Category Archives: Festival

Flashback Autumn (Nov)

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November finally saw a return to work after 8 months, an anxious time but also a great relief! It was a busy month on and offline. I had more medical appointments and another hospital appointment. But the balance was a month packed with Poetry / Literary Festivals!

At the end of October and beginning of November I enjoyed Dodge Poetry Festival and the packed programme of poetry. I shared a sea theme poem at Wirral Poetry Festival at an evening featuring Philip Gross, watched Andrew McMillan at Todmorden Book Festival, saw Padraig O’Tauna read several times. Watched Sandwell Stories, enjoyed Ankh Spice back in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, HAY had a WINTER Festival Weekend. I joined the final weekend of Culturama.

I had the opportunity to watch Heidi Williamson in action again at The Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Worcester University have also brought part of the Creative Writing Readings online and I managed to catch Hannah Lowe in action (it has been many years since I last saw her read). I caught an event at the Uni of Oxford with Rishi Dastidar on The Craft – a book he wrote a few years ago.

I enjoyed the tail end (dog pun) of Matt Black‘s Book Launch – ‘Sniffing Lamp-posts by Moonlight’ A fundraising book of dog poems.

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I did a workshop with Lansing Poet Laureate, Laura Apol, I attended more Creative Conversations at Glasgow University, I enjoyed events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, continued with Ledbury Poetry Festival workshops, Poets in Motion and Food for Thought and Grief workshops, we had an open mic to celebrate the end of the Hybrid Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle – a relaxed and fun affair!

I did a Nevada Hall of Fame workshop and a personal highlight of the month was the George Szirtes workshop thanks to Artful Scibe, Mayflower 400 Celebrations in Southampton.

I got involved writing for the Rebellion series with Sheffield Libraries and Nik Perring and started work on his Dear 2020/21 project in association with the BBC/Novels that Shaped Our World and Sheffield Libraries. More news to come. Room 204 provided a special workshop with Thomas Glave, in which we reflected on 2020.

I forgave myself for the deadlines whizzing past and focussed on the successes.

I was a featured poet at Virtual Voices Offa’s Press (10th Nov.) alongside Kenton Samuels, Keith Rogers, Santosh K. Dary and Jeff Phelps. I read at the Reimagine Festival (USA) as part of Redwing’s Poetry for Healing group.

I was one of 11 poets in the Royal British Legion’s 11/11 Challenge for The Poppy Appeal – organised by Leena Batchelor, Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Find out more here https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/2020/12/16/wpl-poppy-appeal-continues/.

I ran a series of Workshops for The National Star Centre, my gratitude to Ruth, Paul and the team in Cheltenham and to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. These were rewarding mornings where inspiration travelled in both directions!

I was published in the BLER Light Anthology (Black Light Engine Room), had two poems published in Corona, an Anthology of Poems – Edited by Gayl Teller in USA (more on this soon), I had a Renga accepted for a collaborative project in the US, I had two poems published in Geography is IrrelevantStairwell Books http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/geography-is-irrelevant/. This anthology includes International Poets who were active online at events in the UK during 2020. More on this soon and a poem accepted for the Dear 2021 Pamphlet produced for the Year of Reading/BBC/ Novels that Shaped Our World with Nik Perring.

Like many of us I wrote about the pandemic in the end (resistance was futile, especially as I self-isolated and had a limited palette of outside life experiences) -not that inspiration was lacking, with all the workshops and 5 notepads of ideas… anyway, I wrote Covid poems and didn’t submit them to any of the Lockdown projects or websites collecting such things. I am grateful that there were a few options left at the end of the year, places to to share them. Now, like the rest of 2020 they can be released!

Flashback Autumn (Oct)

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October the 1st was NPD (National Poetry Day) and there were many exciting online events to bite into and for once I could use the entire day for poetry, as no work came through in October either! I joined other local poets celebrating poetry and favourite poems on Worcestershire Libraries website for The Hive.

If you use #ShareAPoem you should find lots of videos on You Tube, here’s mine – a poem from Fragile Houses (V. Press, 2016), written during Jo Bell’s amazing 52 Project in 2014/15.

#ShareAPoem

Lots more can be found on the National Poetry Day channel, like this one by Malika Booker.

I enjoyed a creative writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries, sharing our favourite poems on the theme of vision (NPD theme), followed by Heather Wastie‘s Book Launch ‘To the Future, Love Cropredy’ is a collaboration with boat-dwelling visual artist Louise Regan. After I caught the Nine Arches Press and Birmingham Literature Festival event The New Romantics: A Poetry Cabaret With Gregory Leadbetter, Rosie Garland and Maria Taylor, which was superb! Later I went to a Reading at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst Arts Night Virtual Reading with Taylor Johnson, Brionne Janae and Rage Hezekiah.

