I am busy promoting my latest book, Wildfire Through Staffordshire published by Mapseeker Archive Publishing. The book was launched at the Ancient High House in Stafford in an event sponsored by Staffordshire Borough Council and Staffordshire Tourist Board and there is a whole series of book launches in the Potteries, Staffordshire, the Black Country and Birmingham. Other books on the anvil are:
- The Black Country – narrative by Mick Pearson, editor of the Black Country Man Journal (Black Country Society) and artwork by Elizabeth Storey from her studio in Melbourne, Australia.
- Aldridge on a Roll – history of Aldridge with artwork by Maurice Ivor Birch
- Wildfire Through Cheshire – sequel to Wildfire Through Staffordshire and following the path of the wildfire locomotive up the Grand Junction Railway from Stafford to Manchester.
Wildfire Through Staffordshire is a pre-curser to the contemporary Lonely Planet Guides as a record to the people, places and times in Birmingham, the Black Country and Staffordshire in 1838. I was commissioned to write 22 poems for the book and have performed them widely including WCR FM, Bridge FM, Black Country Radio and on stage at open mic events.
I also write for the Black Countryman Journal (article one of a four-part series about Great Barr Hall – with poems – appear in the current quarterly of the “premier magazine of the Black Country”) plus the Black Country Bugle (32,000 copies sold every week). I am on the front page of the current issue because school children have been studying my poems from Wildfire Through Staffordshire and one of my poems (Black Country Summer of 1913 which was performed on stage with former Birmingham Poet Laureate Jan Watts at the Birmingham Rep) appears in Black Country Ballads.
I have performed at the Lighthouse Theatre in Wolverhampton, Bilston Voices and , in Birmingham, at the ORTE café and the Custard Factory. Jan Watts, former Birmingham Poet Laureate, has invited me to perform at her three venues at the Birmingham Rep celebrating the 100th year since the start of World War One (Soldiers Are Dreamers).
I have been Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate between 2011 – 2014. I am also Poet in Residence of Walsall Parish Church for the purposes of their year- long celebration for their 800th anniversary. I am guest presenter on the Ommer and Chain Show on Black Country Radio for Dr. Brian Dakin (Black Country Character Billy Spakenon) and Poet Laureate for the Scout Association (National Memorial Project). One of my poems entitled “Wednesbury, Woden’s Town” appears on the Wednesbury town website and was used by Professor Carl Chin for his article about the 1913 Wednesbury Tube Strike. This poem has also had the distinction of not only appearing in the Black Countryman Journal (as part of Professor Carl Chin’s article) but also in the Express & Star newspaper and the Black Country Bugle. The last poem I have written, The Tipton Slasher – A Fighter’s Fighting Man, will feature in a book about the Tipton Slasher by the Black Country Society and the Tipton Civic Society and Tipton Community Association website. Brief details of my Laureateship are as follows:
- 2011 – commissioned to write a number of Christmas poems for the Mayor for performances around Walsall (churches and the town hall) plus the Sister Dora Memorial. My poems based upon the Van Gogh piece in the New Art Gallery of Walsall appears on the Van Gogh Gallery website in America plus details of how people can contribute to the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal. I also wrote and produced a play, which went on a tour of community venues entitled World Citizen (Harvest Home) featuring a cast of Scouts and Guides. I was also commissioned for a community Poem with children for the neo-natal units at New Cross Hospital and Walsall Manor Hospital at Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre.
- 2012 – International Day at University of Wolverhampton and a live broadcast to students in Northern Cyprus, Malaysia and Japan. My commission went to the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal. Poetry workshops with Scouts with the Mayor leading to the publication of “Our Olympic Heroes”. Poetry performances on stage with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor as the Olympic Torch came through Willenhall.
Publication of a collection of poems entitled “Batman, Where Are You?” to raise money for the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal (Leukaemia Research) and performances of the title poem to 2,500 Scouts over 6 nights in Sutton Coldfield to raise money for the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal at the Sutton Coldfield Gang Show.
Performances at the University of Wolverhampton for World Book Day, compering and performing at Bloxwich Library Theatre for World Book Night (for the Mayor of Walsall) and commission from the University of Wolverhampton and performances for 21 and Proud.
