portsmouth poetry 

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Heritage Lottery Fund awards £10,000 to Portsmouth Poetry to mark First World War Centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele

Posted on 9 April, 2017 at 16:25 Comments comments (37)
Heritage Lottery Fund awards £10,000 to Portsmouth Poetry to mark First World War Centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele Local cultural organisation �??Portsmouth Poetry�?? has been awarded a grant of £10,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project �??I Died In Hell�?� which will commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, 1917. Awarded through HLF�??s �??First World War then and now�?? programme, the project will focus on telling the story of Portsmouth people who participated in one of the worst conflicts of the First World War. The project will research participation by soldiers and civilians from Portsmouth in the battle which claimed over half a million lives. The experiences of local people will be illustrated in a month long exhibition in Portsmouth Cathedral as part of the 2017 Portsmouth Festivities and the results of the research will be shown on the Guildhall Big Screen and preserved in a digital archive. Folllowing the exhibition, lectures and presentations will be available to local organisations and community groups and a schools project for 11-14 year olds will enable local children to continue the investigation into this important piece of local history. Soldiers and naval personnel fought in the battle from July to November 1917 in some of the worst conditions experienced in WW1 as members of local regiments including the Hampshire, Sussex and Dorset regiments, the Second �??Pompey Pals�?? brigade and the 63rd Royal Naval Division. Three local men were awarded the Victoria Cross. The exhibition will be accompanied by a specially commissioned performance [not funded by Heritage Lottery], inspired by the works of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and other WW1 poets, in The Cathedral on June 20th which will present the human cost of Passchendaele through words, music and images. The performance is supported by the New Theatre Royal and the University of Portsmouth�??s Department of Creative Technology. Portsmouth Poetry is a mixed arts voluntary organisation which launched during Festivities 2016 to bring performance, educational and community projects based upon poetry in the city and was responsible for performances by Sam Cox the city�??s poet laureate and the iconic John Cooper Clarke. The Passchendaele project is supported by the Festivities, Portsmouth Cathedral and the New Theatre Royal. The research investigation by local archivist Donna Bish is aided by the Gateways to the First World War at the University of Portsmouth, the Pompey Pals Project and Alan Lashley of Portsmouth WW1 Research. Commenting on the award, Josh Brown, Chair of Portsmouth Poetry said: �??The enormous contribution to Passchendaele made by the people of Portsmouth and the suffering they endured is an important part of the city�??s and our own history. We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund in helping us to make these experiences known and preserving this heritage for the future�?�. End of release statement Further information For further information, images and interviews please contact Josh Brown, Chairman at Portsmouth Poetry


Posted on 11 November, 2016 at 8:40 Comments comments (0)

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash”

I have written too many obituaries. Eulogies for people I loved. The last grace and compliment as we say goodbye. When a life touches yours it’s not just that it bruises the soul. It’s a debt and these must be repaid, no matter how poorly.


For me, Leonard Cohen was an inspiration, a guide, a mentor and a friend I never met. That, in brief, is what poets are. They speak for us because they speak to us. Poets trade in common truths. This is how they reach us. And so, poets unite us through our shared humanity.


Cohen is a profoundly spiritual poet by which I mean not that he was some fatuous hippy or a 20th century mystic rather that, in a world increasingly superficial and secular where a cynical dismissal of the sacred is easily fashionable , he dared to write and sing of the eternal and the carnal together. He explored and praised our frailty. He examined the darkness into which we fall and the ladders by which we can climb out.


While the pop and folk singers of the sixties were warbling about love and freedom, Leonard Cohen’s rasping voice talked of the flawed human effort to grasp a state of grace that must elude us, “I have tried, in my way, to be free”. And that effort put clearly in its place by being shared with drunks!


Always dapper, everyone who knew him testified to a man who was courteous, self effacing and generous. He chose to live in a drab part of New York and later in a modest apartment above his daughter and grandchild. He regretted admitting that Chelsea Hotel No.2 was written about Janis Joplin. Doing so was ungentlemanly.


