I’m delighted to announce that my poetry collection titled, Flowers by the Road, has been chosen as the winning entry in the latest Templar Poetry Portfolio Awards. The collection will be published by Templar Poetry as a pamphlet in early 2017 and launched with a special reading at Keats House, London.
Please keep a look out for more news and release dates.
In other news the painting, Neighbour (pictured below) completes the series of paintings under the heading, Two Houses by the Road and all works are now available at the Millyard Gallery, Uppermill, Saddleworth.
Greengates is the fourth in a series of recent paintings exploring a more fluid approach utilising both oil and acrylic. The starting point for Greengates was an unloved oil landscape partially sanded back which provided an almost abstract texture to work on. Atmosphere and composition was then created quickly utilising acrylic and ink and finally enhanced by oil. The painting was finished with satin varnish.
The painting is framed and available for purchase at Enjoy Art Gallery based in Marsden. Other works in the series include: Pennine Sunset, Neighbour and Holiday Home all of which are currently available through my Artfinder shop.
And finally, inspiration this month comes from The Lumineers who recently played an amazing sold out show at the very excellent Albert Hall in Manchester (not to be confused with the Royal version).
Brand new for 2016 – ‘Tile Art’. Images are created through a variety of processes using artist’s watercolour paint and finished with a coat of varnish. A selection of paintings are currently on display at Enjoy Art in Marsden near Huddersfield. I’ll be adding more to my Artfinder shop soon. Thanks for looking.
A number of original paintings are now available on Artfinder. For a limited time each painting will be delivered with a special selection of free gifts (prints and cards – by me). Please follow this link – Artfinder – for more information.
And to celebrate here’s the fabulous Richard Hawley. What’s not to like.
Say the names Cuckoo, Moonraker, Leadboiler and Lily anywhere outside of the Colne Valley and people might just nod their heads slightly, smile politely and step aside. But any mention of these names along the banks of the river Colne and locals will be more than happy to recount stories of wilful birds, contraband, boiling water and persecuted Huguenots. These are, of course, the stuff of legends and each of the legends proudly belong to one of the four villages along the valley. So for those not in the know: Marsden is Cuckoo, the Lilies belong to Golcar, Linthwaite lead boils and Slaithwaite proudly rakes the moon. If you want to find out more about each of these stories and see some wonderful paintings that illustrate the tales follow this link:
The legends are celebrated in various ways: Marsden goes Cuckoo for a day in April (which is slowly becoming Cuckoo weekend), Golcar enjoys Golcar Lily Day in May (which is still just a day) and every two years in February Slaithwaite steals the show with the Moonraking Festival (which now lasts for a whole seven days).
It’s now thirty years since the people of Slaithwaite first paraded the streets of their village with hand-made lanterns towards the canal where a paper moon was raked out to the delight of the waiting crowd. Each of the proceeding festivals have had a theme and to celebrate this landmark year the theme for 2015 is, coincidentally, ‘Landmarks’. In recent years competition to build the biggest and best lantern has become fierce and the themes have led to inspiring paper lights in the shape of Dr Who’s Tardis (time), a mouse and clock (nursery rhymes) and our very own star (which managed to hold its own against any number of themes until it finally disintegrated in a snow storm in 2013).
This year the festival runs from the 15 – 21 February and includes lantern making, music, story-telling arts and crafts and culminates in the unique finale on the Saturday evening when thousands of people will line the streets of Slaithwaite with their lanterns to watch the moon raking. Don’t miss out – Slaithwaite Moonraking has quietly turned into one of the best local arts festivals and is great fun for all the family.
To celebrate this year’s Landmark festival the painting, Where We Start which features Marsden and Slaithwaite’s very own famous landmark, Shooter’s Nab, is now available to purchase. The painting was completed in response to the poem, Tuesday Afternoon which was written specially for the now legendary Write Out Loud Poetry Jam at last year’s Marsden Jazz Festival. It was really heart warming to get so many requests for copies of the poem following my reading so in lieu of publication I’ve decided to make the poem available below. As a special treat – a handwritten version will accompany the painting when it is sold.
In other arts and poetry news, a small selection of my work will feature in the Hand Made Trail as part of the Moonraking festival – this will be in the form of a pop up gallery created by the excellent Enjoy Art gallery from Marsden where a more permanent collection of my work is still available to view. The Art Finder shop is slowly coming to life – you can follow my exploits by pressing the big button on the left hand side of this post.
