Category Archives: performing poetry

Verve Day 4 Sunday 18th


Ginny Saunders

Ginny Saunders © 2018

Due to Sunday Service on the trains I wasn’t able to make it for Brum Stanza – the first event of the day. I was in time for my first workshop with the ever-amazing heroine of mine Pascale Petit. A most enjoyable and productive workshop.


Sadly it clashed with Sabrina’s Masterclass which I would have liked to have done also. Sabrina had rave reviews too.

After the workshop I managed to catch Nymphs & Thugs – which was loud, raucous and fun, at times hard hitting. Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson and Jamie Thrasivoulou; four vital performers all rattling with the sense of urgency that makes the UK spoken word scene so exciting at present. Nymphs & Thugs is an independent spoken word record label formed in 2015 as an imprint on Heist Or Hit. They aim to champion the UK’s most vital spoken word poets.

matt abbott mega bus



The first round was superb – it got a little hard for me to concentrate on everyone’s 2nd sets (surviving on just 4 hours sleep again and with post workshop brain), I ducked out just before the end of the final set to get caffeinated and give myself a breather before my next workshop with Liz Berry.

hannah swings

Hannah Swings © 2018

Cabin fever had set in and I found myself outside of Waterstones for a quick stretch of the legs and fresh air. I really wanted a cosy chair and quiet corner for 10 mins R & R but during Verve that is not likely. Instead I trudged back up the stairs and went to enjoy the Lunar podcast with Roy McFarlane before heading upstairs for a workshop with Liz Berry.


I went straight from Berry delightfully playful workshop on Tenderness, to the tail end of the Stand Up Poetry Reunion catching almost all of Luke Wright’s set but sadly none of Ross Sutherland’s.

Then I had a very quick break to freshen up before The festival Poetry Finale with Liz Berry, Nick Makoha (seen at Ledbury) and Nuar Alisdar chaired by Jonathan Davidson. It was exceptional.





Then Local Legends which was a great concept and one I hope they do again. Sadly I missed Luke Kennard and Bohdan Piasecki in their Headline slots, Sunday transport and the fact that I had hit the wall. I still wouldn’t be home much before Midnight and needed to drive safely from the station.



It was a tough call, but I have seen them before and will see them again. Not one to leave a party early usually… but when that party has been going for 35 hours… even the sweet shop couldn’t save me!







Verve Day 3 Saturday 17th (AM)


I will link to the official review/blog posts over on the Verve website as soon as they are live. For now, here are some thoughts and LOTS of harvested photos. Verve © 2018 unless otherwise credited.


^^^ This one is actually from 2017 – but demonstrates how I felt energy wise for most of the morning, on just 4 hours sleep…


Another wild day at Verve Poetry Festival, an action packed programme and a FULL DAY of poetry. Fortunately, having survived the 4 day run of almost every event last year – this year I was prepared (Trail Mix, seat cushion, ballet pumps, a fresh t-shirt etc.), having said that, I stayed up far too late Friday night writing blog posts and overslept!

This meant I missed Cynthia Miller’s Poetry Breakfast and quite possibly some of the most creative conversations to be had about poetry.


Plus a bit of food (it was 4 days before I had a proper meal)! I did manage to get from bed to the train station in record time and caught the tail end of the event (there was still half an hour of it, but today was a day of Workshops).

pey pey poetry breakfast

PeyPey © 2018


Workshop with Karen McCarthy Woolf to start the day – yes please! I won this workshop as a prize for coming 2nd in the Haiku Poetry Slam at Grizzly Pear in December. An amazing event, a fabulous prize and a good way to start the day. The forms she covered were ones I knew (but with a tired brain this was fortunate), her workshop got my mind rolling and resulted in a few works in progress. I was already inspired by the reading from the night before. I just need to book myself some writing time… may use that 20 hour lay over in the summer!

6667437a3e3e0202cf56bc9c9133566b_1513184444228 © 2018

Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale & Mir Mahfuz Ali.

The City Poems Book Launch clashed with the Workshop, but I caught the very end of it. A great anthology.


The Verve Press had a fair amount of exciting announcements this weekend including up and coming collections. The mystery of Casey Bailey’s next publisher – solved!


Verve Poetry Press News

From here I hit Level 6 (inner sanctum) for my 2nd workshop with Sasha Dugdale. I thoroughly enjoyed her set the night before. Her workshop looked at Memorial and writing poems for/to our unsung heroes.


For the first time in ages I found myself unable to complete a poem in the workshop, but do have a skeleton of an idea. I was mightily impressed with the workshop poetry read, there were some highly acclaimed poets in our group.

offord books

Offord Road Books  © 2018

By the afternoon, after such a busy morning (mentally), I felt exhausted but I went straight back to the main stage and snuck in on Stablemates Offord Road Books with Jill Abram.


Monthly Review January



January started with a very Happy New Year and then winter germs got the better of me. Instead of starting back into the world of poetry (after a 3 week break), I had to miss Stanza and Cheltenham and spent the entire weekend in bed!

