Friday, 30 November 2012

Guest Blog by Pete 'Cardinal' Cox, Poet

“I was recently able to attend a talk by Sir Jonathan Miller on his life and work, from being a medical student to being part of Beyond the Fringe (at the Edinburg Festival, then London and New York), presenting the BBC arts programme Monitor, directing such TV works as Alice in Wonderland (1966) through to directing opera on stage. Fascinating, though he did claim not to be a polymath. If you get a chance, go listen yourself.

I also appeared on the local radio breakfast show once last month and when wandering through the city centre I was stopped by someone I vaguely recognised from the local pub. Perhaps he heard me, I thought. “You OK?” he asked, “’Cause you were really wasted the last time I saw you.”

Ah, I thought, obviously he didn’t hear me but I guess he remembers me from the pub. “Oh yes?” I said.

“Are you German, ’cause you were swearing away in German?” Now my foreign language skills boil down to two useless phrases in French, and no matter how often you ask them where your aunt’s pen might be, they’ll not tell you it’s on your uncle’s bureau.

“Err, no…”

“What? Haven’t you been in the prison?”

“No, not me…”

“Well there’s a bloke in there who looks the spit of you.”

Poor chap, I thought, in prison and looking like me. That must count as cruel and unusual punishment!

If any poets are looking for a good website to submit to I’d recommend trying The Legendary at as it publishes top quality work and isn’t limiting when it comes to the space it devotes to the contributors biographies. Look at a few back issues and if there are other poets that you feel an affinity with, check out their bios as to where else they are also being published.

Finally, let me wish all the Book A Poet readers a Merry Christmas and hope you have a productive new year.

© Peter Cox

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Together! Festival 2012: A free festival of disability art, culture and human rights

"The Friendly Festival"

There are still places left on this week's free Arts Workshops: Open Poetry with Cooltan Arts (Saturday 1st December 2-5pm at the Garden Cafe). We are also taking bookings for Gary Thomas's two-day low-budget film-making workshops on 5th and 6th December at Durning Hall. To register email or phone 07973 252751. For more information see

Good luck to the 14 people registered on our Poetry course with Cooltan Arts this week! Join us from 6.30pm at the Garden Cafe, 7 Cundy Road, E16 3DJ on Saturday 1st December for what we hope will be the first of many Pop-Up Poetry Cafes run by the participants. 

Registration is still open for the One World conference being organised by the UK Disabled People's Council to celebrate International Day of Disabled People on 3rd December. This takes place from 11am-5pm at St John's Church in Stratford, and includes the UK Premiere of SignDance Collective International's The Other Side of the Coin. Book via UKDPC: 020 8522 7433 or email

Singer-songwriter Marcus Barr has just released his video of Any Old Iron, about life in Canning Town in 2012. This was the highlight of a well-received set at our festival relaunch at the Hub in Canning Town on Wednesday 21st November, and can be found on the Performances section of our website.

Following a highly successful Photography workshop with Ian Farrant last Thursday, we have agreed to launch a Together! Photographers' & Filmmakers' group in the New Year and have already set up a Yahoo group so that people who are interested can stay in touch. The group will be Newham-based but open to all. To join the Yahoo group, email

Our exhibition of work by 45 locally based disabled artists continues at the Hub, 123 Star Lane, London E16 4PZ. We had a great review of the exhibition and last Wednesday's relaunch event from Disability Arts Online.

These are just part of a rich programme of free events being organised by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) to celebrate Disability History Month (22nd November to 22nd December), as part of the Together! 2012 festival of Disability Arts, Culture and Human Rights. Other activities include a three-day Film Festival from 7th-9th December; a Local History Day on 11th December; an LGBTea Party with Regard on 16th December; and an end-of-festival Winter Party with entertainment from Mik Scarlet, Penny Pepper, Angry Fish and Marcus Barr on 18th December. For further details, and for updates and late additions to the festival, visit the festival website at
You can also contact the festival crew as follows:
By email:
By text: 07973 252751
By phone: 07973 252751 / 020 8522 7433
By post: UKDPC, Stratford Advice Arcade, 107-109 The Grove, Stratford, London, E15 1HP.

