09 December 2015

Here's me reading in Paris!

Yes, Paris, France! As part of this week's Spoken Word Paris ecstasy/joy theme, I read my fairly new story Do Birds Die Flying? (which has just found a home with Flash magazine) and old favourite (well, mine, anyway) I See Electric. If you happen to be in the City of Lights any time soon, do pop into Au Chat Noir in the 10th for Spoken Word Paris, every Monday evening. It's run by the lovely Alberto, David and David, and is an English-speaking event (although some French, and even some Italian, may be heard). It's an open mic night, with a guest - just rock up on the night and speak to the man in the top hat to get your name on the list. Oh and it's free, and the drinks are pretty cheap for Paris. What's not to like?

16 November 2015

Us speaking our words, in a different way, not on stage

So, me and David are interviewed by fellow writer Rob Cutforth on The End of All Things podcast. Listen to me tell the story of the guy stripping at Verbose, recount Dave Hartley's recent Jenga moment at Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival, plug the Northern Lights Writers' Conference, etc…

05 November 2015

Translate, relate

Visiting Professor Michael Schmidt today gave an impressive lecture to University of Bolton students in the English and Creative Writing programmes, and wider reaching interested cohorts, on translation of literature, specifically poetry. On this, he is an expert as founder of the well-respected Carcanet Press, founded in 1962, and editor of PN Review.

Professor Schmidt read some translated poems, and – he being from a Mexican background – gave a real insight into the art; not just of poetry, but also of translation. “Gap in tonality” was one theme – from English to Scottish to Welsh to Irish poems, for example. If you understand poetry or you understand translation, or, better still, you understand both, this was not a talk to be missed. Internationalism was definitely something we all came away from it with.

Mexican! Yeah, me too. It's true. Michael explained a whole lotta stuff. Octavia Paz dismissed MS's stuff as "kitchen Spanish". MS told us of Les Murray saying to South African writer Adam Schwartzmann to use his dialect. I asked about translation - do you interpret or do you take as literal; do repetitions occur through translation or not - are they intended? For example, in the poem we looked at, is it really "red" red" "red"; might it be actually "red" "crimson" "ochre"?

Just use your language, use your languages, I'd say. Michael Schmidt is inspiring. Work with the tools you have and go create.

26 October 2015


Check out my review of the Carcanet New Poetries event at Manchester Literature Festival 2015 here. It were proper good.

22 October 2015

Fashion dahlinks...

Only forgot to tell you about the Elsa Schiaparelli and 1930s fashion show in Platt Hall, didn't I? Well, you can check out my review here.

02 October 2015

Food, glorious food

Recently had a rather lovely meal at what is fast becoming one of my favourite Manchester eating and watering holes: Volta on Burton Road in West Didsbury. You can read a proper review over at Creative Tourist here. Not sure it's fashionable to say 'nom' any more, but so what, it's not really fashionable to have a blog any more: NOM.

27 August 2015

Back once again...

Just like a renegade master (whatever that is) Verbose is back once again, on Monday 28 September. The seventh outing of the prose and poetry night features a stellar line-up from the Centre for New Writing and The Manchester Review at the University of Manchester: Ian McGuire, John McAuliffe and Geoff Ryman. These guys are my old tutors! And I've managed to convince them to come and read in Fallow, to launch this year's edition of The Manchester Anthology (the 2014 version of which I edited - remember?). More details on the Facebook event page here - do say you'll come, oh do! 

Verbose was mentioned in this month's issue of The Skinny as one of the best spoken word nights in Manchester while the Manchester Evening News said: “From literary heavyweights to emerging talents, this monthly night has them all." Oh aye - come and see for yourself!

25 August 2015

Flash light

If you're at a loose end on Saturday 12 September, 11am-1pm, head down to the great-looking new library and council complex in Rochdale, Number One Riverside (pictured), for a flash fiction workshop with myself and Les Malheureux partner in crime David Gaffney. The event, part of Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival, is free, but book your places via Eventbrite; full details here.

01 July 2015

Quote, unquote

Currently reading Salt Publishing's Best British Short Stories 2015, edited by Nicholas Royle, with whom I recently teamed up on the Re/Place project for Chorlton Arts Festival and also on the May outing of Verbose, my monthly live literature night. It includes stories by recent Verbose headliners Alison Moore and Jenn Ashworth, plus a few Verbose audience members. Jolly good stuff. Here I am quoted on the back (above the Independent's Boyd Tonkin, no less). Expect a review soon.

17 May 2015

Re/Place – stories that are right up your street

This happens on Wednesday - do join us!

As part of Chorlton Arts Festival 2015, currently underway, six critically acclaimed and award-winning writers each sharing an interest in psychogeography and urban exploration have penned pieces about ghost places and the re-appropriation of spaces. Sarah Butler, Sarah-Clare Conlon, Claire Dean, Kate Feld, David Gaffney and Nicholas Royle will perform their site-specific short stories and present postcards from the past at this special event, Re/Place - stories that are right up your street. Supported by Arts Council England. The event will also include a screening of private home movies shot in Chorlton in the fifties and sixties, provided by the North West Film Archive.

Proof, Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9PH. Wednesday 20 May 2015. Doors 7.30pm. Free entry.

07 April 2015

Private Lives review

Last week, I went to see Private Lives at the Bolton Octagon. Good it was, if a little over the top. Read more from me on The Manchester Review here.

Fiona Hampton as Amanda, and Harry Long as Elyot. Photograph: Ian Tilton

31 March 2015

OMFG, a swan song for my favourite place

I can't believe this is actually happening. I feel as if someone is on life support and we've been told that we have to pull the plug, except we don't want the person in the bed to die and it's the doctors telling us that it's inevitable. I was hoping so so much that it wouldn't be irreversable, that it was just a bad dream, but this week it's become a reality. Cornerhouse will die. Our last night together is Thursday, and I’m sad to the bottom of my heart.

