Category Archives: Review

Verve Poetry Festival Live Blog


Verve Poetry Festival Poetry Parlour

and Verve Poetry Festival Hit the Ode Tech Special



Verve Day 1 Thursday 15th Feb.


verve 18

WOW! What an amazing night that was. I was up until the early hours writing my first Verve Festival Blog posts, high on post-event adrenalin. I will share the links as soon as the posts go live. Until then enjoy these harvested clips and shots!

Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker and Hit the Ode Technology Special were superb< understatement!

Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker

Cynthia Miller Pat Edwards Cynthia Miller © Pat Edwards 2018

Imitiaz Dharker Jane Commane Pat EdwardsPat Edwards © 2018

Imtiaz Dharker in conversation with Jane Commane

Imtiaz Dharker Cyn M

Cynthia Miller © 2018

hannah swings

Hannah Swings © 2018

Hit the Ode Verve Technology Special

Our three featured poets for the Hit the Ode Tech Special – Tomomi Adachi, Yomi Sode & Hannah Silva – all use technology in their performances. These poets bend technology to their will, using it to inform, enhance and warp their words. They achieve what Tomomi Adachi describes as ‘an intermediary between poetry and music, and it doesn’t mean poetry plus music, its something in between.’ 

Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival © 2018

HTO Gaia Harper

Bohdan Piasecki Hosting HTO – Gaia Harper © 2018

tomani cyn m

Tomomi Adachi pre-wearable tech. Verve Team © 2018

tomani hannah swings

Tomomi Adachi – Hannah Swings © 2018

silva tomani hannah swings


Hannah Silva & Tomomi Adachi -Bringing the magic. Hannah Swings © 2018

hannah swings yomi


Yomi Sode – Hannah Swings © 2018

And for those who missed it all, snippets from the amazing HTO! Enjoy!

I went home after nearly 5 hours at Waterstones with this ringing in my ears…

Verve Official Blogger Links to be shared soon.



Verve Ready!


For the next 4 days I will mainly be living at Waterstones, Birmingham for the Verve Festival of Poetry & Spoken Word.

It was a delight last year and I am ready for the pleasure again this year. It will be amazing!

verve 10

A packed programme awaits.


I cannot begin to express my excitement! Hoping the exclamation marks will do.

I am also this year’s official blogger for the Festival, so watch out for links to the Verve blog over the next few days, I promise it will make you feel you are there too!

Post festival I will be shutting myself away in a dark room to write a review of the entire Festival for Sabotage Reviews (as I did in 2017), all incredibly brilliant.

Come hear world-class poetry and write your own poems at our workshops and masterclasses at Verve, Birmingham’s Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word, taking place Thursday, February 15th – Sunday, February 18th, 2018 at Waterstones Birmingham. For full details of our programme and the poets that will light up the Verve stage.

© Verve Poetry Festival 2018

Thursday 15th February

18:30 – 20:00
Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker
20:30 – 22:30
Hit The Ode: Verve Technology Special
Our three featured poets for the event – Tomomi Adachi, Yomi Sode & Hannah Silva – all use technology in their performances. These poets bend technology to their will, using it to inform, enhance and warp their words. 

verve v stick

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

2017 Optimus Anno Tamen


2012 brighton 427

The end of this year marks 4 years as a writer. I still have 10 months to go before I make 4 years as a poet. I originally planned everything from Olympic inspiration, meaning this time next year (or next October) will be my true review.

This post feels slightly egocentric – the initial purpose for this blog was to share such news. It has always given me pleasure to discover what steps poets took to get where they are today and this information – the scaffold of their career is not something widely shared. A glimpse behind the scenes is encouraging for want to be/would be/ emerging writers, so please forgive the ‘I, I, I’ of this 2017 Highlights post.

I can already safely say that I have been blessed with an amazing year. Here are my 2017 highlights.

tree-2904844_1920 January: 

Collaboration: At the end of 2016 Claire Walker and I met to discuss collaborating. We have both had exceptionally busy years and lots of new opportunities, but we started well by submitting and being published in the collaboration issue of Zoomoozophone Review Magazine.

