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It’s official: Lyn Gardner has scrambled my brain. I’m not complaining about The Guardian’s theatre critic. In fact, I want to use this blog to thank her for freeing up the arts reviewer within me.lyn

Today I attended what I guess was a masterclass in arts/theatre reviewing led by Lyn in Newcastle’s Dance City. The session was supposed to start at 11am but poor Lyn was stuck on the East Coast train line. Thankfully the other workshop attendees and I amused ourselves until she turned up before 1pm.

Lyn packed a great deal into a few hours. My notes list websites, plays, writers and advice from Lyn. In the margin I’ve scribbled “Honest opinion matters. Good writing is in the eye of the beholder. The more you write, the better writer you become.”

Lyn shared her thoughts and opinions but kept asking us what we thought and what we liked. She was full of enthusiasm for theatre and critical writing.

I feel inspired, “freed up” and ready to write more reviews for North East Reviews

 

 

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My friend the writer and artist Gail Curry was mugged outside her shop and gallery in Whitley Bay and now stutters as a result of the ordeal. I was originally billed as her co-host for this event but we’ve decided to swap places on Tuesday night. I will speak Gail’s answers to questions she will pose as well as read her poems.

I think there’s still time to book a place for Lines from an Unfinished Love Song with Gail Curry at 7.30pm 13th February Cullercoats Library. For information contact (0191) 6432073 or any North Tyneside Library.

Do you fancy sampling  a creative Smörgåsbord next weekend? Then join me at the Shipley Art Gallery on Saturday 10th February for Express Yourself, a half day filled with workshops in collaboration with Gateshead writing group The Scribblers and the Shipley Art Gallery.

11am – 1pm (including break)  Take part in three different half hour workshops:

1.The Scribblers  will be running taster writing sessions inspired by Trench Art and Memory.

2. I’ll be offering one to one “Dr Cusack” mentoring sessions on writing and performance.

3. The Shipley’s Ruth Sheldon will be showing you how to make chapbooks.

1pm – 2pm   I’ll give a quick introduction about performance before a show and tell sessions where participants will share work written in the morning or any other short piece they’d like to perform.

If you’d like to book a ticket for Express Yourself they cost £2.50 (BARGAIN!) and you buy them here

Particpants are asked to bring writing they might want to make into a chapbook plus work they want to share from 1pm to 2pm.

We’ll have tea, coffee and water on offer but I suggest you bring a packed lunch as there’s no cafe in the gallery.

There is another literary event after Express Yourself. From 2pm to 3pm The Shipley will host  Poems After The Blaydon Races: Centenary Launch. You are invited to join Shipley’s poet in resident Jo Clement and The Scribblers for a special poetry reading to launch an anthology inspired by William C Irving’s painting The Blaydon Races. For more information click here

 

I feel compelled to share my friend Sandy Chadwin’s blog. What do you think about subsidies?

The Next Page

This month’s post is from Sandy Chadwin:

pexels-photo-207636.jpegSO I SAID I would do January’s blog and I had a bright idea about considering the issues arising from the Art Council’s report on the future of Literary Fiction which was released at the tail end of last year. The report says that it, literary fiction, is dying out and ponders whether subsidy might be the way of keeping it alive. This, of course, begs the question that literary fiction should be kept alive. After all, if no-one wants to read it then why should the taxpayer fund it? You may deduce, from that last sentence, where my sympathies lie in this matter. Will Self is on record as saying that he believes that literary fiction will end up becoming an esoteric hobby, like Morris dancing I suppose, with small amateur groups keeping it alive.

The problem, or at least one of…

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I met Santa Claus yesterday. Yes, he was real. How do I know? Because it was in my hometown of Felling.  Santa’s always real in your childhood neighbourhood.

SanteeSanta was spreading joy and happiness in Felling’s volunteer run library. He had plenty of visitors plus help from Felling Folk dressed as elves.  Santa had time to chat and have his photo taken with me. I didn’t ask for too much but I hope he makes my Christmas wishes come true.

Thank you for reading dipdoomagazoo this year. I’ve got some exciting creative projects unfolding now and into the new year. Follow my news here and at The Next Page

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Poetry with Friends, the poetry appreciation session with a difference has been running for over three years now. Gail Curry and I started the sessions back in summer 2014 in North Shields and we continue to meet fortnightly on Tuesday nights but now in Whitley Bay’s Big Local building.

We’ve seen attendees come and go, come back and others, our regulars, have hung around like an unpleasant odour. Gail and I have tried to get rid of them but no joy. ONLY JOKING David, Alan, Rowland, Linda etc etc!

Last Tuesday’s meeting saw me flying solo without Gail but with eight poetry fans.  I decided to ask everyone to name their favourite poet and biscuit. The answers (in no order):

Garibaldi, Roger McGough, Dark Chocolate Hob Nobs, Shortbread, Gail Curry, TS Eliot, Chocolate Digestives, Edward Lear, Larkin, Ted Hughes, Tunnocks Tea Cakes, WB Yeats and a brand of biscuits I can’t remember (and I can’t read my handwriting). Sorry. Here’s a picture of Boyd Tunnock, the man who invented Tunnocks Tea Cakes. Awesome!

We shared poems by Hughes, Larkin, Geoffrey Smith, Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, Kipling, ee cummings, Geordie Broon of Backworth, Maggie Gibson, Tom Hirons, Sassoon, June Portlock, Dorothy Parker, Carol Ann Duffy plus poems by attendees: Rowland, Alan and I.

