Category Archives: Uncategorized

11th March, 2008

Last week was taken up with a fascinating training course on coaching skills that I attended as part of the Cultural Leadership Programme.  It challenged a lot of my assumptions about how to work with people and encouraging creative thinking, and also linked back to earlier training I have done in the field of psychotherapy.  I think the main thing that I took away from the training was the idea that people have their own answers and that a good coach encourages someone to use this knowledge and bring it into awareness.  The course also made me realise the power of metaphor – whether it be the themes in some-one’s life story, or within literature.  Often we decode this information without really realising it.  Coaching, or examining a poem very closely can bring this skill to the fore.  

I have also performed some poetry with ‘Poets with a Kick’ for International Women’s Day at the Mansion House in Doncaster.  This event launched an amazing cloak of women’s lives and stories put together by artist Jan Flamank.  I particularly liked the way she had used frayed edges in the textile peice to suggest that fact that our lives are untidy and follow different threads.

The project was called Yarns and was a Hothouse commission.  I read a range of poetry about personal journeys – and one that I have written very recently that features Benezia Bhutto:

27th December, 2007 

Stubbled men in flak-jackets
catch my eye, but don’t speak –
 a tilt of the head, snares tucked
under their arms. The mole-catcher
with his heart-shaped spade, his battered Rover,
grins as he swings my gate wide. 

The Sweep tells me the mid-feathers are fucked,
thrusts a body he’s plucked from the chimney
into my arms, wings stiff with frost.
Outside, air’s thick with cordite.
Shots boomerang across the moors, 
Beaters are out in force, spattered in peat.

I’m failing to light a fire, flick the switch
on the radio. The world tilts East.
Her voice is tremulous,
as she waves from her Land Cruiser
‘I’ve been counting the days, hours, seconds..
waiting for clear skies. Pakistan is in my blood.’

A pheasant stutters out of the beech wood.
She’s a poor flyer, grazes a car bonnet
before crash-landing in the thicket.
Don’t stretch up your feathered neck, 
don’t stroll across the top field, hen
don’t you know it’s open season?’

Anne Caldwell.

Just Returned from Belfast

3rd March, 2008.

This is my first live entry to my blog.  I have just returned from the Belfast Meets Wales Conference, held in Belfast and run in conjunction with the Writers’ Guild, Wales, and Academi.  Highlights included a fascinating discussion by a journalist called Peter Taylor who has written extensively about ‘the troubles’ followed by a tour of the city  which set the discussion in context  and in graphic reality.  I was stunned to see murals from both sides of the divide in the city and the so called ‘Peace Wall’ that made me think of Palestine, Berlin and all those interior walls we carry in our heads without the visual symbolism. I am now currently reading a memoir called ‘asking for trouble’ by Patricia Craig as a way in to deepening my understanding of some of the recent history. It also gives a woman’s view of Catholicism and being brought up by nuns!  I was over at the conference with a group of writers and literature activists from Yorkshire, and Jane Stubbs. Very tired today, with my head full of new ideas and information.  I also really enjoyed meeting Lucy Caldwell – novelist and Glen Patterson, who I knew a long time ago and was delighted to see again.  He had a great description of how to describe Northern Ireland:  He thought of his birthplace as ‘over here’  and England as ‘over there’.  This description neatly bypassed all the linguistic and political problems of calling Northern Ireland ‘The Province’ or England ‘The Mainland’ and many other labels.


Welcome to my blog. This is the first entry for this section of my web site. I thought I would share with you a book I have just finished reading which I found for a £1 from an Oxfam bookshop when doing a gig near Cheltenham. It was ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Leavy. Many readers of this blog will have read this book, I know. It has taken me a while to get round to it because of all the hype – which put me off. However, I found the storytelling compulsive, the narrative very moving and the breadth of a period of recent history that I know relatively little about. I wish my mother was alive because she was living in London in the early fifties and there are a lot of questions I would like to ask her. I have also just been to see the film ‘Control’ by Anton Kurbain. It was set in Macclesfield, near where I grew up as a teenager and Joy Division were one of the bands that I saw live. I found the film grim, moving and reminiscent of living in cheap woodchip rooms with terrible furniture as a student.