Monday 9 January 2023

A big update on an exciting year!


I hope you are doing well. Here in Manchester, it is cold and wet. I am spending plenty of time with other people, and on hobbies, and this has helped me feel a bit warmer. I've been hiking, baking, playing the tin whistle in an Irish music group, and doing lots of reading.

Hiking at Tegg's Nose

I had ulnar (elbow) nerve surgery this summer, which was a huge challenge and life milestone, as I had never had surgery before. It went well, but did slow me down for a while. I'm sorry for such a big gap since my last blog update, but this one is full of exciting stuff. I hope you enjoy it!

'Happy Place' at Oldham Coliseum Theatre

I was honoured to be commissioned to write a new play for secondary pupils, as part of Oldham Coliseum's Secondary Partnerships Scheme. 

I wrote 'Happy Place', which follows a form on their first day back at school. They are faced with a Bake Off, TikTok dances, and an ABBA-tastic PE class. It was a joy to watch local schools, including an SEN school, perform my play at the Coliseum at the Inter-Schools Festival.

Workers' Rights Project at Islington Mill

As part of Islington Mill's heritage programme, I was selected for a creative writing commission on the subject of Workers' Rights. I researched the history of the Mill and its partial collapse in 1824, the evolution of trade unions, strikes and protests in Manchester and Salford, and the huge issues remaining within the global textile industry today. 

I wrote four new monologues: 'Strangers', 'Lofty', 'Fire' and 'Fast', and a poem, 'Falling'. In August, we shared this work at an event at the Mill, with actors Keziah Lockwood and Ross Thompson performing the monologues, and me sharing my poem. 

At rehearsals on the event day

It was a very sunny day, and an incredible evening - thank you to all who came.

Elliptical Readings at the Poetry Library

Artist Abigail Reynolds created the Elliptical Readings series, a live artwork which has had four instalments so far, in Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Plymouth, and Manchester. In each city, in a library, a small group gathers weekly for several months. They each read aloud from a book they love, the same book for the duration of the project. 

I was chosen for the group at Manchester Poetry Library, and my book was Mary Jean Chan's brilliant poetry collection, Flèche. Reading from the collection every week helped me connect with it even more deeply. The poems are queer and sensual, and look at home, language, family, and food. 

It was great to get to know my fellow group members, and the books they chose, which were all so different and intriguing.

My hand!

We even got special editions of our books, bound by Abigail with an image of our own hand! Mine is something I will always treasure.

Networking at the Poetry Library

I returned to Manchester Poetry Library as part of the Neurodivergent Poets Network. I enjoyed meeting new people, reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen for a while, and making zines.

I have also joined the Multilingual Poets' Network at the Poetry Library, and am really enjoying chatting about language and poetry. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how both these Networks develop, and what we can create together.

Portico Rewriting at The Portico Library

The Portico Rewriting project aims to make Manchester more accessible, by creating an alternative guidebook. I was commissioned to write about Partisan and The International Burgess Foundation. These are two places I know well, and I enjoyed writing my poems 'Electric' and 'After the rain'.

The finished zine is gorgeous. I have also recorded audio versions of the poems, which will be available online, and which I am looking forward to sharing.

Freelance Futures with The Lowry

I was happy to be selected by The Lowry to receive a bursary to attend Freelance Futures, a programme bringing freelance creatives together. I attended online sessions on leadership, working with organisations, and networking, and I heard from some really inspiring people. 

Performing at Pride, an Art Gallery, a Castle, and more!

In the spring, I was invited to be a featured performer at Whalley Range Pride, which was a real honour. I was very happy with my set, and the atmosphere at the Nip and Tipple was so cosy and supportive.

I represented the Writing Squad at The Portico Library, along with Lydia Hounat and Jay Mitra. It was really nice to spend time with them, and hear their work, as well as performing my own.

I travelled to Clitheroe Castle to perform with Northern Poets' Society as part of the new C-Arts Festival. A fun and memorable day out, and hopefully the first year of many for the Festival!

I also performed with Northern Poets' Society at Manchester Art Gallery, where we wrote in response to art in the Gallery, and then performed in front of that art. I wrote on Frank Dicksee's 'The Funeral of a Viking', as I am always moved by how water, flame, and movement are depicted.

I returned to Sale Out Loud, and made my first appearance at Long Story Short, Natter Bolton, and Salford Queer Open Mic. The North West spoken-word community is hard-working and supportive and kind, and I am hoping to get to even more gigs this year.

A pastel de nata at Natter!