New Learning – Events Management: I organised events for Literature/Arts Festivals this year. I organised a Poetry Collective for Stourbridge Literature Festival – David Calcutt, Kathy Gee, myself and Claire Walker.

I sent an application to Worcester LitFest for a collaborative Poetry Show with fellow V. Press Poets Kathy Gee and Claire Walker.

Performances: Baldy Poems Presents Kings and Queens of Comedy in association with the Worcester LitFest & Fringe.

Wolverhampton Literature Festival – Quiet Compere with Sarah Dixon.




car-2039180_1920 February:

Festivals: attending a new festival in Birmingham – Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival, 4 days of total immersion, some fabulous workshops with Kim Moore and Sarah Howe and a Festival Review published on Sabotage Reviews.


Events Management: I began organising the poetry elements for ArtsFest in Droitwich for the DAN team.

Opportunities: I applied for WWM Room 204.

Published: 3 of my poems were published in Nuclear Impact – Broken Atoms in Our Hands – Shabda Press, this labour of love started in 2015. It is a massive anthology and contains 4 poets from the U.K.




spring-1209086_1920 March

Fragile Houses: received two incredible reviews from Rachel Stirling & Sam Smith.

Opportunities: I got into Room 204 (but was embargoed until April, one of the hardest secrets to keep)! This writer development scheme can be life changing for many writers. For those already embedded in the writing world it is a chance to gain further knowledge, experience and guidance/support.

I was asked to promote Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Festivals: my poems made it to Scotland, they appeared on the High Street for the BIG Lit Festival Stewartry, Scotland.

WLF (Worcester LitFest) my bid for the Poetry Show was accepted.

Applied for Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2017/18

Performance: Manchester Headline Quiet, Quiet Loud with Mark Pajak and Becky Cherriman.




easter-2110346_1920 April

Challenges: I successfully completed NaPoWriMo, using three different prompts – resulting in 99 poems!

Festivals: Stourbridge Literature Festival Voices From The Middle, an event I organised.

Performances: Poetry Ballroom with Suz Winspear & DanceFest.

Endorsement: I was asked to endorse a new poetry collection, this is the 2nd book I have written an endorsement for.

napofeature2017-2Stourbridgevpress sbdancefest



tea-time-1035261_1920 May:

Promotions: Promoted Cheltenham Poetry Festival for Anna Saunders.

Events & Reunions: I started the Performance Poetry/Spoken Word scene whilst at uni in Leicester, where I met Rob Gee. In those early days I did some PR for him and watched him become a mega star. Fast forward 15 years and I saw he was doing Cheltenham Literature Festival. Fast forward a few more years and here I am back in the Poetry World and who should be bringing his Forget Me Not Tour to the MAC! We hadn’t seen each other for nearly 2 decades and it felt like we had been together just the day before. Incredible show, A M A Z I N G reunion! One of my very definite highlights of 2017!


Following my 2nd John Hegley Workshop (Cheltenham Poetry Festival), we wandered into town for an impromptu performance in Waterstones (we did not make it in time for the end of the Open Mic there – but we created our own stage). The looks on people’s faces, especially the kids, when John started his performance was special. This was also my 2nd opportunity to have a real conversation with Mr. H. Such a lovely man. Supportive, genuine and interested.

Book Launches: Book Launch of C.S Barnes, for ‘The Women You Were Warned About’, the first book I was asked to endorse, on the back cover with Luke Kennard. An incredibly dark and fascinating book of monologues/short stories. A really interesting concept and a great read!

Room 204: I started working on the Adam Speaks Croome Court Project with Chris Alton (Lead Artist) & 10 writers from Room 204.

Completed a Screen Writing Course with UEA (University of East Anglia).

WLF: I became a finalist for the WLF Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition.


C:/Users/Tony/Documents/Writing Projects/Black Pear/The Women YoimgID54935282.jpg.gallery4 tutorsnspot


P1030946.JPG June – Here comes the BIG ONE! 

