Matt Panesh, poet, mastermind, whirlwind and festival visionary
The Winter Gardens – Venue – grand, shabby, imbued in history
Johnny’s Bar – Venue – where we build new histories and the audience are warm and lift up every performer
Friday launch and evening
Back in Johnny’s for the evening
Clare Ferguson Walker was a joy to photograph, a new friend
Apologies, right near the beginning of this blog, to those I missed over the weekend because I needed air or snacks, or was carried into conversation xxx
So, I didn’t catch absolutely everyone I wanted to with the festival running from midday until 2am each day. I am sorry I missed some friends performing, but so happy I got to see them and catch up. It was difficult to choose between supporting people I had seen before and seeing people new to me. The quality was so consistently high. But, I also wanted to chat and catch up with friends and make new ones, get books signed and drink in the September air and feel the rain on my skin.
I had some moments where I had to be outside in daylight and air for a while. I walked on the beach a little and I did venture into the arcade for a short time.
Saturday start with Dommy B and John Hegley – both were their usual joyful, energetic, engaging selves
Firstly, we sorely missed Barry Fentiman Hall who had to cancel the day before the event. I am hoping we both make it there next year.
However, the brilliant Trystan Lewis, who I meet at the first Morecambe Poetry Festival in 2022 and I knew he was good then and he has been getting about and reading in many places over the last 12 months.
He has great rhythm and internal rhyme:
‘I’ve been through the data of the traces left behind’ ‘not been honest with/in their sonnets of romance’
and I found this line beguiling:
‘If you can gaze upon the frightening face of this Medusa, full-square in the eyes and still not be turned to stone’
And ‘Don’t tell Dad!’ is a well-crafted poem of gradual progress and subtle evolution of a relationship between Dad and child. Moving and relatable. The flip to ‘Don’t tell the kids!’ is flooring. ‘Don’t tell the kids that we looked at the screen and we pointed at the shadows and they told us what they mean.’
Nina is a friend from Swindon Poetry Festival volunteering days and is based in the Midlands, so it was great to have chance to catch up and hear some new poetry from Nina and some from her V Press book, ‘Fragile’ and share late night toast, chatting and sharing poems in the Air B and B kitchen until the early hours.
I met Kate when she came to perform at the Huddersfield slam in 2022. Her poetry is an important, honest and moving account of childlessness and Kate shared poems from her book, ‘Imprint’ (Fawn Press).
‘I orbit what I lack’ was a compelling refrain and I felt the fact it kept repeating echoed the way the lack arises in life, but then is forgotten, to arise again later.
Other people seem to judge or guess at the lack of a child and make assumptions about choices and know the way life ‘should’ be lived.
I love the fact Kate leaves us with the warmth of ‘green footprints in the snow.’
Ben is an old Manchester poetry friend and I invited him because I am never quite what he will bring to the event, but I do know it will be brilliant, surprising and entertaining. I was not disappointed.
Ben’s set was playful and rhythmic and lines that grabbed me the most were these:
‘All masks are animal
bat cave silhouettes.
All howls are answerable
and his play was no more evident than in the poem ‘Newton for Hyde’.
Is started with: ‘Hyde’s for bitter…
and ended with these lines
‘…for newt of eye
eye is for apple
apple for Newton
Newton for Hyde
Newton for Hyde
Newton for Hyde
Newton for Hyde’.
I shared poems of beer and connection, 90s indie gigs and the sea. The audience was so warm and respectful, yet loud in their appreciation with whoops and applause. I reckon the biggest and best audience I have ever performed to.
Thanks to Louise Hart for these photos and to Matt for the loveliest intro and for inviting us to be part of the festival.
A little Born Lippy
I caught a little Born Lippy before getting out to walk the shore and breathe the sea air for a bit.
Steve Pottinger and Emma Purshouse are good friends who became even closer friends over lockdown as they hosted workshops and events online. I made many new friends through these online connections. I am ever so grateful some of their events continue to be online and hybrid as well as them having returned to real life hosting too. I realise how much hard work online events are – I find them more difficult than live events to host, personally. I met Richard Temple in the audience on the Friday night and enjoyed his set.
