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)


hartley book launch - some comments

Thank you a million fold for last night. What a lovely event, and the book is great.

Barry Stone

Thanks for organising last night. 

Elaine Cusack

Thanks for last night; also including my piece in the book, I feel very

Rachel Cochrane

Thank you for a very enjoyable and moving launch last night. The setting was perfect, the lecture fascinating, and the readings and music rounded off the evening perfectly. I've been left with a burning desire to learn to play the Northumbrian pipes. That music was stunning, particularly the final piece the piper played.



 I echo Cathy`s sentiments about the evening, which I throughly enjoyed & the venue certainly added to the gravitas of the event. Wow, what an interior; perhaps one of Newcastle`s hidden gems. I`ve now had a wee bit of time to look through the book; I have to congratulate you (& North Tyneside Council for the financial support) on a job exceedingly well done. I also congratulate my fellow contributors for their sensitive & thought-provoking work. Keep it up & in touch. Best wishes to all...........................Geoff Holland

 I echo what Geoff Holland has said - oh, what a night!  I think the other readers and musicians agree with me on a well-organised event and the venue was an apt and well-chosen place to perform - balcony readings from the gods of artistry...


Gordon Phillips

Thanks from me too! What an amazing venue!

Chris Ormston

Thanks again, plus I can tell you that Barbara Hadaway and John  and Maria loved the night.

Barry Stone

I would like to add my own thanks - it really was a special evening.

The book itself is great and it was amazing to see inside the Mining Institute, hear Mr Jackson's lecture, and then enjoy the readings and music and the Institute's hospitality...the New Hartley Lament on the northumbrian pipes was something I'll never forget. 

Thanks for all your hard work!

Pippa Little

I must write to let you know how honoured I felt to be a part of last night's event at the Mining Institute.

The book is a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to all those men and boys who lost their lives in the New Hartley pit disaster, the evening was so moving - the poems and the music so touching.

Please do pass on my sincere thanks to everyone involved. A special thanks to the lovely people I met from the Mining Institute for their warm welcome and hospitality.

Finally, sincere thanks to you Keith for everything you do in support of poetry and community projects.

All Good Wishes
Catherine Graham

Just literally came in from work and want to say what a great night last night was!!! Cynth and me enjoyed it very much, there is just something about Newcastle. We both enjoy being there, the Institute is an amazing place, it knocked us both out!!! What an exquisite place to hold an event, we enjoyed the ride up, the talk by Norman Jackson, the readings the whole evening in fact, so well done!!! Nice one Keith and many thanks for including my poem in your great book I hope I didn't let you down with my reading). 

Robert Lonsdale

I would just like to voice my thanks also for a very memorable evening. The venue was spectacular and very apt.  The whole evening was very well planned, including breaks for refreshments.  I was  gripped by Norman Jackson's presentation and the launch was a good mix of music, poetry and prose.

Thanks for the evening Keith and everyone who took part, also those who prepared beforehand and afterward.  And  thanks for including my piece in the book.

Best wishes

Noreen Rees
just read all the comments re thursday evening. john and i would echo everything that was said, we had a lovely evening, the lecture was really interesting and gave a good insight of what happened at hartley, it left us feeling we wanted to know more. the music and poetry were excellent and the pipes well they were something else, especially the tune written for the anniversary of the disaster. 

heather wood, easington

Congratulations on organising such a wonderful event on Thursday and for putting together such a beautiful new book of superb poetry and prose - all the contributions are fantastic and it is a book to treasure, so my thanks and congratulations to all involved. Chris's specially composed new piece of music is also superb and apt.

Best wishes,

Gary Miller Songs

A good evening and congratulations on the book - v. good to see the disaster marked so vividly. Crack on o bard!

Peter Mortimer



The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Neville Hall, Westgate
Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE. Tel: 0191 232 2201.


Saturday 17th  March from 7 – 9pm in the Library.