© 2012 UKDPC Registered Charity No 1068743. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Open: 2013 Cardiff International Poetry Competition - First Prize: £5,000

Literature Wales is delighted to announce that the 2013 Cardiff International Poetry Competition will be co-judged by none other than former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion and National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke. Welsh poet Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch will continue in her role as competition filter judge.

The competition is now open and accepting entries. The first prize-winner will walk away with a cheque for £5,000 for just one poem. Further prizes available are £500 for second place, £250 for third plus five runners up will receive £50 each. The competition is accessible to all; it doesn’t matter if you are an established poet or just dabble with verse now and then. All entries to the competition will be judged anonymously, so this is a great opportunity to have your poetry judged on its own merits.

So if you think you have what it takes to delight our judges and get your hands on the top prize of £5,000, then send us your poems now. Just make sure your poem is no longer than 50 lines long, is unpublished, in English and is not a translation of another author’s work, then send it, along with your entry form and payment, to Literature Wales. Full guidelines and Conditions of Entry can be found in the entry form.

Click here to download a copy of the entry form
or to receive a hard copy in the post, send a stamped, self addressed envelope to:
CIPC13, Literature Wales, 4th Floor, Cambrian Buildings,
Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FL

For more information on the 2013 Cardiff International Poetry Competition,
contact Literature Wales on: 029 2047 2266 /

The 2013 Cardiff International Poetry Competition is administered by Literature Wales
and supported by Cardiff Council.

Source: Press release

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sue Hubbard Girl in White: A reading followed by talk and discussion

Thursday December 6th 2012 7.00-9.00pm

336 Old St, 2nd Floor, London, EC1V 9DR

+44 (0)20 7739 4055

In conjunction with:

Dominic Shepherd


Exhibition Dates
Friday November 23rd – Saturday December 22nd 2012

Gallery Hours
Wednesday–Saturday 11am–6pm
or by appointment

The award-winning poet, art critic and novelist, Sue Hubbard, will be reading from and talking about the background to her acclaimed novel, Girl in White, based on the life of the early German Expressionist painter, Paula Modersohn-Becker (born in 1895) and her relationship with the celebrated poet Rainer Maria Rilke. This will be followed by a question and answer session led by the painter Dominic Shepherd, whose exhibition, Jerusalem will be showing in the gallery.

Fay Weldon has said of Girl in White that it is “a literary tour de force, you are the less for not reading it”.

John Berger has called it “a haunting novel.”

The work of Paula Modersohn-Becker is not much known in this country; though as a painter she was far ahead of her time and deserves a place alongside the likes of Gwen John and Frida Kahlo. Sue Hubbard has broadly followed the events of her life in order to give colour and texture to her singular existence, as well as place her against the background of her times in Germany where, after her death, her work was denounced as degenerate by the Nazis. Her intense relationship with the poet Rilke, whom she met in the artists’ colony of Worswede on the wild north German moors, her eventual marriage to the older academic painter Otto Modersohn, and her struggle to find a balance between being a painter, wife and mother are issues that many women can still relate to today. Paula died at the age of 31, from an embolism 6 weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Mathilde. It is through the eyes of a fictional Mathilde, a young violinist who finds herself pregnant by her Jewish musician lover and forced to flee Berlin in 1933, that we learn of Paula’s story.

Please contact gallery for further information (details above).

Sue Hubbard is an award-winning poet, novelist and freelance art critic. Twice winner of the London Writers competition and a Hawthornden Fellow she has published two collections of poetry: Everything Begins with the Skin, (Enitharmon) and Ghost Station, (Salt) and a limited edition of poems illustrated by Donald Teskey: The Idea of Islands (Occasional Press, Ireland). Her first novel, Depth of Field, was published by Dewi Lewis and her acclaimed short story collection, Rothko’s Red, by Salt. The Poetry Society’s only official Public Art poet, she was responsible for London’s largest public art poem at Waterloo. Awarded two prestigious residences to Yaddo, USA, she was also the recipient of a major Arts Council Literary Award for her novel, Girl in White, published by Cinnamon Press. Her poems have been broadcast on Radio 3 and 4.

Monday, 26 November 2012


In association with PlayStation
Monday 10th December 2012, The O2 Arena, North Greenwich

Now in its 4th Year the prestigious Spirit of London Awards (SOLA) takes place on the 10th December at The O2. The awards were launched by the Damilola Taylor Trust in 2009 as a legacy project to Damilola and all the other young people lost to youth violence on streets of London through the Years.

