@lagannavigator – 2018/19 Storymaking Festival. Theme: Linen On The Lagan


Following their incredibly successful first annual Storymaking Festival last year, Lagan Navigation Trust are inviting people who have a connection to the Lagan Navigation and River Lagan to get involved in their Storymaking Festival this year, with prizes for the best pieces. If you would like a copy of ‘Where my River Flows’ – an anthology arising from last year’s Storymaking Festival, contact admin@lagannavigationtrust.org to purchase.

The theme this year (2018), in celebration of Northern Ireland’s first Linen Biennale, is ‘Linen on the Lagan’. Everyone is invited to submit a story (up to 500 words) or a poem (no more than 30 lines). Work can be submitted via the Lagan Navigation Trust’s website HERE. (see t&c’s there also). The deadline is 4pm, Friday 26 October 2018.

The categories for the competition:

  • Age 11 and under
  • Age 17 and under
  • Adult

Every good wish to all submitting. The festival will be celebtated at an Awards Event in the Odyssey, Belfast on Friday, 1 Feburary 2019 as part of National Storymaking Week.


Why not join an open workshop? Storymaking workshops are running up to the end of October 2018, supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council Northern Ireland, and facilitated by myself and Martelle McPartland.

As part of the ‘Linen on the Lagan’ workshop series, I am running a number of open workshops which are free to attend and all welcome. But these do need to be booked in advance.

Wednesday 26th September 2018 – 10am – 12pm
Creative Writing Facilitated by Olive Broderick

Waterstones, 44-46 Fountain Street, Belfast
Book via admin@lagannavigationtrust.org t: 028 92 663232

Wed 3rd October 2018 – 10am – 12noon
Creative Writing facilitated by Olive Broderick
Waterstones, 30 Bow Street, Lisburn
Book via admin@lagannavigationtrust.org t: 028 92 663232

Sat 13th October 2018 2pm – 4pm
Creative Writing facilitated by Olive Broderick
Lurgan Library, 1 Carnegie Street, Lurgan
Book via Deirdre Breen at lurgan.library@librariesni.org.uk T: 028 3832 3912

Find the full list of workshops HERE some of the others are also accepting bookings to join their current groups.


A small number of readings and resources to spark your imagination.

Jo Bell ‘Lighter’ – commissioned for the 250th Anniversary of the Lagan Navigation.

‘The Lagan Canal’ by Harry O’Rawe – we follow in the footsteps of May Blair and her work of gathering stories collected in her publication ‘Once Upon a Lagan’. How important it is to record the communities connections – Lagan and Linen – before they slip away out of current memory.

Find out more about the Lagan Navigation on the Lagan Navigation Trust’s website.

‘Linen on the Lagan Valley’ – a resource from Lagan Valley Regional Park

Check out the Linen Centre in Lisburn, and, of course, the Linen Biennale programme for loads of places where you can find out more about Irish Linen – past, present and what it might be like in the future.


(Lighter – Oxford Island)2018-08-27 12.15.22






‘Where are ye now?’ – after @FiredIrishPoets – name checks and notes

Picking up from a conversation from the inspiring ‘Fired’ event that took place on Friday night (14 September, Aspects, Bangor) where tracing the names and work of those Irish women poets of the previous generation was discussed, I am writing this post to name check and link to those poets who were read, and the contemporary poets who read  both these and their own work.

I chanced on the (not-Irish) poet Lorine Niedecker through a throw-away comment on wikipedia, or some such site, that she was the one woman poet associated with Objectivist movement. I was lucky enough to be able to find enough of her work freely available via internet search to know this was a voice I needed to know more about in the context of my own writing. It took some years before I was able to get a fuller sense of her work and contribution.

It’s my belief – hence this post – that the more name checks and links there are on the WWW, the more there will be an e-trail to the poets of the country of our imagination, whether sharing or not, geographical territory.

For a compendium of women poets, a first port of call is POETHEAD.

In order of appearance on the night:

Maria McManus read a piece of her own and two by Rhoda Coghill

I (Olive Broderick) read a piece of my own and two by Lorine Niedecker (US)

Amy Wyatt Rafterty read a piece of her own and two by Alice Milligan

Gaynor Kane  (see also Women Aloud NI) read a piece of her own and two by Katherine Tynan 

Chris Murray (Poethead) read a piece of her own and two by Frieda Laughton

Katie O’Donovan read a piece of her own and two by Eithne Strong

This was followed by a panel discussion featuring poet Katie Donovan, Chris Murray of Poethead and academic Alex Pryce, introduced and chaired by Dr Lucy Collins (University College Dublin) author of Poetry by Women in Ireland 1870-1970: A Critical Anthology (2012).

Thanks to Moyra Donaldson for organising this particular event, and Aspects Festival for hosting it.

