Liz Berry, with commissions from Sophie Herxheimer, Kapka Kassabova & Tariq Latif; music from Archipelago: 17 November 2018

Free event at the Whitworth Art Gallery. All welcome.

Liz Berry

Liz Berry’s first book of poems, Black Country (Chatto 2014), described as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’ (Guardian) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. Her new pamphlet is The Republic of Motherhood (Chatto 2018) the title poem has won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018.

This event will also feature commissioned poems on the subject of ‘Migrations’ from:

Sophie Herxheimer

image1.jpegSophie Herxheimer is an artist and a poet. Her work has been shown at her local allotments and at Tate Modern, at The National Portrait Gallery and on a 48 metre hoarding along the seafront in Margate. She has held residencies for The Thames Festival, The National Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, Transport for London, the Arvon Foundation and Winchester Poetry Festival amongst many others. A current commission is making new portraits of 26 essential poets for The Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Previous projects include creating a 300 metre linen tablecloth for a public banquet on Southwark Bridge, sculpting a Mrs Beeton shaped concrete poem sited next to her grave, making a giant book in collaboration with a rural community in the midlands, devising the visuals for National Poetry Day, creating the colour palette for CBeebies hit The Night Garden. She has an ongoing project of collecting stories from members of the public by listening and drawing with people one to one. Recent publications include Your Candle Accompanies the Sun (Henningham Family Press 2017) and Velkom to Inklandt, (Short Books 2017) which was selected as an Observer poetry book of the month and a Sunday Times book of the year. New out is a collaborative book with Chris McCabe, responding to William Blake: The Practical Visionary (Hercules Editions, 2018).

Next projects include a poetry collection in 2019, Sixty Lovers to Make and Do, with Henningham Family Press, and an art residency in Berkeley, California.

(photo credit: Judith Palmer)

Kapka Kassabova

Kapka Kassabova is the author of Border (2017) which has just won the British Academy’s Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanading, and was also the winner of the Saltire Book of the Year, the Edward Stanford Book of the Year, and the Highland Book Prize. She is a poet and the author of two previous books of narrative non-fiction: Street Without a Name and Twelve Minutes of Love. Raised in Bulgaria and educated in New Zealand, she now lives in the Highlands of Scotland. (photo credit TD).

Tariq Latif

ImageTariq Latif has been writing poetry for over 30 years. He has 3 full collections: Skimming the Soul; Ministers Garden and The Punjabi Weddings. His pamphlet Smithereens was short listed for the Callum MacDonald Prize. All are Arc publications. He is currently putting together his fourth collection provisionally titled Refugees.


Archipelago are an award winning garage-jazz trio from Newcastle upon Tyne. Playing original, genre crossing material, their music fuses jazz, alt-rock and free improvisation to name a few, taking inspiration from musicians as diverse as Don Cherry, Morphine and Joni Mitchell. Since releasing their debut LP ‘Weightless’ in 2017, Archipelago have received national airplay (Late Junction, Jazz on 3), been selected for Jazz North’s ‘Northern Line’ touring scheme, and received a ‘Peter Whittingham Development Award’ from Help Musicians UK with which they are running ‘BETWEEN WAVES’; a collaborative residency-gig series to make new music with female UK artists.

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Sean O’Brien and Deryn Rees-Jones with music from the Basilisk Duo: 6 October 2018

This is our annual collaboration with Manchester Literature Festival. Poets Sean O’Brien and Deryn Rees-Jones and RNCM’s The Basilisk Duo, saxophonists Freya Chambers and Simeon Evans will perform at the Whitworth Art Gallery on Saturday 6 October, 2.30-4.00. The event is free but we would advise you reserve a ticket at

Sean O’Brien

Photo credit Gerry Wardle

Sean O’Brien’s ninth poetry collection is, Europa (2018). His Collected Poems appeared in 2012. His work has received various awards including the T.S. Eliot, Forward and Roehampton Poetry prizes. In 2016 his second novel, Once Again Assembled Here, was published, followed in 2018 by his second collection of short stories, Quartier Perdu. He is a critic, translator, editor, playwright, novelist, broadcaster, experienced writing tutor and mentor. He lives in Newcastle, is a Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


