Category Archives: workshops

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 (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.



Working on Workshops


My week started with a meeting about a workshop booked for March. The next day I was back to Rugby Library where I facilitated a workshop in my

https_cdn.evbuc.comimages386723151810659541211original  WMRN role of Reader in Residence. It was a repeat of the successful workshop I ran in 2017 on Writing Book Reviews.

Last week I decided to offer a workshop to mark the Centenary of the Suffragettes, The Hive have an exhibition on, so this Saturday after my WWM Spark Young Writers group I am meeting 6-10 poets to spend an hour writing.

There are 3 community workshops planned with The Basement Project in March and April, some for adults and some with children.

I have a workshop booked at a school in Worcester with Year 7 in March.

Andrew Haines © 2017

Finally, a workshop with Bromsgrove School plus schools in the community. Following a wonderful meeting today I am all set for this one, what a fantastic space, the newly opened Cobham Theatre.

It certainly is workshop season! It is a great feeling when work booked back in November/December starts to roll closer.


Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018 – Power


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




Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018

18 – 30 April, venues throughout the town

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

 banner email

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more


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

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

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

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

The biggest and best yet!


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 – The Project


room 204

Back in April I was accepted onto Room 204, a writer development programme with Writing West Midlands. Just weeks after the official 2017/18 cohort announcement an opportunity appeared for a National Trust (NT) project at Croome Court.

In 2015/16 the NT facilitated the Plumlines exhibition (which has only recently closed), many Worcestershire poets were involved. This was the period I worked on my book ‘Fragile Houses’ and I had no time to get involved.

Working with two poets, Brenda Read-Brown and Heather Wastie, Croome held workshops with schools, writers groups, history groups and volunteers. 

The ‘Plumlines’ exhibition is a collection of real life stories expressed through 188 one-hundred word poems, written by people from across Worcestershire about a female relatives life during the First World War and is on display from 19 November 2016 until 19 November 2018. © National Trust

1431766712434-rfw-table-plum-stalks jack nelson.jpg

© Jack Nelson 

So I was delighted at this invitation and applied straight away (20th April), we were notified on the 11th May of our places on this project.


The remit was to visit Croome and get a sense for the place. Then on 1st July we had a day long workshop with Chris Alton – the Lead Artist for Adam Speaks.

Chris Alton Rachel Hill

© Rachel Hill

Adam Speaks – The Search for an Artist

Croome is working with an emerging artist to develop and make new work responding to Robert Adam’s vision and designs at Croome.  

A new art project at Croome

After the success of the Plumlines the team at Croome are embarking on an exciting new co-production project, mentored by national artist Hew Locke. © National Trust

Many artists applied for his position, including international artists.


© Peter Young

The original artists brief explains our role. We were one of four partner groups whose ideas fed into the work Chris completed.



Through innovative participation led by the artist, ideas realised in the workshops
with our four partner groups will set the foundations for the artworks. The selected
groups will input into the ideas stage of the artwork before the production/making
stage. The vision for participation will be supported by Croome. 


Croome will support the engagement aspect of the project, liaising with the groups
and managing the project structure. Once both artist and groups have visited
Croome, they will explore ideas based on Adam’s designs, through a series of
workshops that will take place at the groups ‘home ground.’


The selected artist, supported by Hew Locke, will research Adam’s work at Croome
with the participant groups and develop ideas for the artwork, e.g. what history or
story should be addressed in or influence the work. Looking at and selecting objects
from the collection, the workshops can focus on discussions about the
creative/design/production process, how Adam may have approached it, how artists approach it today. 


Why are we doing this?
Through the project, we want to tell the story of Adam (himself an emerging
designer) at Croome in an accessible and interesting way, to introduce new
audiences to his life and work at Croome and make relevant connections to the
impact Adam had on our lives – the ‘everyday’ connections that still exist.

We want Croome to be known as supporting new artists and local communities .We
would like ‘Adam Speaks’ to be a project which is an example of good practice , in its
creative outreach projects and mentoring, helping other Trust properties to develop
further understanding regarding creative collaboration. © National Trust

Kiki Claxton, Creative Programme Coordinator
Rachel Sharpe, Creative Partnerships Manager

Adam Speaks – Chris Alton—adam-speaks-artist

Chris worked with four partner groups: Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA), Kimichi School, Writing West Midlands and St Barnabas First and Middle School.

