Tuesday, 28 June 2011


For your barn dance, for your wedding, for your ceili or social get-together, book The Woodlanders:

The Woodlanders Country Dance Band - locally produced, matured over a great number of years. The farmer’s choice.

What a fabulous time we’ve been having, mates!!

We were down in Chebsey, a small village near Cheadle, on Saturday night to play for a wedding ceili: great people, beyootiful setting.

Steve Share called the dances for us – triffick job as always – and started off appropriately with Lover’s Knot and took the wedding guests through his pantheon of moves: the like Nervous Breakdown, the Cumberland Long Eight, and the Holmfirth Square. Yee-ha!

The Woodlanders came storming southern-slow and rocking: Speed the Plough, Curly-Headed Ploughboy, Jumping Joan, Bacca Pipes Jig, Salmon Tails Up In the Water, Winster Gallup, Harvest Home . . .

Have a long and happy life together Jenny and Chris.


Late night, early morning cos, next day The Woodlanders was the band in the street at Congleton Food and Drink Festival.

It was Jo Money and her Congleton Community Projects team who set up this celebration of victuals various and delightful. Jo’s events always have a tang of party and Rio about them, a vibe reinforced this time round by glorious Brazilian-type weather.

Congleton High Street was closed to traffic and lined with stalls selling cheeses and ciders and wines and breads, ice-creams, the soon-to-be-side-lined-back-to-kids-parties-cuz-the-market’s-been-saturated-and-it-was-only-a-fad-anyway cup cakes and other assorted tongue teasers.

The aromas of korma curries cooking and Gloucester Old Spot sausages getting sizzed in family-size frying pans wafted past the music tent where us four happy trad musos were laying it down in the shade.

We played sets from 11am through to 4.30pm and had more enquiries for future bookings than we could possibly play.


Off with the corduroys and oak leaf hat, and on with the suit and tie: Monday was the finals of the SG World National Poetry Competition for Schools.

This competition is in support of Whizz-Kidz, the charity that supplies wheelchairs for disabled kids to give them the opportunity of more independence.

As Cheshire’s longest-serving poet laureate, I was invited to be the poetry judge and charged with selecting the nine worthy finalists from the post bag of hundreds and hundreds of poems.

This is the second year running that I have had the privilege of being involved. It’s the hardest kind of work for a poet geezer to do, I reckon, to make judgements on the work of young writers. Having said that, it is also immensely rewarding. The decisions to be made are many and complex.

The event was held at the Manchester United Football ground at Old Trafford, Manchester.

The theme of the competition this year was: Our Wonderful World. The winning poems are posted on the SG World website. I’ll give the link later on in this blog.

Steve Floodgate of SG World and his team organised the event with immense skill and imagination. He’s a really warm and amusing presenter too.

Steve recruited Sam and Mark of childrens’ TV fame to assist with the presentation. Nice guys. The kids loved them.

What prizes the young writers were given too!: X-Boxes for each of the finalists and flat-screen TVs for the winner in each of three categories.

The judging panel consisted of Arnold Haase CEO of SG World, myself, Ash from Whizz-Kidz, and Sam and Mark.

One young finalist (he’s five) didn’t end up winning, but I wanted to give his poem special attention here. His parents were pleased to give me permission. I’m showing you Josh's work for its utter visual charm and because it’s a great illustration of how an unconscious non-standard use of English can regenerate the meaning of a word and recreate a sense of discovery and wonder.

The young poet’s name is Josh, and here is his poem called Our Wonderful World:

In our wonderful world I can see
Leydeybords is spotty.
In our wonderful world I can hear
Birds sigig.
In our wonderful world I can smell
Fish and chips. meyk me hungry.
In our wonderful world I can feel
Leaves are spotty.
In our wonderful world I can taste
Ice scream is joosey.


SG World do a wonderful job raising the profile of poetry among young writers. It is a privilege for me to be invited to work with them on these projects. I am grateful to them.

Here’s the promised link to the SG World website where you can see a scan of Josh’s poem and those of all the other competition finalists.


I had to say a few words to the young writers and their assembled schoolmates and parents and teachers. SG World commissioned a poem from me too. It’s site-specific and occasion-specific and a bit of a performance poem so it might not come off the screen as well as it could, but here it is anyway:


When I was nine and ten and more,
The thing I spent time longing for
Was to be the hero of a football cup:
To be hugged and kissed and lifted up,

And, swaying and bobbing proud,
Be run around the football ground
On the shoulders of my team,
Each one his eyes agleam,

Shouting, ‘AIN’T HE G-REAT!’
He’s not scored one, he’s scored eight!!
This magic, gifted demigod’s fate
Was to hand us victory on a plate.

     No one’s ever seen such play!
     History has been made today.’

Will they never cease, this fevered crowd,
From chanting long and chanting loud,
From terrace and director’s box,
‘There’s only one Terry Fox’ . . .?

An odd, odd dream, I must confess,
For a boy whose sports prowess,
Was little less than,
Well . . . a mess.

