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

My photo
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/

Thursday, 16 June 2016

When Song Breaks in Leicester

This week is Refugee Week. It's not an appeal for charity but a countrywide celebration of how our communities are enriched by migrants - exactly as Jo Cox outlined in her maiden speech. "While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again ... is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
At this moment in 2016, we more than ever need to celebrate not only the contributions of refugees but the possibilities that solidarity bring for all of us. We have done some hard mourning this week. Now we will do some singing of our shared story.
Credit: Ambrose Musiyiwa
Local organisers from the Leicester British Red Cross promise a day of 'A free and fun day out for all the family, a fusion of talented musicians, dancers and performers all drumming up noise for Refugee Week.' I've been lucky enough to be involved in Refugee Week Celebrations in this city for a few years now. And I especially pleased this year to be taking part in readings from an anthology published in 2015 to raise funds and support for refugee charities: the 'Over Land, Over Seas' anthology by Five Leaves Press. 'An anthology of 102 poems expressing solidarity with the refugees who are currently receiving so little welcome as they take to boats and rafts to cross the Mediterranean and make their way with difficulty through Europe. Readers are invited to take a view of the situation which is not governed by the fear and hatred whipped up by the language of media and many politicians.' You can hear some of these remarkable poems on the acoustic stage in Leicester's Town Hall Square from about 11.45 onwards.
Later in the same week I'll be joining co-editors Emma Lee and Kathy Bell with other readers at an event called VOICED on Thursday 23rd June at the Exchange Bar from 6pm onwards. This will again feature artists and musicians, including those from the refugee community. Poetry and story will be interwoven through a fabric of sound: 'HAIKI - blending soul and jazz sounds deriving from Ethiopia, MARCUS JOSEPH, who combines resonating rhymes and smooth saxophone'.
Finally if you want to get a flavour of what a vibrant joyful celebration of refugees in Leicester looks like, check out these wonderful photos from Ambrose Musiyiwa from the 2014 event in Town Hall Square. We were rained off last year but are hoping for a break from the Leicester monsoon this weekend! Either way we'll be making the music of our shared humanity. Join us why don't you if you're out and about.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

2016: ESA's Space Odyssey

Being lost in space is not so bad. In the freezing dark of the solar system's furthest reaches, you can witness epic adventures unfolding. Streamers of light two million kilometers long. Exploding slabs of ice-dust. A metallic blue-winged bird whose god-eye sees all. I'm talking of ESA's Rosetta space-craft and its miraculous OSIRIS camera tracking the progress of comet 67P. Like Rosetta, I have been zig-zagging around this black rock for some 20 months now, mesmerized by its sublimations and buried secrets. Finally this summer I got to land in ESA's webspace among a galaxy of artworks inspired by its extraordinary mission.

Rosetta has been chasing this comet for over a decade but for me it all began with the dramatic events of November 2014. Not since NASA's Apollo days can I remember a space mission capturing the world's imagination for one moment in time. It didn't feel like a scientific-body was landing this probe on a speeding comet. Rather it was we as a species who were exploring an unknown world millions of miles away through our robotic 'soul-bird'. On our television screens ESA's Philae lander was a frail white shape against black, a 'may-fly winged' metal box, plunging into the comet's underworld. A recent ESA video let us follow the lander tumbling like thistledown in the comet's low gravity, scuffing up surface dust, before latching onto a cliff-face out of Rosetta's sight. What an opening scene! The storyteller in me was immediately hooked.
Another unique thing about this mission was the way ESA narrated that story and shared the unfolding adventure with weekly updates on its blog and other social media platforms. Even the trusty lander Philae had its own Twitter account. As I began researching a poem-cycle about the adventures of Philae and Rosetta, the ESA blog was an invaluable resource. Over several years I've become quite addicted to my fix of black-and-white photos of the comet's craggy landscape, relayed back to us by Rosetta's OSIRIS camera. And I couldn't resist allusions to Egyptian mythology in ESA's naming of their space-craft but also their mapping of the comet's terrain. I became fascinated by accounts of the sun-god Ra's nightly journey's into the Egyptian underworld Duat. The analogy with Rosetta's 12 year voyage and Philae's descent let me knit the two narratives, ancient and modern, into one space-age adventure.
Initially my poem-cycle was written  for a special event celebrating a high point of the ESA mission in August 2015. To Perihelion and Beyond! was a show I staged at the National Space Centre in collaboration with Leicester Astronomical Society. In a piece of pure theatre, NSC's Josh Barker threw together a DIY-comet with iron filings, dry-ice and a splash of Shiraz. Professor John Bridges of the University of Leicester explained Rosetta in the light of science's centuries-old quest to understand our own origins by studying comets. And I performed my Book of Hours 'spells' or verses to guide Philae through the underworld of comet 67P. Reviewers described it as 'one of the more unusual spoken word events in the known universe’. 

My Book of Hours took the earthly form of an Egyptian scroll but when ESA contacted me to seek permission to publish this work, I rethought that. Teaching a module on New Media to Creative Writing Students at De Montfort University gave me the idea of re-crafting this narrative into a digital story. Now the Book of Hours is an interactive adventure where the reader or 'player' finds their own pathway through the perilous landscape of comet 67P, with its fire-spitting dragons and Mummy-King. Hyperlinks will transport you to another region of the underworld or to a fragment of Egyptian mythology or to ESA's blog where you learn more about the mission. Like Ra's 'crew of gods,' you can steer the 'midnight-barge' through false-stars and ice-dust jets to make it back to the light of day. Take a trip across our solar system, if you dare. The boat embarks at: https://sites.google.com/site/philaesbookofhours/