MISSION ACCOMPLISHED IN TUEBINGEN

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED IN TUEBINGEN

24.9.13

FOR EDWARD ELLIOT OF EARSDON (1800-1867)



(Stonemason and poet responsible for the Hartley Pit Disaster memorial in Earsdon churchyard)


“IN THE MIDST OF LIFE WE ARE IN DEATH.” 

Chip chip chip,
the rain sinks
into Ned Elliot’s shoulders
as his hands
carve the dead names
into the slab.
The tragedy
weighs down his spirit,
renders him thirsty
for the light.
Chip chip chip,
you breathe the name of Thomas Coal
aged thirty seven,
recite the deaths of boys
as young as ten.
You chisel
through the disastrous list,
the litany of lost dreams.
It is such a burden,
the flood of widows’ tears
gushing through
the village,
rendering the churchyard
a swamp of hurt.

This is true
community spirit,
a man who lived
to mark the dead
in stone,
making a living
by honouring others.
Your own name
is ingrained in Earsdon,
ringing
down the years
a sacrifice
from the quarry
of suffering,
one of your 
dialect poems
still coursing 
in us.


“FOR WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH,
THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP.”



KEITH ARMSTRONG



23.9.13

ARMSTRONG IN SPACE!


17.9.13

JOSEPH SKIPSEY HERITAGE EVENTS



FOR JOE SKIPSEY: THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN (1832-1903)


‘He’ll tell his tale o’er a pint of ale,
And crack his joke, and bad
Must be the heart who loveth not
To hear the Collier Lad.’ (Skipsey)


To be a pitman poet
you drag words
out of the seam of a dictionary,
write against the grain
all the time
feeling the pain
of a small education,
scribbling in the dark
for a bright spark
germ of a poem.
Hewing
for rhymes,
ducking 
in case the roof
of the verse
caved in on you,
Joe
it was bloody hard 
to learn,
to craft a line
from the black pit
when the whole world
weighed down on you.
A man was forced
to sing,
to render a ballad
like a lamp in the tunnel,
scraping an education
from coal,
crawling along bookshelves
to find daylight,
Shakespeare,
Shelley
and melody
in the stacks
of an underground library.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

HARTLEY PIT DISASTER JANUARY 16TH 1862


‘What was it there on Hartley heap, caused the mother and child to weep?’ (George Cooke)


Cold January’s gripped our throbbing hearts and torn them.
Still the sea rolls on.

This earth’s bowells stink of our loved one’s deaths,
the air tastes foul.
Still the sea rolls on.

They don black gloves,
drag out the bodies one by one.
The death-stained faces seem to smile.
Still the sea rolls on.

We are the widows of Hartley,
our men and boys are dead,
our lives cracked open,
damp corpses in our beds.
Still the sea rolls on.

We clutch cold messages from Dukes and Queens,
we wipe the coal dust from our widowed eyes.
The coffin makers’ heavy hammers beat,
keep time with lapping parlour clocks,
and still
the sea rolls on,
still the sea rolls on.

Still the sea,

we are the widows of Hartley,
our men and boys are dead.

Take away your stumbling words and

GIVE US BREAD.



KEITH ARMSTRONG



KEITH ARMSTRONG PERFORMING HIS JOSEPH SKIPSEY POEM AT THE  
HARTLEY PIT DISASTER MEMORIAL, ST. ALBAN'S CHURCH, EARSDON, WHITLEY BAY, SATURDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2013, AS PART OF HERITAGE OPEN DAYS EVENT TO MARK THE 110TH ANNIVERSARY OF SKIPSEY'S DEATH.






CHRIS HARRISON, GREAT GREAT GRANDSON OF SKIPSEY, PERFORMING SKIPSEY'S 'THE HARTLEY CALAMITY' POEM AT THE SAME EVENT.






THE SAWDUST JACKS FOLK GROUP (WITH ST. ALBAN'S CHURCH CHOIR) WHO PERFORMED THEIR HARTLEY SONG 'BROTHERS, SONS AND DADS', IN THE CHURCH AFTER THE RECITATIONS AND MUSIC AT THE HARTLEY MEMORIAL. 


Above photos: Chris Bishop





CHRIS HARRISON PERFORMING SKIPSEY AT THE RED HOUSE, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ON THURSDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER 2013.

