Posts Tagged 'Bugged'

Lightning strikes twice…

Saint Valentine – as you know, dear reader – is the patron saint of beekeeeping, epilepsy and fainting. History does not record why there are so few poems about epilepsy and so many about love; but I thought I’d use this week’s blog to introduce a new collaboration.

The project is called Small Lightnings and the poet I’m working with is Martin Malone - newly published by Templar, just announced as the winner of the Mirehouse Prize, and ready to get his teeth into a new creative project. Martin’s book The Waiting Hillside brings to the page a voice which is strong, male and energetic, but addresses relationships with a sensitivity and melancholy that I admire very much. My poems tend to be sharp and sometimes glib; I wanted to expose a little more emotional stratigraphy. So our idea is this: we’re writing a book-length sequence of poems together, telling the story of a relationship between two 40-something lovers. Martin suggested the collaboration, I suggested the subject – the rest is hubris. The poems we’ve written so far have surprised us both.

Poets writing about relationships? Not very radical. But writing together – one male voice, one female – opens up new possibilities. Our lovers are two strong characters with personal histories that can hinder or help them. There is friction (of both sorts) and sexual politics – but also tenderness and generosity; that honest, deep effort to be entirely true to oneself and entirely open to someone else. What comes to these lovers may not be the sort of love that sends pink cards on Valentine’s Day: but it is a real, subtle thing familiar to many readers, and a long sequence gives us the space to explore it.

So far, we think it’s working. The poems have a raw energy, a dark humour, a strong sexual voice and a useful tension between our two styles. Those who have seen the work in progress have called the poems ‘beautiful, raw and true’ (Tony Walsh) or ‘stunning’ (Ann Atkinson, below) – no pressure, then. There will be much more to come about the process of writing these poems – how we started by not seeing one another’s work and were amazed by the parallels, how each poem affects the ones around it in the sequence, and how throwing another voice into your own work can cast surprising shadows. In the meantime you can hear a poem from early in the sequence here - work in progress, mind!

Other projects are still in the offing – a new Bugged, the Riverlands show with Jo Blake Cave, a long residency, a collaboration with Alastair Cook which I feel honoured to be involved with and which sees me in very exalted company. Lots to tell you about these, very soon. But for now, wish us luck with our Small Lightnings. Our first outing with some of the poems is in just over a month at the Wordsworth Bookshop in Penrith… fingers crossed.

Strange girls and poetry challenges

Really, I have no idea

This strange girl, at least, was born to tell YOU what you missed this year in the world of poetry. Stand by for a mammoth blog, as I announce the Bell Jar awards for Lovely Poetic Things, 2011. Drum roll…… no, make that a cheese roll….

Ledbury: Jean Binta Breeze, Michael Rosen, Jackie Kay

Best festival of the year? Well, you might think it was Ledbury Poetry Festival - which I had the honour of programming with Jonathan Davidson – but I couldn’t possibly comment. So it must be StAnza, whose format, location and family feeling make everything very lively. Equally welcoming was the tiny West Port Book Festival, run on sealing wax and string with no loss of quality or friendliness. The Strokestown Festival was a great experience of Irish hospitality and poetic companionship.

Best reader of the year? I must have seen two hundred headline poets this year, and the best is….? Hmmmm. Step forward William Letford, and get your hands out of your pockets. You can read his work in a new Carcanet anthology, or wait for his first collection Bevel next November. The poems are strong, simple and true; he reads them beautifully.

Which reminds me – yes, William’s readings are powerful: he harnesses the strength and audience connection that good performance poets take as… er…. read. So please understand that I mean no discredit to him in saying that I find it unsettling to hear that style praised as ‘unique’. It’s great – but it’s not unique. Performance poets across the UK deliver their work from memory every night of the week. Page poetry has such low expectations in terms of delivery, and is so astonished when anyone does it well as William. So here is the Bell Jar challenge. Poets of all persuasions; let us Raise Our Game in 2012. If you think you’re a page poet, please make the effort to learn three of your poems by heart. It’s easier than you think and it will make an immense difference in connecting with your audience. If you think you’re a stage poet, please make the effort to write one poem that follows a particular structure – the sonnet is a good place to start. Sometimes we say we are writing free verse when we’re just too lazy to give it a form.