Week 1:

I usually break these posts into weeks and there is nothing to report for Week 1 other than I managed some time at the desk and whizzed off all the business emails which needed to be sent. There are several Worcestershire Poet Laureate projects I am working on: a couple of exhibitions to organise and a Transatlantic Poetry Project. I am also researching funding for the summer and have several events to prepare for.

I had my first successful submission for the MIND anthology, who are publishing ‘Human’.


Week 2: 

Mr G. gifted me the Mslexia Diary (which I have wanted for years) and it was full of work this week. I saw Casey Bailey headline at Licensed to Rhyme on Monday and practised my ‘Light’ poetry set for the event in Stratford-Upon-Avon later this month.

It was a lovely evening, even if I wasn’t 100% better. It was good to reconnect with everyone after Christmas. It was a good evening of poetry and my spirits were lifted.

On Wednesday I went to Permission to Speak where Claire Walker was headlining with her new pamphlet Somewhere Between Rose and Black

cwalker rose

A good evening with a mixture of poetry and prose and again lovely to reconnect to Black Country poets and the PTS crowd. Rob Francis was on top form and there was a good amount of audience as well as performers. A thoroughly enjoyable and lively evening.

cw speakeasy

Claire is a well-known poet throughout the West Midlands. With poetry published in various online and in-print collections, AND two solo publications to her name (The Girl Who Grew Into A Crocodile and Somewhere Between Rose and Black), Claire has a wealth of heartfelt material to draw from. Her poetry is intricate, gentle, and beautiful – and she’s the perfect antidote to your January blues.

On Thursday I went to SpeakEasy where Claire Walker was headlining – it was fabulous to see a good crowd and lots of new faces. I enjoyed listening to all the sets and also had a sneak preview of Suz Winspear’s new collection ‘The Awkward People’ – her Book Launch is on Sunday and I am one of the Guest Poets.


On Friday I discovered a writing opportunity that I wish I could have applied for but looking at next week’s schedule would have had to let a lot of people down, so I resisted the temptation. Needless to say it would have been a wonderful experience, but after Christmas it is equally important to earn some money. Arvon, is all I am saying!

I missed an application for a commission/project which was also a paid opportunity, it involved doing some work in London and the dates that were offered were once again already fully booked, so I did the sensible, honest thing and didn’t apply.

I am hoping that the holes created by these two lost opportunities will be plugged later this year with shiny, new ones, when the good karma coach comes back around.

I did discover two new opportunities that I could get my teeth into, one is an electronic study course that I should start receiving emails from tomorrow and the other is a Roadshow which may be beneficial to my funding research. This clashed with  the Cinnamon Press Showcase at Waterstones, frustratingly on the opposite side of the city but it was postponed, so I haven’t missed it after all.

I was due to spend part of the weekend at a Room 204 Talk but it has been postponed due to the facilitator having what I had at the beginning of the month.

On Sunday I received news of another 3 poems being published. One ‘A Hands-on Approach’ is a strange duck from NaPoWrimo 2017 is to be published in the Diverse Verse Anthology later this year. Deborah Alma put a call out for #Me Too poems and although mine did not make the collection (due to being too similar to work already accepted), they will appear online on the website. Vik Bennett – editor of Wild Women Press is working with Deb compiling a digital legacy for the project. I received two proof copies to read through and just had time to get my ‘Akward People’ set compiled and rehearsed for Suz’s Book Launch.

Suz Winspear’s Book Launch for The Awkward People was a fabulous afternoon, plenty of people turned out on this cold, wintery day to enjoy her work. Guest Poets included myself, Holly Magill & Kevin Brooke and Kieran Davies was MC. After a short introduction from Rod Griffiths (Black Pear Press Publisher) we had an entire afternoon of poetry to enjoy. Suz was in her element and it was great to hear her read from this new collection.

I of course bought myself my very own shiny book and had Suz sign it. A thoroughly enjoyable book launch and I cannot wait to read it cover to cover.


Week 3: 

Cheltenham Poetry Festival Marketing got underway. I will be performing in the festival April 26th. Nina Lewis


It is the 8th year and Anna Saunders has produced the biggest programme yet. Booking information here.

Read the first promotion post.


There were a few events I missed this week which I would have liked to attend, but I am busy writing and producing projects, so I think a Radio Slot, a Roadshow, a writing group and a performance at a special event is enough for one week. I am also preparing for Wolverhampton Literature Festival (WoLF) next week.

I worked hard on trying to secure a funding bid for a Summer project. I finally managed to book a WPL Radio Slot on BBC Hereford and Worcester, due to work October was my last broadcast.

On Tuesday I headed over to Birmingham City University for the British Council Literature Roadshow presented by Writing West Midlands. The evening included a presentation from Cortina Butler, the British Council’s Director of Literature and was a good opportunity to network. I am keeping my fingers crossed now for my funding application.

birmingham city

Saturday saw my WWM Sparks Young Writers Group in Worcester where I planned the session around more generous Christmas gifts from Mr. G. We looked at Science Fiction and created our own alien characters in preparation for longer writing in our February session.

