I spoke on ‘James Ravilious and the art of documentary photography’ at the Burton Art Gallery, Bideford, on Friday 10 May at 7pm, I have curated part of the exhibition Here: Uncovering North Devon, at the Burton Art Gallery (until 23 June). At the Simonsbath Festival on Exmoor, on Wednesday 22 May, I took part in an event about Ted Hughes and rivers, in St Luke’s Church. Salutary to hear Roger Furniss on the state of Exmooor’s rivers. It was delightful to read with other prizewinners at the presentation event for the first Save Manning’s Pit poetry competition, held at St Anne’s Chapel in Barnstaple, on 12 January. The young poets were very bold and good – congratulations to the judge, Julia Bird, and the organisers – the Save Manning’s Pit committee. The poems are on their website.
I gave a talk/poetry reading at the V&A at on Saturday 17 November 2018 as part of the museum’s conference on photography to celebrate the triumphant opening of the new Photography Centre. My talk was about working with the great and much-mourned Helen Chadwick. My poems were to do with David Hockney, Robert Frank, John Berger, James Ravilious and David Goldblatt. Thank you to everyone who said nice things afterwards – and to the V&A for inviting me.
I took part in the launch of Moor Poets 4, an anthology of poets connected with Dartmoor, with a reading at St Anne’s Chapel in Barnstaple on Saturday 13 October: the other performers were Frances Corkey Thompson, Pat Millner and Simon Millward, with songs from Tony Wade. Admission £7. The previous evening (Friday 12 October) I MCed the spoken word section of the fourth annual fundraiser for refugees organised by the North Devon Green Party, held at Sandy Brown’s Studio and Museum in Appledore. Our special guest was the marvellous poet Fiona Benson. Marvellous evening. The retiring collection totalled £750 and has been distributed to MSF, Oxfam and Tarka Community Refugee Sponsors. Warmest thanks to everyone involved.
I read with many other poets and friends to preview the anthology PLAY, edited and produced by Susan Taylor and Simon Williams in Exeter, on 1 October. My contribution is ‘Congratulations Croatia’, in which I reimagine the final of the World Cup. This very special anthology will be published nearer Christmas, with another launch in Totnes.
I read with other friends at South Molton Library, a very pleasant venue, on Wednesday 9 May. We were celebrating the launch of Richard Westcott’s new poetry book – ‘There there live much longer’ (Indigo Dreams, Spring 2018). The readers were Richard himself, Pat Glover, Pat Millner and Cathy Nicholls. We had a sizeable and very attentive audience and we all had a good evening.
I really enjoyed being part of the Artavian Singers Spring Concert at Heanton church, near Braunton, on Friday 13 April 2018. The evening was led by the irressible John Marston and raised funds for the North Devon Hospice. I read four of my North Devon poems. Very good and appreciative audience: lovely singing.
I took part in ‘Poems in Other Languages’ which is such a pleasing feature of the Teignmouth Poetry Festival, held in late March 2017. I read ‘Stillitsen’ (The Goldfinch), a poem by Steen Steensen Blicher from ‘Birds of Passage’ (1838) in the original Danish and my English translations. It was fun taking part in the Open Mic and Slam events. A very special festival.
I gave a talk on Ted Hughes at the Old School Room, Swimbridge, near Barnstaple, on Thursday 23 November 2017. Thank you to all who came – every seat was taken – and for all the kind remarks afterwards. My talk was in six parts, each based on a specific event and accompanied by relevant artefacts. I first heard TH read at Cambridge in November 1963 and was lucky enough to meet him and also work with him when I created an exhibition of his books at the V&A in 1978. He wrote me a magical letter in 1978. I heard him read on many occasions and attended his memorial service at Westminster Abbey in 1999. It was wonderful to re-read his works for the talk. A version of it was published a few years ago in the invaluable Journal of the Ted Hughes Society (online).
On 9 March 2016 the ICA in London held an evening in memory of the artist Helen Chadwick, who died in 1996. A distinguished panel, including Louisa Buck (chair), Cathy de Monchaux, Frances Morris, Gavin Turk and Dame Marina Warner, paid tribute to Helen’s enduring legacy. At the end, Louisa read my poem ‘A hand of feathers’, an elegy for Helen. The whole event is here: https://archive.ica.art/whats-on/legacy-helen-chadwick (the poem is at about in hour 26 minutes in). Thank you Louisa – I was away at the time. I have the poem on the Poetry page on this website.