Category Archives: awritersfountain


Verve Day 2 Friday 16th


verve progs

Cynthia Miller © 2018

Another incredible evening in Waterstones. I am as excited as ever seeing National poetry friends making their way to the city. It is going to be a great weekend! Although the flip-side of that is being invited to go and socialise when you were intending on staying for the whole night of Verve. I needed to be able to split myself into 4 versions of me this evening.

There will be time for food come Monday, for the next few days poetry is my breakfast, dinner and tea!


I will share the link to the official blog once it is live, in the meantime here are some soundbites from me and harvested material from those in possession of better phones!

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Verve Team © 2018

Tonight started with Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale and Mir Mahfuz Ali talking to Jo Bell and sharing poetry from their collections. A moving experience.

jo bell cynthia M

Cynthia Miller © 2018

louise palfreyman

Louise Palfreyman © 2018
louise palfreyman1Louise Palfreyman © 2018

hannah swings

Hannah Swings © 2018

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Louise Palfreyman © 2018

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Book signings.

sweet shop miller Verve Team © 2018

Tonight’s addition was a sweet shop! This is Nellie setting up.

Then after a short break/book signing came the Dead or Alive Slam produced by Bohdan Piasecki and hosted by Amerah Saleh.

Two poetic worlds will collide at Dead or Alive Slam at Verve, only the second time this format has ever been done. Witness a battle of words and wit as three of the UK’s leading contemporary slam poets challenge three dead poets in three epic slam rounds, judged by a panel of audience members. Who will be the victor?

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A preposterous, reason defying spoken word competition, pitting living poets against their dead predecessors, re-animated for this one night just for your entertainment. Watch Team Life, comprised of Genevieve Carver, Isiah Hull and Caroline Teague, take on Team Death, featuring Christina Rossetti, Forough Farrokhzad, and Djuna Barnes (brought to life by Tembi Xena, Lorna Nickson Brown, and Zeddie Lawal). Judges from the audience will determine who wins, assigning numerical values to poems in an entirely meaningless attempt to instill reason into an event challenging the order of things. 

In other words, this is your chance to hear poetry from six incredible poets, interpreted by brilliant performers, all in an exciting and accessible format, as part of the altogether brilliant Verve poetry festival. Do yourself a favour and do not miss this. 

The night will be hosted by the all-powerful Amerah Saleh.

– Events Page

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Cynthia Miller © 2018

DA cynthia Miller

Cynthia Miller © 2018

It was a fabulous concept and a great night… I cannot reveal who won yet, but I can tell you there was dancing.


December Review



The end of the year has rolled around fast this year. I feel like my feet have hardly hit the ground! There are so many highlights to 2017, I am gifting them a separate blog post!

I promised myself I would wind poeting down a little in December, especially with Christmas preparations and a house to sort. Plus I have not spent much time with family & friends this year. Now is the perfect time to reconnect. It didn’t quite work out this way, as you can imagine…

Week 1:

The end of November was busy and tiring, so I spent most of my writing day (1st December) resting and completing necessary admin tasks: I completed my next Reader in Residence activity – compiling a list of 12 Reading Challenges for 2018 for Rugby Library users, wrote a blog review for my Writing A Book Review Workshop and booked a repeat of this session for February 2018.

writing book review

I continued to work on applications, wrote a few new poems and opened Contour submissions. I got creative with cover design and started prepping the layout (issue 1 took about 4 days to master)!

Contour – the WPL digital magazine is open for the next round of submissions – February Issue.

Contour Issue 2 Preview

Contour Open Submissions

That was just day 1, week 1!

The weekend was just as busy with was a family birthday celebration, an editing group in Cheltenham, the Victorian Christmas Fayre with Mr G. and a trip to Walsall for Yes We Cant with Elvis Mcgonagall, who I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since 2014! Long overdue. It was a fantastic night, you can read all about it here. (LINK to follow)


Monday Mr G. had a rare day off booked so we accomplished some work around the house.

Tuesday I was back to poeting and a fabulous new Spoken Word event created by Charley Barnes in Worcester, it was a good mix of poetry, spoken word and story. Polly Stretton was the delightful headliner with an assured set of eclectic mix of her work. A warm, exciting atmosphere, a good turn out and a lovely venue. Perfect. Delighted there will be more.

dear listener

Wednesday saw a workshop in Stratford which will hopefully lead to something else in January and definitely gave me two working poems which would both be suitable for my next writery idea. I thoroughly enjoy this group and the workshops always deliver some new work for me. I had planned to go to Permission to Speak in the evening, The Black Country Anthology compiled by Emma Purshouse/Offa Press was being compiled and I was really looking forward to several of the billed performers and Roy McFarlane was headlining.


By the time I got home it was a strain to keep my eyes open and with a fully booked end of week ahead (radio, work, gig, work, stanza, book launch) I felt that I needed to give myself recovery time. Which I did… it may have taken 4 years, but my ‘sensible’ is developing. I did some prep for the Radio and had an early night.