In between I enjoyed NPD unrolling on the main site and even joined in on Instagram. A month of poetry in one day! I managed to watch the other events featured above the next day.

I attended PPP events Yes We Cant, Live from The Butchery Helen Ivory & Martin Figura as well as events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. I continued with Redwing’s workshops, Poets in Motion and Hybrid Experimental Memoir classes. I managed to get back to Oooh Beehive, Poetry Cafe, Cafe Writers and Worcester 42.
I did a workshop with Marcus Jackson, hosted a Mental Health & Wellbeing Event for WLF, went to Goldsmiths Readings, Jerwood Fellowships produced more Poetry Take Overs and I joined some community workshops offered by Ledbury Poetry Festival, facilitated and created by Sara-Jane Arbury.
The University of Glasgow offered Creative Conversations and I was able to catch some of them, Sheffield Libraries offered more workshops with Nik Perring and Utopia Theatre offered workshops too.

I joined in the EmeryArts 2020 with an Ekphrastic workshop with Sarah Kobrinsky, which led to a performance this month (more below) and publication. I met a poet working in the 90s who knew poets I am friends with, from way back in my fledging days on the circuit. They appeared in the UK after I left for Kent, so we never met. Missed each other – funny to fill the circles in decades later!

Bountiful month for Festivals including: the Red Line Book Festival, Lyra Festival Bristol, Toronto International Festival of Authors (a fantastic programme), Manchester Literature Festival, The Stay @ Home Fringe Festival had a second run, Birmingham Literature Festival ran from the 1st– 17th October and Cheltenham Poetry Festival continued to run fantastic online events. I saw Sascha Akhtar and Juliette Van Der Molan (the next Virtual Poet in Residence).

I attended the Book Launches of Z. D DicksVexed (Hedgehog Press, 2020) https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/2020/10/11/pre-orderzddicks-vexed/

Gregory LeadbetterMaskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020)

Ian McMillanYes But What Is This? What Exactly? (Smith|Doorstop, 2020)

And Zoe Brooks Owl Unbound (IDP, 2020) https://zoebrooks.blogspot.com/p/owl-unbound.html a wonderful evening of poetry and a Cheltenham Poetry Festival Event.

I featured at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, a brilliant evening! Then I pretended my lounge was an airport lounge and settled down for an hour on the settee before heading back online in the early hours of the morning to be part of the EmeryArts 2020 Reading. You can watch it here https://www.emeryarts.org/poetry.

I was asked to headline Virtual Voices Offa’s Press, this was one of the many real bookings that was lost to 2020. I created an event inspired by the alternative/gothic/sci-fi nights atWorcester 42. The Story Salon is designed to feature short stories which are too long for an open mic. The Halloween edition was called Jack ‘n’ Gory (a take on Jackanory, which was a favourite story time TV show in the 80s). An audience of fearless listeners were treated to a short performance from Suz Winspear. It was great and gave us all an excuse for Fancy Dress.

42 is where I traditionally don my Halloween costume, but the day after was a very special Birthday for a relative this year who I had no wish to shock with left over Halloween make-up, especially as I had not seen her since the start of Lockdown in March.

I also took part in some filming – more on this project soon.

Traditionally I have held INKSPILL in October. The last one was in 2018, it was ready to go before I ended up in hospital – there is a lot of work behind offering a retreat for a weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough last year and this year there was so much offered online it didn’t seem possible. I am hoping next Autumn we may have another one.

Flashback Autumn (Sept)

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September brought the kids back to school and students back to university and huge peaks in cases. After five months off work I was due to go back in as soon as bookings came through. This was a bleak month of no work. Something which is sadly the fate of millions since the beginning of the pandemic. It was a month that left me feeling pretty empty, so I filled it!

Like a new student, I signed up for a new class Hybrid & Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle and looked at courses on Future Learn. I was having to complete Covid related staff training even though there was no work, which I found frustrating – necessary yes, but the only people who could possible struggle with gaining the certificate at the end of it are those who have literally buried their heads in the sand and watched/read no news for the past year!

There were a few festivals and book launches to keep me buoyant (and more importantly busy). I recorded the audio for Connect Dudley project (hoping to tell you more about this soon). I was Poet in Residence for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and I had a LIVE interview with Kate Justice for BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester. UEA hosted Noirwich, Crime Writing Festival and Worcestershire LitFest hosted a Festival 13-19th. Which was the same time as Tell It Slant Festival over the pond at the Emily Dickinson Museum. And Perth Poetry Festival was 18th -27th they managed to get LIVE events, a hybrid of live and virtual and some virtual all mixed into the programme. It just made me want to be there again!

