Poetry Reading





Admission: free – donations for food welcome

Support Your Local Poets!


Ann Wilson is the regular host of the Spoken Word open mic at Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, Cumbria. She’s performed poetry in pubs, cafes, and theatres, on the radio at festivals and on the street since 1992. Some of her favourite past gigs are Solfest, Glastonbury Poetry and Words tent, Edinburgh Festival, The International Womens Arts Festival and The Digital Remix showcase at Litfest. You can see and hear her work at www.annthepoet.com

Carole Baldock is proud owner of 3 children (all in good working order), 2 cats (need slight attention) and a BA Hons. This year, she finally joined a writers’ group, and now her work is going in all kinds of strange directions…
Editor of Orbis, international literary journal and Kudos (formerly Competitions Bulletin), her publications include Writing Reviews; How To Raise Confident Children; BITCHING, plus a collection, Give Me Where to Stand (Headland).

Keith Armstrong was born & bred in Heaton,Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has workedas a community development worker, poet,librarian & publisher.He has been a self-employed writer since 1986 and, in 2007, received a doctorate, for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common, at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on regional culture in the North East of England. He was Year of the Artist 2000 poet-in-residence at Hexham Races, working with painter Kathleen Sisterson. He’s a noted Geordie wordsmith, a bloke whose musings were always radical, though of their place.’ (Folk Roots magazine).


Nick Pemberton, poet, scriptwriter, professor of being human, circus entertainer extraordinaire! Nick’s work has been described as ‘bringing back the heartbeat to the poetry hearth’. His poetry will move you to tears, make  you smile, clap  your hands, stand on your head – even when you couldn’t before – and laugh out loud! Come and listen to his, and others’, poetry, if you do nothing else this side of Christmas!

Show Of Hands

Lancaster University, 25 October 2009

Reviewed by Colin Bertram

This was the final date on the first leg of a 37 date County Towns tour that Show of Hands are currently on. Steve Knightley did say that he had received an email telling him that Preston is in fact the county town of Lancashire but as he said, it was just a rough theme for the tour.

Support was provided by Flossie Malavialle, originally from the south of France but for the last seven years Darlington has been her home. So she speaks English with a north-east accent but when singing songs by Jacque Brel and Edith Piaf there is no doubting her nationality. She opened with the Brel number ‘Amsterdam’ and her set also included ‘John Condon’ written about a 14 year old Irish boy who lied about his age to fight in the First World War and became the youngest casualty of the war.

Having studied English at university Flossie is obviously fascinated by language and spent a good five minutes of her set talking about oxymorons. Steve Knightley later told us how he is waiting for Flossie to spend her entire set talking to the audience and not actually singing any songs. He did have a point but I’m sure the audience will remember her for her fantastic singing rather than her between-songs banter.


Show of Hands certainly have a large number of loyal fans here in north Lancs as they got a warm welcome right from the start of their set kicking off with ‘Tall Ships’. Being from Devon and with Phil Beer’s love of the sea, there is always a nautical element to their concerts. Steve has written a song for the new album titled ‘The Napoli’ about the reaction of the normally law-abiding public to the grounding of that ill-fated ship at Branscombe in 2007. The song includes what Steve described as his best lyric, “Lyme Bay to eBay”, which we were told had resulted in spontaneous applause from the audience the previous night in Durham. The Lancaster audience duly obliged with a bit of ego massaging for Steve!

On the subject of piracy Show of Hands have a refreshingly anti-music industry approach to the subject. They actively encourage fans to copy cds they have bought to spread the word about their music. This is so much better than the likes of Metallica taking court action against their fans for illegally downloading music.

Money and greed are very much in evidence on the title track of the new Show of Hands album ‘Arrogance Ignorance and Greed’, the initials of which are by no small coincidence the same as one of the companies at the heart of the recent financial meltdown. The audience were encouraged to join in the chorus which went, “At every trough you stopped to feed, With your arrogance, your ignorance and greed”.

Despite the recession and the concession price of £15, which was perhaps a bit steep, there was a good sized crowd at the Great Hall. Steve Knightley had pretty much recovered from his recent cold with just the occasional cough later in the set but he was in fine voice as were Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes, their semi-permanent double bass player. Despite Phil insisting in an interview for a guitar magazine that he is primarily a guitarist, he spent most of the evening playing fiddle, mandolin or cuatro all to his usual high standard, complimenting Steve who swapped between guitar and mandocello, the latter being an integral part of the Show of Hands sound.

