Tag Archives: Barrow Steelworks Band

Sunday Poem – Rebecca Gethin

Sunday Poem – Rebecca Gethin

Evening all – you may all be relieved to know that I’m in a much better mood than I was last Sunday and am predicting that there will be no moaning in this blog post, or hardly any moaning anyway!  I would say music has won over poetry this week on the balance scales of my life which seems to be happening quite a lot lately.

On Friday night the brass band that I conduct, the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band had their autumn concert, which was a joint concert with the Barrow Steelworks Band.  All of the money raised was split between the Junior Band and the Barrow Foodbank.  We pick a different charity each year to work with and I try and pick a charity that has a direct impact on the children that we work with as well as having a wider impact on the community of Barrow.  Last year, for example, half of the money raised went to the Furness Branch of the National Autistic Society.

So because the concert was on Friday I got the children to stay for a longer rehearsal on Monady – 6pm-8pm instead of the usual 6-7.15pm.  Even though we had longer, and I made the children work really hard and didn’t let them have a break (what a cruel task master I am) we still didn’t get through all of the programme for Friday, so I had to trust in the magical power young musicians seem to have which enables them to pull something amazing out of the bag on the night.

On Tuesday I had work as usual and then a rehearsal with Soul Survivors – getting ready for our Top Secret gig in December.

On Wednesday I did a live Online Chat with Poetry School students who were signed up on a course called ‘5 Easy Pieces’ which involves 5 different tutors setting an exercise, one after the other.  The students have a week to write a poem in response and then the tutor has a week to read all the responses.  I spent the week reading the poems once a day and then on Tuesday night after I got back from Soul Survivors, I read them in earnest, and made notes on the pages ready for Wednesday.

I really enjoyed the online chat – not only because the poems were of a good standard, and the students seemed very open and willing to learn and listen to each other, but also because I found myself discovering more about each poem as it was under discussion.  Sometimes I ended up changing my mind – other times I would have defended my opinion – well not to the death, because that would be a bit extreme, but I would have stood by it in the face of everyone else disagreeing.  I think there is something very special created in the online chats which is that there is time (albeit a very short amount of time) to discuss poetry and words without distraction, as if, for those two hours of the online chat, there is nothing more important in the world.

This week I also had two anxiety dreams.  One was about my first collection.  I had a really vivid dream that there was a pile of bound proof copies waiting for me on the doormat downstairs, but when I opened the package and the six proofs fell out, they all had awful pink covers with various versions of flowers and a note from Amy Wack, my editor, saying I had to choose from one of those six, and as she was giving me such a lot of choice, she didn’t think this was unreasonable.  You know those dreams you wake up from when you are sweating a little bit and you are crying and you wake yourself up by crying? Yeah, that was me.  I woke the husband up and demanded he escort me down to the front door to check the package of books was not in fact there. He dutifully did, too sleepy to be able to present a reasonable argument about why this was not a good idea.

They weren’t of course, and I went back to sleep but I did tweet about it the next day and then got the Marketing Department at Seren, who clearly have a great sense of humour sent me this lovely example cover as a joke…

joke cover

On Thursday it was my day off (yes, may have mentioned that before) and I drove to Grasmere to go for a cup of tea and a catch up with lovely Andrew Forster from the Wordsworth Trust.  I was hoping that there would be some amazing good news about the Wordsworth Trust’s lack of funding for the poetry program from next year, but unfortunately not.  I drove to Skipton from Grasmere to meet up with poet Keith Hutson about a possible project that we are hoping to put together along with Clare Shaw.

My other anxiety dream of the week was about the Junior Band Concert.  It probably wasn’t surprising that I was having anxiety dreams.  My manager and the manager of Cumbria Music Hub was going to be there, escorting the Mayor and Mayoress of Barrow, as well as all the parents of the children in the band, as well as my Mum and Dad.  And then there was the managing of the 54 brass players of course.  I dreamt that nobody turned up apart from the Mayor, Mayoress and my manager.  Of course this didn’t happen – the concert was a sell out – we had to find more chairs and put them out at the back.  The kids played really well as usual.  Maybe they just enjoy torturing me in the last rehearsal.  I got lots of lovely, positive feedback from the audience so that kind of blew all the cobwebs and negative feelings of last week away.