I went to Kevin Reid‘s Book Launch for Suitcase (4word, 2020). It was a real treat. Discover the book for yourself here. https://eyeosphere.com/ Later in the month was the launch of Carole Bromley‘s new collection The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster (Valley Press, 2020) https://www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk/books/. I have missed Carole’s readings and it was a joy!

As festival Poet in Residence for Cheltenham Poetry Festival I attended and performed at CPF events this month including: Z.D.Dicks Reading & Open Mic and Across the Oceans with David Hanlon and Elisabeth Horan. I headlined for Cheltenham Poetry Festival alongside Joe Cook, it was good to see/hear him again – a magical experience! And speaking of magic…

One of the workshops I attended was pure magic too – in fact, it was in the title, but we’re writers… we know titles give no guarantee! It was called The Magic of an Ordinary Day and it was mindfully slow paced with an entire offline section for lunch and encouraged wanderings. I met my mum (socially distanced) at the local park and we had a catch up and I took a bounty of pictures to inspire my afternoon writing. Plenty of people watching in amongst nature and for someone who rarely leaves the house now it was a blessing. Sue Emm was the facilitator of this online wandering & writing workshop from Open School East. It was a wonderfully, relaxed and I was certainly glad I’d committed a day to do it. Huge gratitude to Sue Emm.

The Worcestershire LitFest started, as it always does, with the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition. This year’s finalists were all worthy of the crown. The new Worcestershire Poet Laureate was announced for 2020-21 as Leena Batchelor – read more here.

Festival posts and links to follow.

I managed to attend a few open mics and events including Philip Gross and Heidi Williamson at Cafe Writers, That Poetry Zoom (Canberra), a Masterclass in writing and publishing, Wordcraft, Jerwood Arts Events, some PPP gigs and I visited the real library building (where the covid measures far outrank some places of work) and returned my 3 loans read by April and borrowed 9 books, fearing they would have to close again. I have PLENTY of books at home I could be reading, but they are mainly chosen and I feel I want to read them in pleasant(er) times. Perhaps now is the time to challenge my genres, pull out those books I would not otherwise attempt and that’s why I use the library. Plus I love the library, most people have been missing the night out, the pub… me, that room full of books none of which are mine.

I fuelled some of my grief into The Loss Project and found solace in a group I have been attending since the summer over in the States with Judith Redwing Keyssar, who has provided Food For Thought Poetry Cafes and Loss, losing, Loosening workshops weekly. https://redwingkeyssar.com/. Just letting it pour out is important and for me, part of the healing. I attended the Collective Trauma Summit, they had an amazing selection of poets/ poetry readings.

By September, Lockdown had lifted, but I was still living very much in isolation. With no money it wasn’t so much a challenge to stay inside. I had to go to hospital in September, they are places some of us need to be brave and use, but it was the biggest challenge I have faced. I had to go alone – the whole experience pre-covid would have been bad, in addition there was the wearing of the mask for hours and the additional safety test requirements. I counted every day after carefully indeed, but looking back I needed something this big because in a few months time there would be much needed work. The first day back was terrifying but it would have been worse without this bridge.

Flashback Summer (July)

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By July so many events had moved online that there were diary clashes, just as there always has been in real life. I also tried to have a day off screen. Things were still on Lockdown in the UK and although restrictions were eased, I stayed in. I was not working until the Autumn and as someone unable to work outside the home I didn’t think taking the risk to do anything else was sensible either and by now our county area had high percentages of cases and at the centre of that was my hometown, so staying in seemed like the brightest idea!

More wonderful festivals were enjoyed: Ledbury Poetry Festival (which is always amazing) had a weekend at the start of the month and a packed programme, thoroughly enjoyed. I enjoyed Melbourne’s Spoken Word Festival.

Over the summer months I also took advantage of programmes offered by several museums. Some fantastic virtual hikes and lots of historical research of two of my favourite poets from before my time. Walt Whitman (who I only discovered 7 years ago) and a lifetime favourite, Emily Dickinson. Being involved in these programmes has been a joy.

I took opportunities with Wendy Pratt, huge gratitude for The Sea, The Sea – a wonderful course of prompts which gave me lots of new work and PPP started their ‘Arses from Elbows’ weekly sessions, which were great fun and covered a lot of ground. I started Rakaya Fetuga’s Spoken Word workshops.

