll. I asked them what they had expected a poet to be like, the answers were great:

  • They have beards
  • They have eyes
  • They can talk
  • They look like anybody
  • They have glasses
  • They are highly educated
  • They have eyes
  • They have a pen
  • They are intelligent

A quick chat about messages (the theme for the day) revealed that text messages and various mobile apps were most popular for this group but they were pretty knowledgable about less mode ways of sending messages too. They knew about carrier pigeons, facial expressions, smoke signals and of course the good old letter sent through the post, one even suggested the letters by types on a typewriter.

Soon we were into the swing with poetry starting with Jabberwocky, followed by one of my own poems and then heading off to create a mini production based around Albert and the Lion.

These young people did themselves, and their school, proud being willing to take part, getting thoroughly involved and having a good time too. There were some very impressive performances from fearsome lions, slightly casual parents and a couple of very evasive zoo managers not to mention a trio of Alberts who managed to be eaten extremely well. They also showed great understanding and a real willingness to discuss issues and give considered responses.

The second and third groups were equally engaged and engaging and the morning was flying by in a blur of poems, discussions and lots of questions.

Thats one of the things about young people aged 11 and 12; they are still comfortable asking questions, they don’t worry too much about what you can and what you cannot ask. During the day I was asked lots of questions and some of the best were:

  • why are you a poet?
  • When did you first start writing poetry?
  • Will you read us your favourite poem?
  • How long does it take to write a poem?
  • How much do poets get paid?

All in all a grand morning sharing my passion for poetry with young people and hopefully igniting a few metaphorical sparks along the way.

Poeting for National Poetry Day 2016

workshop-prep-aug-16smallThis Thursday, 6th October, is National Poetry day here in the United Kingdom and there is no shortage of poetry related activity around the country. If your diary isn’t already full

Tonight I’m looking forward to a busy poetry packed day which will see me working with as many as 200 young people in a Lancashire high school in the morning. We’ll discover more about the messages in poetry, head off on an adventure and of course write and share some brand new poetry; all without leaving the library (or learning resource centre as we call them in schools these days).

If your diary isn’t already full then I’ll be off to Oldham where I’ll be running my “The Power of Poetry” workshop in the evening. There are still places available and the event is provided free of charge by Oldham Library but places should be booked online at https://oldham.spydus.co.uk/Events/Events/EventDetail?PgmId=98

Starting at 6.30pm I’ll be sharing some poems, and showing how poetry can convey our stories, ideas and emotions with great power. I’ll guide and inspire new writers (and those with more experience) with handy techniques to create writing full of power and feeling. Everyone will be able to leave with a brand new work to be taken away, to be polished, nurtured and to be proud of.