In poetry news, I’m very excited to be reading alongside Tom Clearly and Steve Anderson at the Square Chapel, Halifax on Thursday 12 February. Wordplay has become a popular monthly event that also includes five open mic spots. The nights are hosted by the fabulous Keith Hutson so please come along if you are in the area.
I’m also really please to see that the Little Book of Poems has finally made it to publication. This was an idea dreamed up by local resident Jennifer Smith-Wignall to help raise funds for our local hospice, Kirkwood. The anthology features my poem Clocks which some may already be familiar with and a brand new poem, Bradley Woods inspired by the artist, Peter Brook. You can find out more about the project here:
From the halls this week we celebrate local duo O’Hooley and Tidow who launched their amazing album, The Hum last year in Marsden and have just been nominated for Best Duo in this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards. The duo will also play a sold out show at The Watershed, Slaithwaite on Thursday 19 February as part of the Moonraking festival.
They are twelve, just. It is May
and the sky seems restless; the sun
rooting out the last of winter beyond
the dry stone walls and farm gates.
It gets their necks, warms their backs,
delivers a thirst that’s like nothing
else. The puddles they walk through
sparkle in the sun, a dizzying collection
of stars and clouds and sky.
They are heading to the mountain,
or Shooters Nab as one day they might know it,
climbing the fence that holds back the moor
letting their shadows stray beyond reach
over bog cotton and peat. Here they turn right,
follow a path and let the village drift from sight.
Red flags hang motionless in the distance;
they signal the firing-range; something they’ve
only heard about. There is no sound, no distant
echo of gunshot; just laboured breaths,
footsteps and the birds, still unknown, that cry out.
From a distant window the quarry beckoned;
a last frontier; a no-man’s land beyond
the snow line. Up close it looks like teeth.
They are out of bounds, beyond their limits,
amongst cathedrals of stone abandoned
to the moor. A ghost of a road
leads them to shadows where names and dates
exist between man-made scars.
There is nothing here: secretly one had dreamed that
beyond this place he would see the ocean;
a new land from which to escape. The other considers talk
of radio signals and strange night-sky activity but says nothing.
They both listen to the sound of their own breathing
and search the wind for the hum of the village.
There is nothing. The cold sets in as they search
the furthest corners where, in the darkness, they find snow;
just a tiled piece of earth no bigger than a child’s
blanket discarded by winter; alien ice
that they now dare each other to touch
to fill their pockets, scratching at the stuff as though it
might burn before they give in and run
from the place, downhill, criss-crossing
the path were invisible sheep bleat and
where ice mixed with dirt is launched to the sky
so that they blind themselves just to see where it falls
before shaking the cold from their fingertips and scraping
mud from their nails. The red flags begin to snap in the wind.
Beyond the wind sounds rush in: friends playing in the street,
neighbours shouting, cars, buses, the mill turning out
or the Earth turning, skipping a beat.
They are twelve, just. Out of time
as they run, letting the weight
of their own bodies carry them, letting the wind
rush over them as they jump the fence, jump
into light above a valley that twitches to realign
To help celebrate the launch of my Artfinder shop I’ve decided to release the original painting, Boat House, Scalpay from my private collection. This is the first time that this painting has been available to purchase.
Scalpay is a small island just across the water from the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. The painting was completed following an autumn break towards the end of 2009 when the first snows where just beginning to appear on the mountain tops.
The work is framed in solid oak and ready to hang. Keen eyed observers visiting the shop might just spot the picture on the wall of my studio in the photograph on my storefront.
Tuesday’s weather was September blue with the milky sun of the weekend finally giving way to the cut throat light of early spring. Shadows were long and in stark contrast to the flood of sun light, the hills still bore numerous slips of white as the cold air cosseted the last of the snow. It was a good day to be out and about so at nine a.m. I did what every self respecting lover of landscape should do on the first day off work and climbed into the dentist’s chair.
Now there are worse things in life than the punishing quarterly ritual of the ear piercing jet being manoeuvred beneath the gum line against raw nerves but, looking out over the trees into the deep blue sky, I was struggling to come up with any examples.
The trouble with four days off mid-week at half term is that without really trying the days suddenly become laden with activities, jobs, and treats. Most school holidays follow a similar pattern: it’s the tartan of time that we picnic on however this half term would be slightly different.
