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Two and a half hours spent listening, learning, thinking, writing, walking, talking, feeling, being and drinking tea. This sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Yes, this is my kinda  afternoon and it’s the way I’ll spend this coming Saturday 29th July.

My pal and writing colleague, Jennifer C Wilson LOVES attending creative writing workshops. She also happens to be very good at running them. This Saturday she’s running a two and a half hour workshop called Park and Write in the Community Pavilion in Wallsend’s Richardson Dees Park.

The afternoon will be filled with writing prompts, a talk by one of the park wardens, an inspirational stroll around Wallsend’s Parks (did you know there are not one but three?!) plus time for writing and sharing. All this for a tenner. You joining us or what?! Please book online.

I’m listed on the workshop’s publicity as joint workshop facilitator but the truth is I’m Jennifer’s not so glamorous assistant. She’s in the driving seat and I’m there for the ride because I thoroughly enjoy her workshops. Come and join us on Saturday.

 

Flavour-1Did I ever tell you I’ve a 10 year old living and growing in Cambridge? Don’t worry, I haven’t left a school age child to fend for themselves in a city over 200 miles from where I live and type. No, I’m talking about Flavour, the community radio show I devised, produced and presented when I lived in Cambridge between 2007 and 2009.

I’ve always loved radio, especially non-commerical community stations. I spent years living  in London volunteering for hospital radio stations, RSLs (short term stations) and oral history projects. I couldn’t believe my luck when I heard 209radio, Cambridge’s vibrant community radio station. I got involved in the station at management level but wanted to present and produce my own show.

The station’s schedule was filled with arts and specialist music shows. It didn’t need another artsy show but I realised there was no coverage of the city’s wide-ranging food and drink scene.  I pitched an hour-long Saturday lunchtime show: Flavour of the Month to the station’s programming committee and got the green light in spring 2007.

imagesThe first show was researched, scripted, presented and produced by me and went out live on Saturday 14th July 2007.  Station manager Karl Hartland twiddled the knobs for the first few shows but soon I was driving the desk as well as meeting and greeting then  interviewing guests and managing volunteers.

Flavour of the Month (FOTM for short) was fuelled by my rampant curiosity and unashamed gluttony. It gave me the excuse to interview publicans, bakers, chefs, allotment owners as well as a broad section of Cambridge residents. These residents included a Muslim scholar talking about Ramadan, fellow 209radio volunteers celebrating Chinese New Year plus a second generation Polish man talking about his family’s Christmas traditions.

During my two years on Flavour I held down a full-time job in London which meant I spent over 20 hours a week commuting between the office and home. When I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I was preparing for the show. Why? Because nothing beats the buzz of live radio. Nothing!

maxresdefaultI stepped away from FOTM in spring 2009 as I prepared to relocate back to the North East. I left the show in the hands of my co-presenter Louise Hawes and new-ish volunteer, Matt Bentman. Matt now produces and co-presents the show with Alan Alder. Together they’ve shaped Flavour into a slick, professional show but it still has the fun and curiosity I insisted on including in the radio recipe I wrote back in 2007. Flavour broadcasts live every other Saturday lunchtime on 209radio’s successor,  Cambridge 105.

I’ve followed Flavour’s progress over the years and earlier this year I suggested we celebrate the show’s 10th birthday with a feature. I returned to Cambridge last week and met Matt in one of the city’s institutions, CB2 Bistro on Norfolk Street. We talked about the early days, the scripts and the show’s original theme tune, Plantation Inn by Stax house band, The Mar-Keys. We also made this wee advert for the anniversary show.

After the interview I wandered through Cambridge’s streets and green spaces. I saw huge, horrible changes as well as reassuringly familiar sights including The Cambridge Blue and The Geldart pubs plus Al-Amin shop on Mill Road.

The 10th anniversary show was broadcast on Saturday 8th July 2017 and you can hear it here. Matt’s created an impressive audio tapestry and it’s great to hear us laughing and enjoying ourselves. I’m proud of what I achieved and I love to hear Matt’s wit and interview technique plus Alan’s relaxed broadcasting style. The show’s new theme tune is Bowie’s Sound and Vision. How apt as Matt and Alan create sounds and images that linger in the listener’s mind.

Flavour was and still is about the stories of the interviewees rather than the egos of the interviewers. Go Flavour! Here’s to another decade of audio history making.

Poetry with Friends is three years old! Gail Curry and I held our first Poetry with Friends session on a Tuesday night in June 2014. Those early poetry appreciation with a difference sessions were held in North Shields overlooking the river. We moved over to Whitley Bay last year but have moved venues several times. We’ve swapped venues again this month but we’re hoping this time it’s for good.

We held our final PWF in St Paul’s Church on Tuesday 13th June. We shared poems by Yeats, John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Pam Ayres, Geordie Broon plus poems by three of our PWF gang.

bay tradersOur new Tuesday night venue is the Big Local building which is opposite St Paul’s Church in the centre of Whitley Bay. The building used to be Walkers Furniture. It’s next to Bay Traders.