Sunday saw a special event at the Kempe House Studios in Stratford-Upon-Avon with Cordula Kempe and Angela France. I sent three themed poems in December and two were picked, one of which was written in Angela’s December Workshop on Light and Colour. It was an inspiring evening, read more about it here.


Week 4+:

Again there were events I would have liked to attend, but this year is all about balance and focus and when you are in training no distractions can compete. I had a meeting planned to follow up Workshop work from last year WPL and the possible next leg of the project, unfortunately I have had to postpone it due to paid work.

I spent a large amount of time preparing for applications and working on AToTC – A Tale of Two Cities, my current Transatlantic WPL Project. I also had a lot of work on (after a drought of 5 months this is no bad thing but typically comes at a very busy period).

I managed to get to Poetry Bites which is now hosted by Elaine Christie and Matt Nunn after Jacqui Rowe bowed out at the end of 2017 after running the event for a long time. It was a wonderful, successful evening with Guest Poets Casey Bailey & Claire Walker.

Claire Walker is a Worcestershire poet, her poetry has appeared in magazines, online and in anthologies such as The Chronicles of Eve, her first pamphlet, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, Claire is a Poetry Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry. Casey Bailey is a poet, rapper, songwriter and a secondary school senior leader from Birmingham. He runs Bailey’s Rap and Poetry, as well as workshops in rap, poetry, music and song writing. Waiting at Bloomsbury Park is Casey’s first collection. © Live Brum 2018




Casey Bailey                                                                              Matt Nunn


pb me

© Elaine Christie


Wolverhampton Literature Festival (WoLF) was my main focus this week, I started promoting across social media. The festival is in the 2nd year with an amazing Arts Programme. Friday 26th – Sunday 28th.

I performed as part of a 5 person collective organised by the Wolverhampton Arts Festival Team. Our reading was in the Art Gallery on Saturday 27th 3:30 PM





A full review can be found here.


Week +

And finally the last few days of January were filled with desk work. Organising the final submissions for Contour Poetry Magazine, the deadline is the 1st February.

Working on my response poem as part of the ATOTC project and collating the work coming in as well as managing the 20+ poetry partnerships involved. In a moment of pure inspiration I decided to approach the Mayor of Worcester and ask if he would write the Foreward for the digital publication, he agreed. I am delighted. The project celebrates the cities.

I started planning the only official WPL event on my remit – World Poetry Day 21st March, seeking venue, securing performers, devising crazy (erm, I mean creative) ideas for the event.

Preparing for school workshops and meetings about them.

Researching and writing poems for 42, this month’s theme (chosen by Tim Stavert) Rag and Bone Man… I loved the idea, then I started trying to write… left it a fortnight, did a little background work, searched my memories and finally have a fairly rounded set including a spectacular 42-ish Haiku, political commentary wrapped up in a Tanka and a wonderful poem which is actually an acrostic. Happy with a couple of them.

42 Worcester was the final event of the month. Next month apart from the Verve Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word I will mainly be working from the desk. I have a billion things to do and prepare with workshops in February and March and writing schedules to keep. Contour magazine coming out and the special edition to work on.

I knew this time was coming and feel now, it has very much arrived. Of course, if you want to see me – you can always book me for your event.


Copy of Spring Event Flyer Template (2)

My Poet Laureate work this month involved planning and booking workshops, working on the Transatlantic Project – A Tale of Two Cities – managing the promotion and progression of the project, writing and collating poetry, working on Issue 2 of Contour – Love, completing  interviews, compiling a favourite poem list for the issue (out in February), having my first BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio Interview since October and organising the next steps of several projects started in 2017.

My next mission is to allocate enough time for the rest of my ideas over the next 5 months. I realise some of the WPL work will continue after Worcestershire gets a new Laureate, I always knew this would be the case. There are certain things I want to complete before I become a former Poet Laureate though (shivers). The team are already on the look out for the next Poet Laureate, applications are open until March. Check for more details if you reside in the county.



And finally, I started work on planning my World Poetry Day event for March. Very exciting!

WPD 2                        Love Promo 2


Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018 – Power


It is that beautiful time of the year again when Cheltenham Poetry Festival reveal the programme and tickets go on sale!




Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018

18 – 30 April, venues throughout the town

Visitors to Cheltenham Poetry Festival will have the chance to fight the power, at least with a pen – this Spring.

 banner email

The Festival, which has been described as ‘ A poetry party with a healthy dose of anarchy’ by the Guardian offers a jam packed programme of readings, performances, cinema, music and socially conscious workshops all inspired by a theme of ‘power’.

On offer this year is a workshop with poet Peter Raynard called Fight the Power and plus David PunterProfessor of Poetry at the University of Bristol talks about anarchy, capitalism and political poetry.

The Eighth Cheltenham Poetry Festival celebrate the power of words in a programme of exciting live literature events, challenge the abuse of power in a series of outspoken readings, empower lives with inspiring and innovative community activities and powder keg your poetry with our potent workshops.

