A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)


"national poetry day"


Hexham Library will be hosting a Poetry reading by Keith Armstrong to celebrate National Poetry Day

During this event there will be an open slot for local poets
Tickets can be bought in advance by contacting Hexham Library on 01434 652488 at a cost of £2.50. Tickets on the door at £3.00.

National Poetry Day Celebration at Hexham Library
Thursday 8th October 12.30pm - 1.30pm

National Poetry Day

“Heroes & Heroines” poetry evening
with Dr. Keith Armstrong
Clayport Library, Durham City
Thursday 8th October
7:30pm; free
to include “open” slot
for audience participation
Please book: (0191) 386 4003


irish tour with rense sinkgraven (& friends!)


From the Northern Echo, first published Saturday 2nd Dec 2000.
HANDS fly skywards, faces eager, the group of eight-year-olds visiting The Northern Echo offices fight to answer questions. On the editor's wall are some of the paper's front pages, famous images framed for posterity, and the children are challenged to identify the news story.
"Princess Diana's death," they chorus, recognising the picture of the funeral cortege.
"Eclipse of the sun," says another child, moving along the row. Then: "First man on the moon."
But the next one has them stumped. October 14, 1992, the year many of them were born, and the headline reads: "The sun sets on 400 years." Blank faces. The picture is a clue, but they don't recognise the black and white image of a pit head. In fact, they don't seem to know what a pit wheel is - ironic since the paper they are visiting was once known as the "Miners' Bible". How quickly the world forgets.
To the youth of today, coal is a fossil fuel they are told the world should no longer be using. Burning it depletes a natural resource, filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases which destroy the ozone layer. The connotations are all negative, environmentally unfriendly.
It's a far cry from last century when coal was the mainstay of the economy. On coal the region was built. It fuelled our fires, it forged our industry, it sustained lives, but took plenty too.
Yet the memories of the industry itself, and the men, boys and animals who sacrificed their lives, are fading fast.
No better time then to launch a book to remind the North-East of its heritage.
Our Village is edited by Keith Armstrong, edited, not written, because the freelance writer from Whitley Bay allows real people to tell their story, through earthy accounts, poetry and song.
It's a powerful collection, provoking strong images of working class life, of tragedy and black humour.
For Keith the book, published by The People's History, represents 20 years of working in former mining communities.
"This book documents the changing face of County Durham and provides a vivid portrayal of pit closures," says the Newcastle-born writer, whose father was a shipyard worker.
"But it also highlights a kind of resilience in the people, the ability to bounce back from disaster. We have tried to bring out a lot of the humour."
No better example than the recollections of John Iddon, of Trimdon. He recalls: "The Lowe family were another laugh with some queer tales. The father was called Matt and was nicknamed Crock. He worked at Deaf Hill Colliery. One night Matt had gone out for a drink and must have gone over the eight. He collapsed in the yard and it was teeming with rain. Someone passing the yard went and knocked on his door and when Mrs Lowe answered she was told: 'Mrs Lowe, your Matt is lying in the yard'. She replied: 'Just put it over the wall and it will dry out in the morning'."
Publisher Andrew Clark says the strength of the book is the wealth of material recounted by real people.
"Personal memories of people who had lived through hard times; the General Strike, the Depression, the Second World War, down the mines," he says. "Keith has allowed them to tell their own story, we just put their stories into a logical format. The book provides a real sense of what it is like to live in a pit village.
"People didn't like going down coal mines but they didn't want them to close the way they did. There's a great sense of loss. They went down at 14, as boys, and now they just want to talk about it. They have seen the whole community change and they don't want people to forget.
"The book is helping to preserve their memories. People sacrificed their lives down the pit and this shouldn't be forgotten."
Launched in the Dun Cow, Old Elvet, Durham, yesterday, the book inspired miner's son Ian Horn to recall some of the memories his father Billy had of their home village of Shotton Colliery.
"It was the Rock of Gibraltar made of coal dust and slag," he says. "A miner's volcano with vapour of sulphur fumes rising from it. The volcano is now pasture, a grassy hill surrounded by call centres." He says the pit wheel has become a monument and nostalgia is a powerful emotion but there is a danger the pit disasters and hardship can be forgotten.
The tone of the book is captured in the preface in the lyrics of a song by rock folk band Whisky Priests:
This village draws me,
I hear it calling me back through the years.
It's people are its life blood,
I am its joys, I am its tears.
A sacred bond exists here
Between the land and the people it owns.
It grants no escape from the realm of its fate,
It reaps the crops we have sown,
This village has made me all that I am,
This village is calling me home.
The band is headed by twins Gary and Glen Miller, 34. Now living in York, they grew up in the mining community of Sherburn, near Durham, and their material is heavily influenced by North-East culture.
"Our grandparents and uncles were miners but our dad, Allan, was a school teacher," says Gary. "Dad was the youngest son and his father was determined that he should not go down the mines. They scrimped and saved to send him to college and because of that he didn't dare fail. He didn't go down the mines, for which he is eternally grateful.
"Our dad was a singer with a brass band and tried to get us interested in music. Now we run our own record company, have our own website and are popular across Europe."
Glen adds: "We are a rock band but don't just sing about love and baby, baby. We are serious about our lyrics and the content, they have much more depth."
Through this book, and possibly a second volume, mining communities will live on long past the closure of the pits, its stories, pictures, poetry and songs a lasting testament for future generations.

