I’ve just listened to the latest episode of Desert Island Discs. Noel Gallagher shared his history and his thoughts with Kirsty Young.


I could sit and listen to him for hours as I love hearing his thoughts on music. He should have his own radio station.

I second guessed most of his choices (Smiths, Pistols and the Beatles, of course) but was surprised by Let’s Dance by David Bowie.


It was wonderful to hear Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald on Radio 4. The song has great cultural and personal political significance to a certain generation.

When The Ronettes’ Be My Baby started I realised for the first time (d’oh!) that must have been an inspiration for The Jesus and Mary Chain. Play the opening lines of Be My Baby and Just Like Honey and judge for yourself!


The current episode of Desert Island Discs featuring poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker is wonderful. She shares snippets from her life and work and tells us about some of her favourite sounds.


Her first choice, the Sachal Jazz Ensemble’s version of Take Five had me bouncing round the house.

Desert Island Discs is the perfect radio programme template. Life, the universe and everything can be discussed with presenter Kirsty Young.

Dharker discussed Pakistan, poetry, Scotland, marriage, India, family, documentary film making, Wales, art and brought along great music.

Listen again http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr

and check out Sachal Studios videos on Y** T*be


Fancy theatre in the open air? Fancy paying what you think it deserves? I think you do. Can I suggest Theatre Space North East’s Plays in the Park 2015 season? I just have!

This theatre company specialises in theatre alfresco in Sunderland’s parks. Ten days ago I watched Hamlet in Roker Park. It was amazing. I became so engrossed in the play’s final scene,  I missed Queen Gertrude’s death throes. This was because  I was willing Hamlet to win the sword-fight. Silly I know but this shows the power of the performance.  I knew the protagonist was going to die but that didn’t stop me wanting our tragic hero to triumph in front of me.


The company is set to perform Treasure Island in Mowbray Park on the 1st and 2nd of August and Twelfth Night in Barnes Park 13th to 16th August.

For more information about Theatre Space North East visit http://www.theatrespace.org.uk/

For my full review of Hamlet visit http://northeastreviews.com/

Last Tuesday:  7/7/15. A time to remember what I observed on that day ten years ago.

I was one of the many confused and bewildered London workers trying to phone or text from central London streets that morning. What was going on?

Then we found out what was going on.

Last Tuesday I had not one but two poetry appreciation groups to attend. The first was the poetry appreciation group of the mid-Northumberland U3A. If you don’t know about the U3A, you’re missing out. The University of the Third Age has almost 350,000 members in the UK! See http://www.u3a.org.uk for more information.

The poetry group meet near Longhirst once a month and share favourite poems over coffee and biscuits. It was wonderful to see and hear the similarities between this group and our Poetry with Friends groups in North Tyneside.


I shared my own work as well as introducing the group to poems by Mary Oliver and Vicky Arthurs. Members also shared Heaney’s The Tollund Man and Rhythms for Sonny by Easton Lee.

easton lee

I hadn’t read Lee, a Chinese-Jamaican poet before. I also hadn’t heard about Centre 42, playwright Arnold Wesker’s  idea in 1960 for spreading the best of culture beyond the elite. Thanks to mid-Northumberland U3A for enlightening me! I thoroughly enjoyed my morning.


In the evening we had our final Tuesday evening Poetry with Friends before our summer break. We gathered once more in the Station Masters’ garden next to Whitley Bay metro and shared work including Long Lion Days and Days by Philip Larkin plus work by David Bateman and new original work by group members Alan, Elizabeth, David and Linda.


We talked about 7/7 as three of us were in London that day. One poem shared had the line “London’s Bent Citadels” and I misheard a poet’s name, mistaking it for Pam St Clements, actress from soap opera Eastenders. Jason Connery and Hilary Mantel popped up in conversation too.

Sadly Larkin’s  “hammer of heat” did not hit us. We were freezing and wound up finishing early and legging it to nearby pub, The Rockcliffe to defrost.

The weekly pub quiz was running. We should have entered as I reckon we’d have cleaned up. But what would we have called ourselves? Why  “Are ‘Friends’ Poetic?” of course. It would be a nod to 1980s culture when pub quizzes were all the rage!


Poetry with Friends at The Mission in North Shields will return in September. Meanwhile our Thursday group will meet in the Station Masters’ Garden this Thursday at 11 am. If you would like to join us please book a place by contacting Gail on 07752356880 or email gail@happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk


Still nodding my head and tapping my fingers against last night’s pint. The evening lingers….


I made the short walk in glorious sunshine last night to Whitley Lodge Snooker Club. Why? To see a debut gig by a local band from North Shields, I See Red.
Ah…the debut gig… I know the feelings well. Fear & excitement beforehand, disbelief at being onstage then that wonderful waterchute comedown fuelled by lager, band bear hugs and slaps on the backs from mates.
I See Red ‘s line up is: Joshua on vocals, Dean on bass, Rob on lead and Martin on rhythm guitars with TJ on drums.
The band’s short set comprised of three covers and one original composition. Cover versions might seem like the easy option but new bands should be cautious performing them live. Classic songs covered by fledgling musicians will show up the cracks in the newly-formed bands.