Another treat for the evening with good Manchester friends, Jackie Hagan and Gerry Potter who both owned the stage of the Winter Gardens. I was delighted to see and hear Jackie as Jackie has not been performing for a few years. Then, Roger McGough took to the stage. I loved his coat and is poetry was all I expected and more. All the poets in this takeover were humorous, relatable and unflinching in places.
Roger and Henry chat (Q & A) and the most amusing part of the festival for me – when I was talking with Manchester poets outside I return to my table to find Roger and Henry are in my seat!
After queuing for books to be signed by Roger and Henry and Gerry (I already have all Jackie’s books) I managed to catch some of the Welsh takeover.
Sunday – the final day
Rose Condo – How to feed an artist poetry and a roast dinner for all
After an interesting and useful symposium on how to make poetry walk in the UK Rose nurtured the artist in all of us. We got to blow bubbles, drink water and think about it’s origin and think about giving more and what that means.
Barney Hallman – German takeover
Barney was a new entity to me and I was mesmerised by this bundle of bright joy who was performing a poem about an uncertain snail for us. Also, loved the fact that when I had one of my request songs played he knew every word to The Sultan’s of Ping ‘Where’s me Jumper?’ and we danced and sang enthusiastically in our separate corners of the almost empty Johnny’s as one of the last moments of the festival.
The 4 Johns – Hull Takeover
Several Hull friends I hadn’t seen for a while were some of the 4 Johns. These four performers were a very different style to each other pulled together by the fact they were all sitting in a cafe doing puzzles or reading the paper and drinking tea.
Joy France and Skully
I thought first of all this would be Joy and a puppet or robot, turns out Skully is a person and they are battle-rapping emotional material on stage and it ended with a hug. Brilliant!
Sadly, Tony Curry could not make it over. However, it was so good to see and hear Chris Jam for the first time since lockdown and Rowland Crowland for the first time in a year.
Word Walkers launch of zine and absent friends poem
Big White Shed hosted the launch of the festival zine that was made from poems written on the Saturday morning and printed over the weekend.
Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay
Our final event at the Winter Gardens and consistently good poetry shared by an ex poet-laureate and Makar.
The final evening
Sorry I didn’t get photos of everyone – was flagging a little by this point in the weekend. It was great to see friends, Rich, Oz and Gordon Zola up on stage doing their thing again and new friend, Beth.
Matt Panesh – Final poet
And, what better to way to finish the festival than with some poems from Matt Panesh, himself? The audience was still as warm and loud as ever until the final applause.
A little dancing & some last photos with wings and Walter’s coat
How much love was there? A love poem to Morecambe Poetry Festival 2023
There was love in the form of water
in small paper cups.
If you took every tea-pot, wine glass, champagne flute,
every tankard and every barrel of Fosters, Smiths, Neck Oil,
every bubble tub on every table
you would still not be able to contain it.
You can’t buy this or bottle it.
This love is bounding out
like a puppy eager to greet you.
It hugs long and true
like a bear.
It is like a sunset at high-tide
taken through The Picture-Frame.
It is a view that cannot be improved
or imagined without immersion.
Like swimming in the Irish Sea
and shivering at the thrill of icy brine.
This love is like having your request played by the D.J.
even though it is The Sultans of Ping.
It is a German-Irish poet
sitting beneath painted wings
and singing out every word.
And we take this love home with us.
In the anthology,
in our notebooks
and we resonate with hugs.
As we were held by friends, by words, by accents.
We were held by song, grins and humour.
And we were held by this space created for us
to meet, to read, to dance,
and to love.
Soundcloud link here to the poem:
Listen to How much love was there? – Morecambe.m4a by Sarah L Dixon on #SoundCloud https://on.soundcloud.com/8aJLyhttps://soundcloud.com/user-956777371-966720437/how-much-love-was-there?
It was brilliant to hang around with so many poetry friends and in particular Lucy Power and Michelle Noonan who were excellent company xxx