Today is National Poetry Day so it’s the right day to report on Tuesday evening’s Poetry with Friends at The Mission in North Shields.

The theme was “Autumn” and naturally we kicked off with Keats’ Ode to that season then shared work by Larkin, Coleridge, Ted Hughes, Tennyson, T.S. Eliot, Roger McGough, David Essex, Patrick Kavanagh, Pablo Neruda and more.


Assembled friends chose to share some of their own work too. Thank you to Alan, Ken, Jackie, Rowland and John for letting us hear their response to the season of mists and mellow…oh you know which one I’m talking about!

As well as autumn we discussed tinnitis, shirts, Canada, bad sound engineers, weddings, school days, Shotley Bridge and getting drunk.

Quotes of the evening include: “You’ll either be a soldier or a gigolo”, “Let grief be a falling leaf at the dawning of the day” and “It’s dirty but it’s comprehensive.”

One of those quotes is a line from a poem/song, the other is the so-called advice from a teacher. And the third? The third is a description of an anthology of bawdy limericks I appear to have inherited from my poetic partner in crime, the Cagney to my Lacey if you will, the artist still known as Gail Curry.


Our next meeting is on Tuesday 20th October when the theme will be “Emotions.” I second that!


I visit London  three, four, sometimes five times a year. Most of my visits include a stay at the same central London hotel. It’s conveniently situated and the breakfasts are good.

Every time I visit I chuckle at the sight of an “old fashioned” telephone, designed to make International Calls. I guess it dates from the 1990s. The telephone is situated in the main reception area but doesn’t work. There’s a “Temporarily Out of Service” sign on it but I’ve never seen it work and I’ve been staying there for three years.


On arriving at the hotel last month the first thing I did was check to make sure the telephone wasn’t working. Thankfully it was still “Temporarily Out of Service.” Phew! What would I have done if I’d found it working or worse still, removed from the hotel for good?

We humans like things to stay the same but they never do. Life is constantly changing and so it is with Poetry with Friends, the poetry appreciation sessions with a difference I have the pleasure of running with artist Gail Curry on North Tyneside.


Our last Tuesday evening session on September 22nd was not the same because stalwart member, David wasn’t present. Some of us fretted about his welfare, all of us wondered where he was and if he was okay but the session did not grind to a halt. We accepted the slight change to the evening’s entertainment and got on with exploring the chosen theme: Humour.

edward lear

We enjoyed poems by a range of poets including Wendy Cope, Edward Lear, Charles Causley, Mike Harding and another PWF stalwart, Alan. We decided that our next session’s theme on Tuesday 6th October will be Autumn.

Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library yesterday was also Slightly Different But Still Okay. Stalwarts Joyce and Geoff were missing but it was great meeting new members. And we had a jolly good topic to get our teeth into: Nature.


We shared poems by writers including Brian Patten, Robert Frost, John Clare, Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes and a poem by stalwart, Rowland based on his recent trip to Canada. Lucky man. Theme for the next PWF at Whitley Bay is Politics and Religion! Heh heh! See you on Thursday 15th October and let the sparks fly!

Life continues, the seasons change, blackberries are picked and made into crumble, compote and jam. And let’s not forget time heals so with any luck when I see David at The Mission on Tuesday his arm will be heaps better than what it looks like in the photo above. I couldn’t bear to look at it then hence closed eyes!


Free as a Bard, the popular poetry and music evening I co-organise with Peter Mortimer returns to Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema in just over a fortnight on Sunday 11th October.


Poets Pippa Little & Peter Mortimer (who?!) will perform alongside local musician J.D. O’Neill. In addition there will be a literary raffle, free fresh fruit and a bespoke floral sculpture on display.

PIPPA LITTLE lives in SE Northumberland. Her first full collection Overwintering came out in 2012 and she is currently working on a second. A chapbook of poems about Mexico Our Lady of Iguanas will be published by Black Light Engine Room in 2016. This autumn she takes up a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at Newcastle University.

