Poetry at Eroica Britannia 2017

Photo of Seamus reading at Eroica Britannia 2017

Shay the Poet at Eroica Britannia 2017 (picture courtesy of Howard Broughton)

The weather often plays an important role in outdoor festivals and this vintage cycling festival is no exception; following last year’s event on waterlogged site this year the unusually hot and dry weather meant there would be plenty of people queuing in the shade of the beer tents for liquid refreshments ad a break from the searing sun.

I was proud to be back at Eroica for the third year and sharing live poetry and spoken word to new audiences away from the traditional libraries and back rooms of pubs. Poetry is becoming more mainstream and my 2.00pm set was staged in the Britannia Arms, temporary pub for the weekend, and the place was packed and noisy; fortunately there was a good sound system and my voice carries well.

As always I had my set list prepared in advance and also as always I had additional material to hand so that changes could be made depending on the mood of the room or indeed my own mood.

Having been announced on stage I began my set with a cycling poem, People Riding Bikes, which was well received and confirmed that people near the far end of the marquee could here me. You can listen to a recording of that reading by clicking play below:

 

The rest of the set consisted of:

The Curse, Standby, A minute and a half, Entitlement, Truncated, Dead Eyes, Domestique, Saffron Vultures, Seahorses, Mental Stuttering, A platform I don’t know and Honed.

I was particularly pleased with the audience reaction to my new poem, written for and completed in time for this event, “Saffron Vultures” which is about cycle racing and in particular motor-paced racing at the Saffron Lane Stadium in Leicester which sadly closed some years ago. The poem is perhaps my longest at about 4.5 minutes so I had been concerned about holding the audience’s attention – fortunately I needn’t have worried.

Picture of Seamus with Brian Robinson

With Brian Robinson at Eroica (pic courtesy of Howard Broughton)

To cap a great afternoon I had the good fortune to sit and chat with an all time cycling legend, Brian Robinson (now aged 85) the first British cyclist to ever win a stage in the Tour de France amongst many other world class events.

A brilliant day, although the sun could perhaps have been turned down a tad!

 

 

Eroica Britannia – editing and practicing

Today I shall be mostly finalising my set for Eroica Britannia, finishing the one poem that isn’t quite done yet, practicing a bit, a bit more editing and so on.

Here’s a picture of a red editing pen, although it doesn’t really work on the computer.

Later on I’ll be getting the Tascam out with the microphone and have a proper listen back. A strangely busy, thoughtful and satisfying day is underway.

Here’s a picture of the set lists for my two previous years at Eroica and the one for next weekend.

Eroica Britannia 2017 – Shay the poet returns

In just a week’s time I’ll be stepping up to perform at Britains festival of cycling and all things vintage, Eroica Britannia.

The Festival runs from from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th of June 2017 and Frinden Grange in the Peak District and I’ll be performing at 2.00pm on Saturday.

My health has not allowed me to take part in the ride around one of the spectacular Peak District routes this year but I’m looking forward to sharing some of my poetry with an audience including old friends and new, poetry enthusiasts and those who “only came for the vintage bikes”. Well you might ask:

What has that Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

Well there’s all the vintage bikes

Yeah but apart from the vintage bikes what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

Well what about the rides, and the vintage bike rides?

Yeah the vintage bikes and the vintage bike rides obviously, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

There’s the stunning Peak District scenery

Yeah, yeah, the vintage bikes and the rides and the stunning Peak District scenery, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the music

Yeah, OK the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery and the music, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the vintage outfits?

And all the activities for kids?

Yeah the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits and all the activities for the kids, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the shopping?

And the amazing range of food and drink?

And the roaming entertainers?

And the best in show?

Yeah, that goes without saying; the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits, all the activities for the kids, the shopping, the amazing food and drink, the roaming entertainers and the best in show, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the mini velodrome, the Lancaster Bomber fly past, and the camping and glamping?

Yeah, the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits, all the activities for the kids, the shopping, the amazing food and drink, the roaming entertainers and the best in show, the mini velodrome, the Lancaster Bomber fly past, and the camping and glamping, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the bloke doing poetry?

What? There’s a bloke doing poetry? at a vintage cycling festival? Well why didn’t you tell me? What’s he doing?

Well he’ll do some poems about people and places and bikes and stuff

So this Eroica Britannia festival has the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits, the shopping, the amazing food and drink, the roaming entertainers and the best in show, the mini velodrome, the Lancaster Bomber fly past, the camping and glamping, and the bloke doing poetry about people and places and bikes and stuff. You know what I think I might give it a go….

 

 

Metaphor: the long story – Touchstones Creative Writing Group

Having facilitated two sessions for Touchstones Creative Writing Group in 2016 it was lovely to be invited back to do two more sessions in 2017 for the well established Rochdale group.

For my first, on Thursday 6th April, I decided to go with my brand new workshop “Metaphor: the long story”. The blurb (which of course I’ve written myself) says:

Metaphor can add interest, power and character to writing in any form. This workshop will concentrate on metaphor in poetry giving new and experienced writers the chance to learn about and experiment with new ways of using metaphor to add character and interest to their writing. We’ll look at examples and develop our own knowledge before taking the leap (metaphorically) into creating some brand new work.”

Bringing out a brand new workshop for the first time is always fun and keeps things interesting and in this case with a relatively technical sounding session I hoped that people would not be deterred….

Far from it….

Over 20 participants arrived and after a brief introduction they were ready to go. Within such a large group there will always be a wide range of abilities and experience so we started off with discussion and examples of the use of metaphor and explored the knowledge the group already had.

That introduction was followed by a competitive game, The Metaphors Challenge, where two teams were pitted against each other to score points by coming up with unusual or preferably brand new metaphors.

After some further exploration including the use of extended metaphor it was time to write and if with a bit of imagination we could harness the power of so many pens furiously scratching their ideas and stories (with plentiful use of metaphor) onto paper we could surely reduce our need for both fossil fuels and television.

The end result was over 20 brand new pieces of writing, stories and poetry, and everyone with some new ideas, something new to work on or develop.

Overall a lovely and productive afternoon.

Looking forwards to the next session in September!

 

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!