Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

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Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lost in Space

Space Walk at National Space Centre
For a poet writing about space, what could be more exciting than a day at the National Space Centre? This year, I've swapped derring-do tales of polar exploits for the even more epic story of space travel. Leicester's spectacular museum is packed with real rockets, space suits, lunar samples and a wealth of information. Delivered in well-constructed bite-sized narratives, the displays are both fun and inspirational. Today, for instance, I'm vying with kids to climb inside the replica Mercury capsule and fiddle with the buttons. Or sit on a seat shaking with the simulated tremors of a launch lift-off. But I'm still waiting to talk Yuri Gagarin down from his lone orbit on the control room monitor. Hang in there Yuri!

Exhibitions in the Rocket Tower chimed perfectly with the current poem sequence I'm writing about rocket designers Werner von Braun and SergeiKorolev. There were even parts of von Braun's V-2rocket on display. The complex and often dark context of the Space Race is vividly outlined in a time-line on the walls but you can sit in a replica 60's living-room to listen to the historic lunar landing of 1969. I was particularly delighted to see the story also featured first edition copies of Jules Verne’s' 'Round the Moon' and HG Wells' 'War of the Worlds' - sci-fi classics that inspired a generation of rocket scientists. Fiction often anticipated and suggested features of design that later appeared in real rockets like the three or four stage structure.

In the same way, the Space Centre is very canny about engaging the imaginations of today's children by using the cultural icons of our own time. My husband was quite giddy at being greeted by costumed versions of Star Wars troopers, Dr. Who, Batman, Stargate SG-7 and numerous apes in overalls. Indeed burly blokes of a certain age were queuing alongside toddlers to be photographed with the Dark Lord - 'Cheers Darth!' Hats (and helmets) off to the cast of Movie Mania - the Space Centre's themed weekend, who kept hundreds entertained all day. In the Booster Café, children jostled Planet of the Apes extras to jump up and down under the rocket boosters that blasted off every 5 minutes. Genius!


I particularly admire how this museum keeps tots and space geeks simultaneously enthralled. In the Planetarium, CGI effects dazzled all while serious science about the CERN Particle Collider or astronomical imaging of the Big Bang were deftly explained. In front of a Martian landscape used for testing real probes, a huge interactive 'table' allows you to access up-to-date NASA podcasts on Curiositys current exploration of the Red Planet. This centre is at once a multi-layered theme park and a conduit direct into cutting-edge science.

Personally, I was totally space-hyped by the time I was dragged away. But thanks to a free Annual Pass, I'll be back soon. I don't remember the Space Centre being this cheap - only £13 for an adult's day ticket. And if you book in advance and tick the Gift Aid box, you get upgraded automatically to an Annual Pass. As I start work on my rocket poems, hanging out by the Soyuz spacecraft, the Thor-Able rocket and Vostok simulator will be invaluable. Meanwhile Gagarin is still orbiting patiently in the time-warp that is Level 2. 'Poyekhali Yuri!'