I took Arts funded workshops with Jemima Foxtrot, Anthony Anaxagorou and Alarum Theatre and got heavily involved with Sheffield Libraries and the programme they have delivered for Reading & Writing during Lockdown. I was also lucky enough to have a 1 to 1 with Anthony, which was superb.

I watched lots of readings including readings from Helen Mort, Ledbury Salon Readings with Romalyn Ante and Liz Berry, online readings from Billy Collins and Carol Frost. Billy has been posted weekly FB videos of readings throughout Lockdown. A real gift to us all. I heard Hannah Stone and Becki Cherriman at Leeds Library.

I started on the Connect Dudley commission.

The Hive Worcestershire Libraries Call out for Poetry Videos, many local poets can be viewed on the channel. Here’s mine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhCKnVQyU0w

It was the end of Malika Speaks and a relaunch for 62 Gladstone as another business moved wholly online. I read at the the Launch event. https://62gladstonestreet.co.uk/

I was a Guest Poet at Perth Poetry Club – which was a joy! I appeared there in person in 2018 when I was an International Guest Poet Perth Poetry Festival and it has been amazing to reconnect to the Perth crew over Lockdown.

I entered a poem for the Stourbridge Leg of PPP’s Stay Up Your Own End.

Patience received a new book review by Phoebe Walker on Sabotage review – you can read it here.

AND I finally submitted some poems!

Apologies for any formatting issues there have been problems with WordPress this weekend. This post has taken over 4 hours to format and deliver!

Flashback Summer (June)

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For some reason I attempted Yoga again this month, Lockdown has made us all a little crazy, I think I did a fusion of Yoga and Pilates, basically the warm up and then filled in most of the class with exercise my back could manage.

I saw my first human being other than my mum and Mr G. since the beginning of Lockdown. It was my eldest nephew’s birthday. I stood in the garden, he stayed inside. It was the hardest not-hug to give/not give. Delighted I saw him. He couldn’t believe he was only the 3rd person I had seen since the end of March! By the end of the month I shared garden coffee with a few friends.

My actual travel/ life may have diminished to something which resembled 2019 (without the pain) but my screen life was exploding. I stretched my Zoom poetry wings further into Australia, out to New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, America and Coventry – if you have ever driven the route from here you will understand why I include that UK destination in amongst my international travel. Other local events found the wonders of Zoom and FB and moved events online. Library services also extended online content.

Poetry and writing has gone Global this year, writing is also (like baking, making sourdough, planting, painting and photography) one of the hobbies/ escapes people turned to. Even people who never appeared online have probably scribbled journals or feelings down at some points in this Lockdown. There have been wonderful local/ national/ international community projects popping up all over the place. Letter writing has become fashionable again, or at least it did before people realised the dangers of post. The world has creatively adapted. We have held each other (metaphorically) up in a year that made us all feel like we no longer had bones!

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The other thing which began to take seed was the funding artists had applied for through the Arts Council. With this emergency funding came a flurry of projects and workshops. Funding was also received from other revenue sources.

PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) celebrated the Black Country/ Lockdown and isolation with Stay Up Your Own End – which offered people both a microscopic and magnified view of their locales as seen through the eyes of people with pens. It encouraged people who had never written before or never openly written before to pick up a pen and write. It was set up as a round of competitions, prizes included a video film produced & £25.

The judges/prompt writers for each round were local favourites of the Black Country poetry scene Richard Archer, Rick Sanders, Roy McFarlane, Kuli Kohli, and Heather Wastie.

PPP were commissioned by Creative Black Country to run a series of online poetry activities across the region.

Read more about it here: https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk/stay-up-your-own-end/

Louise Stokes provided bi-weekly writing classes under the ‘Let’s Write’ project. http://www.louiseland.co.uk/

I did workshops with Anna Saunders, Adam Horovitz, Liam Brown, Zena Edwards and joined Malika Speaks and Poets In Motion. I went to Book launches including The Estate Agent’s DaughterRhian Edwards (Seren), Wild PersistenceKatrina Naomi (Seren), Pack of LiesRoz Levens (Black Pear Press)

More Festivals and Events: ART IS… Festival, Trim (Ireland), Own It! Online Festival, Wirral Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Kit De Waal Creative Writing Wonder Women, Ledbury Poetry Salon with Philip Gross & Lesley Saunders. Sarah L. Dixon moved The Quiet Compere online and created a series of reunion shows. I made video poems for Wordcraft, PASTA, performed at Fire & Dust, 42, That Poetry Zoom, Perth Poetry Club, Poets’ Cafe and watched Dear Listener. Oooh Beehive, Run Your Tongue, Yes We Cant and others. Room 204 continued to support us with opportunities.

