Category Archives: Waterstones Birmingham

February Review 2018


Love Promo 2

Week 1: 

I started the month with my editing hat on. Submissions closed for Contour (digital WPL magazine), the 2nd Issue – ‘Love’, scheduled for release 4 months after the 1st Issue ‘Place’. My plan was to have 3 to 4 magazines during my tenure. I will successfully manage that, there is a Special Edition coming in April for the ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ Project and then in June on the day I hang up my Laureate crown and watch the new Laureateship launch, I will release the final issue.

It has been a steep and brilliant learning curve and a real pleasure. It has been a great opportunity to discover talented poets on a National and International level too.

Whatever else I think, I can rest soundly knowing that I promoted poetry and offered abundant opportunities for writing during my year. I have 3 months (I like to say a quarter of a year because it sounds longer) left, but already the competition is open to find the next Laureate and the feelings of being bereft are already settling. I shall find ways of dealing with this. Such as embarking on International Poetry Adventures and writing my first collection. But I am sure it will feel a little strange.

I also spent an incredible amount of time on the ATOTC project, which again has been a huge bite to chew, but I have loved every minute. It has certainly taught me a thing or two. The Response poems are coming in and it is wonderful to read the interpretations of the Call poems. I am slightly worried that the whole project may total over 200 pages… certainly enough reading material to keep you busy on a rainy day!


ATOTC is my main WPL project and it has certainly been the biggest. I am incredibly excited by the next stages of the project and the plans I have for it beyond that. It is going to be magnificent!

I edited some poems which had been waiting patiently in the wings and finally started working on my own response poem for ATOTC. I wanted to get it cast to paper before the weekend as I have a chance to edit it.

Things are intentionally quiet on the performance front with most of my attention set for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival in Birmingham, mid-February. Other than this I am busy with desk tasks and workshop preparation.

This week I prepared for a meeting for a Gifted and Talented Workshop I am doing, I am excited as it involves multiple local schools.

I also prepared for my final session/workshop at Rugby Library as the Reader in Residence.

I attended an editing group at the weekend where my ATOTC was fine tuned and is now a strong pastiche of Linda Warren’s poem. Look out for the Special Edition Contour in April to read our Call & Response poems.

I took a booking for National Poetry Day. (4th Oct.) after which I will be heading off to Swindon Poetry Festival.


Week 2

A very busy start to the week editing Issue 2 of Contour Magazine, working out the running order and formatting. It took an inane amount of time (roughly 3 days), lots of difficulties on the technical side of desktop publishing – but the results were worth it.


I had a meeting regarding school workshops booked for March, which was fabulous. I am very excited about this workshop.

bromsgrove school theatre Andrew Haines © 2017

The following day I drove to Rugby Library for my final Reader in Residence workshop. It was a small group but a wonderful morning and those in attendance enjoyed it.

rugby wksp

I am writing a Guest Blog Review for the library and will link it back to AWF. My Residency finishes in March and I hoping for one last trip to the library for something special, more on that soon.

rugby lib

I planned my Suffragette Workshop for Saturday at The Hive, started work organising the poetry events for the summer ArtsFest in Droitwich, sent emails to successful contributors of Contour and took a booking for Brum Stanza.

I also started prep for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival (15-18th Feb.). This year I am the Official Festival Blogger, last year I blogged about most of the events and attended pretty much the entire festival (which is no mean feat – with a packed 2 day weekend programme, workshops and events on the preceding evenings), worth the exhaustion though and I also wrote a full review for Sabotage Reviews. This year, I have arranged to write the review for them again and have booked my workshops (one of which I won by coming 2nd in the Haiku Slam at Grizzly Pear) and have my new Kindle Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Christmas present) all ready. Look out for lots of updates, I shall be sharing from the Verve official site.

verve 10

Thursday I went to SpeakEasy which was Headlined by the wonderful Jenna Clake and I enjoyed her set from Fortune Cookie, which won the 2016 Melita Hume Prize for Poetry . It was a vibrant evening of poetry and even though I was shattered, I had a great night. I shared a couple of city poems and it was good to catch up with Jenna before Verve.

JENNA SE Watch out for an Interview with Jenna Clake in the Contour Issue 4 (June).

You can buy a copy of this award winning debut collection published by Eyewear here.

jenna clake FC

Friday it snowed (which is as exciting as anything writing related), I was working in a school on the hills and was slightly concerned about getting home, but it had melted by then!

I also had Stanza where I took my Contour Love Poem for some editing treatment, it was a lovely evening, filled with poetry and critique. It was good to reconnect, I missed our December meeting due to being too tired after work and January from ill health. It was good to be back. Also a new exciting opportunity was discussed.

Saturday was a busy writing day, I had my WWM group in the morning, who used the Royal Society of Photography Science exhibition to inspire Science Fiction writing.

2018-02-10 11.28.47bubble

This was followed by my Suffragette Workshop in The Hive, Worcester. The workshop was attended by 11 people and I was happy to see a mix of friends, strangers & people who have followed my WPL projects online. It was an informal, whistle stop creative session of just an hour (which worked particularly well for those who left partners in the Hive’s cafe). It was fun and I have already started to receive work for the anthology.

The exhibition runs until 23rd February and can be found on Level 2.

chalking pavement

Mr G. and I went to see Cloudbusting (Kate Bush Tribute band) again, the 4th time I think, this time they had a full stage with Media show, which we had not seen before! The next day I was busy editing Contour Magazine – YES! For the WHOLE day!


Week 3

My first full writing day in over 2 weeks and I planned a whole list of writing tasks (none of which were actual writing)… however, I spent another whole day on the magazine. It was finally live by the evening.

With a reach of over 600 readers already (in less than 24 hours). Issue 2 has a fine collection of love poetry, a load of Interviews with Pete The Temp, Jeff Cottrill, Amy Rainbow and Sharon Carr and a list of Top Poems voted by the public and is well worth a read.

Please share the link.

Contour Issue 2

I also booked my flights to Australia – where I am an International Guest Poet at the Festival in Perth (August), this made it very real! I also shared this news, which I have been sitting on since November.

I shared the next stage of the Suffragettes Poetry Project with workshop attendees and attended a Worcester LitFest Committee Meeting. There have been many changes to the team since I took up the Poet Laureate post, it was an agenda packed evening. It also helped me finalise plans for World Poetry Day (21st March) my official Laureate remit event. It should be great.

I have since worked on publicity and marketing but as ever with organisation, need to wait for one confirmation before I can go live!


I have been busy working through Response Poems (ATOTC), dreading the proofing stage with over 40 poets… but we have a good stock of coffee and I plan to use Half Term to get the majority ready.

I received my copy of mind anth a wonderful book, brainchild of Isabelle Kenyon. I have yet to read it in full. I have dipped in. A great collection of poems and funds raised with be donated to MIND – Mental Health Charity. I will be writing a full blog post soon to promote this project.

I had my BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio Interview with Tammy Gooding and this month it was a slightly extended recording due to us discussing love poetry and the work of Pablo Neruda! It was fun and I shared the love poem recently published in Contour.

_46552672_sticker_localradio_hereford From 1:52 & 2:20

All performers confirmed World Poetry Day & marketing & promotion was set to GO!


The deadline for ATOTC response poetry was 15th February & knowing what a huge undertaking it is the proof copies are already leaving my inbox… about 10% proofed & approved in 2 days.

I finished my 3rd book endorsement and am very excited to read a bound copy of this collection soon.

And then there was Verve!

verve v stick

Verve Poetry Festival (with links to my official blogs)

I spent 5 glorious hours in Waterstones, 15th Feb. then 6 hours writing & editing the official blog reviews.

After very few hours sleep I was back at the Festival on Friday night

And then spent my entire weekend there.

