Tag Archives: Theatre by the Lake

Plays and Poetry


It’s been a mixed week this week – on Monday I went to Keswick to the Theatre by the Lake for the first rehearsal of the play ‘Cartographers’ that I’ve written part of, in association with The Alligator Club.  I met the actors and the production team and then watched the first read through of the whole play and then the first rehearsal of the scene that I wrote.  It was a really interesting process and a strange one – hearing what I’d written being read by someone else kind of felt like someone walking over your grave – a bit shivery – but in a good way!  The actors were still reading from the script on Monday so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow which is the actual show.  It’s on at 1.30pm and 3.30pm but as far as I know it has sold out, although it is worth ringing the theatre to check as I managed to get two extra tickets a couple of days ago that were returns…so by this time tomorrow I will have seen the play performed – the first one or part of one that I’ve written.  I’m quite excited.  I’m also playing the trumpet along with one of my pupils in the show – I have come out of retirement to play!

On Tuesday and Wednesday I had to go to Penrith to go to Inset for my teaching job with the Music Service.  I don’t really like Inset – not a controversial thing to say really – I think most teachers feel the same, but I won’t go into any further detail!  The highlight of the two days though was Ewan Easton, a professional tuba player who I worked with earlier this year who came and gave us all a very inspirational talk on his work in prisons teaching brass.  I was very interested because I worked in a prison early last year as a poet.  A lot of the things he talked about I recognised and it occurred to me that maybe it doesn’t really matter what you go in to a prison and do – as long as you are passionate about it – I’ve seen tv programmes based in America where prisoners have to look after a dog from a rescue and get it ready to be rehomed, and then there are poets in prison and now brass teaching – but it seems prisoners are not just learning about the medium (poetry/dogs/brass) but life skills – listening, co operation with others, trust in others etc etc.

On Tuesday after Inset I went round to my pupils house to practice the duet for the theatre show with him – and then for fun had a go at some quartet pieces with my pupil and his mum who plays tuba – just to see what it sounded like.  Even though we were missing a part, it still sounded pretty good, so we’ve decided we are going to form a brass quintet – my sister is going to play french horn – so we just need to find a trombone player now…..I got carried away playing an arrangement of ‘At Last’ and was nearly late for Barrow Writers – a poetry critiquing group that I go to..but I made it just a couple of minutes late..it was a good night and I was glad I remembered to go!

On Wednesday I went to the theatre in Keswick to practice the trumpet parts with David…

And Thursday I drove over to Newcastle for the first meeting for the job that I mentioned in a previous post.  I’m going to be working with the good people at New Writing North on a project at various teaching schools across the North East.  We are going to be working with teachers on their own creative practice – so running creative writing workshops for teachers.  I’m being mentored on the project by poet Anna Woodford who is a very experienced poet and tutor so I’m looking forward to it –

I also got to see the Mslexia office – which is just down the corridor from the New Writing North office!  I went in to say hello to Debbie Taylor as I’d nearly knocked her over in the corridor in my rush to get to the meeting in the morning…

and then today has been a bit of a stressful, slightly demoralizing day.  I’ve been ringing around my schools trying to sort my timetable out, which is harder this year because I’m only working for three days, so I only have three afternoons and all the schools want to be in the afternoon, because all primary schools do literacy and numeracy in the morning so fitting them all in has been difficult, to say the least.  But barring any great disasters, it’s done now – I’ll be working three days a week starting on Monday!


Sunday Poem – Julie Mellor


It’s back!  The Sunday Poem I mean.  I’m sure there was a bleak hole in your sunday last week when I didn’t post a sunday poem up – for only the second time ever since I started (I think)

I got back from Fermoy Poetry Festival (www.fermoypoetryfestival.com) very late on Wednesday.  So most of Thursday was a write off – I got up, went and picked up a pile of books that I’d ordered that arrived while I was away (felt slightly guilty at picking large pile up – it always seems worse when they all arrive together).  One of the books was ‘Edgelands’ by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley.  I’m reading this as part of one of the tasks I’m doing for my Writing School course and really enjoying it.  It’s beautifully written, as you would expect from two poets, and I like how it’s grouped into sections of the various things you find in the ‘Edgelands’.  So far I’ve read a section on ‘Cars’, ‘Paths’ and ‘Dens’ and I’m just about to start the next section which is about ‘Containers’.  I’m aware that maybe those headings don’t sound particularly exciting, but they really are interesting and well written.

The two authors went looking for dens built by children – I remember building a den!  They report “even though our forays into fields and waste ground were hardly scientific and exhaustive, we didn’t once find anything we could call an active den.  Still, it’s possibly all still going on, somewhere out of sight of prying adult eyes…”

After I went and picked my books up, I then went up to Calderdale Bridge to pick the dogs up from the dogsitters.  I am pleased to report that they have behaved very well and have not disgraced themselves.  Lola was very pleased to see me, but Miles looked at me with disdain, as if to say ‘Oh.  You again.  You remembered we were here.  How kind.’

