Tag Archives: Verve Poetry Festival

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!


Bookgig.com © 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 Day 2 Friday 16th


verve progs

Cynthia Miller © 2018

Another incredible evening in Waterstones. I am as excited as ever seeing National poetry friends making their way to the city. It is going to be a great weekend! Although the flip-side of that is being invited to go and socialise when you were intending on staying for the whole night of Verve. I needed to be able to split myself into 4 versions of me this evening.

There will be time for food come Monday, for the next few days poetry is my breakfast, dinner and tea!


I will share the link to the official blog once it is live, in the meantime here are some soundbites from me and harvested material from those in possession of better phones!

verve team 2

Verve Team © 2018

Tonight started with Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale and Mir Mahfuz Ali talking to Jo Bell and sharing poetry from their collections. A moving experience.

jo bell cynthia M

Cynthia Miller © 2018

louise palfreyman

Louise Palfreyman © 2018
louise palfreyman1Louise Palfreyman © 2018

hannah swings

Hannah Swings © 2018

louise palfreyman3

Louise Palfreyman © 2018

verve team

Book signings.

sweet shop miller Verve Team © 2018

Tonight’s addition was a sweet shop! This is Nellie setting up.

Then after a short break/book signing came the Dead or Alive Slam produced by Bohdan Piasecki and hosted by Amerah Saleh.

Two poetic worlds will collide at Dead or Alive Slam at Verve, only the second time this format has ever been done. Witness a battle of words and wit as three of the UK’s leading contemporary slam poets challenge three dead poets in three epic slam rounds, judged by a panel of audience members. Who will be the victor?

da slam.jpg

A preposterous, reason defying spoken word competition, pitting living poets against their dead predecessors, re-animated for this one night just for your entertainment. Watch Team Life, comprised of Genevieve Carver, Isiah Hull and Caroline Teague, take on Team Death, featuring Christina Rossetti, Forough Farrokhzad, and Djuna Barnes (brought to life by Tembi Xena, Lorna Nickson Brown, and Zeddie Lawal). Judges from the audience will determine who wins, assigning numerical values to poems in an entirely meaningless attempt to instill reason into an event challenging the order of things. 

In other words, this is your chance to hear poetry from six incredible poets, interpreted by brilliant performers, all in an exciting and accessible format, as part of the altogether brilliant Verve poetry festival. Do yourself a favour and do not miss this. 

The night will be hosted by the all-powerful Amerah Saleh.

– Events Page

DA cyn miller

Cynthia Miller © 2018

DA cynthia Miller

Cynthia Miller © 2018

It was a fabulous concept and a great night… I cannot reveal who won yet, but I can tell you there was dancing.


Verve Day 1 Thursday 15th Feb.


verve 18

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

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

Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker

Cynthia Miller Pat Edwards Cynthia Miller © Pat Edwards 2018

Imitiaz Dharker Jane Commane Pat EdwardsPat Edwards © 2018

Imtiaz Dharker in conversation with Jane Commane

Imtiaz Dharker Cyn M

Cynthia Miller © 2018

hannah swings

Hannah Swings © 2018

Hit the Ode Verve Technology Special

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

Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival © 2018

HTO Gaia Harper

Bohdan Piasecki Hosting HTO – Gaia Harper © 2018

tomani cyn m

Tomomi Adachi pre-wearable tech. Verve Team © 2018

tomani hannah swings

Tomomi Adachi – Hannah Swings © 2018

silva tomani hannah swings


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

hannah swings yomi


Yomi Sode – Hannah Swings © 2018

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

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

Verve Official Blogger Links to be shared soon.




Verve Ready!


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

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

verve 10

A packed programme awaits.


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

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

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

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

© Verve Poetry Festival 2018

Thursday 15th February

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

verve v stick



November Review


November – one step closer to the end month! Where did 2017 go? It is true, the older you get the more time flies. Most of this month’s review will read like a gig list.

I am delighted to have started creating again, writing beyond commissions. I have also submitted poetry for the first time since the Spring (although three poems made it out in September).

Exciting news landed in my inbox about awards & festivals, on the back of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project (WPL) I have started collaborating with a local artist, Stephen Evans and after a fallow period of being very busy but feeling disconnected, I feel better. Gliding rather than flapping towards December.



Week 1 

Started at Bottles, Worcester for Uncorked without Holly Daffurn this month, but the reigns were taken by Joe. It was an enjoyable evening and I got to sit on a table with two journalists from the Local Paper – we had some great conversations about poetry.

