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.

Wigan Diggers Featival

Image may contain: textI am delighted to announce that I will be performing at The Wigan Diggers Festival on Sept 8th 2018.

The festival which commemorates Gerrard Winstanley, pioneering socialist thinker (before the term was coined) and leader of the 17th Century Diggers movement, is celebrating its 8th year on 8th September (some kind of serendipity?) and continues to grow and flourish. The full line up includes a wide range of music and spoken word including:

  • The Blockheads
  • Merry Hell
  • Barnstormer 1649 (featuring Attila The Stockbroker)
  • The Commoners’ Choir
  • Joe Solo
  • Bard Company
  • Patrick McKenzie
  • The Amber List
  • Gerry Ffrench
  • Jupiter Hollow Blues Band

The poetry slot is at 2.50pm when I will be performing alongside three other poets (details to be announced shortly) so expect to hear words and rhythms that will shake the cobwebs of your social consciences.

There will also be a range of other activities including entertainment for children, a range of stalls and of course there will be plenty of food and drink.

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 – Poetry open mic night


Just one week to go to the Altrincham Word Fest Open Mic session.

Date: Thurs 24th May 2018

Time: 19:00 – 21:00

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

Here is the chance for all local poets and poetry lovers to share your poetry in front of a supportive crowd with myself, Seamus Kelly as Master of Ceremonies.

This will be a pressure-free event and even the most nervous new poet will be guaranteed support and encouragement. All levels of experience are welcome so you can bring your first poem or your 1000th and share it at this relaxed evening of poetry at Coco’s in Altrincham.

With no specific theme, or poetic style, we will be happy to hear you work whether it be quiet personal musings, lyrical meanderings, thought provoking meditations or tub-thumping  rhetoric.

Should you have a poem you’d like to hear performed just let me know on the night and I’ll be happy to read it for you. If you have a favourite poem written by someone else that you would like to hear performed then why not bring it along to share?

The open mic is a great chance to hear a range of different poets, to learn and share our rhyming couplets, our stanzas, our quatrains, sestinas and our free verse. There will be poems to make you smile, poems to spark memories of imagination and poems to make you pause for thought or even cry and of course most importantly to enjoy as we listen to others people’s ways with words.

 

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

Poem and photo in The Bolton Review 2018

Mono photo of an old pocket watch without hands

Last year I was delighted that one of my poems and a photograph were selected for inclusion in the Bolton Review so I am doubly delighted that some of my work has been selected for publication for a second year.

The Bolton Review is a student led creative arts magazine from the University of Bolton – you can find more about the production and the beautifully printed magazine here.

As studied for my PGCE at Bolton University in 2007 and to be recognised among those who have studied creative writing and visual arts at the University is particularly pleasing.

With a first degree in science (ecology) from the University of Lancaster and having worked in IT for about 20 years a career change to work creatively with images and words felt like a massive and risky change. In reality it felt like coming home, using the same creative thought processes to solve problems with IT, find ways to teach people new systems and finding new ways to express ideas are really much more similar than one might imagine. Inclusion in the Bolton Review beautifully links the scientific and creative sides to my careers.

The works to appear will be my poem “A short walk” and my photograph “Timeless” which is pictured here. The Bolton Review 2018 will launch at Bolton Central Library next week please click here for further information and tickets

Modus Operandi – a reunion exhibition for Bolton PGCE group

Today’s opening of a new exhibition titled “Modus Operandi” in the Gallery at St George’s House, Bolton, was an apt reunion for some of the students who completed our PGCE courses at The University of Bolton 10 years ago (or a little over) was a great reunion event as well as the launch of an exhibition to be proud of.

The exhibited work includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and a book and gives a good feel for the wide range of artists who came to Bolton in 2006 to train as teachers and we are delighted to be joined in the exhibition by Mary Rudkin who had been one of our tutors in the course.

The work currently exhibited include; paintings by curator Jonathan Hughes, a book by Tom Baskeyfield, photography by Irena Siwiak Atamewan, Emma Dunne, Claire Massey and myself, sculpture from Paul Gilmore and mixed media from our former course tutor Mary Rudkin. A few images below give a feel for the content – if you are in Bolton it is certainly worth a visit.

Pictures of the exhibited artworks

I had been asked some time ago if I’d do a poetry reading at the launch and had happily agreed. Today as I looked at my poems, ready to start my reading, I remembered how much more challenging it can be to read in front of people you know, especially if you know each other from some role in life other than poetry.

Photo of Seamus reading his poetry at the event

Poetry at Modus Operandi launch

With that trepidation echoing through me I cleared my throat, introduced myself and told the audience what I was about to do and introduced my first poem “Seahorses” to be followed by a specially adapted poem just for this event “and finally “Different Dad” for a little bit of fun.

I was really pleased by the reception my work received and spent a while answering lots of questions about the poems, my writing in general and about workshops, writing groups and so on.

Gallery manager, Emma Kelly, spoke to me about the possibility of using the venue to run some of my creative writing and possibly other creative workshops so watch this space for potential announcements in the not too distant future.

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

Rochdale Artists 30th Anniversary Celebratory Event

A few months ago I was honoured to be invited to write and perform a poem for the 30th Anniversary of Rochdale Artists. In the run up to the event I worked on my poem which went through several iterations before I finally settled on placing a number of well known artists from the past in the context of Rochdale, past future and present.

The event took place today at The Coachhouse in Littleborough with a buffet lunch and an exhibition which will run for a month.

George Hardy, president of Rochdale Artists introduced the Mayor of Rochdale who spoke about the exhibition, his own interest in art and the importance of the arts to our society.