At the Roebuck, Southwark every blooming Thursday

Best spoken word evening for my money is London’s Bang Said the Gun. Friendly, immensely energetic and with a constantly changing roll-call of brilliant performers, on a budget of 30p and limitless enthusiasm, this is consistently the best spoken word night I’ve seen. The similarly youthful but immensely competent Bad Language night is also in the top league. The production values are high, the editorial/ MCing eye keen, the welcome warm and the venue (the Castle in Manchester) perfect. For the same reasons I recommend Bohdan Piasecki’s Hit the Ode at the Victoria in Birmingham which brings European spoken-wordists to the UK.

Best books? Oh dear, so many to choose from and of course one remembers the most recently read. But I’ve loved Rachael Boast’s Sidereal, Matt Merritt‘s Troy Town,  Bloodaxe’s Being Human, Roddy Lumsden’s Terrific Melancholy and Andrew Phillips’ The Ambulance Box; Anne Carson’s Nox for its beautiful format and for the same reason, Chris McCabe’s Shad Thames, Broken Wharf.

Tiffany Atkinson’s Catulla et al is a brilliant, tightly-written and faithful take on Catullus; a hit, a palpable hit. Perhaps my favourite of all, Sidekick Books’ Birdbook I for its lovely production values and interesting selection.

The rest, as Hamlet says, is solipsism. A recap of some favourite projects this year: collaboration and boating for a new poetry-and-story show Riverlands with Jo Blake Cave (we’ll hit the stage in April 2012). Seeing my poems for Royal Derby Hospital come to life as a lovely booklet and sound files was smashing. Programming Ledbury was a great pleasure – bringing to the stage talented writers like Ian Duhig and Anthony Thwaite, Stuart Maconie, The Antipoet and Tony Walsh, Luke Wright with his coruscating Cynical Ballads and fresh talents like Paul Stephenson.

Arvon courses – two of’em! at the Hurst and at Lumb Bank – were as usual, life-enhancing and showed me new directions for work. Blessings upon Patience Agbabi, Michael Laskey, Colette Bryce and (especially) Philip Gross, whose comments on writing sequences had all sorts of unintended consequences and have spilled over into new projects. A guest reader at Lumb Bank was Heather Phillipson whose work was subtle, skilled and touching.

Photo by Paul Atherton

Reading from the pulpit, Macclesfield

I loved reading at Strokestown, and at the Royal Festival Hall with luminaries like Jo Shapcott and Simon Armitage: but had cracking gigs closer to home. Reading with Jenn Ashworth for our show Too Much Information was a pleasure in Blackpool. At Shangri La in Prestwich, an audience member said my reading was like ‘getting a blow job from Princess Diana’ (that’s good, right?). At King Edward’s chapel in Macclesfield, we got the audience stomping till plaster fell from the roof; and at the Storm Brewery, our Brewing Up a Storm poetry cabaret was a gas. Thanks, lovely hosts, at these and many other venues including the dozens of public libraries that hosted readings, workshops and events.

It’s been a year of modest success in competitions – commendations in the Wigtown, Hippocrates, Enfield and other prizes, and that shortlisting at Strokestown – and also of collaborations with Jo (above) and with Alastair Cook on his filmpoem project. Have a look at the film here or turn up at StAnza in March to hear me read live alongside it.

If you’ve enjoyed any of my work this year or if I’ve done you any small favour, the best way to repay it is by following the Bugged blog. David Calcutt and I are cooking up a new version of our mass writing project for spring 2012 and we want it to be HUGE; something that writers all over the UK can share and enjoy. Once again we will be forming a community of writers, united by a creative challenge. Last time it resulted in many people being published for the first time. Bugged graduate Calum Kerr now has stories being broadcast by Radio 4 on Christmas Eve! So please help by following us at the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter @buggedproject.

