Saturday, 27 April 2013


Events Diary

Demo CD of

The Melly-Belly Songs / Five Sea Songs
by Jakub Zahradnik

to poems by Katrina Porteous and Keith Armstrong
Produced by Pagat Ultimo Musical Productions, s.r.o in Prague.

A few years ago, Dr Keith Armstrong, a well-known poet from Newcastle, travelled through Europe and met Czech composer and poet Jakub Zahradnik in Prague. Keith introduced Katrina to Jakub, and they performed together at Poetic Cafe Obratnik, where Jakub worked as a programme manager. The encounter resulted in a friendship, further reciprocal visits, and joint performances in Prague and Newcastle.
 Jakub was inspired to make a setting of Katrina's 'Five Sea Songs' written in the Northumbrian Dialect – five duets dealing with the lives of men and women, connected by the sea and the uneasy lot of fishermen. He has also worked with Keith Armstrong's poems to create 'The Melly-Belly Songs', characterized by the typical span of Keith's style – tender lyricism and nostalgia, blended with blistering humour and provocative satire.

 For more information about Jakub Zahradnik and his music, please see:
www.jakubzahradnik.com For copies of the demo CD please contact:

Friday, 26 April 2013


Original water colour by Ronald Embleton depicting wood engraver Thomas Bewick and some of his friends at the ‘Black Boy Inn’, Groat Market, Newcastle, where ‘Swarley's Club’ held regular meetings.

Around 1790, Bewick was elected a member of 'Swarley's Club'. Gentlemen's clubs in the late eighteenth century provided opportunity for political or religious debate. Swarley's weekly meetings, however, were more of a social nature.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


And if believing love can read
His better omens in her eye,
Then shall my fears, O charming maid,
And every pain of absence die:
Then shall my jocund harp, attuned
To thy true ear, with sweeter sound
Pursue the free Horatian song:
Old Tyne shall listen to my tale,
And Echo, down the bordering vale,
The liquid melody prolong.

Final verse from Mark Akenside's poem: On The Winter-Solstice

Saturday, 20 April 2013


WOULD I again were with you, O ye dales
Of Tyne, and ye most ancient woodlands! where,
Oft as the giant flood obliquely strides,
And his banks open, and his lawns extend,
Stops short the pleased traveller to view,
Presiding o’er the scene, some rustic tower
Founded by Norman or by Saxon hands;
O ye Northumbrian shades! which overlook
The rocky pavement and the mossy falls
Of solitary Wansbeck’s limpid stream,
How gladly I recall your well-known seats
Beloved of old; and that delightful time
When, all alone, for many a summer’s day
I wandered through your calm recesses, fed
In silence by some powerful hand unseen.

Mark Akenside

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Cobbled webs of my thoughts
hang around your lanes.
A brass band nestles in my head,
cosy as a bed bug.
I’m reading from a balcony
poems of Revolution.
It’s Gala Day and the words are lost
in the coal dust of your lungs.

Your dark satanic brooding Gaol
throws a blanket over blankness:
a grim era of second hand visions
aches like a scab in a cell.
And rowing a punt up your Bishop’s arse
a shaft of sunlight on the river
strikes me only as true,
shining into the eyes of all the prisoners
swinging from Cathedral bells.

Old Durham Town, you imprison me
like a scream in a Salvation Army song,
release me soon:

get ready to hug me.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013


acknowledged land
(coalburn, northumberland.)

weep november cold tears,
make this ford unpassable.

hide us in the mizzle caul of ancient fears,
protect us from this reiver dark.

fox cry, plangent grace,
the wearing lines

of history on her face:
the ghost of static mines,

the broken ribs of rusted ships,
of shoulders laden with flacid chips.

inscribe a legend on your map,
no longer whippet & cloth cap

but totem statuary here & there,
a culture raped, the cupboard bare.

this north, this cold, acknowledged land
where rule is cheap & underhand

where heritage is all the rage
& all our rage now heritage.

paul summers

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


The Pigeon Men

Three men are leaning on the corrugated iron,
Staring out across the fields at the china blue
Stretch of sky beyond. They are waiting for something.
‘Ye couldn’t buy that view,’

Kit shakes his head. His son John reaches up on tiptoe,
A little apart, on the loft roof, watching. Their backs
Are turned to the hand-stitched patchwork of crees, sheds, fences,
The secret shacks

And small doors cobbled from sleepers and iron sheeting
Hauled up from underground. It was pit-work
That made them ache to be out here in the sunshine
Among the birds.

‘See yon green fields? Yonder’s where Horden pit was ‘
The biggest pit in Europe, that. Nowt there now. Gone.’
John bites his tab, says nothing: glares into the distance.
Then he throws up his white dove like a flag: ‘Come on!’

And suddenly the sky is full of pigeons.
Over Blackhills Dene and Paradise they fly
Places that are names on the map now only:
Warren House, Whiteside,

And Clifton, Coxon, Cuba Streets, the vanished
Homes of vanished men who never dreamed
How much of themselves they nailed in the crees and gardens.
Home the birds stream,

While John, on the stock-loft roof, waves the frantic fantail.
‘Come on!’ he yells to the open sky; ‘Howway!’
And the white wings beat at the end of his outstretched fingers,
As if he too was ready to fly away.


Are ye one of us?
Are ye for us or agin us?
Are ye one of us?
Are ye for us or agin us?
Are ye one of us?
Are ye for us or agin us?
Are ye for us or agin us?
Are ye one of us?