Above photo: Peter Dixon

COMMENTS:

Tony Morris:



Great reception at Red House, Quayside, Newcastle last night for Northern Voices Mining Heritage Project. Lovely audience. Thank you Keith Armstrong.

David Williams:


An excellent tribute to the "Pitman Poet" Joseph Skipsey by Keith Armstrong and "Open Mic" at the Red House

Catherine Graham: 

Thank you to all the lovely people who came along to The Red House tonight, it was lovely to meet everyone - a great night!


Brian Hall:
Praise from the Hall Clan to the Armstrong Clan.........thought you ran last night really well, and a good combination. I enjoyed it, well done.



Robert Lonsdale:

Enjoyed an absolutely brilliant night of exceptional poetry and music at the " Red House " hosted by the legendary Keith Armstrong , many thanks to everyone there. Already looking forward to your next event Keith,

Chris Harrison:

Thanks or giving me the opportunity to sing at these two events.  I was really pleased to be able to do it.

Do let me know about any future events.


Elaine Cusack:

Really enjoyed yesterday's event at Hartley, Keith.


John Leslie (the Sawdust Jacks):

Thanks for the poems and for the opportunity of performing at Earsdon. We enjoyed rehearsing with the choir and I think our relationship may continue. The day was a great success and the feedback from your activities at the memorial was very good.
Thanks again.


Fiona Cullen (Newcastle City Council):

Many thanks for your participation throughout Tyne and Wear.


Chris Bishop (North Tyneside Council):


Best wishes and well done on the event.  


Andrew France (Vicar St. Alban's, Earsdon):


Thanks Keith. I thought it went well. 

6.9.13

HERITAGE OPEN DAYS




NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS presents: 




NORTH EAST ODES AND PIT POEMS:
Thursday September 12th 2013 7.30pm in the Red House, Sandhill, Quayside, Newcastle. Poetry and folk music event featuring poems and songs about Newcastle and the North East, with an open mic session - combined with a Joseph Skipsey ('The Pitman Poet of Percy Main', 1832-1903) anniversary celebration featuring: readings by and about Skipsey by Keith Armstrong, Catherine Graham, Dave Alton, Robert Lonsdale and Steve Brown, settings of Skipsey's poems sung by his great great grandson Chris Harrison, songs by Gary Miller of  'The Whisky Priests', folk group 'Kiddar's Luck' and by Whitby's Tony Morris, with a set from Ann Sessoms on Northumbrian Pipes. 


NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS presents: THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN - An event to mark the 110th anniversary of the death of Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903), the Pitman Poet of Percy Main. Featuring new settings of Skipsey's poems by great great grandson Chris Harrison, including his famous Hartley Calamity ballad, with readings from 'Still The Sea Rolls On', the recent NVCP Hartley commemorative book, by local poets and by Whitley Bay poet Keith Armstrong who also reads a selection from Skipsey, together with his own new poems on Skipsey and on Edward Elliot of Earsdon, the stonemason for the Hartley Memorial as well as a local people's poet. Also featuring a performance of the New Hartley Pit Disaster song (Brothers, Sons and Dads) by The Sawdust Jacks and The St Alban's Church Choir and Ann Sessoms from Shiremoor on Northumbrian Pipes. 
Performed at the Hartley Memorial, Earsdon Churchyard on Saturday 14th September 11am to 12 noon (in St Alban's Church, Earsdon, in the event of bad weather).

The Northern Voices Community Projects' display about the Hartley Calamity of 1862 will be in the church on the day.

OLD NEWCASTLE

Sunday 15th September 12-3pm, Castle Keep, Newcastle – hear poetry inspired by Old Newcastle written and performed by local poet Keith Armstrong accompanied by piper Ann Sessoms.

4.9.13

MAP OF THE WORLD






















We turned its global head as babies,
traced its edges onto paper,
scarcely scratched
the surface
of that old familiar spotted face
shaped up, boiling for a fight.

Hung on walls,
it looked so static
but in its latitudes and longitudes we knew
that people moved,
homes grew,
cities drowned
and cliffs broke.

Later, travelling,
we stepped out
across the sheet,
skipped the Channel,
entered 
new squares.
Then creeping back
at dusk,
we folded up this map,
packed away the ice
and sunny beach,
stuck it all in a small back pocket
and shrunk back
into our own world’s frontiers.
That tiny territory
of our scars.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

the jingling geordie

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