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.

Happy Planet


 The final weekend of Mima’s Louise Bourgeois retrospective is celebrated tomorrow, Saturday 11th October by North East women poets.

Local poets in collaboration with local theatre company Precious Cargo have devised a performance piece which will take place in Mima, Centre Square, Middlesbrough, TS1 2AZ.

louise b

Spoken word star Sophia Blackwell, Tynemouth’s very own Sheree Mack plus spoken word collective,  Tees Women Poets will perform at 2pm and 3pm.

For more information visit


What links Groucho Marx and Alice Walker? Why, croquet of course! It’s amazing what you can learn at a Poetry with Friends session.

Tonight’s Poetry with Friends at The Mission was stimulating and extremely enjoyable.


Tonight’s theme was worn, as usual  like a Hawaiian Lei garland around the neck, rather than a dog collar at the throat of a bulging-eyed pitbull.

The theme was Black History Month and it took us from Africa to Australia via London, Birmingham and America. Intelligent debate jostled with a tale of playing table tennis with Susan Sarandon and,er, more William McGonagall.

Poets featured included John Agard, Phyllis Wheatley, Rita Dove, John Masefield, Alice Walker, Sheree Mack, Niyi Osundare and Louise Gluck. Maya Angelou featured four times and Audre Lorde two times.

audre lorde

Tonight was well-attended which meant participants had to leap on and off the poetic Wurlizter in order to share poems. What a ride.

Our next Poetry with Friends at the Mission is on Tuesday 21st October and the theme is Work.

Please visit Happy Planet’s blog for details on how to book plus more info on our other events including Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library on Thursday October 16th


I celebrated National Poetry Day by chairing a brand new Poetry with Friends meeting in Whitley Bay library.  The session, run by Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC was fun. I enjoyed it very much.

We kicked off with one of my poems, Souvenir of Tynemouth. The poem was written earlier this year as part of my ongoing collaboration with the artist Anne Proctor.

We also shared poems by Seamus Heaney, George Charlton, W.H Auden, William Wordsworth, Edward Lear, Issac Rosenberg, Jane Kenyon and Naomi Shihab Nye.

edward lear

naomi shihab nye

Ellen Phethean popped up again (one of her poems was shared at the last Poetry with Friends in North Shields) and there were two poems each by Ted Hughes, Keats, Yeats, Stevie Smith  and Dylan Thomas.

Poetry with Friends @ Whitley Bay Library will run every other Thursday from 11am to 1pm. The next session is on October 16th and the twin themes for the session are Humour and The Mind.

Our Tuesday night Poetry with Friends @ The Mission in North Shields runs every other Tuesday evening from 7pm to 9pm.  Our next session is on  October 7th and the theme is Black History Month.

Poetry with Friends costs £3 and includes as much tea, coffee or water as you want. Biccies are usually available too. Please pre book your place by emailing



I’m delighted to be involved in the inaugural Newcastle Photography Festival which takes place next month. Subtitled “A celebration of photography inspired by Joseph Swan and his adventures with carbon, collodion and light” this festival highlight’s Swan’s photographic legacy as well as the range of photographic talent in the North East.

The festival, which runs from 20th to the 26th October, boasts a varied events programme. Events include films,  talks, a Magic Lantern show, an exhibition and a play about Joseph Swan.

Newcastle’s Lit & Phil, The Side Gallery and Newcastle College are the festival venues.

You can look at the festival brochure online

There is also a downloadable brochure online at:

and here’s the Festival website.



Matsuo Bashō’s Haiku, William Carlos Williams’ Imagist classics plus poems by Ellen Phethean, Craig Charles, Sylvia Plath, Liz Lochhead, Charles Causley and more. Tonight’s Poetry with Friends at the Mission was a lively and enjoyable do. So good to see new faces alongside our regulars.

The theme was Food Glorious Food and not one but four (Fab Four!)  Roger McGough poems were shared over the two hours. Newcomer Jen’s version of The Demon Drink by William McGonagall got a round of applause. What delivery!


I threw in Rudyard Kipling’s If because…he does write exceedingly good poems.

Our next session is on Tuesday 7th October.  Our theme is Black History Month.  We start our new Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library next Thursday 2nd October from 11 am.

Happy Planet’s exhibition runs at Whitley Bay Library this week until Friday and our Open Day takes place the next day at The Mission

happy planet open day


Poetry & Music at the Coast this weekend

Free as a Bard returns to Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema this Sunday 28th September with poets Ellen Phethean and Kirsten Luckins plus musician Robby Thinman.

Free as a Bard (or FaaB) brings together the best, most accessible poets and musicians from the North East and beyond, places them in the original and convivial setting of the Jam Jar Cinema bar and lets the evening do the rest.

I help organise FaaB and Sunday’s gig will be our third Jam Jar event. The previous two sold out so please buy your tickets in advance online or in person at the cinema on Park Avenue from Wednesday to Saturday.

Tickets £5. Event starts 7.30pm.

Here are our performers….


Ellen Phethean, a founder member of The Poetry Virgins, is a writer and editor.

Wall (Smokestack Books, 2007), a novel in poems, won joint first prize in a Crossover Novel competition in 2004.

Her first collection, Breath (Flambard, 2009), was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award 2010.

Her second collection, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman was published this year by Red Squirrel Press.

Ellen runs workshops and teaches Creative Writing. Her website is


Kirsten Luckins is a poet and performer based in Hartlepool.

She spent the summer touring her first spoken word show The Moon Cannot Be Stolen around the region and at the
Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show was runner-up in the Saboteur Awards 2014.

She is North East programme co-ordinator for performance poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes. She blogs

thin man

Robby Thinman has been beavering away trying to learn music in anonymity around Tyneside for decades.

He played guitar in several bands and finally drums in Simon Todd’s band playing good and original material.

Solo, Thinman has been traversing the region’s open mics and jams for the last few years inflicting “songs” on the general public
with his Dylanesque voice.

Free fresh fruit and a literary raffle too!



The Poetry Exchange: nominate a poem that has been a friend to you

The Poetry Exchange celebrates the idea of poems as friends. Producer Bridget Floyer explains: ‘Through live events, recordings and the development of an online catalogue, we capture the insights of readers and share them. We work with readers, poets and actors to explore poems and what they mean to us and take the catalogue out to new audiences, inviting them to become part of the exchange.’

Ahead of their event at Durham Book Festival next month, The Poetry Exchange has an opportunity for people to have a poem recorded especially for them. On 2 October, National Poetry Day, three winners will be selected to receive a bespoke recording of their chosen poem. Nominate online at

stevie smith

Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC  Community Arts Exhibition & Open Day

Our exhibition  to show you what we offer is at Whitley Bay Library Monday 22nd Sept – Friday 26th Sept.

On Saturday 27th September we will have our open day at The Mission, Lower Rudyerd Street North Shields 10am – 4pm

You will be able to find out about our groups and classes in printmaking, crafting, felting and poetry. As well as this Business Advisor Toni Clark of SES, will be available to talk to any women interested in exploring the possibility of setting their own business.

If you would like to drop in and meet us we will have the kettle on.

facebook Happy Planet creative Arts CIC

 Happy Planet


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