Posts Tagged ‘Malvern’


What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?

A poetic journey.


Tangerine Dream – Phaedra


The view from the bus

Saturday saw me take part in the maddest thing Writing West Midlands have ever done, their words not mine. The Great West Midlands Poetry Relay, which saw 10 poets write 10 poems about 10 places which were then released to be carried by 10 racing pigeons. When explaining it at the various readings that I attended last week, everyone agreed it was mad, but thought it got surreal when the pigeons were mentioned.

My day started at Polesworth where I had written a poem, which incorporated the themes of alternative Olympic events in context of the place. This being a Cultural Olympic event in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics which will start in 12 months time from the weekend of events.

My poem the Polesworth Word Triathlon – used the theme of words coming to Polesworth, with the two poets who preceded me. These words were compared with words that had raced to Polesworth before, such as the words of Thomas Cromwell, which saw the dissolution of the Abbey. The new words however were brought here to compete and were seen to swim in the river Anker and then complete an obstacle course on the Poetry Trail and the events that were going on in Abbey Green Park for the Love Parks day, the final event was flying off into the airways – through Touch FM who broadcast the Polesworth leg of the relay and also thinking about the pigeons who were to carry the poems across the skies later in the day.

I had tried to write a comic poem but it just did not work and so I stuck with what I know and used my normal style creating a Free Verse Sonnet (homage to Michael Drayton), but in terms of a sonnet it had 14 lines and a turn part way through, there were no rhymes, couplets or metre – purists may argue therefore that it is not a sonnet.

Dressed in tracksuit trousers, trainers and a rugby shirt, the style of the true athlete – I arrived early, to ensure that the team at Touch FM were OK with what was going on and to sort out how we would do the readings across the Abbey Green Park site, where stall holders were setting up for the day and also live on the radio. This sorted, I then went and waited for the bus to arrive with the team from Writing West Midlands, along with the recording team of Peter and Laura from Monty Funk and the first two poets on the relay – Emma Purshouse who had started at Stoke on Trent Railway station at 8:00 am and Philip Monks who was collected at Burton on Trent Library.

At just after 10:15 the bus arrived, I was given my tee-shirt and number, Poet 3 and my race was on.

After a brief interview with Jonathan Davidson on Touch FM, Emma launched into her poem, which was inspired by the Olympic event, The 10 Metre Platform Dive, which she skilfully turned into an event for Network Rail as passengers competed to dive on to trains from the platform. The event being won by Derrick Johnson in his dry cleaned suit, where he not only got GOLD but Stoke also beat Crewe. Emma also picked up the rhythm of a train, reminiscent of Auden’s poem Night Mail.

Live on Touch FM

This was followed by Philip Monk’s poem of rolling home from the pub, an Olympic event at which many of us would excel. Comparing the rolling of the Beer Dray wagons with that of the drinker finding the longest way home. Philip used the word jocund in his poem, an interesting word that is rarely used in modern parlance.

And then it was me, live on the radio, live across the the park – I read the Polesworth Word Triathlon for the first time.

No time for bows or applause – it was on to the bus to the next stop at Hatton Country world, where we were to meet another Polesworth Poets Trail Poet and former Warwickshire Poet Laureate, Helen Yendall. The journey was bumpy as we caught the speed bumps on the road to Dorden, which was whilst I was interviewed on my life in Poetry, which was little off putting and I found myself rushing to say what I want to say between the bumps.

Despite a slight detour we arrived at the Hatton Toffee shop to find we had been beaten by the clown performing in the Children’s tent who had taken our audience, alas it is the case that slapstick comedy will always attract the audience away from poetry.

Following the reading of Emma, Philip and my poems, Helen picked up the baton with a poem for Hatton – with a series on new heptathlon events, including licking ice cream, shopping and making and throwing mud pies.

Then back into the bus to head for Worcester. The journey for me so far had mainly been motorways and the trip to Worcester continued this way, back up the M40 onto the M42 and then picking up the M5. The road rolling underneath our wheels, the miles rushed along.

Rohit joins the bus.

At Worcester we met with Rohit Ballal and performed our first of two indoor performances at the Café Bliss, a venue that sees musical performance but at this time of day was sedate with a few customers including Lisa Ventura, the driving force behind the Worcester Literature Festival, who is was great to meet for the first time, despite us communicating through Facebook many times.

Rohit’s poem followed the four previous poems, as he wrote about a Stain Glass making Olympic event picking up on Worcester Cathedral’s need for a new east window.