Since this wonderful festival full of verve… I have been busy writing the official blog reviews which are being drip fed onto the official blog.


Read more of them here

Week 4 

Started with jet lag, which is the only way to describe the post festival haze of Verve. Wise to this, having attended the full programme last year too – I made sure the diary was empty and the bed was full! I slept, I ate my first meal for 5 days and I hit the desk.


Writing Verve Reviews, sending proofs for ATOTC, working on bids, sent promo for an event I am part of at the end of end of April, Bohemian Voices organised by Steve Soden and slept some more!

Fortunately it was half term this week so I didn’t have to juggle work into the equation. I mainly worked on proof copy for ATOTC Special Edition Contour magazine and had meetings.


Starting with Room 204, one of the main attractions is the 1 to 1 mentoring with Jonathan Davidson. It was a productive and useful meeting and I have come away with a page of tasks to incorporate into my work and gold-dust that I needed to acknowledge.

I met with Carolyn Baldwin at the Jinney Ring to finalise the exhibition of our sculpture trail poems from the workshop in September. The poems will be on display in the restaurant for the whole of April. Wonderful news AND even better news for me I have secured future Sculpture Trail workshops. So there will be a new one in September! Carolyn also sent me home with a generous portion of cake! Always a bonus – perfect meeting requirements I would suggest.

A New Design (5)

On Thursday I met with Stephen Evans, one of the DAN artists involved in the Hanbury Hall event. My poem has been displayed alongside his artwork in exhibitions in January and now this month too, so far it has been part of Maltstones Exhibition, an exhibition in the Library and now in Parks Cafe.

Stephen showed me a family album from WW2 at the reading event for Hanbury Hall Poets back in November. I used it as primary source inspiration and managed to write 4 poems or so but it is a precious object and I feel much happier now he has it back.

Thursday Night I went to support Claire Walker who was headlining at The Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley. Ian Glass and I found ourselves unwittingly signed up for the slam. I don’t Slam.

It was a fun night and a great little cafe to be in on a cold night. Ian smashed the slam and won! He goes back in April to perform a 10 minute set.


He also won the Xylophone of Mirth, but as he had driven us all to Dudley he wasn’t able to play it all the way home!

Jean Atkin was facilitating a workshop at the Bishop Castle Artsfest that I had hoped to attend, but our boiler is broken and I had to be home for the engineer. I spent most of the day at the desk writing for Verve, the boiler is still broken.

On Saturday I had a workshop with Angela France, it was a great session and I managed at least one poem and have a page of potential other poems.

On Sunday, whilst writing a poem for a Festival Anthology (more on this soon), I unearthed another line of writing I want to pursue, I have 3 pages of notes to return to at a quieter time (perhaps 2019). The exciting element is they balance something I am already working on.

The Extra Days

On Monday (after turning up for work and discovering I was a day early) I went home and wrote copy for a Worcester News Article promoting the Poet Laureate competition. Jess Charles jumped on it and it was live by the afternoon.

wpl worcs news

I also worked on my first ever Grants application and booked a workshop in May.

Tuesday work was cancelled, it started to snow (we have no working boiler) and I spent 14 hours completing my application. 14 hours. A steep learning curve – on evaluation I will give myself a month to complete the forms next time!

I took on a temporary teaching position for a fortnight (just in time for World Book Day) and drove in the snow! I went to see the Royal Ballet Live Screening of The Winter’s Tale (one of my favourite Shakespeare plays), a present from Mr. G’s mum for Christmas. It was amazing!

royal ballet

And a special way to end the month.





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 (PM)


verve v stick PART 2

Stablemates is the brainchild of Jill Abram. These nights usually take place in London, but she has brought poets to Ledbury Festival from Peepal Tree

FullSizeRender-300x161 Ledbury Poetry Festival ©2018 with Roger Robinson, Nick Makoha and Seni Seneviratne and Waterstones, (Oct. 2017) with Henry Normal, Rosie Garland and Jackie Hagan of Flapjack Press… Flapjack-SM-pic

Jill brought Stablemates to Verve.

Jill leads conversation with each poet in turn and then they do a 15 minute set. Verve saw poets from Offord Road Press: with Martha Sprackland, James Brookes and Bobby Parker.

offord books


Apart from July, August & December the Stablemates reading series takes place at The Poetry Cafe (22 Betterton St, London, WC2H 9BX) on the fourth Thursday of the month. Do go and check it out.


verve v

Next came The Poetry Assembly with Jane Commane, the much awaited book launch of Assembly Lines.

A fantastic event, certainly a festival highlight!

Hadfield Nigh 64

Bloodaxe Books ©2018




With readings from Romalyn Ante, Roz Goddard, Liz Berry and Matt Black.




And a book signing WITH cake!


Introductions to Jane’s Launch by David Morley.


The first evening event brought the Poetry Headline of three award winning poets… the wonders of Pascale Petit, Hannah Lowe and Sandeep Parmar, introduced by Gregory Leadbetter. A thoroughly breathtaking event. Loved the poetry and broke my book budget after spending a long time stroking the covers!




louise palfreyman.jpg

Louise Palfreyman ©2018



Day 3 finished with Outspoken Press Showcase, back for another Verve after their success last year, one of the biggest events audience talked about in 2017 and all of us in Workshops felt we had truly missed out. Back with words and spirit, introduced by Joelle Taylor the always amazing: Anthony Anaxagorou, Sabrina Mahfouz, Raymond Antrobus, Bridget Minamore and Ollie O’Neill as well as a set from Joelle.


An incredible way to finish a night/day of poetry.



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.



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


October Review (better late than never)


Just before we reach the halfway point of November I thought I would get my head down and tell you about last month!

October was such a whirlwind month. An abundant welcome into the winter and came with the realisation that I have not submitted anything for 5 months (I have organised enough WPL events to fill 100 pages of my notebook) and written more commissioned poems than I can count on all my fingers and toes… but this is something I want to get back to before the end of the year. So now I will find some extra time to carve out, December is looking good!

WEEK 1: 

I wanted to go to Kim Moore’s workshop at Buzzwords, but I didn’t get back from my stint in London at the Poetry Book Fair/Free Verse in time. Well technically, I could have detoured to Cheltenham in time but energy levels were so long I didn’t think I would manage the late drive home or even stay awake for writing and my brain was as tired as my body. It was amazing according to everyone who was there and having taken her workshop at the Verve Festival in February, I don’t doubt it!

I had my Adam Speaks Treehouse poem accepted for the NT project at Croome Court. With NPD, Credo and then hot-footing down South I had forgotten the deadline on this writing, which was already tight. This was the first poem I was forced to send on my phone, thank goodness it was a submission in the body of an email. I had to send it from Free Verse and it was a definite last minute submission. Fortunately, I didn’t look too rude doing so as the hall was packed with poets live tweeting.


© Croome Court/Adam Speaks

I had a school workshop planned which sadly had to be postponed, I look forward to this in 2018 although I expect to change my plans to fit the curriculum topics in the Spring Term.

Then I went down to Swindon for the Poetry Festival, now in it’s 5th year (and my 3rd). I cannot express how much I love this festival. This was my first year of stewarding, generally I buy festival passes or lots of events tickets and arrive as a punter, network, drink and absorb poetry into my very core. I knew working on the team would make this experience completely different but I also knew it was a solid team to be part of and saw volunteering as the biggest thank you I could give.

I was also booked to perform V Formation with fellow V. Press Poets Stephen Daniels and Gram Joel Davies (also notably on the team).


Some of the team and performers at the opening event POEMS ALOUD Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon

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.

Our readings were on the 1st night and the event went well, was well attended and people were still talking about it a few days later.

Swindon Poetry Festival needs a blog post and I will write a full review as soon as I can find time to do so. Another case of better late than never!



