Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Better Things 2 - another NYE poem

It's important to have realistic expectations when planning your New Year's resolutions. This poem is a continuation of last year's NYE offering, which you can find here. I hope you like it, and I hope you have a safe and merry New Year's Eve!

Better Things 2

This year
I will travel the globe
I will go to Europe
I will explore the British Isles
I will finally find out what's in our shed

This year
I will be kinder to everyone
I will help out in my neighbourhood
I will do one good deed a day
I will stop biting the postman

This year
I will volunteer for charity
I will give my time to others
I will try to be less self-involved
I will stop referring to myself in the third person

This year
Leanne will be more healthy
She will eat fresh vegetables
She will have at least one piece of fruit per day
She will see a doctor about the Scurvy

This year
I will learn to speak better French
I will learn to speak better English
I will stop using Klingon at parties
tlhIngan DanoHmeH cha' jImon

This year
I will make new friends
I will try to be more approachable
I will smile more
I will stop talking about FBI conspiracies at parties

This year
I will articulate my feelings
I will wear my heart on my sleeve
I won't hide behind stupid poems
I will tell you that I love you

Sunday, 29 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - A Year in Review

Well, this is the last news post of 2013. It's been a ridiculously busy year for me, but thoroughly enjoyable too!

Whether I was working alongside incredible creative talent at the Norwich Writers' Centre Live Literature Residency, writing oodles of sonnets for the 28 Sonnets Later Project, or working on commissions with the Fenland Poet Laureate programme, it was such a pleasure to be collaborating with so many inspiring poets, writers and promoters.

This year I met some of my literary heroes, including the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Ian McMillan, and Neil Gaiman, and I performed alongside one of my all time favourite poets, Mr John Hegley.

I also got the chance to meet local poets and emerging writers from right across the Fens, through poetry workshops, talks and events. I performed at venues across the East of England, and even took an overnight jaunt up to Yorkshire, to tell some poems at Away with Words in the lovely city of Hull.

My work was published in fifteen journals - printed and online - and one of my poems even made it to Israel, as part of the Reading Rooms exhibition at the Alfred Gallery in Tel Aviv. One of my notebooks also found its way into the Literary Manuscripts: Wisbech Writers exhibition at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, sitting in a glass cabinet alongside notes written by John Keats, Mary Shelley, William Wordswoth, Charles Dickens, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Taylor Coldridge.

That was crazy!

In the summer, I performed at some fantastic festivals, including the Strawberry Fair in Cambridge, Folk East in Lowestoft, and the Hythe Festival in Colchester. I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the group slam team at the Hammer and Tongue Grand Finals, and my poem Carnival Cargo appeared as part of the display at the Rose Fair in Wisbech.

I did a small set as part of the fantastic line-up at the Peterborough Arts Fest, and helped raise money for some fantastic causes through performances at Oxjam and Women's Work: A Showcase of Female Performers.

Then there was the Aldeburgh poetry festival (Ah-maz-zing!) and the launch of Glass Cases and Curios, our anthology of poetry and artwork inspired by museums in the East of England.

But for me, one of the most enjoyable things about 2013 was starting up Fen Speak. It's been really incredible to see just how many people are interested in a regular poetry open mic night in the Fens, and I really hope we can build on that interest in 2014, and maybe even expand!

So there you are. That was 2013. It only remains for me to wish you a peaceful, prosperous and poetical 2014. Catch you in the New Year!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Round Ours

In my house, when it's Christmas,
It's certain you will see
Twelve bowls of cashews,
Eleven TV Specials,
Ten pigs in blankets,
Nine pairs of new socks,
Eight nibbled mince pies,
Seven unplayed board games,
Six tinselled hairdos,
Five Brie wheels!
Four broken bulbs,
Three squashed sprouts,
Two uncle Steves,
And my Dad snoring on the settee!

In my house, when it's Christmas,
It's certain you will see
Twelve twitter updates,
Eleven minute loo breaks,
Ten clashing programmes,
Nine types of pudding,
Eight brand new cat toys,
Seven thousand sequins,
Six listless crackers,
Five Brie wheels!
Four squiffy aunts,
Three wise men,
Two bags of trash,
And my Dad snoring on the settee!

In my house, when it's Christmas,
It's certain you will see
Twelve runny noses,
Eleven dirty dishes,
Ten family bear-hugs,
Nine ancient movies,
Eight mumbled carols,
Seven kinds of stuffing,
Six fondled presents,
Five Brie wheels!
Four Lego forts,
Three parsnips,
Two wonky trees,
And my Dad snoring on the settee!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Deadly Sin #4

Based on a true story (sort of)

Deadly Sin #4

So we're off to our local Chinese
For noodles and rice, if you please.
Come be a glutton,
Undo your top button
And give your insides a good squeeze!

