Archives for posts with tag: Iron Press

What links a delicious homemade carrot cake, a jam-packed Jam Jar and a well-attended library event? The short answer is: “community” but let me explain….

free-as-a-bard-latest-2017In the past week I’ve hosted and attended events I’m involved with here in North Tyneside. Last Sunday 12th February I co-hosted the first Free as a Bard of the year at Whitley Bay’s community cinema, The Jam Jar. The event featured poets Jo Reed, Owen Brecon aka David Farn and musician Chris Harrison and, like most Free as a Bard evenings, it was standing room only. I counted over 50 punters. Okay, we’re not talking The Beatles at Shea Stadium here but the numbers are jolly good for a Sunday evening spoken word and music evening.

Two days later on Tuesday 14th February Gail Curry and I hosted our regular Poetry with Friends event in St Paul’s Centre in Whitley Bay where talk turned to Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC’s third birthday celebrations. Happy Planet turned three yesterday (Saturday 18th February) and as I type Gail is welcoming friends old and new through the door of Happy Planet Studio and Gallery on Ilfracombe Gardens, Whitley Bay. Gail’s hosting a weekend-long birthday party which includes the divine carrot cake I mentioned.happy-planet-cake

Yesterday I co-hosted the second North Tyneside Writers’ Circle with my Next Page colleagues Jennifer C Wilson and Sandy Chadwin. This was our second Writers’ Circle and once again it attracted a healthy crowd of writers. We counted 22 writers at this free to attend event in North Shields library. The Writers’ Circle is supported by North Tyneside libraries.feb-2017

So what’s the link I alluded to at the start of this blog? It’s one person I won’t name (to spare blushes) but who attended Free as a Bard, Poetry with Friends, North Tyneside Writers’ Circle and made that gorgeous carrot cake I keep mentioning. I’m talking about one person who revels in the local community and supports the area’s artists, musicians, writers and venues.

North Tyneside is filled with like-minded souls who support local artists, writers and venues. I’m one of those community-minded souls and it’s gratifying to be in contact with others who share my vision. Happy Birthday, Happy Planet and thanks to all our supporters.



When inspiration comes knocking…open the door! Sounds like obvious advice but how many times have you walked away from creative inspiration?

I couldn’t ignore New Zealand poet Janis Freegard when she attended one of our Poetry with Friends sessions at Whitley Bay library earlier this month.

Janis contributed to The Iron Book of New Humorous Verse published by IRON Press in 2010. Janis contacted the book’s editor, Eileen Jones to say she’d be visiting the North East this summer and could Eileen help her connect with local poets.

Eileen put Janis in touch with Harry Gallagher and secured a spot at his monthly Stanza event at Beldons in North Shields. I suggested that Janis might enjoy a Poetry with Friends session. Janis came with her partner, Peter and with Eileen.

poetry visit

I found the session inspirational. We talked about Maori history, the commonwealth, Bob Marley and cheesemaking in Siberia. We shared poems by William Blake, W.H Davies and Emily Bronte. Several of us read our own work: Gail, Janis, Eileen, Peter, Joyce, oh and me.

Thanks to Janis (and Peter and Eileen and the Poetry with Friends gang) for an inspirational session in Whitley Bay library.

If you’re looking for creative inspiration there are still places for one to one mentoring with me at Whitley Bay library this coming Saturday Saeptember 3rd. For more info and booking visit

Hey! Did you see what I did there?! Seamless wasn’t it?! I’m a marketing wizard!


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

UNITED STATES - MARCH 27:  CARNEGIE HALL  Photo of Billie HOLIDAY  (Photo by William Gottlieb/Redferns)

Southern trees bear strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is the fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

I know where I was when I heard Billie Holiday’s version of Strange Fruit for the first time. I was in my bedroom listening to a compilation tape made by my chum Kim.


It features (yes I still have it) Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, Prefab Sprout, Jimmy Giuffre, The Animals  and Billie. I was 13 maybe 14  years old and hadn’t heard anything like it.

The lyrics started out as a poem by Abel Meeropol called Bitter Fruit. It became a song and was recorded by Billie, Nina Simone and others.


I’ve just listened to an amazing half hour radio programme about the song on BBC Radio 4. It’s part of a series called Soul Music. It will be repeated tonight at 9.30pm but is also available on BBC i player. Recommended.