We had a chance to rest a while here and to grab a much needed drink before heading onto the bus to head for the car park at the British Camp in the Malvern Hills. Motorways were left behind for the roads that crossed the battlefield of Worcester, from which Charles II fled to hide in an oak tree, on into Malvern town itself, with is array of shops and Georgian houses and its famous gas lamps and then to the car park at the base of the Herefordshire Beacon.

Here we met Adrian Johnson, who had travelled by train having encountered a Jamaican street festival, four zombies and had walked three miles, overcoming his bovine fears in the process. Adrian’s poem which followed the first five, was entitled Pump and Circumstance, and reflected on Bicycles and Elgar and saw the introduction of poets bobbing in the last night of the proms tradition, as Adrian read his poem wearing a cycle helmet and gloves, whilst waving a bicycle pump at the audience that had gathered around the snack cabin. Always a good tip when doing an impromptu poetry reading – find a queue and read to them.

Adrian Johnson and Deborah Alma

The bus then meandered through the sleepy sunshine lanes into Herefordshire to the sleepy town of Bromyard, which traces its history back to Norman times and is now a quiet place where not a lot happens and it seems when it does not many people stir themselves to watch; even though the poets wandered around the town trying to entice people.

Here we met with Deborah Alma, whose poem reflected the sleepiness of the town with an Olympic event that involved mainly resting, she stood in a sack, like she was about to enter a sack race, but then revealed that the only hops that they did in Bromyard went into sacks. We did manage to rustle up a small audience of locals, including several children on bikes and a bronze sculpture of a sheep whose name appeared to be Ann Jackson.

A sheep named Ann Jackson - apparently!

We left Bromyard, trying not to make too much noise as we went and headed for Highley in Shropshire, a stop on the Severn Valley Railway. It was here at the leisure centre that we met Kurly McGeachie, whose rapping performance of his poem for Highley featuring coal mining and the Severn Valley Railway, on which he made several puns about freight lifting, encarriagment, training and coaching. – His line about bringing gold back from the Olympics like they did in Britain in Bloom in 2006 was wonderful and made me smile every time I heard it in the subsequent readings.

It was from here that the pigeons were released to give them enough time to get back to the loft in Birmingham before sunset, as they would find an alternative roost after dark and this would upset the idea of the poem’s order being decided by the pigeons.

The Pigeons are released, their race begins.

I have never seen racing pigeons being released before. Ten of them, each carrying a copy of one of the poems. They stepped out of the boxes and took to the air, they circled like a small cloud, following each other, one minute you thought they had gone, then they were overhead again, eventually finding their bearings and heading off towards Birmingham. It was estimated that it would take them 30 minutes to get back to the loft and so we hoped to know which had arrived first by the end of the day. I have since learnt that they did arrive back with the winner being the pigeon carrying Helen Yendall’s poem, my pigeon finished sixth.

Adrian and his harmonica.

Tiredness and fatigue was now getting to those of use who had an early start and so I was happy to listen as Adrian played his harmonica, Kurly fixed the megaphone and to a discussion on which celebrities’ people had met, names included Brian Mckeenan and Jack Dee. It was like being around a moving campfire at the end of a day of driving poems across country to the rhyme ranch. 

The drive to the Odeon at Telford was fairly easy from Highley, up to Bridgenorth and then a short hop from there. Here we met the ninth poet Dave Reeves of Radio Wildfire fame, whose poem about long haul queuing was read to the queue for tickets at the Odeon Cinema, Dave came with an array of props all necessary for the competitor in any long haul queuing event, deckchair, snorkel, walking boots, torch, flask, sandwiches and a bin bag.

It was here that Rohit overhead a conversation between a Father and Daughter, who on observing a group of poets wandering into the cinema, had asked what was going on, to which he replied “I don’t know darling, but I am sure there must be some explanation”.

The queue bemused by the happening, soon returned their thoughts to Harry Potter and popcorn as we headed for the bus for one final time, to the Pie and Ale house in Stafford where our final poet, Roz Goddard was waiting along with our final audience.

We arrived just about on time, but by then time was all but forgotten, when we read it was about 8:00pm and it was noted that Emma, who had been on the full trip was reading her Platform poem for the tenth and final time, some 12 hours after it was originally unveiled to the staff and commuters on Stoke Railway station.

Roz’s poem was about pie snorkelling as a dressage and Greco-roman wrestling event and finished the day off wonderfully.

Sara Beadle captures the ten poets.

The final photo of the group of ten showed Roz with a pristine number on her shirt and Emma with a crumpled just about hanging in there number on hers, the rest of us were somewhere in between, the state of the numbers pinned to our shirts may have reflected our tiredness but not the sense of achievement, the team spirit, the camaraderie of new friendships and most of all the taking part.