I knew only half of the Headliners, I always enjoy it when I do not know the acts. I hadn’t seen Glyn Phillips a.k.a Armitage Spode for ages so it was good to catch up with him and I have never seen him perform with a Beatboxer, Fred Hanbury was AMAZING! As I left the gig I was about to tell him as much, but he disappeared swiftly on a skateboard (of course), I have never felt so old!

Melanie Branton was great, I loved her language play. Scott Cowley a.k.a Rusty the Goat Poet, I have had the pleasure of watching at Spoken Trend, great to hear a whole set from him and Raja Khan blew me away. I discovered later he is fairly new to performing his poetry publically – which is something I would not have guessed. The depth of his work was eye-opening to a world I do not know well.



Melanie Branton took up spoken word in 2014 at the age of 46. She won the 2015 Bristol regional final of the Hammer and Tongue slam and the 2017 Bristol regional final of Superheroes of Slam, has appeared at WOMAD, Bristol Harbour Festival and Cheltenham Poetry Festival and took a one-woman show about not having a boyfriend to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Her debut collection, “My Cloth-Eared Heart”, is published by Oversteps Books and her mixture of comic verse and serious confessional poetry has made her a popular headliner in the South West. She still doesn’t have a boyfriend. “When I first saw Melanie perform a set in Bristol, I was laughing out loud and leaning in on the edge of my seat intently to hear more all in the space of 20 minutes. A fantastic poet with a great mix of dry humour and real-life heart and emotion.” – Harry Baker “Melanie Branton is an unexpected poetry slap. The kind that makes your face tingle and your eyebrows sky rocket. She is funny, clever, ironic, dry, gripping, needed and you won’t see her coming until she is standing in your face.” – Liv Torc


Scott Cowley (aka Rusty Goat the Poet) Born in 1972, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. He began to meander south at an early age (hence the lack of northern twang) His poetry touches on subjects relating to Life, Crisis, Love and Discovery. He finds the whole experience of writing and performing his poetry very cathartic. Scott tries to scratch pen across pulp on a daily, if not weekly basis, and will continue to do so until the ink runs dry.


Raja Khan is a poet, philosopher and entrepreneur from Pakistan who came to the UK 4 years ago and has been writing poetry for the past 12 years, but only started performing 2 months ago. The melodic poetry that Raja performs is tightly composed and revolves around social, religious, cultural and political issues. Most of the inspiration for structure and rhythm is drawn from the classic poetry as that of Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth and Auden etc. Raja is direct in his admiration for the human spirit and progression, while highlighting his disdain for dogma and regressiveness through employing metaphores and a strong narrative style.


Armitage Spode describes himself as “part-time poet, half-time hedonist and full-time philanderer”. Mrs Spode describes him as “a very silly man who ought to get a proper job if he knows what’s good for him…”. With his ribald rhymes and saucy odes Armitage brings his old-fashioned Music Hall style of verbal entertainment to Worcester for one night only. Which is just as well – the good burghers probably won’t let him back through the city gates after this. With singalong choruses, a moustache large enough to make a grown woman weep and more innuendos than you can stuff inside a burlesque dancer’s corset, Armitage Spode will salaciously expound upon such subjects as Britain’s baked goods heritage, the British love of pets and why moustache wax is the new Viagra. Mary Berry and Barbara Woodhouse would most certainly not approve. Salvador Dali and Terry Thomas probably would. Armitage Spode: utter filth, served with finesse . . . Huzzah!!

© Uncorked

DAlma© Deborah Alma


I spent an amount of time with event background work this week. I received running orders from Peter Sutton for the Elgar Poetry Event, worked with the Jinney Ring in attempting to secure a reading of Sculpture Workshop work and discussing the exhibition and working with Rosie Philpott organising the Art side of the Hanbury Hall Poetry reading. I also had two Talks to prepare.

On Monday I went to Worcester University to do a poetry talk to the Creative Writing Society. This was my second talk and I have to say they are an enjoyable experience. With a teaching background I am not phased by public speaking. As with all these bookings there is lots to do in preparation and of course I got lost on Campus. I had a good evening and it brought back memories of oh, too long ago! As WPL I was impressed to receive at least one student submission on the back of this meeting. I wish CW Societies had existed when I was at uni.


© Worcester University


Week 2: 

Started with a treat, HOWL. It has been too long since I made it over for this event and Sophie Sparham (who has a book launch soon) had 2 nights of gigging in Birmingham. I missed Stirchley Speaks the night before and WAS NOT going to miss her again. I first met Sophie when we both Headlined Howl on the same night (still one of my favourite gigs), she is amazing, her work has more depth beyond the depth and she speaks honestly and openly about many topics that don’t get the word-time.

