Cockenzie Primary School Literary Festival 2016 Poetry Workshop

I was thrilled to be invited by Janey Nicol, P4 class teacher at Cockenzie Primary School, East Lothian, to be involved with the school’s first ever Literary Festival in February 2016.  She requested a poetry workshop with P1s.  With over 50 children in the group, we had lots of fun with a poem for children I wrote and used a few years ago.  We messed about with props, and I showed them on flip chart paper how I illustrated the poem using skills I learned at Edinburgh College of Art summer schools over three years, with Robbie Bush and Mina Braun.

Here are P1 doing a noisy nosey warm-up mantra, where they discover the joy of ‘sneezing’ out words, whilst also learning how to keep germs to themselves!

img_0758I was also really pleased to be able to assist in recommending authors and poets to be involved in the festival.  Over the last few years I’ve been privileged to get to know poets and authors and their work.  This came in really handy.  Cockenzie pupils delighted us all with this ‘Thank you’ poster.  We loved the imaginative, artistic way they designed it.  Well done Cockenzie Primary School!  I wish you well for your new academic year, with a new set of P1s joining the school as the P7s move up to secondary school.

Here I am amongst a fabulous line-up of poets and authors …

... amongst a fabulous line-up of poets and authors ...
A few more images of the poetry workshop, with two of my characters, ‘Poppy’ and ‘Jake’.img_0759 img_0760 img_0761 img_0765


September Blog

4-6 September

It was an absolute delight to drive to Callander for the annual Callander Poetry Weekend hosted by Sally Evans and Ian King in King’s Bookshop. It’s the first time I’ve gone for the whole weekend, and had I not made a navigational error (satnav-free car, but not for much longer!) I’d have got there for the start. As it was I caught the last of founding Editor Sheila Wakefield’s poems. You can see from the programme what an exciting and varied programme we enjoyed over the weekend. I was honoured to play my clarsach again (the image on Sally’s page is of me from two years ago, on the weekend when City of Adelaide was taken off the slipway at Irvine in preparation for her voyage to South Australia).

I made many new friends that weekend, and it was lovely to catch up with those I know already, including Kevin Cadwallander, who generously made the film as well as read my poem City of Adelaide Bleeds, (see below) the first of many dedicated to my special ship and our voyage together. On Sunday morning some poets gathered at the Memorial Garden along with Magi McGlynn to pay respects to the memory of Tessa Ransford – Founding Director of The Scottish Poetry Library, Elizabeth Burns – poet and good long-standing friend of Sally’s, and Ian’s, and Dominique Carton who was known to many for his excellent photographic recordings of past CPW events

Following this, several of us explored and enjoyed the beautiful vicinity, catching inspiration to write a poem relevant to the weekend. We later shared the feast of glorious words and some music in Sally and Ian’s magical garden where the sun continued to shine on us, the chickens clucked and a dog barked their appreciation, and one of us was lucky enough to be stung by one of their bees. Obviously not a fan of poetry! See also

I left Callander enriched by the wonderful hospitality, company, words, music, laughter, congeniality and environment.

With thanks to Sally and Ian for giving us this very special Callander weekend to put in our calendars!


BBC3 The Verb – Sea Special – Ira Lightman


On 13th July 2015 I was delighted to be asked by poet Ira Lightman, a regular on BBC3 The Verb, ( to collaborate with him on a commissioned poem using Standard Marine Communications Language in ‘dactylic hexameter’. We wrote the poem as dialogue, with me being rescued from the Corryvreckan whirlpool off the west coast of Scotland between Scarba and Jura by Ira, and then us voyaging together to Salford, Manchester.

We were to record at BBC Studios at Salford on Thursday 16th. I took the train to Newcastle where I met Ira and we travelled to Manchester together, returning later that day. The programme went out on Friday 17th.

We were very fortunate to have the spontaneous added atmosphere to our poem of fellow guests the Ballina Whalers humming background as we read. The Ballina Whalers are : Pete Truin, Jamie Doe and Sam Brookes, who sing sea shanties in gorgeous harmony.

South Uist poet Niall Campbell, winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for his 1st collection ‘Moontide’, published by Bloodaxe, was also on the programme, as well as novelist Susan Sellers who spoke on Virginia Woolf.

A Petit Pot of my Writing so far …

In 2006 I attended a couple of Arvon courses, in June at Moniack Mhor in Writing for Children which was my principal interest at the time.  This was with Mhairi Hedderwick and Cathy McPhail.  In July I went to The Hurst in Shropshire and indulged in  Travel Writing with Rory McLean and Miranda France.

Between 2009 and 2011 I was really privileged to work with children in Primary One to Primary Five across schools in East Lothian, freelancing with East Lothian Council Arts Service.  The work was part of the Curriculum for Excellence, and designed to give the children a different learning experience to formal teaching by having an artist delivering poetry workshops during which the children achieved four learning outcomes.  The children produced some amazing work.

One child inspired me to write the following poem.  She was reluctant to participate in the poetry workshop; I encouraged her to draw a picture into which she might later put words.



The northern light paled her small face

as she stared at the Arctic wilderness

that stretched before her

and stilled her hand.


All around sea lions barked

and clapped their flippers

at the great sounds they made

eager to make more.


The wind carried her hurt voice

to a distant polar bear

who slipped across the floes

to crouch beside her.


His breath shrouded her head

and she inhaled a power

that cracked the ice

and melted a spark into her hazel eyes.


Her fingers brimmed with colour

and caused an Aurora Borealis

that crackled and danced a path

into her darkness till her story unfroze.


She traced the footsteps of the polar bear

to the edge of an iceberg where she grew a castle

frilled with trees and studded with flowers

guarded by rabbits and blades of grass.


And on the ramparts  –



This poem won 3rd prize in Thynks Publication ‘A Little Book Of Healing’.

In the early days I had several poems published, including in diaries on two occasions.  In 2011 I went to Chateau Ventenac and spent a week on a poetry course with Pascale Petit  It was during this course I was distracted by the deadline for a poem which led to  This poem has subsequently been published in Eiks an Eins here as well as numerous other websites, posted by Alastair Cook who was commissioned by to make the FilmPoem.  The Herrin Trail was long-listed for the McCash/Herald Poetry Prize in 2011.

A number of my poems have also been published in anthologies.



Poetry in the Yurt – Art Root 21/22 September 2013

We  were not just blown away by the words, but also the wind!  I arrived on Sunday morning to find the sides of the yurt were quickly being stripped off from the frame.  A quick call for help brought Anna Davis and friend down.  A contingency plan was hatched and we removed to West Barns Art Studios where we found a lovely bright corner to set up and continue our mission.


Art Root event 21/22 September 2013

Over the weekend of 21/22 September 2013 I took my place inside a yurt as part of the Art Root event for my poetry event.  We had a lot of fun writing poems on paper plates etc.  I decorated the yurt with materials I had previously used during poetry workshops with P1-P5 in schools as part of the Curriculum for Excellence.  I was delighted that Ute Penny wrote her first poem here, and brought her friend Eloner along too.

Ute and Eloner write poems in the yurt, ArtRoot 2013
Ute and Eloner write poems in the yurt, Art Root 2013