When I kicked a ball, it made no sound,
But slowly rolled along the ground
And stopped, a mere spit away,
Till Mr. Rolf felt bound to say:

     ‘The beautiful game’s not for you.
     Find another thing to do.’

I now play games inside my head,
Kicking words around instead.
The goals are different, to be sure,
But the thrill’s the same if you score:

Tackling stanzas, knocking them clear;
Bending them like Shakespeare;
Running them from the half-way line,
To a perfect finish at full time.

As all you young poets know,
There’s glory in a phrase’s flow.
Some folk are born with a life all set
For putting ‘em in the back of the net.

     At the end of the day, I’m excited,
     By the nouns and verbs of Words United.


Here's the Woodies at Congleton Food and Drink Festival 2011:

Keep smiling and piling on the sun bloc,


Friday, 17 June 2011


Anyone calling at the New Inn in Derby Street Hanley will immediately gather that the landlord, Les, is an Elvis Presley fan.

There are more pictures of the legendary American yodelling dood on the walls of the New Inn’s back room than I have ever seen outside of books on Elvis Presley.

StringFing played that room last night as one of its regular 3rd Thursday of the month gigs there.

After StringFing had set up, we were having a drink and I was looking at the Elvis-covered walls and thinking, ‘I bet this is exactly what the inside of Les’s mind looks like,’ when who should walk through the door but . . . John Lindley.

Soz to all those of you who thought it was going to be Elvis, but he really is dead, you know.

John Lindley has a permanent open invitation to come along on StringFing nights to read for us - he’d be welcome anyway, of course. But, until last night, he hadn’t been able to get there. He’s a busy guy, John; much in demand. He would be. He’s more than a little bit good at what he does.

After StringFing's first set, in which we included a version of Matty Groves - we like to include one traditional song each time out - John did just one poem for us. And John being John, it was exactly the right poem in exactly the right place at exactly the right time: a new poem of his, a long, long poem: God Bless Elvis Presley.

I haven’t checked the title so, for all I know, John might call it something different, but that’ll do for me. That is certainly the refrain of the piece and, I tell you, it is a tour de force of writing; a magnificent, secular hymn to life and love; to earthly struggles and to triumphs of the spirit. John’s reading of it was inspired and inspiring. Breath-taking stuff.

Our audiences have been fewer these last couple of times at the New Inn. We’ve been hammering it a bit locally, and it’s start of the holiday season and those factors have had an effect on attendance. Those of you who didn’t show up, though, missed a treat, several treats, in fact.

We were one lucky bunch of doods gathered in that room.

Next up, Pete Latham played for us.

I’ve heard Pete a lot of times over the years and I don’t do the blues thing myself anymore, but when I did do it, I lived and breathed it as a self-taught blues and boogie piano player, there at the birth of the British blues.

I cut my musical teeth at the feet of its founding fathers: Alexis Korner, Cyril Davis. I’ve played with British blues legends such Tony McPhee, Eric Clapton, and John Mayall as well as some of the world’s greatest exponents like Screaming Jay Hawkins, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. I know what I am listening to. I know the difference between the phoney and the phoned. Pete's always good, but last night, Pete Latham played beautifully; BEA-U-TIFULLY.

Pete’s laid-back rendition of How Long Blues, was the tenderest, most soulful exploration of the riches of that song since Leroy Carr recorded his version of it on Vocalion Records in 1928 with Scrapper Blackwell. I take my fedora off to you Pete.

As if all of that was nay enough, my Lynda had contacted a mouth harp player, Purcy, via FaceBook and he came down to the New Inn as well.

Our great friend, wine expert/bluesman/singer-songwriter and all-round thoroughly lovely bloke, Jimmy Gillespie, invited Lynda and I to his recent birthday party at the Leopard in Burslem. There was much music making. There always is around Jimmy. Purcy was amongst several mighty fine harp players there. It was good to see him again.

Purcy is a sharp-dressed fella and a mean, mean harp player. He and Pete had an immediate blues-brotherly rapport and knocked us out with some of the finest blues wailing ever blues wailed round these ‘ere parts.

I can’t leave out Adam and Emily either. They were at the top of their game. They always are outstanding, ain't they? They are recognised as having raised the bar for the playing of Anglo-Celtic traditional music and its off spring.

For the record, to correct what I sometimes hear said, and sometimes see in print, Adam Fenn is neither my mandolin player nor is Emily Tellwright my cello player. They are both their own people in their own independent right with complex musical lives of their own. I am fortunate that they both agree to include me in their continuing musical adventures.

My thanks to Adam and Emily. My thanks to Pete and Purcy. My thanks to John. My thanks to Les and Yvonne of the New Inn. My thanks to everyone who came along to listen last night.

Uh, huh, may your gods bless you each and all, and to paraphrase a line of John’s poem: God bless Elvis Presley, and God bless God too if God exists.

Till next time, travel safe.


Sunday, 5 June 2011


I've been asked to post in my blog the song I wrote for Adoption Matters North West. Toebrt filmed this in my writing room for YouTube. Hopefully StringFing will record a version of this later in the year. We will definitely be performing it tonight at the Holy Inadequate, Etruria. Come along and sing along. Tra-ra. Terry