Highlights of 2018 include BBC Radio 6 Music’s Poet in Residence Murray Lachlan Young – ‘A rock ‘n’ roll poet of our time’ (Chrissie Hynde),‘Chap hop’s leading exponent’ (The Wall Street JournalProfessor Elemental, Salford rising star JB Barrington, hip hop artist TrueMendous,  ‘the missing link between Jarvis Cocker and Roger McGough’ (Irish TimesVinny Peculiar, internationally acclaimed writer Amir Darwish, ex judo champ turned poet Owen Lowery and TS Eliot Prize winner Jacob Polley.

As ever the Festival welcomes some of the UK’s most important contemporary poets to the Festival. They include Jonathan Davidson, Martyn CrucefixSam Willets, Costa- Prize winner Jonathan Edwards, Rishi Dastidar, Pat Borthwick, Gill McEvoy, Peter Raynard, Tom Sastry, Wayne Holloway Smith,  Cora GreenhillAdam Horovitz, Jane Commane, Chrys Salt, Nina Lewis, Rachael Allen, Patrick Mackie and Ben Wilkinson to name just a few!

Also on offer are poetry film showcases from Elephants Footprint, a screening the critically acclaimed film Love Somehow – a poetic re- telling of Caitlin’s Relationship with Dylan Thomas (staring Griff Rhys Jones as the voice of Dylan), Scarestories – a multi-media dystopian vision of the western word featuring poetry from David Clarke and the chance to explore local history with Angela France’s praised poetry show The Hill. 

Read more


‘ A poetry party with a healthy dose of anarchy’ – the Guardian.

‘Talks, walks, workshops and lots of lovely poetry take the streets of Cheltenham to a higher plane for this yearly celebration of all things lyrical’. METRO UK

‘One of the foremost poetry festivals in the country’. Hamish Wilson

Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018 (18 Apr 2018 – 30 Apr 2018)

The biggest and best yet!


WoLF for the Day



Wolverhampton Literature Festival (WoLF) was my main focus this week. The festival is in the 2nd year with an amazing Arts Programme. Friday 26th – Sunday 28th.

I performed as part of a 5 person collective organised by the Wolverhampton Arts Festival Team. Our reading was in the Art Gallery on Saturday 27th 3:30 PM





In an ideal world I would have been able to stay in Wolverhampton and immerse myself in the full festival experience. I really wanted to go to Liz Berry and Bones Presents on Friday night, but only had Saturday free.

I made the most of my time by attending events at the Lych Gate Tavern, organised by Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists – (Steve Pottinger, Dave Pitt and Emma Purshouse) before heading over to the Art Gallery for 3 PM.

I had hoped to arrive in time to catch Music for Dogs.

Written by Paula Meehan (former Ireland Professor of Poetry), Directed by Patricia Kessler, Performed by Carol Caffrey

I missed it, which made me sad, it has had some fabulous reviews. At least I managed to see Carol before she headed off.


Melanie Branton is looking for a boyfriend. And it’s not going well. In her first full-length spoken word show, My Cloth-Eared Heart, she charts a thirty-year epic quest that has included a brush with a psychopath, stalking various strangers on the internet, and a turbulent relationship with a verb. A show about love, failure, stubbornness and being single in a couple-centric world.

wolf melanie branton © WoLF Programme

I first saw Melanie Headline Uncorked – Holly Daffurn’s night in Worcester, last year. It was great to see the whole show.

I caught most of Jonny Fluffypunk’s new show, had to slip out early to get to the Gallery. He is one of my favourite poets (I feel connected to his surrealism, punk driven imagination and love for coffee) it was a shameful to miss the end, but I had to set up for our performance,  such are the perils of clashing performance programmes.



Jonny Fluffypunk grew up where nothing ever happened. This is a story about finding yourself, when you find yourself somewhere you don’t belong. It’s about unrequited love and the importance of a good record shop. it’s also about trains and memory and tiny magical moments and letting go. It’s lo-fi stand-up spoken word theatre for anyone who has ever loved, owned a vinyl record or just been alive.

wolf jfp © WoLF Programme

The theatre of the imagination blew me away!


exterior-wolverhampton-art-gallery1536ls (1) art fund org© Art Fund 2018

Then it was time for the WoLF collective, 90 minutes of music, poetry, books and life shared by five very different voices. It was fun and great to chat with the audience about poetry afterwards. It was lovely to meet Laura Liptrot, Maurice Malcolm and Rosina Trotman and reconnect with the ever-wonderful Sophie Sparham.

Before the Slam there was time to go for a bit of food and a bunch of us headed off to try amazing cuisine, Indian Street food in Zuri Coffee. A real gastro experience.


Then I got lost wandering around the streets of Wolverhampton in completely the wrong direction. (Anyone surprised by this has not been reading my blog long enough!)

Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists presented the second Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival Poetry Slam. MCs, Steve Pottinger, Dave Pitt and Emma Purshouse.

Brenda Read-Brown won the slam with Rick Sanders and Ezra Poundland taking second & third place.