The set ended with favourites ‘Country Life’, ‘Cousin Jack’ and ‘Roots’, the latter complete with a dig at Nick Griffin, along with a wonderful rendition of ‘The Setting \ Mary from Dungloe’ sung by Steve and Phil in amongst the audience. Steve may doubt that their music will win folk music more fans but if so, it’s the general public’s loss as this was English folk music at its very best.





Spymonkey’s Moby Dick at The Dukes

MOby Dick 2Moby Dick 1

Spy Monkey’s Moby Dick – An Unreliable Version

One of the funniest pieces of theatre you may ever see is coming The Dukes this November.  Spymonkey’s Moby Dick is a 21st Century mix of Monty Python, Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks, overflowing with brilliant characters, visual humour, slapstick comedy and outrageous naughtiness.

Four actors find themselves trapped in the belly of a literary monster in this glorious mis-telling of Melville’s epic novel.  As they pondor the irony of their fate they recount the story of Moby Dick, sparkling with their own fantastical flourishes. The novel’s epic examination of good, evil, fate and obsession is lost on them. And then, mysteriously, found on them again.

Stuffed with invention and a delightful lack of respect for theatrical convention, Spymonkey’s Moby Dick brings together a remarkable team of creators, combining physical comedy with Music Hall, burlesque, dance, big show-stopping songs, puppetry, illusion and a raft of stunning special effects.

Since their formation in 1997, Spymonkey have built a huge international following in 20 countries, with sell-out shows at Just for Laughs Festival Montreal, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Comedy Festival and London’s Leicester Square Theatre.

Tickets cost £12 and £10 (concessions).  Please call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or see http://www.dukes-lancaster.org to book.  There are also a number of free tickets available for under 26s as part of the A Night Less Ordinary Scheme.

There will be a post show talkback session with the cast after the performance on Friday 6 November and is free to ticket holders.

Sarah Hall & Andrew Miller at Lit Fest.

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh

It’s interesting to note how different writers approach a reading like this. Sarah hall, after a brief hello, launched straight into reading from her novel How To Paint A Dead Man. Being familiar with the book I was aware that she actually began from the beginning of the book, but it was a bold move. Moreso as the chapter she chose is told in the second person. ‘You aren’t feeling yourself’ she begins. It disconcerts but intrigues.

Andrew Miller in contrast spent several minutes explaining the set-up of his new novel One Morning like A Bird and the characters involved. Then as he read he added further commentary, glossing who characters were, where the places were, and what had happened previously. This exposition may have been partly necessary as Miller chose to read from two sections towards the end of his book, and partly because the setting, Tokyo in 1940 is unfamiliar to us.

Hall also read from later in her book, with brief explanation. The juxtaposition of the two chapters highlighted minor themes in How To Paint A Dead Man that had evaded my straight through reading, bringing out ideas that Sarah expounded upon in later questions.

Whatever the respective merits of each approach, both writers entertained a packed Storey Auditorium in their different ways. Hall’s choices thoughtful, reflective and provocative, Miller’s finding moments of humour amidst tension that warmed us to his hero. Both offered memorable prose, intriguing ideas and stimulating reading.

Another well-matched Lit Fest pairing.

Ellis Sharp & Steven Hall at Lit Fest

Reviewed by Helen Bland

Two of the country’s more extraordinary imaginations appeared onstage together at LitFest on Saturday evening.  Steven Hall read from his Arthur C Clarke Award shortlisted debut novel The Raw Shark Texts in which, amongst other things, a man loses all memory, meets himself and is pursued by a conceptual shark.  Straightforward enough alongside Ellis Sharp who took us deep into the world of Nietzsche’s moustache and told of the adventures of a mismatched couple exploring therein, then onto a starship crewed by Lenin, Nico, Engels and Janis Joplin. 

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This use of absurdism achieves for both writers a camouflage of and a platform for a serious element in their work, something both discussed at length in the following Q&A session.

Hall, in particular, stressed what he called ‘the creative process of reading’ where a significant part of the information comes from the reader.  Sharp, whose politics are clear in his work regardless of surreal decoration, talked of the long tradition of anti-realist writing going back to Tristram Shandy, and of how the science fiction community more than any other form encourages engagement with authors and texts.

1 deadBoth writers responded warmly to perceptive and intriguing questions, and seemed well-matched in their openness to ideas of genre and imaginative creativity.  Neither seemed overly concerned with mass appeal, preferring in Sharp’s case to ‘rewrite history to suit my own whimsy’ and for Hall to ‘do things you can only do in books.’  As these are things many of my own favourite writers already do I was personally fascinated by their ideas and concepts and as both authors are also witty and erudite the talk was most entertaining on all levels.

