halfway smile is here :)

halfway smile is here and available to buy! I have so much enjoyed editing this wonderful collection of 73 pieces of poetry, short story and flash by emerging South Yorkshire young writers (14+). The range and quality is really up there and among them are Hive award winners Warda Yassin, Eloise Unerman and Georgie Woodhead, and the winners of our inaugural Hive Young Writers’ Competition, open to young writers from across the region. Do grab yourself a copy and support us (Hive) to continue supporting young writers.

More info here.

70 years of the NHS

A massive Happy Birthday to the NHS for being amazing full stop but also saving my life in 2015 and giving me superb treatment for breast cancer. 

My treatment was gruelling at times and lasted for a whole year, but I met so many incredible doctors, nurses and hospital staff, even down to cleaners. Sheffield’s Weston Park cancer hospital is amazing and the staff, many of whom have worked there for many, many years, are so dedicated and good-spirited despite the difficulty of working on the front line for cancer.

We are immensely lucky to have our health service and boy, when you really need it, then you know what appreciation for it is. All of us, if we ever get ill, especially with something like cancer, we want to know there is a multidisciplinary team made up of everyone from oncologists to radiologist to surgeons to research nurses meeting to discuss and make decisions on each patient individually. We really do have the very best care, as good as anything private.

It blows me away what the NHS did for me and I know if I get ill again in future, I’ll once again be lucky enough to be in their care. At least I hope! Happy 70th, here’s to another 70 and to keep going when I’m long gone!

Here’s Harry Leslie, Barnsley War veteran, remembering life and social health care (there wasn’t any) before the NHS. And the first days of the NHS.

Hello blog & June!

Hello blog! Long time no see! I say hello blog because I don’t think anyone is reading this 🙂 How time flies as always. It’s been one thing after another (as is the nature of life), but I just wanted to pause here a minute and say – I’m so pleased that the lovely young poet that is Warda Yassin, is a winner of the New Poets Prize 2018!

I’ve worked with Warda since late 2012. She is one of the sweetest, humblest, loveliest young souls I’ve had the privilege of working with, and it brings a tear to my eye to see how far she’s come and that her talent is being recognised. She so deserves this prize and her work in print (in 2019!) I really can’t wait! For more info click here.

I’m seeing so many of the young writers starting to take off through Hive and it’s just the best feeling ever. There is nothing that beats the feeling of helping someone realise they have wings. Eloise Unerman, is young poet in residence at the Ledbury Poetry Festival this year, and we have another young writer who’s been highly commended for a big award announced later this month. And there are too many others to mention who are slowly unfolding their feathers and looking up to the sky.

On the topic of writing, I’ve fired mine up again and have been getting some submissions out there (it’s been a while!) It’s never easy to juggle running a big project with your own writing and creativity. I’ve accepted it comes in waves. The important thing it to try and ride one when they come along.

Happy June to you all!

Photo: Me, Warda & Eloise at the wonderful Motley Muse at Huddersfield Uni recently.


Festival fever!

I’ve been busy as a bee buzzing around getting ready for the Hive festival! All details below! If you know any young writers in the north (14-25) who would love a day jam-packed with workshops, talks, performances, advice from writers, networking & creative buzz, put them onto this! 🙂


So proud of the Hive young writers who interviewed English-Iranian poet and rapper, Lowkey, at  Sheffield Hallam University on Tuesday. What a brilliant interview! Check it out here
Lowkey’s – Ahmed >

Apples & Snakes #100years podcast

I’m so chuffed to have been asked to pen a poem for this brilliant podcast series exploring women’s suffrage by the wonderful Verse Matters and Apples & Snakes producer Kirsten Luckins. I learned so much about the movement and how and why things have changed, and will hopefully continue to, for women.

First up is Rachel Bower with her 2 part poem about women’s football, then Sez Thomasin speaks as the defiant and resourceful Leed’s lass Leonora Cohen. My piece ‘Five Suffragette Ghosts I saw in Sheffield Streets’ is around 11 minutes in. I had wanted to do something about working class women specifically but got totally enthralled in Sheffield’s suffragette history. Now, walking around town, in particular, is a whole new experience for me!