Joining her was Hannah Swings, a poet I have heard lots about who I had missed out on since my lost time in Birmingham, I used to be connected to the circuit more before they started digging up all the roads and building on my parking spaces. That and being a PL of an entire county which is some 35 miles away and not being able to afford petrol/train fare… the list goes on, but Birmingham, I miss you!

Ben Fagan was celebrating his birthday – so we all ended up wearing party hats. His work treads that fine thread balance beam from being so sad you almost cry and making you laugh and whoop loudly. It was a brilliant set.

I left this night feeling like I haven’t felt in a long time. I was electrified. The atmosphere of Howl is amazing. Roller coaster adrenaline all the way home and into the next day!


Ben Fagan

Ben Fagan is a spoken word poet and producer from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently based in London. He is a TEDx performer and organiser, and has shared his work across the UK, USA and NZ. Ben has taken two poetry shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and tweets for Apples and Snakes. Alongside UK Slam Champion Sara Hirsch, he won the Edinburgh Fringe Anti-Slam and came second in the national finals, making them the second-worst poets in the UK.

Hannah Swings

Hannah Swings is a noun, not a verb. She is a writer, teacher, artist and lover of anything vintage. Born and raised in Birmingham, she’s currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at UoB, but has a background in community theatre and likes to dabble across all artistic platforms. When performing, Hannah’s ‘haunting yet hopeful’ storytelling spans themes such as identity, relationships and mental health, exploring her inner narratives through ephemeral, witty and illustrative visions.

Hannah spends her days teaching secondary and sixth form students that it is okay to be messy. Her handmade poetry postcards have recently celebrated the power of the everyday; something she’s fascinated by, and she continues to facilitate workshops surrounding this. [She can also quote the whole of Mean Girls and finds it fundamentally strange if someone is not a dessert person.]

Hannah has performed with Tongue Fu, featured at Stirchley Speaks and Upstairs at The Western, and at BOM, the Old REP, REP Birmingham, Derby Theatre, Oxjam Fest and mac, amongst others. She featured on BBC Radio West Midlands discussing the power of community when creating art and is an alumnus of both the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and Beatfreeks YSC cohort 2017.

She believes good things come to those who make.

Sophie Sparham

Sophie Sparham is a performance poet and writer from Derby. Represented by Tom Ashton, she is currently editing her second young adult sci-fi and fantasy novel.

Her poetry mainly focuses on political and social subjects, such as depression, LGBT and women’s issues. She has performed all around the UK; including festivals such as Y Not and the Opera House Stage at Rebellion, the UK’s biggest punk festival.

Sophie’s work has appeared in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, as part of the exhibition ‘Loitering with Intent’. Last year she was featured as one of the UK Young Artists with her collection ‘Dead Air: If they won’t place us in the history books, we’ll write our own stories’. This allowed her to perform poetry in unusual places from market halls to libraries, educating people about forgotten revolutionary figures from history.



The following evening I went to SpeakEasy, Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill were Headlining. It is unusual to have two headliners at SpeakEasy and it was fabulous.

I love watching Amy and it has been so long since I saw her in action. It was a pleasure. Heartfelt and humorous, another performer who balances well.

Jeff Cottrill is from Canada his set was lively fun to watch. I always enjoy the work of International poets and try to catch them when I can. It’s a big world out there!

Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill are two celebrated poets and authors with distinctive styles and work that really packs a punch – and this month you have the chance to see both of them. Amy and Jeff will both be delivering a 20 minute performance each on the evening so for a chance to see two stellar poets in action, come on down to SpeakEasy and settle in for an evening of crackin’ entertainment. 

© SpeakEasy

It was certainly crackin’ and entertaining! Lots of great open mics too and I managed to bag a 6 minute slot, although I had to pretend to be Steve… this was okay, I had taken my moustache poem, it deserved an outing, last performed at Kieran’s Kings & Queens of Comedy night back in January.



U3A_official_logo - orange© u3asites

Friday saw my 2nd talk of the week, this time for Worcester’s U3A group. It was an honour to be the first guest speaker and I felt relaxed talking about all things Laureate. The questions from the groups were focused and I hope my answers were too. I also did a quick write exercise using juxtaposition which produced some wondrous poems. I also heard some of their writing too. A valuable experience and as a bonus I walked away with a few new ideas of my own.