Highlights in brief:

WORKSHOP: The Dynamic Poem Holiday Inn  With Daljit Nagra
Poems can sometimes seem flat and lack vigour, they can drift along in a dreamy mood without any conviction. Daljit will explore with examples from contemporary poetry how to put the fizz back into a poem. Participants should expect to have attempted at least one new lively poem!

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.

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.

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.

and more…

During the festival I missed the beginning of Birmingham Literature Festival and a meeting with the poets involved in the Elgar Poetry Project.

Week 2: 

Swindon Poetry Festival and the highlights of the weekend. An amazing end to the festival was Monday morning, breakfast with Daljit and then Breakfast and Poetry over at the Tent Palace as our festival finale.


I got back on Monday afternoon and Monday evening was straight out to open mic at Licensed to Rhyme in the new venue Cafe Morso, Barnt Green.

cafe_1imag© Cafe Morso

Fergus McGonigal was headlining, so good to see him again and to see him back on the circuit with his new book, now one of my new shiny books too!

Everyone is now unhappy© Burning Eye 

As WPL I was busy gathering submissions for World Mental Health Day – as Mental Health Week started when I was in Swindon and I had been hit by the dreaded Swindon Lurgy! Which meant I missed most of the events at Birmingham Literature Festival that I planned to go to!

I was also organising the Hanbury Hall Project for poets to go and write about artwork displayed in the Long Gallery by DAN. The Gallery opened on the 10th and the exhibition ran until the 29th and they had over 3300 visitors, only 15 of which were poets!

Not as WPL but as a poet I was also busy preparing INKSPILL – our online writing retreat.


I missed tons of events being ill (proper ill with blankets).

Week 3: 

I made it back to the edge of health in time to perform as WPL at the SpeakEasy event for Mental Health Day at Cafe Bliss, this is a wonderful annual event which brings together speakers from a variety of Mental Health and Wellbeing backgrounds, agencies such as The Samaritans and this year The Shaw Trust and of course local poets.

It was a very moving experience and a good afternoon. I also received submissions for the World Mental Health Day Anthology from participants. I love it when the WPL projects reach local people through events and radio broadcasts. I made the decision to keep the submission open on the Mental Health collection for the duration of my tenure. We raise awareness of it a few times a year through these calendar events, but actually it is everyday living for 1 in 4 (official statistics were 1 in 5 but recent NHS figures show 1 in 4).

The following day after dragging myself around a D.I.Y store with Mr G. I diagnosed myself healthy enough to venture into Birmingham to catch Joe Cook and Hollie McNish at the Town Hall. This is the 2nd time this year I have seen Hollie and she was as wonderful as ever. It was also the 2nd time this year I gave up on queuing to meet her. I met her several times in 2015 and I know I will get my new books signed one day!

ZCR_BEM_171017TownHall_02 birmingham mail

© Birmingham Mail

I had planned to get to Wellington Festival, but I still wasn’t 100% well and also my car was slightly damaged over the weekend.

I made it to Hanbury Hall and was able to meet up with the Cheltenham contingency of poets (well, some of them). I took plenty of photos and notes and ended up writing 8 poems – 6 of which will make it public.


On the 18th I was back in Birmingham for Stablemates at Waterstones. Jill Abram always sends me an invite to these London events, so I could hardly refuse when she brought it to the Midlands. It was a fantastic night. I really felt uplifted by the end of it. It was also a chance to finally meet and watch Rosie Garland who I have heard so much about. I got to see Jackie Hagan again (last time I saw her was at Hit the Ode) and listening to Henry Normal was a pleasure, I love the fact his is Oscar nominated and a BAFTA winner and has yet returned to his first love of poetry.

I started to promote my first WPL event for children, which had been in the pipeline for a while. The WLF team produce a Halloween Event for LITtleFest at St.John’s library which along with the usual storytelling, pumpkin carving and treats I included a Writing Workshop for 5 – 9+ years old.

LitFest Halloween 2017 poster

I also had a call out for Halloween Poem Submissions which needed a push.

I spent the tail end of the week working on the Elgar Poetry commission (WPL).


Week 4 

I had my 2nd writing meeting with Spark Young Writers at The Hive, we had a go at our own spooky theme and also had the new WWM Operations Assistant, Heddwen Creaney come to visit our group.

I spent 4 days busily researching Elgar and completing 14 new poems for the event in November.

I spent some admin time organising festival events for 2018.

I worked on my WMRN role as Reader in Residence for Rugby Library organising next month’s Review Writing Workshop.

I had my WPL spot on BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding, talked about the Elgar Project and Mental Health. I shared my poem ‘First Steps’ from Fragile Houses.

In the evening I enjoyed dressing up for Halloween (I looked like a Gothic Librarian – but what I wanted was Suz Winspear our first Goth Poet Laureate) and went to 42. It was rather cramped as we were in the Lunar Bar upstairs and it was a great turn out for the night. It also gave me a chance to promote the Halloween submission call too.

I missed Jenna Clake’s Book Launch of ‘Fortune Cookie’ in Birmingham, which I was gutted about but I also asleep by the time it started. So the right call was made!

We had a Stanza meeting and then it was Week 5!


Week 5 

INKSPILL of course, which needs no introduction around here… our 5th annual online writing retreat – it is mad to think we have been going for as long as Swindon Poetry Festival! This year’s Guest Poets were Antony Owen & Stephen Daniels, both fellow V. Press poets, although I hadn’t realised that until after the booking.

It was a massively successful and fun weekend. Take a look at the programme page if you missed it and you should be able to navigate through from there using the menu tools on screen.

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It was also the Halloween Event at the library – where my workshop was attended by children aged 4 to 12, all enjoyed themselves and watched me, dressed as a witch attempting to fly around the room. They did ask why my face wasn’t green and I told them all about the family tea party I was going to afterwards.

It was fun and the most exhausting WPL event yet!

On Sunday I spent a long time creating the first issue of the WPL Magazine Contour – submissions all about Place/Worcestershire closed at the end of August and since then I have been sifting through work. Fortunately during some local research I discovered Philip Halling and we were able to use his images throughout the magazine with a few additions from local poets.


The end of the DAN Exhibition at Hanbury Hall was marked with a closing celebration on the 30th which Polly Stretton was invited to read her poem ‘Curves’ at. Polly won a competition created by Peter Hawkins (Chair) to find a poem for the closing of the exhibition. I sneaked one of mine in as WPL/Organiser of the poetry part of the project.

The artist for my piece was there, Stephen Evans and I am delighted that he will be using my work alongside his painting in his next exhibition in December.

I successfully completed a WPL Productions Poetry Film to show off the Halloween Poetry Submissions and added some prose as a one off Poet Laureate special to the blog.




More on the Adam Speaks Launch day next month.

Adam Speaks National Trust Launch Event

Buy your copy of Fergus McGonigal’s new book here


November Update



November is nearly halfway through. The diary is full and we are fast approaching the busy home season too. 

This week events run back to back and there are some that I will sadly have to forego to make sure I keep my head above water and sleep! 


Tonight is Licensed to Rhyme with Ash Dickinson. I am delighted that a poem which was inspired by a conversation with him earlier this year, is finally ready to perform this evening. 



Tomorrow is the almost-conclusion* of the WPL Hanbury Hall Poetry Project. 18 poets signed up to visit Hanbury Hall over 3 weeks in October during the DAN Art Exhibition in the Long Gallery. Poets used the artworks to inspire writing.

hanbury hall LG malcolm ross

© Malcolm Ross 2017

Since then Polly Stretton and I went along to the closing ceremony to share our poems. Polly’s poem ‘Curves’ won a competition to find a reader for the event judged by Peter Hawkins (Chair) and mine was slipped in as the organiser and Worcestershire Poet Laureate. 