Note: A trail of breadcrumbs and ‘caveat googler’

A person can while away many a happy hour in the grip of a good internet search. The good news is, for those of us out of the realm of inter-library networks, you can get information readily enough. But you do need to approach what you find with an enthusiastic kind caution.  I like wikipedia but, when in the grip of a subject, I like to read pretty much anything at all I can find on that subject (it is no wonder my eyesight is in the state it is). The net result is generally a useful kind of confusion, rather than a limited kind of certainty.  It’s this delicate balance between reliable information and one-stop-shops (of which I am a bit nervous). While approaching with caution, the more searching that’s done, the more the search engines will produce results – this is my thinking here.





Learn Buoyancy from the Buoyant – @FiredIrishPoets @AspectsFestival Yurt, 14 Sept, 7pm

‘One learns to float’ – from ‘Surface‘ – after Lorine Niedecker

Privileged to join Chris Murray (Poetheaad), Maria McManus, Katie O’Donovan, Amy Wyatt Rafferty and Gaynor Gayne to share and celebrate the voices of Irish women poets, and remember the extraordinary lives of poets/literary women, past and present. With great appreciation for the work of the FIRED movement.

With an emphasis on Irish poets, I am grateful to have leave to share work by a current waylighter of mine ‘Lorine Niedecker’ (1903-1971) from the watery, flood prone, world of Black Hawk Island, Wisconsin.

New York was overwhelming, and she was alone, a tiny, timid, small-town girl. She escaped the city and returned to Wisconsin….and her poetry emerged from a tiny life…Someone in Scotland printed a tiny little book of her poems, which are little barely audible poems, not without loveliness. . . and so on in the same vein. (George Oppen, 1963, quoted in ‘A Little Too Little: Re-reading Lorine Niedecker’ by Jenny Pemberthy- which I have condensed for emphasis – I will be readed from JP’s ‘Collected’).

Rumours of her tininess, condensery and only-woman-hanger-on-of-the-Objectivist Movement-ness were greatly, it emerges, greatly magnified.  When I came across her work over a decade ago, she was still close to this reductery – the ‘business end’ of being forgotten – and it is relief to see her contribution being credited as time progresses, as it deserves.


We stand on the shoulders of Giants
Lorine Niedecker is one of my giants. Poets whose work I love (choosing what to read of hers on Friday has been a challenge) and go back to as a reader, but who also, by their poetic stances and decisions, have given direction and a increased awareness about how to go about having a writing life. From this time period, my other two waylighters, to date, are men (one writing in Irish, the other trying to work out how to make English make the sound that Irish makes in poetry). For me, LN’s interest in imagism, modernism generally, haiku spirit, but not form, has given me a wonderful sense of being an inhabitant of another kind of country.  And, as in The Journey with Two Maps (Eavan Boland), a woman has a different set of challenges when creating a writing life and taking account of a woman who chooses to be out of the main centres (for LN these were New York, London, Paris), here Dublin or Belfast, perhaps, has given me strategies and insights on the pros and cons of that kind of choice. It reminds me also, that the ‘forgetting’ of a voice – whether from Black Hawk Island, Wisconsin or Ballycotton – has implications far beyond the local and the current.


FIRED @Aspects Festival, Yurt, 7pm, Friday, 14 September
I am very excited to hear all the voices on Friday. The readings are followed by a panel discussion with Chris Murray (Poethead), academic Alex Pyne, and chaired by Dr Lucy Collins (UCD) and author of Poetry by Women in Ireland 1870-1970: A Critical Anthology (2012).
The event is free, but advance book is recommended HERE


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is 10 – @Down_arts #Downpatrick 30 September

6tag-3088414843-1483269340422047431_3088414843For men may come, and men may go / But I go on forever. – Tennyson

The fact is the assocation between writer’s collective ‘Write! Down’ and Down Arts Centre is actually longer than a decade. The first of the ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ forerunners was a Burn’s Night in 2005 (in or around).

Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Another fact is, I am a little hazy on the day and date that Rachel Kennedy, then Arts Officer with Down Arts Centre, rang me at my Voluntary Arts Ireland desk based then at English Street, Downpatrick, to ask whether Write! Down would be interested in a proposition she had for DAC and Write! Down to partner.

On the plane home from an AMA conference she told me, there had been a discussion about Sunday afternoons and what might work well in programming terms in that time slot and she’d had an idea.  I agreed, on behalf of everybody, with this idea – immediately and wholeheartedly.

The format – a platform for writing in this area, a showcase of new writers, and new writing by established authors and a connection point for those interested in writing in all its forms locally;  a featured reading and a shared space where all were welcome to share a their own work (poem, story, song) or a favourite – drawn from the Write! Down way of being in the world, has not changed to any great degree through the ten years of its existence.