Love and blackberries at Lumb Bank

In summer, I had an unexpected adventure at Lumb Bank, near Hebden Bridge - one of my favourite places - when a place opened up on a poetry course that had been sold out. I quickly packed, and travelled to Yorkshire, where I met a wonderful group of people. 

I learnt so much from our tutors, Jay Bernard and lisa luxx. I wrote a lot, stargazed, ate delicious food, picked blackberries, and played with Ted the Cat. It was very special.

Competition success

I had a lovely surprise in October, when I was one of the winners of the Lancaster LitFest Poetry Competition, on the theme of 'Environment'. I travelled to Lancaster for a cosy performance evening hosted by the amazing Clare Shaw, who also judged the competition. It was a moonlit night, and I fell somewhat in love with Lancaster.

You can read my winning poem, 'A kind of peace', on the LitFest website, along with two of my other environment poems, 'Sap' and 'Lavender', as part of the Poetry Mosaic.

My poem 'Carnival Octopus' was shortlisted for Black Cat Poetry Press' Sea Poetry Competition, and will be published in an anthology this year. Black Cat create truly beautiful books, and I can't wait to be part of one.

I was longlisted for the Rebecca Swift Prize, along with a number of my poet friends, which was fab. The support and congratulations I received on Twitter - especially as I was on my way to hospital at the time - was really uplifting. Huge thanks.

I was also longlisted for The Rialto's 'Nature and Place' Poetry Prize, with my poem 'Fish at the quarry', which has since been published by Ink, Sweat & Tears. I hope you enjoy it.

On the page!

It was an absolute dream come true to have a poem, 'The attic years', published in Magma Poetry, in Issue 83 on the theme of 'Solitude'. 

One of my favourite of my poems, 'The otter world', was published in the 'Under the Sea' anthology from Fly on the Wall Press, and I am really glad it has found such a good home.

I was published in Popshot for the fourth time, in the 'Roots' issue.

My story 'Blood and water' has been illustrated by Kyle B Solomon. I find moments like this, when someone creates something new and beautiful from my work, the very best part of being a writer.

Illustration by Kyle B Solomon

I have had poems in two zines from the ever-fantastic Coin-Operated Press: 'Spirits' and 'Meryn' in the Climate Action Zine, and 'Year of the Cat' and 'Memoir' in the Cats Zine.

I have had two poems published at Visual Verse in response to their visual prompts: 'Tunnelling' and 'Don't you remember? They are where we come from'.

Last but certainly not least, my poem 'Baptism' was published at The Mechanics' Institute Review.

I also have poems coming up in The Storms, the 'Trickster' Anthology from Ergi Press, the 'Under Your Pillow' Anthology from Victorina Press, the 'Bloody Hell' Zine from Bent Key Publishing, and the Changelings Annual. Very exciting times ahead!

Foxglove fabulousness 

It is really rewarding publishing Foxglove Journal's winter schedule of work - check out the website for some powerful poetry and short fiction. 

I did an interview about Foxglove for Fly on the Wall Press' In Conversation with Literary Journals, and appeared on the panel at the accompanying online discussion. Thanks for having me!

Out and about

I've had some really helpful poetry workshops from The Poetry Business, looking at themes including science, space, memory, and writing from trauma.

I've also been out and about with The Writing Squad, including spending a day writing at York Minster, which was a very moving experience.

We also had a Squad weekend in Leeds, where we created our own TV series set on a spaceship, in our mock Writers' Room. We had a delicious curry night, and Leeds felt very festive.

I enjoyed some phenomenal events as part of Manchester Literature Festival. 'After Sylvia' at Manchester Central Library was a great evening of poetry from contributors to the After Sylvia anthology. I also attended a special workshop and was delighted to get a free copy of the book.

The wonderful Rebecca Goss

I then had the honour of attending More Fiyah, a glorious evening of Black poetry at Contact Theatre, with so many of my favourite poets in one place, I couldn't quite believe it. I left with many wonderful books, and a new grasp of just what poetry can do.

The brilliant Kayo Chingonyi

Bakers with Pride!

It was great fun to walk in the Manchester Pride Parade with Village Bakers. 

It was the day I left Hebden Bridge, so I had a very early start! But I loved wearing my new Bakers t-shirt and apron, and waving one of our rainbow flags. I have a poem about this experience, 'On the sixth day', in our Autumn Newsletter. I always enjoy curating the Newsletter and interviewing our Bakers.

One of my recent bakes - mince-pie muffins!

Thank you for sticking with this huge update! I'm busy making a new website, where I can add news more easily, and I can't wait to share that with you.

Hope you have a great January, and see you in spring!


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