If I forget the journey to the train station, my Thursday was an exceptional one. Helen Calcutt asked me to do Brum Radio back in 2016, we were tried to make a booking which became impossible as I was contracted to work on the days of recordings. Fast forward a few presenters and Rick Sanders has taken on the role of host. He asked me to be a guest a while back and has been busily creative matching poets up together for his shows. Today was the day. It was great fun and I have given the experience a blog post. Read all about it here. (Link to follow)


Then after getting home I went back to Birmingham – well as far in as Selly Oak for Grizzly Pear. This night usually clashes with SpeakEasy so it took me about 3 years to make it to one and I had not made it back since. At the Verve Launch back in November I discovered Liz Berry would be headlining and immediately put the date in my diary. Unfortunately, it still clashed with a Worcester event, this time Uncorked at Bottles with Bethany (now Beff) Slim, Nick Lovell & Mike Alma headlining. I did go to Uncorked last month, so although I was sad to miss these 3 in headline spots I know I can hear them regularly on the circuit. I am glad to know Holly is better and back in her hosting role. I am sure I will get to hear all about this night soon.

grizzly pear

Having already made the commitment to go, I was delighted to discover Jenna Clake and Susannah Dickey on the same bill. It was tremendous to see the Shropshire contingency out in full force too as well as catching up with local poetry friends. They also had a Haiku Poetry Slam and I came 2nd. The prize was a Verve Festival Workshop – delighted! I have booked 2 already but the chance to do a 3rd, epic! I have written an entire blog here. (Link to follow)



Week 2:

Friday – a day of snow and an evening of poetry, except by the time I was home I knew my mind was too tired to critique poetry so I missed our Christmas Stanza, I hate missing Stanza, but I also dislike it when I am too tired to participate properly and feel like I cannot be of assistance to others. It was the right decision as I fell asleep at 7 PM. I also wanted to be fresh for Claire Walker’s Book Launch the following evening. I think I was suffering after only managing 5 hours sleep after Grizzly Pear and a day of work in the only school that didn’t close for snow!

Saturday saw the much anticipated Book Launch of ‘Somewhere Between Rose & Black’ by Claire Walker, her 2nd V. Press pamphlet.

cwalker rose The Book has already been on sale and I resisted the urge to buy/pre-order my copy. I like to support the launches and buy one on the sizzle of the evening.

Tuesday 12th December was the Michael Marks Awards with V. Press nominated for the Publishers Prize.

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There was a Room 204 party organised in Birmingham, which I would have loved to go to. This was actually cancelled due to the snow.

Thursday SpeakEasy in Worcester, saw Sharon Carr Headline.



Week 3:

Saturday was my last WWM Spark Writers Group for the year. It was also the end of Poetry Events for me before a Christmas Break. Work finished too… not that there has been a lot this term, I can count the days I have had on both hands and still have fingers left over!

I plan to spend my Christmas break preparing for an International Festival, workshops and getting some work done (writing), as well as sorting out the house.



Week 4:

I did indeed manage a fortnight break from all things writing with the exception of organising The Tale of Two Cities, a Poet Laureate Transatlantic Poetry Project.

I read Cherry Pie – Holly McNish’s debut collection. I read it back in 2014 when I went to Wenlock and watched her perform for the first time. I saw her perform twice this year, once at The Hive in Worcester and once at the Town Hall in Birmingham. Love her. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book again. I read a couple of novels I borrowed from the library and started my Christmas read. For the past few years I have chosen a Christmas themed novel for the holidays. This one had all the promises of chick lit… but before the end of the first few chapters I found myself in a whole world of serious issues. About as unchristmassy as you can get! A good read though.

I sent a few poems to Angela France for an event that takes place in January, where I hope to read my poems and set about updating blog posts so when the December Review goes live (later today) there can be active links.

I also had to schedule meetings for early January with regards for several poet laureate events which will all take place before March.

It is hard to believe that I have less than 6 months left in this position! Although a lot of writing time and preparing for the International Festival is set in place post laureateship.

My desk had an annual clean up as we needed the table for Christmas Day! The laptop had a 10 day rest.

Now I am doing the final family visits before New Year and getting organised for a smooth launch into 2018.

I hope you all had a great Christmas.

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Mr G’s snowman.







INKSPILL 10 Inspiring Women Writers


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10 Inspiring Women Writers

Every writer is encouraged to read, to read widely and to read often. Sometimes despite the library, internet and our own over burdened bookshelves we wonder what to read next.

I love it when someone points me in a new direction – this is why reading groups are such a good idea. Since starting my WMRN Reader in Residence role I have reignited my fascination for a reading list.

Here is a link to The Culture Trip website where Lani Seelinger focuses on 10 inspiring women writers (in case the title didn’t give you enough ‘in’). You may not agree, you may have read some of the titles. Let us know what you think in the comment box and if a title jumps out at you send a note to yourself (or write it down), read it and let us know what you think after.



Originally posted November 2016





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Welcome to the 5th Annual Online Writer Retreat here at AWF. As with previous years I will be announcing our Guest Writers and full programme. Dive into the posts as they arrive in real time (GMT), or read and use them at your leisure. The INKSPILL posts remain unlocked and can be utilised at any time.

Simple RULES
Please FOLLOW the blog to take part in the weekend.
LIKE the post when you have read it.

I would appreciate this because I am offering you this weekend free of charge and hope that you will spread the word of the retreat to others. Also from a pure admin point if you LIKE each post after you read them I can see who’s taking part

The statistics always shoot through the roof so I know that there are a lot of people logging in and having a read. Join in, comment, send your writing, thoughts and feedback.

Here is a whistle-stop tour of the history of INKSPILL, which I created the same year as the blog 2013.

