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

“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.

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