Sea, Sky, Stars

Cutty Sark

I’m just back from a wonderful event on board the sailing clipper Cutty Sark in Greenwich. The evening was called From the Coble Coast to Bantry Bay and took place in the intimate pop-up theatre in the ship’s hold, to celebrate her 150th anniversary. With the support of the London Irish Centre, Greenwich-based poet and sailor Mick Delap organised the event, which featured his exuberant sound piece, Bantry Bay. This fascinating piece tells the story of the Bantry Bay longboat from the attempted French and Irish landing of 1796 to the present day. It’s published in Mick’s second collection, Opening Time. The parts were read by Mick, radio and voice artist Doireann Ni Bhriain, and two leading Irish poets, Theo Dorgan and Paddy Bushe, with music by the wonderful Greenwich folk fiddler, Alexis Bennett.

I loved meeting the Irish visitors, and was privileged to contribute the ‘coble’ element to the evening, reading poems about the traditional Northumbrian boat from The Blue Lonnen (including from my two Bloodaxe collections, The Lost Music and Two Countries). Throughout the performance, Alexis played live and electronically-processed fiddle music — both his own composition and traditional tunes. I’m very grateful to Mick, Alexis and the Irish poets for making it possible. It was a powerful feeling, to summon the memory of my Northumbrian fisher friends, Charlie Douglas, Cathy and Redford Armstrong and many others, within the iron frames and elm planks of that magnificent ship. I think they would have loved it.


Alexis and I met at Dartington International Summer School last year. You can hear Sea, Sky, Stars, our 10-minute radio piece developed from our Dartington performance, HERE. We filmed From the Coble Coast to Bantry Bay, so I hope to put some of our performance onto my You Tube channel soon. We’d love to perform The Blue Lonnen again, so do please contact us via this site if you’re interested in a booking. Meanwhile, we’ll be performing a new set in August at the event below.


Dartington International Summer School and Festival

Dartington Great Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6EL

Sunday 4th August 2019, 5.15pm

£10 (students 50%)

You can hear me with Alexis Bennett in this lovely setting, in a new concert of Northumbrian landscape-based poetry and fiddle music. I’ll also be performing a short excerpt from Horse, a very different piece, about the 3,000 year old Uffington chalk figure, with music by the electronic composer and inventor, Peter Zinovieff.

Book HERE.

For more information about my writing course at Dartington on the poetry of place, click HERE.


The Fourth IRON Press Festival of Words and Music

St George’s Church, Cullercoats, NE30 4NS

Saturday 22nd June, 7.30pm (doors open 7.15)               


I’m appearing with my old associate, the brilliant Northumbrian piper Chris Ormston, in The Wund an’ the Wetter, our Northumbrian dialect collaboration, as part of The Fourth IRON Press Festival of Words and Music We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Wund an’ the Wetter this year, and we’ll perform it together with other music and new poems about the North East fishing community and the sea. 

Book HERE.


Deranged Poetesses: Space / Exploration

ARC Theatre, Stockton Arts Centre, TS18 1LL

Saturday 20th July, 7-9pm

Free but ticketed.

July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the first humans to land on the Moon. Alongside Keisha Thompson, Isabelle Kenyon, Hannah Lasagne, Lisa Louise Lovebucket and Katie Greenbrown, I’ll be taking to the stage to celebrate the wonders of space and exploration. I’ll deliver a 13-minute extract from a longer piece, Field, an astonishing performance of poetry, music (by Peter Zinovieff), science and space photographs, that explores the strange quantum worlds created at the Big Bang.

The event is organised by Apples and Snakes and is free but ticketed.

Book HERE.


From the Coble Coast to Bantry Bay, Cutty Sark, May 24th 2019

Katrina Porteous, Doireann Ni Bhriain, Theo Dorgan and Paddy Bushe

(photo by Mick Delap)