Wednesday, 26 January 2011


The winner of this year's Northern Voices Award is Gordon Frank Phillips. It was presented to Gordon at a special event, including a Thomas Spence book launch, in Newcastle's Red House on Burns Night 25th January in the presence of the Sheriff of Newcastle, with readings from Gordon and others including Katrina Porteous, Paul Summers, Dr Keith Armstrong, Trevor Leonard, Brian Hall, Catherine Graham, Robert Lonsdale, Dominic Windram, Trevor Teasdel, Dave Alton with Ann Sessoms (pipes) and songs from Gary Miller. 
Gordon Phillips has been a writer ever since he came second in a National Schools Association Poetry Competition when he lived in St Albans.  He could have gone into the print trade like his father but ‘he was never any good with his hands’.  He was educated at Newcastle University where he specialised in writing, memory and culture.  Over the years he has written articles, book and theatre reviews for various magazines including Education ReviewThe Good Book Guide and Theatre.  His poems and fiction have been published nationally and internationally, in particular, Australia and the USA, in school textbooks and anthologies like New Angles by Oxford University Press and Enjoying English by Macmillan.  His other work has been as a librettist and lyricist, writing King Taor, a cantata for Gateshead Schools, Five Songs in Wansbeck Settings for a 20000 Voices project in Northumberland and writing some of the text as part of Five Operas, a multi-media project for schoolchildren in Essex.  At the moment, he is busy writing a folksong cycle, The Square and Compass about St Mary's Island in North Tyneside and a satire The Bull and Bear Song Cycle with a North American composer.  When he is not involved in creative projects he is tutoring in Creative Writing, Literature and running a Writers’ Workshop.

Other winners of the award have been William Martin, Alan C. Brown, Katrina Porteous, Catherine Graham, Gordon Hodgeon, Paul Summers and Trevor Teasdel.

More information from Northern Voices tel 0191 2529531

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Driving Route 66

Graphite underscore drawn hard across desert,
Along the rule of palefaced men pencilling
In a way they thought people should travel,
Definitive grey line in the sand. For
Tarmac’s the black mark civilisation
Makes when imposing upon chaotic
Wilderness slithering just beyond, through
Parched bush, over seared and desiccated
Yellowstone grit persisting mile on mile,
Either side of this narrow highway, out
To forbidding red mountains, severe slopes
So loosely strewn with boulders a tremor
Of the heart might bring them cascading down,
Overwhelming those unfortunate souls
Driving by, sound systems rocking, windows
Wound down, elbows jutting, looking ahead
Towards no particular place, passing by
Aboriginals with reservations
About their land divided and returned
In part, as a gift from their patrons,
Unsettled by settlers who brought the wheel
And then broke them on it. Adolescence,
That gauche hackneyed acned rebellion,
Erupted along this road well travelled,
These days, by the silver haired and balding,
Hot rodding along in purring hatchbacks,
Having cruised, it seems, from zits to liver spots,
Looking for kicks in comfort-fit jeans
And shades which are tinted spectacles: there’s
A few more miles yet before their final reservation,
With bored teenagers in the backseat
For now, wondering just what gran and gramps
See in all this, what are they looking for?
While the road goes on and on through neon
Nostalgia of Seligman and Williams,
Barely a curve or turning it seems.
So, look ahead and keep on cruising, don’t
Glance too often in the rear view mirror
Where sand is gathering on the shoulders
Of this thin highway to soon sweep over
From both sides to centre line; dust to dust.

Dave Alton