This Tuesday Parks Cafe will host 9 of the poets, our reading is accompanied by the artwork on screen and I am very grateful to Rosie Philpott for coordinating that side of the event. It is FREE and I hope many of the artists will be able to attend. 

Parks Cafe Hanbury Poems


* Some of these poems may appear in the next issue of Contour the WPL Digital Magazine (Spring Issue – February)

I am organising an exhibition of the poetry along with photos of the artwork that inspired them in 2018 at Hanbury Hall in the Long Gallery – which will be the eventual conclusion of this project.

Wednesday is a poetry outing – a few Worcestershire poets are heading over to Smokey Joes in Cheltenham for Poetry Cafe Refreshed. I haven’t made it back since I headlined in 2015, so well overdue a visit! 

smokey joes

Thursday sees the 7th Anniversary of Hit The Ode – a special event taking place in Waterstones this month. I am keeping everything crossed that I have time after work to make it there. I love this event and haven’t been able to make one since they started back after the summer. They always feature National and International Headliners.

From London, Shadè Joseph
Shadè Joseph is a 23 year old Writer/Musician from East London.
She has been writing/performing poetry and producing, composing and accompanying musicians singer/songwriters and poets for the past four years and worked alongside the likes of London Symphony Orchestra, Ayanna Witter -Johnson
Caleb Femi, Tolu Agbelusi, Tshaka Campbell and Buddy Wakefield. When she’s not doing all of that good stuff she’s probably somewhere laughing or dancing or eating plantain chips or giving someone a hug.

From Northampton, Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, INIVA and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was an associate artist.

He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and is an alumni of The Complete Works. His New and Selected Poems is soon to be published on Peepal Tree Press.
He released two albums with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound on Ninja Tune.

From New Zealand, Penny Ashton,
Penny Ashton is New Zealand’s own global comedienne who has been making a splash on the world stage since 2002. She has performed over 600 solo shows and has sold out from Edinburgh to Adelaide to Edmonton. She has represented both New Zealand in The World Cup of Theatresports in Germany, and Australasia in a Performance Poetry Slam Tournament Tour of the UK. She has also performed poetry by invitation at The Glastonbury Festival, her solo musical Promise and Promiscuity at The Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has reported from the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas.

hit 1

On Friday Jack Crowe has organised another extravaganza – I heard so many good things about the first event of this kind (February 2017) and I would like to think by Friday I may have grown wings to fly back into the city. However, looking at the schedule as I type I am having palpitations. 


This event happens at The Edge in Digbeth 7:30 -10:30 PM

If you go on the back of seeing it here – let Jack know, especially if I don’t manage to get there myself, he will be happy that I sent you to the door. 

Funkenteleky, in which four poets and four musicians wake up together.

*they combine live on-stage at The Edge, in a unique, one time only, funky, verby spoken potion which makes y’all do a dance in your minds.

*it’s Birmingham’s most irregular Poetry and Music collaboration night, and it’s gonna be well fun.

Doing this this time shall be:


are an organ trio of critically acclaimed musicians: Dave Ferris on organ, Ben Lee on guitar, and Billy Weir on drums. The name of the band is their surnames, we notice. Expect Latin grooves, New Orleans shuffles, mind-boggling improvisation, and a set of their own inspired tunes to close the night. Don’t expect acid-skiffle space thrash, but equally don’t be surprised if it happens. For Funkenteleky the band will be joined by a player of brass, who will remain mysterious, silhouetted in these pixels, an untapped funk spring.
“I love this kind of grooving, funky organ trio music, and last night Ferris/Lee/Weir took it to new heights of originality, creativity, imagination, feel and chops.”
We can’t wait.


is one of Birmingham’s best poets. His work scatters back and forth between the observational and the vulnerable, humorous and raw. Bearing his heart in lines of tongue twisting insight, Leon tells us stories of love and betrayal, and stories of innocence and bliss. The host of Howl, the city’s hippest poetry knees up, we’re thrilled that he’ll be treating us to a unique performance of his own work. A headliner at events such as Hit the Ode, Level Up, Grizzly Pear and more, he is a consummate performer who lives and breathes spoken word. He’s awesome, basically.


loves the po. She combines political commentary with small moments, using sensory imagery s k i pping with movement to depict individual and collective urban experiences. She makes the truth vivid and the vividness true. She’s done so at Verve Poetry Fest, Level UP!, Howl, Stirchley Speaks and Shanty Town and is currently focusing on building Agora Poetry, a platform for spoken word and storytelling inviting underrepresented voices into the room. Never-stop-being-curious.
Bethany Slinn- Poet


crafts stories of his experiences in Birmingham, mixing warm humour with authentic social observation. He has honed his talents in headline slots at Howl and Stirchley Speaks. On the 25th of October he launches his new collection ‘Do What you Can’, commissioned by Punch Records, Arts Connect and the Gallery 37 Foundation. In 2016 he was part of the Hippodrome’s B-Side Hip Hop Festival, showcasing his poetic propensity for rhythm and rhyme. He’s a Brummie of whom the city is very proud, and we can’t wait for him to light up the Funkenteleky stage.


is a writer, theatre maker and friendly human from Sheffield. He has performed and made work for and in Theatre Deli, Arts Depot, Camden People’s Theatre, Wardrobe Theatre, Glasgow School of Art, Flim Nite, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Bradford Poetry City, and elsewhere. Currently he’s touring a performance called The Church of Jim, after a successful month of performing it in one place, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. State of the Arts gave it five stars, calling it “weird, wonderful and somewhat outrageous… from terrifying and bizarre, to beautiful and hypnotic.” Andy once said ‘rimming’ in a poem on BBC Radio Sheffield. Outside of poetry, Andy is a hysterical railway signalman, and you are a glistening moon. He is a wristwatch with no strap and you are a magnifying glass, kindling a fire purely from the thoughts of winged squid scudding to the cities of humans to warn us of ourselves.


Saturday I will spend the morning with my Spark Young Writers Group (another reason I may not make it to Funkenteleky). In the afternoon there is a Room 204 workshop that I hope to attend. 

And next week looks just as full! 

Happening this month:

Verve Poetry Festival V.I.P Launch, a WPL meeting for a new community project, WPL radio interview BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding, Burning Eye Books Event, A Night of Music and Poetry at the Jinney Ring, the conclusion of the Croome Court Adam Speaks Performance and 42.

My WMRN role at Rugby Library is also active with the public now. I shall be facilitating my first workshop at the end of the month. 

wmrn review writing workshop

In addition to all this I am trying to secure work and focus on my own writing and submissions after submerging myself in the Poet Laureate role for the past 5 months. 

There are patches of the blog which need updating. I will get to them as soon as I can. I am planning some time out from the circuit in December (fortunately it winds down a little anyway).




Review of August


I have taken most of the summer off from performing poetry to catch up on writing some! I am now struggling to wind myself back up but September is action packed so the full calendar should help me back to the zone.

Mr G. and I went away, I promised him a poetry free holiday, I ended up having to find a public library to send a contract and take a few calls on the beach, other than that – I took a break and actually found it refreshing.

August is also packed full of birthdays (including my own). The summer wasn’t fantastic weather-wise so as soon as there was a sunny day, the garden beckoned… and all of this kept me away from my desk!



Back in July I was approached by Roz Goddard through West Midlands Reader Network to apply for a Reader in Residence position which I was successful at obtaining – more on this soon, I have had the preliminary planning meeting and the project is due to start in November. This was my BIG news for the month.

Worcestershire Poet Laureate (WPL)

I had my second radio slot with Tammy Gooding at BBC Hereford & Worcester. This went really well again (no edits). I was able to promote upcoming events and talk about the success of LakeFest.