Pippa Little

PETER MORTIMER is the founder of IRON Press and Cloud Nine Theatre Company. He set up Free as a Bard some years ago with poet Josephine Scott. It is now run with writer Elaine Cusack at Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema. This is his first maybe last performance there. Mortimer’s poems, plays and travel books lie scattered in wide profusion and are mainly ignored, a state of affairs he shares with most writers.

pete and d

J.D. O’NEILL is among the most active  singer/songwriters in the region and can be seen and heard widely on the Buskers scene including running the Wednesday night  Buskers at Surf Cafe Tynemouth which is normally heaving. He likes to sing falsetto (occasionally) and drinks whisky (frequently).

J.D. ONeill

Tickets a fiver from

jam jar


On Saturday I found myself, as I often do, in London. Work takes me there several times a year and I’m always pleased to reconnect with the city I called home for 15 years. In fact, I prefer the place now I no longer live there.

When a business trip to London looms I spend time on my itinerary, trying to squeeze in catch ups with friends plus a trip to an exhibition or gig. I like to have a plan of action for my short visits.

This weekend’s plan was thrown out of the window by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership landslide. I wanted to experience history as it happened. Instead of an afternoon stroll by the Thames, I scampered off my train at Kings Cross and went to Parliament Square. I mingled with those who had marched in solidarity with refugees at lunchtime and were now resting and socialising. And  waiting to hear Jeremy speak.

Not everyone was waiting to hear JC speak but those that were clapped, cheered and shouted “Jez we can!” when he took to the stage.

As he did something happened to me that hasn’t happened for decades. I was lifted up by my Superman Significant Other who asked “Can you see him yet?!” “No! I can’t!” I wailed and was dropped back to earth with a thud.


Superman didn’t give up. He led me to the raised flower beds beside Gandhi’s statue. I scrambled up and from there just about saw a Corbyn-shaped speck on the stage. I still couldn’t hear him. I don’t think many could but that didn’t stop the whoops and cheers.


I looked around from my vantage point at Winston Chruchill’s statue facing away from me and to David Lloyd George’s looking straight at me and at the crowd.


To all those who think Corbyn’s dragging supporters back to the 1980s, think again. Corbyn’s young supporters are pulling him forward into the 21st century.  Saturday was not a left-leaning march of yore. For starters there were too many picnics and far too few cigarettes. The past is gone. The future is online and on the streets too. But there was no violence, just drum and bass music, whoops of delight when friends turned up and smiles on the faces of people of all ages. Is this Newer Labour?


Poetry with Friends at The Mission returned on Tuesday of this week. Thank goodness! We’ve missed both high and low brow banter, our poetic chums and the poetry over the summer.


I kicked off with Kaylin Haught’s God Says Yes to Me and we moved through poems relating to the refugee crisis. These included George Barker’s Channel Crossing, Jackie Kay’s Extinction and several poems written by one of our gang, John.

black berry

There were poems about railways, nature (hello Mary Oliver!), politics and childhood. Ken shared two Cicely Mary Barker poems for children, The Song of the Blackberry Fairy and The Song of the Horse Chestnut Fairy. Pat read Ian McMillan’s enchanting poem about two key moments in his childhood involving the family’s TV, living room, his pyjamas and his Dad’s dressing gown.

ian mcmillan

I rabbited on about one of my heroines, Tracey Thorn and then we took turns to praise Alan Bennett, Eric Morecambe and Margaret Rutherford. We threw the following topics into the ring as potential themes for future sessions: Travel, Humour, Fashion plus Rogues & Vagabonds


Geoff is putting together a charity poetry booklet to support the refugees. All profits go to the facebook group North East Solidarity with Calais Refugees. If you would like to contribute a poem please submit to as soon as possible.

Ken will be performing at Heaton’s The Stanza on November 17th. We can’t wait!

The next Poetry with Friends @ The Mission will take place on September 22nd and the theme is…Humour. We’ll be taking it very seriously….



Last autumn I viewed the iconic Weeping Window sculpture at the Tower of London. Seeing the integral part of British history (the Tower) swathed in red then surrounded by onlookers was quite a sight.

