Having previously reviewed the book, England; Poems from a school, by poet, author and teacher Kate Clanchy I was glad of the opportunity to hear her speak at the Rochdale Literature and ideas festival in October 2019 and write a review of the event for the Rochdale Observer and All Across the Arts.
Kate’s new book “Some kids I taught and what they taught me” is genuinely engrossing, thought provoking and inspirational. I’ll write a fuller review of the book when I have re-read it but in the meantime I can say with confidence that reading this book would benefit all teachers and people who work with young people and is especially valuable to the of us who work with young people who have had traumatic lives.
Many of the audience for this event were teachers and all enjoyed the talk and there was lots of chatter and discussion afterwards. You can see my review, as it appeared in the Rochdale Observer, below;
Recently I was invited by my friend and fellow poet, Eileen Earnshaw, to play a small part in a project with a Bolton creative writing group.
The article reproduced below gives some information about the project which looked at the Worktown project in Bolton from 1935to 1942 and in particular to look into the Cotton Queens to inform some new writing. A 30 minute audio play and a number of poems have already been produced. My role was to accompany the writers as they visited the Blackpool Archives to carry out further research and to make photographic records of the event.
Whilst in Blackpool for the project I was also inspired to write a poem inspired by my time with the ladies from the project.
The whole project will culminate in an exhibition, performance of the play and a documentary recorded with the support of the media faculty at Bolton University.
An interesting and inspiring day out with an enthusiastic group of writers and the opportunity to have a close look at some of Blackpool’s archives with the added fish and chips.
A selection of my photographs from the event and my newly written poem will feature in the exhibition in Bolton.
When I first noticed my picture in the Rochdale Observer I was surprised as I hadn’t expected to be the focus of an article by Norman Warwick. I’ve known Norman, as he says, for quite a long time and have on occasion had the chance to work alongside him. Reading the words Norman had written about me I was genuinely moved.
The paragraph “He faces straight ahead into concerns that even poets often turn away from and he addresses those concerns with an honesty and courage too many of us lack” really hit home, making me think about why I write the things I do. If I can continue to live up to that in my writing and in creating and leading workshops for writers and young people then I will be more than satisfied.
As a poet I don’t always choose my topic or subject, often they tend to choose themselves in the way that events are thrust upon us and cannot be ignored. Sometimes when things happen I find it impossible not to respond poetically; such responses are not always immediate and I tend not to use writing as a catharsis.
The poems that emerge from life events are some of the hardest to create and I feel that I only write well when I am thinking clearly and although emotions have a massive part in that writing they must take a back seat in the drive to a finished piece.
When we write all of us are influenced by our own personal experiences but when we write for an audience, for readers, then each person hearing or reading the work needs to feel a connection to it. If I write about a personal event I don’t want to exclude others so I talk about the feelings that all of us will have experienced at some time. For example when I wrote about the loss of my own Dad in “A platform I don’t know” I didn’t talk about the amazing man I had lost but rather about how that loss makes you feel about we respond to it. You can listen to “A platform I don’t know” but clicking HERE or you can find it in my book, Thinking Too Much, which you can buy HERE.
The Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival 2019 took place in late October at various locations across the borough of Rochdale. For local creative writers a highlight is the Writers Showcase event which on this occasion took place in St Mary’s in the Baum, one of Rochdale’s impressive historical churches.
I was delighted to have the chance to close the session with a set of my own poetry following some great performances from others including a standout set from Sue Devaney and a remarkable and moving performance from “Sing Along With Us” – Jade Kilduff and her younger brother Christian.
The newspaper review of the event is shown in the image below.