Another great year for WoLF – may the howl continue. You never know by the 3rd or 4th year, I may even know my way around!



My gratitude to Amarjit Nar for making yesterday possible.


And finally… this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Sophie’s boots… having spent a while in conversation it was time for the event to kick off and it wasn’t until she took to the mic that I looked at her feet! I had the beginning of my set all prepared but seeing her feet really threw me. Love these DM’s.

sophie boots

So my opening line: ‘I have just lost all my words & fallen in love with Sophie’s Boots!’ is going to find its way into a poem sometime soon!


wolf banner



WoLF – Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival


This is the 2nd year for Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival and the programme is packed with great events. It started today and runs until Sunday 28th.

Full programme details can be found here. Including Will Self, Liz Berry, Tony Walsh, Ian Billings, Jonny Fluffypunk, Luke Kennard and MORE!


In 2017 I performed as part of the Quiet Compere Event and this year I am performing as part of the WoLF Collective tomorrow afternoon at the Art Gallery.

Nina Lewis
Rosina Trotman
Maurice Malcolm
Sophie Sparham
Laura Liptrot

in the CONTEMPORARY GALLERY at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 3:30 – 5 PM


From the pens of a diverse group of writers comes poetry, prose and excerpts from novels.  


Writers draw from life experiences to bring you tales from around the world.  


My set is based on Fragile Houses, now on its second print run.


Fragile Houses by Nina Lewis


Poetry is Life


Once in a while you get golden opportunities to do something outside of your normal/usual experience. I have always loved finding places for my poems outside the bound pages of a book, this is why they have appeared in Bank Vaults for an International Dance Festival, formed art installations, been displayed on poetry trails at festivals and on fences at museums and hung on branches of trees.

I love performing at unique events also. That is what last night was to me.

Cordula Kempe lives in the Kempe Studio at The Muses in Stratford-upon-Avon, where she produces an annual programme (and has done for 30 years) in aid of The Ruldolf Kempe Society in support of Young Musicians/Artists. Dame Judi Dench is the Patron.

I have known about these classical programmes since 2016, Cordula uses actors for the readings, although from time to time there are opportunities to contribute poems to the Word & Music Programmes, Cordula (as far as I know) has never used the poets themselves for the readings.

Songs of Apollo Word and Music Events

A new way to meet, enjoy and love the Classics

Bergonzi Quartet & Friends
with RSC and NT Actors

Kempe Studio at The Muses
58 Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BA

Last night ‘Poetry is Life: Colour, Light and Shade’ was a programme of music & poetry read by actors & poets devised by Cordula Kempe, Angela France & Zubin Varla.

It was a truly magical experience. Crossing the lines of my acting past and my writing present, being absorbed by words, music, humour, talent and soaking up the atmosphere created by 22 creatives in a room as wonderful as the studio. I know Poetry is Life – but if I was in any doubt I would know it now for sure.


Actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre are reading their own favourite poems on a given subject, which this year is colour, light and shade.

The words will be interwoven with short piano pieces ranging from Bach to Shostakovich, played by well-known actor and singer Zubin Varla. © Stratford-upon-Avon Herald 2018



It was a privilege to be part of ‘Poetry is Life’ last night, the Songs of Apollo programme  devised by Cordula Kempe with words and music music, traditionally the words have been spoken by actors. Programme 1 of the 2018 season was special because it included invited poets reading their work.

Following a workshop with Angela France last year, poems were submitted and the accepted works formed part of the script. 
There were 15 poets involved in last night’s performance: 
Angela France, Nina Lewis, Kathryn Alderman, Jenna Plewes, Marg Roberts, Connie Ramsay Bott, Ann Alexander, Wendy Freeman, Cathy Whittaker, Belinda Rimmer, Susan Davies, Hazell Hills, Ann Drysdale, John Mason & Linda Williams.

A wonderful experience to be part of.




Poetry Swindon Festival – Day 4


Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer) and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.

Day 4 

Sunday 8th October

swindon RJ

Sunday… a day of rest? Erm, NO! It was quite a sad day, we had already lost Gram Joel Davies to the dreaded Swindon Lurgy, which was caught by the whole team and some of our resident poets too and Jill Carter the Artist in Residence! Today we had to wave goodbye to Sarah L. Dixon*. We also had to steward on very little sleep and draining energy supplies. So extra holes in the heart were quick to drag us down. But we were picked up by the ever positive Hilda Sheehan in the morning meeting where we scheduled the last full day of the festival.

*I knew I was going to miss Sarah, lots. I managed to sneak a little message and a poem into her suitcase for her to find once she made it home. After having a roommate it was very strange to be in a room on my own.

This was the final day of workshops, Jacqueline Saphra had stepped up to run a workshop as Jacci Bulman was unable to make it and Rishi Dastidar was booked to facilitate a Call & Response Workshop.

