Independence Days Workshop – 4th July 2019

When Touchstones Creative Writing Group asked me to deliver a writing workshop on 4th July it was always going to be themed around Independence.

Photograph of Rochdale Town Hall

But I felt this workshop needed to be much wider than the best known “Independence Day” as celebrated and commemorated on this day in the USA so I brought along research about some of the 150+ other countries who also celebrate their independence on days throughout the year. Discussion included the easiest and most recent cases of countries gaining their independence and some cases where a country has gained independence more than once.

This led to discussion about various types of independence and what they mean to different people in order to help to inform some new writing.

I read a brand new poem titled “I can do it” written specially for this workshop and there were periods for writing and the participants shared their work with the group. The quality and variety of work was genuinely excellent, feedback was supportive and positive and it was a real pleasure to lead such a session.

The writers produced, poems, prose, factual accounts, a formal letter, a song and flash fiction. Topics covered included The American Civil War, children growing up, a granddaughter’s first steps, Zimbabwe, dementia, bravery, recovery from dependence on prescribed medication and a story about receiving a first pay packet. There was lots of discussion and reminiscence around the work shared in the room and I will certainly workshop around this theme again – even when it isn’t 4th July!

Perhaps the best feedback a facilitator can hope for is when a participant waits at the end of the session to explain how it has helped them. On this occasion a lady told me she had been blocked, unable to write, for the last 3 years after having trouble with physical illness but she had written two very promising and effective pieces during the session and she felt enthused and inspired and could not wait to get home to write some more. That is what creative writing groups like this aim to do, to provide the encouragement and support to enable people to enjoy their writing and develop skills and confidence and comments like these prove their worth.

Touchstones Creative Writing Group meet monthly from 2.00pm to 4.00pm on the first Thursday of the month at Touchstones on The Esplanade, Rochdale and sessions are led my professional writers.

Altrincham Word Fest 2019

Photograph of a mechanical pencil

I had been delighted to return to Coco’s Lounge in Altrincham, following a pre-festival gig in March, for the second edition of Word Fest.

Word Fest, curated by Anne Early and Yoko Islamic, focuses on writing and especially encouraging local people to start writing or develop their existing talents. The festival included a wide range of events including workshops, discussions, performances, writer talks and lots of chances to learn from experienced writers.

As a non-resident of the area it was a privilege to be asked back to host the open mic poetry evening and as I expected, based on previous experience, the quality and variety of work was excellent.

Kevin Bamford read poems covering diverse topics ranging from the countryside awakening in the spring and Brexit to a concertina workshop.

Fred Varden was driven to love whilst Driving Miss Nosey, and gave us a recipe for life and a tale of falling in love with a senior citizen.

Taking a brief one-night break, from supervising students on a school camp, Chris Bateman had the audience laughing with his tale about and unhelpful shop assistant “Pat at checkout 25”.

Alex Swinton, still a teenager, is a poet with a great future; a young man with his anger, and angst, inventing, venting and performing to great effect and with excellent wordplay.

Martin Zarrop a popular performer at previous Altrincham events, and a widely published poet, had snowmen dreaming of English Summer, wondered how one might reason with a bereaved in Troutman and even mentioned the ERG (another Brexit reference).

First time performer Caroline Melliar-Smith performed a piece about the dancer Isadora Duncan “The silk scarf” a well crafted story-telling poem and we hope to hear from her again.

Liz Smith read a poem about a guide dog who “wanted the last glimmer to last forever” and a second everyday dramas.

Tom Jenks is known as an experimental poet read his poem “Going off-piste with Pedersen with great phrases like “Crowther’s desktop wormery” and “unsolicited marsh mallows” and the audience were certainly entertained.

Whilst compering I took the opportunity to follow the performers with a few of my own poems; “Outside” and “Only in my dreams” and a poem which was so new it did not yet have a title – fortunately the audience didn’t feel the need for a title.

Many thanks once again to Anne and Yoko got organising this lovely, friendly and innovative festival and letting me be part of it. I’m already looking forward to a hoped-for 2020 version.

Oldham Gallery -Dave Ball Exhibition – Poetry Workshop and Artist Talk

we began the workshop with quick introductions and a chat about why people had come along. Some were very new to poetry whilst others had been writing poetry for some time and some wanted to reignite their own poetry writing.

We spent a little time looking at the exhibition and using images selected from each section from A to C created lines or phrases which were gradually developed into poems.

We also selected a single image to consider in more detail using it for the inspiration to develop another piece of writing using a mind mapping approach.

