12 February 2024

Stockport Stories

It's all about Stockport this month as I'm currently researching the Town Of Culture for a new commission called Stockport Stories and I'm also reading there this coming Saturday, at the first-ever event at the brand-new Underbanks branch of Greenhouse Books – the showcase of Confingo writers, including myself, Elizabeth Baines, David Gaffney and Adrian Slatcher has now sold out!

Not to worry if you missed out on tickets to that, though – tickets have just gone "on sale" (they're free!) for our first Stockport Stories performance. You can get your mitts on them here. The premiere takes place on Thursday 11 April at the awesome Rare Mags in Underbanks; the second airing will be at the wonderful Mura Ma Art Gallery in Marple on Saturday 20 April. See the lovely poster by creative Stopfordian David Bailey for all the details – I can’t wait to meander among you with my watery words exploring the rivers swirling beneath your feet as you wander the Merseyway mall munching your Greggs pasty!

A week or so back, I took advantage of a day swap with Jobshare Matt and jumped aboard a No42, heading off on a day trip to sunny Stockport (actually, it made an attempt to mizzle as we got off the bus). ‘Twas a writing project research trip to check out the rivers and find the confluence of the Tame and Goyt and the resulting source of the Mersey, as seen from a cobbledy road that crosses the nice old double span sandstone bridge shown here in various guises, including as a painting by the rather ovelooked artist Alan Lowndes (below), who was born in Heaton Norris. The confluence is right next to the M60 ringroad motorway, and the Mersey promptly turns a corner and disappears into a culvert beneath the shopping precinct, only to be spotted via a peculiar hole in the pavement near the British Heart Foundation, before disappearing again out of sight and mind.

Once the Mersey re-emerges, down the bottom end towards the Pyramid and near the Weir Mill warehouses being developed under the viaduct, next to the bus depot, opposite Kwik-Fit, there's a weir and a beach I located from good old Google Earth, but no way of getting down to them. The trip also saw us locate a blue plaque giving a nod to Lowry having painted it on occasion (as in in paintings, not as in the Forth Bridge), pop in the Plaza and chat to a nice old gent in a red bowtie about afternoon tea, scoff a Greggs pasty (told you), procure some secondhand patent peeptoes for a dream, swing by the “new Berlin” Underbanks and Marketplace, and quaff a bev or two in the Cracked Actor. Good day out!

31 January 2024

Up to much?

Just getting in before January becomes February (how is that even a thing?), here's the first post of 2024 with a wee round-up of things.

Over the moon to see Lune pop up as a Poetry Book Society Winter Selection here and then for it to be picked by Will Mackie, Senior Programme Manager at New Writing North, in his "New & Recent Poetry from the North: Winter 2023" round-up, where he says: "Inspired by rivers and seas, these are dextrous and playful poems that feel alive and urgent." Read that in full here. (I contributed my own "best reads" to Northern Soul, here, if you want to read about people other than just little old me.)

Chuffed also to be one of the 52 artists exhibiting in this year's Blah Open with some concrete pieces about places you might live, called “Dwellings”, one of which is lifted from Lune. The show closes this Sunday (4 February), so I'm planning on swinging by Cafe Blah late afternoon/early evening to stage mine and David's finissage (someone snapped up his piece straight away, so I guess he deserves a drink!).

Delighted also to have a piece in the latest issue of Blackbox Manifold, which I've been wanting to work my way into for a while now. It's a collaboration with Robert Sheppard, called "Untitled" (we tried really hard, but we couldn't land on what to call it!), originally created for European Poetry Festival in the summer. And in such fabulous company, too, including Zoë Skoulding and Jazz Linklater. It's about the River Mersey, which is my next project. See here to read that and here to see Robert's blog about it.

Coming up is an appearance in the rather brilliant Spelt Magazine – they've accepted a sequence of urban-rural poems offering glimpses of life from city centre viaducts and edge-of-town motorway bridges, of which another, separate one, has been published just now by Poetry Scotland. I have also been frantically writing more about motorway bridges this past fortnight to meet a deadline – specifically Jen Orpin's motorway bridges, including the one pictured below, which carries Pennine Way walkers safely across the highest point of the M62, at the aptly monikered Windy Hill.

January has also seen a new episode drop of The Reading Ramble (find it wherever you get your podcasts!) from Lancashire Libraries, and you can now listen to my Lancashire Stories anthology commission "Proceed With All Due Caution" read beautifully by Karen Esposito.

Performance wise, and 2024 opened with the launch at Manchester Cathedral (wow!) of a new anthology that resulted from the Doubt Wisely workshops run by poet-in-residence Tom Branfoot in conjunction with Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met, plus my first-ever visit to Manchester Poets, which is currently happening in Withington Library, so I might be putting in more appearances in future.

Closing 2023 was a headline slot at the last Verbose of the year in December and just before that the launch of Lune, with three fabulous guest readers Tom Branfoot, Ian Humphreys and Lydia Unsworth, at Peste in November, and, just before that, in October, Four Poets at Saul Hay Gallery, reading with Petr Hruska, Jake Morris-Campbell and Jennifer Lee Tsai.

Next up, I'm reading at a Confingo Publishing showcase on Saturday 17 February at Greenhouse Books in their brand-new spot in trendy Underbanks, Stockport – tickets here and see you there!