The aim of SOLA is to demonstrate to young people just how much their positive endeavours matter and how much they are valued.  Looking to emulate the great celebrity awards events like BRITS and MOBOS with the only difference being that it is the young unsung heroes of London that become the celebrities for this event!

The Spirit of London Awards will this Year be staged at The O2 in North Greenwich on Monday December 10th and the line- up is both amazing and eclectic:
·       Labrinth
·       Diversity
·       Maverick Sabre
·       Chase & Status
·       Stooshe
·       Angel
·       Noisettes
·       ACM Choir feat Mizz Camara
·       Mcfly

The award categories cover virtually every aspect of interest and engagement for young people. The awards are open to young people aged 15 to 25 unless stated:
·       Young London heroes (5-15)
·       London Community Champions
·       Achievement through Music
·       Achievement through Sport
·       Achievement through the Arts
·       Achievement through Education
·       Achievement through Media
·       Achievement through Fashion
·       Young Business Entrepreneur
·       UK National Young Campaigner of the Year (5-15)

In an arrangement with UK Athletics and Team GB London 2012 all the awards on the night will be presented by medallists from the Olympic and Paralympic squads.

Christine Ohuruogu said “The Spirit of London Awards is such an important event and I have been lucky enough to have been involved every year from the start. This has been a fantastic year for London but the inner city areas still face huge challenges and so we should not lose sight of how important a project like this is – putting the spotlight on the positive things young people are doing is not just refreshing, it is vital if we are not to allow the small negative faction get all the attention – this is unfortunately what has tended to happen and SOLA brings some much needed balance in this respect”.

One final award is that of LONDON LEGEND – This award is voted for by young people and is given to an iconic Londoner they feel has graced London as a positive adult role model. In 2009 it was Sir Michael Caine – 2010 Barbara Windsor – 2011 Harry Redknapp.

Labrinth who also performed at SOLA 2010 said, “I love this event and all that it stands for. In 2010 I played an acoustic version of Bob Dylan's timeless classic ‘Times They Are A-Changin’ as I think that it's relevant to the project, and how it illuminates the positive things young people are doing in London”.

Ashley Banjo of Diversity said, “We performed at the inaugural event at the Alexandra Palace back in 2009 and then again at the Royal Albert Hall last Year. It truly is an amazing show and it is largely the unsung heroes that light up the stage with their stories – Diversity are so proud to be part of the SOLA family and cannot wait to get on The O2 stage this year to do our bit for the cause”.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said, “The Spirit of London Awards represents everything that is great about London and it is so refreshing to see young people being rewarded for their positive contributions on such a grand scale”.

David Cameron – Prime Minister said, “These awards represent everything that is great about the young people of our Country. They are a credit to their community and to their city and I am delighted to see what a fantastic job the Damilola Taylor Trust has done in the way the project now has the young people who have come through the awards actually running the event. An extraordinary achievement and a fitting finale to what has been an amazing Year for our Capital City”.

For Community Group Discount tickets 
For all other tickets:

Many thanks to previous SOLA winner, Dean Atta for this information. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

It’s Buzzing!, Guest Blog by Anneliese Emmans Dean

It’s my first published book, it’s hardback and in full colour, it’s published by a small publisher - and it’s just been nominated for the Carnegie Medal, one of the most prestigious prizes in writing for children.

Buzzing! invites children aged 6-12 to ‘discover the poetry in garden minibeasts’ through 67 edu-taining poems, heaps of factabulous scientific facts and over 170 of my close-up minibeast photos. It’s already been chosen as a National Insect Week recommended children’s book and teachers’ resource.

The Foreword is by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who describe Buzzing! as ‘a fabulous fun-filled flight through the wonderful world of the wiggly, wriggly and giggly … You’ll be edu-entertain-amazed.’

I perform a live multimedia version of Buzzing! – with projected images and music – to child, family and grown-up audiences nationwide in schools, theatres and festivals, as well as in more eclectic places such as eco-centres, botanic gardens, train stations and the UK’s largest planetarium.

