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I love reading this blog and that’s why I’m sharing it with you….

Harvesting Hecate

On the first wintry day of the season frost crisps the landscape.  My breath billows in clouds of white.  The sun is honey, oozing through the heart of the cherry tree and turning the last of the leaves to gold.  It is a moment of between, when the earth makes me pause.  The chill shivers the leaves from the trees.  I can hear them falling.  They crackle like flames as they detach and float to the ground.  The fire is a cold one, but I feel as though I’m standing in its heart: the crackling is everywhere, the air is gold and a blackbird trills.  It is a precious, dreamlike morning.  There won’t be another one like it this season.

I sometimes dream of searching for places that don’t exist. I dream that behind the field at my aunt’s is a path that leads to a group of small ponds…

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“How often do you write blog posts?” It’s a question I get asked again and again. When I first started blogging here almost six years ago I made the vow to post weekly but soon realised there’s not much point writing unless I’ve got something to say.

Books on TyneI try to blog every month but it’s hard when I’m busy. In the past five weeks I’ve been away to Birmingham and visited London twice. I’ve also hosted a couple of gigs and am currently prepping for my final one of the year. It’s The Princess and the Piano at  Newcastle Central Library this coming Monday 25th November. It’s a FREE but ticketed event. Get yours here

I’m ready to write this blog because I am full of creative excitement for my next writing project. But why blog right now? I put it down to my overflowing well of inspiration! I’ve been filling it over the past month. In Birmingham I spent time with a friend and she revealed some of her favourite haunts.  I danced and sang along to musicians in a Cuban bar in Moseley and marvelled at the main Library of Birmingham with its floors filled with books and exhibitions. We saw Pride and Prejudice (Sort Of) at Birmingham Rep. Great venue. Enjoyable evening.

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The Princess and her pals

My trip to London on 31st October was to host my Princess in Bloomsbury event on November 1st. This was the London launch of The Princess of Felling and the upstairs room of one of my favourite boozers, The Rugby Tavern, was filled with friends old and new who came to support me. What a night! Loved connecting with folk I’d not seen in years.

 

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The Death of a Good Old Man

Four days after returning from London I was on another LNER train to London with my pal, the artist and writer, Gail Curry. I’m a Director of her business Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC and on that trip we were still on a high after Gail beat over 600 other local business to take the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.

Our mission in London was to see some art. The first day we visited the National Gallery and saw the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhbition. The following day we spent about five hours in the V&A and I lost myself in the ceramics and glass collections. Bliss. The third day was given over to the William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain. Wow. So modern. So amazing. Go and see it.

Since returning home I’ve seen Seamus Murphy’s film A Dog Called Money at the Tyneside Cinema. Beautifully shot. Strong narrative. My heroine PJ Harvey’s involved so I’m bound to praise it! I’ve also seen Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You at The Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay. The film’s stayed with me since watching it. The Britain it portrays is bleak and the protagonist is angry. On reflection I believe this is an accurate depiction of where we are in late November 2019, weeks before a General Election and Christmas.

Last weekend I co-hosted the final North Tyneside Writers’ Circle of the year at North Shelds Library. There were almost 30 attendees, including a handful of first-timers. I was pleased to introduce poet Steve Urwin who talked about his writing life and his projects. I find Steve’s writing and work ethic inspiring and it was great to see others in the room “get” him.

The following day I saw Kate Tempest perform at Newcastle’s Boiler Shop. I haven’t heard or read her work but knew I wanted to see her. I was impressed by her energy, her connection with her audience and by her work.

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Me with Ali Finlayson in Shiremoor Library

Right now I’m still processing an event I hosted three days ago in Shiremoor Library called Meet the Poets: Ali Finlayson and Friends. This afternoon event was the culimation of work with Ali and his writer friends plus the support of North Tyneside Libraries. It was wonderful to see folk enjoying Ali’s poems.

Art, music, poetry, design, film, theatre, connecting with old and new friends and collaborating with the likes of writer Sandy Chadwin and musician Mike Waller fill my creative well. I am ready to start my next writing project. Thank you to everyone who has inspired me this year, this month, this week.