Deryn Rees-Jones

Deryn Rees-Jones’s selected poems,  What It’s Like to Be Alive, was published by Seren in 2016 and was a PBS Special Commendation. Her new  book  of poems,  Erato, is due from Seren in 2019, and her study of the artist Paula Rego will be published by Thames & Hudson in 2020. She is the editor of Pavilion a poetry press and teaches at the University of Liverpool where she is Professor of Poetry.

With music from The Basilisk Duo, Freya Chambers and Simeon Evans from the Royal Northern College of Music

Basilisk Duo

Freya Chambers  bass clarinet and tenor saxophone

Simeon Evans  baritone and bass saxophone

 The Basilisk duo is a recently formed ensemble from the RNCM in Manchester. They play a wide variety of contemporary music using mainly low wind instruments and electronics, characterised most by their love of music with an infectious rhythmic drive and their generally low frequency tomfoolery.

Simeon specialises mainly in baritone and bass saxophone music, studying with Carl Raven and Rob Buckland. He has recently been part of a number of notable projects, including multiple appearances with the RNCM big band, international concerts with the Carnelian Saxophone Quartet (which both he and Freya form the lower half of) and a nationally televised concert series over New Year with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble in Amsterdam.

Freya specialises in bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, playing both in the duo. She studies saxophone with Rob Buckland and Andy Scott, clarinet with Linda Merrick and bass clarinet with Sarah Watts. She has achieved a number of successes on both saxophone and clarinet, including performing with the RNCM symphony orchestra at Bridgewater hall, multiple appearances with the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra and being selected to perform with the BBC Youth Ensemble at the last night of the proms in the Summer of 2016.

The Basilisk Duo appears by kind permission of the RNCM.


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John Glenday, Ben Wilkinson, Keshia Starrett with music from Chris Davies and Andrew Mucha: 15 September 2018

Free event at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester all welcome, Saturday 15 September, 2.30-4.00.

John Glenday

John Glenday is the author of four poetry collections. The Apple Ghost (Peterloo Poets 1989) won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and Undark, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for 1995. His third collection, Grain (Picador, 2009) was also a PBS Recommendation and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. His fourth collection, The Golden Mean, (Picador 2015) won the Roehampton Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year.



Ben Wilkinson

Ben was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. In 2014 he won the Poetry Business Competition and a Northern Writers’ Award, and in 2015 he was awarded a writers’ grant from Arts Council England. He is a keen distance runner, football fan, and he writes criticism for The Guardian. He lectures at the University of Bolton. Way More Than Luck (Seren Books, 2018) is his debut full-length book of poems.

Keshia Starrett

Keshia Starrett is an Irish writer living in Leeds. She is the Poetry Rivals 2016 Slam Champion and her poetry pamphlet Hysterical was published in November 2017. Her writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Abridged, The Interpreter’s House, The Honest Ulsterman, and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She has an MA Creative Writing from the University of Manchester and is currently a PhD student at Leeds Beckett University. She regularly performs at spoken word events across Britain and Ireland.

With music from Chris Davies and Andrew Mucha

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Workshop with John Glenday: Saturday 15 September 2018

Our next event is a workshop with John Glenday on the morning of Saturday 15 September 2018, 10.30-12.30 at the Whitworth Art Gallery. The fee for the workshop is £20. Please email to reserve a place.

John Glenday

John Glenday is the author of four poetry collections. The Apple Ghost (Peterloo Poets 1989) won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and Undark, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for 1995. His third collection, Grain (Picador, 2009) was also a PBS Recommendation and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. His fourth collection, The Golden Mean, (Picador 2015) won the Roehampton Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year.

