Tag Archives: Jo Bell

Split Screen at Manchester Lit Fest

Brian and I reading our Dr Who poems.
Photo courtesy of Chris Keller-Jackson

Featuring: Brian Johnstone, Andrew Philip, Sally Evans, Jo Bell, Julie Boden, Carolyn Richardson, Charlie Jordan, Andrew McMillan and Angela Topping.

Having taken part in two Split Screen readings so far, one at Norwich with George Szirtes, Helen Ivory, Martin Figura and Andy Jackson, the editor, and one at Callander Poetry Festival with Andrew Philip, Carolyn  Richardson, Sheila Templeton, Sally Evans, who performed Yoda with props, in a never-to-be forgotten paper hat, and others, I was greatly looking forward to the Manchester event. Each one has been special in its own way, as different contributors have attended each time, and Andy gives us the chance to choose poems we enjoy reading in addition to our own, to make for a varied show.

The poems in the anthology, from Red Squirrel Press, are placed in juxtaposition, with, for example, Marilyn Monroe opposite Doris Day; Max Miller V Ken Dodd; Pete and Dud, Kirk and Picard. The Manchester launch was special to me because it was the first time my Dr Who poem on Jon Pertwee had been performed back to back with Brian Johnstone’s Tom Baker one. It’s been rare at performances that both of the poets are there.

Each event is chaired by Andy Jackson, the editor, who came up with the quirky idea in the first place and who puts together a workable running order and a slideshow of the relevant characters and shows. All this helps the show to be slick. Andy creates the illusion of an evening’s TV watching at some point in the past, with adverts in the middle and a poem about closedown and the white dot at the end. These poems have been performed at every launch, but at both Callander and Manchester, we were lucky enough to have both their authors, Sally Evans and Andrew Philip, there to read them. Ian Parks’ ‘Flake’ poem and Adam  Horovitz’ ‘Orange poem’ have been chosen at most of the launches, to be read by others. After the ‘9pm watershed’ the poems are more hard hitting, less ‘family’ than the ones before the ads. And the show ends with The National Anthem, which we all stand for with great solemnity, only to be treated to a surprise which I wouldn’t want to reveal here: its delight lies in the unexpected.

The poems are wide ranging. Some are hilarious, some moving, some reflective. The standard of performance has been top notch at every event.  This anthology reaches a wide audience as the programmes and films included are ones that transcend age and generation, and have in many cases become cult viewing. The poets offer new slants on familiar things and a second book is in the offing. I’ve been delighted and humbled to be involved in this project and there are more events to look forward to in the series. Glasgow, Newcastle and Pitlochry are coming up fast. If you can’t get to the show then at least you can read the poems, if you buy the book.


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Filed under Everything else, Festivals

A Feast of Christmas Readings

Jo Bell and I will be perfoming together again on the evening of 8th December in Northwich Library (7.30-9pm). This is likely to be the last of Poets in the Library as the format and venue are set to change in the new year, when we will move to a pub and include a workshop beforehand. The reading on Wednesday is therefore extra special. It will be very Christmassy and include wine and mince pies.

The material will include lots of food related extracts as Jo and I love food. We look at Christmas past and include work by Charles Dickens, Alison Uttley and Thomas Hardy. There’s lots of interesting historical information Jo researched, and poems about Santa Claus, presents, and booze.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing we are offering:

From Alison Uttley’s Country Things

There was an interchange of mince-pies between friends. The housekeeper at the Castle sent from her storeroom a few mince-pies, very small and puffy and delicate. They were for gentlefolk and as we tasted them we could see them served on silver dishes to the Squire’s company. Our own mince-pies were large, and bursting with mincemeat. We made scores of mince-pies in patty pans of antique mould, and the mincemeat came from the big stone jar which stood on the pantry bench. Everybody had to eat one at Christmas, — carol singers, guisers, even the beggar who came to the door and the pedlar with his pack. There was friendly criticism of the mince-pies we received from the houses of our friends. We made our wishes as we ate them, and we compared their merits. There was rivalry among them, and discussions about puff pastry or short pastry. All these small presents were moving to and fro before Christmas, leading up to the great day, keeping us in a state of excitement, as we prepared for the birthday of the Holy Child. The giving of Christmas-boxes made a bond between all classes of society, we shared the same pleasures, we had the same expectations and joy over simple things.

There will also be a chance to buy some unsual Christmas presents and write a group poem which will be performed as a finale. All this for only £4, and £3 for concessions. Come on down.

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Filed under Education, poetry