New creative writing project in Rochdale

An image of the Gaia installation in The Natural History Museum in London
Gaia Installation in London, Image from my-earth.org

I’m delighted to receive confirmation that my funding bid for an exciting new creative writing project in Rochdale has been approved.

The project, ClimateWorx, with a newly formed creative writing group with Vintage Worx will look at issues around climate change and take inspiration from the upcoming Gaia Installation at Number One Riverside in Rochdale.

“Climate Worx” will consist of a series of free creative writing workshops, themed around the Climate emergency and inspired by the Gaia installation. The workshops delivered to the creative writing group currently being established by Vintage Worx will include; introduction to creative writing techniques, development of new writing, editing and investigating climate change and actions communities can take to mitigate its effects

VintageWorx is based in Falinge Park, a stunning Victorian park in Rochdale, and are working to transform the Park, the local area and the lives of local people. The organisation offers a range of workshops, classes, events and activities including arts, crafts, up-cycling, health walks, volunteering opportunities and a job club. For more details CLICK HERE for the VintageWorx website.

NASA image of the earth rising over the moon - taken by Astronaut Bill Anders in 1968
NASA image of the earth rising over the moon – taken by Astronaut Bill Anders in 1

The Gaia Installation features a huge 3-dimensional globe of the earth measuring 7 metres in diameter with imagery from NASA’s photography. In Greek mythology Gaia in the personification of the Earth.

The artwork is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth with each centimetre of the internally lit sculpture describing 18km of the Earth’s surface. By standing 211m away from the artwork, the public will be able to see the Earth as it appears from the moon.

The installation aims to create a sense of the Overview Effect, which was first described by author Frank White in 1987. Common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 

Luke Jerram, the creator of the artwork has said “I hope visitors to Gaia get to see the Earth as if from space; an incredibly beautiful and precious place. An ecosystem we urgently need to look after – our only home.”

The Gaia exhibition runs from 20th November to 24th December and I would be pleased to discuss additional workshops with schools or community groups relating to Gaia and to the issue of climate change. Please email for further information to: seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk

New creative writing workshops added

Details of my most recent creative writing workshops have been added to the “Workshops” page on this site. Clicking the tab will take you to a full list of workshops along with details for bookings and prices.

Workshops that are particularly suitable for schools include:

  • Superheroes and mini-beasts (Key Stages 1/2/3)
  • Dinobirds (Dinosaurs and birds) (Key Stages 1/2/3)
  • Endangered (Key Stages 2/3/4)
  • Fun with words and poems (Key Stages 2/3/4)
  • Pyramid poetry (Key Stages 2/3)

Workshops suitable for adults as well as young people include:

  • The worlds inside my head
  • I’m not supposed to be here
  • The power of poetry

Bespoke workshops are always available. Bespoke workshops can be designed and themed to fit with current projects, areas of study, art installations and exhibitions etc. Please allow 4 weeks from booking for development and planning before delivery of bespoke workshops.

Should you wish to discuss any workshops or projects or to make bookings please email seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk

Pigments – a poem written in lockdown about changing stories and fading colours

Pigments

My metal nib dips

in the dappled green bottle,

quietly bubbling, drinking in Midnight Blue.

Tapped on glass rims

the thin remnant stains

sink back into the pooled pigment;

and I replace the lid.

My metal nib scratches and slides,

scratches and slides,

laying its snail-trail of ideas

in, none-too-neat,

left to right rows.

Shimmering slick tracks

dry to sharp edged characters.

Chrysalis stories open their wings

emerging into the light of day

fading from the moment of creation.

Details bleed from the edges,

Midnight fades through

Raw Umber to Charcoal Grey

as spilled blood changes

from Crushed Raspberry,

Burnt Sienna, to Lamp Black.

And the paper, musty,

like undried washing, 

softens, flakes and peels.

We re-tell the tale,

re-write the ideas.

Copy, re-write and re-type.

Reformed, intensified,

Carmine replacing Cinnamon,

Lagoon Blue for Faded Tattoo

and Deep India Black for Payne’d Grey.

Copy, re-write and pupate.

Re-written words,

stretch their wings in new light,

painting new stories.

My metal nib scratches and slides,

scratches and slides,

laying its snail-trail of ideas.

“Dinobirds” Creative Writing Workshops

New 2021 Summer School Workshops (2)

Workshops for KS1, KS2 and KS3 (time 1 to 2 hours per group)

Following the success of the Insect and Mini-Beast Superhero workshops for #HAF2021 Summer Schools I have been delivering another brand new workshop for children aged 5 to 12. The topics for this new “Dinobirds” workshop are dinosaurs and birds. The “Dinobirds” workshop is now available for bookings from September onwards – please email seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk for availability.