Whilst I was away in Ireland, I wrote my first poem in quite a while so Friday was spent typing that up ready for Brewery Poets, a poetry critiquing group that meet at the Brewery in Kendal on the second Friday of each month.   We had a really lovely night – only a small group this month of seven but it meant there was more time to look at people’s work.  I’m quite pleased with my poem but I think I’m going to let it settle in my folder for a while now.

On Saturday I had another meeting at the Theatre By The Lake to talk about the play ‘Cartographers’ which I’m writing part of alongside Ian Hill, another local writer and The Alligator Club.  The play will be set in the woods at the back of the theatre and there will be four ten minute plays.  Three of these the audience will see in a different order, depending on which group they are in, and then all three groups will come together at the end to see the final ten minute play – which will be my bit.

Last night I was motivated enough after the meeting to sit for about three hours and try to get ten minutes worth of material down so I could then start editing and moving things around.  I haven’t looked at it this morning – haven’t got the courage up yet, in case it is rubbish.  I’m enjoying writing it, but there is a time pressure – we are all aiming for our first full ten minute drafts to be sent round by Thursday as there is music still to be added in yet.  The play is being shown in two matinee performances – at 1.30 and 3.30 on September 7th – and you can find more information here http://www.theatrebythelake.com/production/10963/Cartographers

The other thing I have to get started this week is a commission – my first paid commission!  I don’t know if I’m allowed to say too much yet, but I’m off to Lancaster today to do some research – again the deadline for this is September 1st – so everything is feeling a bit tight this summer.

It doesn’t help that I’m off to Ty Newydd on a weeks residential writing course on the 19th August.  I’m really looking forward to this – the tutors are the wonderful Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel – but I’d really like to get all the script things and the commission writing done, or nearly done before I go so that I can concentrate on my own poetry whilst I’m there…not that I’m complaining – I am very happy to be busy and sometimes I think – am I really writing a script?  Am I really being paid to write some poems?  and I remember dancing round my living room when I got my first poem published in a magazine – Obsessed With Pipework (http://www.flarestack.co.uk/obsessedwithpipework.htm) and I feel very happy, but then I also start to panic with a crisis of confidence….can I do this? and then I start to babble, as this last paragraph shows…


Which brings us to Sunday and Julie Mellor’s wonderful poem which was supposed to burst onto the blog last Sunday.  Julie Mellor was one of the winners in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, alongside Rosie Sheppard, Suzie Evans and myself.  Julie is a lovely lady and a great poet.  I hope Julie won’t mind me saying this, but I noticed that she was shortlisted lots of times for the pamphlet competition before actually winning.  I think this is a great testament to her – she didn’t get offended or annoyed, she took it on the chin and just kept trying and eventually she won.  A lesser poet would have given up – and maybe that is the difference between being published and not being published – not just talent but sheer bloody minded determination and perseverance.

Julie lives in Penistone and read English at Huddersfield University and has a PhD from Sheffield Hallam.  Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Brittle Star, Mslexia, The Rialto and Smiths Knoll.   You can find more information and poems about Julie at Michael Stewart’s blog where there is an interview and review   at http://headspam.poesterous.com/

This is an interesting blog by Suzannah Evans about her residency at Bank Street Arts and Julie has a poem here too.. http://poetrymap.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/white-tiger-julie-mellor/

and another poem here at  Excel for charity at: http://excelforcharity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/another-story.html

The poem I’ve chosen for the Sunday Poem is from Julie’s Poetry Business pamphlet ‘Breathing through Our Bones’.  I loved this poem straight away – the language is very thick and heavy and rich.  I think it is a masterclass in how to write and closely observe – and each image and metaphor she pushes and pushes at to take it further and further.  One of my favourite lines is ‘Clusters of sorcery, we store the sun’.  I think that is a brilliant line – an unusual image yet completely right for blackberries.  And these blackberries are evil aren’t they?  They have a personality all of their own – I wouldn’t like to meet them down a dark alley…

If you would like to read more of Julie’s poems in an actual book rather than on websites, get yourself over to http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/791/breathing-through-our-bones-julie-mellor and order a copy of her pamphlet!  It’s only a fiver and you will make Julie and her publisher very happy!  I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Julie for letting me post it here.

Blackberries by Julie Mellor

We have darkened like the end of the year,
the knuckled hulls at our core
white as a maggot or a baby’s first tooth.

Clusters of sorcery, we store the sun.
The juice of us is a blue flame.
Even the wary fall for our frumenty smell.

Between children’s fingers we bleed black,
store our vengeance until Michealmas
when the devil unleashes himself in spit

and piss, and we rot like the underside
of hide buried in lime, lose ourselves
in softness, sink back into what we are,

almost fruit, almost tar, resist the creeping nights,
the toll of winter curfew, wait
in our thinned clusters like the eyes of the blind,

until eel worms eat at our ingangs,
hang on to the last, juice thick as oak bark liquor,
seasoned, vile,

then shrivel back to seed,
like the mole on the back of the neck
that marks you for hanging.