Pennine Lancashire Stanza Poetry Group

Tuesday 20th October, 6 pm, Storey Auditorium

 Reviewed by Carla Scarano D’Antonio

Five poets of the Pennine Lancashire Stanza Poetry Group met on Tuesday 20th October at 6 pm at the Storey Auditorium for the Litfest.


The poems they read in the soft relaxed atmosphere of the auditorium were centred on the theme ‘family’. They chose it because it is a wide and comprehensive subject, something we all have in common. And they had enough material on it and inspiration in store to write more and get ready for the Litfest event.


The Lancashire Stanza Poetry Group is a fairly new group, all the poets are members of the Poetry Society, who meet the second Wednesday of the month at the New Inn in Clitheroe. They read poems and talk about poetry, workshop each other and occasionally have a lemonade.


Their poetry was simple and profound at the same time, very readable and touching especially when dealing with close relationships. A father behaving like a little child after war injuries, a mother haunting her son, lost lovers, brief encounters, personal meditations.


Most of the poems were in free verse, exquisite, sincere gifts, sometimes short but never banal. Their style was essential and the reading passionate, typical of poetry lovers.


Considering the excellent outcomes of the group I would like to launch an appeal to the members of the Poetry Society based in Lancaster area: what about starting a Stanza Group in Lancaster? Just name the pub where we could meet.

Writer’s Sketchbook and Litfest Portraits

 17.10.09 The Alexandria Gallery, University of Cumbria and the Storey Institute, Lancaster

Reviewed by Carla Scarano D’Antonio

A great opportunity for new and more experienced writers to meet at the Alexandria Gallery, University of Cumbria on Saturday 17th October. The workshop was organized by the Litfest and the University of Cumbria and was led by Eliza Mood, course leader for creative Writing at the University of Cumbria and a member of Sixpoets, a group of poets performing in Lancaster.

About twenty people met from 2 to 5 pm in inspiring surroundings of powerful portraits and friendly atmosphere. The spacious hall of the Alexandria Gallery was a comfortable venue for such a big group. People could walk around, stop, stand up in front of the pictures, sit on a chair or help themselves with small tables on wheels if they needed a support for their scribbling. And write of course, inspired by the portraits and drawings of Andrew Ratcliffe, whose exhibition is at the Alexandra Gallery till 23rd October. His expressive, detailed and meaningful style suggested a wide variety of descriptions, emotions, stories, dialogues and gags.

To stimulate our writing even more poems and prose pieces were stuck on walls available to all the participants, who could pick up one or two lines or only a few words walking by. Peter Reading, Selima Hill, Charles Causley, Elma Mitchell, Carole Coates, Primo Levi, Marcel Proust, Ted Hughes, Moniza Alvi and many others spoke to us as well as Andrew Ratcliffe’s portraits.

Plunged in such a world of paintings and literature our senses were alert. We focussed on a picture paying attention to details, mood, atmosphere and looking behind the face. We shifted the point of view, improvised a conversation between the artist and his model, suggested thoughts, hidden intentions, forbidden fantasies.

Then we had a good thirty minutes break for a free coffee or tea and biscuits and to chat. We could meet new and old friends, have a look at the portraits again or write more if we hadn’t had time to finish our work. Because after the break it was editing time. In groups, pairs or alone we highlighted phrases, images, the parts of our work that struck the critical side of our mind. Working with other people was extremely helpful to correct, underline, rehearse and organize our writing. Altogether we shouted, whispered and sang a few sentences of our writings. It was liberating and reassuring. Finally we rehearsed in smaller groups getting ready for the evening reading at the Storey Auditorium, from 6:30 to 7:30.

I was in a group of three ladies and we faced the exciting experience of the elevator of the Storey. It was more like a ride than a smooth landing and jolted us into the right frame of mind to face the audience. We reached the Auditorium sound and safe, feverish for the performance. Three groups performed their writings and Eliza Mood read the pieces of the people who couldn’t attend the reading. It was a very pleasant and original achievement that revealed how many different, imaginative, new and fantastic ways of describing and creating a group of twenty people can have. Besides the University of Cumbria will publish our work on line too, which gave us another big boost. We all agreed that this workshop was an exciting and inspiring experience, a pity it lasted only a few hours. We needed and deserved more, a whole day. And more often.

The combination of great painting, good literature, inspiring writing practice and friendly surroundings won on all fronts.