There's nothing so tasty and sweet!
If you join us, you're in for a treat!
Veggie chop suey
And chow mein so gooey
All laced with mysterious meat.

But what's that, all squidgy and small,
Peaking round from the spicy prawn balls?
Please don't freak out,
But that's no bean sprout!
This is not good! It's not good at all!

Shaken, we order more drinks,
Coz it can't be as bad as we think.
But we all had an eyeful
Of this plate filled with eyeballs,
And I can't eat my food if it blinks.

Now we're paying the bill in a hurry,
And our guts are all knotted with worry.
See, you'd sicken too
If your food stared at you!
Maybe next time, we'll order curry.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Christmas Fen Speak

I can't believe it's almost Christmas! I know it's a terrible cliché, but this year has gone by so fast! Luckily, we managed to squeeze in one more Fen Speak poetry open mic night before the end of the 2013!

Full House!

We were back in Ely for this month's event and despite the inhospitable weather, the Babylon gallery was full to bursting with poetry-lovers! In the end, twenty-one talented performers took to the stage to entertain us with their stories, poems and monologues.

Elaine and her Christmas Hat!
Elaine Ewart did a fantastic job hosting the evening - looking very festive in her Santa Hat and Christmassy earrings - and I assumed the role of official photographer. (So apologies for the quality of the pictures!)

I always really look forward to these open mic nights, and I'm always incredibly impressed by the breadth of literary talent in Fens. Whether something in the water makes Fen Folk natural wordsmiths, or whether creative people are drawn to the wide skies of Cambridgeshire I'm not sure, but it certainly makes for some pretty brilliant Fen Speak nights out!

And it was another fine evening of poetry and prose on Wednesday. We listened to tales love, depression, boredom and sex; political poems and protest poems, and poems about the strangeness of the Fenland landscape. Prose poems and storytelling, and poetry translated from twelfth century Latin! Rousing rhyming monologues, villanelles and couplets, and even a father and son poetry duo! There were cliffhangers and tearjerkers, and poems that made the audience erupt with laughter and gasp in surprise.

In short, it was amazing!

Thank you to everyone who came along, and a special thanks to all those who performed. Here are a couple of photos of the evening - see if you can spot yourself!

So that's it then. Almost the end of 2013.

But don't worry, there's still plenty of time to enter the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition. In fact, we'll be open for submissions right up until 31st January 2014. So if you're stuck for something to do over the Christmas holiday, why not write a poem for Fenland? We're really looking forward to reading all the entries in February!

In the mean time, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas break and a peaceful, prosperous and poetic New Year!

wise men and democrats

There once was a land where the sovereign was cruel,
an arrogant hoarder, a thrifty old fool.
He drained people dry, like a louse or a flea,
but he gets his comeuppance, just you wait and see.

This miserly monarch, he loved all his fashions,
but kept a close eye on the cash he was splashing.
Ignoring the fine print, forgoing the jargon
for coupons and savings and freebies and bargains.

While browsing one day on an auctioning site
he found a new suit made of fabric so light
it would sparkle and shimmer and fit like a glove.
Though there were no photos, the King fell in love.

The suit came with shirt and with waistcoat and jacket
plus it was new and was still in the packet!
And it was selling for under half price!
He couldn't pass up on an offer so nice!

He ordered his servants to buy it from Ebay.
(Other sites are available too, by the way.)
It came the next day, in a package so small
as if it contained almost nothing at all.

His maids, ever sceptical, opened the box
and found packing paper, instructions, and socks.
The manual said that the suit was unique
made from unicorn mare, and seasonably chic.

But the fabric could only be seen by the wise.
So the King slipped it on – it was just the right size!
He was so swept away by the mood he was in
that he swore he felt cloth nestling next to his skin.

He adjusted the collar, and pulled down the cuffs –
all his servants could see was a bloke in the buff.
But they didn't let on, lest they seem moronic,
which, in that situation, seemed pretty ironic.

So the King was content and out went the decree
that their leader wore clothes only wise folk could see.
Soon all of his subjects were fooled by the ruse
of the 'Emperor's New Clothes' (not the 'King in the Nude').

And so the years past, and fashions moved on.
The Ruler grew crueller and the strange suit stayed on.
'Til the folk of the land, with more taxes to fear,
stopped seeing the nudity of the King's rear.

So when this mad monarch went to visit new lands
his maids didn't think to pack any spare pants.
On arrival? Arrested for being obscene.
Seems his beautiful suit had offended their Queen.