**Our Village (The People's History)


jack common


A Jack Common Celebration

The Bridge Hotel, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne

Keith Armstrong introduces his recent book about Jack Common, followed by talk by Peter Common, commissioned poetry by Catherine Graham and music from Kiddar's Luck folk group.

7pm Tuesday 1st December 2009

"Thanks for the book which I think is splendid. THE definitive work. I liked, in particular, your emphasis on the essays which I only discovered through your Strong Words publication all those years ago." (John Mapplebeck, Bewick Films)

"I think you have produced a very interesting and unusual book, an amalgamation between biography of Jack, a lot of interesting detail about his various writings, his socialism and intellectual discussions in the 30s, and then the theme of your own work encouraged by his example as a working-class writer, and leading on to helping other writers in the North East.
I applaud your persistence in publicising your hero and your loyalty to Jack over all these years." (Sally Magill, Jack’s daughter)

"You must be feeling very proud that your book is at long last out on the bookshelves and ready to race to the top of the charts." (Peter Common, Jack's son)

port erin, isle of man


armstrong in douglas, isle of man

To the wonderful, amusing, spot-on Keith!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for coming to the Isle of Man and sharing your ace sense of humour and brilliantly crafted words. Please come back again. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Shelley D


(inspired by Patrick Kavanagh)

I met a kind of woman on the Isle of Man,
she touched me where a railway was.
She took me to Port Soderick
to lay all her dreams on the line.
She was a sexed-up girl from Ballasalla,
with a compartment for each of my moods.
By the time she had me in Ronaldsway,
I was starting to fill up with her joy.
In Ballabeg, she jumped on my train
to make me explode with a steamy desire.
Now, I’m missing her beauty again,
with her island warmth and hospitable eyes.
And, If I ever go back in Port Erin rain,
I’ll be sure to surrender my poems to her lips.


umbrian market in tuebingen 2009


keith floyd r.i.p.


byron eric dawson - st james' park 1930s



The day opens its doors to set a poem loose,
the sun beats hard on the skin of the sluice.
A passing bridge blinks to let a boat break through,
it’s time to leave English and sing something new.

From Lauwersee to Dollard
and from Drenthe to the Wad,
I follow a passing seagull’s cry
and teach my father’s voice to sigh:

Vivace la flambardo
Fugere le mansardo
Parforce la Camargo
a doso kwatrupardo

Monete penicardo
Pericula san pardo
Finate par retardo
Etcetera ce fardo*

Another night sleepless in Hotel Simplon,
the creaking bedhead and the simpletons.
Shot bolt awake by the drill of the dawn,
who cares what these unswept streets will spawn?

We’re walking the lanes that Hendrik Werkman dredged,
chipping the gems from the pavement’s edge.
Past a man fishing, heron stood by his side,
to the dark Huis de Beurs where all hope has died.

This Groningen wind belts poems in my face,
I’d trade in old guilders to buy out of this place;
my brain’s pickled with Duvals,
and there’s blood on the walls.

Oh to die in the trash of this town,
ode-money tumbling from pockets of time.
Think I’ll whistle a tune straight from home,
and slash the pale wrist of my very last poem.

Last night I put a piper to bed,
music dripped from his heart and his worn fingers bled.
And I couldn’t get that woman out of my dreams,
and I couldn’t hear my dreams for her screams.

So the day leaps to life and a hymn springs to mind,
I’m just a poor down-and-out hoarding words that I find.
Drunk conversations swim round in the bowl,
I’m drowning with language this lonely old soul:

Vivace la flambardo
Fugere le mansardo
Parforce le Camargo
a doso kwatrupardo

Monete penicardo
Pericula san pardo
Finate par retardo
Etcetera ce fardo

Keith Armstrong,

Groningen, The Netherlands

*Improvised verse by poet and graphic artist Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945)

the jingling geordie

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