Keep lighting fires, dear poets

I don’t usually mention my day job here, but running National Poetry Day continues as the ever-fixed mark in my working life. It’s a privilege to provide a focal event which so many of you support, use and fill with poetry events across the UK. Poetry is not a glamorous, lucrative or fame-filled field. We do it because we love words; because we are doing our best; because we are trying to tell each other the truth. Even in these darkest nights of the year, poetry lights its little beacons on the hilltops to see us through. Long may they burn.

Let them eat cake

Reading in a maternity dress, for some reason

What’s that you say? It’s about bloody time I got another book out?  I know, I know. Recent work with talented upstarts like Max Wallis – and a new collaboration which I hope will come off, with Templar poet Martin Malone  (who reads at the Wordsworth Trust on Saturday afternoon with stablemate Kathleen Jones) have concentrated my mind wonderfully on all things bookish. Winter is a time of planning and regrouping, with less time on the road and more time to think and write. So yes, my dear nagging friends, Book No 2 is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. And for those of you still holding your breath, so is the successor to Bugged. David Calcutt and I are hammering out a new project for summer 2012 which will not be about eavesdropping. Well, not exactly. You didn’t think we’d do the same thing twice, did you?

In the meantime, I am already pining for the summer of 2012 when Tinker and I will be back on the canals:


Tonight you moor at Tixall Wide beneath the giddy bats.
A teenage heron tries one leg. The boat is tethered,
dawdles between bank and channel.

In dry dock once, you saw her settle on the bostocks,
wondered at her bulk; that welded self
helpless as a brick. Her power’s in suspense.

You don’t need to travel far. You’re always home.
There’s comfort in the play of rope;
slack and tight, there and back.

I am, as you know, very pro-silliness. Poetry should never be above having a sense of humour, and this morning I was tickled by an email from the lovely folk at Poetry Digest. Ladies and gentlemen, the best way to be published is on a cake – and I am going to be entirely edible on January 18th. Here’s a previous edition from Isobel Dixon.

Selling like hot cakes: Poetry Digest

Pride comes before… ouch!

A heap of sleepy chums

And why wouldn’t I be? If you didn’t notice that it was National Poetry Day (NPD) on Thursday…. then go and watch this film to make up for it. Or this one. Since my day job is to run NPD, this is the biggest event of my year – so forgive me a long blog. This time I was in That London, and it was truly cockle-warming to see the scale and variety of things going on. The evening before, I was at the Forward Prizes ceremony – gutted that Famous Seamus was not there to collect his award, but delighted to discover the wry poetry of Hilary Menos, and more delighted still to stay with dear friends including Iggy of the Unbelievable Lashes.

National Poetry Day started ridiculously early at Poet in the City‘s breakfast event with Jo Shapcott. Afterwards I spent a happy hour in a cafe, secreting Poetry Found booklets for later discovery (eg by this lady, below) and setting up the new NPD blog.


Poetry Found!


Please sign up to the new blog and help to make it a success: it needs to be a reliable source of poetry information, year-round, for all of us. Onwards, to the Southbank Centre for an afternoon of brilliant readings – Simon Armitage,


Daljit Nagra


Lemn Sissay, Jo Shapcott again, our poet in residence Daljit Nagra and another favourite of mine, Ian Duhig (who- stop press – will be poet in residence for Ledbury Poetry Festival 2011). All over the UK, poetry events were lighting up the map. One of my favourites was this (mostly) Scottish Patchwork Poem from North Carr Light; but there were open mic nights in Caerphilly, a Poetry Booth on the high street in Gateshead – literally hundreds of poetry activists across the UK, bringing poetry to tens of thousands of slightly bewildered people. Bless’em all…. including the Foyle Young Poets who made it through 20,000 entries to win prizes, and enjoyed rearranging the coins on the magnetic sculpture outside the Southbank Centre.

