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


Cockenzie Primary School Perform ‘The Three Craws An The Bairn In A Manger’

In November 2015 Cockenzie P4 children recorded ‘The Three Craws An The Bairn In A Manger’ in the school to be broadcast on local radio East Coast FM .  Station Manager Ian Robertson came down to the school and recorded the show for transmission over the airwaves in the run up to Christmas.  I was really thrilled to watch the children record for the show and to later hear it over the radio.  My little troupe of The Three Craws with me as Narrator, have been a regular feature on East Coast FM during 2012/13 with several of my scripts.  It’s been my dream to have children perform the scripts.  The temporary Three Craws looked brilliant in their ‘The Three Craws’ skip caps which I gifted them for taking part.

I was later commissioned by the school to write a script for P4 children based on the demolition on 26 September 2015 of Cockenzie Power Station chimneys.  They have been a massive landmark for people on land, at sea, and in the air for several decades.  They are sure to be missed.’s_first_literary_festival/




Book Week Scotland 2015

screenshot-2016-09-20-16-22-42Hannah Lavery, Creative Director of Coastword, invited me to be part of ‘Journeys with Poets’ during Book Week Scotland 2015 which ran from 23-29 November.  Recently appointed BBC Scotland’s first Poet-in-Residence Rachel McCrum cast us under a spell of performance poetry, whilst singer/songwriter Kirsty Law delighted us with a capella ballads, and songs accompanying herself on keyboard.  I brought along my clarsach, and read a few of my sea -related poems.


In the second half I spoke of my voyage on a heavy-lift ship with the oldest surviving clipper ship City of Adelaide/Carrick as cargo ship from Rotterdam to Adelaide, South Australia over the winter of 2013/14.  We had a delightful audience in the cosy environment in the Library in Bleachingfield Centre, Dunbar, with refreshments and warm hospitality provided by Hannah.


It was a grand night, thoroughly enjoyed by all, and a fantastic way to put Winter’s chill on the back burner.

Mugs/Coaster Sets

Today I had news from Dunbar T-Shirt Shop that 3 sets of mugs and coaster sets have been sold. This is wonderful news. I spoke to a friend last night whose partner was working in a house and he was given a cup of tea … in one of my The Three Craws mugs! It’s really exciting to know that people are loving the artwork and are buying the mug and coaster sets. They are available through my website under “Merchandise”. Later today I will be popping into Dunbar T-Shirt Shop to help with shipping the Mug and Coaster sets out, and to discuss expanding the range of products available to buy as t-shirts with the logo I designed on them. Remember (how could you forget!) … Christmas is coming … great presents for fans of The Three Craws!

Thank you for looking. I would like to say the price quoted by Dunbar T-Shirt Shop includes P&P within the UK.

Thank you for looking.

Rita x

Happy 151st Anniversary City of Adelaide/Carrick

I am feeling very nostalgic tonight. Celebrations are taking place tonight on board Bradley Barge on which sits the wonderful, oldest surviving clipper ship in the world, City of Adelaide aka SV Carrick with whom I voyaged on board MV Palanpur. I say “whom” because she is a living, breathing entity.

On our voyage I wrote a diary in tandem with that of someone who was on the maiden voyage in 1864. Her Day One was 12 August 1864, my Day One was 26 November 2013, leaving Rotterdam en route for South Australia. This is an extract for 7 November 1864. This was her day 87, the final one in her voyage from Plymouth, England to Port Adelaide, South Australia. Our diaries are the core of my up-and-coming book which I’m bringing to a conclusion now. Keep looking back for more news. You are most welcome.


“A beautiful day.  I woke about 5am and saw land from the porthole.  We went on Deck nearly  an hour before breakfast.  The land at first looked rather low and barren.  We were busy packing in the morning.  After lunch addresses were presented to the Captain and Doctor.  We anchored about noon.  The health officer came on board immediately ……..”




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.



‘The Three Craws An The Bairn In A Manger’ at Broughton Primary School

P3/4 Teacher Katrina Tweedie kindly piloted The Three Craws An The Bairn In A Manger with her class.  I was absolutely delighted to receive this feedback from her.  Thank you Katrina!

”Subject: Re: Three Craws Gaun Tae Rabbie Burns Birthday Pairty At The Globe Inn, Dumfries
Date: 11 March 2015 11:32

Hi Rita,

I have been hoping to see you at the writers’ group to thank you in person
for your generosity in sharing your play with me and my class.

We had been doing a topic on Robert Burns as you know, so I started by
reminding the children  of Tam O’Shanter. Then we sang The Three Craws
which they already knew and love, then I outlined the play to them.  I
distributed copies of the play one between two and we discussed how a play
script is set out. Then I read one page at a time with them following as
best they could then asked for volunteers to read out and act out that page
to the rest of the class. Most of the children wanted to take part- there
were three or four who were happier being the audience for the whole play.
Without exception they all loved the experience.

My class is composed of kids from all over the world, many of whom speak
English as a second language. I think it’s a wonderful way to make them
feel at home in Scotland teaching them some Scots and typically Scottish
culture. For all of them I think it’s really good for them to see how we
can build on traditional culture now…. and what a wonderful play! Thank
you so much for sharing it with us.’