Personal highlights for the month (other than braving the company of friends) were:

A reading for the end of Writing to Buoy Us – Reading to Buoy Us with Cath Drake. The courses drew both established and new poets in from across the world.

Read all about it at Cath’s website here.

It was an uplifting event which featured both class groups and Australian poet Mark Tredinnick as the Guest Reader.

Writing and creativity are how most of us are continuing to process this pandemic 6 months later, the connectivity shared at this time was invaluable. It was special.

Cath Drake
Mark Tredinnick
Nina Lewis

Poetry Film Live Relaunched their website and featured one of my animated Poetry Renewed Films ‘Tailspin’ to Launch it. Like every business Elephant’s Footprint have adapted during this pandemic and shifted their courses online.

Exciting talks started with the committee about moving WLF online, we were holding off in the hope the postponed annual festival (mid-June) could be pushed back to early Autumn, by this time it became apparent that Covid was going to be with us for some time.

I took part in my first online SLAM (I don’t really do the SLAM poet thing but this was in Australia and I couldn’t resist). My poems appeared in the keepsake gift book the Art Is Festival released.

I wrote down submission opportunities and promptly missed the deadlines. Seems like I have the horse ready but a little unsure of getting back on!

Flashback Spring (May)

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If I thought April had been a whirlwind, I wasn’t quite buckled in for May!

I was enjoying off screen time in the garden, had already taken photos of the blossom and enjoyed the early Spring flowers.

You know it is easy to misremember how it was? I closed the last flashback with the realisation I had not travelled more than 1.5 miles from my home – actually my perimeter was a lot smaller in April. I hadn’t started walking outside of my home and the supermarket is not that far away so thinking back, the frame of my life was caught in a circle of 3 roads, just one small block of life!

This was the month it expanded to 1.5 miles.

I do remember I stayed in, if I wasn’t in the garden I was in the house. Most of the street were out in the back gardens, enjoying the sun, building new sheds, cabins, garden furniture, slides and swings whilst I was indoors fighting the good fight for Furlough or burying my head in the sand of a writing world that became my Narnia.

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May started with more festivals: Avon Book Festival, Stay at Home Fringe Festival (organised by the Students/graduates of Glasgow Uni), The Urban Tree Festival and of course HAY (which I managed to blog in a timely fashion). Huge gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to give creatives access to platforms and festivals at this time.

Big gratitude to Julia Webb for the prompt/course she ran this month. To Kim Moore for braving the online world of workshops and furthering my year of learning. To Carys Hannah who started a Golden Girls Watch Party, which reminded us what laughter is and made us all hope we get to grow old.

To Anna Saunders and the team at Cheltenham Poetry Festival for delivering a feast of poetic pleasure with numerous events and a great line up of poets. To Seren for creating a series of reading events, AWP for giving us a night with Joy Harjo (Poet Laureate of USA). For the universe for keeping my neighbour safe the morning she climbed up on our conservatory roof to clean and I couldn’t stop her!

Thanks to Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for events at the Butchery and to Jinny Fisher for her Poetry Pram Party. Thanks to Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press for videos, live readings and Book Launches, to Emma Wright at the Emma Press for Book Launches and webinar readings/Q&A. To Phillipa Slinger and Chloe Garner who moved Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Salons online.

This month I also enjoyed the Saboteur Awards and Book Launches for The Unmapped Woman by Abegail Morley (Nine Arches Press), Dorothy by Briony Hughes (Broken Sleep Books), Apple Fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond (Against the Grain).

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And I finally realised online events meant we could travel after all… and travel I did, first stop back to Australia. I headed back to Perth and Freo. Thanks to all at VoiceBox. I reunited with some of the Perth crew at Zoomouth, which was brilliant!

I finished the 6 weeks Writing to Buoy Us course with Cath Drake and writers from Europe and Australia. I started a Hybrid Experimental course with Tawnya Renelle https://tawnyaselenerenelle.com/ , who I also met through the Stay at Home Fringe Festival. And who also needs a huge shout out of gratitude. I was glad to help where I could at the beginning and have loved watching the take-off!

I completed work on the animations for Poetry Renewed with Elephant’s Footprint and wrote lots in journal form and a few poems. Covid had crept into the writing and I was attempting to not write about it in the beginning. And the BIG conservation started about the artists place in all this, whether it is our job or not to almanac the times (which is what a lot of writers/artists do). I believe most of us do, but also agreed that writing books about it probably wouldn’t even make it to the slush pile, of course I am sure there will be some, there already are. But I’m still processing last year and things which happened at the beginning of this one (pre-Covid).