The Emperor's subjects now govern by vote
(though the PM once claimed an invisible coat).
And the King is still there, in his cell and in shock,
mulling over the fact that we all saw his –

Sunday, 15 December 2013


I'm delighted to report that our booklet of poetry and artwork inspired by museums in the East of England - Glass Cases and Curios - has completely sold out, in less than a week!

The success of the booklet is down to its fantastic content, and we were so lucky that fifteen incredible writers and seven wonderful artists were able to contribute to the project. And it's incredible to think that something I helped to create has proven to be so popular!

I've been grinning from ear to ear all weekend!

Also this week, I performed my poetry in front of the Bishop of Ely and guests, at the Ely Mothers' Union Christmas Party.

I had a really lovely night reading some of the poems that I've written during my time as Fenland Poet Laureate, watching a lady called Saskia play some very accomplished pieces on the saxophone, and joining in with the carol singing at the end of the evening. (Leanne's singing style: off-key but enthusiastic!)

It was also a chance to have a good look inside the Bishop's house, and I am nothing if not nosy!

I had such a lovely time, and I am very grateful to Angela Jones and her fellow committee members for inviting me to perform.

On Wednesday 18th December, we'll be hosting our final Fen Speak Poetry Open Mic Night of 2013!

We'll be back at the Babylon Gallery in Ely, giving you the opportunity to share your work with other like-minded creative people, and develop your performing skills in a friendly and supportive environment.

Entry to the open mic is free and there are still plenty of slots on the list, if you'd like to get up and have a go! Writers of all ages and abilities are welcome, and best of all, there's no obligation to perform! (Although we do encourage everyone to take the plunge!)

The doors to the gallery will open at 7:30pm, and the open mic will begin at 8pm.

See you there!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Teaching Teenagers and Launching a Publication

This week has been ridiculously busy, but really rewarding and a lot of fun too!

On Tuesday afternoon, I spent some time with a group of 13-15 year old students at the Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech, teaching my very first schools' workshop.


I was so nervous about this workshop because I really wanted to create a session that was fun and interesting, while also helping the kids to better understand some of the concepts used in poetry. The lessons at this particular school are only fifty minutes long, so it was tough to think of some good games that would keep the class occupied, without the lesson feeling too rushed.

I needn't have worried though, as the whole thing went off without a hitch. The kids were absolutely incredible; really switched-on, engaged and a lot of fun to interact with. They also came up with some great examples of simile, based around their favourite colours. My personal favourite was the girl who came up with the simile 'as blue as a giraffe's tongue' - genius!


We then looked at the differences between simile and metaphor, and I asked the class to write about themselves using metaphor. I asked them to describe themselves in terms of an item of food, a school subject, an animal, and a genre of film. Once again we got some brilliant responses. The students were a little bit shy about sharing their writing, but I peered over a few shoulders while they were getting on with the tasks and I have to say, I caught sight of some really lovely poetry!

I was so pleased!

We rounded off with a little game about rhyming, and an exercise looking at creating collaborative poetry. I really wish I had more time to work with these kids, but luckily for me I've been asked back in February next year to do a prose workshop! I'd better get my thinking cap on to come up with some more writing games!

*                           *                           *

On Thursday evening, we went down to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, to launch the Glass Cases and Curios booklet of poetry and artwork inspired by museums!

The launch night was so much fun, and I'm really grateful to the Sarah Hammond - the museum's administrator - and all the museum volunteers for their help and support on the night. The museum itself has a really traditional feel, with lots of glass cases and curios, as well as some fantastic dinosaur skeletons and interactive displays. It was exactly the right place to launch our publication!

It's well worth a visit too, if you're ever in Cambridge!

We started the show at 6pm with wine and nibbles. (I accidentally bought Bulgarian wine, so I'm not sure what that tasted like! It all went though, so I think it must have been ok!) I stood outside to greet the guests as they arrived. It had been a pretty stormy day, so everyone looked at little windswept, but it was really great to see that so many people had braved the elements in order to attend!

Once everyone had arrived, we settled down to enjoy a few short readings from the booklet by poets Pete 'Cardinal' Cox, Elaine Ewart, Caroline Gill, Pete Irving and J.S. Watts. I would have liked all our poets to have read their work at the event, but we didn't have enough chairs, and it would have been unfair to ask our guests to stand for such a long stretch. Plus, it's important to leave your audience wanting more, and we didn't want to give away all the lovely stuff in the booklet in one go!

It was really fantastic to meet many of the poets and artists who had contributed to the booklet, and we were really pleased that so many people joined us for the occasion, coming from as far afield as Ipswich, Norwich, and even London!

