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

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….

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Kultura – August 2016 with James Nash

A short trip up the road to Todmorden for Kultura at Kava is always rewarded with a mixture of quality poetry, unexpected insights from the guest lecturer and of course and excellent cup of coffee.

kultura james nash

The guest lecturer last week was James Nash, top Yorkshire poet, who gave an interesting talk about how growing up in urban environments and now spending a significant proportion of his time in the country has influenced his writing, reading and life. He referenced influential writers, poets and songwriters  and I particularly enjoyed the section about walking along a dark country lane in Wales with references to both Wordsworth and Henry Vaughan. Having spent much of my time in the country James’ experiences often contrasted with my own and I was inspired to draft a little piece after the lecture reflecting my own experience of the total darkness in the countryside as a teenager.

Picture of James Nash lecture and my notes

James Nash’s lecture and my notes from the evening

Feature poet for the night was Atar Hadari, Israeli born poet, writer, playwright actor and mentor with a mix of poems giving new ways of looking at familiar stories from the Old Testament in his own words and translations of works from other writers. He read from his translation of Bialik, from his own book, Rebrandt’s Bible and spoke fondly of his mum rescuing the lamps of deceased Jews. Entertaining, thought provoking and (for some perhaps) a little controversial – great stuff.

John Foggin then read and led the discussion of his favourite poem (at least for the moment) and the evening ended with the open mic session featuring:

Anthony Costelloe, Shirley-Anne Kennedy, Jessica, Jonathan, Simon, Annie, Robert, John and myself.

There are only a few more of these monthly sessions left, as after three busy and successful years, Anthony will be folding up his compere’s music stand with a final flourish at the end of this year.

Remaining dates are – 29 September, 27 October, 24 November and 15 December 2016

And did I mention the coffee – it will still be served at Kava after Kultura has gone….

 

Hannah’s Bookshelf – Guest poet on North Manchester FM – 3 Sept 2016

What a great time I had on the radio yesterday afternoon. Having appeared in a brief slot to read some poetry on North Manchester Radio back in July I was delighted to be invited back as the guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf yesterday.

You can find the program on North Manchester Radio HERE.

For a reading, performance or a workshop we (writers and poets) can always prepare fairly comprehensively; usually having a plan with a few extra options so that it can be varied to fit the mood and needs of the audience.

Photo of Seamus reading on the radio

Reading on the radio – photo courtesy of Hannah

As a guest on the radio that preparation is a little different. In this case I knew the show consisted of two sections. In the first I’d be chatting about writing and poetry so it was just a case of having poems, being myself and being prepared to discuss whatever came up. In the second I would talk about three books I’d choose to save in the event of an apocalypse; for this section I could have a good think in advance, select my books, find something to say about why I’d chosen them and make sure they were not already saved by previous guests.

Each guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf selects three books and the choices are added to Hannah’s The Library at the End of Days  which is well worth a look and gives an insight into the range of guests on the show. My choices will be added to the site shortly and are titles by Gerald Durrell, Pablo Neruda and Seamus Heaney.

The whole show will be available online in a couple of days and I’ll post a link HERE.

Hannah has a great, relaxed and supportive style and the discussion flowed naturally including how I first got into poetry, when we reach the point of calling ourselves “poets” and a discussion about some of the things poets do as well as writing poems (e.g. workshops, events, readings, listening to and reading other poets etc.). A handful of poems were added into the mix and two hours simply flew by.

Great fun this radio stuff and it certainly gets easier with practice.

Feedback from Weaving Words – 22nd August 2016

Wow! What a great night over at Heywood Library on Monday.

Manchester pens 1Usually for an event in August we can expect low numbers as people are busy childminding, taking holidays and have lots of things to do other than go out and listen to a poet and take part in a writing workshop. Not this time – the room was full to capacity pushing the Edwardian air conditioning (little windows that opened with a pole) to its limits.

