Happy Planet Creative Arts are reopening after a short break with social crafting on Wednesday 23rd July. http://www.happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk/

My next poetry appreciation evening hosted by Happy Planet will take place in North Shields’ Mission next Tuesday 29th. Booking essential email gail@happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk

Our theme is journey/travel. I have been catching up with some summer reading. I think The Whitsun Weddings is relevant to next Tuesday’s gathering…

Colour reading

Photo credit: Phil Punton Photography http://www.philpunton.com/

My collaboration with artist Anne Proctor is precious. Neither of us know why it works or how long it will last.


We have been working together for over 18 months and have so far produced two books: Allotments No1 and Swifts Screech and Circle in the Afternoon Sun which are available at our Tynemouth market stalls and on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Moonkwaykstudio?ref=l2-shopheader-name

allotments no1

Many ideas have flowed between us. Some stick beside us and others drift on and may or may not return.

Our current project is…a book about a place close to our hearts. The book is radically different from the first two. Anne is using an Albion Press, a blummin’ big Victorian printing press, to print the pages.

I visited her in Ouseburn’s Northern Print earlier this week and watched her typeset a page. Such a slow process but what a joy to watch.

Here is a link to Anne’s blog about the day http://anneproctor.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/typesetting-printing-and-poetry/

More news on this book as it is produced.

Anne has given me many things over the past year and a half: inspiration, a good belly laugh or ten, photographs, images, food and drink, lifts to interesting places, records and books.

Ah yes, books. One of the most amazing ones she has given me is The Fairburn System of Visual References: Male Age Groups, Characters & Expression. It’s a folder jam-packed with loose contact sheets featuring hundreds of photos of blokes from the 1970s with differing facial expressions. I’m mesmerised by it. Here’s part of one sheet. Enjoy.

Mad men 1 001

Joseph Skipsey’s poems are part of North East England’s cultural heritage. This coal miner from Percy Main wrote amazing poems including The Hartley Calamity and The Collier Lad. He started working down the mine aged 7 but went on to become the custodian of Shakespeare’s birthplace for a time. Dante Gabriel Rossetti said of him: “I found him a stalwart son of toil and every inch a gentleman”


Chris Harrison is the great-great grandson of Skipsey. He’s a singer and musician based in South London and our paths met at poetry and music performances relating to The New Hartley Pit Disaster of 1862. Here’s a shot of him at the Hartley Disaster Memorial in Earsdon last September.

chris Harrison

Chris has just released a CD Carols from the Coalfield filled with his versions of Skipsey’s poems set to music.

I went to the Bridge Hotel Folk Club on Monday night to see him perform. The evening sun was blinding which made it impossible to take photographs of the performers.

bridge hotel

It was a great night out. Fantastic singing in a supportive atmosphere including a turn by local legend Johnny Handle. And I won the raffle!

Chris’s interpretations of Skipsey’s poems are impressive and moving. Visit his website http://www.chrisharrisonmusic.org/home to find out more about the CD and the new edition of Joseph Skipsey: Selected Poems

I started the week well with a mid-morning visit to Cramlington Writers’ Group. I had a fantastic, enlightening, enjoyable time with nine other writers and several packets of biscuits.

The group has about 15 active members and has been meeting for around the same number of years. Members have come and gone as have venues but the unique energy of the group keeps it motoring along.

A mix of backgrounds and literary leanings blend with shared core creative values. This group likes to push itself creatively. I found this inspiring. I had set a task for the group involving Haiku. The members rose to the challenge and read out an awe-inspiring amount of wonderful Haiku. I was impressed.

The group shared their thoughts on issues big and small as well as the names of favourite books. John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath got two votes so here’s a picture of the great man. They don’t make ‘em like John anymore….

john Steinbeck

Thank you to David for initially inviting me and to Pat for co-ordinating the visit. Thanks to the rest of the group for being so welcoming. I hope we meet again.

Just back from another poetry appreciation evening in The Mission, North Shields. We listened to each other read and then discussed poems by writers including A.P Herbert, Edwin Morgan, Stevie Smith & John Clare.

Here’s a picture of the multi-talented, prolific A.P. Herbert.


Conversation flowed from sushi squashed on public transport, toilets, the Edinburgh Fringe festival, systematic map theft, war and being mistaken for an IRA terrorist. The stories shared between the stanzas took us from North Shields to London, New York, Paris, Ostend, Amsterdam and Edinburgh.

Mr Kipling cakes and homemade biscuits were enjoyed alongside tea and coffee.

We are taking a short summer break from our Tuesday gatherings but will be back on Tuesday 29th July when the theme will be journey/travel.

Booking is essential via Happy Planet Creative Arts CiC. Please visit their website http://www.happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk/

Ted Hughes, Henry Lawson, Hilaire Belloc, Mary Oliver, PB Shelley, Ian McMillan, ee cummings…just some of the poets read aloud and appreciated this evening by a group of like-minded souls.

henry lawson

Yes. This really happened tonight. 2014. North Shields. No football. No other distractions. Nine of us around tables piled with poetry pamphlets, collections and anthologies.