I’m sharing a blog I wrote for the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle….

via Action-packed autumn

I love Desert Island Discs and that’s why I leapt at the chance to participate in Radio Newcastle’s potted version, My Tunes. I recorded my memories and opinions this week with presenter Lisa Shaw.  I had to choose five songs from the past 40 years that made it into the UK Top 30 chart.

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Will P J Harvey be one of My Tunes?

After much anguish I settled on a motivational track for Monday, a song with memories attached to it, a “guilty pleasure” and I had to dedicate a ditty to someone. My final choice was a bangin’ choon for Friday to kickstart the weekend. What fun. I love listening to and reflecting on classic songs.

I couldn’t possibly reveal my choices here. You’ll have to listen and let me know if you agree with me! My Tunes will be aired every week day next week after 11.30am starting on Monday 30th September. You can listen live or to previous Lisa Shaw shows here

There’s still time to book your place at The Princess of Felling Party on Tuesday 8th October but hurry! We need to know how many guests to cater for! Come and enjoy bingo, blather, buffet, a raffle in aid of The Friends of Felling Park and Town Centre and a performance of The Princess and the Piano by me and Mike Waller. The Mayor and Mayoress of Gateshead will be in attendance so get your tickets booked now

Tyne Idols logoIf you live in North Tyneside and want to come to the Princess Party then why don’t you book on The Princess Express? Our vintage Leyland Atlantean bus comes courtesy of Tyne Idols, purveyors of groovy, cultural magical mystery tours.  Book your tickets here. Sorry but The Princess Express is not wheelchair accessible.

 

Thirty years ago I worked as a reporter for Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle newspaper. Although I started off as a general reporter it didn’t take long before I’d cornered the market in reviewing indie rock and pop concerts. I’d attend at least one gig at week, usually at the city’s Riverside venue which was then on Melbourne Street. Afterwards I’d scamper home to scribble down thoughts and go to bed. The next morning I’d be in the office by 7am to submit my review or I’d phone through my words for dictation by a copy typist before the first edition of the newspaper went to press at around 9.45am.

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The Chronicle’s former home on Groat Market

Ah them were the days! Things have changed since then. The newspaper lost the “Evening” from its title and has moved out of the vast building it once occupied in Groat Market. I used to love that building filled with journos, printers, secretaries, kitchen staff in the subsidised canteen, the advertising department plus couriers, and members of the public coming and going through the front door.

Journalism and arts reviewing have changed so much over the past three decades. I no longer expect a fee for writing a review of a play or a gig but I derive pleasure from writing reviews or blog reviews for this site. I don’t get paid for these reviews but then I don’t have to file copy to a deadline.  I can allow the theatrical or musical experience to filter through my brain for a few days.

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When the Boat Comes in

And that’s what I’ve been allowing to happen since attending the press night of When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years by Peter Mitchell at South Shields’ Customs House last Friday.

Like the Evening Chronicle, the title When The Boat Comes In stirs fond memories for those of us old enough to remember the TV series of the same name starring James Bolam as Jack Ford and written by Peter Mitchell’s father, James. At its peak the weekly TV series achieved an audience of over 15 million. That’s more than a quarter of the population of the UK back in the 1970s. Quite a feat.

I was humming the TV series’ distinctive theme tune when I walked into the Customs House last Friday. As I sat with a drink reading the play’s programme, a man and woman approached and asked if they could share my table. Turns out they are the current Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside and we enjoyed a delightful 45 minutes discussing mayoral chains and duties as well as reminiscing about the old days. I told Norman and Jean about the changes in journalism and Norman told me about his younger days down the local pit and in the army. His previous jobs matched those of the evening’s protagonist Jack Ford (played by Jamie Brown) but that’s where the similiarities end. Mayor Norman is no Jack the Lad.

So what about the play set in the mythical Gallowshield almost a century ago?