‘Every primary school in the UK should book this enjoyable show’, says the newspaper review of my Ledbury Poetry Festival Buzzing! show.

And Anne Ryder of the U3A described my Buzzing! show as ‘Fantastic. Brilliant entertainment.’

With the first reviews of my Buzzing! book published - ‘a rhyming romp … captivating, humorous and entertaining’ - and great audience reaction to my performance of a Buzzing! poem on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, these are exciting times!

You can find out more at my website ( and blog (

Book details: Buzzing! by Anneliese Emmans Dean, published by Brambleby Books, £14.99Available from bookshops and online from e.g. Amazon and my website ( and

© Anneliese Emmans Dean,

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Robert Macfarlane to chair the 2013 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Robert Macfarlane has been named as chair of the judges for the 2013 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the most prestigious award for fiction written in English. Having been on the judging panel in 2004, he will now lead a panel of five judges in choosing the best book of the year.

Robert Macfarlane comments:

‘I feel very proud indeed to be chairing this prize, which has done so much to shape the modern literary landscape. I look forward greatly – with, it’s true, a dash of trepidation - to the 40,000 or so pages of reading that my fellow judges and I have ahead of us.’

Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow in English at Cambridge University, specialising in contemporary literature, and is well-known both as a critic and writer. He writes regularly on literature, travel and nature for The Guardian and Granta Magazine, among other publications.

He is the author of a number of prize-winning, non-fiction books. Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003) won The Guardian First Book Award, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and a Somerset Maugham Award. The Wild Places followed in 2007 and was adapted for television by the BBC. His latest book The Old Ways: A Journey On Foot (2012) was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and The Waterstones Book of the Year Award. He is currently writing a book called Underland, about subterranean worlds.

The longlist for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, ‘The Booker Dozen’ – the 12 or 13 titles under serious consideration for the prize - will be announced in July 2013. The shortlist of six titles will be announced in September. The winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize will be announced at London’s Guildhall at an awards ceremony on 15 October 2013.

The winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate), made history when it was announced last month, making Hilary Mantel the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice. In the week following the 2012 winner announcement, sales of Bring Up the Bodies increased by 474%, whilst sales of Wolf Hall (the first in the trilogy which won the prize in 2009) had increased by 707%.

For further information, please visit 

Source: press release

Monday, 19 November 2012

Job Vacancies - New Welsh Review and Planet Magazine - Deadline this week!

Part-time Vacancies at New Welsh Review

New Welsh Review is looking for a Finance and Admin Officer and a Marketing and Publicity Officer, to fulfil key roles at the literary magazine. The first, salaried, post requires a high level of numeracy and superb organisational skills. The second, offered on a remote freelance basis, demands a track record in marketing, publicity or copywriting.

Applications may propose a combination of both roles (max 4 days a week)

and must be submitted by midnight on Wednesday 14th November 2012.

For more information visit:
or email  


Job Vacancy - Assistant Editor at Planet

Applications are invited for the post of Assistant Editor of Planet: The Welsh Internationalist starting 1st February 2013. The post has two key roles. The first is administrative: the managing of subscriptions; responsibility for sales and joint responsibility for accounts. The second involves a support role for the editing and production of the magazine and website. Advanced language skills are essential and experience in proofreading is desirable. The successful candidate will have some administrative experience. A good knowledge of IT is essential and experience of databases is desirable.

Planet is a cultural magazine which covers a wide range of subject areas relevant to Wales and beyond. The successful candidate will be expected to have strong interests in areas that include English and Welsh-language literature and culture, the visual arts, Welsh and international politics, social issues, and the environment. All staff are paid the same wage per hour, and contribute to the creative process.

As well as publishing the magazine, Planet is a book publisher, and the assistant editor will be expected to contribute to the production process. Although the medium of the magazine is English, Planet operates a bilingual policy and the successful candidate will have a sufficient fluency in Welsh to be able to communicate with third parties and write formal material.

Planet is owned by Berw Cyf., a not-for-profit company. It is managed by a Board of

Directors, chaired by the Editor. Planet is published with the financial support of the Welsh Books Council

This is a part-time post (20 hours per week) with 20 days’ leave per annum, in addition to public holidays. The salary is £12,116. The successful candidate will be expected to take up the post on 1st February 2013.