2012 provides several anniversaries of mining disasters so, to re-balance this a little, well be holding an event celebrating the 180th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Skipsey, the Tyneside Pitman Poet.
The event includes Keith Armstrong, Gary Miller(Whisky Priests), Chris Harrison with Skipsey songs, and pipe player Chris Ormston, with readings from Skipseys poetry and an account of his life.
During the evening, the annual Northern Voices Joseph Skipsey Award will be presented to a deserving local writer.


on the nail

Tim Lott

Tim Lott: I'm proud of my country – the land of Blake, Dickens, Orwell, and Ian Dury

We all ache to fuse ourselves with something above and beyond us, in which we can take pride

I have a white friend from a working-class background who would prefer to wave the St George's Cross than the Union Flag, who strongly supports Scottish independence and who is passionate in declaring his patriotism as specifically English, rather than generally British.
Is he an English Defence League member, a supporter of Ukip, a skinhead thug or simply a Tory? None of the above. In fact, he has never voted anything but Labour. He believes in secularism and the multicultural society. He is a lifelong republican and values literature and the arts.
He is, in fact, not my friend at all. Not because I find his views offensive, but because he is me. For I suffer from the love that dares not speak its name – at least among polite left-liberal society. I love the English people, because I am from England made. I do not love Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland, though I hold nothing against them. I identify with the ancient nation of Shakespeare and Dickens and Orwell and, for that matter, Linton Kwesi Johnson, the Specials, Zadie Smith and Steve McQueen. I draw my sense of self from the historical and present fact of England, not the political construction that is the United Kingdom.
I am not alone in this identification – 40 per cent of those polled in a new survey by the Institute for Public Policy Research this week sees Englishness as more important to them than Britishness; just 16 per cent takes the opposite view. Meanwhile, Alex Salmond argued in his Hugo Young lecture that Scottish independence would benefit England, allowing a revival of a sense of nationhood south of the border.
The IPPR survey comes as no surprise. I think my longing to enjoy a guilt-free sense of positive belonging to my own country is a sentiment whose time has come. This kind of thinking makes many of the left-liberal axis nervous, even though many great radical movements, among them Chartism, Methodism and early feminism, all grew out of specifically English traditions. But the left will have to face a fundamental human truth. We all ache to fuse ourselves with something above and beyond us, which we can take pride in and draw a sense of self-respect from, and that something for most of us, either avowedly or subliminally, is the nation we belong to.
The play Jerusalem, which had people queuing overnight for tickets, speaks loudly to this impulse – the sense of a "real" England, somewhat anarchic, dangerous, connected spiritually with the land. You can link it with Shakespeare's "blessed plot", Blake's "Jerusalem", Orwell's nation of fundamentally gentle tea-loving people with bad teeth, Larkin's melancholic northern towns. It is not right wing or left wing – it is an ancient feeling of belonging to an ancient land and its deeply rooted cultures and customs. This is not about Morris dancing and horse brasses. It is a deep, barely describable sense of a particular way of being.
If we take the decision that we are English and we are proud, instead of British and shamefaced, then what are we to love? We suffer poverty and inequality, racism, social disruption and much besides. All those problems likewise assail Scotland, plus a nasty dose of sectarianism, but they did not stand in the way of a Burns night party I attended this week which was enormous fun, and a specific, joyous celebration of a particular country. How I would love a Larkin night, or a Shakespeare night. But it is not in our tradition. Is colonial guilt the barrier? Plenty of nations, including the US, France and Spain, manage to take a pride in who they are without indulging in that particular historio-cultural cringe.
Once you subtract any political /historical/ military/scientific "pride" – which is more the ambit of the right wing, such as Wellington, Churchill, Brunel, Stephenson, Drake, kings and queens, Nelson and so on – I think what's left over is the England that I, at least, can take pride in. This residue encompasses a nation of extraordinary and disproportionate creative and radical intelligence. And, crucially, this is not "just" history, rooted in Victoriana and the Empire. It persists today and flourishes more than ever.
I am thinking of the endless roll call of great English cultural figures, many from the grassroots rather than the glittering spires. Richard Thompson and the scores of brilliant English folk musicians. A Harold Pinter play, a Mike Leigh film, a Kinks record, a Tony Harrison poem, a David Hockney painting. This tiny nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the mighty United States in our world-class contributions to the arts.
We on the left are conditioned not to see these achievements in the foreground. They appear as background fuzz. We see only pomp and circumstance. This is not my England; this is an England imposed by Tory romantics, who have had an open field in the face of liberal hesitation. Quite apart from its large-scale creativity, the real England is a grassroots mindset – one that sticks its finger up at the world (now most perversely apparent in so-called "chavs", once the proud and bloody-minded English working class). It is a mindset that is indignant and individual and honest and satirical and transcends northernness or southernness. It is non-sectarian. It is creative and vibrant and untamed.
If we can cut free from the constitutional absurdity and unfairness of Scotland – how it irks me that English children have to pay university tuition fees there, but not EU citizens; how I resent their free prescriptions and their cynical MPs' votes on English affairs – all we need to do is to re-imagine ourselves to become great again, but great in a different way from before.
We could inflect the design of the St George's Cross to reclaim it from Tory England. We could make Blake's "Jerusalem" the national anthem and place Ian Dury's remains in Poets' Corner. We could build a George Orwell memorial garden in front of Buckingham Palace.
I am aware that all these figures are white, but a new Englishness, while embracing wholeheartedly the multicultural society, would not be about "equal representation" for all ethnicities and cultures. It is about something more subtle that all are finally subsumed in and accommodated by. Then, at last, we could make a start of turning this most imaginative and clever and individualistic and inclusive and artistic and rebellious country into a place for all to embrace and no longer recoil from. We would no longer be arrogant, insecure, alone and backward-looking.
Britain would be gone, and we would be England, new again. We would be good, not Great, and proud, not ashamed or indifferent. Most importantly of all, that pride would be here and now and alive, no longer echoed through the distorting chambers of the past.
Tim Lott's new novel, 'Under the Same Stars', is published by Simon and Schuster on 1 April



