In these challenging times, many are challenging the status quo, asking why injustice, war and poverty continue alongside the extremes of affluence and waste. 100 years ago, courageous women and men also challenged the order of the day: a merciless hunger for bloodshed. Together with young writers, I’m proud to have taken part in a project researching and writing about World War One’s Conscientious Objectors, and our book is now available online.
‘I refuse to be a soldier. I object to killing my fellow men and consider it murder in any circumstances.’ Isaac Booth, 24, boiler stoker at Pilsley Colliery. Chesterfield Rural Tribunal, reported in the Derbyshire Courier, 5th January 1918.
Huge thanks to the 53 poets who took part (& kept to time!) and to the hundreds of people who sponsored, listened and gave generously. Round of applause for the Art House who hosted us and whose cafe kept us stoked up with food and drink. A tip o’ the nib to Jane Knight of Karuna Design who made us this beautiful poster.
The response was overwhelming, and even got a mention from The Poetry Society. A fantastic community event, standing room only, enthusiastic audiences, tears and laughter. The end result? Over £14,000 raised for ASSIST Sheffield, plus a further donation to Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Hummingbird Project for grassroots work in the refugee camps of Northern France. This is what poetry is for. Poetry at its best. Poetry in action.
2nd April, 50 poets, 8 hours of continuous poetry. Not a delayed April Fool, just a way of converting the spoken word into food, shelter and support for destitute asylum seekers and refugees. I’m reading alongside refugee poets Renuka and Mimi, with poems in Sinhalese, Amharic and English. Sponsor us here, or find all the teams here. So far we’ve collectively raised over £6,000 for Assist Sheffield. Join us 10 am – 6pm on Saturday 2nd April at the Art House, Backfields, S1 4HU.
I’m very proud of this project which I’ve been working on over the past year, in conjunction with the wonderful artist Fi Burke and film production students from the University of Derby. Most of all, I’m proud of the Long Eaton girls who made it all possible. You can now watch the film on YouTube.
‘Girl Rising: Derbyshire’ was inspired by Girl Rising, a documentary and social action campaign which uses the power of storytelling to raise awareness of inequality, and to get girls into classrooms worldwide. ‘Girl Rising: Derbyshire’ was devised, written and filmed by Year 9 students at The Long Eaton School. Their starting point was the story of Senna, a girl from a Peruvian mining town struggling for her right to education, who finds inspiration and hope through reading, writing and performing poems; her strength inspired the Derbyshire girls to identify areas of struggle, challenge and success in their own lives, and express them through poetry. The film was supported by Made in Derbyshire and premiered at the Derbyshire Literature Festival 2015.
.. are currently on exhibition at the Blue Moon Cafe in Sheffield. Alongside ‘Winged Figure’ are other stunning images. Worth savouring … together with a generous portion of Blue Moon’s delicious cake.
Photo: Penelope Teapot
The cover image for my latest book is a painting by the Sheffield-based artist Lyn Hodnett.
I’ve known Lyn’s work for many years and always been impressed by her subject matter and craft. I love the dignity and strength of ‘Winged Figure'; there’s more to her than meets the eye. The image spoke to me immediately when I stumbled across it on Lyn’s website late one night. I was delighted when she kindly gave permission to use it.
Listen to the title poem here