WLF: I became the 7th Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

Festivals – Worcester LitFest: Performed 30-40-60, our collaborative Poetry Show with Kathy Gee & Claire Walker.

WPL: Appeared as WPL at many of the festival events.

Organised my first event as WPL at the Chateau Impney as part of Salt King 200 Celebrations. A performance from local poets.

Organised a Poetry Anthology/ Collection to mark World Refugee Day. A 48 hour turn around project.

Room 204: Attended the National Writers’ Conference – organised by WWM, the last time I went was back in 2014.

PL304060salt-king200world refugee UNnwc 1


kupvirag-839751_1920 July:

WPL: Started my regular Radio Slot with Tammy Gooding for BBC Hereford & Worcester.

Had my official WPL T-shirt!

Worked on a European/Twinned Town Poetry Project.

Created Contour the WPL Digital Magazine, submissions opened for poems on Place/Worcestershire.


Festivals: Ledbury Poetry Festival

Evesham Festival of Words

Droitwich ArtsFest – Day of Poetry, where I organised & performed in 2 events.

Artsfest Poet in Residence at Droitwich Library.


Opportunities: Was asked to apply for Reader in Residence position with WMRN.


Workshop: with Helen Ivory and Martin Figura, finally got to meet these two!


Performances: Commissioned performance for Buildings Talk – Hospital Histories.


Room 204: Adam Speaks Croome Court Project Creative Session/Workshop with Chris Alton.

bbc_radio_hereford_worcesterDAN Rhyslaureatedroitwich artsfestBuildings Talk



wolfenbuttel-2438812_1920 August: 

WPL: Planned a Transatlantic Poetry Project (initiated in July).

Planned a Sculpture Trail Workshop at The Jinney Ring.

Organised a poetry event to celebrate Salt Day at the Salt Festival.


Festivals: Performed at LakeFest.

Salt Festival Poetry Event.

Worcester Festival – Performed at Ben Parker’s Event at Huntingdon Hall.

Booked for Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018.


WMRN: Appointed as Reader in Residence at Rugby Library 2017/18

Logo-700ruth 10worcs festivalworcester festival


sunset-2805693_1920 September:

WPL: Sculpture Trail Workshop (the 1st workshop I have facilitated for over 12 years).

Headlined SpeakEasy.

Realised I am the youngest WPL!

First talk as a Poet – Evesham Festival of Words Second Friday Stories organised by Sue Johnson.


WPL Commission: was asked to write 3 poems for the Unremembered of WW1 Anthology.


Commission: Was approached by Liz Johnson to write and perform poetry for Credo.


Festivals: Salt Festival

Birmingham Literature Festival


Performances: Performed at Free Verse, London’s Poetry Book Fair, V. Press.


Room 204: Performed as part of Birmingham Literature Festival Literary Allsorts.

A New Design (5)IMG_20170918_115733TM-Salt-Fest-Web-Visit-Wychavon-Banner-2017Lit Allsorts BLF


forest-2165911_1920 October:

WPL: Contour WPL Digital Poetry Magazine Issue 1 released.

Worked on the Hanbury Hall Poets Project Ekphrastic poetry with DAN Exhibition.

Created Mental Health Anthology for World Mental Health Awareness Day.

Created a Halloween Poetry Film.

Children’s Workshop Halloween Event LITtleFest WLF.


WPL Commission: Asked by Peter Sutton to write and perform at his Elgar Poetry Event, a fundraiser for the Elgar Festival 2018 at the Elgar School of Music.


Festivals: Poetry Swindon – Performed V. Formation.

Birmingham Literature Festival.


Workshops: As part of Poetry Swindon Festival with Daljit Nagra and Rishi Dastidar.


Room 204: Adam Speaks Tree House poem accepted.

Applied for Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2018.


and of course INKSPILL – our online writing retreat right here on AWF and I started submitting poetry again.


Poetry Evening Poster 3 v3world-mental-health-dayLitFest Halloween 2017 posterNina taken Julia Webb



autumn-2900166_1920 November:

WPL: Hanbury Hall Poetry & Art Event. (Last physical PL event of the year.)