  • Description
    Come celebrate the post-valentine joy or blues with the salubrious ORGAN GRINDERS who promise a spiffing night of live literature, folk, jazz and of course the coveted port!

    TRASHED ORGAN presents the celebrated poet and performance maestro Tim Turnbull alongside North East stalwarts: Kathleen Kenny, Keith Armstrong, Ira Lightman, and Rowan McCabe.

    Plus folk styling’s from singer/songwriter Simon Stephenson and supreme jazz from our favourites Fiona’s Jazz Express!

    And if that isn’t enough, as usual one lucky audience member will be crowned the TRASHED LAUREATE winning a bottle of port for a fine line of lyrical bliss!

    Tim Turnbull
    Tim Turnbull is the author of two collections, ‘Caligula on Ice and Other Poems’ and ‘Stranded in Sub-Atomica’ from Donut Press, and several pamphlets as well as two acclaimed stage shows 'Caligula on Ice' and ‘Tim Turnbull’s Tales of Terror’. He is currently working on a horror novel and a series of macabre short stories. His shows combine accomplished poetry of great formal dexterity with a dynamic stage presence and he has entertained audiences of across Britain for over fifteen years. Winner of ‘The Contenders’ Performance Poetry Fellowship in 2006 he has also been nominated for first collection and best poem categories in the Forward Prizes.

    Kathleen Kenny
    Kathleen Kenny lives and works in Newcastle. Her books include Hole; Keening with Spittal Tongues; and Firesprung. Her latest poetry collection: Travelling Like Eggs, was published in October 2011 by Red Squirrel Press. She works as a lecturer for Sunderland University and as a freelance creative writing tutor throughout the region.