Everyone commented on the great quality of the printed booklets, so we must thank Ely Print Centre for their excellent and diligent service. Of course, a special thanks also go to artist and designer Max Bowman, who did a fantastic job on the cover design for the collection.

In the end, we sold almost fifty booklets and, along with the complimentary copies that we gave to each of the contributors, we managed to give out over sixty in total!

If you weren't able to make it to the event, but would like a copy of Glass Case and Curios - featuring the work of twenty-two talented poets and artists including writing from three local poet laureates - you can order online by contacting Karen Harvey on info@karen-harvey.co.uk The booklets are £4 each plus £1.20 postage and package, and can be paid for via cheque or postal order.

Finally, a big thank you to all the contributors who worked so hard on the poems and artwork within the booklet. Without their wonderful creativity, they would be no Glass Cases and Curios! Thank you to artists Max Bowman, Cyprian Garlikowski, Mandy Knapp, David Lewis, Adam Sheffield and Taymaz Valley, and to poets Andy Bennett, Miriam Brown, Cardinal Cox, Deb Curtis, Rani Drew, Elaine Ewart, Caroline Gill, Emily Hasler, Peter Irving, Teresa Mclean, Afrodita Nikolova, Roy South, John Thake, and JS Watts!

 All photos of the Glass Cases and Curios event 
courtesy of Karen Harvey
All rights reserved

Sunday, 1 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Workshops, Open Mics, and the Launch of Glass Cases and Curios

This week I've been putting together the final preparations for our Glass Cases and Curios booklet launch event, writing and editing a poem for the Whittlesey Museum, and sending out fliers for the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition. I've also been preparing for my very first poetry workshop in a secondary school! 

I'm going to be working with pupils from Year 8 and Year 9 at the Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech, and I'm really excited about it. I've got some great writing games and exercises planned, and I'm looking forward to seeing what fantastic poetry the group can produce during the session. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't the tiniest bit nervous though! Wish me luck!

Then on Thursday of this week, we'll be launching Glass Cases and Curios, a new collection of poetry and art inspired by museums! 

The booklet is the first that I have co-edited, and I'm incredibly grateful to freelance creative consultant Karen Harvey, for all her help, advice, and support on the project.

Karen and I first had the idea for Glass Cases and Curios way back in April, and it's really exciting that we're finally ready to launch the collection! The booklets themselves are all printed and ready to go, and they look absolutely fantastic! We're really thankful to all the talented artists and writers who contributed to this publication, and the launch promises to be a great event, filled with poetry, art, dinosaur bones, glass cases and curios! What more could you want from a night out?

The booklet includes great poetry from Andy Bennett, Miriam Brown, Cardinal Cox, Deb Curtis, Rani Drew, Elaine Ewart, Caroline Gill, Emily Hasler, Peter Irving, Teresa Mclean, Afrodita Nikolova, Roy South, John Thake, and JS Watts. It also includes some beautiful artwork from Max Bowman, Cyprian Garlikowski, Karen Harvey, Mandy Knapp, David Lewis, Adam Sheffield and Taymaz Valley. 

We'll be launching the Glass Cases and Curios booklet in the beautiful surroundings of the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences on Thursday 5th December. Doors open at 6:00pm with selected poetry readings at 6:30pm. Then, from 7:00pm onwards, you'll have the opportunity to chat to the contributors of the collection, and explore the Sedgwick Museum for yourself. 

Copies of the booklet will also be available to purchase at the special price of £4.00 each. 

This event is free, but places are limited. To book your tickets, please contact Karen Harvey

Sunday, 24 November 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Fen Speak Wisbech and Fenland Poet Laureate Comp

This week Elaine and I hosted our second Fen Speak poetry open mic night in Wisbech, in the wonderfully atmospheric surroundings of the Wisbech & Fenland Museum.

An audience in the library
It was probably the first time many of our poets and writers had performed in front of a giant stuffed Albatross. Luckily this particular feathery onlooker proved to be a very attentive audience member!

We had just under twenty (human) attendees for the open mic, with several performers coming from as far afield as Cambridge and even Norwich! Now that is dedication to spoken word!

Diane Moules
The open mic was fantastic, with some wonderful performances from poets of all ages and abilities, as well as several talented story tellers. I was really impressed by the high standard of writing and it was also really good to see people chatting and making friends during the interval. One of the main aims of Fen Speak is to give local writers the opportunity to meet and share ideas, so it was really nice to see this happening on Wednesday night.

A big thank you to David Wright, the curator of the Wisbech and Fenland Museum for letting us use the venue, and thanks also to ADeC for their continued help and support. Finally, big thanks to Poppy for helping out with the refreshments - and for reading her beautiful poetry too!

