Archives for posts with tag: Peter Mortimer

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


Free as a Bard, the poetry and music evening I co-run with Peter Mortimer returns to Whitley’s Jam Jar Cinema this Sunday 20th March.


Poets Colette Bryce and Jeff Price will perform alongside music legend Steve Daggett.

As usual we will have our literary raffle and free fresh fruit on the tables.

These FaaB nights tend to sell out so don’t leave it until the night to buy tickets. You can buy tickets in person from the cinema from tomorrow onwards or online from now

Doors open at 7.30pm and the evening will kick off at 8pm. Tickets cost a fiver.


It was Death at Dawn’s final performance on Wednesday 2nd March and as I walked home in the sleety rain I wondered what on earth to do with myself. The promotion of that wonderful play’s revival has been a major part of my life for the past six months. I loved every minute of my involvement in the project and look forward to seeing the talented cast perform in the future.


The following morning saw me prepping for that evening’s workshop, Writing the Unwritten at Happy Planet HQ in Whitley Bay. Prepping for and running the workshop was the perfect tonic for post performance blues. I enjoyed coaxing creativity out of the attendees with visual prompts including photos, books and postcards.

My next workshop is a Haiku workshop on Tuesday 12th April from 7pm to 9pm.Visit Happy Planet website or email for more information.

Future workshops include Talking Nonsense: in praise of comic and nonsense poetry. Do you have a secret love of Edward Lear, Ogden Nash and Pam Ayres? Come out of the poetic closet and share your love in a supportive environment! I will share my love of comic and so-called nonsense poetry and invite participants to have a go at writing their own verse. It will take place on Tuesday 10th May from 7pm to 9pm. Email Gail Curry for more info

edward lear

Do you love travelling? Do you enjoy travel writing? Have you ever wanted to write down your travelling experiences? On Tuesday 7th June from 7pm to 9pm  I will run a writing workshop called Journeys of the Mind. Join me on a voyage of discovery. Come and explore classic travel writers and have a go at writing your own experiences abroad as well as closer to home. Ask Gail for more information.


At dawn one hundred years today, a North Shields soldier was shot for desertion by members of his own platoon in a French abbatoir.

The teenage solider was young William Hunter sentenced by court martial to death for leaving his post in order to spend time with a local French woman. “I did not like to leave her,” he stated in his written defence, seven words which sent my chum Peter Mortimer on an a train of thought resulting in his play Death at Dawn.

Crop 4

This award-winning play started its revival at Wallsend Memorial Hall on Friday night and there were two performances yesterday: matinee and evening.

I’ve been involved in ticket selling, publicity and liaising with local schools for Death at Dawn since autumn. It’s been hightly moving to watch the performances (and audience reaction).

All credit to Pete, director Neil and his production team including lighting, costumier & actors of course all working to recreate what original director Jackie realised with  2014’s first performances.

Sadness for Jackie who died last year, William Hunter (and his family) mingle with thoughts of what Europe was like 100 years ago, where it went in the 20th century and what will happen after Britain’s EU referendum in June.


If you want your thoughts provoked then catch Death at Dawn at Wallsend’s Memorial Hall tomorrow and Tuesday and from Friday 26th at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum.

Free as a Bard, the popular poetry and music evening I co-organise with Peter Mortimer returns to Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema in just over a fortnight on Sunday 11th October.


Poets Pippa Little & Peter Mortimer (who?!) will perform alongside local musician J.D. O’Neill. In addition there will be a literary raffle, free fresh fruit and a bespoke floral sculpture on display.

PIPPA LITTLE lives in SE Northumberland. Her first full collection Overwintering came out in 2012 and she is currently working on a second. A chapbook of poems about Mexico Our Lady of Iguanas will be published by Black Light Engine Room in 2016. This autumn she takes up a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at Newcastle University.

Pippa Little

PETER MORTIMER is the founder of IRON Press and Cloud Nine Theatre Company. He set up Free as a Bard some years ago with poet Josephine Scott. It is now run with writer Elaine Cusack at Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema. This is his first maybe last performance there. Mortimer’s poems, plays and travel books lie scattered in wide profusion and are mainly ignored, a state of affairs he shares with most writers.

pete and d

J.D. O’NEILL is among the most active  singer/songwriters in the region and can be seen and heard widely on the Buskers scene including running the Wednesday night  Buskers at Surf Cafe Tynemouth which is normally heaving. He likes to sing falsetto (occasionally) and drinks whisky (frequently).

J.D. ONeill

Tickets a fiver from

jam jar

The Silly Season has been part of British Culture for  years. It’s that time of year (i.e. the summer holidays) covering the gap between the recess of Parliament and the start of the political party conferences when newspapers and broadcast media resort to frivolous stories to fill airtime, paper and nowadays, websites.


This year’s Silly Season started off with calls for “Cull the Gulls” in response to aggressive sea gulls but soon the media found itself struggling to cope with Big Stories including the plight of migrants in Calais and, who’d have imagined it, Corbynmania.

If you’re reading this on Mars you might not realise that after the May elections Labour’s leader Ed Milliband stood down and an election to find a new leader was announced. A rank outsider, Jeremy Corbyn managed to get himself nominated and has sparked fury & excitement in equal measure! The general public seem to love Jeremy and it looks like he might become the party’s next leader.

corbyn central

My friend Peter Mortimer managed to bag a ticket to a Corbyn rally in central Newcastle on Tuesday evening. The 1200 free tickets went like hot cakes and a rally outside the event attracted about 600 others. Corbyn’s whipping up more frenzy than a teen pop idol!

  I mentioned that Peter was going to Jeremy’s “gig” to the young waitress in the cafe where we enjoyed a chat about poetry and, inevitably politics ahead of the rally. The waitress smiled and said “Ooh say hello from me!”

settle down

Corbyn connects with thousands of young people (ie the future of this country) in a way no other politician does.  I’m fascinated by this election run and look forward to devouring online, paper and broadcast reporting as we near the climax in less than a month.

Pete wrote down his thoughts on the rally for Newcastle’s Journal. Please read.

tyne theatre

Iron gate

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

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

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

Death at Dawn is a specially- commissioned play based around the story of a young North Shields soldier who was executed for desertion in France in 1916.

I was in tonight’s audience of the second night at North Shields’ Linskill Centre. What a play. It’s well written, superbly directed and the actors are amazing.

I was and am still moved by the performance. I can’t put into words how I feel. Go and see it…the play runs until Saturday.

The play, by Peter Mortimer,  was commissioned by the Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project

Tickets are available from the Linskill, North Tyneside Libraries, The Keel Row Bookshop and online via Ticketweb at or

Death at Dawn 001


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