AWF 2013 I created a page on the blog which is updated annually with the COMING SOON information. The INKSPILL posts appear on the main blog.

The first year I ran it for 3 days and did it all by myself. Subsequent years have been 2 days and I have involved Guest Writers, who have all kindly given their time and expertise free of charge.

I owe the conception to Iyanla Vanzant who runs a Wonder Woman Weekend in USA, something I couldn’t afford to attend. I thought about the money retreats cost and how good it would be to access some material for free. As with all things in life this may change slightly in the future, for now it remains free.


Our Guest Writers were: William Gallagher, Charlie Jordan & Heather Wastie 


Our Guest Writers were: David Calcutt, Alison May & Daniel Sluman


Our Guest Writers were: Deanne Gist, Gaia Harper (Foyles Young Poet 2015) & Roy McFarlane.


5th Annual Writing Retreat INKSPILL


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INKSPILL 2017 Coming Soon Celebrate Our 5th Year

Book yourself some time off and treat yourself to a FREE online writing retreat this Autumn. Join us in real time, or wander around the posts at your leisure.
Easy links to previous years will also be available.



Review June 2017


What a cracking, action-packed month!

Week 1:

At the end of May, I was notified of the Worcester Poet Laureate finals as I was a finalist, I still hadn’t told many people I had entered. This year our poems were not open to vote on the LitFest site and so many people didn’t know who the participants were.

But I knew. I am getting used to keeping success secret until the time comes when you can share the news. It is tricky and sometimes frustrating, but it is delightful when you can finally go public.

So after the official finalists announcement, I did just that and went public with my news. Damon Lord and Louise Reeder were the other finalists and it is a competition all of us had entered before.

Most of this week was spent preparing for the 9th (WLF Poet Laureate Final/Launch), memorising poetry and writing my brief summary of what I would do in role were I lucky enough to be awarded the position.

I also prepared for our WLF show (11th June) 30-40-60 in collaboration with Kathy Gee & Claire Walker. I had poetry film work to edit and a major software crisis. I was also co-ordinating/ organising the Open Mic section of the show.


Thursday 1st June saw UNCORKED at Bottles, Holly Daffurn’s wonderful new vibey poetry/spoken word night. This started back in April (20th) and at the time I am sure Holly hoped to do it again, at the time she wasn’t sure if it would become a regular event. I am glad to see that it has.

The Headliners were Charley Barnes, Hannah Teesdale and Spoz. I was going to be on this bill but then Charley’s book was released and it was decided better timing for her to appear. (I am happily headlining next month.) It was a fabulous night and I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with Hannah and listening to sterling sets from all the featured artists. uncorked-june (2)

The open mic section (of which I was part) worked well too. I wish I had more time to write timely reviews, like I used to back in the day. One man who can be relied upon to do just that is Rick Sanders, re-reading his review brought it all back to me, so hopefully it will make you feel like you were there too.

Vintage Uncorked

Friday night was Stanza and Saturday saw a clash of events, a pre-book Book Launch in Walsall and a editing/workshop in Cheltenham. I always go with the first booking and that was the workshop.

I was due to perform in the Stoke Newington Literature Festival for the Shabda Press launch, but was geographically not close enough to make it to London in time and after cancelling last month’s workshop, didn’t really want to do the same.


In the end common sense won (rare result) and I headed home.

On Sunday a new event happened in Walsall – the brainchild and action of  Dave Pitt, Steve Pottinger and Emma Purshouse – Yes we Cant – they had a banner made and everything. I love the pay what you think concept and I LOVED the fact that Jonny Fluffypunk was the first headliner. I was going anyway – but when I discovered that it sealed it for sure!

walsall punk

Paul Francis was the other featured guest and I have not seen him for so long. Back to full health and with a new pamphlet, an irresistible buy at only £3 and for a ruddy good cause. Breaking Point – Poems about Migration.

You can read more about the launch in Much Wenlock here.

I like regular forms – so there’s sonnets, a ballad rhymed couplets and a villanelle; and I’m not shy about political commitment. I think the Farage side of the leave campaign was despicable, and am strongly opposed to the explicit hostility to migrants which has resulted from the campaign. So there. I’m not, of course, on the front line, but Wolverhampton city of Sanctuary are, and the booklet is being sold to raise money for them. £72.00 in the first week, which is not a fortune but is better than nothing. Paul Francis © 2017


I had a great night, the venue was packed and hot! It will be interesting to see how they configure the furniture next time, the open mic spots were enjoyed and I was lucky enough to get there in time to grab one! They had an open poetry competition, on the night 8 lines of topical story in poetic form, with a winner (Mogs, of course) and prizes and everything.

They had table decorations and a fun party atmosphere, frantically fun at times. Paul’s set was incredible powerful and thought provoking and Jonny was on TOP form! I was delighted to get to chat a bit at the end, always aware of getting in the way of new fandom for this man. I snapped up Poundland Rimbaud, his latest Burning Eye collection and chatted politics for a while (on the cusp of the election).

I had a great night and this is definitely a night I will attend again, although I have to miss Brenda Read-Brown on the 2nd July due to a festival event and a family party.

Rick mentions the banner too!

It was a wild way to end the week and leaves me wishing Walsall could be moved a little closer!

Week 2:

After a 5 day run on events, I planned to crack on with some down time pre- Worcester LitFest and apart from working and the inevitable household chore list, I managed some rest – from performing at least.