I must stress this was  NOT the case with I See Red. The band are tight, polished and full of life. They owned their covers of Animal I have Become by Three Days Grace, Your Betrayal by Bullet for my Valentine and Toxicity by System of a Down.


Their fourth and final song was original and I look forward to hearing more of their own material.
I See Red made a wonderful noise and looked fantastic on stage. To find out where and when they play next visit https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1583774128549494



  nina simone

Just back from our penultimate Poetry with Friends at The Mission this summer. Even poetry lovers need a break but we’ll be back in the autumn.

Tonight…there was something in the air. In fact those lyrics were in the air. I will reveal the song very soon…

We were all looking forward to tonight’s session. The theme was music and we were invited to bring pieces of music to talk about. Folk brought snacks too and as I type I can feel an adolescent spot developing on my chin after munching crisps and chocolate.

tiger lillies

Gail refused to share the playlist with me in advance. I’m glad. I enjoyed ploughing through party food and both sitting and dancing to the following:

  • Peggy Lee’s version on Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
  • The Tiger Lillies:  Snip Snip
  • Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al
  • Timi Yuro: Cry
  • Billy Fury: Like I’ve Never Been Gone
  • Stephen Stills: Love the One you’re With
  • Rolling Stones: Sympathy for the Devil
  • The Searchers: Sweets for my Sweet
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees: Hong Kong Garden
  • Bob Dylan: The Times They are A-Changin’
  • Tom Waits: Tom Traubert’s Blues
  • Liquid Gold: Dancy Yourself Dizzy
  • Chris Barber & Ottillie Patterson: I Can’t give You Anything But Love
  • Mike Cooper: Trout Steel
  • Albert Lee’s Country Boy
  • REM: Shiny Happy People.
  • Bruce Davies: Save the Last Dance for Me
  • Nina Simone: I Shall Be Released
  • Pet Shop Boys: Left to my own Devices

mike cooper

What a mix! These songs had stories attached to them linked to teenage memories, university, jobs, loves..and dancing!

liquid gold

“Tonight there’s Something in the air” comes from Liquid Gold’s Dance Yourself Dizzy. I was lucky enough to dance with Ken to this song. Thanks Ken. You are, in the words of Sister Sledge, The Greatest Dancer.

As Shiny Happy People played, Harry told me Kate Pierson from the B52s (wait for it) worked as a barmaid at The Anson pub in Wallsend in 1972. Then he checked it up on the internet so it MUST be true.

kate pierson

Ken told me the singer of Liquid Gold now runs an antique shop in Reigate. If Ken says so it MUST be true too!

It was a great night and we overran by almost half an hour.

Next week is our final Poetry with Friends on Tuesday night before the summer break. We will be back in The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden. You wanna join us? Please pre-book by emailing gail@happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk


Tonight they’re turning on the heat
Tonight you’re in for such a treat
Tonight, put on your dancin’ feet
And dance, dance, dance

Brian Sewell on a sofa with his dogs at home, paintings behind

Who can forget Evening Standard art snob Brian Sewell’s upturned nose at the very idea of an exhibition in Gateshead but not London. That was almost a decade ago and since then the Turner Prize has been held in Gateshead’s Baltic.

I don’t suppose Brian thinks too much about the art scene up here in the North East but I wonder what he’d make of my afternoon and evening. I visited two galleries in central Newcastle hosting new exhibitions and had lots of “oh hello!” experiences when bumping into folk I knew (and sometimes only thought I knew).

It was like an extended party across two venues. It was a Geordie Glastonbury but with art and photography on the two main stages instead of music. And no need for wellies.

Firstly a rushed visit to the Hatton Gallery for Anthony Gormley’s new exhibition opening today, Space Stations. I arrived with less than half an hour to spare before closing time. Apparently it’s an exhibition “of works on paper by Antony Gormley in which the artist seeks to reconcile the body with its habitat and architecture with anatomy, making drawings wherein the body is treated as a space within space.”


I liked it but not the way I loved the maps and industrial diagrams from Tyne and Wear Museums dotted around the walls. I loved clever mechanical diagrams by a 17 year old Victorian called Harry Noble. What was his story, I wondered.

I will return to spend more time with Gormley (and noble Noble) but sadly not on Tuesday evening when the official launch takes place and (gasp!) Anthony gives a talk for FREE! For more information visit http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/hatton-gallery/whats-on/exhibitions/antony-gormley-space-stations.html

From the Hatton I scampered over to the Laing Art Gallery for the preview night of For Ever Amber. This exhibition opens tomorrow and is the first major account of the AmberSide Collection which has been based on Newcastle’s Quayside for almost 40 years.

The title of the exhibition is taken from an inscription by Henri Cartier-Bresson on a photograph that he donated to the Amber collection.

The Laing was choc a block with “known faces” eager to see the photos and like me, wondering where the free bar was. Turns out it didn’t exist but that didn’t matter. We were all there to support AmberSide. Honest!