The participants had fun, produced some great new writing and with an age range from 5 years old to a little older than myself proved that as long as you have the basics of the language and some suitable inspiration you can produce worthwhile poetry.

The tweet shown above from the Library service, who arranged the workshop, shows that the use of Dave Ball’s exhibition for inspiration was successful. I’m looking forward to meeting Dave this weekend to talk about his work and how the workshop was able to draw on it for our inspiration.

There is still time to visit the exhibition and tomorrow, Saturday 9th February, the artist Dave Ball who is normally based in Berlin, will be at the gallery to give a talk about his work. The artist talk will take place at 1:00pm and there is no need to book for this free event. You can find out more HERE

Photo Pointers 1 – Getting the right focus

As a photographer and tutor I am starting a series of occasional ” Photo Pointers” articles on this blog to give some guidance to those finding their way with photography. I will avoid using too much technical language or lots of formulae and numbers.

For those who would like to go into more depth I will be running workshops during the year and can also arrange 1 to 1 or small group sessions to suit. Please email me seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk and I’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.

A couple of days ago I posted a trio of colourful images on my  Instagram account which provide a simple example of the ways a photographer can change the focal point of the same scene.

For this set of pictures four highlighter pens were stood up on my desk, each an inch or two apart.

Four highlighter pens with the closest being sharply focused

This first photograph shows just the pen that is nearest to the camera being sharp with all of the others looking blurred because they are out of focus.

To create this effect you set focus on the nib of the blue pen either by using the manual focus on your camera, or using automatic focus and placing the camera’s selected focus point exactly on the nib.

Setting a wide lens aperture will make sure that only the one pen is sharply focused and the wider the aperture you set on the camera the less of the image will be sharp, this effect is strongest when you are close to the subject.

Four highlighter pens with the second closest being sharply focused

The second photograph is similar to the previous one but the camera has been focused on the nib of the yellow pen and the same technique used to make sure only that pen is sharp.

Four highlighter pens with the 2nd and 3rd closest being sharply focused

The final image in this set has both the yellow and red pens sharply focused whilst the closer blue and furthest green pens are out of focus (not sharp).

To create this effect the lens is focused at a point between the yellow and red – this is fairly easy to achieve by focusing manually but it using automatic it is possible to focus on an object temporarily placed at the point where you want to focus and by keeping gentle pressure on the shutter button keep the focus set to that point, remove the object and take the picture. The real benefit of digital cameras is that you can take lots of shots making little adjustments until you are happy with the result. This kind of experimentation is really helpful when learning new techniques.

Small versions of my images can be viewed on my OnePoetsVision Instagram Feed or you can follow “onepoetsvison”; I also have a wide range of full sized high resolution downloadable images for sale on my OnePoetsVision Etsy Shop

Planning visit to Gallery Oldham for 2nd Feb workshop

Selfie of myself in front of the exhibitionThis afternoon I was able to go over to Oldham and spend some time in the gallery taking in David Ball exhibition “A to Z: The First Seven Years”.

On Saturday 2nd February I’ll be running a poetry workshop in this space using David’s exhibition and ongoing project for inspiration so today was all about finding some of that inspiration in preparation.

I had a good look at lots of the pictures and spent quite some time soaking in the atmosphere and even watching the reactions of those visiting the exhibition.Things that occurred to me included:

  • The scale of the exhibits surprised meA picture of one section of the exhibition
  • The scale of the task for the artist is hard to comprehend
  • The word “scale” is a good few years further through the alphabet
  • What if the dictionary were indexed by years and months rather than pages?
  • I wonder if he can really complete it
  • What happens when he reaches the word “unfinished”?
  • I speak at around 100 words a minute so it would take me almost 20 minutes just to read a list of the words represented on the walls – only 20 minutes to list 7 years of work….
  • I wonder if, having moved from drawings and illustrations to photos, the artist will embrace other ways of visualising as the project develops
  • I wonder if I could talk to the artist about this….

Some of the pictures are what we might expect but others are really personal, unusual and clever interpretations of the word, I loved the image for asylum shown here:

One of the artist's images with an asylum seeker hiding on a truck

I’m looking forward to the workshop even more having completed today’s visit.

Selfi in front of photos representing letters starting with the letter C

Save the dates – Altrincham Word Fest returns in May 2019

The second Altrincham Word Fest will run from 11th to 26th May 2019 at various venues in the town and promises to be even more exciting that the first edition held in 2018.

