Posts Tagged 'Manchester 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….

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!

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