Posts Tagged 'Chester Literature Festival'

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….

Swing votes and swingers

And botheration. Repeat until next election

I start with a chocolatey reflection on this week’s events. Let us speak no more of it until the end of this blog. Meanwhile, I had a weekend off, haring up the M1 to my old haunts in Newcastle, and back again via Hadrian’s Wall and the Lakes.

There may come a time in my life when I feel the need to visit a B&B dedicated to swingers, but it hasn’t come yet. So

Revisiting my former life

when we innocently wandered into such an establishment, we quickly legged it for more wholesome surroundings. At Vindolanda we found some archaeologists, scraping a living in my old profession. The moment of nostalgia passed with the first loaded wheelbarrow. I have served my time on Roman forts.

I’ve been in Derby this week to continue my residency at the uber-hospital there, and also back at Action Transport Theatre for another continuing project – a read-through of Aching for Dick (now seeking a more respectable title) with some of the young actors who will perform it at the Chester Literature Festival in October. They work so hard, without complaint, and their patience and maturity amazes me every time I work with them.

How can we work with this script?

This is where my 20-minute play really starts to come alive and become a properly collaborative art form; something far more than my script could achieve on its own. Speaking of which, I’ve been reading the blog of Sarah Hymas (‘poet, sailor and anti-hoovering campaigner’) which is much better than this one. Go and have a look – but promise you’ll come back.

Why, thank you. Yes I am.

Still here? Good – here’s a reward. Cast your eyes upon this beautiful object. This is my Companion Stone, one of twelve which were made under the direction of artist Charles Monkhouse. Mine, designed by Kate Genever, carries a tiny poem by me based on sheepdog commands. From late July it will stand inside the gates of the Longshaw estate in the Peak District, where they hold working dog trials each year. From late May, however, you can see it and its eleven companions at the Moorlands Centre in Edale.

Now. Let us contemplate that election result, such as it is. Economic and social hardship always breeds cultural richness: so let us look on the bright side. The coming months will be very rich times indeed. This week, for obvious reasons, your writing exercise is to write about mistakes. Let’s hear about those innocent or serious mistakes – made by you, made by the electorate, made by the captain of the Titanic. For example. Post them on Comments so that we can share them. In the meantime – there is always beer.

They can't take that away from me...

Recent Tweets

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 292 other followers


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 292 other followers