Redcar Writers Group

As a Creative Writing tutor, I helped set up the Redcar Writers Group in 1989.The group attracted 30 members at it’s first meeting and was for a time one of the most dynamic writers groups in the area. The group participated in all of the Write Around Festival programmes over the year,and still thriving in 1997, participated in Merlin’s Cauldron with writer Kitty Fitzgerald.

Saltburn Valley Woodland’s Centre

Christine Corbett was one of my Creative Writing students in Saltburn and in the day time ran the Saltburn Valley Woodlands Centre.  We arranged to run two workshops in the centre for Merlin’s Cauldron. The first was Valley on the Move with a tour of the woodlands and a writing session. The second was Smuggles Valley with Bob Beagrie as tutor.

The Media Cafe, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough 1997

The Media (Cyber) Cafe on Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough was an amazing venue. Upstairs was a bank of computers where we typed the final programme of Merlin’s Cauldron on P.C. (I only had an Amstrad Word Process or back then!) Downstairs was the vegetarian cafe which we used variously as a general Cauldron meeting place and for periodic meetings for involved in projects in Middlesbrough. It was a main base. We also organised two main events there- two mixed media events. Margaret Weir, my ex partner and a tutor / poet and workshop leader organised 9th Corner Poets event and I organised another called Merlin’s Table. In addition a number of local artists and photographers had work displayed on the Cafe walls throughout the festival.


Dramatree were based in Thorntree, Middlesbrough and became an important part of Merlin’s Cauldron with their musical and dramatic talent. At Preston Hall, Eaglescliffe, they teamed up with the Disabled Writers Group to perform a play.

WEA Tees Valley- Workshops

Although I tutored many Creative Writing Courses for the WEA in the mid to late 80’s, I’d lost touch by 1997 with changes in the structure and the Tutor Organiser. Local Poet Norah Hill put me in touch with the new Middlesbrough branch and I got them involved with Merlin’s Cauldron. Although a voluntary adult education organisation, under Paul McGee, the new tutor organiser, they had attracted massive European funding to work in deprived areas all over the Tees Valley. The various local branches and tutors ran various workshops for us during the festival and as an offspin,I got back involved with WEA and the Middlesbrough branch after the festival,once again tutoring courses in songwriting and Creative Writing and ended up with a full time Development job,which was good although it meant that I didn’t have time back then to organise a follow to Merlin’s Cauldron until now.

Thorntree, Middlesbrough – Creative ideas in the Community

We planned some brilliant events on the Thorntree estate in East Middlesbrough with a combination of Drama Tree, Chris Litherland, photographer working with Positive Options, Tony Jilks who ran creative workshops and courses via bank  of computers in the community centre etc. The enthusiasm and creativity we generated in the community was brilliant but unfortunately the political will prevent use of the rooms and facilities we needed because they didn’t think it would work without funding. They only allowed one event which was a success. As Thorntree was only one place out of many where Merlin’s Cauldron took place, it didn’t halt the festival but it was disappointing to have to lose all that enthusiasm and ideas we generated in a deprived area of Middlesbrough because of lack of faith! After the festival the community worker who blocked us called me “The man who did it!“. Well I did do it despite his lack of cooperation!

Poetry in the Spirit of Jazz – The Waiting Room

While running a Merlin’s Cauldron stall at and arts and craft display in Thornaby Town hall, we were invited to do some events at the Waiting Room, Vegetarian restaurant in Eaglescliffe. We had had it in mind to approach them but synchronicity resulted in us being invited.

We held a mixed media session of poets and music on the Sunday afternoon and then on Sunday evening it was Poetry in the spirit of Jazz. with the Pocket Orchestra. There was much talk of poets needing to take weeks / month revising poems for publication. I was reading Alan Watts – the way of Zen and the quote ‘trust the natural man’. Jazz is largely improvisational and has links with Zen so we combined poetry and Jazz. We invited some of the top local poets who typically took weeks / months to process a poem to getup in front of the jazz band and create a spontaneous.There were doubts about this and if it would work but they all bravely got up and working with the band came up up with a poem. No doubt they took that and revised it afterwards but they all did well.