This piece of art, created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper has arrived in the North East and is on display at Woodhorn Museum from tomorrow until November 1st.

woodhorn poppies

The link between the North East’s coal mining history and the First World War, makes this installation a must-see. Go to Woodhorn and reflect.

woodhorn logo

Great Britain is full of weird and wonderful customs and traditions. Take the Palnackie World Flounder Tramping Championships. Or the Oasby Baboon Night. Or Whittlesey’s Straw Bear Festival. Then there’s the Holborn Blessing the Throats Event.


For the past few years, my chum Averil has been researching these events then attending, filming, photographing and reviewing them for her website Calendar Customs.

Over tea and biscuits this afternoon she told me of an event she attended last weekend,  the Stacksteads World Gravy Wrestling Championships.

gravy wrestling

Calendar Customs is far from complete. It’s a work in progress and Averil will be visiting events up to 2020.  It’s still worth checking out now.

I posted earlier today about the Poetry with Friends sessions restarting in September after our summer break.

Some of us can’t wait until term starts and are meeting for lunch and a catch up this coming week.

In celebration of this lunch and Poetry with Friends, here is a poem a friend sent to me over the summer. It’s by Kaylin Haught and it’s called God Says Yes to Me.

I asked God if it was ok to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was ok to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish

or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even ok if I don’t paragraph

my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I’m telling you is

Yes Yes Yes.

 Haught is an Oklahoma poet. She is the daughter of a preacher, a believer since she was knee-high. Now she finds God in nature. Sometimes Haught misses church. She might go back one day, she says.

It’s over a year now since artist Gail Curry and I started Poetry with Friends at The Mission in North Shields. We had no idea how popular our poetry appreciation sessions with a difference would be.


The sessions spread to Whitley Bay library on Thursday mornings and this summer we enjoyed four sessions in The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden next to Whitley Bay metro.

station master

And it was in the garden where our last Poetry with Friends session was held in July. We enjoyed the sun and shared poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, e e cummings, Walt Whitman, Siegfried Sassoon, Philip Larkin, W.B Yeats and my favourite of the morning: Lupins by Seamus Heaney.

We talked of lupins but also the sound, look and rhythmn of words.  We looked for and were delighted to find links between art, music and poetry.


We also discussed Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and heard one of his poems.

I got embroiled in what I was saying and seemed to lose control of my fingers. That’s the power of poetry. And of politics.


Poetry with Freinds returns to The Mission on Tuesday 8th September at 7pm and at Whitley Bay’s library on Thursday 17th September at 11am. If you would like to attend please confirm by emailing Gail

Newcomers always welcome!


The Silly Season has been part of British Culture for  years. It’s that time of year (i.e. the summer holidays) covering the gap between the recess of Parliament and the start of the political party conferences when newspapers and broadcast media resort to frivolous stories to fill airtime, paper and nowadays, websites.


This year’s Silly Season started off with calls for “Cull the Gulls” in response to aggressive sea gulls but soon the media found itself struggling to cope with Big Stories including the plight of migrants in Calais and, who’d have imagined it, Corbynmania.

If you’re reading this on Mars you might not realise that after the May elections Labour’s leader Ed Milliband stood down and an election to find a new leader was announced. A rank outsider, Jeremy Corbyn managed to get himself nominated and has sparked fury & excitement in equal measure! The general public seem to love Jeremy and it looks like he might become the party’s next leader.

corbyn central

My friend Peter Mortimer managed to bag a ticket to a Corbyn rally in central Newcastle on Tuesday evening. The 1200 free tickets went like hot cakes and a rally outside the event attracted about 600 others. Corbyn’s whipping up more frenzy than a teen pop idol!

  I mentioned that Peter was going to Jeremy’s “gig” to the young waitress in the cafe where we enjoyed a chat about poetry and, inevitably politics ahead of the rally. The waitress smiled and said “Ooh say hello from me!”

settle down

Corbyn connects with thousands of young people (ie the future of this country) in a way no other politician does.  I’m fascinated by this election run and look forward to devouring online, paper and broadcast reporting as we near the climax in less than a month.

Pete wrote down his thoughts on the rally for Newcastle’s Journal. Please read.

tyne theatre

Iron gate


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