The Mayor’s comments were added to by Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for communities and culture, who spoke of the value of such organisations and the people who run them. It was then time for my poem to have its first outing, having been previously only read out loud in an empty room.

I’ve reproduced the full poem, The Artists in Rochdale, below:

 

The Artists in Rochdale

By Broadfield’s pond, I paused,

to sit on Monet’s stool,

as rare morning-dappled-sunlight painted the lilies,

en plein air.

I wondered at Gaudi’s natural forms on the banks of the Roch,

and MacIntosh’s tulips grew in the borders

beyond the gates of Falinge Park.

In Healey’s deep Dell I listened to the water

tumbling, turning and smoothing the rocks

and I glimpsed Hepworth’s hammer and chisel

through the mid-day mist

and she knew; that I knew.

In the early afternoon,

just below Littleborough’s Summit,

under ominous clouds

Constable was painting the lock gates.

And as Lowry sketched the early evening workers

leaving Townhead Mill,

I saw Paul Gauguin painting the town,

in greens, oranges and reds with a dash of purple,

and was that Banksy skulking in the corners

on Toad Lane?

I found Braque’s brushes, still wet

In the bushes by Touchstones.

And Picasso’s palette blue, and blue

and blue

abandoned on a bench by the Butts

Beside half a can of Special Brew

And an uneaten slice of pizza

Mondrian taking “as little as possible of reality”,

shared his disapproval of Rochdale’s,

gone but not forgotten, Black Box;

It needed more lines, some blocks of colour.

It was just there;

that Boccioni

glimpsed a different future

on Riverside.

Matisse was still cutting cardboard corners

in Yorkshire Street.

Damian Hirst was counting sheep

by the Arndale

and that tent pitched at Rakewood?

not camping with the scouts,

but artwork with Tracey.

As evening faded to night

Vincent gazed into the sky over Cronkeyshaw

And whipped up a storm in oils.

I caught a dazed Dali doodling

and dallying a little too long in the Baum

and time just melted,

merged

and drifted away

I met Toulouse living it up in the Olde Boar’s Head

and in a quiet corner Miss Stansfield posed for Leonardo.

Seurat and Signat were arguing at the bar

each making their point,

by point,

by point,

a million times.

And Rembrandt peered out of the darkness

And was that really Duchamp I saw,

taking the p*** in The Regal Moon?

And I swear I found a piece of Vincent’s ear

in the gutter by the Flying Horse

And where are the artists now?

The creation, the endeavour, the wit

Where now, the watercolours, the oils,

the pencils, the inks,

the charcoal and pastels?

Well the artists are still right here

and only the names have changed.

With their riggers, their filberts and mops,

with Kolinsky sable and Russian squirrel

with Taklon and badger and hog.

An apothecary of Cambium, Cobolt and Zinc

With their Prussian Blue and French Aquamarine

And their whites; their whites

So many shades of white

And they’re talking and painting,

and looking and drawing.

And they’re;

on the walls.

And they’re watching and waiting.

If you linger, to look, a little longer

you might be an unwitting model,

like Miss Stansfield with Leonardo.

You may be drawn

or drawn-in,

to a chat,

a cup of tea

and a Rochdale world of art,

because after 30 years;

there is life-still

in the artists,

in Rochdale,

today.

 

 

Weaving Words Radio Show on Defiant Radio

I was delighted to be invited by Eileen Earnshaw (top Rochdale Poet, cooperator, leader of writing and reading groups, student of creative writing and of course mother and grandmother) to be the guest on her very first “Weaving Words Poetry Radio Show” recorded and broadcast yesterday on Defiant Radio, Rochdale’s newest and fast growing radio station.

Eileen opened by asking about the role cycling had played in my past and recent work on the Connect2Poetry project leading into a discussion of what it is to be a poet. We also talked about forthcoming events especially the Fringe event for the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival which will take place from 11.00am to 3.00pm on Sunday 22nd October, at which I will deliver a poetry set alongside other local poets and performers including music from Between the Vines.

Eileen played music from Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and of course a tune from Tom Petty who had sadly passed away the previous night.

We had a great chat with great music and a few poems, a couple of which had not been aired before – the poems included:

  • Come on Hat
  • An Understanding
  • A Platform I don’t know

If you are looking for an insight into how a radio show like this is recorded you can hear some of the conversation accidentally recorded on an open microphone whilst John Mellencamp’s Pink Houses was playing – but for her ever radio first show I was very impressed with my host.

You can here the show by clicking on the link below:

Pleckgate High School – National Poetry Day 2017

Picture of Students' poetry display at Pleckgate High SchoolToday I was delighted to be at Pleckgate to provide a series of sessions for students as part of National Poetry Day.

The welcome was lovely and I have to say that each time I’ve visited I’ve found both students and staff to be attentive and supportive. More importantly perhaps they’ve been open to learn about poetry, hear examples, to get involved in active discussion and even a little acting.

With four groups of students including years 7, 8 and 10 I was kept busy, and happy, helping to inspire and being inspired myself. Each group had a discussion of concepts of freedom and each student wrote a sentence or just their thoughts some of which are shown in the images below.

All of those thoughts, 180 or so, of them will be read and collated to create a poetic interpretation to be shared back in school. My early reading is proving to be really enlightening and I’m looking forward to reading the remainder.

Once we’d done the “hard” work around freedom it was time to have some fun with poems; and we certainly did.

At lunchtime students and staff came together to share some of their own new work and some favourite poems. The variety and the quality of the writing by the young people was astounding and bodes well for the future.

Links to the school’s own report and photos from the day will be added here as soon as they are available.