Happy Belated Birthday Babble Gum

Babble Gum, the night I helped set up in Newcastle with Marie Lightman and Alix Bromwich, turned 2 in September – right after I moved back to Nottingham.

It was an important thing to be involved in for me, as it gave me some sense of roots in a place I often felt fairly rootless.

I’ve just been looking back through old notebooks, and found a poem I wrote for Babble Gum’s birthday that I didn’t end up getting to share on the night.

So I thought I’d post it here:


Dear Babble Gum,

It feels like a long time since edition 1,

nestled under the arches just along

from that rollerskating horse

at the very, very bottom of Westgate Road.


Babble Gum,

you taught me a new way to talk

to strangers and friends.


Two years in this city,

lonely under the pink clouds and sandstone cornices,

you were a community to wrap words

and grinning teeth around,

a growing gathering clustered to listen

to offered thoughts from the mezzanine floor

where the bowling alley usually was.


Then across town to Settle Down,

no mic, back room, pub up the road, then here –


The Cumberland Arms,

a building which breathes history

and sweats poetry


History of fiddles and folk

crammed in rooms filled with chatter and smoke,

history of piss ups, festivals, music,

and a history of spoken word.


You’ve grown up, Babble Gum.


You had shoes to fill and you’ve filled em.

And you gave me a place in this city.


Happy 2nd Birthday.




Letters to Myself and Lego Horses

Letters to Myself is a project which invites people to be nice to themselves, by taking some time out to write to themselves, either in the past, present or future.

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to perform a rehearsed reading of the latest iteration of the script, alongside Lauren Hurwood and directed by Allie Butler.

It was an absolute pleasure. The newest script sees two characters stuck, for differing lengths of time, in a sort of limbo world – a place to drop out of life into – in which letters written by people to themselves are archived. The idea, then, seems to be that an act of self-kindness can extend beyond writing to yourself and spending some time listening to what other people say to themselves too.

Backing this mythical setting though, well developed in itself, are stories from real people. Not all of them are rosy, many expressing regret and sadness and remembering difficult times.

But over the course of a day and a half’s rehearsal and discussion and two performances at The Word in South Shields (a beautiful building well worth checking out), the real raw beauty of these letters revealthemselves, and there is something uplifting in sharing in common experience whether happy or not, with friends and strangers.


I’d fully recommend looking into the Letters to Myself project if you get a chance. Being involved was brilliant.

In other news, The Fifth Size Book Adventure (AKA I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie) came and went last month. My giant lego horse building equipment and instruction video/ child friendly exploration of animal abuse and violent death seemed to go well. Having stressed and to’d and fro’d with it for months, it was lovely to dip my toes into visual performance/film art and have the experience of something I’ve made existing in a public space for a good week and a half even when I’m not there to perform it.


People interacted with and seemed to enjoy the set up and, from buying costumes in charity shops to visiting the National Gallery to dragging up and dicking about with a camera in my brother’s drum room, it was good fun to make.


Going to de-rig it was sad. I’ll build one last horse before I pack it away, I thought. But someone already had. So I got to kick it down instead. Which is the best bit.


In terms of the ‘What Comes Next?’ suggestion board that went along with the video and the lego, the one that seemed to take off was suggestions for songs on the general themes of animals, destruction and homicide. Think anywhere from ‘Psycho Killer’ to ‘Animal’ to ‘The Four Horsemen’ . . . so I’ll be sticking a playlist up, as well as making the instruction video public on Youtube


So you know when you like doing a thing but seem to end up not doing it, almost because you know you like it? Maybe it’s that. Or maybe I was just doing theatre stuff and stuck in the mindset, as I sometimes am, that I can only be one thing, despite being a fingers-in-pies jack-of-all-trades most of the time.

Well anyway, I’d got to a point last year where I was doing so few poetry gigs I wondered whether I even merited the title poet anymore.

But in the last few months there’s been a fair flurry. Them gigs they’re like buses! Walk in front of one without looking and you’ll get knocked flat by a captive audience. Or something. (I like it when poetry gigs knock you flat. My best one for that was doing a couple of poems in a big tent when I was camping with friends and extended friends of family a few years ago. I like those gigs).

So yeah, the flurry. Here’s a re-cap.

Back in May, I got the chance to perform in Montréal at an event called Words and Music. Having assumed I’d be able to do one or two poems, I then found out I had a 30 minute paid set, which was the longest set I’d had in monthsandmonthsandmonths, and left me feeling a little out of my depth for the first time in ages, which was a lovely feeling.

In a moment of serendipity, at said event, I also re-met the wonderful Rachel McCrum, who I’d first met at an impromptu poetry cipher halfway down Niddry Street during the 2016 Edinburgh Free Fringe, and who’s tour with the equally wonderful Caroline Bird, who’s been a tutor to me on several writing retreats, I went to see in Sheffield, with my friend from Canada, who also knows Rachel. Yup. Their show together was incredible. Two fantastic writers and performers.