Last year’s festival followed a poetry event created by Anne Early and Yoko Isami as part of the Hidden Arts Festival in 2017. That first festival in 2018 proved to be a great, popular success with demand for new events and bigger venues for 2019 and Anne and Yoko are putting the finishing touches to the schedule of events in May.

So why am I, a Rochdale poet, so keen to promote this event?

  • Is it because I’ve been invited back to Altrincham for the 3rd year in a row (1st year was the Hidden Arts Festival)? Perhaps a little bit….
  • Is it because it has a great line up of talent? Well it does….
  • Is it because it celebrates writing and literature? Well it does….
  • Is it because it is different from other Literature Festivals? Yes, absolutely!

This is a festival that does something different, this is a festival for writers; it puts its energies into encouraging all of us to go out and create, to write our own literature and to share the joy of writing; and it does that through workshops, performances, writer events and of course the open mic (that I’ll be hosting again in 2019).

As a writer I experience and see the benefits people from all walks of life, of all ages and with all levels of experience can gain from putting their thoughts and ideas into words. I know the value in terms of enjoyment, fulfilment, health and well-being that writing can bring and to be involved in a festival that promotes this is both a privilege and a great pleasure.

Dates for the specific events will be appearing soon on the www.altrinchamwordfest.com website and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

National Storytelling Week Poetry Work Shop – Inspired by Dave Ball – Oldham Gallery

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been asked by Oldham Library to produce and facilitate a new poetry workshop in Oldham’s Art Gallery.

The workshop is linked to a current exhibition of work, A to Z: The First Seven Years, by artist David Ball. The exhibition runs until March 2nd in Gallery 2. The artist is producing a drawing visualising every word in the Concise Oxford Dictionary – starting from A (with 461 words) the work is currently at the letter C. The project has taken 7 years so far and Dave expects to take another 28 years to finish. Some of the drawings and photographs produced so far are currently exhibited in the gallery in Oldham and some can be seen on the artist’s website by CLICKING HERE.

Taking the work by Dave Ball as its inspiration this poetry workshop will give writers the chance to create some brand new poetry themed around words from the dictionary beginning with A, B and C.  We’ll look at how inspiration drives creative people and how inspiration, such as this exhibition, can be turned into a plan or outline for a new poem and will take participants through the evolution of the piece.  There will be opportunities (for those who want to) share their work during the workshop and the gallery and library have kindly agreed to display writing produced in the workshop.

No specialist equipment is required and all writers are welcome from those just starting out to professionals.

The event is listed on the Oldham library website HERE and you can book places through EventBrite by CLICKING HERE

 

 

 

Instagram #shaysimageaday challenge so far….

A collection of various images from instagram over the last year

The images above are the top selections from the posts on the challenge I set myself last December.

You can click here to see my Instagram site

Today I am recommencing that challenge and will see how long it might continue – when i started the challenge I decided it would continue as long as it was fun and I was learning from making the images – both of those things still apply so (although I’ve been unable to post for a while); here I go again….

OnePoetsVision for 2019

Self portrait with cameraI set up the OnePoetsVision blog so that all of my creative work whether it is visual or in words could share a home. In the last year I’ve also posted lots of my images, mainly photographic but also drawings and prints, on my OnePoetsVision Instagram page having set myself an image a day challenge #shaysimageaday .

Sadly 2018 has involved bereavements and health issues for myself and family and my work as a poet, writer and teacher of writing and photography has been impacted. My image a day challenge and this blog both stalled but are relaunching this weekend.

A batch of batteries in negativeAs a rule I don’t really do New Year Resolutions, but I am starting to feel recharged and have plans to make 2019 the year that I build on the work I began after giving up my full time work in Summer 2015.

 

 

What will 2019 look like?

Well there will be more of the following:

  • performances
  • events
  • new writing workshops
  • new poems
  • new photographic images
  • new drawings
  • new linocut prints

There are also a couple of specific projects I am excited to be starting one being a collection of poems and the other involving illustration – there will be more detail in the coming months.

 

Touchstones Creative Writing Group – 5th July 2018

Photo of a window in a derelict mill on the Rochdale canal

Window in derelict mill

Next Thursday, 5th July, I am honoured to once again be facilitating a workshop for Rochdale’s Touchstones Creative Writing Group (TCWG).

The workshop will include plenty of opportunity for the participants to write and there will be two separate but related writing exercises during the session. Usually I like to create a challenge where the writer will need to take different approaches for each piece of writing in order to help develop the range of their writing skills and in this workshop the challenge will be in the format as well as the content of the writing.