Russell J Turner

Next month, Fen Speak will be back at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. Doors open at 7:30pm on Wednesday 18th December, and the open mic starts at 8pm. We really hope to see you there!

For more pictures of the shows, or for further information on the Fen Speak programme, why not check out our facebook page?

 And if you've been reading my blog thinking, "Being Fenland Poet Laureate looks like fun, I fancy a go at that title!" Well, now's your chance!

We've just launched the competition to find next year's Fenland Poet Laureate! Could it be you?

Check out out details of the competition here, and who knows? Maybe you could be Fenland Poet Laureate 2014! Good luck!

Photos courtesy of Elaine Ewart and Fay Roberts - reproduced with permission

SPOTLIGHT - Fenland Poet Laureate Competition 2014

Could you write a poem for Fenland?
Are you inspired by the area? Could you be the next Poet Laureate for Fenland?

ADeC and Atelier East, working in partnership with Fen Speak and the Wisbech & Fenland Museum, are proud to announce the Fenland Poet Laureate poetry competition for 2014!

This is a chance for all writers from across the Fens to come together and share their poetry and help put Fenland on the creative map!

"The award has opened so many doors for me, and allowed me to provide opportunities for many more Fenland Poets. It's been a fantastic experience!" -- Leanne Moden, Fenland Poet Laureate 2013.

And best of all, it's free to enter the competition!

We're looking for poems that represent and relate to theme 'Fenland'. You can interpret the theme in any way you choose, and we're really looking forward to reading your entries!

Winning the title of Fenland Poet Laureate is a great recognition of talent, as well as a fantastic opportunity to engage with your local community. The Laureate will be able to write about local events throughout the year and present poems for special occasions, working with others to develop ideas for bringing poetry to Fenland.

First, second and third places will be awarded to three of the poets in the adult (17+) category. Commendations will be awarded to young poets (10-16) for entries, which the judges feel have particular merit. Certificates of achievement will be given to all shortlisted and commended entrants.

All shortlisted and commended poets will be invited to the special Fenland Poet Laureate Awards evening on Wednesday 19th March at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum.

Deadlines for entry: 5pm on Friday 31st January 2014.

Conditions of Entry: 
Your poem should be no longer than 40 lines, and typed on a single side of A4 paper. Please write your age in the top right-hand corner of the page, but please do not write your name on your poem, as all poems will be judged anonymously. All entrants must live, work, or study in the Fens. We can only accept one poem per entrant, and this poem must be previously unpublished.

Please send your poem, along with a cover sheet with your name, email address, telephone number, address, age group entered (16 & under, or 17+) and the title of the poem to:

Fenland Poet Laureate Competition
Babylon Gallery
Ely, CB7 4AU.

Alternatively, you can pick up an entry form from your local library or museum. For further details, email info@adec.org.uk

Sunday, 17 November 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Swan Poems, Illustrated faces, and Wisbech Fen Speak

Well, we're over half way through November, and it feels like we're hurtling towards the end of the year without any breaks! The weather has taken a decidedly cold turn, there are Christmas decorations in all the shops, and leaves have disappeared from the trees. Still, there's plenty of time left in 2013 for poetry!

This week I wrote a piece about swans for the Flock Together community arts project at the Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The guys at Welney do a massive amount of work for the conservation of migrating swan species, and public engagement officer Samantha Lee and freelance creative consultant Karen Harvey organised Flock Together as a fantastic way to help visitors and community groups learn about these beautiful birds.

The team are busy delivering creative workshops to local schools and community groups, and the work generated from these sessions will be collated by Karen to create a steel sculpture, inspired by the Welney swans.

It's a great project, and a really creative way to get people interested in conservation and the environmental issues surrounding the habitats of the swans that use the Ouse marshes.

My poem, Mythology, was used as a base for leaf and feather printing during the open workshop at the Swan Day celebrations. Sadly, I couldn't make it to the workshop myself, but Karen was kind enough to take some photographs of the artwork for me, and I really love the results! These are just a few of my favourites:  

Also this week, my dear friend Hannah Radenkova made me a beautiful illustrated version of myself for the website!

I've been a huge fan of Hannah's work since we meet fifteen years ago, and I'm just itching to collaborate with her on more poetry and art projects in the future!

Hannah is a fantastic artist, who takes on all manner of illustration work, so if you'd like to speak to her about your own commission, you should check out her website: hannahradenkova.co.uk.