May was the month: I realised my back can’t manage Yoga and gracefully I saluted the sun for one last time, started to walk in nature, used my walking stick for the last time (hadn’t needed it for 3 months), I blamed the yoga but looking at this it was more likely all that sitting at the desk! It marked the milestone of my first submission in 5 months! I have been very slow to get back on that horse!

Flashback Spring (April)

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April was Napowrimo and those of you who follow this blog will know I have done it every year since I discovered it existed (2014), this year – for the first time ever – I was home every day of the prompts and managed it without falling behind. As is tradition, by the end I was left with about 5 decent poems and another 5 to work with. Lots of new notes and scribbles, I did write 32 poems over the month but some are no more than a warm up exercise, you can whittle on after April and collect yourself a good batch of 30 decent poems, but as with all workshops some prompts will speak louder than others. There were some areas I continued to research and develop and other scrap poems I abandoned. Nothing wasted though.

Napowrimo was also the last time I was properly active on the blog. The Stay at Home Lit Festival continued (it was a glorious 2 weeks). I continued to enjoy events which moved online more from the PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) team, as another of their brilliant nights Yes We Cant happened online and PASTA (usually at the Wolverhampton Arena Theatre). 42, Worcester and Run My Tongue were other open mic events I joined.

I signed up to Caleb Parkin‘s Napo group and enjoyed weekly sessions with other poets (some of whom I knew) doing Napo. These groups were great fun. Huge gratitude to Caleb for creating such a pleasant space to create from.

Another huge gratitude bundle goes to Cath Drake, who I discovered at the S@HF. Her first collection The Shaking City (Seren) was launched in April. https://www.serenbooks.com/author/cath-drake.

Cath started a writing course for poets in Australia (her homeland) and UK (her home). It was incredible and again I will be posting separately on Writing to Buoy Us.

Discover more about Cath and her work here https://cathdrake.com/.

April was the start of crazy, for me it was a coping mechanism and also I was coming from that post-book release-writing-slump https://ninalewispoet.wordpress.com/books/, which followed on the back of the medicated break from writing, which I was convinced (at the time), had broken the camel’s back, so a certain amount of my packed scheduling was a liberation, a dance with words. It was also a sure fire way to bury my thoughts from what was really happening for a few hours most days. I was also trying to get over having to cancel all my real life bookings for a 2nd year running.

I read a lot, every writer should. But I have to say 2020 has opened me to more new writing and new to me poets than any year so far. So readily accessible at a touch of a button. The whole world at my writing desk.

Sarah L. Dixon needs another shout out of gratitude, she started to run workshops online, which were always fun and successful for me – as in I would always have a nearly completed poem by the end of it – I may have even submitted some of these out to the world and I have barely submitted anything anywhere since 2018.

A big shout out of gratitude to Zelda Chappel too – who it has been a pleasure to reconnect with. She offered a series of wonderful prompts which in the beginning refreshed my love for this gift of writing and over the weeks gave space for some different writing.

A big shout out to Mab Jones too who created Lockdown Writers’ Club and provided us all with in depth prompts and created a creative community.

I went to the book launch of Play – by C. S Barnes, The Shaking City by Cath Drake and Mutton Rolls by Arji Manuelpillai.

I started doing Yoga with Allison Maxwell who is another gratitude shout out, I helped people and artists learn how to use Zoom effectively, we celebrated the first birthdays online, never expecting we would still be doing the same by the end of the year! I started doing my pilates classes at home.

I finally joined INSTA as there were poets I admire doing things on this platform. My INSTA account is still nothing to shout about and I probably won’t be joining the INSTA Poetry movement anytime soon, but it is a great platform for short video/ workshops and has been fun exploring this year.

I took opportunities offered by Room 204 on developing characters, huge thanks to Stephanie Hatton for letting us be your guinea pigs, I hope the roll out went well. I enjoyed the National Ballet online, a workshop with The Poetry Business and started recording video performances for events. And I discovered the Cuirt Festival of Literature AND more importantly an Irish poet I had read in my teens, Michael Gorman – it was like being reunited with an old friend.

I also had the pleasure of watching Kei Miller and Carolyn Forché with Poets House and Roger Robinson with Writing East Midlands, all poets I have read and admire. I’m lucky enough to have seen Kei and Roger in action several times. These three poets started the pack of recurring poets who became a big part of my lockdown.

