Posts Tagged ‘Jo Bell’


What is ANNOYING me this week?

Trying to make things simple in a complex place.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

New Projects


Asleep in the back – Elbow.



Last week my delight was potential new projects – Well here is the first that provides poets and writers an opportunity to contribute to a new anthology.

I am delighted that THE STROKE ASSOCIATION (East Midlands) have asked me to edit a book of new writing which will be published as an anthology to celebrate their first 20 years of raising awareness by providing high quality, up to date information for stroke patients, their families and carers.

The Stroke Association is registered charity whose work reaches out to all regions of the country, providing links to support groups, information and funding research into prevention of strokes.

Simon Cook, Head of Operations at the Stroke Association East Midland says

2012 Celebrations

This year the Stroke Association is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

• 20 years of life saving research
• 20 years of providing emotional and practical support to thousands of stroke survivors
• 20 years of stroke prevention
• 20 years of giving life after stroke

We will be putting on a series of events and activities to get more people than ever supporting us.

The regional team for the East Midlands decided that as part of the celebrations we would like to produce a book of poetry, short stories and photography. We felt that this was an excellent way of bringing people together as everyone in the region – staff, stroke survivors and volunteers are able to contribute. We also felt that we would like to produce something unique and tangible which will leave a legacy long after 2012 has become a distant memory.

We would value your contribution to the book to help us achieve our ambition of producing a high quality collection which can be sold – hopefully raising awareness and valuable funds.

The theme of the collection is “20” in line with the anniversary. This can be interpreted in any way you wish and should set a challenge for you all to work with!

Many thanks.

Simon Cook

For my part I am seeking poems, flash fiction or short-short stories (less than 1000 words) from writers who wish to contribute. The work should be based around things associated with the number 20. This can be the theme of the piece but anything that has an association with 20 is acceptable.

Such as a poem on any theme that has 20 lines or 20 words or 20 syllables (Fibonacci Poetry), for example, or a piece of flash fiction in 20 words. You could produce a piece in 20 minutes or hours or days. These would all be acceptable in terms of the brief as would any other approaches you take to explore the number 20.

The aim is to create and publish some great new writing as an anthology that stands alone as a book that represents the best of writers.

There will be a limit to what can be included and so the pieces will be selected by a panel, looking for the best writing and creative use of the subject matter.

The project will also involve some workshops with staff, carers and stroke patients to enable some contributions from some new writers.

The closing date for entries is Monday 8th October 2012 and entries can be sent me at maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk  please include your name and contact details in the emails and make the subject of the email The Stroke Association.

The Stroke Association would like to keep a copy of all the entries, as a legacy of the project in celebrating their 20 years of excellent work in supporting stroke patients and their families.

Once the book has been produced there will be a launch with readings at a venue in Nottingham, which contributors will be invited to attend and to read their pieces.

So get your pens out and write a piece in support of this wonderful charity and let’s help them celebrate their 20th anniversary with the very best of our creative writing.

You can out more about the Stroke Association at: http://www.stroke.org.uk/


Last Friday saw the Leicestershire poet Matt Merritt, deliver his wonderful workshop.

Matt Merritt

Matt explored ideas around gathering words as participants explored the site, then stripping them away into artifacts to be used in a poem and the spoil to be reviewed later to create a second poem.

Matt then went onto the concept of Edges often used in Anglo Saxon Riddles, where a theme is explored with out direct reference to it.

Poets Ponder

Matt’s final exercise was to consider a modern building in Polesworth and to write what Archaeologists would discover if the dug it up in 1000 years time.

Three great approaches to creating poetry that the participants agreed they will take into their poetry toolkit when writing poems in the future.

A window frame – a stone mason’s muse.

Thanks go to Matt for providing such great inspiration.

You can see more on Matt as his blog http://polyolbion.blogspot.co.uk/

The remaining workshop dates are as follows.

Friday 17th August 10am to 2pm with Jacqui Rowe – the workshop is entitled Object to Poem – Poem to Object – the workshop will use tiles to inspire new poetry in particular Haikus which you will then be able engrave on to a tile to create a new artifact.

Sat 25th August 10am to 2pm with Maeve Clark – the workshop entitled Fragments of Time – the workshop will explore artifacts in great detail and explore its previous life and its current life and future life. The 25th will also see a full day of activities which will include a stone mason working on site to create a replica piece of a window that has been found on this years dig (see photo above) and also a tile maker who will be demonstrating how the floor tiles (tiles are big part of the dig this year). I also believe there will be an opportunity for people to make their own tiles. I will also be gathering words and limericks from the visitors. It should be a really great day.

