Illness, Health and Disease were the themes for tonight’s Poetry with Friends at The Mission.

Conversation flowed between poems and around David’s conversation pieces: Sid Chaplin’s writing and a daguerreotype. Funny that as today would have been inventor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s 227th birthday. Mon dieu!


We enjoyed the following poems:

  • A Healthy Body is a Healthy Mind by Dr Rajendra Tela
  • A Forgotten Life by Linda Harrison
  • The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B. Yeats
  • Untitled by Alan Maddison
  • Sixty-one by Wendy Cope
  • Five Minutes by Norman Nicholson
  • Fever Ship by John Masefield
  • Fever Chills by John Masefield
  • Geordie’s Doctor by Geordie Broon
  • Hayfever by Elaine Feinstein

e feinstein

  • Train Ride by Ruth Stone
  • Sneezles by A.A. Milne
  • The Scream by John G. Lowe
  • Two Haiku by Mike Wilkin (R.I.P)
  • A Coat by W.B. Yeats
  • Sick by Shel Silverstein
  • My Funeral by Wendy Cope
  • On Going Deaf by Anne Stevenson
  • Casualty by Diana Witherby
  • Notting Hill Polka by W. Bridges-Adam
  • Chelsea Boots by The Legendary Ken Creen
  • ‘To be great, be whole’ by Fernando Pessoa

Our next Poetry with Friends takes place on Tuesday 2nd December and the theme is Music and Lyrics. Our final session of the year takes place on December 16th. The joint themes are “Festive” and “Bring Yer Own work.” For more information visit

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Durham, Cheltenham, Hexham, Cambridge, Hay on Wye…but what about Newcastle? The city has its own  book festival every year, it’s called Books on Tyne and it takes place next week.

books on tyne

This year’s theme is “On the Edge” and writers including Jenny Uglow, A.L. Kennedy, Harry Pearson, Marina Lewycka and Sheree Mack discuss and perform their work. Genres covered include crime fiction, comedy, poetry, literary fiction, biography, history and nature. There will also be discussions, book forums, lectures.


I’m involved in the festival for the second year running. I’m running a workshop of  Sunday 30th

For more information about the festival visit For more information visit


I help organise Free as a Bard, a poetry and music event at the coast with Peter Mortimer from Iron Press.

Freeasa Bard

Free as a Bard (or FaaB for short) takes place four times a year on a Sunday evening in Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema. The Jam Jar is a volunteer-run cinema offering something for everyone: mainstream, arthouse, children’s and “silver screenings.”

jam jar

 The  final Free as a Bard of 2014 takes place next Sunday 23rd November and  features a triple helping of local talent. Poets Scott Tyrrell and Vicky Arthurs are joined by musician and songwriter, Jack Arthurs.

Scott Tyrrell has been writing and performing comedy and poetry since the turn of the century. He is author of two collections of poetry, winner of 10 poetry slams around the country, twice semi-finalist in the BBCRadio 4 Poetry Slams, finalist in the Spokefest UK Poetry Slam and winner of the Manchester Comedy Balloon New Comedian 2003. Scott has performed at festivals around the country and Europe, including Edinburgh Fringe and Glastonbury.


“Scott’s poetry is as funny as the finest stand up comedy with razor-sharp punch lines that hit just in the right places. But it also has a heart. Scott is one of the best live stand-up poets in the country.” Kate Fox, poet.

Vicky Arthurs is a writer and editor based in Newcastle. She is inspired by the natural world, and fortified by tea and cake. She has performed at Books on Tyne and The Iron Age festival. Her poems feature in the IRON Press pamphlet Pieces from Eight. She is currently completing her first full-length poetry collection, Limehaven, forthcoming from IRON Press.


Jack Arthurs is a singer-songwriter based in Newcastle. Born in York, he came to the North East to study English at Newcastle University. He worked for literary magazines IRON, Stand and Granta. Jack’s first solo acoustic album Only Dreams Are True has been well-received, featuring on BBC Radio 3 and enjoyed by audiences at The Iron Age and Books on Tyne festivals. For Free as a Bard, Jack will perform new tracks from his forthcoming second album.


“Music to warm your soul” Newcastle Journal.

In addition there’ll be free fruit, a literary raffle plus a bespoke floral sculpture by Cullercoats artist, Jules Fleur on display.

Tickets £5 from

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A new face, a newish face and a few familiar faces sat around the table in Whitley Bay library today for Poetry with Friends.

The theme was Secrets which led us off on conversational tangents…once again.

The poems we shared and enjoyed were:

  • A Puppy Called Puberty by Adrian Mitchell
  • Material Signposts by Maureen Oliphant
  • Secretly We Spoke by Rumi
  • At Last the Secret is out by W H Auden


  • Blood Relative by Elaine Cusack
  • Super Secret Agent by Anon
  • Love’s Secret by William Blake
  • Dawn by Frederico Garcia Lorca
  • Winter: My Secret by Christina Rossetti
  • In Defence of Adultery by Julia Copus


The next Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library takes place on November 27th and the theme is “Previously…”


London called so I paid a visit this weekend. The capital and I are old friends. I visit whenever I am summoned.