Click above to listen of this link for all 3 in the series: applesandsnakes.org/listen

Votes for Women

Where does time go?! Haha, oh dear, I had planned to do an end of year/New Year post but it feels a little late for that now! Happy New Year to whoever might be reading anyway! I’ve started the year very busy but rested, which is lovely (although partly through a virus over Christmas).

I will write something more soon but just to say, I’m excited for a forthcoming poetry commission project I’ve been involved in. Myself, Rachel Bower and Sez Thomasin are representing Sheffield’s Verse Matters collective in a podcast series celebrating all things women’s empowerment and rights in line with 2018 being 100 years since women got the vote. (Or at least some women at that point!)

There are other groups of female poets involved via Apples & Snakes’ Kirsten Luckins who’s behind the project and wanted to link women’s poetry collectives together around the country. I think the series will air in February.

We’ve just recorded our poems and I have to say, I’ve really loved researching for it. Looking at women’s suffrage in Sheffield in particular took over when I started learning about all the happenings that went on in places I know well. Fascinating stuff! I’ll post the link here when the time comes.

And just to say, if you don’t know Verse Matters but you love warm, welcoming, creative nights out, and you live in or near Sheffield, give a VM event a go! The Facebook is here.

Stay warm, it’s just started snowing here! 🙂

Verse Matters Anthology

I’m thrilled and excited to have two poems in this wonderful Valley Press anthology edited by Rachel Bower and Helen Mort. It’s lovely to see poets whose work I love like Liz Berry and Catherine Aryes, alongside voices never heard before. That’s the spirit of Verse Matters and it’s so great to be part of it 🙂

You can pre-order the Verse Matters anthology at Valley Press here.


Wild Poetry

Delighted to have had a poem highly-commended in the Carers UK Creative Writing Competition 2017.

It’s lovely news after writing taking a back seat for a while. That said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed editing the brilliant Wild Poetry anthology by young poets, 14 to 25. It really is the ideal gift (Christmas is coming and all!) for a poetry and plant lover and a bargain too!

Wild poetry brings together poetry written by young people, aged from 14 to 25, in celebration of the beauty, mystery and importance of native UK wild plants, flowers, trees and fungi. The poems have been written in response to everything from creative prompts and research (from folklore to biological information), to personal connections, and observing nature up close.

You can buy it here.

Event countdown!

Just a quick update hello as, boy, has it been busy since I last posted! But in a very good way. I’m just in the thick of young writer events for Hive and Off the Shelf Festival of Words. Two publications have just gone to the printers so that’s a weight off my mind!

Here’s a sneak peak of the cover of Wild Poetry, the young writers anthology I’ve just edited that we’ll be launching at our open mic on Monday 30th. It really is a beautiful book full of great poems (an ideal Christmas present for a poetry lover or also a plant lover, or both!) We’ll be selling it at the open mic and from our website in November.

It’s the yearly Youth Word Up happening next week on Thursday 26th in Sheffield (free and open to all!). I can’t believe it’s the 6th year! I tweeted that and Benjamin Zephaniah gave it a retweet and expressed his pride that it is still going having started it in 2012 when he was guest curator for Off the shelf.

And then we’ve got a writers’ day with poet and playwright Khadijah Ibrahiim on Saturday 28th Oct, followed by our hip hop urban lyricists event, Slam Barzs in the evening. And then the Monday of half term, it’s our Off the Shelf young people’s open mic. Then, I can rest! All going well so far but I never fully relax until everything is done. It’s always the busiest time of the year for me.

Finally, I’ve just had some fab news that I’ve been highly commended in a poetry competition (not yet announced), which is lovely because I’ve not had any time for writing in quite a while and feel very rusty.

I hope anyone who’s stopped by is having a good, creative autumn 🙂