2020: first WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses and more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

A new year and a new decade – much inspiration for the writing activities and some forthcoming diary dates.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

– 11 January (feedback)
– 8 February (New writing)
– 14 March (feedback)
– 18 April (feedback – please note 3rd Saturday as the previous falls on Easter weekend).

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE. If you are on social media like our FB page HERE.


Date for your diary: Next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick) is on 02/02/2020 – World of Equals Theme (more info to follow). Followed by 26 April 2020 featuring Linda McKenna on the occasion of the publication of her first collection (Doire Press, 2020). Further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


Winter/Spring Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The first 2020 instalment of two great creative writing classes begin in late January (22 January) for ten weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours. Find further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


Ballynahinch Library Group

A monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.



The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.



Lions in the Landscape – Poems on a Sunday Afternoon in #Kilbroney Park, #NarniaFestival – 17 Nov

And in a letter to his brother, CS Lewis confided: ‘That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia.’

Come to Kilbroney this Sunday!

Celebrating CS Lewis love of NI’s beautiful natural environment, Down Arts Centre and Words for Castle Ward bring ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ back to the Narnia Festival on Sunday, 17 November, 2.30-4.30pm at the Cloughmore Centre based in Kilbroney Park.. All welcome! Admission – FREE, no booking required but if you require further information do email wordsforcastleward@gmail.com

Offering a warm and welcoming space to share your written work – poems, stories, songs – or a favourite, whether in keeping with the theme or not.

In our Featured spot: a wonderful programme from music group ‘Songbuddies’ and a rehearsed reading of new work created for this event.

About Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Ten years in existence, this ongoing event normally based at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick offers a chance to share new work – poetry, prose or song – or a favourite piece, whether new or established writer. Each event also features an author or a group with an emphasis on emerging local talent.

About ‘Lions in the Landscape’ PoSA feature

About Songbuddies:
Songbuddies are an informal group of singers drawn from two classes run by Laura Plummer at Down Arts Centre. Laura Plummer lives in Downpatrick and is a musician, singer and choir leader who writes, composes and arranges songs and music. Since 2004 she has run group singing classes at Down Arts Centre and founded the community choir Voices of Lecale in 2007 with whom she has produced 4 recorded albums of songs. She is a member of the Natural Voice Network. The programme of songs selected for this event celebrate the Autumn/Winter seasons and the forest, and include songs composed by Laura inspired by Narnia ‘In the Forest (always Winter, never Christmas)’ and the area (‘Bronagh’s Bell’).

About the rehearsed reading
‘Lions in the Landscape – the Perihelion Monologues’ is written as a series of three short monologues inspired by elements of CS Lewis’ life, and his love of NI’s wild places – particularly this part of the world.

Written by Olive Broderick, (poet and PoSA co-founder/host), this short piece will be performed in the form of rehearsed reading by Janine Walker. Janine is an actor, dramatist and drama facilitator. She is passionate about an arts approach to personal and social change. She is currently writing her one-woman play on baby loss that will tour throughout Northern Ireland and the UK in 2020. She is co-founder of Spanner in the Works Theatre Company and has just completed Tinderbox Theatre’s ambitious Play Machine Acting Training Programme 2018/19.

Janine currently sits on the Board of Tinderbox Theatre Company and was a previous board member of The Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She has worked in the arts for over 20 years with organisations such as Arts & Business and Arts Care. She holds a Masters with Commendation in Drama & Performances Studies from Queen’s University Belfast. Janine is currently the arts officer based at Down Arts Centre.

The Narnia Festival runs from the 15-17 November in Kilbroney Park – fun and magical events for all – further info HERE.

Love CS Lewis? Continue the celebration in East Belfast (22-26 Nove) – find out what’s on HERE.

@lagannavigator – 2019/20 #WaterwaysStorymakingFestival #Free #CreativeWritingWorkshops #Waterstones #Belfast #Lisburn #EastsideVisitorCentre #IamWriting

Following two incredibly successful editions, the Waterways Storymaking Festival No. 3 is in full flow and receiving submissions. If you’d like a little prompt for your inspiration why not avail of three FREE public workshops.