Plus ça change

While Sunday Poems or PoSA as it is better know to its regulars has retained its motives and make-up, almost everything else has changed. Write! Down – a dynamic combination of Maria McManus and myself, joined by Matt Kirkham, Vi and Emma Whitehead and Donal O’Hagan – dispersed after five burgeoning years of operation. Rachel Kennedy took up a new post as Director of Eastside Arts, I can’t think of any of the current ‘regulars’ who were with us at the very start – even Down Arts Centre itself was remodelled and reconstructed in the time period (leading to some very interesting other venues while the work was in progress).

Austerity Times

Some of those were difficult years. A number of years in, the first ‘austerity’ cuts came in, and like the canaries in the coalmine, the voluntary and arts sector were the first to get a foretaste of what has become the new ‘normal’. These cuts had a lot of reprecussions, the loss of key funding for Write! Down being one. However, with Down Arts Centre’s continuing support – and the sense that this was a small but valued initiative – we have rode out the bad and enjoyed the good by turns. I had my own difficult times – though I haven’t, to date, missed any PoSA event (with thanks to Vi Whitehead who on a number of occassions came with the express purpose of taking up the reins in the event of me keeling over) – and the upshot of that is that I didn’t record anything. My memory is a blur of featured readings, first time at the podium for new readers (many of whom have gone from strength to strength), acts of the most incredible bravery by ‘ordinary’ people for whom PoSA has been a vehicle to share heartfelt and/or difficult life experiences creatively, beautifully, and an almost divine generosity between attendees, and a very strange almost expected, synchronicity of theme that arrives without any invitation on almost every occassion.

Reading isn’t Compulsory

Despite what you may have heard. But the thing is, when everybody is responding to the noble call, it’s hard to sit it out. From my silent teenage years, I know what it was like to burn to be part of things and to have my own self-consciousness cut me off at the pass. It’s like the First Nation’s talking stick – there seems to be something not quite right until all voices have shared, even one’s own. So I do love it when people share their work or favourites that have moved them.  And PoSA continues to be a very supportive space for that all important ‘first time’.

From Featured to Fabulous

Again it isn’t compulsory to go from strength to strength, having been featured in the ‘featured space’ – however, that has been about the size of it. I’m again cursing myself now for not having kept a record because every time I think about a poet or author in the area or connected to the development of writing locally, I think – ‘oh yes’ they read (or sung) here at one time. Both Brigid O’Neill and Damian Smyth, who are with us for the celebration, are both returners. Meeting the new work of established writers criteria, renowned Downpatrick poet (among other things) Damian Smyth, read from ‘English Street’ in it’s earlier stages at an earlier PoSA. It feels very good to be launching the full collection here.

All the thanks

To be honest, it’s been a cast of thousands. My thanks to Write! Down – more loose affiliation than collective now but still the connections are all there – and to all involved in Words for Castle Ward, which is the operating partner currently, and the most generous heart of the Sunday Poems afternoons.

An almighty thanks to all who have come and shared your work. Everyone. Entertaining, heartfelt, heartbreaking, brave, engaged, campaigning, gifted. You never know who will come through the door or who has been touched by the words that have been shared. To those who have come once, those who came for years and then let it slip away, those who have been coming these last few years, those whose first time will be the next one, those who always mean to get there and will one of these days – you are what makes this what it is.

To the featured readers, thanks for bringing your best work and selves to this space. It has been heard and appreciated, with a particular word of thanks to the writing group features. There has always been a lovely sense of natural networking (oh how I hate that term) about PoSA and a sense of the whole writing project as being valid and ongoing by your being there.

To the staff of Down Arts Centre, the biggest thanks of all for all the support over the years – Rachel, Denise, Donna, now Janine,  keeping the show on the road with their seasonal calls for the next PoSA events, marketing them, supporting the endeavour in every way. Sunday Afternoon isn’t exactly the most delightful time to be coming into work and, I need to express big appreciation to those who work the slot – Rita at the beginning, now Greg and many more – with a great deal of enthusiasm, and excellent refreshments, and patience with the amount of chatting that could happen at the end of the afternoon.

Celebrate with Us

All that is a rambling preamble (which may function as some kind of future record) to invite everybody to join the 10th anniversary celebrations on 30 September at Down Arts Centre.

Shared Space, 2.30pm – 4.30pm: At this, as all previous events, you are invited to share your own work or a favourite as usual. We are delighted to be joined by local songwriter Brigid O’Neill whose own song writing career we have watched go from strength to strength over the past ten years.

Featured Reading, 5-6pm: We are delighted to welcome internationally recognised poet Damian Smyth for a local launch of his most recent collection English Street (Templar Poetry: 2018). This is his sixth collection follows Mesopotamia (2014), Market Street (2010), Lamentations (2010), The Down Recorder (2004) and Downpatrick Races 2000.

All is FREE, doesn’t need to be booked in advance, and while we’d love you for the whole event, this PoSA is constructed so that you can come to all or either parts. More info from wordsfromcastleward@gmail.com if you need.