It looks like an amazing exhibition but it was so busy all I could do was snatch little peeks of photographs by Graham Smith, Chris Killip, Weegee, August Sander and Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen. I will have to go back when I can get up close to the photos.

It runs until mid September with tie in films to be screened at nearby Tyneside Cinema and a conference in July called Future Presence which will explore documentary practices and possibilities.

for ever amber 001

For more information visit http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/laing-art-gallery/whats-on/exhibitions/for-ever-amber.html

“Will it, won’t it rain?” I asked over and over yesterday morning as I prepped for our second Poetry with Friends session at The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden next to Whitley Bay Metro.

My trademark optimism allowed a flask to be filled with sugary tea. Yes we would jolly well start the session in the garden and run to nearby cafe, Olives if the rain started.


The rain came down like stair rods…after our session ended so we got to enjoy two hours of poetry and chat in the garden. And Geoff brought choc ices to share. Yum!

We discussed gardens, the proposed Westminster Abbey stone floor memorial to Philip Larkin and Simon Armitage’s appointment as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

Geoff shared one of Armitage’s poems, Poundland which describes a shop manager as having “A Face Like Doncaster.” But Simon! A shop manager’s lot is not a happy one, you know. Academic posts might not produce faces like Doncaster but brow-beaten middle managers have every right to look like Doncaster..or any other Yorkshire town you care to mention.

Pauline’s recital of The Roman Centurion’s Song by Rudyard Kipling hit the spot. I was moved by Kipling’s words, the thought of how hard life must have been for the soldier and by Pauline’s reading. The phrase “June’s long-lighted days” comes from the poem.

We enjoyed listening to the poems as well as the sounds around us including passing metros, wood pigeons and the distant sound of a lawnmower. Sounds like a cue for a Larkin poem…

The full list of poems:

  • Cut Grass by Philip Larkin
  • The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
  • Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
  • Poundland by Simon Armitage
  • The Roman Centurion’s Song by Rudyard Kipling
  • Spring Quiet by Christina Rossetti
  • I Have Started to Say by Philip Larkin
  • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
  • Ride the Breeze by Simon Bridgewood
  • Sheep Fair Day by Kerry Hardie
  • The Rain it Raineth by Charles Bowen (authorship in question…)
  • To Di For by Geoff
  • A Bitterness by Mary Oliver
  • Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf by Roald Dahl
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost


Lots of Mary Oliver. Oh we love Mary Oliver! Perhaps we should write and tell her how much she is appreciated here in North Tyneside.

Thanks to Sara Lee at The Station Masters’ Garden for sorting out the chairs for us. I think we almost persuaded her to join us at another session in the garden. I’ll keep on coaxing her! We will return on Tuesday 7th July at 7pm and on Thursday 16th July at 11 am.


Before that Poetry with Friends at The Mission this coming Tuesday 30th June is all about music. We will be sharing a few of our favourite tunes. Who will start dancing first? I’ve got my money on a couple of likely candidates. Book yourself a place by contacting Gail on 07752356880 or email gail@happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk

Finally if you’ve never visited the Station Masters’ Garden then shame on you! Check out the website http://www.stationmastersgarden.org/  as well as facebook



Last Tuesday Poetry with Friends at The Mission transferred to The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden next to Whitley Bay Metro Station. It was the first of four visits by Happy Planet’s Poetry with Friends groups to the garden as it celebrates its own Year of Art in 2015.

The weather was a worry but thankfully the rain held off. As the night set in we needed blankets and cups of sweet tea to keep us warm but…it was worth it. Great poems and wonderful conversation.

Attendees brought their favourite poems including work by Dorothy Parker, D.H. Lawrence, Shakespeare, Gavin Ewart and Lewis Carroll plus self-penned work by Linda, Elizabeth and Ken.

station master

I took my usual pile of books but read from only one: Limehaven by Vicky Arthurs. This is my current favourite poetry book. I can’t quote from Vicky’s introduction as I’ve lent my copy to Elizabeth. The collection is marvellous. It’s a tribute to Vicky’s grandparents and is full of well-written, heart-felt beautiful poems. I love it and that’s why I chose so many poems from it. Check out Vicky’s website http://www.vickyarthurs.com/


Oh yes and it was Bloomsday the 16th June and the annual celebration of James Joyce and his book, Ulysses. Last Tuesday was also the 59th wedding anniversary of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath who were married in St George the Martyr Church in Holborn on Bloomsday. I always think of them as I walk past the church on my regular visits to the capital.

st georges

Poetry with Friends returns to the Station Master’s Garden this Thursday 25th from 11 am to 1pm and we’ll be back for another Tuesday evening and Thursday morning in July. Thanks to Sara Lee for sorting out the seating for us last Tuesday. Much appreciated.

Poetry with Friends at The Mission is back in the usual Lower Rudyerd Street venue next Tuesday June 30th. Check Happy Planet’s website http://www.happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk/

and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Happy-Planet-Creative-Arts-CIC/741096479291396 for more information


I’ve mentioned this writer before.

I love the consistent and prolific Pilgham Platz blog.

This week’s tale, The Collector is well worth checking out




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