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

 

 

 

Instagram #shaysimageaday challenge so far….

A collection of various images from instagram over the last year

The images above are the top selections from the posts on the challenge I set myself last December.

You can click here to see my Instagram site

Today I am recommencing that challenge and will see how long it might continue – when i started the challenge I decided it would continue as long as it was fun and I was learning from making the images – both of those things still apply so (although I’ve been unable to post for a while); here I go again….

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.

A project to reboot the creative mind

Screenshot of the first image for my challenge - a dried poppy seed head

My first #shaysimageaday challenge image from Dec 2018

Pretty much every creative person will occasionally get stranded in the metaphorical doldrums, we suffer a creative block. The cause can be anything from tiredness, apathy or fear to events in our busy lives overtaking us. The solutions are many and books have been written about how to move beyond the block and regain our creativity.

Six months ago I found myself feeling creatively stymied, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t drawing and I wasn’t making images. The circumstances that led me to that point are not important, the important thing is how I was able to more on. This post is an initial look at that process and how it has helped me. Should this approach help others then that would be a real bonus.

I decided in late December 2017 that to stimulate my mind and create something new to focus on I would set myself a challenge: every day I would make a brand new image and that image would be posted online on Instagram. The challenge would be called “#shaysimageaday” and I would use that hashtag on my posts. Images can be photographs (most of them are), drawings, prints or images made from words (as long as the words can create an image in the reader’s mind) and there is no target length for this challenge – as long a it is fun and I’m learning then I might as well keep going!

At first I expected the challenge might run for a few weeks. My very first post on the day I decided on the challenge was the poppy head pictured at the top of this article. There was no advance plan for the images and I generally decide on a subject during the day but strangely enough six months later I find myself posting images of poppy seed heads collected in the last few days from our garden. In the meantime there have been images of all sorts of man-made and natural objects and there have been plenty of shots taken outdoors. The latest image is shown here:

An image of a wild poppy seed head with others in the background being blurred

Wild poppy seed heads

The bottom line is that setting myself this challenge has really delivered as I hoped it would and I believe it has gone further than that and the personal and creative benefits have been, and continue to be of real value to me. A nice bonus is that I’ve amassed a collection of over 180 new images with which I am very pleased.

I’m sharing this post partly so that the challenge might offer some value to others as well.

In future posts on this blog I will show more examples of the images created and explain some of the methods I’ve used; meanwhile here area couple more of the images

A photo of my linocut print of Whitby Pier being carved

A photo of my linocut print of Whitby Pier being carved

A drawing from classic cars at Vintage Village in Stockport

A drawing from classic cars at Vintage Village in Stockport

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 – 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.