After a lovely (and not yet earned) brew and biscuits and a quick reorganisation of the furniture so everyone had somewhere to sit I was introduced by Eileen Earnshaw for the first “performance” part of the session. As I had planned I used mostly more recent poems supplemented by a few from my book and with excellent responses from the audience we all had a good time talking about bike racing, being an outsider, family, money, politics and modern society.

After the half hour “reading” (performance/reading/telling? – that is a discussion for another post) had flown by it was time for the workshop. We talked about what poetry is and I laid out a few simple rules for the session, gave some examples and offered some advice as I steered the group into creating their own poems of 16 lines. As always in workshop situations I was amazed by the way 20 people can put such different slants on a subject and the stunning and varied ways in which words could be combined to add impact.

New poemWe had poems about people, about places, about words and even about motorbikes and as the session went on I spent time supporting each of the participants whether through ideas, phrasing, choice of words, rhymes etc. Every now and then I’d come across something that really grabbed my attention and that was so clever, unique and powerful that with the permission of the writer would share it with the whole group.

We ended with some of the poets reading their work or having me read to the group on their behalf. Several of the attendees had never written poetry before but you really would know from hearing or seeing their words.

I’m grateful to Weaving Words and Eileen Earnshaw for inviting me to run this session, to Rochdale council and Punam Ramchurn for organising the venue and funding, to Heywood Library for their welcome and facilities and of course to to participants who threw themselves into the session and produced work to be very proud of. Thanks all. Below is some of the feedback received at the event:

Responses:

  • Did you enjoy the session   –  Yes:15     No:0
  • Was the session useful   – Yes:16     No:0
  • Would you attend future sessions   –     Yes:14 No:1
Comments:
  • Excellent, Inspiring
  • Very innovative, learning something new every session
  • Very useful for a technique to write in a more interesting and layered way
  • Really enjoyed the session and I nearly wrote my first poem (to be completed). Thank you very much
  • Great workshop, thought provoking
  • Lovely poetry and great workshop
  • Learnt loads, Seamus was great, loved the poetry and was helpful & encouraging during his workshop

Touchstones Creative Writing Group – Sketching with Words

Looking forward to facilitating at Touchstones in Rochdale on Thursday and currently putting the finishing touches to this edition of my workshop “Sketching with Words”.

All are welcome, including non-members, for the session which runs from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

Image of Flyer from Touchstones Creative Writing Group

Flyer from Touchstones Creative Writing Group

Participants will ideally bring something to write with (pen, pencil, paper, back of an envelope, tablet, computer etc.) and other than that just an open mind and their own imagination.

We’ll run through some techniques and ideas and of course there will be plenty of opportunity to write and develop new pieces.

See you there….

North Manchester Radio

It was really great to meet up with fellow poets Joy France, AndyN, George Mellor, Sharon Lowe and William Michael Neary for the North Manchester Radio Bookshelf poetry special with Kate Hannah.

Seamus performs on North Manchester radio

Seamus performs on North Manchester radio

I was on along with Joy and enjoyed sharing a few poems, listening to a few of Joy’s and then we were off to be followed by the next poets. Here you can see a photo snapped by presenter Hannah as I performed my short set of poems.

If you missed the show you can find more information on Hannah’s site HERE and you can also listen to the show on mixcloud by clicking HERE

North Manchester FM Radio – Sat 23rd July

A few days ago top poet, Tony Walsh (Longfella), put out a call on behalf of North Manchester Radio and Hannah Kate for poets to appear on a special live version of her regular Bookshelf programme.
After a look at the station’s website – Northmanchester.fm – I decided that this was a show I’d be happy to involved with. Hannah broadcasts her Bookshelf programme weekly with a range of literary guests and topics and does this alongside her other life as an academic researcher, lecturer and writer. You can find out more on her website here – hannahkate.net

Time

So tonight I’m busy finalising a short set for tomorrow’s programme where I’ll be appearing (if one can “appear” on the radio) along with fellow poets Joy France, Andy N, William Michael Neary, Sharon Lowe and George Melling.

You can pick up the programme locally on 106.6FM or online at northmanchester.fm/listen and the broadcast will run from 2.00pm to 3.00pm.