Sat 1st September 10am to 2pm with Jo Bell – the workshop entitled Strata’s – will explore the layers of Archaeology and compare them to the strata’s of our own lives.

PLUS POETRY EXHIBITION ON THE HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 7th – 9th Sept – with Readings on Sat 8th Sept.

All the events take place at Polesworth Abbey, Polesworth in North Warwickshire.

These workshops are an exciting unique opportunity to discover new themes in response to the Archaeology and I would encourage all writers, from beginners to published poets and authors to come along and find your muse.

There will be opportunities throughout the dig for writers to go along and observe making notes or creating new pieces in the peaceful haven of the Abbey grounds so even if you can’t make the workshops do find sometime to go along and soak it all up.


Limericks are coming in with an amazing amount of ideas and themes, however I am still looking for Limericks on the theme of Archaeology, these will be judged by the Archaeologists.

I am also receiving words from far and wide (well Oxford is the furthest so far) for the collaborative poem I am still looking for words to be included in a poem. Visit the Dig the Abbey website (www.digtheabbey.co.uk ) and take a look at the activities and send me your words as impressions of what you see. Also tell me where you are located in the world so that I can estimate how far your words have come to Polesworth using MapCrow.

You can enter by sending your words and limericks to maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk.


I am hoping to be able to stage an afternoon of poetry performance at Cromford Mill in Derbyshire next spring. The theme will be around the project previously mentioned on this blog GRAFT.

GRAFT incorporates the lives of working men and women in mines, mills, factories, fields and workshops that made this country the workshop of the world and saw the first industrial revolution, that was so expertly depicted in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony of the Olympics.

The lives of poets such as Alfred Williams, Tommy Armstrong and Ann Moss provide the inspiration to create a new narrative performance piece through contemporary poetry.

If you are interested in contributing to this project then please contact me at maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk.

Other Potential Projects.

And to on top of all of this there are on-going discussions for further projects – So WATCH THIS SPACE.


Readings in August and September

24th August – Spoken Worlds at The Old Cottage Inn – Burton on Trent.

8th September – THE FIZZ at Polesworth Abbey celebrates DIG THE ABBEY through DIG THE POETRY – readings start at 3:30pm.


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What is ANNOYING me this week?

Pains – ooh ahhhhhhhhhh

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

Good Conversation in Great company.


Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.


What a week, the Fizz, poetry workshops and a trip on a boat.

Tuesday and Wednesday four introductory workshops with year 6 pupils attending the Summer School, the pupils engaged with the Archaeology and the artefacts from last years dig. Bones were the main cause of interest

There was a mix of abilities amongst the children, with some having the confidence to ask questions of the archaeologists as well as the facilitators. Every child produced at least one poem using a variety of poetic structures from Acrostics, Haiku’s to rhyming and free verse poems.


The dig and the artefacts inspired most of the themes for the poetry, but the children also brought imagery and smells in the sensory garden as a way of putting the dig into context of the modern day abbey.

I created magpie poems, (magpie poem was a term to children came up with, as the lines were taken from their work and reused.) I took a line or phrase from each of the children in the group to create another poem. This exercise proved a great driver for the children who want to see their best lines included in the magpie poem.

There was a lot of noise and great amount of fun.

Tuesday Evening saw THE FIZZ with guest poet Terri Jolland, which saw the refectory filled to capacity with fourteen readers for one of the best Fizz evenings ever.

Terri Jolland holds the audience.

You can read the reviews on Gary Longden’s blog at http://garylongden.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/fizz-polesworth-abbey-polesworth-2/  and Jayne Stanton’s blog at http://jaynestantonpoetry.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-fizz/

Last Friday saw ten poets gather at Polesworth Abbey for David Calcutt’s workshop – Spirit of the voice.

Poets gather to Dig the Poetry

The workshop looked at the way voices speak to us from the past- voices of people, places and objects – and what it is they may have to tell us about the present.

Looking at: voices from our own past, voices from the Abbey’s past, its legends and characters, its written texts, its unearthed objects.

In writing, the aim was to listen to these voices; let them speak through our words; let our words speak to them; let their words and our combined speak to the present and the future.

The workshop saw the development of some very promising poems which the poets are sending to me to form the legacy of Dig the Poetry and new poems being created in Polesworth.