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The Winners of the 2018 Poets & Players Competition

The winners of the 2018 Poets & Players Competition judged by Pascale Petit

The Judge’s report on the competition and the winning poems:

When Poets & Players asked me to judge their competition I happily agreed. It’s an organisation I have long admired, from its earliest days with the inspiring founder Linda Chase, to today’s impressive incarnation in the splendid Whitworth Gallery. Being based in the hub of Manchester, I knew there would be a high standard and was not disappointed, though the competition drew entries from all over.

Trawling through the anonymous entries was like a treasure hunt, many adventures with words had along the way, through various and enthralling worlds. Thank you to all who entered and entrusted your work into my hands. It’s hard to define what I was looking for, as I wanted to be surprised by something unexpected. But I do know that I wanted poems full of life, with a pulse and heartbeat. I also hoped for poems that demanded to be reread, yielding deeper layers. Above all, I searched for a feeling that they had had to be written, had a sense of urgency. I wasn’t so keen on work that told me what it was about, leaving nothing to my imagination. Happily, there were many candidates on my longlist that fulfilled my expectations.

The finalists include five commended poems, and three winners, though it might be useful to consider that when I get to the final eight, this is the slowest and hardest part of the judging. Each poem in the shortlist gave me a thrill as I reread it a second time, then continued to yield more pleasure as I compared and contrasted, but had to decide on the winner. One did stand out for me and rose to the top of the pile.

Competition Winners

First Prize: ‘Familiars’ by Sarah Westcott

Second Prize: ‘Fayum Portraits’  by James Friedman

Third Prize: ‘Alerion’ by Andrew Rudd

Commended Poets (in alphabetical order)

’The Cat’s Tail’ by Ken Evans

‘An early swim’ by Mark Fiddes

‘The Boy Who Kept Bees’ by Michael Greavy

“…you are no better than an animal;                                                                                                nothing but a common whore…” by Cathy Grindrod    

‘Lee’ by Joanna Lowry 




I will roll into cream, harden to talon and furl to the wedged tail and he will be bent, digging the earth and I will watch sinew, fine yellow hairs, and he will know he is being watched for he is also watchful

and he will straighten and lift his eyes to the hills and something pale will catch the corner of his thoughts, a handkerchief, a school shirt, and he will glance into the scratchy light and see me there, black eyes staring through his clothes, his earth-suit, and I shall go to him

moving myself down that thought so the thought becomes a presence, carries the wave of itself, like letting go a long ravelling bolt of blue or green or blowing onto a dusty book and following a single mote, its path on the breath or updraft of a limb

and when I reach the soft boy bones, the utter heart of him, he will cradle me in his ribs
then I shall lift and glide down the hollowed lane, up into the stand of darkening oak and out again, unmade

and I will go into a hare, I will come to the fleetlands when the fields are low and brown
and I will run and run as she drives and the music will make her think of me – something
on the radio waves –

and she will glance from her window and see me running parallel, haunches sprung, un-sprung and I will remember what it is to run and my eye will hold hers long enough for her to blink and slow the car and I will go

into a daw and I will have a black apron, shining grey cap and pink maw and I will go to her door one afternoon when she is at her papers and I will peck the glass door, I will come up past her fig and tap deliberately
……………………………………………………..Just like that
until she looks up and I will hop onto her palm and we shall meet like that and she will say how brave I am and remember how frail I was, the light shining between my bones and I will preen to show comfort and she will think how much I would have loved to hold a daw like that – not knowing she is the daw herself and it is love she holds in her hand, its liberties.

Note – ‘I shall go into a hare’ forms part of a testimony from Isobel Gowdie, who is said to have confessed to witchcraft in 1662.



Fayum portraits*

The dead keep on surprising us,
all dressed up in the dark
like party guests waiting for their host.

From coffin-boards and mummy-cloths,
looking out to see who’s there,
they stare at us, full-face.

Their portraits show them young again,
their finery and coiffured hair,
with eyes wide-open, olive-dark;

almost confrontational,
as if they would look us up and down,
astonished to find us in their way.