I saw him perform some years ago on the world tour that brought him out of self imposed exile. He was magnificent. No theatrics, just a band of magnificent musicians he was clearly proud to be working with and who felt the same way. Every song was presented as if it were as new and as important as when he first wrote it.


Leonard Cohen was unquestionably one of the greatest modern poets sitting comfortably alongside Eliot or Auden. He wrote the most covered song in Halleluiah and, less often recognised, was the author of two novels. The autobiographical “Favourite Game” brought immediate recognition but it was indicative that he chose to start performing his poetry as song in order to make up for the lack of income it brought in book form. Few, if any, ‘stars’ are that honest and modest about how they came to our attention.


Of the many poets who have accompanied me through the decades of my life, the two I turn to most often were Leonard Cohen and Dylan Thomas. Not surprising then that they should have written to examine our meaning and our worth, that their work should be disparaged in their lifetime and that they should have exposed the inspiration that drives all human enterprise.


I woke this morning to find I’d lost a constancy but then “there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.


Stree Art Project / My Dog sighs

Posted on 15 June, 2016 at 11:15 Comments comments (0)

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Poet Dr. John Cooper Clarke performs at New Theatre Royal

Punk icon and people’s poet Dr John Cooper Clarke brings his biting, political, and hilarious verse to the New Theatre Royal as part of Portsmouth Festivities 2016.

Clarke’s career spans over five decades, and uniquely makes its mark across poetry, music, TV, film, radio, literature, and fashion.

He shot to prominence in the 1970s as the original punk poet, and emerged as one of the leading voices of youth culture. Thanks to his satirical verse, delivered in a unique rapid-fire performance style, he became a seminal influence on the punk movement.

His acclaimed live tour is back on the road, with a mixture of his classic verse, extraordinary new material, hilarious ponderings on modern life, good honest gags, riffs, and chat.

He’ll be supported by comedian, actor, and writer Simon Day, who is famed for his brilliant character invention, including his alter-ego for the New Theatre Royal: Geoffrey Allerton, ‘Yorkshire’s foremost poet’.

Also supporting on the night are two rising stars of the increasingly popular performance poetry circuit, Clare Ferguson Walker and James Massiah.

Clare Ferguson Walker is an accomplished sculptor and talented poet who wowed audiences with her award-winning one-woman show at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

James Massiah is a poet, musician, and DJ whose previous performances before coming to the New Theatre Royal have included shows at the Southbank Centre, Tate Modern, QE Olympic Park, and Houses of Parliament.

Tickets for the performance, which runs from 7:30pm to around 10:00pm, are £24.00, with £22.00 concessions and an offer for students of £15.00.

Poetry-inspired street art coming to Portsmouth

A new piece of street art is coming to Portsmouth City Centre this month to mark the start of a new effort to engage residents with poetry.

Portsmouth Poetry and Portsmouth City Council are teaming up on a 15metre piece of art on Marketway, celebrating the work of acclaimed poet John Cooper Clarke.

The piece forms part of Portsmouth Poetry’s new initiative, led by internationally-renowned street artist My Dog Sighs, to produce poetry-based artwork to engage a wider audience.

John Cooper Clarke was chosen as he will be performing at this month's Portsmouth Festivities. The artwork will feature My Dog Sighs’ signature realistic eye, reflecting an image of the poet and lyrics from his piece I Wanna Be Yours.

Josh Brown, chair of Portsmouth Poetry, sid: “It’s a way of beautifying and cleaning up some dreary parts of the city and engaging people in poetry who wouldn’t normally be exposed to it.

“I’d like to thank the council for arranging this location — it’s fantastic. The main thing was getting a site with good footfall, which this has, and the more people who see it, the more it achieves.”

My Dog Sighs helped launch a street art festival around the construction of the Somerstown Hub in 2013, and since the community space opened, he has been a regular visitor to the Brook Club at the site, along with other street artists including Fark, Dharma, and Lex, all working with children and young adults on workshops and displays.

One of the most recognisable sights in the Somerstown Hub is a 38ft-high mural depicting another of My Dog Sighs’ trademark pieces — his Lost and Found stickman (pictured left).

