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

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:

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!