I took the opportunity to visit The Institution of Engineering and Technology and was bowled over by their archive and their staff. Their archivists are friendly, enthusiastic and professional. How wonderful to read Joseph Swan’s handwriting. Hats off to the IET


I took a trip down memory lane after visiting chums in South East London on Friday night. The bus back into central (the 53) took me past old haunts Blackheath, Greenwich, New Cross, Elephant and Castle and delivered me in Whitehall. The journey brought to mind the lyrics of Greenwich Park, a song I wrote years ago:

“Perfect Symmetry, Delightful Symmetry: Naval College, Royal Observatory.”

greenwich park

On Saturday I found myself next to the Tower of London. I was not alone. The place was swarming with folk trying to take photographs of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. I visited much later at night when it was pouring with rain. Still crowds trying to take selfies beside the ceramic poppies. The installation was moving, especially the poppies pouring out of the tower.


At 11 am this morning I was in a room filled with 50% British and the other 50% composed of North American, French, German and Spanish. One Brit’s attempt to observe the minute’s silence had him almost busting blood vessels trying to “shush” the crowd into silence. I felt sorry for the non-Brits. It’s not their fault if the don’t know about the 11 am tradition.

And it’s over to Berlin to celebrate more recent history….

Germany Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of The Fall Of The Berlin Wall


Full house and almost full moon at The Mission tonight. Poetry with Friends kicked off not with poems but Gail’s delicious homemade broth and stotties and baguette from Pat and Linda.

anne sexton

Three newcomers joined regulars to play about with our theme “Big Spooky Bang.” We shared work by poets including Adrian Mitchell, Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe, Swinburne and, er McGonagall.

Newcomer, The Legendary Ken Creen, performed twice and regular Alan was inspired to write and then read out a poem during the session. Regular Elizabeth shared a moving poem about her grandmother.

I read out the lyrics to Elvis Costello’s Indoor Fireworks from his King of America album and Linda read a poem by Paul McCartney.

The next Poetry with Friends at The Mission is on Tuesday 18th November at 7pm and the theme is “Illness, Health & Disease.” Cue Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Keats…

The next Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library takes place next Thursday 13th at 11am and the theme is “Secrets.”

konig von usa


Pear flavoured marshmallows from Gareth James, the chocolatier in Tynemouth were sampled during this morning’s Poetry with Friends session at Whitley Bay Library. The jury is still out on the mallows (sorry Gareth) but we love your chocolates and hot drinks!

gareth james

The theme of today’s session was Otherness. It was a tough one but we managed to chat about:

I’m Nobody! Who Are you by Emily Dickinson

Discipline by George Herbert

I Would Like to be a dot in a painting by Miro by Moniza Alvi

The Grey Eye by Martin Figura

The Mystery of Pain by Emily Dickinson

Death by George Herbert

Every Day Life by Svetislav Stefanovich

To my Master in Zen by James Kirkup

The Quest for Tropical Paradise by Sheree Mack

Night by William Blake

Full Walnut Moon by Jen Hadfield

Corpse by Kirstin Luckins

What an interesting couple of hours!

The next Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay is on November 13th. Come and join us. Visit for more info.



The inaugural Newcastle Photography Festival is taking place this week until Sunday 26th. The festival was inspired by the considerable achievements of local legend, Joseph Swan.


Tonight a play by local writer Barry Quinn was performed at The Lit and Phil as part of the festival. The play, The Life and Works of Joseph Swan was rehearsed under considerable time pressure but the cast, consisting of Colin and Lewis Cuthbert and Willem Evans plus director Mary Pickin should be proud of their achievements. Congratulations to cast, director and writer, Quinn.

Last night I attended North East Rising by performance poet, Rowan McCabe. The show about north East identity is funny and thought provoking. It features Geordie Shore, Stottie Cakes and Joseph Swan.

rowan poet

It’s been a delight to watch and listen to Rowan growing as a writer and performer. Last night was the icing on the cake. North East Rising is at Stockton’s ARC tomorrow.

For more information about the Photography Festival visit

‘The Mind’ and ‘Humour’ were the themes explored in today’s Poetry with Friends @ Whitley Bay Library.

Poetry by Robert Browning, Jean Sprackland, Spike Milligan, Carol Ann Duffy, John Clare, Natalie Smith, Wendell Berry and more led to debate about school, mental health and well-being, Venice, Dartmoor, Cambridge, Whitley’s Jam Jar Cinema  and…themes for future sessions.

john clare

Future dates for Poetry with Friends @ Whitley Bay Library:

  • October 30th. The theme is ‘Otherness’
  • November 13th. The theme is ‘Secrets’
  • November 27th. The theme is ‘Previously…’
  • December 11th. Attendees to bring their own poems…or ones by favourite poets.

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