So then I came back from Canada, won the Nottingham Poetry Society Slam on a visit to Nottingham in June, which given my connections to Notts felt like an honour, and then got the chance, in August, to support the irrepressible and candescent Neil Hilborn in Newcastle as part of his UK tour. That was an incredible show – there was intro music. There was a fan barrier. Everyone was standing up. The night before, I’d done another gig at Kith and Kin Café in Whitley Bay in which 50 people crammed into a small back room, with the audience’s knees a foot away from the performers.

I love both of these types of gigs. I probably find the big ones easier (despite what I said about the gig in the tent earlier, I never promise to be consistent), which I think is just a quirk of personality. I remember in uni I had two friends who played guitar – Dan was the front man of a 3-piece grunge band and would happily play to sold out concert halls. John would gladly belt his heart out to a roomful of five of us after a night out in the living room. Dan, the front man, told me he could never do what John, the living room serenader, could do, and vice versa. Horses for courses innit.

More recently, I also had the chance to perform in Alphabetti Theatre’s brand-spankin new venue for the first time, as part of a work-in-progress sharing of a new project called Underworlds by Tidy Carnage TheatreTidy Carnage Theatre – it sounds like a really interesting project. A large scale, immersive theatre experience focusing on memory and false memory, is the plan. Watch this space.



I’ll be back at Alphabetti tomorrow to host the superb variety night that is Alphabetti Soup, which I’m a tad nervous for – I’ve written, directed and acted for Soup before, but hosting feels like a different kettle of fish. I’m gonna be like in charge of making sure everyone has a good time and that. For the whole night! Should be fun.

Then the next gig sees me back at Alphabetti again for a fundraiser night called The Blind Busker. There may be more gigs in the meantime, keep an eye on the gigs page.

Meanwhile, Five Years with Neal Pike continues to go from strength to strength – we opened the Nottingham Playhouse Playground Festival on Tuesday and have our beady eyes on plenty more opportunities to develop and perform in the near future.

It feels nice to be busy again. Having got a second job earlier this year and temporarily thrown myself into working 50-hour weeks, getting more art work is good. It’s for and with other people, as well as me, and it keeps me in better shape mentally than anything else I’ve tried my hand at. So that’s good.

If you’ve read this, cheers. I don’t know who, if anyone, does. It’s been nice for me to recap on the last few months. If you liked it, let me know.

Upcoming gigs

Got a couple of cracking gigs coming up that I’m massively looking forward to.

On August 16th, I’ll be performing in Whitley Bay at Kith and Kin for a night called ‘Growing Up’. The event’s here and their blurb is brilliant. Worth a read in itself.

I’m going to be on the bill with Zoë Murtagh, Anna Ryder, Sarah Bird, Siân Lucy Armstrong and Immie Wright which is a stella line-up. I love Anna and Zoe’s stuff and looking forward to seeing the others.

Then the very next night on Aug 17th, I’m going to be supporting Neil Hilborn at The Riverside in Newcastle! Neil Hilborn’s a worthy giant on the spoken word scene and I’ve been watching his videos for years. So this is pretty . . . well . . . I’m nervous and hell and grinning simultaneously. Absolutely cannot wait.

Alphabet Spaghetti (the book, not the theatre) . . . Review

At Babble Gum this month (the music/poetry/comedy night I co-run in Newcastle), we were lucky enough to bring up Nottingham-based poet Stephen Thomas, who brought his new book Alphabet Spaghetti.

I loved it.

Ian Dury off of the Blockheads once sang ‘I could be a poet, I wouldn’t have to worry.’

If he had been, he’d have been proud of many of these playful poems.

Mixing cheeky English wit with occasionally cutting political satire, the book is mature and fantastically immature all at once. It’s careful, considered, necessarily economical with language and wonderfully silly.

The concept is a book of 26 poems, one for each letter of the Alphabet (a poem for A, a poem for B, etc), in which each poem only uses words which begin with the corresponding letter.

Subjects range from the dangers of utopia to the fantastic hairdos of the keepers of Hell, to xenophobic, X-Men hating xylophones.

As Stephen had come up to perform, I was lucky enough to hear some of the poems in live performance, where they stand up excellently as well.

I just read the whole book on my lunch break and laughed out loud loads of times. It’s mint. In a culture of self-searching, it’s a well-worked antidote, a timely injection of daftness, with its tongue in its cheek and its feet planted firmly on the floor. Totally recommended. And it’s got some lovely illustrations to boot.



Stephen’s website is here. Give him a shout if you fancy a read of it yourself!