Final Words

In the event that this sounds like I am going away on a long trip, I am delighted to announce that PoSA goes on tour for the first time in November. The show goes to Kilbroney Park (indoors I need to say) on the 18 November as part of the CS Lewis Festival. We are delighted to have Colin Dardis in the featured spot reading from his recently launched collection ‘the xofy’ and the shared space has a loose theme of ‘things you find when hiding’ – inspired by a tendency for people to find incredible things when hiding out from something else that you find in CS Lewis writing. And.. January’s PoSA is also going to be very interesting…but one season at a time… Slow and steady had definitely got us through this decade.


Image at head of piece: ‘Time Bug’ by Emma Whitehead.




‘Experimental Procceses’ Launch Invite – @theduncairn #Belfast 13 Sept 6-8pm

Very inspiring to have had the opportunity to work with artist Lucy Turner on what is shaping up to be a stunning exhibition which brings together Irish Linen, shibori practice, indigo dye, and things found/gathered from the natural world and the artist’s evolving practice: with poetry from Words for Castle Ward associated writers as we worked in and through the weave of Lucy’s experimental processes.

My thanks to the writers who assembled for what was our ‘normal’ June new writing workshop and have stayed the course through the process.

Words for Castle Ward writers include Shirley Bork, Olive Broderick,  Colin Dardis, Helen Hastings, Wilma Kenny, Malcolm Kidd, Robert Kirk, Geraldine O’Kane, Alison Ross, and  Henry Shaw.

The full sequence REBORN created from this workshop is by turns affecting, beautiful and thoughtprovoking. Lucy has drawn words from this and incorporated them into artwork.

A word of thanks is due to Debbie Young at Duncairn Arts and Cultural Centre who originally invited meand Lucy in for a conversation/consultation about the possibilities around visual / literary art collaboration, and to the staff at Castle Ward who so generously make their Education facility available for the Words for Castle Ward’s monthly workshops –  and who have been very supportive of this initiative which has seen not only the writers, but Lucy herself, drawing inspiration from this beautiful National Trust property on the shores of Strangford Lough.

Really looking forward to seeing the full exhibition on the 13th September, 6=8pm. Launch reception invite below and all are very warmly invited.Lucy's invite FINAL

Walking by Water WIP – #knowingthedance #knowingfromwithin @ACNIwriting


My erstwhile blog has been true living up to its reputation that past month or so. I’ll be playing catch up in the next little while.

First on the catch up list is an acknowledgement of SIAP funding 17/18 for the Arts Council NI to do some further development work on the sequence of poems which emerged from the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ work of last year.

This collection incorporates the poem elements of the dance~poems (published in HU) created with dancer Paula Guzzanti and musician Martin Devek, some reworked elements of my three-line meditations on movement in words and poetry from April 2017 (National Poetry Month initiative).

For this development phase I am looking reworking ‘The Clock Repairer’s Companion, and then, particularly, at two other sequences of poems which emerged while doing this work. The first has the working title of ‘Walking by Water’ and the second is as yet untitled, though the work has coming together nicely.

I’m prepped and ready to do a bit of work on this during July – and the plan is to get a bit of mentoring support on the overall piece following that. Very appreciative of the support from the Arts Council NI for supporting me to do both.

It is worth acknowledging, as I am here, a professional membership bursary for the Irish Writers’ Centre which I very much value. My ‘income-generation strategy’, if I may call it that, sometimes means it’s difficult to be physically present at writer development opportunities, but I really value being part of these networks.

Image: Strangford Yacht Club, Castle Ward, June 2018.


Coast to Coast to Coast Irish Issue launches at @BelfastBookFest (9 June, 7-8.30pm)

Coast to Coast to Coast Journal designed and created by Maria Isakova-Bennett, and edited by Maria and Michael Brown, is a hand-stitched publication designed to be both a small piece of artwork, and a poetry journal. Each issue contains the work of a maximum of twenty poets, is a unique numbered artefact produced as a limited edition.

I am thrilled to  have a poem  in the Irish edition of this  beautiful  journal which also features new work from the poets including John Mee, Keith Payne, Heather Richardson, Stephanie Conn, Nessa O’Mahony, Michael Ray, Therese Kieran, Michael Farry, Annette Skade, Moyra Donaldson, James Meredith, Attracta Fahy, Paul Jeffcutt, Michael Sheehan, Karen McDonnell, Georgi Gill, Daragh Breen, Jane Robinson and Emma McKervey.

Really looking foward to the launch of the journal taking place as part of this year’s edition of the Belfast Book Festival. The launch takes place from 7-8.30pm on the 9th June with readings from poets included in the edition and an opportunity for open  mic. Further details and book HERE.

Find full BBF programme details HERE.


2018-04-03 17.13.14