Chris was supported and mentored by Hew Locke. Locke is a world renowned artist with artworks owned by the Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum to name a few.  He specialises in a wide range of mediums which include sculpture, painting and photography, often within Locke’s work his ideas resonates with historical references and sites. © NT

Chris spent a day in workshops with each group.



1431782527872-adam-speaks-wwm-170701-19-rfw-credit-peter-young.jpg Writing West Midlands

© Peter Young



Our Creative Session on July 1st was fun and intensive. An initial starting point was personal objects and discussions about society. The panic some of us felt over the art supplies was soon rested, as we had the pleasure of drawing out our thoughts. It was the longest workshop I have ever done and was greatly rewarding.



© Peter Young

I hope Chris won’t mind me publicly sharing the words he passed onto Jonathan Davidson (Director WWM) after our workshop.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was incredible impressed by the calibre of writing exhibited by the group. There were a number of texts produced on the day that I found to be truly moving. The group were an absolute joy to work with; generous, open and bold with regard to their engagement with the subject matter and workshop format. – Chris Alton

I also thoroughly enjoyed my day at Croome Court (25th June), my notebook is full of glorious observations, sketches and words. Possibly a poem or two.

Once Chris had worked with everyone he then went away and spent time at Croome and in the studio creating his ideas and later the finished design and artwork.




Poetry Swindon Festival – Day 4


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

Day 4 

Sunday 8th October

swindon RJ

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

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

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

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

SPF Rishi Workshop MF

SPF rishi 2

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

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

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

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

spf harold & milo

A. F. Harrold and Milo.

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

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

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

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

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

This is the power of poetry.

AWF Jess Mookherjee

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

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

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

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

kathy Gee

Guest Poet Kathy Gee


Louisa Davison


Louisa Campbell


Miranda L. Barnes

susan taylor

Susan Taylor

shaun butler

Shaun Butler

iris anne lewis

Iris Anne Lewis

James Harris

James Harris


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

bethan rees

Bethan Rees

1simon williams

Simon Williams


1 liz mills

Guest Poet Liz Mills

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

1 ds read

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

1 alex

Alex Josephy


Daniel Sluman


Julia Webb

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


Poetry Swindon Festival Day 3


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

Day 3 

Saturday 7th October 

swindon dog

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

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

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

swindon tania blurred boundaries mf

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

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

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


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

spf how to get published

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

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

SPF mad & Glow

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

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

AWF PS Me Sarah


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

SPF Christina Battered Moons
Christina Newton – Organiser Battered Moons

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

SPF Christina Newton


Spf Caitlin Eastham

Caitlin Eastham

SPF Malika Booker

Malika Booker



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

SPF bar

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

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

You can catch Keith James here.


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

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


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


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

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


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

SPF anna bath

SPF Anna bath 2

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

SPF Party dixon

SPF party mf

SPF dixon1

SPF dixon

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

AAWF Swindon Party


Meet our Reader in Residence

Meet our Reader in Residence

My next exciting adventure! I was invited to apply for the position of Reader in Residence through West Midlands Readers’ Network in July. The application and bid were successful and in August I was allocated Rugby Art Gallery, Museum & Library as my base. September and October involved meetings and emails and this month preparation for my first event.

I am delighted to have this opportunity. I watched Jean Atkin & Deborah Alma have fun with their residencies and have wished for this for a while.

Warwickshire Libraries

Hello!  I’m Nina Lewis, a writer and current Poet Laureate of Worcestershire. I’m very excited to be the brand new Reader In Residence at Rugby Art Gallery, Museum & Library. My position has been appointed through Roz Goddard of West Midlands Readers’ Network and Warwickshire Libraries.

So far I met some of the team in Warwickshire to make initial plans and introductions. I came to visit Rugby Library, spent a good while looking at a heritage display, dipping into local history books and admiring historical photographs and maps of the area, before meeting the lovely Library staff and the rest of the team.

Untitled design (3)

I was delighted to find out more about the Poetry Voices work happening in Warwickshire with Brenda Read-Brown and Poetry on Loan. There have been so many great events for you to attend locally. As my residency runs at the same time we decided not to focus…

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