Liverpool Poetry Prize

I’m delighted to have a poem highly commended in the inaugural Liverpool Poetry Prize judged by the brilliant Roger McGough, and I’m looking forward to the reading in Liverpool in June.

I’m also absolutely thrilled for a poet I mentor, Cian Ferriter, who has just won the Munster Fool for Poetry chapbook competition. His pamphlet Earth’s Dark Chute will launch in May at Cork Poetry Festival. I can’t recommend Cian’s work enough. This is much deserved!

It’s January!

Greetings 2022! Hurray for the return of lighter days! Just a few little things to post. Delighted to have a poem in the coming NeurodiVERSE Anthology with Flapjack Press edited by Jaine Booth, Kate Fox and Rob Steventon. I’ve also just had some other lovely news but that won’t be announced for a while so I’ll have to sit on it for a bit!

And I’m running Ode to the Ode Poem poetry workshop with the wonderful Vanessa Lampert on 6th Feb (open to young and emerging writers aged 15 to 30). I’m opening our usual Hive Poetry Collective up for the session should you know anyone interested. Details on the link!

2021 signing off…

I can’t believe it’s coming to the end of 2021 already! Where has this year gone? I’m feeling this more than ever this year. It’s been blink-of-an-eye quick. A few lovely happenings to end the year on. I was delighted to co-host the first of three Poetry Wales readings/festive gathering with Zoe Brigley on 9th. Such wonderful readings and poems. I’m just tuning into the final one as I type.

I also enjoyed delivering a creative careers session for Sheffield Hallam University students on the BA in Writing. I gave a potted history of my creative journey and then tips and thoughts on becoming a freelancer.  It always surprises me when I take time to digest the journey that’s brought me to where I am now. It was nice to feel like I actually had some tips to give! I also ran through my 12 tips for working in the arts from my Young Poet’s Network creative careers piece which can be read here.

Anyway, I leave this year remembering my biggest highlight – being a winner of the Munster Fool for Poetry International Pamphlet competition for my chapbook If All This Never Happened. All best to everyone and here’s to hoping for a very good year all round for us all in 2022!

Autumn highlights

Greetings! To say it’s been a busy few months would be a bit of an understatement. As is usual this time of year, things have been pretty full-on and I’m looking forward to a December break. That said, it’s been a really productive and fulfilling time, so here are some of the highlights!

In October I delivered a series of creative writing workshops in acute psychiatric wards at Sheffield Hospitals. I loved it and am really hoping it’s something that can be possible more regularly. The patients and nurses were absolutely lovely and the art facilities are pretty ace. One unit even had a gorgeous art room with a kiln that makes you feel like you’re in a maker’s studio.

Also in October, we celebrated ten years of the Youth Word Up as part of Off the Shelf Festival of Words. I’m proud to have brought the project this far, and we even got a shout-out on Twitter from Benjamin Zephaniah himself (its original founder). As part of his guest curation at Off the Shelf all those years ago, Benjamin came up with the YWUp to give young people, particularly those from backgrounds and groups often marginalised, the opportunity to have their voices heard alongside an established poet. Over the years that’s extended into yearly print publications, a digital installation and a lockdown podcast.

It was an emotional event for me remembering all the brave young people who’ve written and performed through the project, and lovely to have young people who’ve been involved over the years come back for the special occasion.

One of the original young people from the first year (and subsequent years), who wasn’t able to come because her daughter was poorly, send a lovely piece to read out about what the YWUp meant to her. She got involved via Sheffield Youth Justice because of what she was getting up to. She spoke about the difference it had made at a crucial time in her life.

Many others spoke or messaged about what they’d got from the project including Hyphyn, who has since become an artist/rapper in his own right (check out his YT here), and Stevo B whose words on what it’s mean to him (below), as you might imagine as a fellow dyslexic, meant the world to me. Encouragement is a superpower we can all give easily and freely and hell yes can it change a lot for the person we’re giving it to.

We also published a ‘10 years of the Youth Word Up’ book with a selection of work from over the years. It even made me tearful putting it together! And it was painful trying to choose a range of work from across 10 years with so many great pieces and so many people I wanted to see represented.

Then in early November, 30+ care-experienced young people took to the iconic Leadmill stage in Sheffield to perform songs, raps and poems (the latter written in workshops with myself and the mighty Dominic Heslop (akaThe1Devotion) Dom is another young person I’ve had the pleasure to work with for many years who is now a pretty amazing creative facilitator and artist in his own right. I’m mega proud of him and excited for what he has got panned for young people in Sheffield in the pipeline. Dom hosted and they all rocked the Leadmill. It was pure poetry; dancing and chanting in the audience and cheering each other on. A really special night. Even people we thought weren’t going to make it appeared out of nowhere and felt supported enough to get on the stage. Many of them spoke frankly about their experiences of care because they felt they could and that was everything. And it was such a lovely team running the event led by the brilliant Clare and Tanja fro the Care Council (picture of us all to the right in which Max has photoshopped the word Squad above us!) I’m looking forward to collating another book of work from the Care Council some time in spring.