Having my poem displayed by my artist (Stephen Evans) in his Malthouse Exhibition.

Talk – Worcester University, Creative Writing Society.

Talk – U3A Worcester.

Compiled International Remembrance Anthology – the largest number of submissions yet.

Organised school workshops and community workshops with The Basement Project.


Festivals: Asked to be a Guest Poet at an International Festival 2018.

V.I.P Verve Festival Launch Party.


Performances: Elgar Poetry Event.


WMRN: Writing A Book Review Workshop.


Room 204: Adam Speaks Launch & poems in exhibition.

Booked for Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2018.


Fragile Houses: SOLD OUT in just over 12 months, a 2nd print run was published.


V. Press were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award. ‘The pamphlets that V. Press had in for this year are: Alex Reed’s A Career in Accompaniment, Nina Lewis’ Fragile Houses, David Clarke’s Scare Stories and Stephen Daniels’ Tell Mistakes I Love Them.’

Parks 2 HHverve cynthia millerverve 9adam speaks launch invite25wmrn review writing workshop


christmas-background-2985552_1920 December:

WPL: Contour Issue 2 opened to submissions.

Radio: Brum Radio Interview/Guest.

Haiku Slam: 2nd place, Grizzly Pear.

Opportunities: Asked to endorse a poetry collection, my 3rd endorsement. I am honoured.

Contour Issue 2 PreviewBrum-Radio-logo-cropgrizzly pear


It has been a great year. 2018 is starting in ‘busy’ so I indulged in a wonderful fortnight off with friends & family over Christmas & New Year to finish the year on a high!

Nina taken Julia Webb


Happy New Year! 


Goal set,


Here’s to 2018 – may it be your best year yet!emotions-2915279_1920


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.

Vpress (1)

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.

IMG_1163 (2)

Mr G’s snowman.







Writing Book Reviews – WMRN Reader in Residence


This summer I had the exciting opportunity to apply to be a Reader in Residence, my application was successful and Warwickshire Libraries now have me in role at Rugby Library. The position started in September and runs until March 2018.

Following meetings on site, emails and team meetings I spent a month planning and promoting the first workshop ‘Writing A Book Review’.

wmrn review writing workshop

My group comprised of talented, experienced writers. It was lovely to watch the enthusiasm during the session as people relaxed and got to know each other. One of the great spin offs from this event was the networking opportunities. I am certain some of the participants will keep in contact with each other and explore what the county has to offer.

I was happy with how the workshop went, after spending several days tweaking plans and making sure the massive amount of input could be covered in the time we had available. We did just fit it all in, the most important elements were given as a handout at the end.

I opted for a very informal evaluation, but was too anxious to read people’s feedback straight away.

It was very positive and useful. We plan to repeat the workshop next year with some members from the various Reading Groups associated with Rugby Library – and the general public, so if you missed it and you fancy learning some Top Tips and insights, look out for further promotion in the Library and on Eventbrite.



An amazing amount of interesting information in an hour and a half. 

An inspiring afternoon.

I found this afternoon encouraging for my writing in the future.

I love getting together with people who love to read!

Enjoyed the workshop, you have a calm, free-spirited air about you. 

Overall, extremely enjoyable and more importantly, informative.

The ideas mentioned are going to be really helpful.

Lovely atmosphere.

Informative and useful.

Great to meet like-minded people.

It inspired me to write and read more. 

Really well structured session with great tips.

Relaxed atmosphere, I really enjoyed it. 

rugby Lib.png© Rugby Library 2017

It was a relief to know everyone had enjoyed it and the information helped and inspired them. I can now pass all the good news onto the team at Rugby Library.

The team were very supportive today, huge thanks to those involved in ensuring this event ran smoothly, for taking photos, bringing us more hot water for a 2nd round of caffeine -much needed as we were whizzing through at a great pace! For the biscuits/refreshments & setting up the space.

Thanks to Ann Brine (Manager Rugby Library) for coming to evaluate and debrief. The session went really well and I am now ready for my next Reader in Residence mission, watch this space!

