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,


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