Archives for the month of: May, 2016

I have immense admiration and respect for PJ Harvey. Once again she gets a protest song on a BBC news programme.

Go Polly go!

Last month the arts editor of local paper, Newcastle’s The Journal asked me to contribute to the paper’s monthly magazine, Culture. I was asked to submit my favourite book choices for one of the mag’s regular features, Reader’s Lives.

I love this regular feature. I think book choices say a great deal about the person. Mine included Middlemarch by George Eliot, Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline and Limehaven by Vicky Arthurs.


Vicky has reprinted the article on her blog and refers to me as “poet and community arts activist.” I like that and it’s true!


Margaret Thatcher enjoying an intimate relationship with a young IRA lothario at the time of the Brighton bombing. Does this idea offend you? If so then don’t buy poet George Jowett’s forthcoming pamphlet Thatcher’s Folly and stay well away from the book’s launch next month.

George jowett

However, if the idea of a long poem about the imagined sexual adventures of Britain’s first female Prime Minister appeals then do come along to Free as a Bard at The Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay on Sunday 5th June.


I co-run Free as a Bard (or FaaB for short) with Peter Mortimer. FaaB takes place four times a year and next month’s event is a double book launch for IRON Press.

As well as George Jowett’s pamphlet we’ll be celebrating the launch of John Price’s new pamphlet of poems Bye Bye Blackboard, the main body of which focus on the bittersweet memories of his school experiences both as a pupil and a teacher. The work is vividly complemented by the line drawings of Susan M Coles.


George Jowett  brought the house down when he performed at FaaB last spring. He returns to the Jam Jar to launch Thatcher’s Folly. The booklet  contains the wicked illustrations of Jane Burn.


The musicial “turn” for the evening is the lovely Jenny Lascelles who makes a welcome return to Jam Jar after enchanting the Free as a Bard audience last year.  Jenny is a singer/songwriter, pianist and ukulele enthusiast from Newcastle.


Tickets are selling well. Grab yours in person from the Jam Jar or buy online

Last night our Poetry with Friends gang met at Sue’s house. Eleven of us fitted nicely around Sue’s dining table and I positioned myself so I could enjoy looking at an amazing painting of Dartmoor adorning one of her walls.

There was a celebratory feel as well as an “eeh how are you? Not seen ya for aaaggges!” element to the meeting. Sue supplied delicious cake, biccies and hot drinks. Stella brought QUADRUPLE choc chip biscuits and I had to try one. Man, it was disgusting*

We shared poems by Liz Cowley, Kitty Fitzgerald, Brian Patten, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Bell, Mary Robinson, Mark Waldron, Adrian Henri, Wendy Cope, Martin Newell, Elizabeth Jennings, Gabriel Setoun, Jenny Joseph and Robert Service.


The Legendary Ken Creen read his poem Stanley and recited the lyrics to Mel Tormé’s In a Mountain Greenery. Harry and I each read one of our own compositions and Alan shared a couple he’d written since we last met. Alan went on to produce two (or was it three?) fresh poems during the session. What a guy!


We also talked about birdwatching from our windows, dementia, The Velvet Fog (Mel Tormé’s nickname), Sue’s forthcoming birthday, the very British way of mocking nascent talent, ballet, PTSD & rainbows. Our words of the evening (very Sesame Street, this) were: filched and nocturne.

Linda’s reading of Saturday Night by Victoria Wood went down a storm. We all appreciate Wood’s  extraordinary talents.

victoria wood

*I was lying about the choc biscuit. It was delicious and probably not very nutritious.


 I don’t have to look hard for inspiration in my daily life. I guess I’m lucky but that’s what made yesterday so special: inspiration in the morning, afternoon and evening!

Yesterday morning’s Poetry with Friends session in Whitley Bay library was perfect: two new attendees, a wonderful range of poems, good conversation and lots of laughter too.

Linda introduced us to the poems of Robert Crawford, Stella shared work by Degna Stone, Mark Waldron as well as her own work. Both she and Gail read some Emily Dickinson and we also heard work by Roger McGough, Stephen Spender, Gabriel Setoun, Stephen Crane, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Gail Curry and Edna St Vincent Millay. Oh yes and newcomer June read one of her poems too. Thank you, June and we hope to see you and Tessa again next time.


In the afternoon I went with friend Angie to visit Poetry with Friends stalwart John to show him the mock-up of his book. Angie and I are overseeing the publication and we’re all chuffed at the cover’s artwork.

Yesterday evening I was taken to see Scottish Ballet’s production of Swan Lake at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal. What a treat! David Dawson’s choreography, John Otto’s set design with Bert Dalhuysen’s lighting and Yumiko Takeshima’s costumes were stunning. All the dance artists were flawless but I feel I should mention principals Sophie Martin as Odette/Odile, Scotland’s own Christopher Harrison as Siegfried and Andrew Peasgood as Benno.


The icing on the cake was conductor Benjamin Pope and the Scottish Ballet Orchestra’s handling of Tchaikovsky’s music.  Wonderful! The evening made me think of my inspirational ballet teacher, Eve Trew MBE who continues to inspire young dancers in my hometown of Gateshead and beyond.



I’m starting to offer creative workshops and run events under the name of The Next Page. On July 16th local writer Jennifer C Wilson and myself will host Finding the Words, an all day creative writing workshop in Whitley Bay.

The day consists of two workshops: Scavenger Hunt in the morning and Found Poetry in the afternoon.

Finding the Words starts at 10am with a Scavenger Hunt around Whitley Bay’s second hand and charity shops. The session ends at 1pm.

After lunch from 1.30pm to 4.30pm we’ll take attendees on a Found Poetry exploration in the library.

Both morning and afternoon sessions will include writing exercises, guidance, group feedback sessions and if possible, one to one advice.

Folk can book morning or afternoon or both sessions as they wish. Book online and visit us on facebook


Poetry with Friends, the poetry appreciation gang I attempt to oversee with artist Gail Curry continues to inspire and educate me. I say “attempt to oversee” in a light-hearted way. It’s a comment on how the group has evolved over time and, in the words of Thoreau, dances to its own tune:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau

Our Poetry with Friends group on a Tuesday evening is currently homeless. We will be rehoused but in the meantime took our lack of home as an excuse to visit one of our gang who has been too unwell to join us.

Last night (Thursday I know, not Tuesday but who is keeping tabs on us? We dance to our own tune!) Rowland, Pat and I visited John and enjoyed a PWF session. I kicked off reading John the poem written by one of our chums Harry Gallagher for last night’s host. John LOVES the poem. Thank you Harry.

We also shared poems by C S Lewis, Mary Oliver (Ha! No surprise from Pat but who tires of Wild Geese?), W. H Davies’ Leisure and our favourite poet, Anon. Rowland gave a top notch rendition of The Licorice Fields at Pontefract by Betjeman amd I enjoyed reading Timothy Winters by Charles Causley.


John and I read some of his poems and his son shared one of his own as well as giving a wonderful reading of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Solitude:

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone;

For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,

But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and the hills will answer;

Sigh, it is lost on the air;

The echoes bound to a joyful sound,

But shrink from voicing care.


Rejoice, and men will seek you;

Grieve, and they turn and go;

They want full measure of all your pleasure,

But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;

Be sad, and you lose them all,—

There are none to decline your nectared wine,

But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;

Fast, and the world goes by.

Succeed and give, and it helps you live,

But no man can help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure

For a large and lordly train,

But one by one we must all file on

Through the narrow aisles of pain.


A lovely tribute to a friend of Poetry with Friends by another friend of the gang…

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