Images and video from Recall project at Falinge

After last weeks session At Falinge Park High school I am delighted to see that the school have now added some video and images to their web site.

Click here for more from Falinge website

Click here for the video

Thanks once again to Simon De Courcey for inviting me to be part of this excellent project and to the young people from Rochdale, Bury, Swinton and North Manchester for their
enthusiasm and hard work during a very busy morning – well done to all!

Hopefully I’ll soon have a couple of audio samples of the work produced by some of the young people and they’ll be posted here shortly.

 

 

 

Brilliant morning with young people at Falinge Park High School

I had  the privilege of working with some great young people at Horse Carrs next door to Falinge Park High School. A group of young people from Falling were joined by students, and staff, from three other schools:

St. Ambrose Barlow, Swinton

Abraham Moss, Manchester North

The Derby High School, Bury

The session was part of the joint “Recall Project” funded by the excellent Ideas Foundation. With the aim of helping to develop learner’s understanding of poetry from the GCSE Anthology they took part in a physical/dance session with CantDanceCan and a creative poetry session with myself.
With a surprise burst of snow in the morning there were travel delays from some schools and the first session was shorter than planned. In spite of this a group of around 20 young people listened to a little poetry and advice about writing before getting stuck in to creating some brand new work the their own with topics ranging from sport to family and the challenging topic of bullying. The short time left a number of the students with unfinished poems and little chance to memorise and perform their work but everyone had the basis of some really interesting writing. The degree of enthusiasm and also the willingness of all of these young people to ask for help, discuss options and then act on them really was inspiring.
It was also a lovely surprise to find the when some of our street-wise young people with all the modern language and mannerisms go off to “chill” in Falinge Park with their mates they chat about stuff that matters to them and they still play cops and robbers like so many generations before them.

While I worked with one group of students the other half worked on physical interpretations of the GCSE poems with CantDanceCan. After a brief break the two groups swapped over and the second workshops began.

The young people from all of the schools were superb and in as little as 75 minutes we had poems produced on topics ranging from travel to the importance of family, discrimination and personal stories of overcoming adversity. Some of the young people were even able to perform their new work from memory while the less confident had the chance to have their work read to the group.

As always working with young people, enabling them to express themselves in new ways, building confidence to think and talk about issues, led to a rewarding and inspirational experience.

Enormous thanks to Falinge Park High School, and Simon De Courcey in particular, for inviting me to run the poetry sessions.

I’ll post further links with images and perhaps some samples of the work created once the school has edited video and images from the morning.

Working with high school students in Rochdale

In a couple of days I’ll be working with high school students in Rochdale running a session that will not only help them to create some brand new work of their own but inspire them and help them with memorising and performing their poems.

During the morning they’ll also be working to create physical interpretations of a couple of poems from the GCSE syllabus so of course I’ll be referencing those poems and activities in my session.

 

I’ll post much more in a review, including revealing which school is involved, after the session.

For now I’m full of anticipation looking forward to what should be a really interesting and inspirational day.

 

 

New writing – who, what, where & why?

In my last post I said that I would talk about some of my new writing; so this post, albeit somewhat later than expected, is built around that idea.

I thought it might be interesting to look at who or what I am writing about, where I write and the most important question which is why. So for a number of my more recently completes poems I’ve set out answers to those questions – I think I may learn more from this than my readers do – it would be really interesting to hear back from readers perhaps with their own answers to some of those questions….

So here goes, some poems I’ve completed recently (there are always a few still in development at any time and in some ways my poems are never really finished):

Mental Stuttering

Who? – This is partly about me but also about anyone reading or performing with an audience.

What? – The poem looks at how whilst being calm and professional on the outside we can still be stuttering and stumbling on the inside.

Where? – I started to make notes on this idea straight after a poetry event and then worked on it at home over a period of time.

Why? – This is always likely to be the hardest question and in this instance it came from watching people reading for their first time and remembering how that felt. Perhaps I wrote is as a reminder to myself that the poem always differs a little every time it is read – because of my own internal mental stuttering.

 

An understanding of cattle

Who? – This is a poem about my Dad and there’s a fair bit of my uncle Dan, one of his brothers, in there too.