Saturday saw an Elgar Poetry Event at the Elgar School of Music. What I really loved about all this that despite all the shared emails, we did not see each other’s sets. It was joyous to listen to them and Peter Sutton deserves lots of credit for his skillful weaving of our work. The flow was there between Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Elgar, Alice, Youth, Old age, Death and interwoven insights from Peter and works of Elgar’s contemporaries. Michael’s reading of W.H Auden nearly sent me over the edge. Moving. Dramatic. Fun. Delightful. A true experience of an evening and as a fundraiser it was successful too.

Read more about it here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/elgar-poetry-event/

Peter Sutton, Lesley Ingram, Nina Lewis and Michael W. Thomas.



Sunday I spent time producing WPL Remembrance Anthology to mark Remembrance Sunday. This was my hardest editing challenge yet. Submissions reached over 3 figures, the maybe pile was towering and I only had a couple of days between the deadline and production of the work.


I am happy with the result and so are the poets who found their work had been placed. It was heartwarming and sad to read all the tributes to family members and unearth the war stories. I was delighted to have had such a response, this was truly an International collection. We have former soldiers, grandchildren/children of the Remembered, heartache, hope and truth blended here.

Here are just some of the things that have been said about it:

What a lovely and extremely moving Remembrance Anthology.

Such wonderful and meaningful poems.

Some lovely poems here. Beautifully put together with images.

It is a beautiful anthology.




Monday saw the biggest crowd ever at Licensed to Rhyme with Spoz & Maggie Doyle, standing room only, 17 open mics and Kathy Gee in the Guest Spot and headlined by Ash Dickinson. It was an incredible evening. It was a delight to see the new venue had indeed brought Birmingham people in. The previous venue was technically only 4 miles further out but not close to the stations. I also know how relieved I am when I make the journey the other way and the venue is in the outskirts rather than central city. I also believe we had audience from the village itself, I hope they come again too. I would if it was my village (not smarting at all that my closest venue has decamped)! It is a cracking evening wherever they host it and I do like the new venue.

Ash Dickinson is a performer I have followed for years and I am so delighted he is busy on the circuit, although how he manages it – I think he has wings! His set was a delight. Thoroughly enjoyed by everybody in the room! A blinding night!



vpress-stand-free-verse © V. Press 2016

Tuesday saw amazing news in my inbox, my publishers are shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. I shall be keeping my fingers crossed on the 12th December.


V. Press is very very delighted to have been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award…

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

It’s been a delight to publish these pamphlets and V. Press is very very proud of all its authors – the press is its writers, readers and all those involved with it, including our fabulous poetry covers from V. Press designer Ruth Stacey.

The Awards will be announced at a dinner at the British Library on Tuesday, 12 December, where Sarah Leavesley will be giving a three minute presentation about the V. Press 2016/17 pamphlet list.

© V. Press

Do check out the V. Press website on the Awards link above, they are offering a generous discount on the pamphlets they had in for this year. Read more here


This wasn’t the only AMAZING news in my inbox. I was also invited to be an International Guest at a Poetry Festival next summer. Of course I started dancing around the room and looking into funding straight away. Then I received a follow up email with the application process. Fortunately most of the CV is up to date since applying for the Reader Residency in July.

The 5 day wait for the committee decision was agonising… my booking was confirmed.

Celebrate the World

All this good news hit my inbox on the same day as the Hanbury Hall Poetry/Art event.

I spent the whole day feeling like a child at Christmas counting down the minutes to my Hanbury Hall Poetry & Art event. Especially after the fortnight’s preparation. Another cracking night, another packed cafe!

Park's cafe 2

This time for the 2nd part of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project. Nine poets who took part writing ekphrastic poetry based on the DAN Art Exhibition at Hanbury Hall in October came to share their poems at a special reading where (thanks to Rosie Philpott) we were able to show images of the artwork alongside our poems.

It was a fantastic evening and was even better than I hoped. It was also my last planned event as WPL for 2017. Read more here.




Week 3

The following night Kathy Gee, Maggie Doyle and I journeyed to Cheltenham to Smokey Joes for Poetry Cafe Refreshed. It was lovely to see Sharon Larkin again, it has been too long.

It was an enjoyable evening with a rich variety of poetry and even a few spoken word spots. Kate Noakes shared her incredible poetry and I wish I hadn’t spent my funds on milkshake and wine because I would have treated myself to her books.

smokey joes

It amazes me that I haven’t come across her before her biography and back catalogue both impressive. I will certainly have an eye out for her and her poetry in the future. I particularly admired the concept of her Tattoo collection.