I have been so busy for the past few months that I have missed the opportunity of submitting work and things on the desk are now living in mountainous piles. My focus was the LitFest and our show 30-40-60 that allowing brainspace for anything else was almost impossible.

I had two poems published by Weasel Press in a digital anthology highlighting Domestic Abuse. degen 1 One of the poems ‘Ripped’ was written this year during NaPoWriMo, the other ‘Statues in Stone’ is a poem I have tinkered with for years.

On Friday the 7th Worcester LitFest kicked off with the Launch and Poet Laureate Final at Worcester Racecourse, just thinking back makes me feel exhausted. There is so much tension and anxiety caused by putting yourself through any competition, but one with these stakes… well.

I thoroughly enjoyed the new venue, I couldn’t enjoy the bar and nibbles as I had work to do and much as I managed to circulate and converse the thrilling excitement everyone else was experiencing was just like nauseating sea-sickness in my mind and stomach.

The Young Writers Competition entries were read and those teens had so much talent I bet there was not a person in the room who didn’t consider hanging up their pen! The 3 winning flash fiction entries were also celebrated before us finalists took to the floor with our poems and promises.

In case you have missed social media for the past 3 weeks… I won! Delighted.

Read more about it

PL Suz Winspear – Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Nina Lewis and Steve Wilson – County Arts Officer.

For up to date information and all things Worcestershire/Poetry check out my Laureate blog here.

Saturday was a tough day – after the excitement of becoming the new Poet Laureate, I had 3 hours sleep and journeyed into Birmingham to the University for the National Writers Conference, organised by Writing West Midlands.

This used to be called the Writers Toolkit, I haven’t been since 2014. Tickets are fairly pricey but completely worth the investment. If you do the sums, (three break out sessions, 2 key-note speakers, priceless networking opportunities, lunch, refreshments and performances are all included in the ticket price AND a goody bag) – it does not feel unreasonably high. This year as I am in Room 204 a free ticket is one of the many perks of the development programme and only 3 hours sleep was NOT going to stop me attending.

I had a wonderful day, met a few new people and reconnected with poet/writer friends. It was lovely to snatch brief conversations with a few of the keynote speakers before they rushed off to Welshpool Literature Festival, I will write a designated post next month and link it back to here. Too much to say in a review paragraph. Needless to say, loved the whole event and got some things out of it. It felt very different to the first time.

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I managed a couple of hours at home before my first OFFICIAL engagement as Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

Night at the Museum III – Suz Winspear – Poet in Residence at the Porcelain Museum, Matt Windle – Birmingham Poet Laureate, Oakley – Young Poet Laureate of Worcestershire, Chloe Clarke – Former Young Poet Laureate Worcestershire and myself performed sets of poetry before Suz launched her new Worcester Porcelain pamphlet – The Aniseed Elite.


It was a fabulous night of top notch poetry from a talented bunch of poet laureates, a pleasure to be part of and I felt very special. My set included my two finalists poems ‘Lit Up’ (on the theme of Voice) and ‘Tasseomancy’. A less nervous performance of both.

Sunday was filled with preparation for our debut showing of 30-40-60 at the LitFest, another incredible, adrenaline fuelled evening of poetry and pleasure.

Read all about it



I started promoting 30-40-60, before the show I had sent press releases out in the hope of future festival bids, after hearing the audience reaction I was spurred on to get something concrete organised for 2018.

I also started Laureateship work, traditionally the Poet Laureate has a local radio slot (BBC Hereford & Worcester), Suz put me in touch with the contact and my first radio interview is on 3rd July. The past Laureates have been strong and I want to build on their success, continuing work where the foundations have been laid as well as building new poetry constructs is all part of my mission.

I organised a poetry performance and picnic at an established event ‘SALT KING 200’ at the Chateau Impney – in celebration of John Corbett and put a call out for poetry submissions for a Refugee Anthology, World Refugee Day/ Refugee Awareness Week.

I also created a dedicated WPL blog and email account. I have a feeling I will need both this year!

Worcester LitFest was in full swing and I attended and performed at 42 Festival Special, which featured the Anti-Poet and was an anarchy driven night of high spirits and the following night SpeakEasy with Pete the Temp, which was also the evening Suz and I did the official hand over and had a few more photos taken of the now engraved WPL award!


I hope to create a dedicated blog post for more details in review of the 7th Worcester LitFest – keep your eyes peeled!

I also received a couple of gifts, a wooden ‘Laureate’s Nook’ sign from Mr G. for my Book Nook (to be created) and a folder with a certificate from Maggie Doyle Poet Laureate Emeritus.

After performing my Grenfell Tower poem at 42 (the reaction it got), I decided it was necessary to share it on social media. I later decided to send it to Reuben Woolley at I Am Not A Silent Poet. He kindly published it.



Laureate wise – I produced the poetry collection for World Refugee Day (20th) showcasing established, emerging and beginner poets – Local, National & International poets represented. I was amazed by the response and with just 48 hours from call out to end result – it is a fine collective of voices. Strong points that need to be heard and should be made.


I also promoted National Writing Day NationalWritingDay_Featured (1) and performed at the final WLF Fringe event for the 2017 Festival – Words on Water – A Midsummer celebration of poetry and prose on the banks of the River Severn. It was an excellent evening and this year even saw a stop off for a much needed rest (it was during the heatwave) and rehydration at the Diglis Hotel. An addition the whole team agree to repeat next year. I will write more about it in my LitFest round up review next month.