In this fun and informative workshop children write either poems or stories after hearing my light hearted poem, “My Pet T-Rex”, followed by discussion about dinosaurs and birds. They will learn about the different types of creatures, what are the largest and smallest, what they looked like, what they eat and how birds evolved from dinosaurs and how their feathers developed to enable them to fly. Children are encouraged to be creative and think beyond the usual constraints they might sometimes have in a classroom setting. By mixing together birds and dinosaurs the poems and stories have a unique appeal with each child given free rein to extend their creativity.

An image of the T-Rex footprint leaned against a microphone stand

To help get ideas flowing a wide range of visual images are available, including a life size Tyrannosaurus foot print and template sheets for poems or stories.

When the children have finished their poems or stories they can read them out, if they choose to, and audio recordings can be made. If children are not comfortable reading their work out they can choose for an adult to read for them.

During the workshops delivered for the Health Activity and Food sessions by YourTrust, Rochdale, young people have created a Golden-Rex that likes to play dodge ball, a Golden Eagle-Velociraptor that likes to ride on the bus and a Golden-Eagle Ostrich that sings like a broken record.

For young people the opportunity to write creatively, without being tied by specific rules, or being limited by their ability to spell or use perfect grammar, helps to develop creative thought and imagination. Working in this way helps with problem solving skills and logic whilst still allowing them to explore the familiar alongside the unknown and magic. Telling stories and writing poems is a highly personal set of skills and children benefit from exploring their own opinions and their own creative voices.

After completing their poems the children have the opportunity to draw or colour images using the range of source material provided.

To do this without being judged, marked or graded, brings a freedom that can rarely exist in the school curriculum. That freedom makes it fun to write, read and in some cases to record of perform their work. Such enjoyment of reading, writing and literature can continue to bring benefits throughout our lives.

Superhero Insects and Mini-Beasts

New 2021 Summer School Workshops (1)

Workshops for KS1, KS2 and KS3 (Time 1 to 2 hours per group)

During the Summer I have been delivering a brand new creative writing workshop, as part of the #HAF2021 Summer Schools, to children aged 5 to 12 at various locations in Rochdale, Middleton and Heywood. The “Superhero Insects and Mini-Beasts” workshop is now available for bookings from September onwards – please email seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk for availability.

In this fun and informative workshop children write either poems or stories after hearing my light hearted poem, “The Plastic Mantis”about a fictional superhero beast that can turn plastic waste into useful material. Children are encouraged to be creative and think beyond the usual constraints they might sometimes have in a classroom setting. By mixing together insects of mini beasts with other creatures to create their own environmental superheroes the poems and stories have a unique appeal.

In this workshop children will learn about a range of insects and mini beasts including Bees and Earthworms, they find out what they contribute to the environment, what are the largest and smallest, what they eat, how they hide and lots of interesting facts . To help get ideas flowing a wide range of visual images and fact-cards are available, including a life size cut-out picture of the largest insect that ever lived and template sheets that are used to produce either poems or stories.

When the children have written their poems or stories they can read them out, if they choose to, and audio recordings can be made. If children are not comfortable reading their work out they can choose for an adult to read for them.

During the workshops delivered for the Health Activity and Food sessions by YourTrust, Rochdale, young people have created a BeeLion as fierce as a shark, a WolfBee as big as a BMW that can make it rain and an Elepede with 100 legs that can put out fires.

For young people the opportunity to write creatively, without being tied by specific rules, or being limited by their ability to spell or use perfect grammar, helps to develop creative thought and imagination. Working in this way helps with problem solving skills and logic whilst still allowing them to explore the familiar alongside the unknown and magic. Telling stories and writing poems is a highly personal set of skills and children benefit from exploring their own opinions and their own creative voices.

After completing their poems the children have the opportunity to draw or colour images using the range of source material provided.

To do this without being judged, marked or graded, brings a freedom that can rarely exist in the school curriculum. That freedom makes it fun to write, read and in some cases to record of perform their work.

The Bolton Review 2021

After 12 months where many of our normal daily activities have been severely curtailed it was really great to hear that one of my poems, “Pigments”, will be published in the 2021 edition of the Bolton Review.

During the periods of lockdown, weighed down with concerns about the safety of our loved ones, friends and the public at large, it has sometimes been difficult to concentrate on writing. I’ve always tended to write best when I have a good clear head and can experience the world and emotions without them being clouded.

That means that I’ve only written a handful of poems in the last year so for one of that small number to be published is not only exciting, but also a reminder that sometimes it isn’t how much we write that is important but what we write.

Pigments is a poem about how stories are created and how, like life, they change with each retelling. I wouldn’t pre-empt the published version yet by sharing on this blog, but here are a few lines to whet appetites:

My metal nib scratches and slides,

scratches and slides,

laying its snail-trail of ideas.

A dip pen drawing a line of bright yellow/green on white paper

Whilst writing less than usual I’ve managed to keep stoking the metaphorical fires of creativity by focusing more on my photography and image making including starting on a new series of linocut prints of which I will write more in a forthcoming blog post.

Queens of Blackpool Project

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.

An image of the newspaper article about 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.

RLIF Writers Showcase 2019

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.

jpeg image of newspaper column

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

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