With the three monthly meditation exercise over (it is true that you can beat pain by focusing on a screw in the light above your head), and the family waiting outside, we were off – to paint an attic room. Now as you might guess; feeling a little like a newly hatched chicken blinking in to the sun, setting off with a whiter kind of smile to paint a room put me in a bit of a grump. It was the first day off to coincide with a real sun blast since weeks before Christmas and the next nine hours of my life were mapped out to include five litres of Dulux best, a brush and a roller.
We were clearing Uncle WA’s house, which, at first sight, appeared to have been used as a store for the last forty years worth of racing papers. WA didn’t like to throw things away. He had passed away just before the festive season and Amanda and her sister (the only remaining relatives in the UK) had worked tirelessly since the new year to clear, scrub, clean and throw away as much of the hoard as they could fit in the back of the family estate. It had been a Herculean effort and timed to coincide with the arrival, from Ireland, of Uncle John (WA’s brother) and his large white van. I scalded myself for being a little grumpy and left the walking boots at the back of my mind.
Five white van tip trips later (yes, we had to take the death certificate) and several coats of white paint and the house suddenly began to quiet down and stop moaning at the thought of being clean and tidy. We had done it, just, and it was time for tea.
Now, should proof were needed that being a six year old child is the best thing in the world then the following day provided all the evidence. It was ash scattering day. WA’s first and only love in life had been the horses: race horses. With this in mind, Amanda had made an enquiry to York Race course to see if there was any possibility that we could hold a little ceremony near the track. ‘Of course,’ said Tom, who appeared to deal with all things ash scattering, ‘no problem at all. Many people like to use the finishing post, that’s as long as they’re not racing!’
So, on a bitterly cold grey Wednesday we found ourselves, after a short guided tour of the facilities (never one to miss a sale) stood beneath the finishing post at York Race course with a large tub of ashes. As we arrived at the post and Tom said his fair wells and good wishes it became clear that the world had lost a few racing fans over the course of the winter. Flowers clung to the post and piles of ash dotted the track side. We all looked at each other and secretly wondered what to say. We didn’t need to worry. Lydia and cousin, Daisy suddenly seized the opportunity and grabbed the pot of ash. No one else was getting a look in. ‘Come on,’ they both chorused furiously shaking the ashes over the grass. ‘Let’s be having you. Come and see the horses.’ They continued, chatting merrily away to their great uncle.
It was a good send off; something that WA would have liked.
We thawed out in Jamie’s Italian as a bit of a treat. It was good to enjoy the food without the strange feeling I had the last time we took Explorer George to the Manchester version for his birthday treat. Unbeknown to me throughout that last meal and proceeding drinks I was harbouring the Noro virus and hours later would discover the exacting peculiarities of being sick as a dog. It would be four days before I ate again so at least the last meal had been a fine one.
The day finished with The Marsden Write Out Loud open mike night. We’d landed back in the village just after the M62 rush hour (2 – 7) and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try out a couple of new poems to our monthly group. The secret must be out. Arriving in the Mechanics a little past the starting time I was greeted with a number of new faces and emergency chairs! Our normal sedate group of around ten to twelve people had swelled to well over thirty and everyone was raring to go. Some had just come for the pleasure of listening whilst others, including myself, were happy to read a couple of poems – just a little faster. I always find reading new work to an audience extremely rewarding. You get that instant hit of whether the poem makes the right emotional connections. The shorter introductions and speed reading had the desired effect and, along with the usual five or six, the day ended in the Riverhead.
Exactly two nights later the same emergency chairs where waiting for me again in the Mechanics, this time for the annual beer festival. It was a great way to end the week, sharing numerous local brews with friends and neighbours. Only towards the end of the night was I introduced to a Finnish lady who now lived next door to where I had spent most of my child hood. Small world! The village has changed so much over the last twenty years or so by becoming a set for countless films and TV programmes as well as a tourist centre and second home for people from Lancashire, so to hear that many of the old neighbours, including Donald with his infamous home brew and Alan from across the road where still there was strangely comforting.
It’s just a bright blue sky
Whilst searching the enclaves of zero plays within the Halls this week I came across a tune from what was one of my album of the years in 2012. It’s a proper start to finish record and my only regret so far is that I’ve not seen the band live. The video for Chapel Song by We Are Augustines was also included on the album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships and as I’m not a fan of freebies and extras at the end of a record the track was promptly unchecked and un-played.
It’s a great anthem and a fitting end to the week. Follow the link to watch the video.