What else!? Hive groups are back up and running and buzzing in the real world which is nice and there’s plenty in the pipeline. Think that’ll do for now! Oh, a last thing. I had a few poems in a new Greenteeth Press anthology called Over Yonder. Thanks Greenteeth folks! It’s about all things Yorkshire!

Editing & Reading

Greetings autumn! A few lovely things to post about. I’m delighted to have had a small hand in editing a wonderful children’s book by the inspirational Doncaster young writer, Sam Davis – But Mummy Doesn’t Have a Broken Arm. Sam attends my Hive poetry group and is a super talent. She wrote the book in the absence of finding anything suitable for children to read around understanding why a parent, or adult in their lives, might be in a mental health hospital. The book is beautifully illustrated by Luna de Vera and Sam is an absolute inspiration in following her creative dreams and addressing something much needed.

Blurb from the book: But Mummy Doesn’t Have a Broken Arm looks at the reasons why a parent may be in a mental health hospital, focusing on the visual differences between physical and mental health. It also reiterates the fact that it’s not the child’s fault that a parent is poorly. It can be very hard for children to understand why their mum or dad is not at home, and to understand the complexities of mental health. This book aims to explain that in an easy to understand terms with illustrations to help alongside the text. You can buy the book on Amazon here.

In early September, I had a lovely afternoon doing a reading with a poet I really admire, Rachel Bower, at the beautiful Upper Chapel in Sheffield for Off the Shelf Festival of Words as part of the Sheffield Showcase. It was like giving a sermon haha. The best part was that some really lovely writers I know came to support, and my cousin made it too. It was so nourishing to sit and chat over coffee after with some very brilliant women.

I actually wrote a poem recently too – that side of things has been a bit quiet for a while. And I got two poems accepted for an anthology about Yorkshire – thank you Green Teeth Press! I’m full steam ahead now with Hive happenings (we’ve just heard from the Arts Council and we are go for another year!) I’ve also got several freelance projects on the go. I hope wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, things are good.

Harland Works Reading

Last night I had such a lovely night reading with some very fine poets – Suzannah Evans, Helen Mort & Nasser Husain at the wonderful, old industry Sheffield, Harland Works. It’s a cafe with a courtyard, and due to the heatwave, we were in the courtyard. It felt very Mediterranean!  I also sold 6 chapbooks! I saw a woman read one from another table and it was very surreal! Harland Works were so hospitable and even gave us free tapas. They’re hoping to do something more regularly. I really hope so as it’s such a great space and the people are so warm and friendly. I also had a bit of great poetry news recently. I’ve had 2 poems accepted for an anthology inspired by Yorkshire with Green Teeth Press!

I hope wherever you are, it’s sunny, or you are feeling sunny inside 🙂



Real world reading!

I’m excited to be doing a reading in the actual real-life, fresh air, sip a pint, solid table, outside world, flesh! – on Thursday 22nd July 7pm at Harland Works in Sheffield. I’m reading with some awesome poets – Suzannah Evans, Helen Mort and Nasser Hussain. Come and join us if you so fancy!

Journey to the Centre of the Poem Workshop with Poetry Wales

Delighted to be running a writing/editing workshop for Poetry Wales in early July – Journey to the Centre of the Poem: From Draft to Destination. As it’s sold out via the workshop mailing list before it went public, we are hopefully putting on another date in July. Subscribe to Poetry Wales to find out when, or check-in here 🙂

Busy spring into summer!

It’s been a warm and busy time recently and I’m looking forward to a few days off to see my old mum this weekend in Wales. Recently, I’ve been working with Sheffield Poet Laurate and Hive young poet, Warda Yassin on a Poetry Society Project. We had a glorious weekend at Victoria Quays in Sheffield and at Swinton Lock on a narrowboat delivering poetry workshops. For the boat trip, we took young poets who had never been on a boat before (and one hadn’t been on the train so it was a double first!), and at the Quays it was a lovely mix of poets and people who’d never written before. The aim of the workshops was to engage people with our wonderful canals, and to get them writing poetry, of course. Warda will be writing a poem, taking inspiration from the work produced in the workshops, to be featured on a wall between the Sheffield and Tinsley stretch of canal later this year. Can’t wait!

I’ve also been hard at work with Zoe Brigley working as a contributing editor on the Summer issue of Poetry Wales. We’re so proud of it! It’s a really humbling experience being on the other side of magazine submissions. I really struggled with writing rejections for one thing. There were so many poems I wished I could take but there wasn’t the room. On the brighter side, it’s been so lovely to showcase a lovely range of poets in the issue.

I hope wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you are well and there is sun!

Congratulations Safia!

A massive congratulations to ex-Doncaster Young Writers, poet and Hive OG, Safia Khan who is one of the winners of the New Poets Prize 2021! I first met Safia when she was about 14. Shy, polite and a really good writer. Around 2017, when she came on an Arvon residential with Hive, something sparked in her to take her poetry more seriously. For a few years, she tried for the prize and was at the point where she said she wasn’t going to try again (we’ve all mean there when you feel deflated and – is my work even any good?) Clearly, it was and is, because our girl is flying high right now! Congratulations Saf!