I know I’m not alone, and that is heartening, but not heartening enough to know that she will soon be gone out of our lives.

I know the maintenance was expensive. I know the roof leaked in Cinema 1. I know Screen 3 was the daftest space to watch a film ever. I’ve seen enough arty French films to keep arty French films in business. I’ve come out with a crick in my neck so many times I’ve written a story about it: Everyone Has A Favourite Spot.

Last night, I got my favourite spot: the front row in Cinema 2. I love the symmetry. You do crane upwards to see the movie on the front row, but you also get loads of leg space, and, thankfully last night, no men took off their shoes and socks after a downpour. Although someone did leave an empty coffee carton (what is it with you people? There’s a handy bin just outside the door. This isn’t the chuffin AMC, and let’s not make HOME like that).

HOME, we’re told, is going to be better. I don’t disbelieve this, but nothing says arthouse and behaveyourfuckingselves as a lovely wee cinema with three screens; one in an Art Deco building and the other two in a red brick flat iron. C’mon.

Anyway, back to the main feature. Cornerhouse holds so many memories to so many people. I just posted on the Scribbler project site about one of mine. But it’s only one of many. I’ve met so many people in Cornerhouse: people I’m supposed to be meeting; people I’m not supposed to be meeting; people I know and just happen to bump into; random, lovely people, from here or travelling through.

Then there’s the art: I’ve made friends with artists through this blog, who have been showing work in the bar, in the galleries. Talented, amazing folk. The bookshop has always been a place to buy unique cards, magazines and pamphlets by local writers. And Cornerhouse has supported my own work; for which I am much indebted. I loved doing my Flyer Fiction Micro Commission project at Cornerhouse – logging bike passages past the building and engaging with fellow cyclists.

Cornerhouse has always been an artistic hub. For years now.

I came to live in this great city of rain in 1990, and Cornerhouse has always been my rock.

I will miss that rock. I know others will too.

10 March 2015

Happen you might like this play

Now I'm working oop north, it means I can go to the Octagon for some of my theatre fixes, which is rather jolly good as I like a bit of "in the round" action, so to speak. I unfortunately managed to miss the critically acclaimed David Thacker-directed A View From The Bridge, but to kick off my new Bolton season, I have reviewed Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton, a member of the Manchester School of Drama famed for their realism in the early 20th century (I studied the play at uni, first time round, when I did a course on realism). By 'eck, they talk reet Northern. You can read my words of wisdom on The Manchester Review here. It's on until 21 March, so you still have time to catch it, if you happen to be in Bolton, happen.

12 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, the Whitworth Art Gallery is inviting you to "fall in love again" as it reopens its doors to the public after a year and a half's worth of £15million renovations. And I promise there'll be something for you to fall in love with - if not the newly uncovered Victorian ceilings in the back galleries, if not the cafe in the trees run by The Modern Caterer with ingredients sourced from places like Frosts of Chorlton, if not the Promenade overlooking the Art Garden and Whitworth Park, if not the exhibitions (including Cornelia Parker's exploding shed in Cold Dark Matter, pictured), if not the pool of water, if not the never-before-seen be-beamed Grand Hall… if not any of these, it'll be because everyone's favourite spaces - the South Gallery and the Sculpture Hall - haven't suffered from re-modelling. Phew. Director of the gallery, Dr Maria Balshaw, could almost be described as giddily excited on the two-hour tour she led the press round yesterday - and rightly so. It might have run behind schedule (don't think we didn't notice the change of date), but it has been worth the wait. And tomorrow at 7.50pm things blast off with a special William Blake-inspired "meteor shower" firework display, featuring Parker tinkering with Manchester-discovered Graphene, the world's thinnest, strongest material. As the Whitworth is just down the road, I think it might become my new destination of choice. And as the cafe is open until 9.30pm Monday to Saturday (7pm on Sundays), it might become a suitable replacement for the soon-to-be-defunct Cornerhouse. Yay, a cultural cafe relay! Out with the old, in with the new…

21 January 2015

New review

I've reviewed the first anthology from Siren for Bookmunch. It's called Fugue, this book, and it includes a short story by my good friend Adrian Slatcher. See the rather lovely cover below and click through to my review here.

05 January 2015

Words and fixtures, quite literally

New year, new live lit night. Well, a new reincarnation. The live literature night Verbose is back with a new host (me) and a new format. Taking place on the fourth Monday of the month at my local gaff, Fallow café in Fallowfield, the event will feature performances by special guests, along with an open mic for folk to read their prose and poetry. It’s free entry and doors are at 7.30pm. Fallow café is at 2a Landcross Road, Fallowfield, M14 6NA. See http://verbosemcr.wordpress.com.

Bringing words to the 'burbs in the first half of 2015 are...

Monday 26 January featuring members of the Inklings writing group, which includes Elizabeth Baines, Sarah Butler, Sian Cummins, David Gaffney and Adrian Slatcher
Monday 23 February featuring independent publishing collective Curious Tales, which includes Jenn Ashworth, Tom Fletcher, Richard Hirst, Alison Moore and Emma Jane Unsworth
Monday 23 March featuring the #Flashtag writers, which includes David Hartley, Benjamin Judge, Tom Mason and Fat Roland
Monday 27 April featuring contributors to Confingo magazine, edited by Timothy Shearer
Monday 25 May featuring poems and short stories from the Centre for New Writing’s The Manchester Anthology, edited by Sarah-Clare Conlon
Monday 22 June featuring commissions from Nightjar Press, edited by Nicholas Royle