den bosch, the netherlands, birthplace of hieronymus bosch - one of my favourite haunts


Look down Hieronymus:
the blonde kids dancing at your feet;
barrel organs churning songs out
against your deaf and cheesed-off ears.
Blink blind, stone eyes,
cobble cheeks,
dig the electric pleasure garden,
frame the nuclear canal
and sigh you weary statue you.

Chipped cloak,
cold painter’s
nose drips with rain.
Drunk, we piss on the past,
slash and splash against the dark canvas.

Bosch, we still play the games.
I catch an angel barmaid’s eye
and swallow the blueness of it
in my aching head.
Beauty lodges overnight in the skull.

Unlucky Hieronymus:
missiles haloing your frown of a brow;
clouds crashing over the market square.

They’re building the greatest nightmare ever around you,
but your hands have grown too stiff to paint.

Keith Armstrong



Early September,
ice begins to grip our hearts.

Ash from a long smoke, the city lies.

Ghostly images of our fathers rise,
drift in the blood-thick smog.

The traffic snarls,
dead bodies rot and clot in our veins,
dust blown into cul de sacs.

8.45, a Thursday night,
a senile couple stagger in from the mist.
They order half pints,
the old man sniffs,
his eyes the faint grey of a wintry sky.
The old woman’s face is ruddy, bloody,
creased like the neck of a tortoise.
She mumbles to him
and he mumbles back.
‘Liar!’ she shouts.
‘Quiet!’ he says and raises a hand in warning.
‘Liar!’ again,
‘Liar!’ again
but louder she cries.
‘Sharrup you old bag!’
‘Liar!’ she cries,
‘I gave you a pound!’
‘No!’ he replies.
‘Liar, you liar!’
‘Quiet you bag!’

They sip their half pints and rise.
He steps outside.
We hear his stick tap.
She shuffles, bow legged, to the door.
A pool of urine gathers round her feet,
she trails it out into the street.

They are lost in a whirl,
a merry-go-round.

I see their desperate hands grope in the night,
flail against the glass outside.
Blood spatters windows,
runs to the earth,
seeps and nourishes birth;
birth of new dreams,
new schemes.
It seems,
a new sense of fear is born.




The partnership with County Durham and the City of Tuebingen in South Germany was established in 1969.  
Poet Doctor Keith Armstrong, who gained his doctorate at the University on Durham in 2007, following on from Bachelor's and Master's degrees there, first visited Tuebingen in November 1987, with the support of the County Council and the Kulturamt in Tuebingen, to give readings and talks there for a period of a month. Since then he has travelled to the city over 30 times and helped arrange for Durham poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.

A special celebration of the literary/arts links between the cultural partners was held on May 17th 2015 at Tuebingen’s Club Voltaire as part of the Tuebingen Buecherfest.  This was arranged by poet Tibor Schneider, Michael Raffel of the Buecherfest and Doctor Armstrong. Those featured included Gary Miller, singer/songwriter from Durham band ‘The Whisky Priests’, poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers,  Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek and Tibor Schneider and rock musician Juergen Sturm with Mary Jane.

Tuebingen poets Anna Fedorova and Yannick Lengkeek came to Durham from 11th to 14th November 2015 for readings and discussions.

And Keith Armstrong will return to Tuebingen from April 12th to 15th 2016  for readings of his many poems inspired by his visits to Tuebingen over the years. A film will also be made of the readings at several locations around the city. 

Keith was also in Tuebingen from Tuesday 11th November 2014 to Saturday 15th when he performed his poetry in the legendary Heckenhauer’s Bookshop, one of his favourite bars The Boulanger, at the Carlo-Schmid-Gymnasium (school) and at Weinhaus Beck for a poetry breakfast. He was joined by Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Yannick Lengkeek and Anna Fedorova with Peter Weiss on accordion and Juergen Sturm on rock guitar and vocals.

Before this, he was in Tuebingen from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday 5th April 2014 with artist/photographer Peter Dixon for readings with Tuebingen writers Eva Christina Zeller, Sara Hauser, Tibor Schneider and Florian Neuner at Weinhaus Beck, a school visit and other networking initiatives. This followed on from his visit from Monday 4th November to Thursday 7th 2013 when he took part in a major symposium on the theme of writer Hermann Hesse who lived and worked in Tuebingen from 1895-1899. As well as joining in with the discussions and giving a reading from his poems on Hesse and Tuebingen, Keith met with poets, academics, teachers, musicians, cultural and media workers.  

Sara Hauser visited Durham from Monday 12th to Thursday 15th May 2014 for sessions at the University's English and German Departments  and meetings with local writers, artists and musicians.
So the twinning continues to go from strength to strength. Looking back on things, Armstrong and folk rock musician Gary Miller, lead singer of Durham band the Whisky Priests, travelled to Tuebingen at the end of March 2012 for performances in pubs, cabaret venues and schools where they performed with Tuebingen poet Tibor Schneider who visited Durham in October of that year as part of the ongoing exchange. 
Tibor joined his Durham counterparts for readings at Durham University and at the Half Moon Inn. He was also interviewed on BBC Radio Tees concerning his Durham visit.