Jayne Stanton gives you her view of the workshop at: http://jaynestantonpoetry.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/dig-the-poetry-spirit-of-voice/

After the workshop I had the pleasure of giving Jayne Stanton a guided tour of the poetry trail, something that I love to do, you can see Jayne’s thoughts on her blog http://jaynestantonpoetry.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/polesworth-poetry-trail/

Saturday and the sun was shining, I headed to the Canal to meet Jo Bell and Gary Longden. Jo is on an epic journey taking her boat from Macclesfield to Wiltshire, Gary and I had volunteered to be Jo’s crew for the day. We met Jo at Polesworth and travelled with her through Atherstone to her overnight stop at Hartshill.

I did tie up the front of the boat, didn’t I?

Our job was to open and close the eleven locks at Atherstone, whilst Jo steered the boat with great expertise.

I learnt about how locks work and to my great pain which I can still feel now, as I tried to open a lock a little too early and it whipped back to belt my coccyx, a common occurrence among boaters known as boaters bum.

In between locks we talked, three writers sharing ideas and we even bumped into a 4th writer on the tow path. It was the most brilliant, inspiring day that happens rarely and should in my opinion is something that writers should do more often.


My part in Jo’s epic Journey – with Jo Bell


As I said on facebook “who would NOT want to live at 3mph” – it is a wonderful speed that gives you time to contemplate, talk properly and it was pleasure for me to do this in such wonderful company.

Jo will be back in Polesworth on 1st September for her workshop on Dig the Poetry.

You can read Jo’s blog at: http://belljarblog.wordpress.com/


There has been much interest in Dig the Poetry with many poets signing up for the workshop, if you want to take part then either sign up at http://www.digtheabbey.co.uk or email me at maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk

Polesworth a Place for Poetry – Dig the Poetry – 2012.
DIG THE POETRY WORKSHOPS – All from 10:00 – 14:00

Friday 3rd Aug – “All too often we only see with our eyes” with JENNY HOPE

(Please note this is a non-digging day.)

Fri 10th Aug – EDGES with MATT MERRITT



Sat 1st Sept – STRATAS with JO BELL

PLUS POETRY EXHIBITION ON THE HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 7th – 9th Sept – with Readings on Sat 8th Sept.

These workshops are an exciting unique opportunity to discover new themes in response to the Archaeology and I would encourage all writers, from beginners to published poets and authors to come along and find your muse.

There will be opportunities throughout the dig for writers to go along and observe making notes or creating new pieces in the peaceful haven of the Abbey grounds so even if you can’t make the workshops do find sometime to go along and soak it all up.


Readings in August


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What is ANNOYING me this week?

Apps that become demanding children – ITunes and Spotify you know who you are!

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The Community Café Workshops.




An early post this week as I have a lot of things I want to promote.


Tamworth will see a fantastic production of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL over four days at the beginning of June.

The production which is collaboration between Fired Up Theatre / Tamworth Borough Council and the local community is a new interpretation of this Magnus Opus from the Floyd.

The interpretation features a new script, poetry, dance and actors drawn from the local community to explore the themes of isolation, delusion, seclusion and loneliness and how it impacts people in their daily lives.

For my part I am creating new poetry both from my own pen and also in collaboration with the Community Cafés. The poems will be performed using a variety of media from film to sound pieces to word displays.

Last week saw my first workshop with the community café in Wilnecote where a cross generational group gathered to discuss the song Comfortably Numb and to create new lines in response to the song, these were recorded and I am now putting together a sound poem from the event. I will be running two further workshops in Amington and Belgrave over the coming weeks.

Poetry Workshop at Wilnecote - (c) Community Cafe

In addition I will be supporting the Creative Director, Simon Quinn and the dance choreographer Amy Radcliffe in producing the show

You can find more about the production at:

Tickets are on sale now and since being promoted on The Pink Floyd News website are selling well, so it is best to book early to get the date for the performance that you want to attend.

The performance dates are 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th June – To book tickets follow the link:

You can use the calendar on the right to select the date of the performance that you wish to attend. Tickets are £8:00 (£6.00 Concessions Details are on the website.)


John Donne - depicted 3 years after writing Good Friday.

Jacqui Rowe tweeted me last week to point out that next Easter it will be 400 years since John Donne sat in front of the fireplace at Polesworth Abbey and wrote the poem Good Friday 1613 Riding Westward. I am in agreement with Jacqui that we should not miss the opportunity to commemorate this anniversary of such a wonderful poem.
So I am proposing that we create a commemorative event to take place on Good Friday 2013 at The Abbey and I am looking for ideas from the poetry community as to what we might do.