We made £508.60 from the concert which is fantastic for both the Junior Band and the Foodbank.

Yesterday I was at a workshop all day which was run by Foden’s Band and organised by the South Cumbria Music Festival.  It was an interesting day and it was nice to spend time with some of the band in a different setting.  And then today I’ve spent most of the day with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble in Grange over Sands, playing for their Prom Arts Day.  We played a mixture of carols and ‘normal’ music, but by the time we got to the end of our set, we were all really cold so I was quite relieved to come home.  Here is a picture of us all trying not to look cold.

south lakes brass ensemble

When I got home I found the husband hard at work putting a light up on the front of the house so that we are not fumbling to open the door in complete darkness.  He’d also tidied the front garden up as well so after a cup of tea I went out to the back garden or the ‘hayfield’ as John Foggin calls it and got to work snipping brambles which have managed to snake their way across the garden underneath all the dead grass.  The husband chopped down about a sixth of the hedge in the garden – you can see him brandishing his saw in this picture.  As you can see, still a lot to do.  But the pile of branches next to the shed is what he has cut down so far, and the green bin is full of my snipped brambles.


Today’s Sunday Poem is by Rebecca Gethin, who was one of the participants on the residential poetry course I ran with Clare Shaw.  Rebecca showed me this poem on the last night of the course and I liked it straight away.  I like the whole conceit of the poem which explores how the body is the receptacle of a personal and a social history.

I also love poems that try and write about the gap between the body and the self, so I love the first couplet with the body compared to a vehicle that the father and mother are inside.  I think the opening couplet also lulls the reader into thinking that this is going to be a celebration of parents, but by line 4 it has started to turn a little ominous ‘thinking thoughts, knowing mine’.  By stanza 3 the speaker in the poem is trapped: ‘I can’t extricate myself from the bones I’ve been born into’ and it is this point that the body changes from being a vehicle to being a cage.  I also love the ending to this poem – until this point, we have assumed that the parents are together but the last three lines puts heed to that notion by telling us ‘as far as I know/they haven’t met each other for decades’ – this is funny as well as sad.  The poem has a great last line as well and I love how the reference to the ribcage made me think of Adam and Eve, and Eve being made from Adam’s rib.  In this last line, the image of the body as a cage is made even more explicit by the use of ‘ribcage’.

I should also say that this is a brand new poem and has just been published in The Interpreter’s House, a great magazine edited by Martin Malone and well worth checking out.

I would also recommend Rebecca’s collection ‘A Handful of Water’ published by Cinnamon Press which I’ve really enjoyed reading.  Many of the poems are careful observations on wildlife and animals.  One of my favourite poems in the book is ‘Familiar’ which records a dream of searching for a horse.  Here is my favourite couplet from that poem

‘When the horse lay down to rest I lay with her, leaning against
the timpani of her belly, the sound of violins tuning up inside.’

That is so lovely, and so well-written.

Rebecca is very widely published and writes novels as well! Her first novel was published in 2011 after winning the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award.  Her first poetry collection ‘River is the Plural of Rain’ was published by Oversteps Books in 2009 and her second poetry collection was published by Cinnamon.

Anyway, if you would like to find out more about Rebecca you can have a look at her blog which is here

or you can order Rebecca’s book ‘A Handful of Water’ from her publisher, Cinnamon Press .  Rebecca also has an Author page on Facebook here

I hope you enjoy the poem.

Cryptic – Rebecca Gethin

Sometimes I find my father and mother
walking around inside me, as if my body were their vehicle.

They look through my eyes at the hedges flashing by,
thinking thoughts, knowing mine.

I can’t extricate myself from the bones I’ve been born into –
neither the shapes of my arms in their sleeves of skin

nor my wrinkled hands on the steering wheel.
Nothing seems constant any longer.

The expression of their frozen faces is melting
in the heat of my blood…as far as I know,

they haven’t met each other for decades but they’re talking
together inside my ribcage – as if I’m not here.