  1. Waterways Storymaking Festival Free Creative Workshop, 10 October, 2-3.30pm, Waterstone’s Belfast, 44-46 Fountain Street, Belfast with fab facilitator Lynda Tavakoli. Register to attend register to attend by contacting heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org or calling 028 9266 3232.
  2. Waterways Storymaking Festival Free Creative Workshop, 17 October, 2-3.30pm, Waterstone’s, 30 Bow Street, Lisburn  with fab facilitator Lynda Tavakoli. Register to attend register to attend by contacting heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org or calling 028 9266 3232.
  3. Waterways Storymaking Festival Free Creative Workshop, 23 October, 6.30-8.30pm, Eastside Visitor Centre, 402 Newtownards Road, Belfast with me, facilitator Olive Broderick . Register to attend register to attend by contacting heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org or calling 028 9266 3232.

Hope to see you!

WATERWAYS STORYMAKING FESTIVAL 2019/2020 Submission Guidance

Fabulous and growing response to this now annual homage to people’s connection with waterways. Here are the details of this year’s call.

Do you have a story, memory or link with the River Lagan?

The Waterways Community is inviting people who are interested in the rich heritage of rivers, canals and waterways and we aim to encourage people to record their memories and to create new stories and visual memories of their waterway.

With a theme this year of ‘Altogether Now’ we hope to inspire people to reminisce and record their memories of a waterway that is special to them. We aim to connect people through sharing their stories and memories of the waterways.

Calling out to individuals, community groups and schools to take part in the Festival. Categories are entered on a competitive basis and are designed to be accessible to everyone irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity or ability. Specialist facilitators encourage and develop skills and capture memories, this makes our Festival exciting, it allows everyone to express their creativity celebrating waterways past and present.

Workshops will run from August 2019 to end October 2019. Open session workshops will be held at Waterstones in Lisburn and Belfast (see above)

All stories and poems submitted will be collected and published in an anthology of works following the festival. Prizes will be awarded at our awards event in Craigavon Civic Centre on Saturday 1st October 2020.

The categories for the competition are:

  • Age 11 and Under

  • Age 12-17

  • Age 18 and Over

Stories should be no more than 500 words and poems should be no more than 30 lines.

Deadline for submission is Thursday 31st October 2019 at 5pm.

Submissions should be emailed to storymaking@thewaterwayscommunity.org

Submissions By Post
If you are unable to submit a piece of creative writing as part of the Waterways Storymaking Festival online via email, we are happy to accept hand delivered or postal entries to 148 Hillsborough Road, Lisburn, BT27 5QY.
Entries must have contact details and age category.

SOME ONLINE INSPIRATION?

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.

Words for Castle Ward New Writing – #LionsintheLandscape #APlacewithaDoor #CSLewis #Kilbroney

“You see, but do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

All are warmly invited to the next new writing workshop of Words for Castle Ward this Saturday, 12 Oct, 11am-12.30pm at the Education Suite, Stableyard, Castle Ward. It’s a new writing session. Bring writing implements, inspiration provided.

Please note that while this is a normal WfCW new writing workshop, the theme ties in with ‘Lions in the Landscape’ next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon taking place at the Cloughmore Centre, Kilbroney in the 17 November (2.30-4.30pm) as part of CS Lewis Festival on that weekend.

This year’s theme ‘Lions in the Landscape: Celebrating CS Lewis’ love of NI’s beautiful places’ draws inspiration from CS Lewis life and the wonder of the natural world – particularly NI’s wilder landscape. We will be joined at PoSA by ‘Songbuddies’ under the direction of Laura Plummer, with rehearsed readings of new work as part of the feature.

As always everyone is invited to bring and share a piece – poem, story, song etc – of their own or a favourite. Work that meets the theme is entirely optional, and while the workshop is inspired by the theme of this event there is no need to have attended the workshop to read at PoSA, or, indeed, to attend at Kilbroney if you attend the workshop.

More info about the group here: https://lettersfromladyn.wordpress.com/words-for-castle-ward/ – I ask that people let me know if they will be attending on wordsforcastleward@gmail.com so that I have a sense of numbers.

