Workshop for Humans


“intelligent, odd, scary”

This afternoon, I went to a ‘Workshop for Humans’ with Alex Bailey & Krõõt Juurak – after they came in yesterday afternoon to give a private performance for Barney (our border terrier). The performance – with a local agency news photographer present (you can see the video here) – was really interesting for Barney’s Humans (us) – and he definitely enjoyed aspects of it (as well as being a bit unnerved by others!).

As someone who doesn’t ‘do’ movement work – I found the workshop today really interesting, in trying to get a ‘felt sense’ of our favourite animals, not through words, but through movement (the animals’ ‘language’). I particularly enjoyed the ‘imprinting’ activity of having one’s limbs manipulated by others, holding in mind particular animals – a curious experience, and oddly, rather nice not to be in charge of my own body, for a bit.

One of the activities during session was apparently an old ‘personality test’ – the results of which I thought I’d share here.

We were asked to name our three favourite animals, in order, then to list three qualities we like about each, next to them. For me, this list looked like:

  1. Giraffe: elegant; clumsy; amazing run.
  2. Octopus: intelligent; odd; scary
  3. Dogs: loyal; playful; expressive.

Then we were told that – according to this old test – the first represents what we want to be (elegant, clumsy, amazing run), the second how others see us (intelligent, odd, scary) and the third who we really are (loyal, playful, expressive).

I’m fairly sure I’m clumsy already, not sure how scary anyone finds me (but might be wrong) – but was quite happy to ‘really’ be those dog things…



Writing Between the Lines


“a transitory and changing constellation of percepts, hunger and muscular flexing” – a quote about the swallow, from Andrew Jeffrey‘s presentation

On Saturday, I went over the Severn to Cardiff Met University – to attend the Writing Between the Lines Symposium, on Creative Writing as Research Methodology with a keynote by Professor Kevin Mills.

Highlights for me were seeing papers by Andrew Jeffrey from Sheffield Hallam Uni – whose work roving around Sheffield to write about animals he encounters was fascinating, and delivered with huge energy and verve – I really enjoyed his energetic approach and his writing. You can see the presentation on his blog here.

I also really enjoyed hearing Megan Hayes‘ model of writing for wellbeing – drawing in aspects of Positive Psychology and ‘grounded theory’. Looking forward to hearing more about this, as it seemed a very thought-through, thoughtful and fresh approach.

And it was great too to meet Richie Copeland, hear about ‘My’ [or rather, ‘His’] Naked Queer Poetics – and discuss marriage Vs civil partnership and heteronormativity, in the loo…

Also, I finally actually met The Emergency Poet, Deborah Alma, with whom I have regular (political and poetical) exchanges on Facebook – but haven’t met in ‘meatspace’ yet. (By the way, you should order her new book The Everyday Poet you know (you’re welcome, Deborah)).

Doubtless there were others worth of mention, but these were the talks and interactions which stayed with me.

Growing Bolder Video

Here’s a short film made by me, about the excellent Growing Bolder project – funded by Bristol Ageing Better – and the performance we did at Avenue House care home (in Redland, Bristol) on 7th July. Enjoy!

There are more examples of videos I’ve made on the Word Rocket YouTube channel here.

And if you’d like me to make a film of your project or event – please get in touch.

First Story Residency

(Here’s a film about the Young Writers’ Festival that First Story organises…)

Now it’s all confirmed, I thought I’d do a quick blog about my Writer in Residency for First Story.

They’re a great charity, who organise residencies in schools across the country (70 now, I think) and believe in the power of writing to change lives. Which is good, because I do too.

So I’ll be running 16 workshops with young people at the Bridge Learning Campus in Hartcliffe – the programme involves us exploring different writing techniques and approaches, then developing the work into one of their excellent anthologies by the end of the academic year.

For me, this is one of those times when ‘Writing for Wellbeing’ really crosses over with the practice of, err, ‘Writing for Writing’. While we’ll be doing plenty of imaginative writing, I think that there’s huge scope to facilitate young people to start finding their voices, worlds within worlds, and the rich textures of everyday life. I’m so looking forward to starting that adventure with them!

This afternoon, I’ll be off to meet the young people and enthuse them about the programme – wish me luck! And watch this space for updates.



For my Off The Record  WRITE OFF group today, we had a lovely time reading some Limericks and then having a go at writing our own…Here’s a couple of mine:

Limerick The First (based on our weekly rubbish-collection annoyance):

A couple on Johnny Ball Lane
Are wading through rubbish again:
     They open their gate
     And both get irate,
Saying: “It’s the EU that’s the blame!”*

*NB: this is a joke, to try and alleviate some of the horrors of the current Brexitocalypse we’re experiencing.

Limerick The Second (see image above):

A jovial collosal squid
Got upset when everyone hid:
     As it reached for the sky
     For an eightfold Hi Hi!
The pirates looked less intrepid.




Last week in my group with Off The Record, we looked at Andrew McMillan’s poem ‘TODAY’ from his great collection Physical (which you should buy too)…

Having read and reflected on it, we then thought about a space we know really well – and let our mind’s eye (‘floating camera’, as it were) loose around the space, writing about it (as McMillan’s poem does) in direct address (‘you’) and future tense (‘you will…’).

I thought I’d share my piece of writing that came from this exercise – it’s fascinating how changing tense and first/second/third person can affect the way one writes.

Perhaps inevitably, echoes of McMillan’s poem entered all the pieces of writing – so this is absolutely an exercise, response, and poem inspired by – and not something I’ll be taking ‘credit’ for as an original approach! (So thanks, Andrew, for the great poem and inspiration.)

– after Andrew McMillan

Today, you’ll step from the door
and into some chewing gum
the seagulls will serenade
the pigeons; the weather-
vanes will all point West.