- 2013 – Celebrating Walsall’s first Mayor from the BME community in the face of bombs outside of mosques. Helped the Mayor of Walsall smash all previous totals of fundraising with an epic £120,000 for charity (St Giles and Acorns Hospices). Compered a fund raising event for the Mayor of Walsall and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham sponsored by Aston Villa Football Club, Birmingham City Football Club, Walsall Football Club and Grovesnor Casino. Hosted National Poetry Day for the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal with a number of Councillors at Mapseekers Studio & Gallery. My poetry was also recorded on a CD with music (Poetry to Music) to raise money for Acorns and St Giles Hospices for the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal.
Details of the ten poems: –
- Heart of the Black Country (widely performed at open mic venues around the Black Country eg Barlow Theatre in Oldbury, Book Mark Library Theatre in Bloxwich, Wednesbury Library and Wednesbury Art Gallery and Museum). Following the death of Geoff Stevens, Albarz and I hosted Purple Penumbra in memory of Geoff Stevens (editor of Purple Patch Magazine 1976 – 2012) and this poem was written in his memory. Heart of the Black Country appears in the book “Maps & Sketches of Georgian and Early Victorian Birmingham” and published by Mapseekers Archive Publishing (one of 14 poems written for the book) and launched at Waterstones in Birmingham in 2013. This poem will also be published in Star Tips in July 2014 in memory of Geoff Stevens.
- The Scouts Who Gave Their Lives (Lest We Forget), in 2013 I was commissioned Poet Laureate for the Scout Association (National Memorial Project) for the purposes of a memorial at the National Arboretum in Alewas. This is one of the two poems that were commissioned and was launched at the Stafford Art Festival at the Gatehouse Theatre in 2013.
- Baggeridge Colliery, this poem was written for the book, The Black Country, to be published by Mapseekers Archive Publishing and was performed at the two day Rock & Fossil Festival in 2013 at Dudley Art Gallery and Museum. Following my two-day tenure at the Dudley Rock & Fossil Festival I was invited to write poems for the West Midlands Geo Park and to sit on the committee.
- Willenhall Locks, this poem appears in Wildfire Through Staffordshire and is going to be used for Heritage Day at Willenhall Youth & Community Foundation.
- A View of the Black Country, this poem also appears in Wildfire Through Staffordshire, published as part of a full page article in Praise of the Black Country dialect in the Black Country Bugle and translated into Black Country dialect by Dr Brian Dakin of Aston University (with whom I regularly perform at open mic venues and as part of the Wednesbury Town Hall Civic Players.
- Batman, Where Are You?, the title of a poetry collection published by Thynks publishing and also appeared in the anthology, Bards of Blidworth. This poem has been widely performed around the Black Country including the Lichfield Arts Festival 2013, the Lichfield Folk Festival 2013 and published by Star Tips. The poem was also performed at Bilston Voices before that venue closed.
- Cthulu, one of a number of poems in an anthology titled The Mortal Man – an anthology of poems to raise money for the National Autistic Society following the suicide of the son of Wendy Webb (editor of Star Tips and Wendy Webb Books in Norwich). This poem has been widely performed at open mic venues around the Black Country. I was project coordinator for the Mortal Man Anthology with the poet Albarz. This poem was performed and exhibited at the Boars Head Gallery in Kidderminister in an exhibition of artwork by the Australian artist Elizabeth Stoney who has a studio in Melbourne, Australia.
- I Miss You, one of four poems which appears in the Van Gogh gallery website in America and based upon “Sorrow” by Vincent Van Gogh in the New Art Gallery. This poem has also been widely performed at open mic venues and most famously as part of the Damien Hirst Exhibition with the Walsall playwright and poet David Calcutt.
The Lock Gate, this poem appears in Maps & Sketches of Georgian and Early Victorian Birmingham by Mapseekers Archive Publishing (one of 14 poems) and was performed at the Stafford Art Festival at the Gatehouse Theatre in 2013 plus a celebration of National Poetry Day at the Mapseekers Studio and Gallery for the Mayor of Walsall’s Appeal.
- Unity into Community, this poem was originally written for the Mayor of Walsall, the first Mayor in 636 years of Walsall from the BME community following bombs outside of mosques in the Black Country. The poem was also used by St Matthews Church (Walsall Parish Church) where I am Poet in Residence for the year long 800th Anniversary Festival. The poem has been performed on stage at the SNN Centre in Wednesbury on a number of occasions and currently appears in the latest edition of their magazine entitled Universal Target.