My first official Poet Laureate Blog Post went live, traditionally these have appeared quarterly, although we are working on a bi-monthly/monthly post as there are lots of events being created.

I wrote a Project Proposal for my Twin Cities Transatlantic Poetry, which is under review this month by committee. This will see American and British Poets collaborate.

Jinney Ring Sculpture Trail Poetry Workshop

The Sculpture Trail opened at the Jinney Ring and I went to explore the 90 sculptures in this year’s trail. I prepared and tested workshop content. All places have been booked now, I am excited and cannot believe after all this planning how close this event is!

A second date has been added in the evening 20th September 6-8 PM, so if you would like to book a place, email for details.

A New Design (5)

I organised a poetry event for Salt Festival on the 9th September. At short notice, I am delighted to have a handful of poets who can come and share their work. The bonus is that everyone has a 10 minute slot, which means they can share a good selection of their work.

After finding an alternative route for my European Twin Town Poetry Project, I had communication from the original source that I traced. A meeting has been set up and I think this might be a project that I now roll out twice with two towns in the County. It will be the first of its kind.

A spin off from this is I have been invited to read at a special dinner next month too.

August also saw the deadline for Contour – a digital magazine I plan to create three times during my tenure. This first issue invited poets from anywhere to write about Place /Worcestershire. I am currently (now September) working through the submissions and I have been fortunate enough to make contact with a photographer and have permission to use some of his County photography is this issue. More news on this soon.

Copy of Food Magazine Flyer Template (2)


The biggest performance opportunity this month was LakeFest. It was the first year they had the Poetry Tent and it was a great success!



Laureates at LakeFest

ruth 10

©2017 Ruth Inglis


Bridgnorth Arts Festival

Rick Sanders organised a festival poetry event at the Friars and had Claire Walker, Steve Harrison and Brenda Read-Brown headline, I couldn’t miss this. I had missed Poetry on the Terrace in Birmingham on Saturday as I discovered it too late and we had visitors at the weekend. It had been a week since I performed and I wanted to support Claire, who did a marvellous set.

It was a great evening, enjoyable and good to catch up with a lot of the Shropshire crowd.


Ben Parker Worcester Festival Poetry at Huntingdon Hall

Ben Parker has organised 3 poetry events this year in Worcester as part of his Residency. I had not been able to make the two events at the Swan Theatre as I was already booked. However, I have been counting down the months for this one. It was an epic list of performers some I knew and others I didn’t (which is always exciting).

Ben has a relaxed manner that I am very envious of when hosting events and the Worcester Festival was no exception. It was a great night of diverse poets performing and what I like about the ethos of these events is Ben wants the opportunity to gather a range of poets, beginners and those more seasoned. It creates a supportive atmosphere from the get go.

I hope he manages to squeeze another event like this in, I won’t be performing as you get the chance to perform once but I would certainly turn up to enjoy an evening of poetry like this one.


Voices from the Shadows

Back in 2014 Elaine Christie produced a wonderful anthology called Restless Bones. The proceeds of this book went to the Born Free Foundation.

restless the book

Now Elaine is working hard on the next book which will feature Artwork by Neth Brown. We had a Pre-book Launch to raise awareness of this current project and also to share some of the poetry which will appear in the book.

art neth brown ©2017 Elaine Christie


Future Readings

Copy of Fall Event Flyer Template (3)

I am headlining at PTS (13th September), the welcome return of this excellent night run by Rob Francis.

I am headlining SpeakEasy (14th September) as WPL.


I am in a Room 204 Showcase and get to do Birmingham Literature Festival for a 2nd time. Unfortunately the opportunity to perform in the Studio in the BLF was not possible as it clashes with Swindon Poetry Festival, where I am booked to perform.

The Literary Allsorts event is taking place twice. I am in the Pre-Festival event at Waterstones. It will be a great night!

Sarah Leavesley (Editor/Publisher) has organised a V. Press reading at Free Verse Poetry Book Fair London this September, myself and Stephen Daniels will be reading from our pamphlets in the afternoon. Last year I promised myself I would go to the Book Fair and now, one better… I get to read there and hopefully sell more books!


Review of July


Week 1: 

Workshop/National Trust Project

Room 204 is involved in the Croome Court project Adam Speaks. We met Chris Alton, the Lead Artist at a workshop at Writing West Midlands Headquarters in the Custard Factory on Saturday 1st July.

1431782527872-adam-speaks-wwm-170701-19-rfw-credit-peter-young  © 2017 Peter Young

This was an epic 6 hr workshop. Chris is working with 4 groups Kimichi School, The Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts, Writing West Midlands and St Barnabas First and Middle School. It was exciting to know that these workshops will feed Chris’s art.

Adam Speaks has been set up by Rachel Sharpe and Kiki Claxton for the National Trust, following Plumlines last year.

Chris Alton Rachel Hill

© 2017 Rachel Hill

Chris Alton, from Croydon, is a multidisciplinary artist, whose practice brings together distant, yet connected cultural phenomena. Whether deploying disco music against fascism or playing table tennis in competition with aggressive architecture, he utilises seemingly incongruous juxtapositions to address the multi-layered nature of prevailing social and political conditions. 

© National Trust Croome Court Adam Speaks

Literature Festival

Sunday saw my 3rd official WPL appearance on the Poetry Walk for Evesham Festival of Words. This event had a great turn out and beautiful Sunday morning sunshine for the poetry walk, a gentle stroll across the green park around the Bell Tower in Evesham.

I performed some Evesham poems written especially for the event and enjoyed listening to poetry and prose. It was good to see some people who happened upon our merry group, stay and listen.

It was good to reconnect with Sue Johnson and I booked another event later for this year.


This festival always has a great programme. They are already booked up for next year.


On Monday I had my first Radio slot with Tammy Gooding BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester. This was something Maggie Doyle instigated during her WPL tenure (2013/14). It is a tradition picked up by other Laureates and I am happy to continue with it.

I read ‘Gander’ one of the poems written for Evesham Festival of Words. Tammy is amazing at putting you at ease. She was also impressed with an interview which needed no editing! It has been decades since I stepped foot inside a studio. I was nervous, but had such a great time! I am already booked in for August.



During the evening I took a guest slot at Licensed to Rhyme, Maggie Doyle & Spoz’s monthly poetry event at the Artrix.

Headlining this month was former WPL Suz Winspear, Claire Walker was the other guest poet and there were a plethora of open mic-ers. It was a fabulous evening.

licensed-to-rhyme-new (1)

And before I start sounding like the Hungry Caterpillar… on Tuesday I took a rest. There were events I would have liked to attend but I was attempting to conserve energy for my Headline slot at Uncorked.

Having pencilled in Ledbury Poetry Festival, Lichfield and Shropshire – we arrive at Thursday.


I was booked for Uncorked at Bottles a while ago (before WPL), originally scheduled for June, I swapped into July so Charley would have a chance to sell her recently published books. I on the other hand have had my final 5 copies of Fragile Houses for months… this is the way it goes sometimes. I didn’t sell any books but I had a great evening.

Sean Colletti created a masterpiece idea for the introductory sets so instead of the traditional 5 minute teaser from each of the Headline poets we worked together on Sean’s concept of a waiting room & the result was an interesting concoction , especially considering it was unrehearsed.


Clive Oseman, Jake Scott & Sean Colletti were all wonderful headliners and we had a good range of open floor spots too. Holly has created something magic here, helped by a sensational venue Bottles Wine Bar in Worcester.


Up early the next morning (hard to sleep on post-performance adrenaline), I drove to Shrewsbury for a workshop with Helen Ivory and Martin Figura. I would have paid just to meet these two poets who have been on my radar for a long time. So having the bonus of a workshop was superb.