Thanks also to Roz Goddard at WMRN.

Adam Speaks Launch Croome Court




Today was the launch of Adam Speaks at Croome Court (National Trust). This is a project I have been working on as part of a team from Room 204, Writing West Midlands.

The Lead Artist on the project was Chris Alton. I will be writing a full blog post as soon as I can. I had a great afternoon at Croome, it was wonderful to see all parts of the collaboration come together and as for Adam’s Tree House (as it is now known), it was an amazing feat of art and engineering! A beautiful space that the NT team at Croome will be using well, I already have the inside line on a few possibilities.

Loved the fact that in the FREE cupcake Marquee there was an ideas board for how to use the art, which will now remain for at least a year.


To mark the opening of our new Chris Alton Adam Speaks exhibition we will be holding a launch day on Saturday 25 November with a packed programme of activities. The official opening will take place at 3.30pm by Artist Hew Locke.

Adam Speaks Tree House Launch Saturday 25 November 2017

From 12.00pm to 4.00pm, we have a full programme of activities inspired by the Adam Speaks project and its participants.

Church Hill Marquee: 12.00pm – 3.00pm Build a Robert Adam inspired structure and share it with #Adamspeaks

Poetry in the Adam Speaks Tree House 12.00pm – 3.00pm with Kurly McGeachie

Long Gallery Croome Court:

12.00pm:         Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts

12.30pm:         The Sixth Form College Worcester

1.00pm:           Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts

1.30pm:           The Sixth Form College Worcester

2.00pm:           Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts

2.30pm:           The Sixth Form College Worcester

3.00pm:           Formal opening speeches in the Long Gallery.

3.10pm:           Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts performance in the Adam Speaks Tree House.

3.30pm:           Formal opening of the Adam Speaks Tree House by Hew Locke

Words for the Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts and Kimichi School provided and inspired by Writing West Midlands Participants.

Adam Speaks themed cupcakes will be available in the marquee on Church Hill throughout the day. (Subject to availability).

  © 2017 National Trust

Our poems were exhibited along with the Adam Speaks display in the participation area downstairs, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, they’re passed by everyone on the way to the Tea Room.

They also inspired the dancework of the Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts and Kimichi School group, which was a delight to know. Every tree has a strong root foundation, no matter how invisible it becomes. Everything starts with a strong base and I for one am delighted that some of that was our ink.

It was a great opportunity and one I thoroughly enjoyed and Chris Alton’s Room 204 workshop is going down in history as the longest workshop I have ever taken part in. Time flies when you’re having fun!

croome dance

© 2017 Nina Lewis

Immensely proud of my old mobile phone for managing such great shots!

croome dance 2





Poetry Swindon Festival Day 1


Photography Credit: Mark Farley, RJ Museum © 2017

Thursday 5th October (Cont’d)

After a wonderful morning at Artsite… we all headed back to the museum.


These hats, like Jinny’s balloons feature heavily throughout the Festival!

Back at the Richard Jefferies Museum we had a whole afternoon and evening of events to enjoy and of course – for the team, chores and jobs we needed to get used to quickly.

16:00 to 17:00 POETRY LECTURE RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
In this special lecture, From The Supernatural To The Surreal, Christopher Eddy, philosopher and poet, traces the journey from the one to the other in poems by W.B.Yeats and Dylan Thomas.

Christopher PS

Christopher Eddy provided a lecture, whilst Stephen, Gram and myself busily started preparing for our performance at 5:30 PM.

I was incredibly nervous and felt I needed more than an hour to get my head swapped to performance mode, I needn’t have been so nervous. It was an exceptional event, I am not just saying that because it was our event! People were still talking about it several days later.

17:30 to 18:30 V FORMATION – POETS of V. PRESS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
A celebration of three new and exciting voices in British poetry: Stephen Daniels, Gram Joel Davies and Nina Lewis. Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His debut pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon and his pamphlet, Bolt Down This Earth was V. Press’ Forward Prize nominee for 2017. Nina Lewis is Worcestershire Poet Laureate and her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses was published by V. Press in 2016.