10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Call and Response Sun Inn With Rishi Dastidar
We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve been inspired by other poems, maybe visual art too, and then written in response to them. So what happens when we use pop songs instead? That’s the simple premise behind ‘Call and Response’, where some great music will hopefully provide great inspiration for writing poems. Just bring some paper, pencils – and your ears.
Rishi Dastidar is a fellow of The Complete Works, a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. His debut collection, Ticker-tape, is published by Nine Arches Press.

SPF Rishi Workshop MF

SPF rishi 2

It was a most enjoyable experience, music really bringing me to waking moments on this tired Sunday morning, full of thoughts of goodbyes and trying to keep a balanced heart, this workshop lifted me out of that head-space. It was fast, furious and fun and a surprising amount of poetry was created. I loved hearing everyone’s takes on the same pieces and Rishi was a fantastic workshop leader. I would not hesitate to workshop with him again!

Over at the Museum A. F. Harrold had it all under control at the Open Mic Talent Show. This was the 2nd event for children, the first took place on Thursday 5th October on the opening day of the festival, whilst we were at Artsite.

10:30 to 12:00 POETRY RHYME TIME RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
You are invited to meet Custard the Dragon, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, and many more famous poetry friends. A fun and animated poetry rhyme time with music and movement for under 5’s, with arts & crafts with Suzie, and poetry.

Events for children is another great element of the Poetry Swindon Festival. Children are no strangers to the Richard Jefferies Museum programme either.

spf harold & milo

A. F. Harrold and Milo.

10:30 to 12:00 CHILDREN’S OPEN MIC TALENT SHOW RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With A. F. Harrold
A morning of poetry play and fun for children under 11 years, presented by Milo age 10 and A.F. Harold. With Special Guest Young Poet Sophie Daniels. Come along with a poem, a song or a story – one you have created yourself, or a favourite!
A.F. Harrold is the author of the hilarious Fizzlebert Stump series, the award-winning book The Imaginary and the children’s poetry collections I Eat Squirrels and Things You Find In A Poet’s Beard (illustrated by Chris Riddell). He is well known for his energetic and silly performances where almost anything can happen. Expect poems, jokes, beards and nonsense, and maybe a snippet of his brand new book, Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space.

Back to the Museum for Lunch and an action packed day for the team with three Stewards down. Julia Webb had stepped up to an afternoon reading as a poet couldn’t make it and had some time to go and prepare and of course, we had lost Gram and Sarah. I think this was one of the hardest work days, but all work is fun when you are part of such a great team.

13:30 to 14:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Rishi Dastidar, Jessica Mookherjee & Camilla Nelson
Transgressions and experiments of three daring poets who tread where it doesn’t seem safe or sane, and so manage to open our eyes and ears to the real pulse of the present.
If you were unable to get to Rishi Dastidar ‘s workshop in the morning, this is your chance to hear from his debut collection, Ticker-tape.
Camilla Nelson is a language artist, researcher and collaborator. Her current work is Apples & Other Languages, published by Knives Forks and Spoons.
Jessica Mookherjee is a poet of Bengali origin. Her first collection, Darshan will be published by Cultured Llama in 2018.
AWF Rishi Dastidar

I have heard Rishi Dastidar reading at Ledbury and Waterstones Birmingham and it is always a delight to hear from this collection, Ticker-tape. Nine Arches Press were certainly well represented at this year’s festival.

In the afternoon reading I was so touched by one of Jessica Mookherjee’s poems that I completely unravelled! Which was a tricky situation to be in when there is no-one around as everyone was busy watching the event.

This is the power of poetry.

AWF Jess Mookherjee

A speedy turn around for the last Open Mic event of the festival and one I could finally take part in.

15:00 to 16:00 OPEN MIC – Magic RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
‘I believe reality is approximately 65% if. All rivers are full of sky. Waterfalls are in the mind. We all come from slime.’
Dean Young Can you pull a poem out of hat? Join in as poetry is conjured from every beautiful mind. With special guest readings from Kathy Gee & Liz Mills – once upon a time Kathy was a museum curator, so for quite a while she wrote about ‘stuff’ and what we leave behind. Liz has written and acted all her life but only started writing poetry last summer.

During this event many poets appeared (for the next event) and I really wanted to leave the book stall and go to catch up with them, but I was torn as it seemed rude to miss the open mic-ers and I was also waiting for a slot (names were pulled from a hat). I stayed put.

I enjoyed the ‘Magic’ open mic and this time it was the turn of Kathy Gee and Liz Mills to take the Guest Spots. It was a lively event with some beautifully magic poetry.

kathy Gee

Guest Poet Kathy Gee


Louisa Davison


Louisa Campbell


Miranda L. Barnes

susan taylor

Susan Taylor

shaun butler

Shaun Butler

iris anne lewis

Iris Anne Lewis

James Harris

James Harris


I performed one of the shortest poems in the book ‘Linger’.

bethan rees

Bethan Rees

1simon williams

Simon Williams


1 liz mills

Guest Poet Liz Mills

A quick stint behind the bar and then it was onto the final afternoon Readings of the festival. I was very much looking forward to seeing Daniel Sluman reading again and discovering the poetry of Alex Josephy, having met her earlier on at the Book Stall. Melissa Lee-Houghton was unable to make it so we had the delight of Julia Webb reading from her collection Bird Sisters (also Nine Arches Press).