She is also part of Hurdy Gurdy, an international group of illustrators that offer illustration and art based workshops and projects around the world. So far, the group have worked in Poland, and here in the UK, giving workshops at both the Museum of London and the University of the Arts. Last year, they also did a fantastic Countdown to Christmas, a sort of illustrated Advent calendar in the run up to the big day.

I really hope they do it again this year!

Anyway, you can see the full version of the illustration by checking out the 'About Leanne' tab along the top of the blog. Let me know what you think!

On Wednesday 20th November, the Wisbech and Fenland Museum will be hosting the second ever Fen Speak Poetry Open Mic Night!  

We're giving you the opportunity to share your work with other like-minded creative people, developing your performing skills in a friendly and supportive environment. It's also a fantastic chance to take a look round one of the country's oldest purpose-built museums, and check out some of the more unusual exhibits during the interval!

Entry to the open mic is free and there are still plenty of slots on the list, if you'd like to get up and have a go! Writers of all ages and abilities are welcome, and best of all, there's no obligation to perform! (Although we do encourage everyone to take the plunge!)

The doors to the museum will open at 7:30pm, and the open mic will begin at 8pm. See you there!


This poem was written for the Flock Together community arts project at the Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. It references lots of the ancient European mythology surrounding swans.


I am the Child of Lir – Apollo’s light –
A tireless traveller, gliding through the night.

I am St Hugh’s lieutenant, Lincoln-born.
My duffel coat of feathers keeps me warm.

Heraldic pilgrim; knight from days of old.
I am sweet Leda’s lover, bathed in gold.

I am no ugly ducking. Sleek and keen:
My loyalty is always to the Queen.

I am the maiden drinking from the well.
I am the secret lost. I will not tell.

Blank pages here, unwritten on my wing.
I will stay Mute, until it’s time to sing.

Monday, 11 November 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

Apologies for the lateness of this week's Sunday Night News - I might need to rename it Monday Afternoon News - but I've been away this weekend at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. And I had such an awesome time!

In case you're not up to speed, let me tell you that the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is the UK's pre-eminent celebration of national and international contemporary poetry and this year was its twenty fifth anniversary. Every autumn, the Adleburgh Poetry Festival plays host to a glorious mix of well-renowned writers, lesser-known poets and amazing new talent, and over the weekend there's a huge variety of readings, performances and workshops to attend.

This year, there were thirty poets from seven countries performing, and it was fantastic to be completely immersed in contemporary poetry for three whole days!

I'm really thankful to Amy Wragg from Get on the Soapbox events for inviting me along to perform as a featured act at her Saturday night event at the festival. When Amy first got in contact with me, I jumped at the chance to be involved, to perform alongside fellow featured poet Rowan James, and to work as a steward at the festival.

Working as a steward was great fun. I spent my weekend handing out leaflets, putting up posters, blowing up balloons, helping audience members to their seats, and generally pitching in with all aspects of the festival organisation. It is amazing just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes at these events - and the festival team work tirelessly to ensure that everything is just right for the audience of very friendly poetry-lovers.

In between all the stewarding, I got the chance to sit in on some of the readings. It's impossible to chose my favourites, but I managed to catch great readings from Alison Brackenbury, Katha Pollitt and Terrance Hayes, as well as fantastic poetry from Karen Solie and beautiful stuff in both English and Macedonian from Nikola Madzirov.

Ian McMillan's performance on Saturday evening was laugh-out-loud funny, and his wonderful poetry and rapid-fire jokes had the audience in stitches for the whole of his show. It was also great to see the festival championing new writers, and celebrating collections by up-and-coming names. The 'Pamphlet Poets' event on Saturday afternoon – featuring Richie McCaffery, Kim Moore, Shazea Quraishi and Luke Samuel Yates – was wonderful, and Salena Godden's performance on Sunday afternoon was fantastic too.

I also really enjoyed listening to Russian poet Vera Pavlova discussing her favourite piece of poetry at the Close Reading on Friday evening, and it was wonderful to hear John Whitworth perform. He writes the kind of witty, rhyming poetry I wish that I could come up with!

My own performance went down really well, and I'm just so chuffed to have been part of the festival! Rowan James gave a cracking performance, as always, and the standard of performers at the open mic was incredibly high. Angela Kirby even snuck into the venue, to perform a fantastic poem about male and female genitalia! (My kind of poet!)

All in all it was a really great weekend, and I'm counting down the days until the twenty sixth Adleburgh Poetry Festival! 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

SPOTLIGHT - Great Expectations at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum

If you're as interested in local history as I am, then you'll be pleased to know that one of our Fenland museums has been working in partnership with the Luxe Cinema on a new creative project and film that celebrate the fantastic collections at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum.