Today you’ll see that all of the bricks
are spelt the same, that everyone’s faces
rhyme.. You’ll regret going to bed
so late, but you’ll do it again.

Today the binmen will curse
the randomness of the Lane, saying
They think glass is plastic and cardboard is clothing
and you’ll drink coffee as the break
lights glare at you.

Today the waiters of the Grand Hotel
will polish cutlery and their wit
the man with gnarly fingers
who collects the bridge toll
will run out of change and meet
his future wife as he seeks 50p’s
at the Crepe Affaire stall.


The Pact


One of the goaty references in my goaty piece…

I put a piece of writing into the View from the Pen event at Windmill Hill City Farm – which (alas) wasn’t selected for performance.

But that’s very much part of the process (and far more go in than ever get selected!) – so I thought I’d post it up here now, as I wrote it during NaPoWriMo but kept it offline until I heard back.

It was written – as I’m sure some really great pieces were – with the goats in mind…There are so many cultural associations for these animals – which I adore – and I’d been to see The Witch a couple of months before (see above), which might have fed into this…

The Pact

[As goats do, the actor is stood with two arms/’front legs’ up on the log, chewing, as goats do…He seems wise, if slightly menacing…]

To say I’m an omnivore – well, that’s underselling the breadth of my pallet. I’ll try anything once – or, most likely, more. I’ve nibbled on jackets and maps and nappies. I’ve chewed on chocolate and charm bracelets and Cheese Strings.

But really – and this why we’re here – I’m your go-to goat for anything you truly need eating. The preferred supplier for the disappearing of difficulties. If you want something gone, something incriminating – then I’m your man (if you will).

Look: often I just chance upon things I fancy trying – a baby’s blanket, an interesting earring – but all I’m saying is…If you were to turn up here with some suspicious paperwork, and the shredder just didn’t seem enough…Well if you were to scratch my back, just at that good spot, then – well, I’ll scratch yours. Figuratively speaking. Poof! No proof. Page vanished. Document not found.

I’m sure you’re used to one of those boring Powerpoint slideshows, but let’s face it: no-one needs another serving of those, and they just don’t work with hooves. So I’m avoiding the papertrail, telling what I’m selling: cheques mashed, letters ghosted, final notices frappéd.

You’ll have to imagine my logo up there [gestures with horns to wall of pen/shed]. I’m not a designer, but it might involve a goaty smile, maybe some horns, some A4-oblong irises – all in a…comforting font. You can imagine a brand-name if you like. I quite like Caprice. Or maybe Docu-goat. But let’s not write it down; we’ll just keep it between us.

You’ll find nobody as thorough, or as discrete. Through these slats, I meet councillors and coaches, journos and jobsworths, lawyers and losers, ministers and madams.

The most they’ll find after is the odd second-hand scrap in the paddock, perhaps a fragment of letterhead – on the most stubborn official documents. Paper is so telling. I really can taste the difference. It’s as many and varied as the words that muddy its flavour. Muddy the truth.

The ones I really savour are from law firms, good ones, and the kinds of accountants who don’t send many letters, stamped exotically, from somewhere [whispered] offshore. The richness of weave really is noticeable. Chewably so.

Often, my clients come with a family – that’s the cover – and while the others are keeping the mother and pushchairs bothered, masticating objects they want to keep, he’ll just push through the envelope and I’ll get to work before anyone notices a thing. Ping!

And I’m not saying it’s only men – far be it for me to be Nanny-ist or Billygoat-bigoted: just as many of your females avail themselves of my fourfold-digestion-and-deletion services. No redaction required. Not once that particular letter, that persistent piece of evidence, that pesky cheque you haven’t cashed yet – not once they’re filed under my paunch.

Amazing, really, in this Digital Age, how much can rest on a single page. So come on then: what brings you here? Pop it through the gate. No-one’s looking. We’ve all got something we’d rather wasn’t in writing…

Visual Verse: Pachycephalosaurus

I’m one of the featured writers this month, on the excellent Visual Verse

You can read my curious poem here – and then submit your own work, inspired by the same image.

It’s a great project to nurture writing inspired by images, something I really enjoy doing and put to use in workshops I run.

(One of the brains behind Visual Verse is also the brain behind The Curved House – which you should check out too: they do wonderful work on visual literacy.)

Ware Poets Competition Commendation

A little ‘hooray for me’ post: I have been commended in the Ware Poets Open Competition 2016, for my poem The Thereminist Hails a Bus.

The competition is judged by Philip Gross, a poet for whom I have a lot of respect – so I’m really pleased.

Also, this is a poem that I wrote (quite quickly!) for day 22 of NaPoWriMo 2016 in April – which for me goes to show how it’s worth persisting with and experimenting with what you write!

I’ll be making my way to Ware on the 8th July for the prizegiving and anthology launch, am looking forward to it.

WRITE OFF from June 7th

Write Off Poster - JUNE 2016

The next WRITE OFF sessions start Tuesday June 7th at Beatroots Cafe, Lower Park Row, 17.00 – 18.30, for six weeks.

The young people who attend the group rephave been really enjoying the mix of reading and writing for wellbeing and fun.
We try out new activities, experiments and styles – working with words in the very broadest way!  We’ve done everything from experimental sound poems to third-person stories about our morning routines, to ‘story hot house’ verbal storytelling, and ‘subvertising’.

I plan sessions based on what the group members would like to do (or try, or re-try). And for anyone anxious about reading together in this kind of group: we don’t schoolsplain (a word I’ve picked up through it) and you never have to read anything aloud you don’t want to.

All are welcome, from aged 16 – 25. If you can email ahead, I’ll make sure there is enough cake – but no problem if you can’t.
Look forward to seeing you there!