What? – The poem talks about the nature of people through the way they can develop an understanding of other animals. The understanding of cattle becomes a metaphor for a much wider understanding of life and the attributes that make that possible.

Where? – I can’t remember when I first started on this poem but it has developed in my notebook for a good few months before becoming a single piece to be edited and formed into a “completed” poem. The work has often been done in quiet moments wherever I happen to be and strangely that matched the theme quite well.

Why? – Something reminded me that most people don’t seem to understand most animals very well and the concept of the poem was there straight away. It quickly became a poem about my Dad and memories of my Uncle Dan also fitted in so it becomes part of a growing collection of writing about family.

 

Swabbed for MRSA

Who? – This one is about my own personal experience.

What? – I wrote this about being in hospital overnight to be checked over for some sort of heart irregularity. It turned out to be a fairly fruitless visit because my heart refused to misbehave while I was there but I wrote about some of the things going on overnight.

Where? – I actually started making notes and putting together a few lines on my mobile phone while I was in the hospital. The development then took place over a year later whilst pausing for a brew or whilst working in my office.

Why? – It started as a record of what it was like to be admitted with an erratic heart beat and it felt significant and topically current that the first thing they did was swab me for MRSA.

 

Writing as a career – a review

new-poem-200715Strange business this writing stuff; we get so involved in the creative process that the other jobs, seemingly more mundane or prosaic get pushed back.

To be a writer one simply needs to write. To be a prolific writer one needs to write a great deal. We can dedicate our whole lives to writing and ignore the mundane; forget washing, cleaning and even to a large extent eating.

We can become writing machines putting all of our thoughts on paper, tablets, computers or dictaphones.

So it really is true that anyone can be a writer.

There are of course some really big “buts” coming:

  1. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT it doesn’t make your writing good.
  2. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT it doesn’t pay the bills.
  3. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT it doesn’t feed the family.
  4. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT that isn’t very professional.

So if you are no longer satisfied with your status as a happy amateur, if you want to find a wider audience or swim in a bigger pond then you’ll need to become proactive, make some changes and embrace some of the things you haven’t done yet.

In my case I began the process by looking at what I could do along with my writing to start to develop a career doing this thing that I love. I’ve always been something of a teacher, I love the feeling I get when I’ve helped someone learn something new, gain confidence or learn new skills so passing on my love of writing to others was an obvious choice.

Over the last 12 years or so (from long before I considered writing as a career option) I’ve produced and delivered a good number of workshops for writers. More recently, as a serious career step, I created several new workshops ready to deliver to anyone from the age of about 8. I got myself bookings and ran workshops and readings with consistently good feedback and towards the end of the year it was time to stretch myself again. I’ve still some areas to push a bit more to consider myself more professional and these include:

  • Producing some proper publicity materials
  • Actively promoting my workshops to new organisations and schools
  • Developing communications through a mailing list
  • Developing some new workshops and materials for 2017
  • Developing a new market in staff development and inspirational talks
  • Developing a longer term plan – something to carry me through the next few years

So what else?

  • I’ve started submitting some work to publishers
  • I’ve started entering some work into competitions
  • I’ve taken my work to new audiences
  • I’ve learnt to make audio recordings of my work and use those recordings for publicity etc.

These might seem like simple everyday tasks, and in reality they are, but in the development of a writer they are either milestones or hurdles to be passed before moving on to the next level. Perhaps some of these are made more difficult by the writers’ biggest hurdle “the fear of rejection” even though rejection is common for even the most successful writers. It is important to see each rejection as what it is, i.e. that the particular piece of writing in that particular form didn’t meet the needs of the person rejecting it. It might be that the writing was not good enough but assuming that you are serious about developing as a writer then you’ll want to improve the writing and make it better.

Occasionally a plan doesn’t quite work as anticipated, for example when the “sound guy” at your biggest gig of the year forgets to press the record button. The most important thing in those situations is to keep on moving forwards and not to be held back by worries about what might have been.

So as we head into a new year I’ll be concentrating on these areas but of course none of that is worth a minute of your time unless you continue to create new writing – there’ll be more about new writing in my next post.

 

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.