At the beginning of the week when my recent win was not the wide-spread news it is now – I was invited to perform at a well established Poetry Festival later this year!

I had a 10 minute Guest Spot at Licensed to Rhyme at the Artrix – the night is run by Maggie Doyle & Spoz.


I worked on a couple of projects I am currently involved with. Spent an afternoon at Croome Court as preparation for the Adam Speak Project (Room 204) with 9 other poets.

On Friday evening I ventured back to Birmingham to Waterstones (seems like ages), for Three Midland Poets a night with Nichola Deane, Rich Goodson and Charles G Lauder Jr.

I loved all of their performances and always enjoy meeting, hearing and reading new-to-me-poets. I ended up buying all three books thanks to some (intentionally) hidden handbag book money! It was a great night and despite being exceptionally tired, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I also had an open mic spot and was able to share my Laureate poems as practise for next week’s Headline spot (booked back in April).

Saturday saw my final Writing West Midlands Spark Writers Group for this academic year.

Sunday was a day of rest… of course it wasn’t! I had organised the Poetry Performance and Picnic at SALT KING 200 which was a good event and I will blog about it in more detail next month.


Design by Rosie Philpott.

WEEK 5: 

The extra bit – I finally sat at my desk long enough to consider submissions and writing, for the first time in months. I have been busy with shows, festival events, organising and promoting – which is all well and good but sometimes a poet just wants to write. It felt good. Like the cleanse of the first wash after a long-distance trip.

I even managed a submission!

I heard back from Editors, long awaited Leonard Cohen Anthology response and am delighted that my poem ‘Shadow Line’ will be published in Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, more news on that soon. I love signing poetry contracts before work, that will never grow old as a brilliant way to start the morning!

I contacted local media/newspapers about WPL (Worcestershire Poet Laureate) and enjoyed a 2nd influx of messages.

Earlier this month there was talk of both a festival booking possibility and a dedicated one off poetry day/event with publishers. Both things came to fruition – and guess what – they are planned for the same day! Of course I will do both!

I had my first headline gig for a while, featured poet at Spoken Trend in Kings Norton (Weds 28th). A great night and plenty of new to the mic poets and first timers at the event. Tom McCann did himself proud and Tom Crossland was the god of memorised words! 18156973_234039340410245_5610446431448437883_n I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening. Some fabulous open mic slots, plenty of featured artists amongst them.

SPOKEN TREND One of those nights you wish you could repeat, straight away!

And to complete my month there is a meeting taking place later (30th) about a current project and Stanza this evening, where I plan to take a current project poem along for editing advice!

What a glorious month of sun, heat and poetry!

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Worcestershire Poet Laureate Final


Towards the end of May I received the news that I had made it to the final of the Worcestershire Poet Laureate competition. There were three finalists, myself, Damon Lord and Louise Reeder.

WLF Holly Magill©2017

I spent the first few hours twirling around with excitement at being a finalist. ‘That’s a win, right there!’ commented a poet I know. She was right. This alone is an achievement and one we should all be proud of.

I decided not to make it public when I sent my entry earlier on in the year, the poetry network being what it is some people who know how to read me, guessed. I still didn’t go public. Once the finalists had been officially announced I went public – but the Nation as a whole was understandably focused on the Election by then, which continues as the main social media topic now.

The week I discovered the news was a fully booked one with Stourbridge Library – Jo Bell & Roy McFarlane, Uncorked with Charley Barnes, Spoz and Hannah Teasdale, Stanza on Friday and a workshop in Cheltenham on Saturday – Stoke Newington Literature Festival and Shabda Press reading had to be cancelled as I did not have enough hours to make the journey in time and the Sunday night was Yes, We Cant in Walsall with Jonny Fluffypunk – poetry heroes aplenty. I thoroughly enjoyed myself but in the back of my mind my competition poems were stirring. I decided to give myself the 2nd week of June off from poetry events and other writing to concentrate on the poems.

I missed Stirchley Speaks – the 2nd birthday and a good night – but I did spend that particularly evening enjoying the summer house clear out Mr. G. had worked his socks off on, got drenched in the downpour and read my poems through a few times. I learnt them by heart. I spent Election day waiting in for a fridge and reciting lines. I voted on my way back from work – don’t you worry!

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Tonight after a haircut (much needed), I headed to the Racecourse for the final. I arrived about 40 mins early – the Friday night traffic I had predicted came later. I am never early and with a tummy full of butterflies this was not easy.

The evening itself was the LAUNCH of Worcester LitFest – all the finalists had an informal interview with the 5 judges and then we watched/heard the talented competition winners. The Young Writers read their entries, followed by the winning Flash Fiction entries.

There were quality performances by Matt Windle – Birmingham Poet Laureate – who MCed the event, Oakley Flanagan – Young Poet Laureate and Suz Winspear – who has just completed her tenure as Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Matt performed followed by the finalists and Oakley and Suz performed after the judging and before the winner was announced.


Damon Lord, Louise Reeder and I had all entered the competition  before. This doesn’t prevent nerves or anxiety. Everyone performed their poems well. This year there was no public vote so we hadn’t seen or heard each other’s poems before. Another addition this year was to give a brief outline of what you hoped to achieve as Poet Laureate should you be the fortunate winner. I really wish I had typed mine because the ill-ordered scribble was hard to deliver cohesively! It was also difficult not to have every politicians mucked up manifesto in my mind as I delivered my hopes.