Are ye Armstrong, are ye Johnstone,
Are ye Hall or Reed or Heron,
Are ye Henderson or Graham,
Are ye Beattie, Bell or Potts,
Are ye Musgrave, are ye Dixon,
Are ye Widderington or Nixon,
Are ye Charlton, are ye Robson,
Are ye wi us, or ye not?

Are ye Elliott or Maxwell,
Are ye Milburn, Tait or Turnbull,
Are ye Rutherford or Pringle,
Are ye friend or are ye foe?
Are ye Kerr or Hume or Little,
Are ye Laidler or Liddle,
Are ye Storey, are ye Ridley,
Are ye one of us or no?

Are ye Dodd or are ye Trotter,
Are ye Selby, Gray or Forster,
Are ye Davison or Pringle,
Are ye Collingwood or Scott,
Are ye Douglas, are ye Dixon,
Are ye Heatherington or Nixon,
Are ye Charlton, are ye Robson,
Are ye wi us, or ye not?

Wool on the whin’s barb marks the track.

The violence of molten rock
Stretches before you like the sea.

From Eildon’s summit you look out
On frozen time. For miles, the black

Impenetrable, speechless hills
Of Liddesdale and Teviotdale,

Redesdale, Coquetdale, North Tyne
Rucked and buckled, patched with pine,

Cold, embattled, acid-green
Moorland, blackland, carved between
Floes of ice and tides of men,

Fastnesses of bracken, slopes
And gullies fold their secrets close,

While the searchlight of the sun
Sweeps across them, one by one.

Three things have no end:
Fear, hunger and the wind.

They blast the open heathland where
A single strand of wire runs.
Such a fine thread holds the peace.

Bold,Tear like promises, it keeps
Its stony word upon the hill,

Unmoved, untouched, unblinking eye
Outstares the armies of the sky,
Time its only enemy.

Yarrow Water, Ettrick, Tweed:
A ruckle of stones and a nettle-bed,

Grey-boned hawthorn, flecked with blood,
Almost turned itself to stone,

Lichened trunk and strangled root -
Braid their shadows by the burn

In the places they belong.
Stone and tree-root, make us strong

Where the wind blows on the fell,
Where the track runs up the hill.

Who cares where you came from now? 
Every ditch and fold and knowe

And the white grass that swallows down
Arrow-head and carved stone,

Becomes a place to watch and hide.
The wide land bristles, sharp with eyes.

 *       *      *

Where Tweed and Teviot’s waters meet,
They carry all away: the gates,

The fences, signposts. Pine trees sway
Like ships at mooring on their slopes.

Tree-root, picket, branch, black loam -
The flood unfastens all; its broom

Sweeps the living and the dead
Towards a place that has no borders.

South and north, the colours drain
From drowned fields as night falls

On far, unfathomable hills
That sink their differences in sleep;

One ocean, darkening. Who knows
Where the fence runs on the fell?

The fading light, equivocal
As quicksilver, the cloud, the rain
The water singing in its veins,

Leave the earth to dark and wind.

Foula, Auld Yule
6th January

Shut the door and pass the bottle
Round the circle of light.
One by one let us drink to the days
The sun makes ripe,

And join in your riddle, Aggie Jean, in the ring
Of the stove’s peat reek,
While, long past midnight, the child in my lap is falling
Into sleep;

Into widening circles of sleep, that will carry her
Who knows where.
Let us drink to the fire within. We know too well
The dark out there.


The hot headed geniuses of Sandgate are leaping round town tonight
but the place is drunk and the walkways stagger
and there seems no sense in historic streets.
Where old sailors lamented and hand carts rested
and ships grew up on the river,
the times merge in the swaying crowds
and fancy dress keelmen swig in the night.
Here's the 'hot headed geniuses'
gannin doon with the tide
to plant bites on fresh lasses' necks,
and the hours keel over
and the days rock on,
as the love-bitten 'Lass of Byker Hill'
falls in the Keelman's Arms.
So let the pipers play
this Tyneside story
all over again.
It's a Geordie nightmare,
a black and white dream
all for you,
with knobs on.

Keith Armstrong and Trevor Teasdel

* John Wesley was rescued by fishwife Mrs Bailes from what he termed 'the hot-headed geniuses of Sandgate' when he preached from the steps of Newcastle's Guildhall

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

fog on the tyne!


Down by the river when the moon’s above
It sent me crazy and it got me love,
I’m crazy for my ukulele girl.

Down by the river all through the night
I’ll keep my girl if I play it right,
I’m crazy for my ukulele girl.

She’s so irresistible,
But now to go and top it all
She’s a girl who loves to play it cool
That’s my ukulele girl.

Down by the river as I play along
I love a girl with a sense of fun,
That’s my baby ukulele girl.

Down by the river is the place to be,
I hold her tight; she’s safe with me,
That’s my baby ukulele girl.

She’s so irresistible, etc.
Down by the river when the moon’s above, etc…
Down by the river all through the night, etc…

G.F. Phillips


Monday, 1 April 2013



click to play

I cannot get to my love if I would dee,
The water of Tyne runs between him and me;
And here I must stand with the tear in my e'e,
Both sighing and sickly my sweetheart to see.

O where is the boatman? my bonny hinny!
O where is the boatman? bring him to me, -
To ferry me over the Tyne to my honey,
And I will remember the boatman and thee.

O bring me a boatman, I'll give any money,
And you for your trouble rewarded shall be,
To ferry me over the Tyne to my honey,
Or scull him across that rough river to me.