Blessings too upon the writers who took part in our Bugged project this summer. After the mass overhearings of July 1st, and the mass panic that followed as everyone wrote and submitted their work, the mass marketing begins. The Bugged book is here – and it’s beautiful, at least in the special edition that you can buy at our launches (or from me afterwards). Thursday will see the first launch at Manchester Literature Festival, and next week brings a second launch at Birmingham Book festival. Please join us or send this Bugged launch invitation to anyone else who might come along.

Bear with me, while I squeeze in a bit more pride and happiness. This weekend my short play First Person opens in Ellesmere Port. Next weekend it shows at the Chester Literature Festival. First Person tells the story of Edwardian explorer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell, who was frightened of nothing – except sex. Mine is one of four short plays showing in a single event called Four for the Port. These are your only chances to see it for the foreseeable future, so catch the plays while you can in this production by Action Transport Theatre.

And finally…. I’m delighted to find that this blog is shortlisted for the Manchester Blog awards. It would be a really marvellous thing to win, so if you’d like to vote for me please go to the website here and vote for The Bell Jar in the ‘personal’ category – but check out the other blogs while you’re there!

All of these proud-and-happy things are projects which I’ve had a hand in, but which depend on others for their success. To the production team and actors in my play – to the readers of this blog – to the many writers who contributed to Bugged, whether they made it into the book or not – and above all, to the thousands who took part in National Poetry Day simply for the love of poetry – to all of you I say thank you, from the heart of my poetic bottom. Now go and read some poetry….

Spread the word!

Thursday October 7th

If you can smell something in the autumn air, dear reader, that is because all my projects are coming to fruition at once. And if the days seem shorter, let me assure you that mine are very long indeed – National Poetry Day (of which I’m the Director, forsooth) draws nigh. All that can be done has been done, and our theme of HOME seems popular. But still, so many people who are running poetry events don’t list them on the easy NPD listing page. Sometimes I think

Tiny booklets, big message

that we poetry activists have small ambitions for our art form. We like to arrange poetry events, and advertise them to a captive local audience or to our own mailing list, but don’t offer much to the thousands of casual, interested-once-a-year people for whom NPD is their only contact with poetry. Come on folks: spread the word about your events and reel in a new audience for free. And if you’re on Facebook, why not join our page or  change your status on the day to wear your heart on your profile? One of my favourite NPD events comes from Poetry Found, who are issuing poets across the country with tiny booklets to secrete around the UK. You might discover one in a library book, under a coaster in the coffee shop or at the garage in Macclesfield, where I just left one myself…

The festival calendar is moving on too – from big muddy dancing-in-a-field festivals to quiet, thoughtful talking-indoors festivals. Plenty of events coming up; and as part of Marple Festival I did a workshop on poetry and archaeology, which was well attended and productive. Then there was a repeat performance with Steve Dearden (of the brilliant NALD organisation for literature professionals) of our event The Comfortable Chair – a training day for hard-pressed librarians who are expected, on top of their usual workload, to chair author events too. And they do – so we gave them some tips and pointers, this time in Sale’s lovely Waterside Centre.

No treacle but plenty of sausage rolls...

There was a festive feel too at Macclesfield’s Treacle Market on Sunday. Unbelievably it was only the second one – the Treacle Market is an invention of Jane Munro and Debbie Quinn, and yet it feels as if it has always been a feature of the town. The cobbles rang with lovely music from Les Peches, and were scented with the smell of proper sausage sandwiches and local beer. Our market square was again filled with brilliant, high-quality art, textiles and bric-a-brac. The next one is on Hallowe’en, the last Sunday in October. Get down here for toffee apples, cakes and bargain hunting.

I began teaching at MMU Crewe this week – to a small, but perfectly formed class of students on my Writer’s Craft module. They were still awake at the end so I think that’s at least a partial success. Meanwhile our Bugged book is hurtling towards its physical incarnation… the digital printers are smearing ink across their computer screens, or whatever they do, as we speak. If you took part in the big Bugged experiment, head over to the website to add your mark to our map and take part in a little competition. And here’s the cover of the book we’ll be launching on October 14th at Manchester Literature Festival – woooooo!