Keith Armstrong and Gary Miller returned the compliment with a trip to Tuebingen in March 2013 where they performed again in bars, cafes and schools with poets Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser and Tuebingen musicians. 
In 2011, Tuebingen rock musician Juergen Sturm jetted in with his music partner Mary Jane at the end of October for pub gigs, including a twinning event in Durham on Monday 31st October featuring Juergen and Mary Jane with Durham folk musicians and poets. That followed on from a visit to Tuebingen in South Germany in early April 2011 by Keith Armstrong and photographer/artist Peter Dixon. The intrepid pair worked together on a touring display featuring Armstrong's poems and Dixon's photographs documenting the unique link between Tuebingen and Durham which was staged initially in the Durham Room at County Hall, Durham in November. Armstrong performed his poetry in cafes, bars and schools and met up with Tuebingen friends, old and new, with the multi-talented Dixon capturing all of it on film. 

This trip reciprocated a visit to Durham in November 2010 by Tuebingen poets Henning Ziebritzki and Carolyn Murphey Melchers, when Juergen Stuerm also took part in a series of pub performances. There was a special event at Clayport Library, Durham City on Monday November 1st with the Tuebingen poets and special guests from Durham, followed by a rousing session in the Dun Cow when Juergen, with Mary Jane, and his Durham counterparts, Gary Miller and Marie Little belted out their lively songs.
Armstrong was also in Tuebingen in May 2010 with Gary Miller for performances in his favourite Tuebingen bar ‘The Boulanger’ and at a local school. This followed a special guest appearance in 2009 at the biannual Book Festival, a reading with Tuebingen counterpart Eva Christina Zeller and a visit to local schools. Eva visited Durham for readings in schools and at a special event on May 13th 2009 at Clayport Library which also featured poets Katrina Porteous, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, and William Martin, as well as Doctor Armstrong and music from the Durham Scratch Choir and Andy Jackson.

A highly successful series of events were held in 2007 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the literary/arts twinning established by Keith Armstrong when he first visited Tuebingen in 1987 for a month’s residency, supported by Durham County Council and Tuebingen’s Kulturamt. Since then, there have been readings and performances in pubs, universities and castles, schools, libraries, book festivals, jazz and cabaret clubs, even in Hermann Hesse’s old apartment, involving poets, writers, teachers and musicians from the twin partnerships of Durham and Tuebingen.
Tuebingen’s music duo Acoustic Storm, poet/translator Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Cultural Officer visited Durham and the North East in October/November 2007. The musicians performed in Durham schools and pubs and there was a special evening in Durham’s Clayport Library to celebrate the twinning, with Keith Armstrong launching his new Tuebingen poetry booklet and performances by poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Katrina Porteous, William Martin, Michael Standen, Ian Horn, Cynthia Fuller, Hugh Doyle and musicians Acoustic Storm, Marie Little and Gary Miller. Margit Aldinger of the Kulturamt in Tuebingen and Brian Stobie of the International Department, Durham County Council, also addressed the audience.

For the record, here's a list of those who have made it happen so far:

Tuebingen visitors to Durham since 1987:

Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Karin Miedler, Gerhard Oberlin, Uwe Kolbe, Johannes Bauer, Eva Christina Zeller, Simone Mittmann, Florian Werner, Juergen Sturm, Mary Jane, Wolf Abromeit, Christopher Harvie, Eberhard Bort, Marcus Hammerschmitt, Henning Ziebritzki, Andy and Alessandra Fazion Marx, Otto Buchegger, Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek.
Durham visitors to Tuebingen since 1987:
Keith Armstrong, Michael Standen, Julia Darling, Andy Jackson, Fiona MacPherson, Katrina Porteous, Marie Little, Ian Horn, Alan C. Brown, Linda France, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, Margaret Wilkinson, Jez Lowe, Jack Routledge, Gary Miller, Matthew Burge, David Stead, Hugh Doyle, Peter Dixon.

The literaryr/arts exchange has been supported by Tuebingen’s Kulturamt and Durham County Council.






photo: dr keith armstrong


Many’s the time
I have rested 
my weary mind
on a chair 
in the Beacon pub corners,
ready to drown recent sorrow
with the flow of alcohol
down an anxious throat.
And the sun on those days 
not only in my glass of Stella
but in Mary’s twinkling eyes
when I saw her there
alive with wit
and sparkle,
her infectious smiles
mischievous to the last.
So from now on,
whenever the sun goes down,
I will remember her,
those cheerful emails she sent me
and the graceful way
she bore her lovely self.


For the late lamented Mary Campbell and my friends in the Beacon pub, Whitley Bay.



As part of the ongoing literary exchange between Tuebingen and Durham, Anna Fedorova and Yannick Lengkeek will be performing with local poets and folk musicians at Ye Old Elm Tree, Crossgate, Durham City at 19.30 on Thursday 12th November. All welcome. 