I will keep the detail of specific themes and styles under my hat until the day but there will be no shortage off ideas and there may be a connection to one of the new exhibitions at Touchstones.

As always I’m looking forward to working with some of Rochdale’s talented and enthusiastic writers.

TCWG is a friendly and welcoming group and they are always glad to see new faces so if you can make it to the session you’ll be more than welcome. The session runs from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

A project to reboot the creative mind

Screenshot of the first image for my challenge - a dried poppy seed head

My first #shaysimageaday challenge image from Dec 2018

Pretty much every creative person will occasionally get stranded in the metaphorical doldrums, we suffer a creative block. The cause can be anything from tiredness, apathy or fear to events in our busy lives overtaking us. The solutions are many and books have been written about how to move beyond the block and regain our creativity.

Six months ago I found myself feeling creatively stymied, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t drawing and I wasn’t making images. The circumstances that led me to that point are not important, the important thing is how I was able to more on. This post is an initial look at that process and how it has helped me. Should this approach help others then that would be a real bonus.

I decided in late December 2017 that to stimulate my mind and create something new to focus on I would set myself a challenge: every day I would make a brand new image and that image would be posted online on Instagram. The challenge would be called “#shaysimageaday” and I would use that hashtag on my posts. Images can be photographs (most of them are), drawings, prints or images made from words (as long as the words can create an image in the reader’s mind) and there is no target length for this challenge – as long a it is fun and I’m learning then I might as well keep going!

At first I expected the challenge might run for a few weeks. My very first post on the day I decided on the challenge was the poppy head pictured at the top of this article. There was no advance plan for the images and I generally decide on a subject during the day but strangely enough six months later I find myself posting images of poppy seed heads collected in the last few days from our garden. In the meantime there have been images of all sorts of man-made and natural objects and there have been plenty of shots taken outdoors. The latest image is shown here:

An image of a wild poppy seed head with others in the background being blurred

Wild poppy seed heads

The bottom line is that setting myself this challenge has really delivered as I hoped it would and I believe it has gone further than that and the personal and creative benefits have been, and continue to be of real value to me. A nice bonus is that I’ve amassed a collection of over 180 new images with which I am very pleased.

I’m sharing this post partly so that the challenge might offer some value to others as well.

In future posts on this blog I will show more examples of the images created and explain some of the methods I’ve used; meanwhile here area couple more of the images

A photo of my linocut print of Whitby Pier being carved

A photo of my linocut print of Whitby Pier being carved

A drawing from classic cars at Vintage Village in Stockport

A drawing from classic cars at Vintage Village in Stockport

Altricham Word Fest – Open mic at Coco’s Italian

Photograph of a vintage ink bottle with a dip pen in the bottleMy first event at Altrincham Word Fest last month was the poetry open mic, in the upstairs room at Coco’s Italian Restaurant, where poets and listeners enjoyed an evening full of top-notch and varied poetry.

Once we had managed to shoehorn everyone in we started off with a few of my own poems before the first of the open-mic performers took the stage. It was genuinely a pleasure to hear 16 year old Alex Swinton and 18 year old Nanda Saravanan, both students at Altrincham Grammar school, remind us that young people have depth, empathy, can see beyond the obvious and then translate what they see into words.

With a total of 14 people contributing their work in the open mic session we had poems about relationships, politics, Mills and Boon, mathematics, illness and bereavement, growing up, oran-utans, South Africa, whales, Metrolink, truth and lies, dreams, nature, a cosmic photo album and society. There were smiles and laughter, sad faces and perhaps the occasional tear; in fact everything we might hope for in an evening of poetry.

The atmosphere and support for all of the poets was superb and it was honestly great fun and a privilege to compere the evening.

Many thanks to the following poets for sharing with us:

  • Alex Swinton
  • Nanda Saravanan
  • Judith Hey
  • Duncan Battman
  • Jennifer
  • Charlotte Gringras
  • Fred (the Urban Poet) Varden
  • Polina Sparks
  • Alan Clemo
  • Judith Wilson
  • Tracy Fisher
  • Sam Barke
  • Mark Jones
  • Martin Zarrob

As the event approached I had wondered how ticket sales had been going when I received a message from organiser Anne Early that the session had sold out and sales had to be closed. On the night we had even more people arrive and the capacity of the room was stretched beyond its normal limits but the atmosphere was calm, friendly and supportive (if a little warm).

Final thanks to Anne Early and Yoko Isami for organising the event and the festival and to Jane Eaton for providing the venue.