The successful applicant will be expected to work from Planet’s office which is based in Aberystwyth. Applications should include a CV, a covering letter which includes your reasons for wanting to join Planet, together with the names and contact of 2 referees. Feel free to include a sample of your writing.

Closing date for applications: Monday 19th November 2012

Applications may be emailed to:
or sent by post to: Planet, PO Box 44, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3ZZ.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Fiction Desk's much anticipated new anthology is due out this month! Crying Just Like Anybody takes its title from a story by Richard Smyth, and features ten new stories.Previous contributors Matt Plass, Matthew Licht, and Colin Corrigan are all making their return in this volume, and newcomers to the series include Die Booth, Mike Scott Thomson, William Thirsk-Gaskill, Luiza Sauma and S.R. Mastrantone.

The Fiction Desk are also delighted to announce that they'll be featuring their first story in translation, with 'I'm the One' from Slovenian author Miha Mazzini.

Crying Just Like Anybody is due out in around two weeks. It's available to pre-order now from Amazon, The Book Depository and your local bookshop. For full details, please visit The Fiction Desk.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Sunday 13th January 2013 TS ELIOT PRIZE READINGS

Hear the poets shortlisted for the 2012 TS Eliot Prize read from their collections, in what has become one of the most loved and spell-binding events of the literary calendar. The poets are Simon Armitage, Sean Borodale, Gillian Clarke, Julia Copus, Paul Farley, Jorie Graham, Kathleen Jamie, Sharon Olds, Jacob Polley and Deryn Rees-Jones.

Royal Festival Hall, 7pm £15, £12
10% discount if you book before 30th November 2012

Contact the Southbank Centre

Monday, 12 November 2012

World Book Night, April 23rd 2013 - The Books

World Book Night are very proud to announce their 2013 list of titles - 20 brilliant books by amazing writers. We hope you like it as much as we do, see some old favourites but above all enjoy discovering what might become new favourites. Alongside some of the very best fiction and non-fiction they've also included two firsts - a graphic novel (Judge Dredd) and a Quick Read (Last Night Another Soldier...).

Application to be a giver has also opened and will close on 23rd January 2013, but they would encourage you to apply as soon as you can. Quite simply, the earlier you apply the more likely you are to get your first choice of book!

They've also relaunched their website to offer a much better experience to all their users. It's now mobile friendly (and easier to get round on your computer too) and they have lots of tips for helping you fill in your application and decide how you want to take part in World Book Night. If you have any questions please consult their FAQs.

The books are:

'The Secret Scripture' by Sebastian Barry

'Noughts and Crosses' by Malorie Blackman

'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Tracy Chevalier

'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde

'Casino Royale' by Ian Fleming

'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory

'A Little History of the World' by E.H Gombrich

'Little Face' by Sophie Hannah

'Damage' by Josephine Hart

'The Island' by Victoria Hislop

'Red Dust Road' by Jackie Kay

'Last Night Another Soldier...'  by Andy McNab

'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes

'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness

'The Reader' by Bernard Schlink

'No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency' by Alexander McCall Smith

'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson

'The Road Home' by Rose Tremain

'Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?' by Jeanette Winterson

'Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges' by John Wagner

For further info please visit

Source: Press release

Friday, 9 November 2012

Exclusive Q&A with Paul Dowswell, Historical Fiction Writer

Paul Dowswell is a British writer of non-fiction and fiction, writing mainly for children and young adults. He has written over 60 books, mostly with history as the subject, but also about geography, natural history, and science.

What inspired you to write about the First World War rather than a contemporary conflict?

I think the First World War hangs over the 20th Century like a vast dark cloud. It gave us the awful flu epidemic that killed millions of people as soon as it was over, it spawned Hitler and the Second World War, and created the Bolshevik regime in Russia and the Cold War that blighted the second half of the 20th Century. Then there’s the whole century of wars and upheavals in Eastern Europe and the Middle East that followed the botched and short-sighted peace treaties that ended the war. But mostly, I’m fascinated by the awful gap between expectations and reality for those who volunteered.

Contemporary conflicts need a few years between them and writing about them, I think, to get some proper perspective on them.

Have you always had an interest in that era? What initially interested you about it?