The film, entitled Great Expectations, was created by the German media artist and film-maker Sabine Bürger, and gives viewers a chance to examine the permanent collection and peer behind the scenes at some of the seldom-seen aspects of this fantastic public space. 

As well as the the original manuscript of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the museum also holds a myriad of other historical treasures, and the film offers incredible glimpses into areas of the building not usually accessible to the public. Especially interesting is the footage of the beautiful nineteenth century library, and my favourite areas: basement storage room, filled with artefacts never normally seen by visitors to the museum!

It feels a bit like sneaking into the museum out of hours, but without all that illegal 'breaking and entering' stuff!

Great Expectations: A film about Wisbech and Fenland Museum will premier at the Luxe Cinema on Alexandra Road at 6pm on Tuesday 19th November. The film will be preceded by a short introduction from David Wright, curator of the museum, and after the screening, viewers will get the chance to chat with Sabine Bürger in a special question and Answer session, chaired by David Wright.

Tickets for this event are £3 each, and can be purchased directly from the Luxe Cinema.

And, if you're still unsure about whether you'd like to come along, here's a taster of the film itself: 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Women's Work and the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

This week has I've been finalising the details for Glass Cases and Curios, the anthology of poetry and artwork that myself and Karen Harvey have been working for the past six months.

It's been a log old slog, and the project has changed and evolved so much since our initial plan. But the collection now boasts artwork and writing by twenty two fantastic creative people, and I'm really excited about it!

On Friday afternoon we sent the final copy off to the printers, and it's brilliant to think that by the end of next week, we'll have one hundred shiny copies ready for the launch night on 5th December! I really can't wait for us to get out and show everyone the finished product! Plus, the cover illustration - by talented young local artist Max Bowman - is just superb.

Now Karen and I are working really hard to get everything ready in time for the launch night at the Sedgwick Museum, so watch this space for more details!

Also this week I was lucky enough to be involved in Women's Work, a fantastic benefit gig hosted by multi-talented musician Alice Nicholls, in aid of the Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC).

It was such a fun night! We had a room full of wonderful, enthusiastic audience members, and - despite the crazy trumpets from the band upstairs and few minor technical hitches with the microphones - the whole evening went off without a hitch!

It was really great to see the crowd enjoying a show full of top-quality female performers, and - even more wonderfully - we raised £375 for the CRCC!

Fay Roberts kicked off the proceedings with some beautiful multilingual poetry, and a spectacular range of music was provided by Netta Chachamu, Catherine Adams, and singer/songwriter Mouth. Comedian and headliner Kate Smurthwaite had the crowd in stitches with her laugh-a-minute narrative style and Rachel Childs got the biggest cheer of the evening with her steel pan demonstration!

I'm very much looking forward to next year's show!
Next weekend, I'll be helping out at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival!
In case you've not heard of it, the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival the an annual festival, organised and run by the Poetry Society, and 2013 marks its twenty fifth year. Th festival has played host to some of the giants of the poetry world, and I'm disgustingly excited to be getting involved this year!

I'll be taking on the role of steward for the duration of the festival, helping out with the backstage organisation and generally making myself useful. I don't know what my schedule is yet, but if you take a quick look at the programme, you'll understand me when I say that I'll be delighted to be involved with any of the shows being staged!

I'm particularly looking forward to the Get on the Soapbox Open Mic event on the Saturday 9th November, where I'll be performing as a featured act, alongside the very wonderful Rowan James!

It's going to be so much fun, but I must confess, I'm more than a little bit nervous! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


I've written a poem! 

I know, I know, it's been a while. I haven't uploaded any poems here for absolutely ages! I need to get back into the habit of doing it really - even if my only audience is my Dad. (Hi Dad!) 

Anyway, I'm performing in Cambridge on Friday night, and I'm a bit worried that the whole of Cambridge is sick of hearing my usual set list! With that in mind, I wanted to have some new material for the occasion. This one turned out to be a lovely poem. It is dedicated to my lobster. 

This man treats monogamy like a palace, not a prison
This man doesn't run from every small romantic schism
This man keeps you grounded when the storms inside are raging
This man does the washing up (with only light persuasion)
This man shares his secrets, his worries and his thoughts
This man builds your self-esteem (and first-class pillow forts)
This man treats all those he meets with patience and with kindness
This man held your hair back when you had that nasty virus
This man likes discussions but, if wrong, backs down with grace
This man points (discreetly) when you've something on your face
This man lets you be yourself and doesn’t judge you for it
This man liked your article the first time that he saw it
This man views all of your faults with puzzling affection
This man never mentions your My Little Pony collection
This man keeps your hopes alive for all humanity
This man makes a decent cup of milky builders' tea
This man is your lobster* (if that doesn't sound too twisted)
This man is your soul mate, if such a thing existed.