Some eyes betray a tenderness
as though recalling distant violence.
A child frowns as if puzzled by death.

They seem brimful, about to spill
confidences, what their lives tasted like,
but keep their distance as they stare

like passengers, looking out of windows
on a train halted here.
I think they are pitying us

and saddened we’re still weathered by the air,
its heat and winds they have done with.
They can’t remember what it’s like

to change, although they are wrapped up
pupae-snug and already changed.
They smell of dust and interrupted dreams.

*(Mummy portraits dating from 1st century BC, found in the Fayum basin near



———————————————–………………………………….alerion, n.
———————————————–A bird believed to have no feet. Obs.


How does she refuel in the sky?
Over the river, dipping into gleam,

a brief glitter in and out of branches,
the footless bird, all go, all fly.

These she knows well, the Parliament
of Impaired Fowl:

the headless bird,
the silent bird;
the stumpy bird without a tail;
the wingless bird, who pecks the ground;
the bird with no feathers;
the bird that sings but cannot hear its song;
the eyeless bird migrating home in darkness;
the bird that is invisible,
only articulated air.

Alerion cannot slip the stream
or cling to anything solid.

What is so beautiful and sad is this verb
that can never become a noun.

But she has learned to set her course
where the skies are empty, where she can match

her speed to the rotation of the earth, creating
an illusion of rest, of blessed sleep.

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Competition event with Pascale Petit, music from Arian Sadr: 12 May 2018

Please come along to our annual competition event where judge Pascale Petit will announce the winners who will read their winning poems. Pascale will also do a reading of her own work. The venue is the Whitworth Art Gallery, time 2.30-4.00.


Photo credit: Derek Adams

Pascale Petit’s seventh collection, Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe, 2017), was a Poetry Book Society Choice. Her sixth, Fauverie, was her fourth to be shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and five poems from it won the Manchester Poetry Prize. She has had three collections selected as Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement, Independent and Observer and in 2015 she received a Cholmondeley Award.

Arian Sadr

Arian Sadr is so enthusiastic and interested in music since childhood particularly keen to learn Persian percussions. His world mesmerised by his talent & Music passionate. Some thing which he carried forward for so many years. He started learning Tonbak (Persian goblet drum) and Daf (a circular frame drum) since he was seven . He moved to England to study in music and music production in 2003. By this time he also became interested in a variety style of music that could influence him to create his own original fusion style. Apart from being a successful percussionist he is a songwriter, composer and producer. He has played as a solo artist as well as cooperating with the other musicians in many concerts and charity events. His performances include the ‘Musicians Without Borders’ at End Sexual Violence in Conflict Event, ExCel project in London funded by the Home Office, performed with musicians from BBC Philharmonic a special performance tocelebrateBBC Music Day (live on BBC Radio 3 in 2015),Manchester Imperial War Museum as Part of Asia Triennial, International Root Orchestra and also collaboration with “Kabantu” at Royal Northern College Of Music Manchester, an extraordinary performance at “Tea&Zen 2013″ event at Worldwide IBPS Fo Guang Shan Temple,, Collaboration with Matthew Herbert at Sarah Walker’s BBC ARTS Show in Edinburgh Festival as part of the New European Songbook,  BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival 2018 and many other overwhelming organisations in the U.K.



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Workshop with Karen McCarthy Woolf: 21 April 2018

Our next workshop is with Karen McCarthy Woolf on the 21 April 2018, 10.30-12.30 at the Whitworth Art Gallery. The fee is £20. To reserve a place please email

Karen McCarthy Woolf

Karen McCarthy Woolf was born in London to English and Jamaican parents. Her collection Seasonal Disturbances explores nature, the city and the sacred and is described by Warsan Shire, whose work she edited in Ten: The New Wave, as ‘a darkly humorous exploration of the human condition’. Karen’s poems are translated into Spanish, Turkish and Swedish and she has represented British writing globally, everywhere from Singapore, Mexico and the Caribbean to Sweden and the US.



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