AWF SP V Formation 5

We were introduced by Sam Loveless.




Stephen Daniels

AWF SP V Formation 3AWF SP V Formation1

Gram Joel Davies


Nina Lewis


SPF V me

Nina Julia Webb

Julia Webb © 2017

Nina taken Julia Webb

Julia Webb © 2017

Stephen Daniels, the most local poet amongst our formation, read from his recently published pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them, then Gram Joel Davies read from his collection Bolt Down This Earth and finally I took to the ‘Blue Gate’ home-made by the marvellous handy man, Mike Pringle, lectern to read and perform poems from Fragile Houses.

Poetry Swindon was the first festival where I sold my pamphlet last year when it was fresh off the publishers line. I was delighted to have an official space on the book stall again this year along with my fellow V. Press poets.

AWF SP V Formation 2

We had a great event which was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

Then it was time to don the green uniform (RJ T-shirts) and get back to work serving supper before the final show of the day. One I was very much looking forward to as it featured all 3 Resident Poets and I am a big fan of all of them.


20:00 to 21:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Daljit Nagra, Tania Hershman & Jacqui Saphra, our resident poets, perform from their
new work and most recent collections. Plus music from young singer and poet Olivia Tuck.


Hilda Sheehan introduced the event and poets.

AWF PS first

Olivia Tuck shared her music and then three poets wowed a tent palace and demonstrated why they are this year’s resident poets.



Tania Hershman


Jacqueline Saphra

SPF Jacqueline Saphra


Daljit Nagra

It was a magical evening and a great first night at the festival. I wish I could review it all in more detail, but it was a long while ago and nothing but the emotions stay fresh in my memory. By the end of the 5 days that was Poetry Swindon, I was struggling to remember my name!

I know that I have read and heard Daljit’s work a lot in the past three years and always want to hear it again, it is never quite the same when I read it from the page. I know that I first met Tania Hershman years ago, officially in 2014 at Poetry Swindon when Jo Bell was the resident poet and Tania insisted she was a short story writer and not a poet… fast forward a few years, she has had her first collection published by Nine Arches, so I think Jo was right on that one! Jacqueline Saphra I had the pleasure of meeting just a week before Poetry Swindon, in London at Free Verse, the Poetry Book Fair (which I also need to blog still). I thoroughly enjoyed her reading and discovering more of her work.

Traditionally after every final event Hilda and the team provide FREE toast. That was an experience for us new to the team. The bar remains open and we were serving until bed time.

SPF Toast


Poetry Swindon Festival 2017


I have divided my festival review posts into days, sometimes half days and on occasion by events. The programme was action packed and I do not want to overwhelm you!

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

spf start sep 19 hilda

Poetry Swindon Festival took place in October. It is one of my favourite Poetry Festivals, such a laid back ambience and always an incredible programme. A really caring festival, where you feel part of a poetry family. Lots of people describe it as the friendliest festival.

I have attended the festival before, the first time back in 2014 (my 1st year as a poet), this was my 3rd year and this year I had the opportunity to join the team. I have never chosen to steward at a festival before as I usually like to participate fully. I missed being totally absorbed in the programme and having the freedom to talk to everyone, but it was a wonderful experience and one I know I will repeat and it also enabled me to enjoy a wonderful poetry festival, for which I am grateful.

Poetry Swindon Festival was created from the Swindon Literature Festival. For 5 years they have run an immensely varied and brilliant festival programme.


This year they had not 2 but 3 Poets in Residence: Tania Hershman, Daljit Nagra and Jacqueline Saphra. Who all committed fully to the role of resident poets. They came to many of the festival events, stepped up to be Workshop Leaders, opened their workshops to additional participants and were available to talk to poets all weekend. Jacqueline was also the official Guest Blogger over on the Festival Chronicle (Louisa Davison).

I arrived on the Wednesday afternoon, the entire team were gathered by the evening at  Artsite in Theatre Square in the Town Centre, ready to dress the Number Nine Gallery space for the opening day. It was a fun evening and Hilda Sheehan provided us all with a beautiful homemade curry for our hard work.

