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.

Vanity of Small Differences

Creative Writing Workshop

Picture of Seamus with misty background

2nd Sept, for the Touchstones Creative Writing Group from 2.00pm to 4.00pm at Touchstones Rochdale.

I’m delighted to be back to running face to face writing workshops. This afternoon I will be delivering a creative writing workshop inspired by the current exhibition in Touchstones, The Vanity of Small Differences, by Grayson Perry

In this session we’ll be talking about and taking cues from Perry’s work which focuses on taste, class and consumerism and was also influenced by The Rakes Progress by Hogarth. Most of all expect to enjoy some lively discussion and some brand new writing from everyone.

There are many works following similar patterns and we will discuss some to those including Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and the tale of Icarus.

A couple of quotes from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations where Pip, the main character and narrator, says early on to Biddy, “I have particular reasons for wanting to become a gentleman” (that reason being to be considered suitable by Estella) and then later on, as narration, he says, “In trying to become a gentleman I had succeeded in becoming a snob”

“Endangered” Creative Writing Workshop

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

Following the success of the “Insect and Mini-Beast Superhero” and “Dinosaurs and Birds” workshops for #HAF2021 Summer Schools I have also created and delivered another new workshop for children aged 5 to 12. The new “Endangered” workshop encourages children to look at a variety of creatures that are at risk of extinction. The “Endangered” workshop is now available for bookings from September onwards – please email seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk for availability.

In this fun and informative workshop children will hear some poetry and stories along with plenty of discussion about those at risk creatures. Using eight well know creatures as examples they will discuss what they are like, where they live, what they do for the environment and why they are endangered. Rather than being too prescriptive the young people are encouraged to ask lots of questions. Props including photos and some life size drawings of footprints for some of the creatures really help young people to understand the size and nature of these creatures

To develop skills in imaginative story telling the children are asked to choose one endangered animal and imagine what it is like to be that creature. Through a simple set of questions they are encouraged to be creative and think beyond the usual constraints they might sometimes have in a classroom setting.

After completing their stories or poems the children have the opportunity to make audio recordings of then and to draw or colour images using the range of source material provided.

After the workshops delivered for the Health Activity and Food sessions by YourTrust, Rochdale, young people have said;

“I enjoyed learning how to be an tiger”

“I’ve enjoyed learning about how big animals are and learning about African elephants”

“I’ve learned that people kill elephants to get their tusks”

“I’ve enjoyed writing”

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. Telling stories and writing poems is a highly valuableal set of skills and children benefit from exploring their own opinions and their own creative voices.

Whilst these workshops can be linked to the curriculum to write creatively 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.

“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.

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

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.

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.