The weather held, the bus didn’t break down, the company was wonderful and the pies were good too.

It was a fantastically mad day, and all credit goes to the team at Writing West Midlands, Jonathan Davidson, Sara Beadle, Lauren Davies and the rest of the team for their organisation and making the journey easy for those of us taking part.

I would also like to thank Lori Harvey and the team at North Warwickshire Borough Council for allowing us to interrupt the preparations for the Love Parks Day at Polesworth to support the Great West Midlands Poetry Relay.

More information and photos can be seen here:

Some other Links

Writing West Midlands

The Birmingham Book Festival.

Monty Funk

The Birmingham Pigeon Project.

Helen Yendall’s Blog

Roz Goddard’s homepage

Emma Purshouse’s homepage

Dave Reeves – Radio Wildfire.

Kurly McGeachie’s homepage

Last week saw the Fizz at Polesworth Abbey with Matt Merritt

There is a review on both Matt’s blog and at Behind the Arras.



Also Spoken Worlds at Burton on Trent on Friday has also been reviewed on Behind the Arras.


I will not be covering a lost poet this week as I think you will have read enough!


26th July – Poetry Bites – Birmingham.

Readings in August.
2nd August – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s – Coventry.
8th August – O’Bheal – Cork – Ireland. http://www.obheal.ie/blog/?page_id=19#8thAugust
10th August – The Whitehouse – Limerick – Ireland.
19th August – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.


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What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?

My Birthday BBQ


Clogs – Stick Music.



As many of you know my email account was abducted by aliens or persons unknown, who appear to be inBarcelona. Now why they picked on me, I really don’t know, it is not as if I am a Manchester United fan.

I am, however a great admirer of the Gaudi and Miro and was thoroughly impressed with the Neu Camp stadium. I love the poem “Song in the Dead Calm” by Carles Riba and often seek out other Catalan poets. So why me, is beyond me. I was however heartened that so many of my friends and family were concerned and contacted me, mostly not fooled by the email sent out requesting funds be transferred.

When the initial concern had blown over, there was a mass of on-line critiquing on Facebook. The bogus email was taken apart to reveal the badly constructed piece of prose that had been sent out by these aliens or unknown persons. Most pointed out the lazy use of language and spelling. Some even went as far as analysing the sentence structure and pointed out that it was most likely written in another language and then translated into English using an on-line translator or a babel fish inserted into the ear of the perpetrator.

I would like to thank everyone who took time and expressed concern about this event and I am now highly amused by all the references to me being lost inSpainin emails, posts and in person, all at my expense, but gladly not to the expense of my friends and family.

Needless the say I have moved email address leaving the ruins of the old address to be found by some Cyber Archaeologist in the far distant future, what a fascinating episode of  Time Team that will make!

Poets Trail update.

This week has seen more work on the designs for the Poets Trail installations and the sourcing of some of the materials on which to present them; with a piece of slate and four pieces of leather now found and donated to be crafted into the final form for the trail.

I will keep you posted as things progress.

The Fantastic Nuneaton Summer Poetry Day on the 2nd July is moving on a pace with Mark Niel (http://www.akickinthearts.co.uk/),the bard of Milton Keynes coming on board to bring his unique brand of poetry to the market place. Mark will be running the first ever outdoor 60 second poetry slam along with other events throughout the day, including being the Minstrel Poet who will make up rhymes to any given word, for a fee of course to go to the Mary Ann Evans Hospice.

Rae Gee is bringing a prose element to the event providing more spoken word opportunities. Rae has thrown open a challenge to me as the Festival poet, she will wear her Victorian Steam Punk outfit if I will wear my famous red jacket – The challenge has been accepted.

Art Alert, (http://www.artalertnuneaton.com/who-we-are.htm),a group of local, talented artists, whose philosophy is not unlike my own, that is, to create artistic and exhibition opportunities for themselves, they will be decorating the benches around the town centre in a poetic theme with lines from famous poems with associations with North Warwickshire. The full poems will be found hanging like fruit from the Poetree.

Waterstones will be selling a range of poetry and hosting some spoken word events. (http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/)

There will be several Poetry Stops around the town where poetic voices will be raised among the shoppers, market traders, booksellers and librarians.

I will be blogging and tweeting as part of my role as Festival Poet, writing poetry from the sense of place, capturing words from the people in the market place, taking lines from tweets, I will be setting up the blog and the twitter accounts over the next week and will start promoting them here.

There will be two bookmakers, that is the book binding kind rather than the gambling sort. Julie De Bastion (http://www.julie.debastion.com/)  and Helen Wilson who will offer people opportunities to explore this craft of making their own books. Julie will also be story telling around myths and legends.

