And breathe…

img_5039shWell, it’s been a jam-packed wonderfully wordy few months with very little time to catch my breath! But it’s been brilliant and I’m so please that a lot of hard work has paid off recently. Here are some of my highlights from autumn 2016…

National Poetry Day, Barnsley Libraries
Adult and children poetry workshops for Hear My Voice

I loved this day. I don’t do many workshops these days for over 25 so it was really interesting to cover different ground and discussions. The theme of the workshops was ‘home’ to encourage entries to the Hear My Voice poetry competition (see below).

hear-my-voice-25-october-experience-barnsley-20_18I spotting a lass reading in the library just before we started, and being the eternal opportunist, I risked popping up next to her to ask if she wanted to join in. After a very brief pause, no eye roll and a smile – Yes ok. The lass in question has since joined Barnsley Young Writers. Happy days!

I loved choosing poems for the theme of the workshop by local poets Iain McMillian and Peter Sansom, and from further afield, Gerry Potter and Liz Berry. I also included some song lyrics from the Pogues. Some great work was written and shared and I’ve just heard that one of the poems has been entered into the competition from a new writer who’ve never submitted work before.

If you live in Barnsley or the surrounding area, or know people who are, the Home competition is open until 31st Jan 2017. More details: here 

img_5969iLetters to the Future (Off the Shelf Festival of Words, Hive and Grimm & Co.)
I spent a magical Saturday at Rotherham-based literary charity Grimm & Co, which is not unlike being in the set of a Harry Potter film. The downstairs is a shop selling everything from witches winkle-causing cream to wizards wands, but through the magical door (accessed by a secret lever), there are various rooms where Grimm’s wordsmithery takes place.

Here, I ran a lovely few workshops as Hive and happened upon 2 brilliant young writers for Rotherham Young Writers who were previously unaware of it and excited to join. The theme of Letters to the future turned out to be a really interesting and emotional one. There’s a little blog post on it here:

 TADS & Creative Recovery, Barnsley
Two more great poetry workshops on the theme of home with children, and adults working with a few great creative places in Barnsley – Tads and Creative Recovery, both of whom provide emotional well-being support. I’m looking forward to working with Creative Recovery again in February on their Poetry Parcels project.

Hive Young Writers open mic (for under 25s)
Hive’s first young people’s open mic was a huge success. Such a wonderful supportive night. We had 35 performers, the youngest performer was 12. I didn’t know it was possible to fit so many great performances in one event. Many performed for the first time. And what a brave and supportive atmosphere with powerful performances from young writers sharing work dealing with topics as diverse as grief, sexual exploitation, fat shaming and being transgender. It was particularly lovely to have ex-members of Sheffield & Rotherham Young Writers – Anna May Fox and Will Banks do featured performances, one in each half. I have worked with both for many years so it was nice to have them and offer a something, however little , for their time. Creating a safe space to share is a key part of Verse Matters, (who Hive are partnering with for these events), and the inspiring Rachel Bower helped us set the supportive tone of the night that I think enabled so many to share words that perhaps they didn’t think they would when they walked in. Beautiful stuff I was proud to be part of.

The Youth Word Up 2016

From early October most of my Saturdays where given to poetry sessions for the Youth Word Up which took place on 3rd Nov and was the final event of the autumn for me and what a finale. I think it was the most successful Youth Word Up to date with the most performances and some really lovely moments and great feedback. The project is always a tough one for me as I never know if I’m going to pull it off – a book and a performance, but somehow, it happens! This year we had the lovely Joelle Taylor as our headline poet. Joelle runs Slambassadors UK, the youth slam championships, so she was used to working with young people and really engaged with them during the pre-show practice.  Despite the whole thing being 3 weeks earlier than usual, the publication was all so something for the young people involved to be proud of. I was also able to feed in various young people from my wider network so I feel like the project really had the best and widest impact and that makes me happy.

_mg_6440All in all a brilliant autumn but a very tiring one. I’m thankful for a clearer December and the time to take stock before things start up again early next year.