1 ds read

16:30 to 17:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Melissa Lee-Houghton, Daniel Sluman & Alex Josephy
Intense and exacting reading from three of Britain’s rawest readers.
Melissa Lee-Houghton was named a Next Generation Poet 2014 for Beautiful Girls. Her latest book, Sunshine (Penned in the Margins, 2016) saw her shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award, Ted Hughes Award and Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Daniel Sluman is a poet and disability rights activist based in Oxfordshire. He was named one of Huffington Post’s Top 5 British Poets to Watch in 2015. His debut collection Absence has a weight of its own was released by Nine Arches Press in 2012. Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. She has been a student and teacher of poetry all her life and leads a poetry reading group in East London. Her poems have been published widely in magazines and anthologies.

1 alex

Alex Josephy


Daniel Sluman


Julia Webb

Then came the teatime rush and finally the Festival Finale… which deserves a post all to itself!


Poetry Swindon Festival Day 3


Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer) and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.

Day 3 

Saturday 7th October 

swindon dog

What better way to spend the weekend than at a poetry festival. Full of energy (and hash browns), I was ready in green for another day in the Tent Palace and Richard Jefferies Museum.

Just like Friday, Saturday kicked off with poetry workshops (after morning meetings for the team).

10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Blurred Boundaries RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Tania Hershman
Some poems are also fictions; some stories are also poems. Where does one end and the other begin? We will take a wander through this fuzzy territory, from poem to short story and the weird and wonderful in between.

swindon tania blurred boundaries mf

10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Being ‘Political’ Holiday Inn 
With Daljit Nagra
Some poems can hit you over the head with their political rage, or they can try to persuade you to their vision as the best way ahead. Explore with Daljit some ways in which poetry can deal with contemporary issues but with complexity and subtlety. Participants should expect to have tried to write their own poems of witness in the session.

Knowing it would stretch me – I opted for a 2nd workshop with Daljit Nagra. Another action packed session and more potential poems scribbled in my notebook. A whole sequence on Education materialised.

Then it was back to the Museum for Lunch before the first afternoon event, another open mic, this time with the theme of Happiness and guest spots from Marilyn Hammick and John Mills.


13:00 to 14:00 OPEN MIC: Happiness RJ Museum Tent-Palace
‘Oh god it’s wonderful to get out of bed, drink too much coffee…and love you so much.’ 
Frank O’Hara
This open mic aims to have everyone leaving the tent palace with a smile on their face. Bring us your joys and your gleefulness. Feel like the sun is shining, even if it’s raining! With special guest readings from Marilyn Hammick & John Mills.

spf how to get published

14:30 to 15:30 POETS & PUBLISHERS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Discussions led by poet Carrie Etter with two prominent poetry editors, Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan. Come and join a discussion about what it takes to get published.
Carrie Etter is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her most recent collection, Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society.
Since 1990, American expatriate Amy Wack has edited Seren Books’ multi-prizewinning poetry list. Her own poems have appeared in various journals, most recently a 12-part poem inspired by feral cats in Spain in Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Jean Chan, from Hong Kong, is shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal.

This was a truly insightful event to attend and some interesting questions were answered.

SPF mad & Glow

16:00 to 17:00 MAD & GLOW RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Mad & Glow are Jacqueline Saphra and Tania Hershman, but they refuse to tell who is who. However, they do promise to entertain you with brazen stories in poem and prose from each and both; a confederacy of words from a world that contains mad mothers and glowing jellyfish, kisses and war, salt, light and a few waterlilies.

This was an interesting event which will appear again next February at the Verve Festival of Poetry & Spoken Word in Birmingham. I feel a little honoured to have been part of the first outing and had a jam sandwich to boot!

AWF PS Me Sarah


Another thing I love about Poetry Swindon is the action on feedback. Last year the only thing missing was somewhere to sit. So they created the bar area for refreshments outside, plenty of picnic tables, relocated the Tent Palace and the old tea room/book shop became a whole room to chill out in, with gingham tablecloths littered with poetry magazines. Sarah and I dip into some our poems made it into and some they didn’t.

SPF Christina Battered Moons
Christina Newton – Organiser Battered Moons

19:00 to 21:00 BATTERED MOONS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Malika Booker
Battered Moons 2017 will be celebrating seven winning poets and their poems, with dazzling poet Malika Booker handing out the prizes and reading from her own work. Malika is a Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds and chair of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2016. Her Malika’s Poetry Kitchen has inspired models from Delhi to Chicago.
The evening will include a musical treat brought by the outstanding voice of Caitlin Eastham and her band.

SPF Christina Newton


Spf Caitlin Eastham

Caitlin Eastham

SPF Malika Booker

Malika Booker



A spectacular event (to almost round off the evening) with music, winning poems and Malika Booker (who I first discovered at Ledbury Poetry Festival this year), a woman with a heart as big as Poetry Swindon. It was lovely managing a quick chat with her later in the evening.