Sunday Poem – River Wolton


This week was the last week of term – and it’s been a bit strange.  I can often be found counting down till the end of term – especially the Christmas term – I sometimes feel like I’m hanging on to my patience and my sanity with my finger nails.  Then term finishes, and I get a bit down and fed up and – well my husband would say grumpy but I think that is a little unfair! I have no idea why I get like this – I find it hard to relax and do nothing – I feel guilty so maybe this is something to do with it…

On Monday I went and played some carols with Barrow Steelworks Band for an hour in Morrisons from 4-5 then drove pretty sharpish over to Tescos for 5.30 to conduct my junior band playing carols.

On Tuesday I stood in for a teacher and conducted St Pius School Band at a concert at St Marks Church in Barrow.  It was a lovely concert – but I found it quite stressful – the kids knew how many repeats they were doing and when they were meant to be singing and dancing (!) thank goodness, but a couple of children turned up late so there I was trying to find chairs for them after the first piece, then another turned up and didn’t know where she’d left her instrument etc etc – made me realise that not only does playing in a band teach musical skills but it also should teach organisational skills and punctuality! Saying that, I went to a gig in Kendal (45 minutes drive away) and realised I’d left my trumpet at home once and I was an adult – and the children did cope very well with me conducting them instead of their usual teacher – they were not shy about correcting me either before we were about to start (“we normally play this one fast”) (“this one starts off with the drums”) etc and it is Christmas, so what I am trying to say, is that on balance, I forgave them their tardiness!

On Wednesday I spent most of the day driving round to various schools and there were no kids to teach – they had gone to the cinema or were having a party but I was still out and about most of the morning and then by 3.45 on Wednesday I was finished and that was when instead of feeling harried/tired I started to feel grumpy…

In my free time since then I have read Clare Pollard’s ‘Ovid’s Heroines’ (it was very good – very interesting as well – as in, gripping in the way a novel is gripping), done the Christmas shopping (on a strict budget this year which I have managed to stick to), done a leaflet for my school poetry workshops (I ran these through Cumbria Music Service last year – but this year I will be doing them freelance) and I have plotted to set up a brass quintet.

This is what happens when I have time on my hands you see!  But I am really excited about the brass quintet .  We have our first rehearsal booked in for early January and we will be performing at weddings and other occasions as required – once we have a name (which we don’t at the minute) I will be setting up a blog and a facebook and twitter group – but in the meantime, if you know anybody who would like a brass quintet for any occasion then get in touch!  There will be a special poets rate 🙂

So today’s Sunday Poem is by River Wolton.  River’s second collection ‘Indoor Skydiving’ has just been published by Smith/Doorstop and it is very good – completely rooted in the modern world  tackling issues such as human trafficking and assumptions about gender and identity.  River also has a pamphlet with Smith/Doorstop called ‘The Purpose of Your Visit’ and a first collection ‘Leap’.  You can buy all of these publications by going to http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk

The poem I’ve chosen was one of those rare poems that you read and instantly connect with – I loved it straight away.  I have no particular love for rats to be honest – when I lived in Leeds because of the students in the top flat bombing their bin bags into the rubbish yard we had a period of time when there were rats living in the building, and they weren’t particularly shy.  I remember coming into the entrance hall of the flats and a rat sitting on a bin bag, and when the light from outside fell on it, it just looked at me and watched me as I scampered past. This poem rests in the journey the reader takes – the poem unpacks the statement the poet makes in the first line and the reader changes their mind about rats by the end of the poem as well.  I really liked the movement in this poem – nothing is still – the floodwater flowing, the quick movement of the rat as she picks the babies up in her mouth and we can picture the rat in the water because of the description of her swimming against the current and that lovely ending of the young rats not knowing whether to fear the water or being in their mother’s mouth… I realise this is not a very festive choice but it does go with last weeks choice of a cat poem!

Rat – by River Wolton

I changed my mind
after a documentary:
floodwater in a sewer.

She took them one by one
scruff of their necks
as if to eat them.

They shrieked,
didn’t know where they were going,
couldn’t see

the torrent forced
into a lethal channel by
excellent Victorian masonry.