Her first collection Ocean to Interior, was published by Mighty Erudite Press in December 2007, whilst I was still very much stuck in a full-time teaching career and poetry was way off my radar.

Here latest collection is published by Eyewear and is all about Paris, where she now lives most of the time.

eyewear kate noakes.jpg



The following evening I hit Birmingham – for Hit the Ode, which was celebrating 7 years of amazing Spoken Word and Poetry. This special anniversary addition included Birthday cakes, poetry open mic and Regional – Roger Robinson (Northampton), National – Shadè Joseph (London)  and International – Penny Ashton (NZ) Headliners as well as an amazing raffle, no one envied Jack Crowe taking that huge heavy bag of books home, well – we all did a bit!

I was looking forward to seeing Roger Robinson again, my first time witnessing his magic was at Ledbury Poetry Festival. Shadè Joseph & Penny Ashton were new to me and I enjoyed both sets. Shadè’s heavily influenced by music/musicians and Penny’s was humorous, rude, sexy and delightful! I also owe her big time for finding my fiver and train ticket that had fallen out of my pocket earlier in the evening. (Mr G. reminds me to use my purse, I have at least 10!)

It was (as always) an immensely fun evening, the rock world of poetry in my opinion. It was also the German Christmas Market outside so the streets of the city were very much alive at the beginning of the night but had all packed up by the time us late-night Poets made our way home.


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. 


© Penny Ashton Womad, Roger Robinson Twitter, Shadè Joseph You Tube


Sparks YW group celebrated Mickey Mouse’s Birthday with a session on Comic Strips/Graphic Novels.

I had the rest of the weekend off with Mr. G.

Monday night saw the V.I.P Launch of the Verve Poetry/Spoken Word Festival. I was invited last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year was just as wonderful. The evening included performances from Sean Colletti, Casey Bailey & Liz Berry, who are all featuring in the 2018 programme, which I also got my hands on. Workshops have been booked and I have a festival pass request in with Santa!

verve 9

I spent the night whizzing around Waterstones, twirling into people, briefly conversing, hugging & generally enjoying the atmosphere.

My glittery lipstick went down a storm too, although having forgotten the application, I wondered why people were staring at my mouth.

glitter lips epic

Read all about it here

I have my tickets booked already and suggest you do the same! The Liz Berry workshop SOLD OUT within 3 days, so glad I bagged my ticket.



This week also saw a new project get off the ground for WPL. An idea first floated back in July to The Basement Project for some community workshops. I am delighted after meeting the team this morning to have these booked in for Spring 2018.


The Basement Project is run by volunteers who do very important work and provide support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Find out more about them here.


Week 4:

I mainly worked on submissions and balancing my time with life offline and out of poetry books/events. I was sad to have to cancel my radio slot with Tammy Gooding on BBC Hereford & Worcester this week.


Thursday night saw a superb event at Waterstones, Burning Eye Book Launch. Having had less than a week of work this academic year, my funds are definitely in the red and with Christmas Shopping to do I have cut back on both travel and events for December, starting this week. I also feel the need for balance and time at home. I need to re-energise and with this in mind, I was not too gutted when my Friday gig was cancelled.

I finally started to fill in the blog gaps, with my review posts of Poetry Swindon Festival (October).

spf promo










I also wrote some Guest Blog posts for Warwickshire Libraries for my Reader in Residence role. My first workshop is next week.

Featured Image -- 21184


I was saving all my energy for Saturday – and I certainly needed to.

Saturday saw a day at Croome Court for the official Adam Speaks NT project event that I have been involved in with Room 204 since May.



Events started at midday with the official speeches at 3 and the grand opening 3:30 PM

I arrived at 1:30 with plenty of time to take in the events, the Tree House and catch up with people working on the project. I am writing a full review early next week and will add the link back here. There is so much to say about today. A wow day indeed!

croome dance 2

© 2017 Nina Lewis 




I also sent lots of submissions this month, finally back in the saddle after 5 months of WPL/Events Management/ Performance work. So far, the inbox has amassed a collection of rejections, I was shortlisted for one anthology, sadly have since found my poems won’t be included. This is the way it goes sometimes. I am okay with that. I am just happy I have started writing and submitting again.

alphabets-2365812_1920 (1).jpg

I also FINALLY started to gather ideas for the next book. I was beginning to think this would never happen. It has happened, it has started, 3 pages of notes and a trawl through current files has set it well on its way.