We’ll meet again on Tuesday 21st November and on 5th December. New members are welcome. All we ask is you contact us beforehand so we can look out for you and make you welcome. Email gail@happyplanetcreative arts.org.uk or phone Gail on 07752356880. Each session costs £4.50.

Most of my friends are writers. Sorry if that sounds pretentious but it’s true. Well, it’s inevitable, innit? Especially here in Whitley Bay. There must be something in that salty sea air. It attracts writers as well as musicians and artists.

I love working with creative pals. In recent weeks I’ve been helping two of them, Sandy Chadwin and Gail Curry with various  gigs, talks and a book launch. I’m going to use this blog post to promote their forthcoming gigs this month. So there! That’s what friends are for, eh?

This coming Thursday Sandy will give a talk on the writer MR James  in Newcastle’s  Old George Inn  The event is called The Ghost Stories of MR James: Games of an Antiquary. Doors open 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets cost £2.50 and are available in advance here I’ll be there with friend and colleague Jennifer C Wilson helping Sandy set out the room and welcoming punters. Sandy’s an expert on MR James so come along and find out more about the writer’s work which is a potent mix of donnish humour and subtle horror.

Five days later I will be co-hosting Gail Curry’s gig at Whitley Bay library. Gail published her collection of poetry Lines from an Unfinished Love Song to mark this month’s World Mental Health Day and aims to raise awareness of issues that can affect anyone.

Lines from an Unfinished Love Song  charts a journey that began in 2000 with a chance meeting in Warsaw. Gail’s poems describe 17 years of friendship, love, loss, grief, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and finally recovery.  All proceeds from the sale of the book go to Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland.

I co-hosted Gail’s “soft” launch of the book at The Laing Art Gallery earlier this month. The room was filled with friends. The gig at Whitley Bay library will have friends in the auidence but also, gasp! Members of the public! This gig is part of Gail’s journey to recovery. Please support her by joining us on Tuesday 24th October. Tickets are free but you must prebook by phoning 0191 643 5390.

I’m proud of Gail, Sandy, Jennifer (two book launches under her belt this year!) and all my friends. You don’t have to be a writer to be in my gang but it helps if you like writers as chances are I’ll introduce you to one!

At last! The annual excuse to celebrate poetry returns this Thursday 28th September. It’s National Poetry Day here in the UK. It happens every year, usually in October but this year it’s in September with lots of events happening in our city of culture, Hull. The theme of this year’s National Poetry Day is Freedom.

I’ve started my own tradition of running free to enter poetry events on and around National Poetry Day. Last year I ran a poetry appreciation session in Tynemouth. This  Thursday I’ve got two free events: one in North Tyneside and one in Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery.

Thursday morning 10am to 11.30am. Words of Freedom. Northumberland Park’s community room, Tynemouth. Free, no need to book.

Thursday afternoon 2pm to 3.30pm. Words of Freedom. Shipley Art Gallery. Free but please book in advance here

 I’m encouraging participants to bring along their favourite poems to share by famous and not so famous writers. You don’t have to stick to the theme of Freedom but I’ll only share poems with that theme. These events are NOT creative writing workshops.

In addition to poems, writer Allison Davies will join us in the afternoon session to talk about her play Trade which tours next year and the charity Dalit Freedom Networth UK which fights human trafficking and modern slavery in India https://dfn.org.uk/

Thanks to Fiona Betts of North Tyneside Parks and Ruth Sheldon of the Shipley for helping me organise and promote these events.

How well do you know your home town or the city closest to your home? I like to think I know my nearest city, Newcastle upon Tyne pretty well. I grew up living five miles from the city’s centre. I lived away for 20 years  but  kept tabs on Newcastle as it evolved into NewcastleGateshead and have had time to reacquaint myself with the place since moving back to the North East in 2009.

Earlier this month I visited one of Newcastle’s treasures. I won’t call it a “hidden treasure” as it’s open to the public but let me tell you about it. The Great North Museum: Hancock has a unique library on the second floor of the museum. It is comprised of the library and archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN), the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne (SANT) and Newcastle University’s Cowen Library.

Staff and volunteers help visitors find what they’re looking for. I had asked in advance to see some of the library’s illustrated books and when I arrived a range of beautiful books in sizes ranging from 8vo to Folio were sitting on a large table waiting for me. I looked at a 200 year old copy of Thomas Bewick’s History of British Birds. I never tire of examining his delicate woodcuts and this book included images of the Great Northern Diver, the Red-Breasted Merganser and the Ring Dotterel.

Other books included The Ladies’ Flower Garden of Ornamental Bulbous Plants and Flora Londinensis,  a book illustrating and describing the flora found around London in the mid 18th century. I enjoyed writing out names of plants, birds and mammals: Bulbous Crowfoot, The Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Whimbrel and The Hooded Seal.

The highlight of my visit was looking at Joseph Crawhall’s books. Joseph was a Newcastle artist known as Joseph Crawhall II as both his father and son were artists called Joseph. This Joseph, my Joseph (!) lived from 1821 to 1896 and his works are cheeky, quirky and very modern. They remind me of Billy Childish’s art .

Throughout my visit I was encouraged by staff and volunteers to look, touch and ask questions about the collection. Leather books are meant to be handled by human hands. Go and visit the library but check the opening times first as they vary according to university term time.

Hancock Library, 2nd Floor, Great North Museum: Hancock, Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4PT. 0191 208 3555

Thank you to the library’s staff and volunteers and to TWAM.

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.

 

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