The programme’s stories blend in with my thoughts on Selma which I finally got to see last week at the newly-refurbished Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay. Those thoughts will continue to percolate for some time…


Talking of Jam Jar it was the venue for yet another successful Free as a Bard event on Sunday night. I co-organise the evenings with Pete “Iron Press” Mortimer and we never know how the evenings will go. We were delighted by the turnout. It was such a lovely audience (we’d like to take you home with us.. we’d like to take you home!) and the performers slotted together perfectly.


Poets Andy Croft and Harry Gallagher had the audience eating out of their hands and the wonderful, talented and delightful musician Jenny Lascelles needs to set up a fan club after Sunday’s performance. I will join!

In just over a week’s time Pete Mortimer’s Eclectic Iron Festival will launch down the road in Cullercoats. The festival’s predecessor, 2013’s Iron Age Festival won Best Event at The Journal Culture Awards last year. Eclectic Iron, billed as “A Seaside Festival of Words, Music and Oddities” will be just as fun!

Iron gate

Tony Harrison, specially brewed local beer, poets on rocks at sea, Ann Cleeves, free entertainment by buskers each night, a fringe event, a haiku workshop following a bike ride along the coast and more! For tickets ring 0191 251 6009 or book online at or buy direct from Cullercoats Coffee shop on John Street, Cullercoats.

eclectic Iron


Just a week to go before the next Free as a Bard in Whitley Bay’s wonderful Jam Jar Cinema.

This event’s line up consists of poet and publisher Andy Croft,

andy croft

poet and musician (but I might get a scolding from him for mentioning this) Harry Gallagher

Harry performing

 and singer songwriter Jenny Lascelles.


Tickets cost £5 and are available online or in person from the newly refurbished Jam Jar Cinema.Visit

As well as the acts there will be free fresh fruit, a literary raffle and a bespoke floral sculpture on display.

jam jar

I help organise Free as a Bard, a poetry and music event at the coast with Peter Mortimer from Iron Press.

Freeasa Bard

Free as a Bard (or FaaB for short) takes place four times a year on a Sunday evening in Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema. The Jam Jar is a volunteer-run cinema offering something for everyone: mainstream, arthouse, children’s and “silver screenings.”

jam jar

 The  final Free as a Bard of 2014 takes place next Sunday 23rd November and  features a triple helping of local talent. Poets Scott Tyrrell and Vicky Arthurs are joined by musician and songwriter, Jack Arthurs.

Scott Tyrrell has been writing and performing comedy and poetry since the turn of the century. He is author of two collections of poetry, winner of 10 poetry slams around the country, twice semi-finalist in the BBCRadio 4 Poetry Slams, finalist in the Spokefest UK Poetry Slam and winner of the Manchester Comedy Balloon New Comedian 2003. Scott has performed at festivals around the country and Europe, including Edinburgh Fringe and Glastonbury.


“Scott’s poetry is as funny as the finest stand up comedy with razor-sharp punch lines that hit just in the right places. But it also has a heart. Scott is one of the best live stand-up poets in the country.” Kate Fox, poet.

Vicky Arthurs is a writer and editor based in Newcastle. She is inspired by the natural world, and fortified by tea and cake. She has performed at Books on Tyne and The Iron Age festival. Her poems feature in the IRON Press pamphlet Pieces from Eight. She is currently completing her first full-length poetry collection, Limehaven, forthcoming from IRON Press.


Jack Arthurs is a singer-songwriter based in Newcastle. Born in York, he came to the North East to study English at Newcastle University. He worked for literary magazines IRON, Stand and Granta. Jack’s first solo acoustic album Only Dreams Are True has been well-received, featuring on BBC Radio 3 and enjoyed by audiences at The Iron Age and Books on Tyne festivals. For Free as a Bard, Jack will perform new tracks from his forthcoming second album.


“Music to warm your soul” Newcastle Journal.

In addition there’ll be free fruit, a literary raffle plus a bespoke floral sculpture by Cullercoats artist, Jules Fleur on display.

Tickets £5 from

Poetry & Music at the Coast this weekend

Free as a Bard returns to Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema this Sunday 28th September with poets Ellen Phethean and Kirsten Luckins plus musician Robby Thinman.

Free as a Bard (or FaaB) brings together the best, most accessible poets and musicians from the North East and beyond, places them in the original and convivial setting of the Jam Jar Cinema bar and lets the evening do the rest.

I help organise FaaB and Sunday’s gig will be our third Jam Jar event. The previous two sold out so please buy your tickets in advance online or in person at the cinema on Park Avenue from Wednesday to Saturday.

Tickets £5. Event starts 7.30pm.

Here are our performers….