Unfortunately, I missed the performance the night before as I was at Uncorked. It wasn’t a prerequisite to the workshop though. The workshop was based on epistolary poetry. Which is something I have only tried to a few times. Strange because I used to love writing letters, I had 33 international penfriends by 12 years old. I also started writing to an old, re-united friend during my deepest depression. These letters are now even more special to me as she sadly passed away.

The workshop was brilliant and I got some ideas from it, as well as books. Love their work and cannot wait to spend time with the pages.

I recently (28th June) re-wrote one of my workshop poems and took it to stanza. I will do something with it in the future. I am pleased with the result and know I would never have written it without this workshop.

It was at the Severn Theatre in a huge room, necessary as it was a large group. It was lovely to reconnect with the Shropshire crew. I have been busy lately and it has cut me off from many out of county events. I cannot remember the last time I made it to perform in Birmingham beyond Waterstones events. I know how quickly the poetry scene moves there, so it will be full of people I don’t know – which is exciting.


I was booked in for my first Cathedral Poets Workshop in Worcester the following morning and an action packed day in Ledbury on the Sunday. Reason and experience told me Mr. G and I needed some time and I needed to rest. So regrettably I cancelled the workshop and now have to wait until October. October is an incredibly busy month with Swindon Poetry Festival, Birmingham Literature Festival and school workshops, so I may not get to the Cathedral again.

Ledbury Poetry Festival 

I always want to attend the complete festival, I dream of pitching up a tent and staying. It is like a massive holiday for poets with a daily celebration of words. However, knowing I could only manage one day this year – I chose a day with an action packed programme.

It was amazing. Read the full 21 Years of Gold


Week 2

After work I was too tired to get to watch Beyond the Water’s Edge at the Artrix and I am very disappointed to miss it. I also missed the WLF Committee meeting (as I was meant to be at the theatre). Where was I? Asleep! Although having read Week 1, I am not surprised. I was also working on an application and some poetry which I used most of my post-Ledbury adrenaline to fuel.

I booked in WPL work and wrote commissioned poetry for Buildings Talk Hospital Histories (a project I spent 3 weeks working on) and got my set for Chapel Lates organised and set some promo for an event in August.

I gave myself some downtime knowing the end of the week was another hectic schedule.

Performance/ Cheltenham Music Festival

Chapel arts

Chapel Lates in Cheltenham, an amazing night of poetry and prose as part of Cheltenham Music Festival curated by Anna Saunders (Founder Cheltenham Poetry Festival). Read all about it here  Chapel Lates Cheltenham-Music-Festival-1


This event clashed with HOWL and Outspoken. It is always the way. It has taken 4 years, but I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that I cannot be everywhere at once.


Buildings Talk: Hospital Histories

Charley Barnes asked me to participate in a Medical Museum Project at the end of June. We had access to historical archives (photographs) which are not on general display to the public and from these we created a 10 minute set of poetry.

Buildings Talk

It was a great project to be involved in, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Louise Price had the creative vision to intersperse the medical talks with poetry. We performed our poems with the images projected behind us.

The next stage of this project is displaying a selection of our poems alongside archived footage.

Read a full review here Buildings Talk: Hospital Histories

I took a poetry break for a couple of days to work and to reunite with college friends, our two yearly reunions, epic fun! Just imagine Drama students 20 years on!


I attended Open Poetry which this month was a charity event to raise funds for PIPKA – refugees in Lesvos, Greece.

I performed my refugee poem, now written 4 years ago, this world of ours remains in crisis. Read the full review here

EC This event was organised by Helen Calcutt and David Calcutt and featured Guest Spots from Christina Thatcher, she read from her recent collection ‘More Than You Were’.  more_than_you_were_large

Week 3


I needed some time at the desk to complete work from the Spring (another book endorsement) and read material that I am reviewing. I also needed lots of Admin time to complete arrangements for Artsfest (working on this since February), future bookings and promotion of other events.

I had as yet not re-awoken my creative muse – not to give a spoiler… but this was the month!

This was also the last week of work before the summer, my contract had finished and although I wasn’t expecting any work I had to remain on call. This meant several bleary-eyed mornings on the computer, just in case.

I had events and meetings to attend this week which did not involve me performing. A welcome treat/break from pressure and nerves. It also gave me some time to gather energy before the Artsfest Day (22nd).


Summer Party – Nine Arches Press

I thoroughly enjoyed this event with Jane Commane and…9 arches 3

The readings were superb and the atmosphere was definitely set to ‘PARTY’! Read all about it here


The following morning I had an early start and a meeting in Birmingham at the Custard Factory with Jonathan Davidson and the other writers involved in Spark Young Writers groups. As ever it was interesting sharing ideas and great to spend some time with other writers/poets.

Book Launch

In the evening I drove to Cheltenham to finally catch a Book Launch from Angela France. DFH4x-NVoAAzcZ2 I was excited to see the multi-media element that I had heard so much about and to listen to Angela read more from this collection I have been following for the past couple of years. Read the full review of this special evening

angela france the hill 1

The launch shook my muse awake and for the first time in months, I was writing. For about two hours straight!


I had a meeting with the Events Manager at the Jinney Ring to put plans into action for my September workshop using the Sculpture Trail. It was exciting, my list of 8 pointers were all achieved and it is shaping up to be a great WPL project.

Monday 18th September 10:30- 12:30 p.m glass tree

The Sculpture Trail at The Jinney Ring Craft Centre, Hanbury, Worcestershire.

The morning will start with a tour of the trail and some time to write using the sculptures for ekphrastic poetry or initial stimuli. Followed by a writing workshop in the marquee. 
Tea/Coffee and cake is provided as part of the ticket.

There will be opportunities to share writing and participants will be able to send polished work for at exhibition at the Jinney Ring in October.

In addition to all this, there will also be the opportunity to share your work at a reading in November.

For more information please contact me: worcspl[at]

Official poster with all booking details out soon. Just awaiting the new trail photograph. 
10:15 meet at the marquee for a 10:30 Tour. 
Tickets £7.00

Festival Artsfest

droitwich artsfest

I need to write a complete blog post for Artsfest – which finishes on the 5th August. I will link back here afterwards.

It was a brilliant day with Poetry in the Square and an evening event Poetry Extravaganza at Park’s Cafe.

Watch Out Worcester! 

watch out worcs

I performed at St. Swithun’s Church at an event created by Suz Winspear. It was a great experience and I loved the building and atmosphere. I will write a blog about this event and link it back to here.

st swithins dancefest

Week 4


I spent a few days chained to the desk with writing and admin. I missed Poetry Bites as I was too pushed for time to get to King’s Heath and extremely tired after the busy weekend.

I researched new material and wrote 3 new poems for 42.


I attended a workshop led by Angela France in Stratford, I always enjoy these sessions and listening to the work that is created.


I performed at Drummonds, 42 in the evening. The theme was Curiosities and I had fun exploring this theme. I wrote about an underground library in Seattle, the hanging coffins of China and fossilised skeletons. I left the Cabinet of… for others.

It was a great night, very entertaining with a Guest Host – Kevin Brooke – who did a sterling job, he made it look easy and we all know, it isn’t!

I missed Caffe Grande Slam for another month, as I needed to conserve energy.

ArtsFest Poet in Residence

On 28th July I was at the library in Droitwich as one of the Artists in Residence for Artsfest. I had a smashing morning talking all things poetry and tested out my Poetry Kit idea. This is something I will make more of at another point.

I took this booking as a poet, but decided as I am WPL it was a good opportunity to raise awareness of this role and promote WLF at the same time as DAN – Network.


It was a lot of fun and has given me ideas for future events. It was the first outing for my new WPL t-shirt and the tablecloth, bought after the workshop on Wednesday.

DAN Lib 2 Children making Poetry Kits – we were competing with the Summer Reading Challenge who had a sock puppet workshop, or as I saw it, we had a captive audience to come and make Poetry Kits for FREE after.