SPF bar

The final event of the evening was a musical one, much acclaimed and my late night bar duty.

21:30 ‘til late LATE NIGHT TOAST SPECIAL RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Keith James in concert – The Songs of Leonard Cohen
With a lifetime reputation of performing and an undying love of the ‘pure song’ Keith James gives you a concert of Cohen’s amazing material in the most intimate and sensitive way imaginable, exposing the solitary inner strength of his greatest songs in their original perfect form.
‘Some of the most atmospheric and emotive music you will ever hear.’
The Independent.

You can catch Keith James here.


This event was thoroughly enjoyed by all in The Tent Palace of Delicious Air and those of us outside it. *

After a late night bar, we finished late… later than the night before. The Late Night Special finished later than any other event on the schedule, the start scheduled at the time most events finished. Then there was the bar… then after the last festival goers had gone to bed… the team celebrated Sarah L. Dixon’s pre-Birthday, Birthday! Somewhat of a new tradition having managed to have her big, special birthday on her final day in Swindon last year. There was cake and beer.


*This year… Sarah started the celebrations before Battered Moons Event…


Tony Hillier loves any excuse to dance, after we all went to bed on Friday, he went out clubbing… so two late nights in a row for this man who could teach us all a thing or two about partying!

By the time Keith James took to the stage there was a competing house party in the Museum! And like all good parties it happened in the kitchen, no. The bathroom! Pizza had been ordered and merriment was on the agenda.


I had been outside manning the bar, but realising the games were afoot inside and attempting to go and soundproof the venue, I discovered the epicentre of the party on the landing and you know, these are once in a lifetime moments (like sharing barn hammocks with Angela France and Jo Bell in 2014).

SPF anna bath

SPF Anna bath 2

At the officially organised pre-birthday/last night party there was a dance floor, a special mix tape that Hilda had compiled, the Swindon Dog, Poetry Pram balloons and plenty of dancing feet. It was a marvellous, strange, fun night. One that finished just 5 hours before we had to be up again. Sarah herself was having to leave the next day, which had to be an easier exit than workshops, events and stewarding… something to bear in mind when the Dancing Queen pulls this again!

SPF Party dixon

SPF party mf

SPF dixon1

SPF dixon

When a party starts after Midnight… we eventually made it to bed with a few hours to sleep before morning alarms!

AAWF Swindon Party


Poetry Swindon Day 2 – Evening


AWF Cafe

After the excitement of the afternoon poetry ramble, people were hungry and lots of drinks and amazing cakes were bought and consumed. After that was served and cleared away we were all ready for more poetry.

17:00 to 18:00 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Poke into the poetry box! Treasures of the heart, inca-named stardust, and various severed body parts! An hour of humour and water with Sue Rose, Emma Simon and Simon Williams.
Emma Simon won the Prole Laureate poetry competition in 2013 and loss, love & severed body parts scatter through her first collection Dragonish (The Emma Press). Simon Williams latest collection, Inti, was published in July. Sue Rose is the author of three poetry collections. Heart Archives was published by Hercules Editions in 2014.

An hour of poetry from Sue Rose, Emma Simons and Simon Williams. Sue Rose read from Heart Archives – Hercules Editions, Emma read from Dragonish – Emma Press, Simon read from Inti.

It was an enjoyable and well received reading.

SPF Simon Williams 2

Simon Williams


AWF PS Emma Simon

Emma Simon

SPF Sue Rose

Sue Rose

This left time for tea and a myriad of jobs to do before all entering the Tent Palace for the final reading of the night. We finished with Primers.

20:00 to 21:00 POETRY PRIMERS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
The 2016 nationwide Primers scheme of The Poetry School & Nine Arches Press discovered the talents of Ben Bransfield, Cynthia Miller and Marvin Thompson.
Ben Bransfield was named a Teacher Trailblazer by the Poetry Society in 2015. Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, currently part of Room 204, Writing West Midlands’ creative development programme for emerging writers. Marvin Thompson’s poems/sequences have appeared in a number of magazines.

It was an evening rich in poetry.

spf nine arches primers all

Primer Poets introduced by Tony Hillier and pictured with Publisher Jane Commane.

SPF Nine Arches Primers Ben Bransfield

Ben Bransfield

SPF Nine Arches Primers Cynthia Miller

Cynthia Miller

SPF Nine Arches Primers Marvin Orville

Marvin Thompson

The night followed with traditional free toast, the bar was open and just through the first thicket of trees a Bonfire complete with camp fire log seats, was enjoyed by poets and punters. The team caught up once the bar was closed.

SPF bonfire

SPF Bonfire 2

SPF bonfire reading

See, I told you this festival was special!

AAWF SP Bonfire

It felt like this was a late finish after the toast and bonfire… but as I was to discover… this evening had nothing on late.

Photography Credits: Mark Farley (Official Festival photographer), Gram Joel Davies and Richard Jefferies Museum © 2017 Copyright remains with them.