Our first meeting in our new venue takes place this coming Tuesday 27th June  7pm to 9pm. Cost: £4.50 (includes refreshments). Why don’t you join us?

Grenfell Tower stands in the middle of North Kensington, a short walk from Latimer Road tube. I say “stands” for the moment but it won’t last. This Tower of Horror will have to be demolished. And what will happen to the land?

I used to work in the shadow of Grenfell Tower.  I was a Recycling Officer for Kensington and Chelsea Council and my office was next to Kensington Leisure Centre. That was nearly 15 years ago. Google Earth shows me the leisure centre’s been tarted up and it looks like my old office has been demolished. I suspect the new leisure centre and Grenfell Tower’s flammable facelift were part of the same sweep of gentification. It’s been going on for years in this area.

I loved working in that part of Kensington and Chelsea. I could walk there from my home in Shepherd’s Bush.  I enjoyed walking to my office as folk went to work and dropped kids off at school. I loved listening to different languages and clocking a wonderful array of neat gardens and impressive window boxes. Residents were proud of their area. Affluent residents lived close to poorer families but I never felt this created a tension on the streets. People came together in shared spaces like Avondale Park on Walmer Road and Portobello Road market.

As I type I see that protesters are walking through streets near Grenfell Tower I know well. I walked them years ago. I knocked on doors and encouraged residents to recycle. Tonight’s protestors are urging the affluent residents to join their march for justice.

The coverage of this month’s London Bridge/Borough Market terrorist attack showed me an area of south London I no longer recognise. I lived in Borough almost 20 years ago. Borough Market has changed beyond belief because one one thing: gentrification. It’s the same gentrification I saw in Greenwich, Camden, Shepherd’s Bush, Soho, east London…all over the city.

Gentrification is not the main cause of the Grenfell Tower fire but it plays a part in this man-made tragedy. Gentrification equals profit for certain people but money counts for nothing when you’ve lost everything.

 

The look says it all. Another successful event! This photo was taken by Peter Robinson of Postives from Negatives at this month’s Pure Fiction, the literary event I run with Jennifer C Wilson and Sandy Chadwin.

Like The A-Team’s Hannibal I love it when a plan comes together. I spend a great deal of time organising workshops and live literary/musical events. Most of these events involve collaborating with others, usually my friends Sandy Chadwin and Jennifer C Wilson. In the past month or so we’ve led writing workshops in a school and with a local guide group,  a poetry appreciation session in a local care home plus Pure Fiction and The North Tyneside Writers’ Circle.

This time next week I’ll be gearing up to host the launch of Jennifer’s second novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile  and the following weekend I’ll be involved in the IRON in the Soul festival . The weekend after that Sandy and I will host another North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. I rely on and work with Jennifer and Sandy on a weekly basis.

For most of 2017 we’ve  been organising and hosting events and then throwing ideas at each other without a chance to sit down and have a chat! I thought I’d use this blog as an excuse to say thank you to them both. The A-Team lives on in Whitley Bay!

I’m hosting Pure Fiction on Thursday and it’s got me thinking back to last year. That’s when I started knocking around the nascent idea of Pure Fiction with my friends, fellow writers and The Next Page colleagues, Jennifer C Wilson and Sandy Chadwin.

Pure Fiction celebrates writers of fiction and their work. Last year we held two Pure Fiction events in Whitley Bay Library. The first one in July featured Kitty Fitzgerald plus Jennifer and Sandy. Carol Clewlow headlined November’s Pure Fiction with support from children’s author, L.A. Craig.

The event this Thursday evening  is our first Pure Fiction of 2017. It’s a relaunch of sorts as we’re trying a new venue, The Old George Inn, Newcastle’s oldest pub located just off the Bigg Market.

The evening features writers Rod Glenn & Victoria Watson reading from and talking about their work. Rod is the author of the best-selling Sinema series. Victoria is a writer, copy-editor and Creative Writing tutor.

Tickets cost £3 and with limited seating, I’d recommend you prebook via Ticketsource. There is no booking fee. You only pay three quid. Doors open 6.45pm and we kick off at 7pm. You joining us or what?

 

It’s almost May! How did that happen? I caught up with a London-dwelling friend of mine yesterday. It was great to tell her about the North East literary events taking place  next month.

I’m looking forward to performing at Poetry Jam in Durham on Thursday 4th May. I’m sharing the floor with Paul Summers and Tom Conway at the Waddington Street Centre, 3 Waddington Street, Durham, DH1 4BG from 7pm.