You can also catch them in the Williams Library at St Chad's College, University of Durham on Friday 13th November at 15.00. Please put the word around about this.


Anna Fedorova
I was born in Charkow (Ukraine) in 1992. I have
lived in Germany since the age of 5. I grew
up in Stuttgart and I have studied art history and
philosophy in Tübingen since 2012.
Founder member of "Dichterkammer" in
Tübingen which is a collective of young
writers. I was recently published in the literature 
magazine "trash pool".

Yannick Lengkeek
Born in 1992 in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Grown up in Padua (Italy) and Reutlingen. Since 2012 studies of rhetoric and history at the University of Tübingen. First reading in Tübingen at the Hölderlin tower in 2013 during the Bücherfest. Publication of several poems in "trash pool" magazine. Active member of the Dichterkammer Tübingen. Several readings and co-organization of smaller literature events in Tübingen.




Lines from my poem 'Song for Northumberland' in community rug for Berwick 900 on display in Berwick Town Hall:

'Your contribution was greater than you think due to the involvement with so many people in creating the rag rug and it was a real delight and so very fitting to have you both opening the event.' (Wendy Robinson, Berwick 900)





Tyneside artists and jazz enthusiasts Keith Armstrong and Peter Dixon have created a display of colour paintings, images and poems celebrating the greats of the jazz world from Lous Armstrong to George Melly, Billie Holiday to Charles Mingus and many more. The exhibition can be viewed at JG Windows in Newcastle's Central Arcade in the Printed Music Department on the first floor of the store for the immediate future. A live jazz and poetry event is being planned at Windows to launch the display - look out for details of this later.

Contact - Keith Armstrong tel 0191 2529531 or Rupert Bradbury (JG Windows) tel 0191 2321356 for further information.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Doctor Keith Armstrong now resides in Whitley Bay. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise.
He was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on culture in the North East of England. 
His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman and Poetry Review as well as in the collections Splinters (2011) and The Month of the Asparagus (2011) and broadcast on radio & TV.
He has performed his poetry throughout Britain and abroad. 
In his youth, he travelled to Paris and he has been making international cultural pilgrimages ever since.

North Shields based artist, photographer and graphic designer Peter Dixon began his working life as a designer at the Shields Gazette, later becoming Senior Visualiser at the North East Co-op. He has worked in several advertising agencies and runs his own design company.
In 2012 he had a major exhibition of paintings and photographs, entitled The River and the Slake, displayed at Bede’s World, Jarrow. 
He has produced and co-written many publications and exhibitions for Northern Voices Community Projects.


Something sad about clowns;
something thin between laughter and tears.
Pity the dignity, the love and the hate,
the twitching wire between body and soul 
and you on that stage,
drunk on rum and borrowed blues again;
unique in the balance you keep to yourself -
never quite losing it,
never quite making it;
bawling out between Magritte and Morton,
playing the droopy-drawered clown
with yourself,

do the Melly Belly,
the Ovaltine,
big brash belly laugh blues.


Keith Armstrong



Grainger Market 180th Birthday Celebrations

Date and Location: Wednesday 28th October, Grainger Market

5.30pm - Entertainment from Sawdust Jacks (local folk group), Keith Armstrong (poet), Gordon Phillips (poet), Ann Sessoms (Northumbrian Piper)
6pm - Welcome to celebrations by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor Ian Graham
6.05pm - Welcome from John Phillips, Chairman of Grainger Market Traders Association
6.10pm - John Grundy – talks about the Grainger Market and Newcastle
6.20pm - Lord Mayor and Sheriff award Grainger Market Customer Service Award winner with certificates and hamper
6.30pm - Gifts awarded to dignitaries/special guests
6.35pm - Lord Mayor and John Phillips cut the Birthday cake and open the Buffet
6.40pm - Entertainment from Sawdust Jacks, Keith Armstrong (poet),
Gordon Phillips (poet), Ann Sessoms (Northumbrian Piper)
7.30pm - Finish

Access - Please note access to this event from 5.30pm is via Entrance 1 of the Grainger Market on Grainger Street between Skipton Building Society and the Wildtrack store.

This is life,
the gloss and the flesh,
Weigh House of passion and flame.

You can get lost in this market’s amazement
but you can never lose yourself.

a sleep walk in these grazing crowds
can feel like a stroll through your brain.

Keith Armstrong

A city
within a city,

light cage.

Bazaar and blind,
these swollen alleys

flow with a teeming life’s blood.

Geordie !

Swim for your life !

Keith Armstrong


bred in a market arch 
a struggle
in a city's armpit

that flower
in your time-rough hands 
a beautiful girl in a slum alley

all that kindness in your face

and you're right

the times are not what they were
this England's not what it was

flowers shrink in that crumbling vase
dusk creeps in on a cart

and Maud the sun is choking 

Maud this island's sinking 

and all that swollen sea is 

the silent majority 


Keith Armstrong

Photos: Keith Armstrong & Peter Dixon

the jingling geordie

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whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur