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)


from website of groningen city council

Newcastle upon Tyne

In the far north of England lies Newcastle, which is an old industrial town. It was founded by the Romans and once the outermost northern border with Scotland. Newcastle expanded enormously during the industrial revolution. But in the mid 20th century it went to ruin and in the eighties the mining companies closed down and shipyards were dismantled. Traces of the ship-building industry are still visible when entering the town by boat.

Since the 1980’s the redevelopment of the city has been undertaken vigorously with large budgets made available by the central government in London. A lot of effort was put into demolishing, building and rebuilding on a large scale. The old industrial city has been refurbished into a city focused on retail business. The old city centre with Georgian and Victorian architecture has been fully restored.

The urban area Newcastle-Gateshead is a metropolis with 500,000 inhabitants and is the most important city of northeast England. With two universities (Newcastle University and Northumbria University) Newcastle is a university town. But recently it has been trying to display itself as a shopping and cultural town as well. A few years back Newcastle started working together with Gateshead, the town across the river, to establish itself as a cultural area.

The partnership between Groningen and Newcastle was established just after WWII. In 1988 the ties were reconfirmed. In the 1990’s representatives paid several mutual visits and there was lively interchange of artists. Both towns also cooperated with Odense and Bremen in the project Public Policies on Hard Drugs. More recently they have started the PURE cooperation which is focused on regional development and planning. Cause was the 60th anniversary of the partnership Groningen-Newcastle. In September 2008 the alderman for culture and economy traveled to Newcastle, heading a delegation of poets, writers and journalists.

Cultural interchange
In the mid 1990’s lively movements between the literary circuits in Newcastle and Groningen emerged. The driving force behind all this was Keith Armstrong, the unofficial Newcastle poet laureate. Keith Armstrong used to perform once a year in Groningen, giving workshops mostly at the Werkman College and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. From 2000 the Groningen poets laureate (Bart Droog, Ronald Ohlsen and Rense Sinkgraven) paid visits to Newcastle. Ronald Ohlsen and Rense Sinkgraven were received by the Lord Mayor.

In October 2007 the 15th anniversary of the literary partnership was celebrated in Newcastle with a literary evening organized by Keith Armstrong at which poets from Newcastle and the poets laureate from Groningen and Tilburg made appearances.

In September 2008 the Alderman of culture and economy visited Newcastle. He had invited the prime of the Groningen poets to accompany him. The poets performed in Newcastle together with poets and musicians from the British sister city.


see you there, culture vultures!




Special guests from Teesside: Trevor Teasdel, Bob Beagrie,

Andy Willoughby & Robert Lonsdale

from Ireland: Stephen Murray & Brendan Murphy

from the North West: Geraldine Green & Alan Dent

from Lincoln: Guy Hudson

from Tyne & Wear: Catherine Graham, William Martin, Paul Summers,

Keith Armstrong, Dave Alton and Gordon Phillips

plus presentation of Northern Voices Poetry Award 2010

Sunday 24th January 2010 7.30pm

Bridge Hotel, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne

Admission £5

Further info: tel 0191 2529531


if you think this is democracy,
this quango land
of the pampered middle classes,
this apology for socialism,
this New Labour
egocentric insult to our history,
this emptiness
of false celebrity,
this Blairite shallowness,
this shattered ignorance
of all that shines from our fought- for heritage,
this media connivance
and bone idleness,
this following of the fast buck,
this grovelling to the greed of capital,
this sickening homage to materialism,
this lack of human spirit
in our city centres,
this brutal selfishness
encouraged by a government
that denies our European roots,
that scans the wonder of the vast Atlantic
for feeble ideas to run with,
this rat race of a society
that puts self above solidarity,
these feeble careerist substitutes for activism
who have lost any real will for change,
who have become corrupted by a power- lust,
who lack any passion
other than to climb grimly up their greasy poles,
clinging on to their self- delusion,
ignoring, in their centrist way,
the true beauty of community,
handing out their gongs to the servile
and rubbishing the selfless folk
who work their little miracles every breathing day.



happy new year!


on tour again 2010


poor avenues
life rich

warm glow
hope springs

pit broken
grass grows
blink bonny

clocks alarm
wake joy in us
buses sweep past

at morn
buried dreams
night sings

town in winter
frosty coats
hearts melt

come the day
me hinny
love speaks

the streets glow
in my memory
golden times

this is
my home
your honour

badges in dust
in my chest

our children
heal wounds

my love
black and white


my eyes

my heart
ash town

yer bugs
i’m drowning
in kisses


with my eyes

wor jackie

doon that hole

this is my place
no place
for rats

turn pages
seek liberty
in ancient books

wor lass

bring me sunshine
the back-lanes

kicking a ball
the walls



some comments

Some comments on poetry/music evening at Ustinov College, Durham on December 2nd in support of Palestinian Educational Trust:

From songstress Marie Little:

Hi Keith,

It was a lovely night and a successful one. Everyone enjoyed themselves, singers, poets and audience.

Go well

From poet Cynthia Fuller:

Dear Keith
It was a good event. I liked the mix of poetry and music and it's a good cause to be supporting. Thanks for organising it.

Best wishes


peter common on bridge hotel jack common book launch

Hi Keith,

It was an absolute pleasure. I really enjoyed the evening, the old Bridge
Hotel didn't let us down and the atmosphere was magic, particularly in the
bar afterwards. (The beer was great as well).

I got back to the Travelodge safely afterwards with the help of those two
crazy sisters that you left me in the hands of. They drove me home in their
car. I believe they are called Angela and Siobhan. Good people to be sure!

It was good hearing the "Kiddar's Luck" folk group in a more sympathetic
atmosphere. I have since downloaded the words of two of their songs, Sally
Wheatley and Sally Gee, both very interesting but for different reasons. I
would like to know more about the background to the Sally Gee song. Do you
know anything about the story?

I also enjoyed seeing and hearing Catherine Graham again, she gave me a card
with her poem, "When the Ship Sails up Dean Street", printed on it.

And of course your own contribution was up to your usual high standard. All
in all, a memorable evening!

The journey home was uneventful and straightforward. It's always good to
visit Newcastle but it is also good to get back home again.

Good luck with the continued sales of your excellent book.

All the best


Vertrek uit Dublin

voor Keith Armstrong

Die nacht vertel je over
je vader, splinters in zijn
handen, ploeterend op de werf.
Je moeder, een meisje
dat de vogels voert.

De Brit die drank bestelt
in Duitsland.
'Ein Bier bitte und
ein Martini for the wife.'
'Sweet or dry?'
'Ein bitte.'
We lachen.

Twee Ieren gaan naar Rome.
Ze komen in een bar
en vragen wat de paus drinkt.
'Crème de menthe.'
'Two pints of crème de menthe.'
Na vijf pints zegt de ene Ier
tegen de andere:
'No wonder they're carrying
him around in a chair.'

Zo wordt het ochtend.
Het regent.

Jij belt een taxi. Wacht.
Een onhandig kind per
ongeluk oud geworden.
Een laatste handdruk,
een innig woord.

Later bel ik: 'alles goed?'

Je stem klinkt nachtelijk
en vertrouwd.

Rense Sinkgraven


happy new year to a twin town!

I am glad to have twinned with this shapely town,
the bureaucrat who chose it was inspired,
picking through the rail lines and autobahns to seek it out,
linking it with my fleeting life.
I have travelled here a score of times and watched
my features change
with the seasons
in a twin-town’s mirror.
I have made and carelessly lost friends,
renewed the flagging feel of tenderness,
groped in the darkness for a kiss gone missing,
licked over nooks and crannies.

With local wine glinting in my starry eyes,
I have lost all tracks of time
in the cool of bowing trees;
rejoiced in the pounding of church-bells,
singing in my head.
I have dived in the shadows seeking famous sons,
slid in gutters with the down-and-outs.

This town has a brain of a University
and the guts of a stray-dog.
I have flogged it to death.

It was in this bar, at this table, in this corner,
that I looked into a girl called Karin’s eyes;
and it was at that moment, for that rich moment,
that our eyes twinned and I couldn’t wait to jet home,
write a glowing report on her glowing face
for our International Exchange Officer to file safely
under ‘Twinning Affairs’
or ‘Affairs, Twinning, New Year’.

Yes, I am glad
to have twinned with this shapely town,
by Karin’s eyes.



assistance required!


Try to understand me,
where I come from, where I’m going;
I’m drifting and I need you
to save my hopes from ruin.

You’ll need to know what splits me,
my need for roots and dreams;
it’s not the earth that hurts me,
it’s the tyrants and their schemes.

My father sailed the world before me,
to Rio and to Spain;
his father taught him shells and ships
and how to smile in pain.

Mother stayed at home and nursed,
came from a quiet place;
she ran the river and the green,
grew strong, with a gentle face.

I split my tongue in the early days,
shook off asthma as I grew,
fell into school and struggled out,
just clutching what I knew.

I was bred for something ‘better’,
for an office on fifth floor,
away from sea-spray and stray sheep,
with my name upon the door.

My mother and my father
scraped and saved for me,
bruised each other in the process,
gave up smoking and the sea.

Try to understand me,
why I’ve come back to earth;
it’s because I need to know myself
and the landscape of my birth.


the jingling geordie

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