DAN Rhys  © 2017 Rhys Jones


I dropped in two poems to be displayed on the table and wall at The Canal Side Studio. There are more events this summer from there. So watch this space.

DAN Lib3

I finished the month with a Stanza meeting, which was a lovely evening and had some useful editing tips for my Dear Sky – Ivory/Figura workshop poem.

July has been exceptional!



March in Review


March felt like a funny old month. The start of the month was rocky, the usual dips and peaks were replaced with a fairly big dip, which fortunately finished mid-March, the end of the month was full of highs and gathered rollercoaster speed, positively hyperactive.

I missed out on many events I wanted to attend due to lack of time, transport and energy. My writing schedule was full and I continued to work on organising festival events as well as time spent making exciting applications. Keeping my fingers crossed.

In addition to this – we have AN EMPTY ROOM, I managed (finally) to sort the smallest bedroom which is our first redecoration project in the house Mr G and I moved into the year I returned to writing (2013). If I wasn’t writing, I kid myself that we would have finished the entire house by now. But the thing I look forward to the most is nesting new writing spaces! The room has now been empty and awaiting action for three weeks, but in that time Mr G has transformed the front garden (much to the pleasure of the neighbours) and bought a sander in preparation for the next epic challenge- actually doing the room!



V. Press collections: Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed, Book of Bones by Kathy Gee, Fragile Houses by Nina Lewis and The Old Man in the House of Bone by David Calcutt, with illustrations from Peter Tinkler were reviewed by Sam Smith. You can read the full reviews here

Sam Smith – Reviews in The Journal.

It was the final Permission to Speak on the 2nd, headlined by Pete the Temp (who I first saw at Verve).

Pete the Temp is a poet, educator and musician. His work has been featured on BBC radio and TV and in 2009 he became the National Poetry Slam Champion. Pete has toured theatres across England with his one man show ‘Pete (the Temp) vs Climate Change’. In 2015 he completed the MA Writer / Teacher Programme at Goldsmiths University. This led him to become one of the world’s first full-time spoken word educators to be embedded in a secondary school. He later went on to pilot the same work in a primary school. He was subsequently invited to do a TED Talk on the subject ‘Why Every School Should Have a Spoken Word Educator’. Pete has toured all over Europe with his art and now works as a poet and street performer. Rob Francis © 2017

We are all gutted that this event (of 2 years) has come to an end. The venue – which is one of the most amazing spaces I have had the pleasure to perform in, is closing. Rob Francis is extremely busy with writing and lecturing, maybe these things are sent by the universe as the timing seems right to free Rob up for other opportunities. He also got engaged recently, so I suspect there will be a busy non-poetry element going on in his life soon too. Fortunately I was tipped off just before the night kicked off, otherwise I would have been in floods when Rob announced it to the packed out room.

As always, it was a good night with an eclectic mix of open mics, poems, stories and extracts. It was fantastic to watch Pete in action again and I enjoyed his set immensely. Several lines have become ear-worms over the past month. I had an interesting conversation with him afterwards about poetry. You cannot help but be swept away on his passion-wave of enthusiasm.

Sadly I missed out on watching him perform again at the Artrix this week as I had a gig in Manchester the next day, work and lots of submission deadlines. If you get a chance to see him, you should grasp it for sure! ‘Keep it Lit!’


numbered boxes People who have read this collection rave about it – it is on my list to buy.

I spent the majority of writing time organising, I am currently organising three events for festivals which is keeping me busy.

I also had an opportunity to create work for Mental Health Awareness Week (May). Sarah Leavesley has, for several years posted poetry related to Mental Health during this week. ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ deals with these issues and last year you may remember I attended a workshop at the MAC which was part of the Magnetic Diaries Tour. Sarah mentioned back then that we could share our workshop poetry. As with lots of things at the moment it fell into the ‘to do’ pile. My main focus currently is the house, promoting Fragile Houses and organising festival events. Anyway, long story short, I did eventually manage to create a new poem from the workshop and another written especially for the blog project. More on this in May.

I had a request for a poem and spent the weekend working on editing and writing. I have found this month that I am very last minute. I discovered a submission opportunity the day before deadline (always a challenge) and more recently discovered an entire festival I had missed, a great shame as there was a workshop I would have loved to have attended.


The week I forgot to live… so many events missed. I felt the dip this week – my body/mind reacts by sleeping. I spent my writing time beavering away at schedules, organising festival events and generally needed sleep before bedtime. I did wish to be a busy poet and I guess I didn’t consider that I would need to be grown-up with scheduling or with reacting to the events I miss. Be careful what you wish for!

I missed Stirchley Speaks, Headlined by Tom McCann, Steve Pottinger was performing in Ludlow at The Poetry Lounge, I missed Howl – there was a new event in Cannock – Speaking Out Midlands, where all performers were open mic, allocated 10 minute slots. Charlotte had invited me some months ago and then word was spread on social media and it attracted a great crowd and I have read some rave reviews.

It clashed with SpeakEasy and when I discovered Adrian Mealing (who I have not seen for years) was headlining, I knew that I was going to save the car some miles. I do not regret this decision, SpeakEasy was a good night and it was lovely chatting and catching up with Adrian. CONFAB Adrian Confab Cabaret with John Hegley (the last time I saw Adrian).

Suffering the dip, being in a familiar environment with people I know was preferable. I was revitalised by the end of the evening. There were lots of new faces and audience, incredibly positive for the LitFest team. Suz performed the Squid Ballroom, part of her Laureate event – more on this next month, I am one of the invited performers.

I spent Friday tying up loose ends and trying to write. I sent my poems to Rick Saunders the brainchild behind Rob’s PTS thank you gift. We (the collective at PTS) have sent writing to Rick who has printed a pamphlet (more like a book at 80 odd pages) to present to Rob on the final night – Permission to Shut Up – at the end of March. I sent my poem about the stage ‘The Secret of Scary Canary’s Stage’ and one I wrote especially for Rob all about what he has achieved with PTS and what it means to the rest of us, originally titled ‘Permission to Speak’. He should be extremely proud of his achievements and hopefully this isn’t the last we have heard from him.

spark I spent an entire evening planning a non-fiction session for my Spark Young Writers group (Writing West Midlands). Inspired by the Royal Society of Photographers exhibition I walked around last month I decided to do Science Journalism. The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I am still wiping sweat from my brow – I was worried in case any of them chose to write about the bee’s anus. Which was an amazing piece of photography and incredibly fascinating to look at. I was amazed by the talented articles that came from this session. Some great writing.

It was also the DeMontfort Book Fair in Leicester – States of Independence, not something they hosted when I lived there for 5 years. Leicester is where I broke my performance poetry seal and will always have a little bit of a special place in my heart. Sarah Leavesley was there with her V. Press bookshop, she also launched her new book – a novella published by Mantle Lane Press. available to buy for just £4.00

It always hurts to miss out on events, I dreamed of a busy writing life and I have one, but it means that sometimes I no longer have the freedom to march across the country to be a part of special evenings. There are also the inevitable date clashes where big decisions are made. Never have cloning and teleportation been so necessary in my life!

On Sunday I missed one of the best opportunities since the Verve Festival. Bang Said the Gun – which I have known about since 2014 and watched countless clips of online is touring and they kicked off in Stafford – relatively close (would be closer if the M6 ever flowed properly) with Jo Bell and Jonny Fluffypunk (two of my old time/all time favs) and I missed it! It was Sunday night, Week 3 and 4 are full in my diary, energy was low, as were funds and Mr G and I need to spend more time together and my car is the equivalent of an old broken pull along toy with some bits missing and broken/re-knotted string! I do not trust it on terribly long journeys or car park motorways where you hear it over heat within the first crawling 100 yards.