The book was published by Big White Shed in Nottingham – check them out here.

‘Five Years’ with Neal Pike

New project seems to be taking off! Namely ‘Five Years’ – a show I’ve started making with Nottingham-based poet and now theatre maker Neal Pike, who I met through the Mouthy Poets a few years ago.

Neal and I spent a year or so exchanging emails about the idea, with Neal sending me bits of writing. Then this March we managed to get in a rehearsal space together at Space Six in Newcastle to see if there was scope for a theatre piece in the writing – and it seems there is! We got some great material from the week, so applied for some residencies.

Amazingly, we got accepted for a scratch night at Square Chapel in Halifax, as well as Playground Festival at Nottingham Playhouse in October, and we’ve also been chosen for a residency with the North East Artist Development Network (NEADn)!

Having worked in a writer/director duo while making Sticking as a writer and performer, it’s exciting to now be putting lessons learned from that into practice in a director/dramaturg role in another co-created project. There’ll be a good long road ahead with this piece I think, and it feels fantastic to get such a head start on it!

Here’s some feedback from the scratch at Square Chapel:

·         Lots of impact, vivid, we began to inhabit the performer’s biography & world. Good physical use of the stage – the performer’s movement between the pages on the floor helped the monologue be dynamic.

·         Powerful, brave, thought-provoking

·         Brave performance!

·         Really enjoyed. Thank you.


Looking forward to the next stage x

Catch Up

So my mate Josh has got a blog going charting the course of his so far vastly successful mission to write 1,000 poems in a year. It’s well worth a read. I’m not doing anything nearly so courageous and was wondering what a blog was worth without something to frame it around. But what I like about Josh’s blog most is hearing about what he’s been up to and it has been an eventful couple of months, so I thought I might catch up on it.

First things first, I’m now a slam-winning poet! Having fallen in and out of love with slam a few times, I was down in Nottingham t’other month for the poetry festival there and made my way along to the Nottingham Poetry Society’s Slam at the Mechanics Institute. It’s a lovely pared-down event that I’ve performed at a couple of times before and I went along with Josh and my mate Neal (who I’m now making a new show with), and it was lush. Really nice event and felt like I put a lot into it – it made me nervous and after a few years performing it’s always great to do a gig where it feels like it matters enough that it might almost overwhelm me. Like riding the top of a wave of nerves. So the win was nice, particularly while surrounded by people whose work I love hearing.

I’m also just back from an adventure away – a week in Iceland with my sister visiting a friend, which was beautiful and interesting, followed by two weeks in Canada with another dear friend. Performed in Montréal at a night called Words and Music which was filled with effortlessly cool performers. I wasn’t so effortlessly cool at all, but it seemed to go well. I got given half an hour and it was the first gig I’ve done in a while where I felt properly out of my depth, which is a good feeling. I’m definitely liable to settle in comfort zone with performance a lot, and a buzz of uncertainty is always welcome from time to time. Canada is gorgeous, and now where I want to live.

Back home for a week, feeling more settled. Today was the first day back at work, followed by the last ten minutes of Jeremy Corbyn’s rally in Gateshead. I always tend to go into such events with a certain level of cynicism – not deliberately . . . it’s possibly a defence mechanism, or a way of trying to ensure that my reactions are genuine. . . or something. But anyway, he was brilliant. Absolutely in his element. I came away feeling that there is something to build on in this country, regardless of which way Thursday goes. I feel often like I’ve not been blessed with growing up in one of the more exciting generations, but I got a real sense coming away from hearing him speak that this is a once in every three or four generation event. It’s galvanising. Roll on Thursday.

In other news, I’ve also had a poem I wrote recently accepted for Silkworm – the annual anthology by a group in America called The Florence Poets. So looking forward to seeing that in print. Having been involved in poetry for a while, I drift in and out of being able to really feel the point of it. Right now, I feel like I get it. I’m reading more and writing a little more, and sending stuff out . . . beginning to appreciate the feeling of sending and reading messages in bottles lapped up from other places. I’m still a sucker for instant gratification, but beginning to enjoy the delayed satisfaction of recognition from strangers on other continents as well.

This Wednesday I’m down in Halifax for a Scratch at Square Chapel with the new show I’m helping Neal Pike make (follow the link for event info (sadly/happily sold out) and a lovely pic of Neal in Nottingham’s Lee Rosy’s). We’ve had a week in a room together and sent off a few applications, so it’s great to get the ball rolling and, excitingly, we’ve got residencies in the pipeline in Gateshead and Nottingham to keep on making it.

Also putting plans in place to make another show with Peader Kirk, my collaborator on Sticking, which is exciting. After a slow start to the year, it feels like everything’s starting to build nicely towards getting back into rehearsal rooms and making stuff. Very looking forward x