My happy news is that I am the Worcestershire Poet Laureate for 2017/18!

My first official engagement is tomorrow night, The Night at The Museum III with Suz Winspear, Matt Windle and Chloe Clarke. It starts at 7:30 PM see the link for programme/ ticket information – £5 a festival fiver is what you pay.


Of course, I am off to National Writers Conference first, in about 7 hours! Matt Windle is performing there too.




Diverse Verse 2 The Book Launch


When I discovered Diverse Verse it had already been produced, so when I saw a call for submissions for Diverse Verse 2, I jumped on it. Charity is a big thing for most people and I love giving art for good causes. I like to try to get involved when I can. So earlier this year, I submitted some work to Richard Archer and was delighted to find myself sharing pages with other great poets from the Midlands.

The proceeds raise money for Cancer Research U.K, a cause close to my heart.

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I was delighted when I found out the Book Launch was on 27th May, as I knew I could make it and if the motorways had allowed it – I would have… I was a little late but fortunately after the drag of a 30 m.p.h traffic quilt managed to miss none of the actual reading!

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It was great to see old friends there and put faces to names I knew. Scott and Amy hosted the Launch at Southcart Books and it was lovely to see them in their new shop.

Unfortunately, due to my delayed arrival and forgetting to reserve a copy, the anthology had sold out before I arrived. I have since ordered and received my copy and look forward to indulging a read (sometime in July, I think I am free)!

You can buy a copy here diverse verse 2

It was a fantastic afternoon of poetry, Scott and Amy had laid on a buffet and the interval was time enough to mingle AND buy books.

I never leave the place empty handed but the treat was on them really. I bought a Rupert Brooke collection and they gifted me a historical hardback that I already have ideas on and a canvas ‘Books are my bag’ bag! What a sweet deal that was.


There were 20 poets reading and a good number of audience too, even some customers lingered.

Elaine Christie and Scott Carter snapped the photos, I have some of Elaine reading but need to get the mobile talking to the internet to upload them. I will add one of Elaine.

All these poets AND MORE are published in Diverse Verse 2, as I listened I noted poems from their sets I was inspired by – buy the book to discover them for yourselves amongst the pages.

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Richard Archer kicked off proceedings, seconds after I sat down. I met Richard at Permission to Speak but also know him from David Calcutt’s Arboretum Poetry events. His poetry is sometimes hard-hitting, powerful, social commentary and sometimes full out fun. He is the Chairman of Walsall Poetry Society and a truly supportive advocate of poetry in the Midlands.

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Paul Elwell runs a writing workshop group that I recently became involved with, it was good to meet him and put a face to the name. On the back of what he heard from short set and the fact that I had mentioned Worcester, he extended the invite – funny how the universe works like that, isn’t it? I particularly enjoyed his very clever Latin Poem.

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I know Carole Howard from David Calcutt’s Arboretum poetry events. I enjoyed hearing her poem about secrets, which she has performed before at the Arboretum.


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Rick Saunders delighted us with his brilliant poem, ‘Goldilocks’. I also enjoyed ‘Cannabis Anarchist’, which I had heard before. Rick is everywhere (I have passed on the ubiquitous mantle to him), but I will never tire of hearing his poems, they make me smile. Rick burst onto the scene late 2016 and I met him at Permission to Speak, where he cut his teeth on spoken word (well, it can be sharp), where he created Willis the Poet – and the story behind that is heartwarming!

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Ian Henery is a poet I have not seen for a while. I liked his poem ‘Walsall Bus Driver’s Prayer’.

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Al Lane, is a new poet to me. I thoroughly enjoyed his set. His nature poem was great and the Disappointment of Parenting was a real treat too.

sc dv9 Samatee read her poem about Mauritius and the Dodo. It was great to see her delight in having poems published. I met Samatee at Stirchley Speaks and have watched her become more confident with her writing and sharing of work. She is a regular at Spoken Trend now too.

sc dv7 Janet Jenkins gave us a wonderful set, I particularly liked her Umbrella poem. I first met Janet properly when I started the Caldmore Garden workshops with David Calcutt. Our paths had passed prior to this and our poetry can be found in the same collections.


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Scarlett Ward is a poet I do not know, her work is delicately laced but inside are iron fast ideas. Her poem ‘Wordless’ is incredible. Moving. She reminded me what it was to be young once. The concentrated force of emotions we carry.

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Jon Jack Neil was a poet I discovered just 5 days before in Lichfield, at Poetry Alight. I enjoyed hearing more from him. Particularly his poem ‘The World and His Wife’.

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Amanda Glover is another poet I know through Open Poetry at the Arboretum, her bus poem was great to listen to.


Jan Hedger had travelled some distance to be at the launch with her sister, both of whom grew up around the area. Jan is a new to me poet and I enjoyed her set. She writes lots about animals (so I knew she would enjoy Elaine’s work). I enjoyed the poem exploring her Birmingham/West Midland roots.


Ian Ward is someone I have known on the poetry circuit since 2014, we are often at the same events. He shared some poems he performed at Poetry Alight, it was good to hear them a second time. Poets should worry less about repeating their work. I particularly enjoyed his poem ‘What is a Map?’