I do have one or two ideas that have been suggested to me already, which I will hold on to so as not to influence your thoughts in coming up with some original, out of the ordinary approaches to creating and event.

Ideas may involve some workshops prior to the event, which I am open to organising, so don’t hold back on the ideas, lets create something new that will go down as an event in the history of Polesworth in the same way that Donne’s poem is considered.

Who knows in 100 years time our descendant poets may well be celebrating 500 years since Donne wrote the poem and 100 years since we created our event.

Please leave comments on this blog or email me at maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk  with your thoughts.

In the meantime I will discuss it with Fr Philip and other groups in Polesworth.

If you don’t know the poem then follow this link to read it.


There are not enough serious short plays being written these days in my opinion. Not that I am adverse to comedy, I appreciate the comic sketch as much as anyone but I do wonder if writers use comedy as a safe way to get their work out there and as such avoid the controversy that a serious play exploring social issues can attract.

So I very much admire Keith Large who I have the pleasure to work with on film projects, for his taking a stance to tackle the subject of a social issue through his latest production.

Keith has written and produced a radio play called Fists and Chips, the play takes the theme of domestic violence as its focus and seeks to breakdown preconceived ideas on the reality on what is for some unfortunate people is a major part of their daily lives.

The play was produced as a radio play in a London recording studio, starring Jeff Stewart (PC Reg Hollis in the Bill) and Carrie Hill.

I would recommend that people follow the link and listen to this thought provoking, sensitive play.

You can hear the play by following this link:

Keith has also put me on to an Edinburgh writer who he really rates. Simon Jackson whose poetry collection Fragile Cargo is published by BeWrite Books.

Reviews include,

“Jackson is a brave poet. There’s an underlying tenderness to Fragile Cargo, but the poems are all written with such energy and bite that the reader is never allowed to feel comfortable. They’re funny too. Jackson captures our lives and dilemmas and works like a photographer to show us the way we really are. More please.”

Mark Wallington (writer for Not the Nine O’Clock News and thirteen produced TV series and films)

Simon will be touring in the near future, included a date at the Buxton Festival in July.

You can buy Simon’s book by following this link


You can follow Keith on Twitter @KeithLarge3
And follow his other projects at:


I was pleased to hear that Jo Bell’s collection Navigation is going to be re-printed.

Jo who is the leading light behind National Poetry day and delighted us with the Bugged anthology in recent years, writes about life afloat on her narrow boat with musings on sex and archaeology, but not I hasten to add not always at the same time.

I bought one of the last 12 copies of the original print from her a few years ago and not only have I read it myself but I have also lent it several other poets who all loved it but were disappointed not to be able to get a copy of their own. Well now is your chance as copies will be available from Jo, you can contact her through jo@jobell.org.uk  . The book is well worth the £9 including postage.

I also note that Jo has taken the opportunity to slightly revise the collection and has added in some new poems, a great move on her part as it means I now have to buy the reprint but only if she will sign it for me.

And if you are not following her blog then why not it has been listed in the friend’s blogs panel on this blog for over a year. If you have been just that little bit too busy take a break and have a look now at:


Jonathan Davidson has dropped me a line to promote two very interesting evenings of poetry.

Firstly, we have an evening of Persian Poetry on Wednesday 9th May 2012 at the Barber Institute in Birmingham. It will be rare and wonderful; two Afghani poets and their translators and details here: http://www.writingwestmidlands.org/2012/02/28/an-evening-of-persian-poetry/

And secondly, Jonathan is producing a poetry performance working with a team of performers and a theatre director and based on poems from the Bloodaxe Books’ anthology, Being Human. This will be rare and wonderful too and has three dates at The Belgrade in Coventry from Friday 22nd June 2012. Details here: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/being-human . Anyone who has an interest in performance will find this useful. Jonathan has produced three others over the years and they have all been terrifically well received.

Both are well worth going along.


Gill Learner whose poem Listen is on the Polesworth Poets Trail (outside the Butchers Shop on Bridge St) has full collection in print, The agister’s experiment, 2011, published by Two Rivers Press.

The collection has received some great reviews

“The poems here fizz and crackle while exploring the vast range of humanity“
Poetry Book Society Bulletin Spring 2011

“It is rarely that a first collection hits the nail on the head as accurately as this.”
ARTEMISpoetry 6

The collection explores the themes of small workshops and the craftsmen toiling at their work and brings a solid accuracy of the process of manufacturing into our thoughts. I also think the cover is something to behold.

