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


Last night I had my second Theatre Space North East experience this summer. Amazing actors, wonderful setting and the perfect companion, Jennifer C Wilson!

Originally posted on Tales from the notepad...:

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a production of Twelfth Night by Theatre Space North East, a group who have put on a number of performances in a variety of venues over the years. Last night’s was the last performance of the season, in Barnes Park, Sunderland, which has also included Hamlet, which my friend and fellow scribe Elaine Cusack recently reviewed. Having attended that performance, she invited me along last night, and I am very glad that she did.

I’ll admit to being a bit unsure – I’m not great with street performers, or any kind of audience participation – but happily (for me) there was no need to be worried. The actors took us through the park, each scene moving us swiftly and smoothly through the various wooded and green spaces, and even a (very well-utilised) set of steps, completely immersing us in the…

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I’ve been involved with community & volunteer-run organisations for almost 30 years and never cease to be amazed by the power and enthusiasm of passionate volunteers.

I encountered two examples of kindred spirits working in perfect harmony last week in Angus, Scotland.

    Tour Scotland Photograph 1930 Vauxhall GL Limousine October 28th

The Strathmore Vintage Vehicle Club has been running for almost 50 years. It’s now a registered charity and its fantastic headquarters/museum is housed in Bridge View House, near Glamis.

The purpose-built building houses office space, a workshop and showroom packed with vintage vehicles including delivery vans, tractors and my fave, a turquoise Hillman Husky. The building was built after lots of fundraising and with the help of the volunteers’ brawn.

I got to talk to a few of the volunteers and they let me try out a vintage bike from America. I circled the car park as one of the volunteers kept an eye in case I cycled off!

I suspect some of the volunteers are much older than they appear and I bet regular spells in the magical workshop and fundraising activities help keep them young. I think the glorious scenery in that part of the world helps too.


Check out the website and visit the museum if you can. Recommended.

At the museum I met two more enthusiastic volunteers who live in nearby Kirriemuir. When they heard by chance that the town’s camera obscura was being closed down after the local council has forced to halt funding due to spending cuts, the locals got busy via social media!

Within weeks the building was open to the public and continues to be staffed entirely by volunteers. So why is the building important? Well it was a cricket pavillion gifted to Kirremuir in 1929 by the town’s most famous son, J M Barrie. He was passionate about cricket but the architect of the pavillion was equally passionate about camera obscuras and installed one.


I was given a grand tour of the pavillion and was shown how the camera obscura works. It’s still magical watching nearby outside events on a dish in a darkened room!

I predict great things for the venue as the volunteers are teeming with ideas and enthusiasm. Go Kirriemuir, go!

I ended my visit to Kirriemuir by visiting J. M. Barrie’s grave nearby. I loved my copy Peter and Wendy retold for Little People by May Byron and illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell when I was a tot.

peter Pan

I still have my copy with rear board missing and black and white drawings coloured in by me and the book’s previous owners…my Mum and her sister. It’s part of my family history and I treasure it.

cyano too

Those Attwell sepia and cyano coloured images will never fade from my mind and how I longed for a dog like Nana!


Poets, writers, artists and musicians fill every flat and house in Whitley Bay and its environs….or so it seems.

I spent almost 20 years down there in that there London place. It’s supposed to be teeming with culture but it ain’t got nothing on the North East, especially North Tyneside.

I walk out of my house and trip over writers and artists. The streets are full of ’em!

One of these writers is LA Craig. Her short story, Flour Baby will be broadcast this coming Sunday on BBC Radio 4 at 19.45

Check out the author here

and listen to her work live on Sunday or via iplayer.

radio 4


I heard about the death of Cilla Black from a friend last night as we sat on red velvet seats in Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema awaiting the arrival of another British female icon, Fenella Fielding.

Newcastle’s legendary independent cinema was the ideal venue for last night’s event to take place. It was a screaming, I mean, screening of Carry on Screaming! followed by a two hour session of Fenella in conversation with her friend (and mine!) Simon McKay.


The Tyneside’s red velvet seats and swooshing red curtains matched the infamous red velvet dress Fenella was poured into for the role of Valeria in Carry on Screaming! It was thrilling to see a 20 something Fenella look a like in the audience complete with long black hair and dress.

Of course Carry on Screaming! steals from/salutes the genuis of The Addams Family. Even Fenella’s “Do you mind if I smoke?” line was nabbed from Morticia. All is forgiven. It  was the way the Carry On team worked.

I won’t reveal Fenella’s age but she’s got some years on poor Cilla and Fenella’s career has lasted 60 years. And she’s still working! It was great to hear her share stories but she’s not a gossip. She is a pro, after all.


Last night’s event was sold out and we had to queue out the door before it started. Fenella got not one but two standing ovations. She earned it. Especially the reading from Frankenstein at the start.

How Fenella met Simon is a wonderful story. It’s not my story to tell. It’s theirs and you might hear them recount it on one of their radio shows or follow ’em on facebook

Or they might do another “Evening with” at an independent cinema near you. Ask them…

simon and fenella

Souvenir of Tynemouth is my current book. It’s the latest handmade book created by artist Anne Proctor as part of our ongoing collaboration.


Anne and I were interviewed by Simon Logan of BBC Radio Newcastle and the piece was aired yesterday afternoon.

We talked about our work together, the book and what we think of Tynemouth station and village.

tynemouth station

I spent almost a decade involved with radio, particularly community radio. I love the intimacy of radio. Trevor Horn was wrong: video did not kill the radio star.

Catch it again on BBC iplayer. The interview starts two hours and 53 minutes into Simon’s slick and enjoyable four hour show.

simon logana

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

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

For my full review of Hamlet visit

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 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



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