Steve Harrison is a poet I met in 2014 somewhere over Shropshire way, I am delighted that he ventures across to share his poems in Birmingham and it is always a pleasure to watch his performance. An entertaining and well written poem is guaranteed – although he does serious too. I enjoyed his Classified Ad poem, which I had heard but not for a while and I live in hope of a day when we can be found in the classified ads amongst the plumbers.


Ian Davies is a poet I have seen in Walsall before, I enjoyed his poem ‘Gwyn Ap Nudd’. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him in the interval, next time.

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Pauline Faulkner had travelled up to support her sister (Jan) and is not a poet I know. She shared a poem about the Mason’s yard which I enjoyed.

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Calvin Allen is a poet I do not know, he had great delivery and his poem ‘Black Friday’ and his Newsreader poems were highlights of his set. I shall look out for him again in the future.

Elaine Christie wowed the audience with ‘The Lion King’ a brilliant poem of us concerning animal welfare and it packs punches. I met Elaine at the end of 2013 and her poetry speaks to the heart, she has a lot of love for the animal kingdom and it was simply a pleasure to see her again. I have been a little absent from the Birmingham scene recently.

18671007_10156279244119741_170669724986059691_n Well done, Richard for a great Book Launch.



Cheltenham Poetry Festival



This year’s programme was fantastic and I wish I had managed more events than I did. I however, managed a full dose of Hegley – which makes up for missing the rest of the long list of performances and events I wanted to attend.

John Hegley is one of the few poets that I discovered in my Young Writer years – back when he was touring with his band, Popticians. In fact one of the few university birthdays I remember was watching them at the Phoenix Arts Centre and meeting him.

There was a Hegley shaped hole for a while – he seemed to have disappeared – possibly into fatherhood – for the past few years he has been back on the radar. Or on my radar at least. Some of you will remember my posts from his performances and workshops back in 2015.


I was delighted to see New and Selected Potatoes as an error in reading dates on a flyer meant I missed him at the MAC. It was an enjoyable show, thoroughly entertaining as one would expect – but the magic treat was bestowed on Cheltenham that night in the Playhouse. We were privy to a new poem, something he is working on for the Roundhouse. I always feel privileged when my ears get an inside like this.

I finally bought John’s book and had a lovely chat about the show, because he is a very kind man who always spends time with each person queuing for a signature. Someone in the line behind me nearly bought a book that wasn’t one of his – I am sure he would have signed it anyway, he has a big heart like that.

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I made a night of it by going for an Italian meal with friends who had been to see the show too.

The following day, (I know I should have booked a B&B) I was back in Cheltenham to enjoy my second Hegley workshop. It was great fun, a good group and lots of people I did not know, which is always exciting for me. We had taken a poem and some art and most of our activities were based around these.

John had us all write about Potatoes too (of course) and crowd sourced a fantastic poem for Anna Saunders *Director of the festival – I will have to go and see if she has had time to use it anywhere.

It was a fabulous morning and finishing slightly before time I headed down to Waterstones with John and Anna, chatting and narrowly missing lampposts along the way! Once at Waterstones, I mingled with the poets from the Open Mic event which had finished and caught up with friends. Then John started his impromptu take over of the floor. (Photos to follow.)

We all joined in with a choral poem and had a great time before he was whisked away to that place festival poets go and I was left to retrace steps and try to find my car before the ticket ran out!

Next year, I have to plan work better to be released for this poetry festival.



Poetry Ballroom


An exquisite event, the brainchild of the current Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Suz Winspear, who wanted to combine poetry with other agencies. She teamed up with DanceFest Worcester and a select group of poets to produce ‘Poetry Ballroom’.

In ancient times, the arts were as one – the words the bards created and recited merged with music, and the active expression of the human body gave them expression and physical form . . . .

As the current Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Suz Winspear wants to bring artists back together once again.

Dance and Poetry now seem like distant art forms, but both can speak to one another . . . .dancers and poets can interact . . . . word and dance can come together to create something new . . . .

Welcome to the Poetry Ballroom!

It was an incredible evening and I was delighted to be involved. As an ex-dancer it gave me so much joy to watch the choreography and to write on the theme of dance. I have a body of work associated with dance/dancers already but also set to write new poems for the event.

Worcestershire’s Poet Laureate, Suz Winspear, has brought together Dancefest and Worcestershire LitFest to create a very special evening of poetry and dance.

Local poets Polly Stretton, Kevin Brooke, Holly Magill, Nina Lewis, alongside London-based Math Jones, will be joined by over 30 dancers of all ages from Dancefest’s Chance to Dance Company, DFA (Dancefest Adults) and Elevate Junior Youth Dance Company, who have created new dances inspired by poems.

Suz will be compering the evening and sharing some of the poems she’s written during her time as the county’s Poet Laureate. DanceFest © 2017

Poetry Ballroom

It was the sort of evening which totally absorbs you. From start to finish.

Suz had the idea of poets performing from different parts of the venue, the dancers were delighted to discover that the poetry was dance related and talking to members of DanceFest afterwards, I know they enjoyed the show as much as we did.

The space inside the Angel Centre, is gorgeous, I can see why it is home to dance. The lighting was magical, fairy-lights and blackout curtains contained the large audience in an other worldly place for the night. A night, I for one, did not want to end. It was spectacular.


Suz opened the event,

pb followed by Polly Stretton, who brought some instrumental percussion to proceedings

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before Elevate Junior Dance Company took to the floor to perform The Ballroom of Squid. The inspiration behind this dance, (choreographed by Janene Wyatt & Company), came from a poem written by Suz Winspear, which she performed alongside the dancers.