Next session – 16 Nov – feedback session

WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses and more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

Autumn Season round up of development opportunities for writers in the area as has become my custom! Here are a selection of activities welcoming participation.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

14 Sept (Feedback) 14 Sept (Feedback), 12 October (new writing), 16 November (feedback – please note not 2nd Saturday), 14 December (feedback) 11 May (Feedback), 8 June (New Writing), 10 Aug (Feedback), 14 Sept (Feedback)

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE. If you are on social media like our FB page HERE.


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Our next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on 29 May, 2.30-4.30pm at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick with the usual warm invitation to share your own work. In our featured spot is Gerry McCullough whose first novel, Belfast Girls, (Night Publishing, 2010), was a #1 bestseller on paid UK Kindle. It was republished in 2012 by Precious Oil Publications, who went on to publish 14 other books by Gerry, including 4 collections of her popular stories of the lovable rogue Old Seamus (available in Amazon paperback and Kindle editions). In addition to her prose work, Gerry is an award-winning and widely published short story author and poet. She lives just outside Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, is married to singer-songwriter, writer, radio presenter and publisher Raymond McCullough, and has four children.. All welcome. The event is free to attend and no booking is required. More information: http://www.downartscentre.com

Date for your diary: Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on the move for our November session. Put a hold on November 17 for a second celebration of all things CS Lewis at Kilbroney. Times and further details tbc.


Autumn Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The autumn instalment of two great creative writing classes begin in late September (25 May) for ten weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is particulary for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours. Find further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


New Group in Ballynahinch Library

A new monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.



The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.


Not the queue for Words for Castle Ward 🙂 – Antiques Roadshow being filmed here in July.


@lagannavigator – 2019/20 #Waterways Storymaking Festival: Invitation to Groups

Following two incredibly successful editions, the Waterways Storymaking Festival is a firm fixture on the annual calendar – and working towards season no. 3!

If you haven’t already gotten a copy ‘Reflections 2’ – a collection of all of the stories and poems from the Waterways Storymaking Festival 2018/19 – it is now available at £5.00 each from Lagan Navigation Trust. Some of the first ‘Where my River Flows’ anthology may also be available for purchase if you are interested. Contact heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org for more information.

WATERWAYS STORYMAKING FESTIVAL No. 3

In anticipation of its third festival, Lagan Navigation Trust are now welcoming contact from groups – creative writing groups or community groups of any kind  – who would like the opportunity of having a facilitated workshop with the river as a theme. Easy-going and interesting, the two-hour sessions also provide inspiration and the chance to draft work to submit to next year’s anthology should participants choose. There are prizes in all categories of submission – poem, short story and age category. Primary and Secondary school teachers, does this sound like something that might interest your students?  Contact heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org for more information and to request a workshop for your group or school.

Not in a group? Why not join an open workshop? Storymaking workshops will be running in late Summer through Autumn and will include a number of Open Workshops where everybody is invited to get together and talk, dream and write about waterways including Lagan Navigation. Further details will be available in late Summer.

WANT TO GET INSPIRED EARLY?

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.

In praise of those who call out the muse – @abridged030 #poetry #art

There is a chapter in Julia Cameron’s well known book ‘The Artists’ Way’ that uses the phrase ‘dragging home the invisible bone’ to describe the anticipation an artist (whatever their medium of choice) feels when taking a piece of work that has excited them to create to its first audience.

There is a story the then-principle of the Traveller Primary School in Dublin told at a conference I attended many years ago about a little girl who came home to her mother and pulled at her to get her attention. ‘Mam, mam’ her daughter said ‘I was in school today.’ The mother looked at her little one and said’ I know. Sure I took you there myself’. ‘No’ said the baby bird with determination. ‘I was in SCHOOL today.’ The mother was wise enough to know that there was more to what was being said than was being said, if you follow. So she dropped what she was doing and listened and it turned out that after the lessons were done a bit early, the little girl’s teacher had said they could make jigsaws. And, so the little girl explained, the picture on hers was of a gypsy caravan. It was, the Principle told us, actually an old-fashioned tin-lid picture of a horse drawn candy-stripe caravan the like of which never travelled the roads of this country, but what it represented was the first time that little girl had had a reflection of her world in the ‘school’ environment that she was in. She was in school.