We noticed threads linking the poems we shared as well as the more obvious links between us (bibliophilia & Tynemouth Market for starters).

Enlightening, lively conversation between wonderful poems with tea and coffee thrown in. Oh yes and writing this blog meant I had to find a photo of Henry Lawson. Didn’t he own a splendid moustache?

I’ve teamed up with Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC and run these poetry appreciation evenings in The Mission, North Shields. The next one is on Tuesday July 1st. For more information and to book a place please visit http://www.happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk/

Here’s a picture of one of tonight’s guests, David Franks. This photo was taken at Sunday’s Tynemouth Station Book Fair. We share the same taste in hats as well as a love of books.

2014-06-15 16.12.46

Yesterday I caught the last night at The Customs House, South Shields of Kirsten Luckins’ touring….what to call it? Poetic one woman play, spoken musical, acted stanzas?

I’m struggling to find the right words because The Moon Cannot Be Stolen is so fresh, so thought-provoking, so witty, so clever, so touching.

Kirsten is the North East co-ordinator for Apples & Snakes http://www.applesandsnakes.org/ and if it wasn’t for her work in that role, I wouldn’t be out and about sharing my poems with audiences.

She has a way of coaxing strong, authentic performances out of wee timorous poets clutching their files of poetry. I know because I was one of them.

I am so pleased she is sharing her amazing work with more and more audiences. She is a powerful, inspiring performer.

I hope this short Northern tour is not the end of the line for The Moon Cannot Be Stolen.

Check out the show’s blog for more info http://themooncannotbestolen.wordpress.com/

kirsten moon

Ask any specialist dealer of art, antiques or books and they’ll tell you that finding a hidden gem is far more thrilling and inspiring than selling one. The excitement is in the hunt.

You turn up at a house call, an auction, a car boot sale, a sleepy market town’s antiques centre and you have optimism in your heart and money burning a hole in your pocket. What will you find? Original art, rare books? Who knows…but there’s no way you’re going home empty-handed!

I source the second hand books I sell at Tynemouth market from a variety of channels and yes, I have shelves of books I can’t quite let go of…yet! I have to enjoy them for a while.

Take this edition of Flying Saucer Review from 1984. The cover is better than the story, believe me. I’m sure I’ll sell it at some point but for now I’m enjoying the cover. I hope you do too.

Flying Saucer Review 001

If I could time travel I’d return to the Victorian era and watch invention, creativity and great thinking happen in real time. I’d have to disguise myself as a wealthy Victorian gentleman, of course. I would need this privileged position to watch the likes of Joseph Wilson Swan in action.

Swan, born in Sunderland in 1828 grew up to be a physicist, chemist and is most famous for his invention, the incandescent light bulb. He also sported a most impressive beard.


His considerable photographic achievements have been overlooked…until now. The inaugural Newcastle Photography Festival takes place in October and is subtitled ‘A Celebration of Photography inspired by Joseph Wilson Swan and his Adventures with Carbon, Collodion and Light.’ Swan is the inspiration behind the festival packed with workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions of alternative photographic processes including wet plate.

This Tuesday (May 27th) marked the centenary of Swan’s death and descendants er, descended on Newcastle. Read about their visit here http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/descendants-light-bulb-inventor-joseph-7177759
and check out the festival website http://newphotofest.com/ and here’s an article about wet plate in Newcastle http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/photographer-uses-victorian-camera-capture-7146851

The internet’s a depressing place filled with ill-considered thoughts, extremist views, trolls and online bullies with their backs to the camera. Do you really like that comment on Facebook? Are you friends in real life as well as online? You follow that person on Twitter but do you care about what happens to them? Trending now…nonsense…

But the internet is also a place to find support and true friendship. Just ask young gays, emerging transsexuals and (‘m not being trite, here) fledgling poets. All three groups are in the process of accepting the reality of their identity and need to find others who share their problems as well as their passions.

When I returned to the North East five years ago, I rediscovered my poetic muse. I had always carried her with me. She came to University then London and Cambridge with me but she was folded up inside a box.

In summer 2009 she’d had enough of watching me. She needed to reconnect with me. In August 2009 she wrapped herself around me and helped  me make sense of grief, loss and of life. She has never left me since. She is a good friend. She doesn’t “do” Facebook or Twitter.


Rachel Cochrane and Kirsten Luckins do Facebook, Twitter, they write blogs and…they support emerging poets and writers. Rachel’s FANTASTIC online audio archive http://www.listenupnorth.com has been an outlet for my work. Rachel’s about to launch a new website rachelcochrane.com and I look forward to reading, seeing and hearing her future work.

Kirsten Luckins is the North East co-ordinator of Apples and Snakes. She has supported me in my journey from page to off-page performance poet. She is also an amazing poet. Her show The Moon Cannot Be Stolen is currently touring the North East. Next one is Hexham on Tuesday then Saturday 7 June, The Old School House, Leyburn, Thursday 12 June, Empty Shop, Durham and finally Friday 13 June, Customs House, South Shields http://themooncannotbestolen.wordpress.com/



All hail true friendship…and full fathom five female creativity.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.