I’m working on my Blackberry (vodka)

Policemen looking younger?

You know those signs that you are getting older? The summer seems to end very quickly, the policemen look younger and the meetings for Ledbury Poetry Festival come round much sooner than you expected… Well, perhaps the latter is

Ledbury meeting - hats compulsory

no surprise, as I’m helping to programme it next year. More of that another time. For now, it was a good reason to make a journey to Herefordshire, past the hop fields and heavy-laden orchards, for a meeting about the festival’s future development. We need more people to come and enjoy poetry with us in July: and like any arts organisation we need to keep one eye on the ever-diminishing arts budget, with the hungry political wolves circling us, waiting to snap up the sick, the halt and the lame….

National Poetry Day is definitely growing closer. Only three weeks to go till our national celebration and the website is fleshing out nicely, with blogs soon to come from (amongst others) Kate Fox and Martin Figura. My other great project of the moment is Bugged: I have been poring over the manuscript to spot bloopers and typos.  There will, of course, be one immensely important one that I don’t spot, hidden in the writing of someone particularly likely to take offence. Hey ho.

Happy, shiny, camp

Trailer tent trash, me!

I had to forego a friend’s wedding for other commitments, dammit – but on the way I did manage a quick stop at the VW Vanfest – a sort of tribal gathering of the Little Camper Folk. The sun shone, it was properly hot and the summer seemed to have stretched a little bit. I’ve decided to invest in one of these (left) – a sort of collapsible garret for writing poetic masterpieces in – and if I can find a few spare thousands, I’m sure I shall have one before I’m sixty.

The week ahead brings lots of NPD work, an afternoon with lovely librarians and a day of work with a splendid mentee, whom I am sure I can teach nothing. I’m also planning  sessions at Manchester Metropolitan University’s non-metropolitan, non-Mancunian campus at Crewe, where I’ll be teaching a creative writing module this autumn.

Before the week got under way, with a friend not unknown to these pages, I did my bit to harvest the summer sunshine – there was no mist, but plenty of mellow fruitfulness, as we collected blackberries (and scratches) for a good cause. If they don’t go mouldy as usual, then three bottles of blackberry vodka will be ready for consumption by Christmas. Ho ho ho….

Mellow fruitfulness. Hic

Jo Bell | Create your badge

The nights are drawing in…

…and at Shambala, where flowers grow large and fine poets thrive, my festival season drew to a close. The poets

See those legs? Hilarious

included the tireless Dreadlockalien, topical Pete the Temp, regal Jean Binta Breeze and… er… me. Here are my legs, appearing (with me) on the Compass of Lunacy stage before an audience of chortling punters. If the audience is smiling, it must be because I’ve just announced that Tony Walsh is coming on next.

Sometimes my work gives me a chance to shine a light on wonderful contemporary poetry that others may not have encountered. I just edited the latest Poetry in the Waiting Room leaflet for the Royal Derby Hospital,

Hanging up our cans? Not yet

which will bring to a particularly receptive audience some beautiful poems by Jim Caruth, Gill McEvoy and CJ Allen. I won’t bore you at length with my Bugged project because there is another blog to do that: but David Calcutt and I have selected the material for the book, and it is a joy to be getting ‘thank you’ messages from those who are in it – as well as gracious mails from some who aren’t. As the book and its twin launch events come together, we are getting a sense of the strong writerly community we’ve created.

Rehearsals at Action Transport Theatre

After the summer break, rehearsals started again for my short play about Gertrude Bell (tragically no longer called Aching for Dick but First Person, more appropriate in every sense). Above all, I’ve been working hard on National Poetry Day which is now barely a month away… aaaaaargh.

Lud's Church. Pretty green, eh?