The play picks up the story of battle-hardened charmer Sgt Jack Ford following his shotgun wedding to his best friend’s sister.  Jamie Brown captures Jack’s passion, frustration and ambition perfectly and I thought his acting was matched by all the cast.  Several of the actors play dual roles and this works well to highlight the similarities and differences between the haves and the have nots in society. An example is Steve Byron playing suspicous and embittered former miner Bill Seaton plus the well-heeled Horatio Manners.

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Actors Anna Bolton and Jamie Brown

The play’s set flowed in front of our eyes. We were taken on a journey through the homes, pubs and shops in Gallowshield and into the opulent home of Lady Jessica Croner. The use of music and song was used to great effect and as the cast bowed to our applause, I reflected on the performance. I’d witnessed actors and production staff working in perfect harmony.

The performances plus sound, lighting and direction highlighted the script’s timeless themes of lust, deception, greed, hunger, faith and love. The characters’ differing responses to politics and money remind us that nothing much has changed in the past century since the fictional Jack Ford came back from war and the 50 years since James Bolam walked in his shoes.

I’d like to make an aside about alcohol. I know the play’s writer Peter Mitchell is the Chief Executive of the Road to Recovery Trust which runs the George Street Social cafe in Newcastle and 12 step recovery programmes for addicts. Alcohol is not so much a theme but rather a non-speaking character in the play.  Most of the characters respond to alcohol in one way or another. I felt like I was being left to make up my own mind about drinking rather than being preached at.

So it’s fulsome praise from me to Director Katy Weir and her actors and staff for this production. It is a Play for Today rather than a nostalgic stroll down memory lane. Go and see it.

When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years by Peter Mitchell is at The Customs House until Saturday 28th September.

 

 

 

thumbnail_Princess of Felling CoverWhat’s bright pink and read all over? Why it’s the Princess, of course! I’ve had a ball promoting The Princess of Felling over the past few months. I’ve performed in Newcastle’s  George Street Social, Tynemouth’s Pie and Bottle Shop and sang Felling-inspired songs written with musician Mike Waller in the basement of the Lit and Phil

 I’ve got a busy autumn and winter schedule kicking off this coming Thursday 5th September with a headline slot at Poetry Jam, Waddington Street Centre, 3 Waddington Street, Durham City, DH1 4BG. I’m sharing the floor with Princess illustrator and poet Steve Lancaster as well as poet Helen Marshall. There’ll be some open floor spots up for grabs too. Free entry. Door 7pm and evening starts 7.30pm.

Earlier this year I wrote a batch of songs inspired by my hometown of Felling with Whitley Bay musician Mike Waller. We’ve added well-known cover versions and created an evening of music and poetry called The Princess and the Piano. We’ll be performing this show at Whitley Bay Library on Tuesday 10th September at 7pm. Tickets £3, booking essential. For further information call 0191 643 5390 or contact any North Tyneside library. We’ll also perform The Princess and the Piano at Newcastle’s Central Library on November 25th at 4pm. The event is part of the annual Books on Tyne Festival. Tickets on sale soon. Please come prepared to sing and clap along  at both of these events!

rpt_softI’m very excited about my Princess of Felling Party in Felling’s Holly Hill Sports and Social Club on Tuesday 8th October. There’ll be bingo, a buffet plus a performance of The Princess and the Piano. The Mayor and Mayoress of Gateshead will be in attendance and there’ll be a raffle in support of The Friends of Felling Park and Town Centre. Tickets £5 from the club or online

If you live in North Tyneside and want to come to the party then why not get on The Princess Express? Our vintage Leyland Atlantean double decker comes courtesy of Tyne Idols, purveyors of groovy, cultural magical mystery tours! Leave Whitley Bay Links at 5.30pm, enjoy the Princess party then get dropped off back in Whitley at approx 11.30pm. Tickets £10 available onlineSorry this bus is not wheelchair accessible.