There will be poetry kites for the children to make which will all add to colour and theatre of the day.

Colin King will be Story Telling in the story telling café (http://www.storytimes.co.uk/) and Wow Impro will be performing comedy, improvisation and spoken word out on the street. (http://www.wowimpro.co.uk/)

Several poets have already signed up to read but there is still space for more poets to come and share their work and raise their profile on the Midlands poetry scene.

Please contact me if you want to read or be involved.

Nuneaton Summer Day of Poetry

Date 2nd July –Place Nuneaton Town Centre 11:00am till 3:00pm and the Crown Pub 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

* Festival Poet – Mal Dewhirst * Minstrel Poet – Mark Niel * 

Readings, Slams, Poetry Kites, Story Telling, Bookmaking, Blog and Tweets, Book sales, Open mic.

Raising money for the Mary Ann Evans Hospice.


With the Ledbury Poetry Festival only a month away, with a fantastic programme of events some of which I hope to get too.  


It seems appropriate in the run up to the festival that my lost poet this week should be:

William Langland (ca. 1332 – ca. 1386)

I am grateful to Myfanwy Fox who reminded me of Langland as a lost poet whose associations with the Malvern Hills and Ledbury is very much conjecture based upon the settings of his works as very little is known of his life.

Langland it is suggested in the book New light on Piers Plowman, By Allan H Bright published by Oxford University Press in 1928, was born in Ledbury, in fact the book goes as far to identify two strips of land on the borders of Ledbury and Colwell parishes know as Longland and that the house that stood here in the 14th Century was the birthplace of William Langland, hence my link to the forthcoming Poetry Festival.

If Bright’s interpretation is correct then the site today is on the A449 into Ledbury and is now two cottages known as Haysebrook Cottages.



It is also nearby Malvern that Langland has associations and it is Malvern that is a special place for me as it was where the whole of my primary school descended on a day in July 1968 for the annual school trip. A trip to walk the full length of the hills, quite a challenge for primary school children but one that we relished and walked taking in each breath at the magnificent views of the Worcestershire countryside out towards Wales to the west and the Warwickshire countryside to the east.

Malvern is also where my elder brother, Eddie, studied at around the same time. It is where he first got involved seriously in theatre, even though his studies where in electrical engineering. I remember his occasional visits home at weekends. Especially the wonder that was fired up in my mind, when on Sunday our dad would drive him out towards Bromsgrove to get the Midland Red Bus (the 144, It still runs from Birmingham to Worcester) as Eddie headed back to this wonderful place. It was even better if Dad took him back all the way and I got to go along for the ride.

So I see Malvern as a poetic place as did Langland. It is his Piers Plowman or William’s Visions of Piers Plowman to give its full title that gives the hints to Langland’s origins with his descriptions of Malvern and the surrounding area.

Piers Plowman tells of the vision of the humble plowman as he falls asleep in the Malvern Hills and sees a tower set upon a hill and in a deep valley a fortress – these represent heaven and hell. The alliterative allegory poem which is in part theological and part social satire is a quest to find the true Christian life in the time of medieval Catholicism and sees the plowman searching out the three characters: Dowel (do well), Dobet (do better) and Dobest (do best).

The poem attacks the corruption of the nobility and the leading members of the church. It is an expression of the opinions of the poor, providing an insight into their daily lives and is therefore a very important manuscript. Many critics see Piers Plowman, along with Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as the three great works of early English literature.

This was the start of the Piers Plowman Tradition, which saw poets such as Spenser, use the character of Piers as a symbol of the relationship between the commoners and the nobility, satirically reflecting economic, political, social and religious grievances of the commoner with the power bases of the church and the crown.

Langland’s first version was published in 1362 and he continued to work on it throughout the rest of his life, creating several versions (possibly 14), providing scholars much to explore in their interpretations and quest to find the real William Langland.

The version I have is a translation of the “B” Text by Terence Tiller which in turn used the translation of W.W. Skeat.

More information on William Langland can be found at:


Myfanwy Fox’s blog Fox Tales can be found at:


Oh yes I nearly forgot, I also had a birthday!


Readings in June and July.

7th June – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.

9th June – Memoirs Poetry – Erdington Library Birmingham.

17th June – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.

2nd July – Summer Poetry Day – Nuneaton.

5th July – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.

15th July – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.

16th July – Lichfield Festival – Lichfield.

19th July – The Fizz 8 – Polesworth Abbey.

23rd July – Love Parks Festival – Polesworth Abbey Green Park.

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