There is a story told about David Marcus – known among other things for his initiation of the Irish Hennessy Awards. The story went, and I have no reason to believe it wasn’t true, he would go round the houses of various poets and say ‘we haven’t heard for you for awhile. Are you writing?’ or ‘Have you a poem for me?’ even better.

There is a story, which may not be true, about a woman whose power of listening was so great that a bird that had never sung, began to find its voice in her presence. That story of the right kind of sustained attention to the power and beauty of the voice (here I mean poetry) continues to move me.

There is a point to all of this. There is a magazine sitting in state on my sofa here across the room that I just received this morning by post. The ‘DELETE’ edition of Abridged Leviathan (Ctrl + Alt +Delete) series. I did not think, nor need for there to be, an issue to equal ‘That Nostalgia is a Loaded Gun’ but it appears there is. The Leviathan and links post is to follow. But the link to the magazine with all editions available online HERE.

A Note about Innovation and the Value of Criticism

I was thinking about Ezra Pound this morning. It’s a name that makes me break out in rash but I’m always drawn back to the fact that he was in the midst of a lot of change in understanding about what poetry is, and what it might become. I have to give him that – and that his milieu who were certainly at the forefront of imagism, if not quite modernism, were quite unusually gender balanced. (Not maybe so much on the modernism side of things but that’s into a whole other river system). Innovation of systems, any system, is necessary. It’s a bit like children’s clothes. The parent buys sizes too big – so things don’t sit right at the beginning. Then the wonder time comes when all sits and fits just perfectly. Óchón, though, it doesn’t last long and then there is the ugly struggle. One fighting because they are putting off the cost of the new – and how do they grow so fast? The other because they are pure embarassed by the current state of ‘too small’ clothing. It’s a daft example but it does cover what it feels like to me. Innovative work is the ‘new clothes’. Everybody, kind of, wants that best-fit stage but this is not a static situation. What feels like ‘you can’t be doing that…sake (!)’ to one, can feel ‘over-used and much abused promises of delight’ to another. Some people are born to push the envelope, others would rather be writing in the language of Shakespeare’s choice.

‘We/I don’t want to talk about it.’ If I had a penny for all the times I’ve had that answer to my opener of ‘where is the stretch, the pull, the future in this indefinable thing we call poetry’ question. I started this blog as a way of documenting what were previously ephemeral and intense bursts of study into the rationale of aspects of my work. (The pronoun-and-power issue is on my mind at the moment, for example). Questions that have no (right) answer but by asking them you are drawing the whole project forward. A kind of going to the foundation and the future in one fell swoop. The record is for me so I know where I’m at.

I adore everything about poetry. It’s letterly existence. It’s size. It’s shape. It’s correspondance to other uses of language. It’s now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t shifts in the continuum between art and communication. It’s mad koan-like littleness and significance. And it is this adoration, I suspect, that has led to an excitment about what Ian Sansom once described, and I forever after quote, as the ‘excess of love’ that is criticism. Not the ‘now I’m going to tell you what you are doing wrong’ sort but the ‘this is pure class – now let’s knock it about a bit to see what will happen next’ variety. (A small note: I had been writing poetry and reading whatever poet’s reflections on development in their own writing, and poetry writing aspects in general, that I could get my hands on for almost twenty years before I entered the sphere of connecting to a sense of public for the work. So I was standing up on the surfboard, so to speak, in terms of where I was on what an old economics lecturer I had would have called ‘conversations in the primeval forest.’ before opening my beak in those conversations, if I could have found physical versions of them. This kind of conversation is less useful to those starting out with writing though, imho, as I did need to pick up a sense of my own resonance and voice before I was sure I could speak without a loading of ‘there’s a definitive and forever answer out there and I’m going to find it.. so help me’ in my offering).