You can buy copies of The Princess of Felling plus merchandise (badges, CDs, posters) at my gigs and from my Etsy store. You can also buy my book from Felling Volunteer Library, Newcastle Central Library, Happy Planet Studio and Gallery on Whitley Bay’s Ilfracombe Gardens and online from my publisher’s website

Scrolling back through my dipdoomagazoo blogs I see I’ve not posted about The Princess of Felling. Why is that? I reckon it’s ‘cos I got wrapped up in the initial publicity gubbins back in April then I concentrated on the various Princess events around the North East. I loved those events! Pie and peas in Tynemouth’s Pie and Bottle Shop, cake and chat in The George Street Social   and performing The Princess and the Piano songs with Mike Waller at Newcastle’s Lit and PhilSay AaaahI’ve enjoyed the Princess events and am gearing up for more from September onwards, including a London gig plus my Princess of Felling Party on Tuesday 8th October Yee hah!

I’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback about The Princess of Felling. I’ve lost count of the times someone has said it’s “brought back memories” and that it’s “well-written.”  The book resonates with readers of all ages. As actress and Felling lass Jill Halfpenny says in the book, “Reading Elaine’s stories and poetry takes me back to my childhood in Felling and all of the smells, sounds and tastes of that time. Her words allow me to remember things that I didn’t know I’d forgotten.”

thumbnail_Princess of Felling CoverOther comments include:“It’s perfect! I picture it like the Hundred Acre Wood…only in Felling. Just as magic, though.”  Another reader said: “Was so tempted to gobble this down in one sitting but forced myself to savour small delightful morsels. Just beautiful. And I’d forgotten all about skinshees!” And another comment: “In parts it’s educational, nostalgic, humorous, sometimes evoking sad memories for me and lovely memories too. The story telling is seamless and impressive; I summed it up as being a delight!”

So why blog about The Princess today? Well I don’t want to spoil the book if you haven’t read it but it has a hero. He’s a real person. He’s Nick Heyward. I adored Nick and his music back in the 1980s. I won’t spoil the book’s narrative but let’s just say we parted company somewhere around 1986 but were reconciled at Stockton’s ARC in summer 2018.

Yesterday I caught Nick performing outdoors in Bent’s Park, South Shields. He was fabulous. He’s got an amazing bunch of musicians around him and together they transported me (and many others, I’m sure) back to the mid 1980s. I was at the front and found myself singing along to all the words. I was lost in music.

Nick Bent's ParkThere’s a closed Facebook group dedicated to Nick called The Nick Heyward Group Hug. It was good to meet fellow “huggers” yesterday, especially page admin Lisa with the rainbow hair. I have her vibrant locks to thank for guiding me when I arrived at Bent’s Park. I followed her hair and it led me to a front row place. Thanks Lisa and Bernie!

So what  am I trying to say in this blog? I guess I’m saying that the past never dies, having a hero matters, even if you are in your late 40s (!) and that it’s lovely to meet virtual pals in the flesh.

Thanks to Nick and co, the huggers and to support band The Breakfast Club for a top afternoon. I’d thank Midge Ure too who took the stage after Nick but I wasn’t concentrating on his songs. I was resting after singing my heart out during Nick’s set. What a Fantastic Day.

I’m sure I’m not the only Geordie who can remember hearing the news of Sir Bobby Robson’s death almost ten years ago on Friday 31st July 2009. I was gearing up to visit my Dad in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. Like Sir Bobby my Dad had cancer and he died 16 hours after I heard that Friday morning bulletin about Sir Bobby on Radio Newcastle.

Newcastle United fans had lost their hero but I felt like I’d lost two heroes in one day. Whenever I read an article or see a photo of Sir Bobby, I think of Dad.

sir bobInevitably Pa was on my mind and in my heart yesterday lunchtime when I met my pal Pat at North Shields ferry. We crossed over the Tyne to South Shields and headed to The Customs House for the matinee performance of Bobby Robson Saved My Life by Tom Kelly.

After a catchup over lunch Pat and I had time to stretch our legs outside the riverside theatre before the performance. I spied Tom Kelly and wandered over to chat. I told him about Dad dying so soon after Sir Bobby and how much I was looking forward to the play.