The war is now nearly 100 years old, but it still seems very vivid to me. When I was a child, I had an great uncle who had fought at Gallipoli, and another relative who had been gassed at Passchendaele and who remained an invalid for the rest of his life. I also remember the ‘Maiden Aunts’ – old ladies who’s chances of marriage and motherhood had been destroyed by the great imbalance between the sexes at the end of the war. But what haunts me the most is the terrible disparity between the patriotism, the ‘doing our bit’, the enthusiastic crowds who rushed to join up, and the awful fate that awaited them in the mud and squalor of the trenches.

Which of the three main characters in “Eleven, Eleven” do you identify with most?

I tried to make them all real but I know the boys who signed up for the British ‘Pals’ brigades – they were just born a hundred years later. I based my character Will and his background on my brother Alan’s family, up in Lancaster. Not absolutely directly, but just as a starting point.

Were Axel, Will and Eddie inspired by anyone you know in real life or anyone from history?

They’re all composites. I do find it helpful to find a photograph of someone their age and nationality and then I take it from there, imagining what they’d be thinking and what would have happened to them. I’ve tried to give them all attitudes that were common at the time.

Of all the fiction you have written, which of your books is your personal favourite?

Each of my books takes me a year or so to write so I can’t have favourites. It’d be like choosing your favourite child! I can tell you which one has done me the most favours though: Auslander. That sold in 10 languages and has taken me to Germany, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, France and Australia. I love travelling and it’s tremendously exciting going on these adventures to promote a book, or research it.

Where is your favourite physical place that your writing has taken you - be it on a book tour, for research, etc?

Really difficult to say. I went to Australia to research my book ‘Prison Ship’ which was hugely exciting and memorable (especially when I got lost in the bush outside Sydney). I stood on the beach at Botany Bay, and if you squint a bit to blot out the Radio towers, you can imagine what it was like to be the first Europeans landing on this strange continent, a year’s sailing away from home.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?

Show not tell! I have it tattooed to my forehead (backwards of course, so it reads the right way in the mirror).

Do you have any projects in the pipeline, which you would like to tell us about?

I’ve always been fascinated by Russia, so I’d like to set my next book in the Soviet era. I’ve just come back from Moscow, where I was looked after by some very generous, lovely people. It’s an amazing place and I’d really like to go back.

Where can fans of you and your books find out more about you and your writing?

I have a website, and also make fairly regular contributions to blogs like these. If you’d like to see more it’s prob. best to google my name and they’ll come up by the score. I’m not on Facebook and the rest of it – maybe I ought to be, but I do as many school visits as I can. I love going to schools to talk about my books and do writing workshops. I feel very lucky to be a writer but it is a solitary life and school visits are always fun and a break from my desk.

Thanks Paul!

Interviewed by Katy Hawkins.


‘Eleven, Eleven’

By Paul Dowswell
Published by Bloomsbury, 11th October 2012
RRP £6.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781408826232
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Axel is a 16-year-old boy and he’s just enlisted in the Imperial German Army, being posted to the front line at 2am on 11th November 1918.

Will is a British soldier, close to the British frontline on the 11th November 1918, in the platoon his brother commands as Sargeant. Will is only 16 and lied about his age to enlist.

Eddie is a first generation American immigrant, his family emigrated from Germany 40 years ago. He’s a fighter pilot, based at an American Airbase in Europe on the 11th November 1918.

Through spectacular, gripping storytelling we journey with these three young men through their harrowing ordeal, which starts on the day the First World War is declared over. Join them as they fight for their survival in the last few hours of the war, learn how the war ended for them …

This is a brilliant historical fiction novel, that I found breathtaking. Although fiction, the tale is based on a real event, a real war, where many thousands died and it educates in a compelling way.

Highly recommended for readers aged 11+

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Guest Blog from Nikki DiGiovanni, Poet

It was autumn 2010 that I entered The Peterborough Poet Laureate Competition. As the theme that year was Chemistry and it was for the city of Peterborough; I did what I always do and checked the dictionary. It said that Chemistry means "the study of the relationship between elements", so I began by listing all the things that made up Peterborough to me. Then I hit the internet and researched the history of Peterborough and intermingled my elements poetically in chronological order to create a poem that reflected the elements and people that have made Peterborough what it is today. 
Not since school had I personally entered a competition or even read any of my own poetry to more than one person; so being shortlisted meant I was jangly bag of nervous excitement in the run up to the final.