You can read more about Gill and her work at http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/gilllearnerpage.shtml

For copies of the collection see the Two Rivers Press page

Janet Smith whose poem The Owl is on the trail has had further poem, Still Birth, selected as one of the twenty highly commended poems for Donald Singer: Health, Art and Science – Hippocrates Awards for Poetry.

You can see the link to the award here: http://donaldsinger.blogspot.co.uk/

Congratulations to Janet, whose work goes from strength to strength

Sarah James at Nightblue fruit. 1st May

Margaret Torr at The Fizz – 22nd May


The Lost Poets are on Holiday until June.


Readings in April.

17th April – Goblin Folk and Poetry Club – Ashby
20th April – Spoken Worlds – Burton on Trent.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

 Companies who think my life can’t go on without me using their products.

 What is DELIGHTING me this week?

 My new Jacket in the Sgt Pepper style, bright Red with blue trim.


 “The Above Ground Sound” of Jake Holmes.


This week is a busy week, with The Fizz on Tuesday, Mad Hatters Writers on Wednesday, The Runaway Writers on Thursday and Gary Carr’s excellent Spoken Worlds in Burton on Friday. More of which I am sure will be in next weeks blog.

 Over the weekend, I finally managed to get my poetry film YELL! loaded up to YouTube – you can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3G3ErCV9V8  or follow the link from my Film Projects page on my website www.maldewhirst.com.

 The film which takes as its subject the crop oilseed rape, reflects on it’s brilliance during May with everything to do with Yellow and its awkwardness come June when the flowers die off and the pods are revealed. It was filmed last year in the fields around where I live on the borders of Staffordshire and Warwickshire and used the poem Yell! recited in the film, as its story board.

 My son Jimi, created the music for the film, which draws an audio atmosphere of brightness followed by disappointment. I am really pleased with his interpretation, which he pulled together from listening to my thoughts and viewing the film, to create his soundscape that really compliments the images and the poem.

Yell! was premiered at the Alrewas Film Festival, which is run by Peter Ralley. Peter has made a fantastic film on the History of the Polesworth Abbey Gatehouse, involving lots of local people dressing up and re-enacting scenes from Abbey life, in which I got to play John Donne, somewhat stumbling over his words, but then again who is to say that he didn’t splutter and stumble a bit. I had the honour of writing the script and learnt such a lot about film making from Peter to whom I am extremely grateful. The end result is excellent and well worth going to see if you are in the Polesworth area.

 Yell! was also shown at The Cork Poetry Film Festival which is run by my good friend Paul Casey. Paul has made a fantastic film based upon Ian Duhig’s poem the Lamas Hireling. Paul’s film is made up completely of still photographs, which were taken using the action mode on a digital camera and then sequenced during the edit. I still can’t work out how Paul not only captures the movement but also incorporates the camera panning across the landscape. It is a truly remarkable film that was shown at the Zebra Poetry film festival in Berlin last year. If you get a chance to see it then it really is something fantastic to experience.

Talking of Jimi and his music, he has been putting the finishing touches to my 50th Birthday present. He has created five ten minute pieces of music that reflect aspects of my life over the last fifty years, a sort of Bioconcerto, which he will render into one continuous track for the completed piece. I have already heard some of it and know the themes that he has chosen. It should be completed in the next couple of weeks and I can’t wait to listen to it in the car, where I listen to most of music these days.

It seems we are all blogging, well not all but some of my fellow writing friends have like me, started 2011 with a new blog. I have included a link to a fellow writer’s blog (see Friends Blogs). The Secret Writer, I won’t reveal her name as you can read her blog to get an understanding of why she is remaining anonymous. She is a really good friend and great writer. Someone worth following as she develops her novel.

 I have also added in some of the blogs of other writing friends that I have been following for some time, those of Jo Bell, The Bell Jar, Matt Merritt, PolyOlbion and Jane Holland’s Raw Light.


 The Polesworth Poets trail phase 2 – The second phase of the trail is currently under discussion following the offer to produce the sculptures from a local organisation. This being the most expensive part of the trail development means that even in these hard financial times the second phase along the canal and up into Pooley Country park is a reality. I will be running some workshops that will see the creation of the next ten poems. I will keep you posted with progress and opportunities, photos and videos as the project progresses.

So watch this space.

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