No, that's not me abseiling

But there has been time to visit two atmospheric places which are literally the stuff of legend. That’s ‘literally’ as in ‘literally’, not as Radio 4 guests like to use it – ‘I was literally bowled over by his statement, Evan’. The first was Lud’s Church, supposed site of the Green Knight’s chapel from Gawain and the Green Knight. It’s quiet and mystical, properly awe-inspiring – even when full of Bank Holiday walkers. The second, equally other-worldly, was the Alderley Edge copper mine complex which inspired some of Alan Garner‘s weird and wonderful books. Bronze Age smelters got their copper here. In the tighter squeezes it brought back panicky memories of underground cities of Cappadocia, where I worked in my archaeology years.

Another week, another set of deadlines: and the nights really are drawing in. But sod it, life has its consolations. Here’s one of them – a new resident here at the Macclesfield Home for the Unusual. Colin the Cormorant is not only elegant and attractive, but he has another great virtue – he really pisses the anglers off. Tra la la… and finally, have a look here to see a word cloud based on this blog. It’s like looking inside my own head. Who knew I used the word ‘elephants’ so much?

The Lettuce Eaters

Rehearsing at ATT

I know, late again. Sorry. July is a mad month, always full of work and pleasure – I’ve missed my Sunday deadline twice, and will do again next week. Normal service will resume in August. Meanwhile, in this week’s episode:

Rehearsals of my play (now called First Person, and no longer Aching for Dick) began at Action Transport Theatre. The first performance on 16th October seems very close at hand, and it is too late to fix all the things that are wrong with my script. At least I got there on time, avoiding the horrific hold-ups that kept Sam Youd and I from our gig in Bury on Tuesday. The good folk of Bury sat in their splendid art gallery, positively aching to hear our selections of poetry and prose on gardening, as we struggled up the log-jammed M60. We were half an hour late but they listened, they clapped and I’ve never had so many kind comments about my poetry. Maybe I should always roll up late, to create a feeling of expectation. As with this blog.

Sam Youd and me with text exhibition

On Wednesday I was in another fantastic building – the Devonshire Dome in Buxton – to find out how I’d fared in the Buxton Poetry Competition, judged by Peter and Ann Sansom. I came third – which was very gratifying, and allowed me to meet some lovely poetic folk. I went for a pizza with second prize-winner Suzanna Fitzpatrick. I recruited her and others for Bugged which, I rejoice to say, is thriving beyond my wildest dreams.

Ceramic 'poppies' at RDH

At the Royal Derby Hospital where I’m Writer in Residence, I saw some work from other artists in the hospital. It’s such a welcoming, engaging environment – the arts team are using creative work to make the hospital a lively and thought-provoking place, not just a factory for processing the sick. Long may they reign.

I’ve been booked to perform at Kendal Calling which looks brilliant. I intend to relax with a pint of lemon cider, between stints on the solar-powered stage.

The magnificent Ledbury Poetry Festival continues until Sunday night – in fact, until my event (last on the programme) closes it – me, A F Harrold, Kate Fox and Byron Vincent combined in one splendid, surreal poeting bunfight. Come and join us! To see some glimpses of the festival’s first weekend see here.

Ledbury Festival - Chairman Peter Arscott and daughter Ros

All this lovely work means I haven’t had any opportunity to get my boating hat on and test my newly fixed engine. August, then, is for boating and blogging. July, between gigs, is for gardening and salad consumption. I am, dear reader, entirely self-sufficient in salad. Bring on the dungarees and call me Barbara.

The Estate

In Praise of Celebration

This is a week of two great events for me: you may be sick of hearing about them both, but bear with me in my excitement. Firstly, I was the website poet in residence for Glastonbury Festival in its fortieth birthday year. It was always going to be a special one, but the sunshine made it doubly extraordinary. Here’s one of the resulting poems on video…..