We had a frantic and fraught journey to Peterborough Library on that Monday evening. Everything look different in the dark and trying to find parking with a car full of edgy people certainly helped to distract me. I dashed into the John Clare Theatre and took my place. Regrettably none of the speaker’s words really penetrated my stupor until the poetry began and then the room lit up.

There ensued a battle of words and rhyme, of metaphor and simile; each poem jousting for applause, for approval and most importantly to win. When we had each read our poems the judges convened in another room to debate and decide who the winner would be and in the meantime the former, ex and past Peterborough Poet Laureate’s ably diverted our minds from the impending doom or delight.

When the judges returned and began with the traditional summations of the difficulty of the task, the high standard of entries, all ten finalists were no doubt swinging the emotional pendulum of “it’s great to get this far; to be shortlisted is an honour in itself and swoosh to the other end to “I want to win; I really, really want it, nothing less will feel enough”.

As is traditional they read the top there in reverse order and by this time I had convinced myself that getting third place was more than I could hope for and in itself would have been tremendous. My name was not called, my heart sank and my shoulders slumped; it was not going to be me; it couldn’t be – the other poems and poets were so polished, professional and word perfect. I didn’t even hear them talking after that as I drifted off thinking that this poetry malarkey was obviously not for me. Then I noticed people were looking at me and smiling, their mouths were moving and sounds of congratulations reached my ears as a wave of sound washed over me.

It was my moment, all my fears, anxieties and doubts melted away and my head felt like a champagne cork on the point of release. The rest is a bit of a haze, I read my poem again and the words blurred before me as tears threatened and fell. It’s very rare in life that you have moments of conscious actualisation; where you realise that you where you wanted to be, that what you wished for is now reality.

Cliché though it might seem, it was really touching to see myself reflected in the faces of my two boys and my partner who were in the audience. Especially when my youngest son had a mock struggle with the Mixy the outgoing Poet Laureate and then he held aloft the winners' plaque, like a victor's shield after a battle and declared he was the son of Peterborough Poet Laureate.

Click here to read: Peterborough Chemistry

So many lovely people came and congratulated me, it was during this time that Vivien from Poets United invited me to their group which runs on the first Tuesday evening of every month at Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services. Joining the group was like a home coming, they were  so welcoming. A great group of people who are so appreciative of each other’s poetry and the themed nights are great at inspiring and creating impetus for new poems.

 In January 2011 I was asked to write and perform a poem for The Holocaust Memorial Service to be held in Cathedral Square on January 27th 2011. It was a very moving day, beginning with the ceremonial walk from Mayor’s Suite to the Cathedral Square outdoor ceremony. Every seat taken and many people standing and for all of us the biting cold transporting us to the places and people who suffered unimaginable horrors.

My poem Unbreakable was a humble tribute to all people who stand up against tyranny and violence whether that’s in the course of normal life or in times of war.

Click here to read: Unbreakable

For Comic Relief I was asked to compose and perform a poem for the children of Queens Drive Infant School. The poem was based on the person that might have wielded the famous Peterborough Museum Bronze Aged Sword found in the River Nene, which was subsequently stolen, recovered and returned to the museum. 

Click here to read: BAM - Bronze Aged Man


The British Red Cross asked me to write a poem for International Day of The Disappeared. After meeting so many of the volunteers at their Peterborough offices together and hearing some of the Tracing Service's stories the poem I ended up writing focused on two stories that haunted my dreams and continue to move me.

Adeela Bainbridge and I agreed that the reading of the poem should have some deeper symbolic meaning so we Terry and Sophie of "My Green Backyard" who agreed to our proposal to have a tree planting ceremony and poetry reading. We had an open invitation which resulted in a lovely group of people attended, many of whom had direct experience of having lost someone.

After reading the poem, a copy was planted beneath one of the two trees and all those attending the ceremony added the soil to complete the planting collectively before sharing cake and their own memories with each other. It was a really special day and I still have my ‘forget me not’ book mark to remind me lest I should forget. 