Ellen Phethean, a founder member of The Poetry Virgins, is a writer and editor.

Wall (Smokestack Books, 2007), a novel in poems, won joint first prize in a Crossover Novel competition in 2004.

Her first collection, Breath (Flambard, 2009), was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award 2010.

Her second collection, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman was published this year by Red Squirrel Press.

Ellen runs workshops and teaches Creative Writing. Her website is


Kirsten Luckins is a poet and performer based in Hartlepool.

She spent the summer touring her first spoken word show The Moon Cannot Be Stolen around the region and at the
Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show was runner-up in the Saboteur Awards 2014.

She is North East programme co-ordinator for performance poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes. She blogs

thin man

Robby Thinman has been beavering away trying to learn music in anonymity around Tyneside for decades.

He played guitar in several bands and finally drums in Simon Todd’s band playing good and original material.

Solo, Thinman has been traversing the region’s open mics and jams for the last few years inflicting “songs” on the general public
with his Dylanesque voice.

Free fresh fruit and a literary raffle too!


Rats! I hate cancelling gigs but I’ve had to slice a performance scheduled for Friday morning out of my diary. These things ‘appen.

I was meant to be joining other contributors to North Tyneside Steam, a book about George Stephenson and his locomotive, Blucher at Killingworth’s White Swan Centre for a late morning reading as part of the  Heritiage Open Days weekend.

What a pity. I was looking forward to it.

The Heritage Open Days weekend has something for everyone. My recommendations in North Tyneside are the Killingworth gig and the tour of Pete Mortimer’s house in Cullercoats on Sunday.  But then I would say that. Here’s me and my rucksack  in his kitchen last year.

elaine at pete mortimer's

For more information about the Heritage Open Days weekend visit

Local newspaper, The Journal’s annual Culture Awards have always grabbed my attention and I’ve found myself mostly arguing against rather than agreeing with the choice of winners.


Last month I saw that this year’s event, which took place last night, was going to be held in The Sage. Frankie and the Heartstrings were lined up to play and tickets were a tenner so I thought I’d get myself a couple and drag along a chum.

sage hall one

The Sage is an amazing venue and I always love listening to music in Hall One which is where the award ceremony took place. I’m not going to write an article about the evening. If you want to read one click here

I was rooting for chum Allison Davies who sadly lost out to Frankie and the Heartstrings in Newcomer of the Year Award. It’s a shame Alli didn’t win but Frankie’s business venture Pop Recs Ltd deserves recognition.

The band kicked off the second half of the evening. They were great and I was chuffed to find myself sitting next to the parents of frontman Frankie! Rock and roll!


I was delighted to see Pete Mortimer of Iron Press bound on stage in purple beetlecrushers to collect the award for “Best Event Tyneside”. This was for his marvellous Iron Age Festival…the literary festival with a difference held last May.

pete wins

iron press

I was unimpressed by “surprise” guest Fern Britton. The shoe horning in of her plug for a BBC TV programme seemed ham fisted to me. I had a snooze but was woken up by the amazing Mighty Doonans. What a blast! Irish/Geordie multi-instrumental/multi-talented bunch. Well worth checking out.

Mighty Doonans

Finally I was moved by the Northern Sinfonia’s performance. The Sage is now home to the Northern Sinfonia and they were presented with the evening’s Special Contribution Award.

Congratulations to all winners and nominees. It was a great night, even if the live streaming/perpetual invitation to tweet got a bit boring.

peter mortimer in purple top

A few years ago Peter “Iron Press” Mortimer used to host a regular spoken word and music evening called Free as a Bard at the Trojan Rooms in Whitley Bay. I started attending soon after moving to the coast. I liked the fact it was on a Sunday evening and that there was free fruit on every table. I also liked Pete’s choice of poets and musicians. They always seemed to fit well together: Sheree Mack, The Creels and more.

The final workshop for Pieces from Eight took place in Pete’s amazing home in Cullercoats last Spring. I suggested Pete revive Free as a Bard ( or FAAB) and one of the Pieces from Eight poets suggested I help him. So I did. Artist Karen Mitchell who used to run The Ballarat in North Shields also got involved. The result was tonight’s Free as a Bard event at Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema.

FAAB poster 001

Poets Eileen Jones and W N Herbert performed alongside singer songwriter Ditte Elly. What a night! Tickets sold out yesterday so it was standing room only for those that turned up tonight. Here’s my handwritten note I stuck on the door

FAAB sell out 001

For more info on FAAB check out Facebook and the wonderful Jam Jar Cinema here

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