Tag Archives: Lower Shaw Farm

Damn fine words – writing workshop with Matt Harvey at the Swindon Festival of Literature

17 May
Writing workshop with Matt Harvey

Writing workshop with Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey’s writing workshop yesterday was a lesson, not just in writing, but how to run a writing course. We had three and a half hours to learn. I felt sympathy for Matt when we introduced ourselves, a proper mixed ability class.

There were published poets and Karen, a novelist with an agent. There were also people who hadn’t written since school; for Lucy that was twenty years ago. That’s one diverse crowd to cater for in a single workshop.

But the great thing about writing is that a person becomes a writer when they write. Whatever inspires a person – with a pen, pencil or finger to put it to paper or electronic device and create words – is job done. Continue reading

Switching off the brain? No chance! Children’s Day at Swindon Festival of Literature

10 May

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By the mid-point of the Swindon Festival of Literature, my brain can usually do with a good rest.

The organisers work us Festival-goers hard: getting up up before sunrise on day 1 for the Dawn Chorus, then making us think, and be creative, and think some more for the next six days. Continue reading

Ducktales with Tony Hawks at Swindon Festival of Literature

8 May

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At Swindon Festival of Festival, organisers hope that the audience take something special away from every event they attend. They hope their guests take something away too – even if its the ringing of applause in their ears. Some get to stay at Festival HQ, Lower Shaw Farm.

And last night, comedian Tony Hawks took a bit of the farm away with him. Following his performance to a packed Arts Centre, Tony – who appeared to promote his book about swapping life in the big smoke for the rural idyll in Devon – was presented with three India Runner ducks by festival director Matt Holland. Continue reading

Imagined Sons with Carrie Etter at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

4 Oct
Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter

Quite an emotional day yesterday, beginning with Robert Peake and then Carrie Etter. Not to mention the film There is Nothing in the Garden with its toy babies in toilets on day one of the Swindon Festival of Poetry.

Carrie read from her third collection, Imagined Sons. It’s a surreal package of work about ongoing life trauma / serious stuff to work through about giving her son up for adoption at the age of seventeen.

Poetry might be wonderfully cathartic to write but it’s also an invitation to talk openly about traumatic subjects. I had no compunction in talking afterwards to both Carrie and Robert about both their losses knowing that it was almost certainly okay. There isn’t the embarrassment of the unknown, of how they would like me to act, the worry of causing emotional upset – I already had a heads up on where their heads are at. Continue reading

The Knowledge of The Silence Teacher – Robert Peake at Swindon Festival of Poetry

3 Oct

Robert Peake came out quietly swinging, a fist in a cotton wool glove, and delivered his knockout blow.

About three lines into his poem, Father-Son Conversation, I was sniffing and concentrating REALLY hard on getting the highlights and shadows right on the photo I’d just taken. Okay so he had caught my weakness – with an eighteen month old the hormones are still somewhat surging – so his tale of a baby boy who didn’t make it (seven years in the telling) made me weep.

Sometimes poetry makes straight for my veins and converts my blood to emotion. Continue reading

I rejected Harold Pinter – the Editor’s Role, Swindon festival of Poetry

3 Oct
David Caddy and Martin Malone

David Caddy and Martin Malone

Yesterday, David Eddy was discussing the Editor’s Role with fellow poetry editor, Martin Malone. It began innocently enough. Lots of helpful tips to poets, looking at improving their publication chances.

‘Nurturing’ and ‘nourishing’ were bandied about. Don’t publish in haste, not while you’re working through the strokes. Develop as a poet, don’t write the same old thing over and over. Make it strange. Don’t do creative writing courses and become a clone.

“I take poems on their own merits,” said David. Which sounded encouraging. He publishes work with the poet’s name at the end, not at the start so readers aren’t influenced by the fame of the writer.

But then the ‘Tears in the Fence’ editor dropped the bomb. “I rejected Harold Pinter,’ he said. Continue reading

High Wire Act: Poems in Flight at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

2 Oct

Three woman poets – Claire Dyer, Susan Utting and Lesley Saunders – today gave a collaborative reading High Wire Act: Poems of Flight, a project of coming together over mutual respect of each others’ work. Sharing their work spread out on a table, they realised they had a common theme of birds and escape.

Their work ranged from the descriptive to the metaphorical, meanings deep within the verse or a story easily grasped; all beautifully read. About the first moon landing, love, the life balancing act performed by women, inspired by art, deceased mothers and the sadness of a stuffed bird. (One beleaguered male audience member commented, ‘With three woman poets I was worried it would be yucky, it wasn’t’. Perhaps he was expecting Jo Brand-style pieces about periods?)

Inspired by Lesley Saunders’ poem, A Sheep, a Duck and a Cockerel, I thought I’d pen my own piece. Lesley’s poem is about the development of flight, from those first animals who – in test dummy fashion – took to the sky in a balloon, to the casual, routine journey of flight today.

I really liked the line: ‘looking is always an act of desire.’

Lesley describes Kittenger’s record-breaking fall from the sky back in the 1960s and I remembered how fascinated I was with Felix Baumgartner’s stratospheric fall in 2012 which set new records.

Yes, perhaps the money invested in setting up Felix’s stunt could have been better used on feeding starving orphans, but here was a hero we could look up to (I know, pun) who tested the limits of the human body and psyche on our behalf. And who was a man driven, obsessed, not with being a new record holder, but just with falling that far.

For him, looking was not just an act of desire but of looking into the very heart of fear.

The Descent

He strove for years.
Loved the freedom of falling;
The atmosphere like a storm
Resistance versus mass like the friend of my friend.

Continue reading

Of chickens and beards. Writers Workshop at Swindon Festival of Literature

20 May
Chicken going about her business at Lower Shaw Farm ©Calyx Pictures

Chicken going about her business at Lower Shaw Farm ©Calyx Pictures

Aims of a lit fest:

  1. Meet writers
  2. Hear about writing
  3. Think about what’s been written about
  4. Do your own writing
  5. Work out what to do with your own writing so others can
  6. Go back to number 1.

I’d done numbers one to three (a lot) and written (a lot) about the experience. Now it was time to come up with my own composition. Which was, as it turns out, something to do with chickens and beards. Continue reading

Ink, paints, and happy coincidences – Korky Paul at Children’s Day, Swindon Festival of Literature

12 May

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“What’s my name?” illustrator Korky Paul demands at Swindon Festival of Literature’s children’s day.

Bit of an ego trip for a kids’ event, thinks I (Chronicler Pete), as a barn full of youngsters yell back a response.

“Snorky?” retorts Korky in mock-indignation? “Snorky Snortle?” Then he draws and colours a Snorky Snortle in super-quick time, taking leads from the children as to what kind of nose (elephant), mouth (crocodile), arms, and legs (chicken) the fictional beast should have. Continue reading

TB or not TB? That is the question.

5 May

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Badgerlands author Patrick Barkham and some heavy Brock at Lower Shaw Farm

TuBerculosis or The Badger? Is the same question put another way and it’s this  dilemma that Patrick Barkham admits he makes no attempt to resolve in Badgerlands, an immersive tunnel into the strange set of people and places that surround this elusive and controversial mammal. Continue reading