I was also working hard completing an animation commission from Elephant’s Footprint for the Arts Council funded ‘Poetry Renewed Project’. I wrote a poem for Rick Sanders PoARTry/ the digital version of his project. My ekphrastic poetry response was based on an artwork created by Alan Glover. I watched most deadlines zoom past and wrote covid and non-covid journals.

It was an action packed month which taught me: I was happy we’d had haircuts the week before the news of Lockdown, the forever-wanted GHDs probably weren’t going to be the most used Christmas present, that I was unlikely to run out of notebooks for a while, that the world is trying to hold itself together, that a smile goes a long way, that facetime and online platforms are a great way to stay connected, what it feels like to spend 5 weeks travelling no more than 1.5 miles from your home.

Flashback Spring (March)

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March Lockdown was only a week – but those 7 days felt like a lifetime!

I was one of the many people who actually found life online a blessing, it was a way of staying connected during Lockdown and after a week I realised the Writing Community had gone full throttle into Teams, Crowdcast, Webinar platforms, Zoom (of course) and suddenly INSTA and FB were brimming with events, workshops, performances and festivals. I was a little slower to fill my diary as I was adjusting and juggling concerns for family, finances, future etc. (as we all were).

I realised having suffered depression and my year of incapacity last year (where I couldn’t be online for 6 months due to not being able to concentrate/focus/work/ use a desk/chair and was off social media for a while longer as by the time I finally reached the desk the manuscript was 5 months overdue an edit)! That this online connection is essential for some of us.

It was also a blessing as my body had time to heal, I wasn’t running ragged or trying to push driving distances. I also hadn’t found a solid way back into the poetry community after a year away. This exodus online, bridged that gap and gave me the ability to travel again – although it was a while (months) before I realised international waters were open!

I didn’t leave my home territory for the first month of lockdown and after that was only brave enough for one nature walk a week (it was still restricted back then that you can’t drive to walk and we live in an urban area), there are trees lining the dual carriageway, but we have a garden so I sat with nature rather than walking.

Photo by Tatiana on Pexels.com

Looking back, I knew even then it was a gift that we had Lockdown in the Spring, for much of the world it wasn’t as warm or abundant with nature. A few months into lockdown I was one of two people wearing a mask to supermarket shop and only once or twice a month. Mr G. had to work throughout lockdown so there was always a possibility even when I was keeping myself from the world. So thank goodness for life online.

Of course there were strains and worries, fears and concerns, waking every day for months… well we all lived it right, it has been tough financially and I know people who were very ill with Coronavirus. I am choosing not to address it in these posts (other than excusing myself for not mentioning it in this first one).

At first my online meets were just for virtual coffees and a few regular events I attend which had moved online. I want to give a big shout out to Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk a.k.a. Emma Purshouse, Steve Pottinger and Dave Pitt who have grown to adapt to many platforms this year but immediately moved events online and were making them fully accessible no matter what your situation, lots of hard work.

© 2018 Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.

I am delighted that after putting the hours in and giving so generously they have maintained working status with lots of projects online. They always are busy people and it doesn’t look like they are about to let a pandemic stop that ethic!

Polly Stretton immediately moved 42 online, a regular event in Worcester that we have been enjoying on Zoom since March.

I was writing for a Worcester Cathedral Poetry Project, organised by their poet in residence, Amanda Bonnick.

And then Carolyn Jess-Cooke gave us the STAY AT HOME FESTIVAL – https://stayathomelitfest.co.uk/about/ the first in a long line of festivals online – it was brilliant and on a massive scale and conceived (as many things are) on Twitter.

I unfortunately missed the call (as I was working F/T until lockdown) but I attended most of the festival weekend and was lucky enough to be one of the showcase poets.

I will write an entire post about the festival, I was hugely grateful and it was also the beginning of filling my notebooks – (2 over this weekend), avoiding household chores and unpacking boxes!

Worcestershire LitFest 2020 The Launch

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The WLF Team have been busy organising the first online Worcestershire LitFest – we launch on Sunday 13th and as we are hosting events on Zoom – the whole world is invited!

Hay Festival Digital 2020 The Outstanding Moments

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I am delighted that Lockdown has brought Creatives out in force, there have been so many festivals, workshops and opportunities and it is also a way of supporting each other (those millions of self-employed, some of whom are artists) and a way of rallying together to lift spirits and improve people’s mental health during this isolation, during this fear of the pandemic, during this strange time that none of us have experienced before. And this week was the turn of Hay.