The following week sees the relaunch of Pure Fiction in the upstairs of The Old George Inn off Newcastle’s Bigg Market on Thursday 11th May. old george

Writers Rod Glenn and Victoria Watson will be reading from and talking about their work. I’ll be hosting the evening. Doors open 6.45pm for a prompt 7pm start. Buy your three quid tickets in advance from Ticketsource

North Tyneside Writers’ Circle returns to North Shields library on Saturday 20th  May from 11am to 1pm.  I run this with event with Jennifer C Wilson and Sandy Chadwin and May’s guest is the writer Mark Iveson.pencil-sketch-colour

I’m also running a couple of writing workshops in May and want to attend some of the events at the Newcastle Poetry Festival

I suspect if you opened my veins my blood would be navy blue with white polka dots. Why? Well, once an Indie Chick, always an indie pop fan. A love of polka dot tops came out of worshipping The Smiths and trying to emulate Strawberry Switchblade (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask yer granny…)

I bought a sleeveless navy blue and white polka dot blouse from Attic in Newcastle’s Haymarket back in 1983 and wore it at gigs, at The Tube when I was a regular member of the audience and for my first official photo as winner in the Evening Chronicle Poetry competition in autumn 1985. We sat on the steps of the Lit and Phil and I wore my Nan’s blue cardie over the polka dot top.

I rediscovered the silky polka dot top inside an old suitcase in 2013. It had spent about 20 years in my Mam and Dad’s garage in Blaydon. The top still fits and I wore it at a Ska “do” late last year. Here’s me dancing to The Specials. Thanks to Jonathan Keys for taking the photo.

When I wasn’t listening to indie pop and buying second hand clothes I was singing in bands. Here’s a link to Micklewhite. We liked to think we were the four Keith Moons of the Rock Apocalypse but listening back (with a gap of almost two decades) I think we’re still indie ’til we die. What do you think?

I’ve been blessed this past week with inspiration from other writers. Last Thursday I watched and listened to Rowan McCabe perform at The Stanza in North Shields. Five years ago Rowan, Andrew Sclater and I took part in Amuse Bouche, a scheme run by Apples and Snakes and Stockton ARC to improve our poetry performance skills. We three enjoyed working together and  it was wonderful to see natural performer Rowan in full flow at The Stanza.

The following day I ordered Andrew Sclater’s poetry pamphlet, Dinner at the Blaws-Baxters from the delightful Happenstance Press. This Scottish publisher produced the pamphlet last year. My copy arrived on Saturday morning but I’d already left the house to co-run the third North Tyneside Writers’ Circle at North Shields library by the time it was pushed through my letterbox. I opened the package that evening.

Opening the Happenstance package felt like opening a birthday or Christmas present. What a treat. My excitement mingled with the buzz from the day. That morning I’d enjoyed North Tyneside Writers’ Circle guest, the poet Steve Urwin performing and talking about his work. Inspirational.

I devoured Andrew Sclater’s Happenstance pamphlet on Sunday morning and hope I get to see him perform again soon.

Yesterday morning I ran a workshop for the  Cramlington Writers’ group. It was my third visit to this committed and supportive group. I borrowed Jennifer C Wilson’s Ekphrasis workshop idea and shared it in Cramlington. The workshop tried to coax inspiration out of art: painting, photos, sculpture.

Cramlington Writers’ group had done their homework. They brought a wide range of art from their homes including a Balinese wooden sculpture and a 60 year old wood cut from Africa.

Thanks to Rowan, Andrew, Steve, Jennifer, Happenstance Press and The Cramlington Writers’ Group. Your words and actions are inspiring me to write this week.

Before poetry there was music. I started writing poetry over 30 years ago but I’ve loved music since childhood.

I remember lying in bed aged four and conducting an imaginary orchestra for my production of Swan Lake. I’d do this in order to stay awake for my Mam’s return from teaching at an evening class. I usually nodded off before she arrived home.

volumeMy adolescent and teenage years were filled with Top of the Pops, The Tube, The Oxford Road Show, Whistle Test, NME, Smash Hits, gigs at Newcastle City Hall, The Mayfair and Riverside, buying records at HMV, Windows and Volume Records on Newcastle’s Ridley Place.

My love of music spurred me on to earn a living as a music journalist and to start up several bands. Why? Because being in a band was and still is the coolest thing.

Music is the inspiration behind a creative writing workshop I’m co-running with Jennifer Wilson on Saturday here in Whitley Bay. Fancy joining us?

Teenage Kicks: Creative Writing Workshop takes place this coming Saturday, 4th March, at Whitley Bay Library.Attendees are  encouraged to  ‘bring along’  favourite songs (mentally only, no CDs needed!), and see where they go when combined with Jennifer’s prompts. Charming Salon Party

Jennifer and I will be sharing songs and pieces of music to conjure up new inspiration, and show how songs can inspire some fascinating moods, characters and plots. 

Teenage Kicks: Creative Writing Workshop Saturday 4th March, St Mary’s room, Whitley Bay library.  Tickets cost £15 . Advance booking recommended. Click here to book

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