That’s the scenic route to talking about the beauty of the Abridged project to my writing life. The talk about the poetry is all fine and well. But the first thing is to produce the poetry and put it out there. Maybe you are like me and your poetry writing endeavours include the odd innovative moment, by which I mean with some generosity of speaking in terms of my own work, ‘attractively odd’ . Are they innovative? Who knows – that’s the talk at the after-party. But within the pages of Abridged, consistently, there is work by other poets – flanked by incredible visual artists – where I know the poets are exploring the same territory. How do I make the sound that can kill someone (a la Kate Bush) or, alternatively, the sound that will ‘move the world to pity’ – and how will I place it on the page? Here, not only can I showcase the kettle that I have beaten until I’m pretty sure it has it’s own original music, I can also encounter other work has been beaten with the same kind of spoon. Some of my best work has appeared here (by which I mean where I’ve really pushed up against my own limits) and what I want to appreciate in this post is the call-and-answer for me of Abridged. These ‘invisible-bone’ poems, because that is what they are to me, dragged home and met with affirmation equals a happy muse ready for further action. This sense of a ‘knock on the door’ that is the circulation of a new theme for the magazine. The sense of attention to the magazine’s own business which means that I’m not trying to hit a moving target or that any rejection is personal.

A Note about Rejection

Criticism first, now rejection – two thorny subjects in every realm of human endeavour – and, yet, essential to know how to manage, because these can be best friends to a body if a body can get into the right space with them when going through the rye. It is not accurate to say that I am delighted to have a poem in each of the Leviathan editions. I am delighted because the three that are there now – each in its own way representing an upleveling of my own work – are IN it. I have received the nicely worded ‘no thanks’ from this magazine as well – and for work that I was excited about. That makes the acceptance even more of a good thing. Rejection of work is a very useful thing if it primes your pencil. Rejection, however, that leaves you confused about how to go forward and personally invalidated is not useful and should be avoided. A quick note to say, by the way, I don’t think that editors or publisher’s should be doing the work of workshop facilitators or first readers. I send out my best work, while I value affirmative feedback (even if it isn’t shiny), all I want and expect is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. I try to discern where my work might contribute to the overall being of the journal and its ethos, then I trust that those magic makers, those creative souls, on the other end have divined how my work and their publication can align like a night with a good portent in its sky. It’s not an exact science. I try and try again sometimes, I try once and then give up other times, and sometimes I hit the send button intermittently. Some wonderful journals which I utterly respect, I have spared a ‘what do you think that was all about’ moment altogether. If you have received a rejection from Abridged, do refer to their notes – read the publication, write work that fits and give it your best shot. It it fits, it’ll sit very well.

A note to ‘page poets’. Generally ‘page poetry’ is taken to mean work that is meant to be read (eyes or voice) rather than performed. But poetry on the page automatically enters it into the realm of the visual. I’m seeing some really gripping layouts in the DELETE edition that I’ll be interrogating. When I’m finished taking in the poems, I’ll be looking for the feel, the added dimension, the hit to the system coming from this one-of-many elements of the poetry. I’m interested in this generally and I think our visual articulateness in the written context is growing. There is a sense of going beyond the ‘it’s got a shape, it’s a concrete poem’ mentality to understanding placement on the page and how to use negative space in terms of overall carriage of the poem from the page to the receiver. ‘Learn about the pine, from the pine’, as a famous haikuist once said – learn about visual from the visual artists and there is a nice conversation between the two realms continuing here.

Angostura Bitters

I didn’t come across the concept of bitters or sours until my early twenties. Things, up to that in my life, were either sweet or they weren’t mentioned. But bitters are the bomb. They really are. You need both in your life. Too much sweetness cloys and induces a sense that from somewhere, shortly, will follow a waft of the stench of decay. Keats knew what he was talking about when he confused us all with that truth and beauty business. That is to say that I will write as politely and sweet-mouthed as the next, if the muse arrives and makes a good case for it and it’s got no sniff of the intent to hurt or harm about it. But isn’t it really, actually, the role of poetry to ‘eff the ineffable’ and, in a whole lot of cases, isn’t the ineffable not that pleasant and isn’t it a complete relief that somebody, somewhere is saying what shouldn’t be said about what nobody’s comfortable to mention. I can feel pure relief out of my fingers as I type. Isn’t that the role of the poet, in a lot of ways. As an active reader of the magazine’s content, exploring the work in Abridged gives me that sense of relief.

Congratulations to all involved. Sorry to be missing tonight’s launch. Many more wonderful editions to come!