RILF 2019 – Kate Clanchy Review

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;

Image of my newspaper review of Kate Clanchy talk

Coverage on All Across the Arts

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.

Image of article from Rochdale Observer

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.

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.

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

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

 

 

 

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.

Altrincham Word Fest – May 2018

Last year I was invited by Anne Early and Yoko Isami to perform and host a poetry event as part of the Hidden Altrincham Arts Festival.

The event, in September, at Riddles (specialist spirits retailer) was a great success but little did I know at the time that the seeds had been sown to create a brand new festival focused on writing and literature; but they had well and truly been sown and the result  is Altrincham Word Fest 2018.

Altrincham Word Fest has a unique selling point: all literature festivals focus on encouraging and sharing a love of literature and reading but this new festival on the block really focuses on giving people the chance, and a gentle nudge, to create their own writing.

I am of course delighted to be part of this exciting new event on the literary calendar and you can find details of all of the events and book places by following the links below:

Sat 12th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – Life writing and personal narrative workshop with Kate Feld

Sun 13th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – Creating powerful characters with Sarah Cassidy

Sun 13th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – The stories we could tell a workshop for young people 14-18 with Seamus Kelly

Thur 17th May – 19:00 to 21:00 – An evening with Paul Carroll self-publisher extraordinaire

Sun 20th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – Creating content online with We Blog North

Thur 24th May – 19:00 to 21:00 – Poetry open-mic night hosted by Seamus Kelly

Sat 26th May – 14:00 to 16:00 – The Power of Poetry with Seamus Kelly

Sun 27th May – The art of flash fiction – How to write a short story in 150 words with David Gaffney

…..

Altrincham Word Fest – The Power of Poetry Workshop

Just over a week to go to my Power of Poetry workshop as part of the Altrincham Word Fest so I’m refreshing the parts prose can’t reach and ensuring the everything is ready to go.

Booking is essential through the Eventbrite site – to book click HERE

Once you’ve booked you need only bring yourselves, a pen and paper might be handy but don’t worry I’ll have plenty with me, and together we’ll make sure that you leave full of ideas and inspiration and of course some brand new writing of your own.

Time and Date: Sunday 26th May, 2018

Location: Coco’s Italian Restaurant, Altrincham (www.cocositaliancafe.co.uk)

Image made up of many words relating to poetryDetails: Poetry can convey our stories, ideas and emotions with great power. This workshop guides and inspires new writers with handy techniques to create writing full of power and feeling. The workshop includes an introduction with examples, discussion, idea development and lots of opportunity for the participants to be creative.

My final session as part of the Altrincham Word Fest 2018 will be my “Power of Poetry” workshop. First delivered in 2016 this workshop is suitable for people who are regular and capable poets and for those just contemplating putting together their first poem.

As a poet I realised that the very word “poetry” can be construed in so many different ways that each of us might have our own view of what poetry really is. In this workshop we’ll see how poetry can give language extra power, how it can directly access the emotions – I sometimes define poetry as like prose but on steroids. I’ll share poems that will make you smile, stop you dead in your tracks, amuse or challenge; and the poetry will do that quickly and accessibly.

You don’t need to be well read, you don’t need to have a particular cultural background and you don’t need a particular level of education. Writing poetry needs only your own native language, your own thoughts and a few tools or techniques – we all have them we sometimes just need a little nudge and maybe support to get going.

In this session you will use some of those tools and techniques (and the nudges) and everyone taking part will finish up with some brand new poetry to be proud of – and we’ll all have a good time.

What’s not to like?

You can book your place HERE

Altrincham Word Fest – SWCT young people’s workshop – Sunday 13th May 2018 – 13:30-15:30

Two years ago I was invited by Steve Cooke of “All Across the Arts” to be part of a project called “Stories We Could Tell” in Rochdale. In two weeks time we’ll be bringing this exciting work to share in Altrincham.

You can book a place here

The project gives young people, who have experienced trauma of any kind, the opportunity to explore ways of telling their own stories in a pressure free and friendly environment. There are a number of professional creatives on hand to assist as required. We started out with a storyteller, a visual artist, a singer songwriter and myself an poet and writer. We have since benefitted from input from people working in acting, music, radio, journalism and animation as well as an art teacher and a guitar tutor.

So far we’ve seen young people tell their stories through songs, raps, poems, letters, visual art, animation, short film, photographic storyboards, videos, artwork, scripts, anime drawings and radio broadcasts. Currently several people are learning to play guitar and we have several longer pieces of work underway including a book-length fictional tale, a comic book story and a script for radio performance. The first young people to take part included some asylum seekers, some young people living in care and some who have mental health issues and at the end of the project several have become mentors for the next group which is a wonderful example of the power of positive support and creativity.

We meet at Vibe on Monday evenings and with facilities including a radio studio, recording studios, plenty of musical instruments, lots of space to relax or work and a range of art materials on hand. There are plenty of snacks provided and the professional coffee machine provides not only great hot drinks but the opportunity for some of the young people to be trained as baristas.

We can’t bring all of this to Altrincham for one afternoon but we will bring some of the people, lots of the ideas and the ethos to the Stories We Could Tell workshop for young people as part of the Altrincham Word Fest.

Along with Matt George (animator, droid maker, artists and technocrat) we will share some of the great experiences from the SWCT project in Rochdale to Open Studios in Altrincham as part of the Altrincham Word Fest and we will give people the opportunity to start to explore their own stories and the support and guidance to get underway – who knows where this will lead….

It will be interesting, it might be emotional, it might be entertaining; it is guaranteed to be fun!

You can find out more about SWCT on our brand new website here

Touchstones Creative Writing Group Workshop – 1st Feb 2018

After a few quiet months, necessitated largely by ill-health and surgery, I was glad to be back in action running a creative writing workshop in Rochdale for the Touchstones Creative Writing Group (TCWG).

TCWG goes from strength to strength in terms of both quality and numbers and there were and amazing 23 participants at this month’s workshop which I had themed around “Home”.

Picture of flipchart used in workshop

After a couple of introductory poems to provide some inspiration the group were engaged in discussion around the theme to broaden the range of approaches that might be taken when writing relating to the theme for the session.

Two writing exercises saw the group fall almost silent as pens rushed across paper to plan and write 23 brand new works. After each exercise a few of the group were able to read some of the work they had just produced and receive verbal feedback from myself and the group. All of the work shared received great support from the whole group and it must be said that there were the makings of some excellent poems and short fiction developed during the afternoon.

As usual the range of topics written about and the range of styles were varied and would have been very difficult to predict.

My next workshop for the group is likely to be themed around “Rediscovery” and will take place at Touchstones on 7th June 2018