Councillor Donna Jones, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to support this project. Portsmouth has some fantastically talented artists and we are very keen to work with them by providing an outlet for their talents and supporting artwork in key locations.

“Street art is a growing industry in the city and can attract visitors. Properly done it helps create a vibrant atmosphere for an area and is something we want to encourage. I have been in contact with My Dog Sighs and we are going to meet to discuss other projects and opportunities in the city and across the UK.”

Jeeves Williams Team Locals [teamlocals.co.uk]

See also - Strong Island, portsmouth.gov.uk, about my area

Poetry on the Streets

Posted on 9 June, 2016 at 7:45 Comments comments (0)

“To find extraordinary things, go to the ordinary streets!”
Mehmet Murat ildan Turkish Playwright & Novelist

Inspired by similar projects in Boston and by Opieme (the Italian 'Banksy'), Portsmouth Poetry and renowned local "street artist" My Dog Sighs are collaborating in a year long project to bring poetry to the streets in the form of murals illustrating poets and poetry.

Work begins on the first of these on Thursday 16. This will depict Dr John Cooper Clarke and some of his work ahead of his performance a week later at the New Theatre Royal.

The site is a 20m wall on Marketway (A3) at the entrance to the city opposite the Cascades car park. The site has been kindly supplied by Portsmouth City Council.

Our sincere thanks to Stephen Baily [Head of City Development and Cultural Services] and Jo Bennett & Sarah Lindley [Housing & Property Services] for their generous support and assistance.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davis CH CBE

Posted on 14 March, 2016 at 15:55 Comments comments (0)

"An audience shouldn't listen with complacency"

It with sadness that we learn of the death today of the composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davis. A delightfully unpretentious and courteous man, "Max" had to face controversy throughout his career. In 1971, Ken Russell commissioned him to write an additional score for his film adaptation of Sandy Wilson's The Boyfriend filmed in the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth. It starred Christopher Gable and Twiggy in her first acting role backed by an ensemble cast. In 2010, Max returned to the theatre for a reunion with Russelly and cast members to start the £4.5m fundraising to rebuild the lost stage house destroyed by fire a year after the film. His most recent piece A Torrent of Gold, with words by his old friend the poet George Mackay Brown, was premiered in January. His "Fanfare for the New Theatre Royal" premiered there on Friday evening.

portsmouth poetry

Posted on 24 January, 2016 at 13:30 Comments comments (2)

“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in.” David Bowie


There is a perception of Portsmouth as a rough uncultured city. Sadly, many people locally believe this misperception. The truth is that Portsmouth is a vibrant place with hard edges. It boasts two beautiful Victorian theatres within a comfortable walk of each other. A music venue that can claim to have headlined the majority of up-coming bands and performers of the last two decades. A university whose last two Chancellors have been respected cultural divas. A unique music festival with a national profile and an established and respected broad range arts festival.


Most, if not all, of this has been developed in the last 20 years. There has been a delightful renaissance in the city driven by individuals who have been prepared to do something to develop and improve the cultural offer assisted by a council sensible to the economic and community importance of the arts for the regeneration of the city.


In 2002 I was invited to join the board of the New Theatre Royal. I helped devise the project to rebuild the stagehouse lost to arson in 1972 and, as Chairman, oversaw raising £4.5m funding and completion of the reconstruction.


Having completed this personal ambition for the city, I needed another challenge to occupy my time. Poetry has always been my preferred art. So I set out to build an annual poetry festival.


We are a small but impressive team. Sam Cox is the city’s poet laureate and talented performance artist. Maggie Sawkins is an award winning poet. Liz Weston is a respected figure in education and outreach work with a talent to harness the arts in inspiring projects. We are assisted and supported by Portsmouth Festivities thanks to the generosity of James Priory at PGS.


We intend to work within all art forms. The project to fuse poetry and street art demonstrates that we are not committed to stuffy notions of culture with a capital C and involves one of the most vibrant and creative talents in the region in MyDogSighs.


Watch this blog for further developments. If you want to comment, make suggestions or get involved pleae use the Contact Us page or email to [email protected] Alternatively, place your poems, comments or favourite work on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/PoetryPortsmouth