Kevin Brooke was the next poet to perform, high up on the balcony. Followed by the most beautiful dance ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ performed by DFA (DanceFest Adults) who equalled professional companies in there execution of the awe inspiring choreography (Clare Wood). A dance based on a Maya Angelou poem is a sure fire winner in my book and I was mesmerised.



It was incredibly moving, so much so I was not really emotionally ready to take to the floor for my spot.


I performed The Fourth wall – a poem I wrote back in 2013, one of the first poems in my book when I started back along the poetry road. It explores the feelings of an ex-dancer watching dance, exactly how I felt after watching the DFA Company.

2/4, 3/4, 4/4 – a poem I wrote especially for the Ballroom event explores 8 different ballroom styles.

Underwater Gothic – a poem I had written a month or so before, before I heard Suz perform The Ballroom of Squid, at 42 to tease us prior to the Poetry Ballroom event. It was inspired by nature films and is based under the sea, much the same as Elevate’s dance.

I completed my set with Tango – a poem I have written for an upcoming poetry anthology as a tribute to Leonard Cohen.


I thoroughly enjoyed performing, despite the nerves and cramp in my calf muscle, which was ironic as all I wanted to be able to do was dance once more.

After the interval we were treated to Math Jones’ dynamic, theatrical performance. He made almost as much use of the space as the dancers!


Followed by Holly McGill who performed wonderfully. Then the final dance treat Ghost of Castle Street From Sonnet to Sestina. This was performed by the Chance to Dance Company (choreographed by Marie Oldaker with the dancers). It was inspired by a poem of the same title written by Stephen Murphy in 2004 about the then-deserted Worcester Royal Infirmary.


This captivating dance incorporated sound and word as fragments of communication. Copies of the poem and definitions of the form were handed out along with the programme.


Finally Suz completed this enchanting evening with a poem and farewell.


With kind permission from DanceFest/ Worcester LitFest

Photography Clare Wood/DanceFest © 2017

The poets

Polly Stretton

Polly follows many writerly pursuits in her hometown of Worcester. Her poetry has been displayed at Croome Court and in many anthologies. She’s a coordinator and judge of various writing competitions and works with Black Pear Press, Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, and OU Poetry Society. Polly’s writing includes a collection of poetry, a series of poems about the tragic young poet Thomas Chatterton, and a pamphlet of children’s poetry. She’ll go into ecstasies about her puppy: Mabel.

Nina Lewis

Nina Lewis has poetry published in anthologies and magazines, her début pamphlet Fragile Houses is published by V. Press. Nina’s poetry has featured in an Art Installation, on Poetry Trails and at a Dance Festival. In 2014 she was commissioned to perform at Birmingham Literature Festival. She organises an annual writing retreat at

Holly Magill

Holly Magill is from Worcestershire. She has a BA in Creative Writing from University Of Birmingham and has had poems in various publications, including Clear Poetry, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Emma Press’ anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse. She is fond of cats and strong tea above most things.

Kevin Brooke

Kevin writes a bit of poetry and is also known to try out a few steps of ballroom. Currently studying Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Worcester, he is hoping to increase his repertoire in both. A writer of children’s fiction, his YA novel Jimmy Cricket was published by Black Pear Press in 2014 

Math Jones 

Math Jones has been sweet on his pins since childhood, He’s cut many a caper, promenaded and do-ci-do’ed, waltzed and polka’ed, stamped heels in traditional Indian, Galliarded, and Cell-block Tango’ed. Now, of course, he’s more likely to be dancing with his eyes.


The dancers

Dancefest Elevate Junior Youth Dance Company

A company for Herefordshire-based creative dancers aged 10 to 13 to develop creative and technical skills, with performance opportunities throughout the year. Auditions to join the company take place on Monday 17 July at Hereford College of Arts.

Chance to Dance Company

Dancefest’s Chance to Dance Company is for experienced dancers aged 50 and over, who like to create, experiment and have a passion to perform.

DFA (Dancefest Adults)

DFA is for experienced dancers with a sense of adventure who enjoy the creative process and want to perform in outdoor and unusual spaces.

The choreographers

Janene Wyatt

Janene has been leading contemporary and creative dance classes across Herefordshire over the past 14 years, working extensively with children, young people and adults of all ages and abilities in community settings and in education. Janene’s main passion and focus is the development and teaching of dance for children and young people [more]

Marie Oldaker

Marie is a freelance choreographer, creative dance practitioner and arts project coordinator with over twenty five years’ experience working in community and education contexts. Her artistic focus is predominantly about working creatively with local communities and their histories, across generations, inclusively and to promote health [more]

Clare Wood

Clare has worked for Dancefest for 14 years devising and delivering dance projects and teaching regular classes. In her various roles at Dancefest Clare has led work for all ages and abilities including GCSE Dance, GP referred adults, Parents and Wobblers, visually impaired and learning disabled participants [more] 

DanceFest © 2017

The Poetry Ballroom took place on April 2nd, I wanted access to the photography before I posted and by then it was May and I was wrapped up in working on our show 30-40-60 for Worcester LitFest.

I wish I had had time to complete the review months ago when this wondrous night was crystal clear but hopefully I have captured the essence of this spellbinding evening of pleasure.