*This poem comes from the idea that lobsters mate for life. Sadly, this turns out not to be true at all. So, in the interest of biological correctness, please feel free to substitute in any of the following animals: Albatross, Pigeon, Swan, Gibbon, Vulture, or Beaver. Personally, I'm quite fond of the Gibbon.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Women's Work and Poetry at Sedgwick

This week, myself and consultant artist Karen Harvey have been busy working on Glass Cases and Curios, our booklet of collected poetry and artwork inspired by museums. The anthology will include work produced by twenty-two fantastically talented creative people, and we're really looking forward to seeing the final product!

And we'll be launching the booklet on Thursday 5th December, from 6pm until 8pm, at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge!


It's a beautiful museum, filled with glass cases and curios, so it's the perfect setting for our event, and we're so grateful to the Sedgwick for their support and interest in the project!

On the launch night, there'll be selected poetry readings, wine and refreshments, plus the chance to explore this fantastic museum after hours. There'll also be copies of the Glass Cases and Curios booklet, available to purchase for the special price of £4.00.


It's going to be a great night, and further details will be available nearer the time of the show. Iggy and his dinosaur friends are looking forward to it too!


Also this week, I visited the Chatteris Museum to take a look at the Nineteenth Century Fen Cottage display, which now features my poem (imaginatively titled Fen Cottage). It's a fantastic display and the museum really is well worth a visit.

You can read the full poem here. 

Next week
On Friday 1st November, I'll be performing as part of Women's Work, celebration of female performers, in aid of the Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC).

Fay Roberts of Allographic has compiled a wonderful booklet of writing and artwork to be sold at the event, with proceeds going toward the CRCC. The books are packed full of poetry, prose, photography, and art by local creative women, and also feature quotes from famous feminists, as well as soundbites from historic and contemporary opponents of women's rights.


It's a cracking read, and you can pick up your copy from merch stall at the Women's Work event! The show kicks off at 8pm, on the top floor of the Fountain, on Regent's Street, Cambridge. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Fen Speak, Oxjam, and Poetry & Paint

This week Elaine Ewart and I hosted the first ever Fen Speak Poetry Open Mic Night - and it was fantastic!

Fifteen minutes before show time, and already pretty full!

Around thirty five people attended the event, and the venue was so full that we almost ran out of chairs! There was also a lot of interest in the open mic slots, and in the end we hosted twenty three performers of all ages and abilities. It was great to hear that several of the speakers were reading their work out for the first time, and I have to say, the quality of writing was astounding!

The audience were warm and receptive, and it was wonderful to see people chatting and making friends during the intervals. The whole thing was exactly what Elaine and I had envisaged were we first came up with the idea for a performance poetry evening, and it was fantastic to see such enthusiasm for a regular event in the city.

In short, we were completely blown away by the strength of the positive response!

Me telling a rude poem to the assembled crowd

Thanks must go to Jane Wilson and all at ADeC for their support in making Fen Speak happen! For a fantastic review of the night, check out Rosemary Westwell's excellent local review blog, and for more pictures of the show, have a look at our Fen Speak facebook page.

This week I also got my grubby mitts on a copy of the latest issue of Poetry & Paint, an anthology edited by Carmina Masoliver, a very talented poet and performance maker from London. Poetry & Paint allows writers and artists to work collaboratively on a given theme, and for the third issue of the publication, the theme was 'lost'.

I am totally chuffed to have my poem Brixton, 2013 in the collection, and I really love the accompanying illustration, by Norwich-based illustrator Matthew Dickerson.

If you fancy getting hold of a copy of Poetry & Paint: Lost, then you can buy one here. If you fancy submitting to the next issue of the anthology, you can find out more here.

On Saturday I was invited to perform as part of the cabaret event at the Oxjam Cambridge takeover! The festival is great because it's a chance for bands and performers to celebrate the local music scene, while also raising money to support Oxfam, a charity that supports poor and vulnerable people all around the world.

Our part of the show was at the Great Northern on Hills Road, but there were five other pubs involved in the event across the city. I really hope the Oxjam initiative raises load of money for this worthy cause, and I'm already looking forward to next year's show!

Next week is a quiet week for me (Thank goodness!) but there are lots of interesting projects bubbling away in my poetry cauldron, and we should be ready to unveil some exciting new stuff for you very very soon!

But for now, happy Halloween!

Photograph #1 courtesy Elaine Ewart at flightfeather.wordpress.com
Photograph #2 courtesy Fay Roberts at Allographic Press