Pat and I took our seats, chatted again to Tom as he looked for his and then settled down to watch the play. I knew I’d cry but wasn’t explecting to weep in the first 30 seconds of the play.  I got used to mopping my eyes throughout the performance.

The play revolves around three characters: Tommy, Clair and Mark. The fourth character is Sir Bobby who is referred to throughout the play. The three narratives are woven together to produce a heart-felt appreciation of Sir Bobby’s life and legacy.

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Tom Kelly and Jamie Brown

Tom’s strong script is realised by director Jamie Brown and the production team. Jamie just happens to be an award-winning actor (Hadaway Harry, The Man and the Donkey) and his all-rounder skills enhance Bobby Robson Saved My Life.

As soon as I saw Sam Neale’s named in the programme as single mum Clair I knew we were in for a performance treat. I first saw Sam in Alison Carr’s Iris at Live Theatre in 2016. Sam writes short plays which have been produced professionally and this makes her another all-rounder like Director Jamie. So much talent off and on stage!

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Donald McBride as Tommy

Actors Charlie Richmond (Mark) and Donald McBride playing Tommy brought differing experiences and styles to their roles and worked perfectly alongside Sam Neale. All three took us on a journey from Langley Park to St James’ Park via Fulham, Vancouver, Ipswich, Portugal, Spain and Italia 1990.

My only criticism of the performance is the short video clips at the beginning and end of the play. Some of them are dark and it was difficult to make out some of the faces on the screen.

I ran out of tissues by the end of the play and wandered back to the Shields ferry with Pat discussing the merits of  “a good cry” every once in a while.

Bobby Robson Saved My Life run until Saturday at The Customs House. It plays at Ipswich Regent on  31st July and returns to the north for a short run at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House 2nd to the 4th August. A portion of ticket money goes to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

I’m sharing Jen’s blog about Green Beans at Whitley Bay market on Sunday 30th June…

Jennifer C. Wilson

Happy Sunday everyone! Are you in the Whitley Bay area? Do you enjoy fun, friendly markets? Would you like to meet your next favourite writer? Then get along to the Green Beans Market, this coming Sunday, at Whitley Bay Metro Station!

NTWC

On 30th June, the team from North Tyneside Writers’ Circle will be there, sharing some of the books and collections members have had published, or featured in. There’ll be poetry and prose alike, across a range of genres, including a couple of wonderful short story collections from fellow local writing groups.

You can find out more about the market in general on its Facebook page, or get our event in your diary here. Don’t forget, as well as us and our books, you’ll find plenty of local produce and crafts for yourself and others (dare I mention the C-word; these markets are perfect for those early Christmas…

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This time last week I was in Senigallia. It’s a port town and holiday resort on Italy’s Adriatic coast. I’m telling you this because I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t until I piggybacked onto my fella’s Italian business trip.

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Senigallia’s sea front

We visited Senigallia to participate in the the town’s inaugural Biennale Di Senigallia, celebrating it’s status as “City of Photography”  and the first 150 years of photography. The Biennale highlighted the work of local photographers Giuseppe Cavalli, Ferruccio Ferroni and Mario Giacomelli.

The event lasted for three days and included lectures, a photo fair with books and photos for sale plus a screening of early Lumière film footage presented by one of their descendants. The footage was fascinating, funny and touching.

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Senigallia Piazza del Duca

During my time in laid-back Senigallia I explored the town and sampled delicious food and drink, strolled along the sea front eating a gelato and plodged in the Adriatic. I spotted Bee Eaters along the River Misa. Quite a sight.

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European Bee Eater

I also spent time in Bologna walking along the miles of russet porticoes and marvelling at the view of the Apennine Mountains from the Basilica Di San Luca.

And now I’m back in wet and windy Whitley Bay preparing for two events next week. On Tuesday 14th May I’m hosting an afternoon Princess of Felling event in Newcastle’s George Street Social, NE4 7JN from 2pm until 3.30pm. Click here for more info and to book.

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The one, the only, Mary Oh

The next day I’m celebrating the poetry of the late great poet Mary Oliver in Whitley Bay’s Churchill Pavilion from midday. Please book in advance here

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