AWF PS Hilda 2

Preparation included posters displayed in windows and dressing the space, which meant a trip to buy flowers, no shot of the full trolley, which looked beautiful. We prepared the Poetry Pram, set chairs out for the audience and made up all the badges.

AAWF Prep Weds MF

Preparing the Poetry Pram.


I managed to pop my shoulder after photo bombing these two. We were booked to perform V Formation on the opening Night of the Festival. I was attempting to make the V.

Gram Joel Davies, Stephen Daniels and Nina Lewis V. Press Poets

AWF SP Photo V

It was lovely to meet Gram in real life after being internet (52) poetry friends since 2014.


Thursday 5th 

The next morning the festival kicked of at the Number Nine Gallery with Poems Aloud, an open mic event and Jinny Fisher took her Poetry Pram out onto the streets of Swindon.

Poems Aloud

10:00 to 12:00 POEMS ALOUD Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon
‘I celebrate myself, and sing myself’
Walt Whitman
Come and share some favourite poems, or your own work, to launch the Poetry Swindon Festival. Hosted by Hilda Sheehan & Maurice Spillane, it will be a warm and friendly gathering, with The Poetry Pram out and about too.


Poetry Swindon Festival Programme © 2017


AAWF Poem Aloud

AAWF Poem Aloud Sarah



There were many performers and a good sized crowd for the opening event of the festival. Here are just a selection of photos from Poems Aloud.

AWF SP Maurice

Maurice Spillane

AWF PS Poetry Aloud

Matt Holland from Lower Shaw Farm, the original home of Swindon Poetry Festival.


He came bearing gifts…

AWF PS Lower shaw


SPF nina

Nina Lewis

AAWF Olivia

Olivia Tuck


Stephen Daniels

AAWF Tony Hillier

Tony Hillier


Jonathan Robert Muirhead


Mark Farley

AAWF Julia

Julia Webb

AAWF Hannah

Hannah Linden

AAWF Edward Day

Edward Day

AWF SP sam

Sam Loveless

AWF SP Thurs

Gram Joel Davies

SWIN PF Robert Stredder

Robert Stredder

AAWF Poet Aloud MF

Jinny Fisher

SPF Sarah

Sarah Dixon

Then it was time to take the Poetry Pram out and about.



AWF PS Poetry Pram

AWF SP Jinney

Jinny Fisher: ‘This charming trio of barbers were the first to enjoy poems from the Poetry Pram on the first day of Swindon Poetry Festival, as part of the Poems Aloud event. Thanks to all the up-for-it poets who sent in poems. It was a fun event and unused poems were left in the pram, which was parked in the festival tent, for festival participants to enjoy and replace. So I still have a lot of poems, which I’ll carefully keep, for the next time. I hope there will be a next time! Many thanks to the irrepressible Tony Hillier and Hannah Linden for helping this event shape up into a weirdly fun experience — for all.’




Lunch was served after all this excitement.

AWF SP Lunch

Followed by Poetry Films with Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery (Elephantfootprints).

14:00 to 15:00 POETRY FILMS Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon
Join us to discover how poetry film can offer a rich and visceral experience. Poetry Film Live editors, Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery will present a dazzling selection of international poetry films.

It was poetry films on show in the attic rooms of the Richard Jefferies Museum last year, which made me create my own.

It was an interesting event and great to see some examples of work.

AWF SP Poetry Film

AAWF Poetry

Chaucer and Helen were very much part of the Festival this year. They invited selected poets (I was lucky enough to be one of them) and they projected our poems onto the walls of the Museum in the evening. There are not many photographs of this amazing film work but I did find a photo showing a reaction to one of the poems and in the video below there are several shots of their work.

SPF Poetry Wall



Whilst writing this review I discovered two videos created by the Richard Jefferies Museum – home of Swindon Poetry Festival. The first one gives you all the flavour of the festival and the second one is a record of the hard work the team are putting in on site. Enjoy!

Richard Jeffries Museum Video by Paul Gentleman