Against the flow she swam,
her snakey tail, her bead-black nose,
her children in her mouth,

then scampered to a higher ledge,
and dropped them.
Back again

to where those remaining quivered,
not knowing what to fear most,
the cold thickening around them.



Sunday Poem – Paula Cunningham


Morning folks!  I am writing this from my hotel room at the Torbay Festival of Poetry http://www.torbaypoetryfestival.co.uk/

I have had a lovely weekend here – on Thursday I drove to Leicester and stayed at my mum and dad’s house for the night and drove over to Torbay on Friday morning.  I was really lucky with the traffic and managed to get here with enough time to have lunch and see Alison Brackenbury read.

The organisers of the festival, Patricia and William Oxley and their wonderful committee are very friendly.  The whole festival is in one hotel, which is where I’m staying, which is a genius idea I think.  I love being able to go to my room in between things, although yesterday I went to my room to send a couple of emails and ended up falling asleep and missed half an event….

I read on Friday at 5pm with Emily Hinshelwood who was lovely to read with – I’m hoping to have a poem from her for the Sunday Poem once I’ve read through her book.  What has been nice is that a lot of people seem to be around for the whole weekend so I met people for the first time at the reading and then I see them again later on – this is how I met the lovely Arthur Broomfield, who has come over from Ireland just for the festival – he came up to get me to sign his pamphlet (get me!) and then I bumped into him yesterday and we have been gabbing non stop since then and having a really good laugh – I often tend to meet people at poetry events who it feels like I’ve been friends with for years  – I hesitate to add names here in case I miss anyone important out but recent examples of this have been John W.Sexton and Ben Johnson at the Fermoy Poetry Festival in August and Michael Scott at the Swindon Poetry Festival – so for me a festival is worth going to for that alone, never mind the poetry!

Yesterday I went to part of a Pat Borthwick workshop which was good fun and then I had to sneak out before the end to do a Poet to Poet question and answer thing, chaired by Danielle Hope with Mike Bartholomew-Biggs as the other poet being questioned.  I was a little nervous about this because I’ve only ever done it once before and that was  last week but it was actually really enjoyable and good fun – and I’m sure this was because Danielle was so professional and good at keeping the whole thing going.

Last night Gillian Clarke read – I’ve seen Gillian read quite a few times but she was on fire last night – a brilliant reading, very warm, very passionate – maybe it was because the tables were all set for everyone to have a three course meal afterwards, maybe she felt like she was reading poetry for her supper but I really enjoyed it.

Which brings us to today – I’m off to a workshop this morning as well and then depending on the weather – I’m hoping to stay for Allison McVety reading this afternoon and Angela France and John Greening later on.

The other major thing that happened earlier on in the week was a joint concert with my junior band (Barrow Shipyard Junior Band) and the Barrow Steelworks Band at Trinity Church Centre in Barrow.  It was a great night and although there were a couple of empty seats in the hall there weren’t many.  We raised nearly £600 which will be split between the Furness Branch of the National Autistic Society and the Junior Band.  I’m still buzzing from the concert actually – the junior band played brilliantly and I was really proud of them.

So today’s Sunday Poem is ‘Driving North’ by Paula Cunningham, which is a very apt title as I will be driving north today and tomorrow on a bit of an epic journey from here back up to Cumbria.  This poem comes from Paula’s brand new shiny collection from Smith/Doorstop called ‘Heimlich’s Manoeuvre’ which is currently shortlisted for the 2013 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.  You can buy the book from the Poetry Business by clicking on this link: http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/842/heimlichs-manoeuvre-paula-cunningham

I love the honesty of this poem  – it is one of those poems that as soon as I read it, I wished I had written it because it brings that jolt of recognition and that feeling of ‘Of course this happens – why didn’t I think of that?’ when I read in the poem of the ‘angels and ogres’ from the past who come into our present day relationships through the power of gesture – and it is all held together by the lyrical way the words relate to one another – all the wonderful internal rhymes that are threaded through the poem – ‘back’ and ‘scratch’ and ‘crack’ and ‘that’ in the middle of the poem and ‘alive’ and ‘smile’ and ‘time’ towards the end.