A little village of poets set up camp (literally) behind the Poetry & Words stage. Friends Dreadlockalien, Tony Walsh and Pete the Temp were there, as was legendary dub poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze. We had great big noisy, friendly audiences throughout. Travelling for once with a borrowed camper van, instead of a sweaty tent, I was radiant as the day was long – and these were very long days. The poems I wrote were composed quickly and in a particular context – but if you are interested, have a look here.

Jean Binta Breeze, Pete the Temp, Dreadlockalien

Glastonbury is the mother of all festivals, but there are more to come. At Ledbury Poetry Festival I’ll be working behind the scenes this weekend and next: and at Kendal Calling I’ll be joining performers including Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, with bands like Kid British, Doves and The Coral.

The second great event for me this week is, of course, BUGGED. Thursday is the big day when the project that David Calcutt and I cooked up together will go live across the UK. We want everyone who writes – from beginners, to hobbyists, to professional writers – to eavesdrop like mad, and to write from what they overhear. We’re tremendously excited – watch this space and the Bugged website to hear more as work starts to pour in.

Sunset at the stone circle

All of these festivals exist as communal celebrations. I looked down on the immense site that is Glastonbury and at the 125,000 people who lived there for four days with awe and pleasure. Like Kendal Calling, like Ledbury, like Wychwood and all the other festivals across the UK, this was a great big party for its own sake. No-one was rude – no-one trod on my toes, and everyone who bumped into me said ‘sorry’ – no-one seemed to get angry or frustrated, though many people must have been tired and sun-frazzled. I don’t know how other countries do it, but it made me very proud to be part of a culture that knows how to celebrate with such kindness and good humour.

Your correspondent: hot but happy

Hopefully Bugged will bring the same spirit to a virtual community. So get out there with your ear trumpet and your notebook. Meanwhile…. sod the crutches, let’s dance.

Home is where the Art is

Musical nudists. No, really

All right, nobody quite said that to me on Friday night at the Barnaby Festival cabaret. But it was a home audience and they were lively, not just for me but for the comedians, the ‘romantic contortionist’, the very funny Boothby Graffoe and the….er….. musical nudists. The re-invented festival was a triumph – filling the streets of Macclesfield with samba bands, food markets, fire-juggling, cabaret and opera, world-class art and sculpture. They said it couldn’t be done. Well, sod them. We did it anyway.

Drumming out despondency

Flying the flag for Macc

I spent two evenings in Manchester this week. On the first I filmed Dominic Berry and Max Wallis, loudly performing  poems about sex in a sunny central alleyway (did I say that right?) Dominic’s ‘Men in Suits, Boys in School Uniform‘ is great performance poetry that makes you laugh and think, and there was plenty more. I chipped in for the under-represented heterosexual community with a couple of my own poems: here is Coming. We had a giggle and so, I think, did some passers-by.

The second Manchester visit was for the launch of Mike Garry‘s book, God is a Manc. Overlooking the fact that God is most certainly a Yorkshireman, I swallowed my pride and enjoyed a full-hearted celebration of all things Mancunian. Mike is a fantastic performer, a big-hearted writer and has quite the loveliest hair of any poet you’ll ever meet (though the competition is not fierce). Look here and you’ll see what I mean. It felt like a big poetry moment, and I was so glad to have been there.

Not much of a challenge for me

Here’s a little challenge that caught my fancy. It’s a simple ‘happening’ (sound familiar, Bug-lovers?) on the longest day of the year. If you read this in time, go out on Monday 21st and take a picture of your nearest watery landscape. Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to cheat but you don’t have to submit your photo till 28th June….

Now, I understand that the Glastonbury Festival is even bigger than Barnaby. There are 45 stages, for instance. Looking at the map, I may never make it into the festival site – I could just be driving around for hours trying to park. But there I am on the website: far far below Gorillaz, Stevie Wonder and Paloma Faith,


but still on the same page. I’m looking forward with some trepidation and vast excitement to my stint as poet in residence for their website.

As a result the blog will be delayed next week. It should be a bumper version when it comes, complete with mud stains, a faint smell of sweat and the incoherence that comes of four days’ sleeplessness. we come!

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