Click here to read:  Family Tree

My Greenbackyard has been under threat and had a petition this is my poem for it:

The Peterborough Library has been very supportive during my tenure as Poet Laureate and has encouraged my development as a performer, the highlight of which was the time I was able to perform with signers for an audience that included deaf and hearing impaired audience members.  It took a little preparation to ensure it went smoothly and it was a real privilege to once again present reading challenge awards some of which were to second language readers which in my book is even more impressive.

The signers were a little nervous when I was wielding my sword when performing my poem: ODE TO THE VANQUISHED.pdf . Lots of people who were quite interested in my sword, it is quite heavy and one of a pair (in case you were interested). Over my time as Peterborough Poet Laureate one of the greatest things has been the opportunity to encourage others to pick up a pen, for the first time or again. It’s been a real joy to meet so many other poets and to share mine and their poems with each other.

If you would like to commission Nikki to write or perform a poem for your event please email information including the date and location of the event to:

© Nikki DiGiovanni 2012

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Black Watch (highly acclaimed Olivier Award winning show) - tickets on sale now!

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival, in association with the University of East Anglia, is delighted to present just 5 opportunities to see the National Theatre of Scotland’s multi-award winning drama Black Watch in England.

Since its very first performances, Black Watch has received standing ovations and enjoyed sold-out performances everywhere it has appeared. To date, Black Watch has played to hundreds of thousands of people across three continents and has won a staggering 22 awards in the UK, US and internationally.

Don't miss this rare opportunity to see this highly acclaimed Olivier Award winning show at the UEA's Sportspark in April 2013.

"Full of intelligent, heart twisting ambivalence, Black Watch is a landmark event"

The Independent



Hurtling from a pool room in Fife to an armoured wagon in Iraq, Black Watch is based on interviews conducted by Gregory Burke with former soldiers who served in Iraq.

"Few will come away untouched by this thrilling, raw, challenging and masterful piece of work" 

The Times *****

Viewed through the eyes of those on the ground, Black Watch reveals what it means to be part of the legendary Scottish regiment, what it means to be part of the war on terror and what it means to make the journey home again. John Tiffany’s production makes powerful and inventive use of movement, music and song to create a visceral, complex and urgent piece of theatre that is still as relevant as it was at its 2006 premiére.

Booking Information

UEA Sportspark, Norwich, NR4 7TJ

Wednesday 17th – Saturday 20th April, 7.30pm
Matinee: Saturday 20th April, 2.30pm

All tickets £29.50
Saturday Matinee £15

(Booking Opens Monday 5th November)

Telephone: 01603 766400


In person:
Tickets can be purchased from Norwich Theatre Royal box office. Open Monday to Saturday 9.30am – 8pm and 9.30am – 6pm on non-performance days.

Black Watch is in association with the University of East Anglia as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Please note, Black Watch contains very strong language, loud explosions and strobe lighting and is 1 hour and 50 minutes long with no interval. Strictly no latecomers will be admitted. An age guide of 16+ is suggested for this production.

‘Blink Once’

By Cylin Busby
Published by Bloomsbury, October 2012
RRP £6.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781408825808
Reviewed by Katy Hawkins

West has the perfect life until an accident leaves him paralyzed and completely unable to move or even breathe on his own. The future looks bleak, his girlfriend dumps him, and West believes the road to recovery is untenable (despite what his nurses tell him) ... until he meets the intense and mysterious Olivia. She becomes his best friend and eventually they begin to fall in love with each other. Meeting Olivia, whose room is next to his in the hospital, changes everything for West, and slowly, he begins to recover. But there’s more to Olivia than meets the eye - and West is stunned when he finds out the truth. The blinking of the title seems initially to refer to the way that West and Olivia communicate, but there’s a twist in the tale for that, too.

Blink Once is not the most unpredictable story and it’s fairly easy to figure out what is going to happen from about halfway through the book. However, having a good idea of what is coming doesn’t make the novel any less compelling and it gives the reader an opportunity to really become wrapped up in the complex characters Busby has created and the relationships between them as they blossom. The ending might not be the most surprising but it certainly satisfied me and although it wasn’t necessarily the happy ending some readers may have hoped for, it did tie things up neatly. I would recommend this book to any fans of young adult novels who enjoy well-written characters and strong writing.

Highly recommended for readers 11+