Finally, I would like to mention before you read the poem, Phil Read.  Phil died yesterday from cancer.  I haven’t seen Phil probably for over ten years – he was one of the conductors of the junior brass band I was in and he played baritone in the senior band when I was in Leicester.  I have been friends with Phil on Facebook and sent him a message when I saw he was ill to wish him well and thank him for everything he did when I was younger – so although I haven’t spoken to him (apart from online) for ten years, I felt profoundly sad yesterday when I heard he had died.   I learnt how to run a brass band from him and our other conductor, Rob Boulter.  Rob used to jump up and down on the spot when we made a mistake in rehearsal and we used to think it was funny.  Phil did the same – although not as often – and I have been known to do my own jumping up and down in mock frustration.  The kids still think it’s funny.  So Phil carries on in a very small way – as well as with his family, friends and the musicians down in Leicester, he will be remembered up in Cumbria as well.  Which again, fits with the Sunday Poem today as well.

I hope you enjoy the poem.

Driving North – Paula Cunningham

Returning late in rain from Connemara,
each time we pass a ‘Welcome to our County’
I slow and sound the horn, a single toot,

Galway toot Mayo toot Sligo…
and I’m explaining ‘Davy did this,
my first real boyfriend, twenty years ago.’

And when approaching sleep you call me sweetie,
I know your friend, your ex, still calls you that,
and later when you flex and click your knuckles

you will tell me of a lover, way back,
who’d twist and stretch so ardently
that each and every vertebra would crack.

And when you make me scratch
your back it’s childhood and your daddy;
the wheaten bread each Saturday’s my ma;

that thing when I touch the back
of your hand with the back of a hot
coffee spoon’s a man I loved abysmally

and that man’s granddad.  And this is how it is:
angels and ogres jostle at our shoulders,
anxious for their chance to vanquish time,

and these fleeting appearances, toot, brief
visitations that make us scowl or smile, keep
all of our losses, even our dead, alive.

Remembrance Sunday and Barrow Brass Band talk…


Sometimes it might seem as if I’m a little detached from what is going on in the world – yesterday I did a huge long post without mentioning Remembrance Sunday.  I think this is because when I write on here I’m often looking back on what has happened – today I feel compelled to write about yesterday. 

Me and the hubby went to the Cenotaph in Barrow for the service – I’ve played in so many Remembrance Sunday services – when I was a child in Leicester, Unity Brass Band used to play every year at Victoria Park.  Although I can’t say I enjoyed it – it involved playing hymns, marching and standing for a long time, usually in the rain (and anyone who knows me will know what a terrible leaner I am – I find it really hard to stand up without leaning on something) I still did it every year.  When I moved to Barrow, I started to play with the Barrow Shipyard Band every year at the Cenotaph.

This year, the Barrow Shipyard Band have ceased to exist.  All of their kit, instruments and uniform have passed to the junior band which is thriving with 36 members.  So I was interested to see which band were playing and it was the Barrow Steelworks Band.  There were about 12 of them, and I went and introduced myself to the conductor Ian Bird, who I’ve not actually spoken to before.  We agreed it would be good to collaborate – the Steelworks are struggling for players as well and would like to encourage some young people to join, and I want to support the last remaining brass band in Barrow. 

I felt really sad on Sunday – obviously it is quite a sad occasion anyway, but it got me thinking about brass bands and the part they play in the local community.  I didn’t see one general member of the public go and thank the band for playing the hymns for the service.  Nobody really seemed to notice they were there.  The band didn’t seem bothered about this, they packed up and went good naturedly.  But what will happen when the last town band dies out, which it will do, unless something drastic changes.  Who will play the hymns in November then?  What will happen to all those years of tradition – the jackets, the name of the band, which always carries a weight of history with it  – the Shipyard Band, the Steelworks Band. 

Youth bands seem to be flourishing – I started a beginner band last week for primary school pupils and 43 children turned up.  As I’ve said before, the junior band which I also run has 36 members and is closed to new members now because we can’t fit any more in.  Why isn’t this translating into the adult bands?  I don’t know, although I have my theories.  I’ve also not been teaching long enough to see what happens to the kids.  I guess they go away to university – whether they join a band as adults and help keep the brass band tradition going remains to be seen.