I missed several events due to lack of funds, time and energy and you know, I am beginning to learn the gentle act of forgiveness for such things. I knew I wanted to wind down a bit in December – necessary as I need to give time to home and family.

One event I did NOT want to miss was Jacqui Rowe’s final Poetry Bites. She has been organising this bi-monthly event for years. She has encouraged over 500 poets in floor spots and 70 Guest Poets too. She has hosted Poetry Bites for over 10 years.

Antony Owen and Jacqui Rowe were the featured poets with 17 floor spots. It was great to hear a whole set from Jacqui, whose collection ‘Blink’ has just been released by V. Press. Antony’s set brought me to tears several times. I would urge you to buy The Nagasaki Elder (V. Press) too. Put them both on Christmas lists, these are books which need to be read.

© Roz Goddard

Poetry Bites will be continuing, in the capable hands of Elaine Christie and Matt Nunn. It will still be the fourth Tuesday of January, March, May, July, September, and November at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath.

This week I also secured a school poetry workshop that has been in development since the beginning of October. It will happen in March 2018.

I also took a booking for an event at the Birmingham Midland Institute for May 2018. I really need to get my hands on a new diary, I have a special one on my Christmas List. One I have wanted since 2014. A special Mslexia Diary.


I also secured  some exciting opportunities for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival. 2018 verve v stickis going to rock!


Week 5

Started with clashing events – Spoken Trend in Kings Norton had Casey Bailey and Theo Theobald as the Headliners, but I had already committed to 42 in Worcester. These events always clash, so I try to divide my time between them.


42 has been hosted by Polly Stretton for a while now and this year she introduced guest hosts to MC. I have known who the November MC will be and I promised them months ago I would be there. I also wrote my ‘Haunted Castle’ themed poem a month ago too, although having left it to rest I know it needs a bit of editing work.

It was an enjoyable evening after I managed to get there for the 2nd half. The Victorian Christmas Fayre is in town and the car park closest to the venue is fully fun fair! I knew this, I didn’t like to use a multi-storey and as I entered every other available car park I either found them to be full or one car sneaking into the last space. After several circuits of the city and resisting a turn back home, twice(!) I finally parked miles away, with a 20 minute brisk walk back to the venue. It was worth it though. I dusted off ‘The Stanley Hotel’ with newly recorded soundbites too.

Thursday 30th saw me deliver my first workshop as the Reader in Residence in Rugby.

wmrn review writing workshop.jpg

Which despite finishing planning and researching in October, I used another 7 hours prepping a few days before. This meant end of month submissions were tight. It was a great workshop – blogpost soon.

I also had the opportunity to go a special reading/recording of a new pamphlet, terribly exciting both the anticipation of the launch/book (next month) and also this recording. Claire Walker’s 2nd Pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ published by V. Press Launches on 9th December. Yesterday she invited some of us to a closed reading as part of her interview with a BBC Online Journalist. Unfortunately it happened whilst I was out on the road after the workshop*.

Why do so many brilliant things always have to clash? I have had many whole weeks with no work for months since July and now it has finally started to trickle in this happens!

Frustrating. But great that there is so much going on.

*I don’t want this to become an angry blogpost about the state of the roads – but my journey across took over 1hr 40 mins today and parking was once again a problem. Next workshop I am setting out super early!

deb alma xmas© Deborah Alma

December was meant to be a month off but the amount of events in the diary already prove that this will not quite be the case. I am going to start working on my next collection and take at least 10 days off completely just to do Christmas things. Mr G. and I both get a fortnight off work so that should be feasible.

It might take 10 days to get my room Christmas ready!



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 http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/

Sam Smith – Reviews in The Journal. http://thesamsmith.webs.com/

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.

http://www.mantlelanepress.co.uk/product/kaleidoscope 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. https://willisthepoet.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/quietly-does-it/

Huge thanks again to Rick for the lift.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/manchester-quiet-quiet-loud-headline/

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 https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/hollie-mcnish-nobody-told-me/

My review of the Verve Poetry Festival went live on Sabotage Reviews. http://sabotagereviews.com/

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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


Sabotage Reviews – Verve Poetry Festival



I can now reveal why all went quiet on reviewing Verve Poetry Festival last month… I was writing this review for Sabotage Reviews. I am delighted they have posted it and I will now (when I have time), resume the blog posts before I forget all the details of the events!

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I am really chuffed to have had the opportunity to write this! Get it in your diaries for next year.