I missed an amazing night and an opportunity to see friends from that neck of the woods too. Gutted. I did go to check out tickets and look at the rest of the tour and this was the nearest and also had the featured artists I wanted to see. I would say there will be other times, but with something like this – there won’t be. Gutted with a capital G.


Canterbury never had anything like this when I lived there either!

Week 3:


I knew I would miss License to Rhyme at the Artrix, featuring Pete the Temp. I had to work and manage Manchester the following evening and I spent part of Monday choosing and rehearsing/timing my set. I also spent time with family, which I hadn’t planned much beforehand and this left me hours behind on writing time. Not that it would be any other way. Family comes first. It just meant the will I /won’t I… became a definite No I won’t!

Again I heard good things about the evening and am particularly disappointed that I missed Fergus McGonigal and Lorna Meehan performing.

I did receive some exciting emails which made a night in with my inbox particularly worthwhile. And have since taken action on these – fingers crossed once again!

On Tuesday I headlined alongside Becky Cheeriman and Mark Pajak in Manchester at Sarah L. Dixon’s Quiet, Quiet Loud. I have known about this booking at Quiet, Quiet Loud for months and the butterflies went tribal. Originally looking to headline in April or May, the gig was brought forward as Sarah L Dixon is on the move and this was to be her final event at The Llyod’s.

Rick Saunders had signed up for the open mic and kindly offered to chauffeur up the M6. Unfortunately, days before his car broke down and so we were left with some last minute arrangements. In the end we hired a car (scared that mine wouldn’t make a 200 mile round trip in a night). The journey there was fine, even passing a Willis milk tanker – Rick’s stage name is Willis the Poet…  we passed the time chatting about the spoken word scene and stopping just once for the most expensive bottle of service station water – I think it was made from diamonds or something! The journey back was horrendous, closed motorways, detours and a SATNAV that was convinced the motorway junction was still open.

The event itself was worth every mile of motorway network and it was a pleasure to headline at the final Quiet, Quiet Loud. You can read my full review here and Rick managed to post his the very next day.

Huge thanks again to Rick for the lift.

Read the full review here

I spent Wednesday morning before work recovering, I found out about the Science and Arts Festival hosted by Birmingham University and a creative writing workshop that I would have loved to attend, although it would have been a lot before work to manage. I have pencilled it in for next year as there were lots of interesting events.

I spent Wednesday night working on submissions and on Thursday mum and I went to see Verve – Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Mr G bought us tickets for Christmas. Verve-web-8-crop-1876x1055

They made me want to dance again, to create dance poetry and to lose myself in costume and movement. The fact that my body could barely manage to sit through a 2 hour production tells me otherwise, but my soul is still very much committed!

I spent the weekend on things other than writing and chiselled out some time at the end of Sunday to write applications and work on my writing action plan. There are some intended submissions to create before the end of the month and three sets to plan for EarthHour (25th March), HerStory (31st March) and Poetry Ballroom (2nd April).

Week 4:

The week started with a flurry of activity organising poetry events and writing. February was a busy month for making applications and devising projects and this month sees more energy focused on these and some fruition.

I spent the first part of the week in rest (working, sleeping, living) and saving energy for a series of 3 days of poeting. Which was easy as only one of them involved performing. Although I left it somewhat late to arrange a set and fine tune the details.

I also agreed to hiding some GOLDEN TICKETS for Birmingham Literature Festival. It is the 20th Anniversary this year and the team have organised a Spring Festival to celebrate. They have sent out Golden Tickets to be found in local bookshops, Art cafes and libraries. I have taken two under my wing and let them fly (and hide).

The lucky finder wins a free ticket (worth at least £10) to an event of their choice. I want to find one of these – but it may cost more petrol money than buying a ticket. Fun idea. Great one. One I may steal in the future! First time I have ever felt like Willy Wonka… it was a good feeling.


On Thursday I saw Hollie McNish, I love Hollie…  it has been a while since I saw her perform and part of me knew that this book would be difficult for me for personal reasons, this is why I have not yet bought a copy – but watching her breathing magic into the tale and hearing such personal disclosure and truth was wonderful. hollie 2 The event had been organised at The Hive (Library) in partnership with Poetry On Loan – well done to Brenda Read-Brown!

I had been to the basement space once with my writing group and was amazed to find the event not in the studio – that was until I saw the size of the audience! Holly thought, it being a library gig in a small city there may be about 20 people! Multiply that by 10! A smashing night.

Read the full review here

My review of the Verve Poetry Festival went live on Sabotage Reviews.

sabosabo 6

Stanza happened on Friday – for the first time in months I thoroughly enjoyed it – and in a strange way all of our poems were love poems (but not the sort you imagine).


Over the weekend I celebrated Earth Hour and Mother’s Day. Earth Hour was amazing, I went to the event organised by Worcester LitFest at Café Bliss. You can read the full review here


Week 5

I spent the majority of my spare time writing and editing and planning how an earth I was going to manage this final week of performances and deadlines. The solution was an A4 checklist that I had very little leeway on.

I also had another poem published ‘Rag Tree’ which will be in the Beltane anthology by Three Drops. More news about festival events I am organising/performing in and events that I am just performing in. Future workshops to book and lots of potential festival tickets to be bought. I wrote new work and edited older poems.

Tuesday evening saw the final PTS – Permission to Speak become Permission to Shut Up – as it was a work night I was worried I may not last until the end, but scribbled a new poem especially for the last event (for now), the night before and got a short set ready. I was due to headline in May, potentially Rob may have a new venue by then, but I get the feeling that he needs/wants a mini-break and this would be the time to take it.

It was a great night, all in all and I will mark the occasion with a blog post as soon as I get some spare time. I took lots of pictures and stayed until the end to see Rick present Rob with his pamphlet.

42 in Worcester celebrated it’s 6th birthday and I took a newly scribed poem to celebrate. Rick Saunders headlined Spoken Trend on the same night, which I had to miss. Please someone clone me! Event clashes… every poet’s nemesis! 42 was fun and again, I will mark the occasion with a full blogpost when I have a little time. Polly made an amazing Black Forest Gateaux cake! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. All the performances were bang on and the celebratory air was sweet.


With two days left of March and Easter around the corner, you may think that was it… no, I am playing the game – How much can you pack into 48hours?

Thursday I gave myself a night off from performing/events – missing out on Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley again, I will get there. I spent the evening editing a new poem (my 3rd this week) and submitting work.


I also received an exciting email from my publisher. Another review of Fragile Houses, this time on Sabotage Reviews. How wonderful to start and end the month with reviews. You can read Rachel Stirling’s incredibly intricate review here.


I discovered Claire Walker and Holly Magill have embarked on editing a new Magazine ‘Atrium’, they have both edited for Kate Garrett at Three Drops recently and this new opportunity morphed from that experience. More on Atrium soon.

I saw Heather Wastie’s Nationwide advert – which was as equally exciting as watching Jo Bell’s and what made it special was seeing it first thing before work and in the final adverts before bed. Don’t ask me how I have time to watch TV and complete my mammoth writing tasks!

Holly McNish won the Ted Hughes award (one of the judges this year was Jo Bell – busy as always). Amazing news & recognition!

I received news of another successful Festival bid for this summer. More on this soon.

I completed the month with a Woo Feminista event HerStory at Café Bliss. I will blog and link it up here as soon as I can.

And now I am ready for NaPoWriMo, Poetry Ballroom and a rather-already-regrettable booking of an almost full week of work! I booked Monday off as I have 3 consecutive events this weekend and will be typing until my fingers go numb finishing my writing tasks over the next 24 hours!

I hope you all had a good month too. Leave me some of your highlights in the comments, it would be great to hear from you.


Keep Writing x