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The Hay Festival is one of the world’s top literary festivals, staged in the small town on the Wales-England border. ©2011 BBC 

It is well known to be a particularly pricey festival, it is epic and brilliant if you have a chance to experience it in real life – I have always loved Hay-on-Wye (famous for all the bookshops – Richard Booth is credited with transforming the town into a global attraction for second-hand book lovers after opening his first shop in 1962) and I love the Hay Festival, the tents, events, atmosphere, joy and buoyancy you will experience there cannot be compared to many things other than a sugar rush! Some others have said it more eloquently!

Memorable quotes at the festival: “The Woodstock of the Mind” – former US President Bill Clinton.

“In my mind it’s replaced Christmas” – former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn.

“One of the finest, most thought-provoking literary gatherings I’ve ever attended” – Junot Díaz, Dominican-American writer and creative writing professor. © BBC

HAY BANNER

However, it is not one I can afford to attend every year. I fully expected the events to be ticketed so waited expectantly for the programme to be released and was OVERJOYED (Yes! I’m shouting) when they provided it all for FREE! That in itself is astonishing.

I know they all wished it could be happening as normal, but let’s face it – there is not much that is normal anymore. I honestly didn’t feel like I was screen bound and experiencing a digital festival. It had the real Hay feeling. It helps that they could use the HAY music and screens that would have been playing in the tents as we found our seats. Although HAY is a HUGE festival, the tents don’t take 100,000 visitors and they had an international audience of over 10,000 at the big events and on average I was watching with around 5000 other people, some of whom will never experience Hay and so have had a true blessing to get a little of the 2020 action digitally. Hay has over 250,000 during the course of the week, but I think data for this year will sky rocket that!

I know a whole team was involved in decision making but using Crowd Cast was a good move, chat can be turned off and the screen can (as with the entire internet) be full screen, our lounge furniture is infinitely more comfortable than auditorium seating (although it’s not bad), refreshments were free and MOST importantly sessions were short (suiting the human attention span) and there were intervals between. Perfect.

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I missed some events I wanted to see but hope to subscribe to the Hay Player later in the year when I have a cash flow that can be spent beyond mortgage, household bills and food.

The events I saw were well worth it and because the programme was open and unlimited I attended talks I wouldn’t have chosen, extending my learning and experience//field. It was a most enjoyable week, a busy one already – but busy right now, is good!

I had some particular favourite events and moments from the week. Some real highlights and gold-dust and I realise how subjective this list is – but here it is anyway, in chronological order because trying to do an actual Top 10 is an impossible feat and those who read on will notice it is a less-than-Top-10-Top-list!  The dates link back to the AWF blog reviews:

MY GOLDEN HAY

Friday 22nd May

Wordsworth 250: A Night in with the Wordsworths

ALL STAR CASTintroduced by Shahidha Bari with readings by Simon ArmitageMargaret AtwoodBenedict CumberbatchMonty DonLisa DwanInua EllamsStephen FryTom HollanderToby JonesHelen McCroryJonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave.

 

 

 

Saturday 23rd May 

Jonathan Bate

THE POET WHO CHANGED THE WORLD: WILLIAM WORDSWORTH AND THE ROMANTIC REVOLUTION

 

 

 

Sunday 24th May 

Without hestitation…

Inua Ellams

AN EVENING WITH AN IMMIGRANT IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC – OR AT LEAST A HALF HOUR

and watching this multiple award winning poet win another one – The Hay Poetry Prize – was a very special treat! I love that he had no idea and thousands of people watched his expression of shock and felt his words of gratitude.

The film itself is amazing and another book for the birthday wish list. I am delighted that he was honoured/recognised by Hay, much deserved for this immensely hardworking poet.

 

 

 

Wednesday 27th May

Jackie Morris

PAINTING THE LOST WORDS

 

 

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Thursday 28th May

Claudia Hammond talks to Guto Harri

THE ART OF REST

 

 

I got a chance to try it the next day (which was extremely busy) I had 10 minutes of absolute rest and it powered me through a whole afternoon’s list of To Do.

 

And another absolute gem. The deliverer of gold-dust himself, Roger Robinson. I think if there was a Top 10 there would be a joint winner!

Peter Frankopan and Roger Robinson

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE

 

 

An additional joy of this event was the feed – people who have never read Roger or heard him talk/read. Reading their reactions was like discovering rain has turned to gold. Such a rich experience. And I knew, having met the man, spoken with him, read him, I was buckled in and ready!

 

Saturday 30th May

Allie Esiri, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West

SHAKESPEARE FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

 

 

 

This event, Inua Ellams and Roger Robinson were all re-watched. They just had to be!

 

What an incredible week of Digital Hay 2020 it has been!

 

RELATED LINK:

Hay Festival Blog