    Keith Armstrong
    Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Keith Armstrong now resides in Whitley Bay and is coordinator of the Northern Voices creative writing and community publishing project. He was the founder of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East, Tyneside Poets and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series. His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman, Poetry Review, Dream Catcher, and Other Poetry. In 2007 he was awarded a doctorate for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham, which was published by the University of Sunderland Press in 2009.

    Ira Lightman
    Ira Lightman is a conceptual poet. He makes public art (he invented a new font for the windows of Gateshead Library) and plays left-field ukulele. Some of his many books actually have his name on the spine.

    Rowan McCabe
    Provides an eclectic mish-mash of beat poetry and lofty English verse, woven into a fully functioning patchwork quilt; a quilt which, though not aesthetically pleasing, could easily protect the carpet whilst re-painting the walls, or dry the dog off after a rainy walk in the park.

    Simon Stephenson
    Simon is a singer/songwriter and guitarist who plays traditional material. His songs are inspired by the tradition but look towards the modern landscape for inspiration. The guitar playing has echo's of Bert Jansch and the 'Folk Baroque' and he sings in a warm narrative style. Simon is doing a host of small shows ahead of a gig this summer at Beverley Folk Festival as part of the Area 2 stage, where Simon intends to launch his solo CD 'Ghost in the Pines". Simon has also worked with theatre company 'Bubble and Squeek' as musical director and composer for their steam-punk re-imagining of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. Simon also works with fantastic singer and clarsach player Miranda Barty Taylor and percussionist Ged Robinson. Simon also plays occasionally with jazz guitar maestro Bradley Johnston.

    8pm start
    £4/3 (concessions) on the door

    The Bridge Hotel
    Castle Square
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 1RQ


imagined corners

You might be interested to know that Imagined Corners is 8 (out of 56) in the Smokestack’s best-selling charts:

Katrina Porteous, Dunstanburgh                                            
Martin Rowson, The Limerickiad                                                                                                                                        
Martin Espada, Crucifixion in the Plaza de Armas                 
Ellen Phethean, Wall                                                              
Bob Beagrie, The Seer-Sung Husband                                   
David Betteridge (ed) A Rose Loupt Oot                               
Jon Andersen (ed) Seeds of Fire                                            
Keith Armstrong, Imagined Corners                                         

Many thanks.



Imagined Corners

For over thirty years Keith Armstrong has been taking his poetry to what John Donne called 'the round earth's imagined corners' - giving poetry readings in the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, Iceland, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the United States, Jamaica, Kenya and Cuba. At the same time he has been exploring some of the imagined corners of his native North East of England, its sometimes heroic past and its post-industrial discontents.
Imagined Corners brings together, for the first time, poems from all the corners of Keith Armstrong's imagination. It's a trumpet call to those who, in the words of John Donne, are the victims of:
'war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law.'
It is a manifesto for the public ownership of poetry. It's a hymn to a broken internationalism. And it's a beery love-poem for the North East.

Sample Poems


'There are those who tell the terrible truth in all its loveliness. Keith Armstrong is one of them, a fine poet who refuses to turn his back on the wretched of the Earth. He is one of the best and I hope his voice will be heard more and more widely.'
Adrian Mitchell
'If you are old enough to remember Britain before it fell under the malicious spell of those who believe to catch a bus if you're over thirty is proof of failure, it will remind you of gentler, sweeter times... in place of the empty, near-manic, self-congratulatory but superficial and compensatory sensibility of modern culture, Armstrong gives us a sense of what we have lost, how we have gone wrong and reminds us of the dirt and darkness beneath the neon and glitz.'
Penniless Press
'rooted in the Tyneside music-hall tradition, closely behind which was the august balladry of the Borders... the authentic note of the Northern poet.'
Other Poetry
'postcards from an alternative grand tour, journal entries from another, more innocent time, when the world spun more slowly and we had time to befriend strangers and notice things... celebrating people and places, a world of anecdote and adventure, strong drink and life itself.'

the jingling geordie

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