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by Norman Warwick

Whether or not art can exist in isolation has been the suject of theory and debate for centuries, and only earlier this month I was give conflicting opinions by artsts who at the time were being housed in the same exhibition and who had, albeit autonomously, created works that now seemed to speak to each other from walls all under one roof. Personally, I believe poetry and music can be companionable bed fellows  and so too can text and illustration. Each of these art forms could survive without the other, but we seem to have found plenty of evidence of collaboration recently.

Steve Cooke

Those fine people at our synergetic  sister company, all across the arts (aata) in the UK, continue to focus on the movers and shakers of the arts and literary scenes in the North West of England.  Steve Cooke worked alongside me for a couple of years running the Rochdale Observer page and various other all across the arts outlets and projects, before  assuming sole control when I came here to Lazarote to launch Sidetracks & Dertours. ´Control´, though, might give the wrong impression. Steve is far more of an enabler and facilitator than the control-freak that I was (and am) and there was evidence of that in a recent aata page in that paper.

Norman Warwick & Andrew Moorhouse

Steve recently put a ´shout-out´ encourtaging local artists to contact him to talk about their projects so that ongoing or forthcoming work could be given the extra publicity that the lockdown´s necessitate. One of the firsr people to contact him was Rochdale-based Andrew Moorhouse, the publisher of Fine Poetry Press and a member of the arts community, we have previously featured here on our Sidetracks & Detours blog. Steve, himself, describes the books under the Fine Press Poetry banner  as being, themselves, works of art.

Steve also observes in his article that most of the area´s (indeed the country´s, even the world´s) artists are trying to remain creative and productive despite Covid19.

Indeed, Andrew told him that, ´as with most of us in the creative community, since the start of the Covid outbreak in this country, I´ve continued with my publishing efforts despìte quarantine difficulties and lack of live events.´

Steve replied, though, by reminding Andrew that he has recently published two beatiful new books.

One of those titles, TAKK, features the work of poet Michael Symmons-Roberts,  and artist Jake Attree.

The works of each of these two included here were created in response to the work of Breughel´s painting The Procession To Calvary, the subject of a piece written by Andrew Moorhouse for Sidetracks & Detours still availalble in our archives.

A Short Story Of Falling

The second recent publication, A Short Story Of Falling, features eight poems by Alice Oswald, currently The Oxford Professor Of Poetry. Her contributions to this book are each complemented by metal engracings by Mirabel Mas, originally from Venezuela but now living in Liepzig.

I recall thinking when Sidetracks & Detours first heard about this collaborative piece (at the time simply a work in progress) how  likely it was that the eventual outcome would ´speak´ in some way to Falls, by Rachel Plans. Her visual and literary work was exhibited a year or two ago in Cic El Almacen gallery in Arrecife on Lanzarote.  Raquel Plans is a professor at the Pancho Lasso School of Art. Through illustrations, micro-stories and sculptural pieces Plans´work talked about the concept of ´fall´, understood as a personal situation related to the loss of stability or emotional control.

signage at Rachel Plan exhibition

The creator explained how the exhibition arose from several pieces already made and from new ones that she was creating, realizing that they were “very narrative”. She had not used drawing as an art medium for nearly twenty years but that new way of creating led her to use literature, illustrations and sculptural pieces in the same exhibition. Snatches of her original literature on the concept of Falls was stencilled on floors, walls, windows and walkways of Cic El Almacen and the opening night of the exhibition was packed out. She delivered a lengthy but entertaining verbal introduction to her work and then allowed us all to follow our art  up and down and around the venues´ spiral staircases, up to the galleries and down into the basement. I reviewed the event, and her accompanying book, for Lanzarote Information on-line and look forward to making some compare and contrasts with Alice Oswald´s work in the near future.

It was great to learn in Steve Cooke´s feature that Andrew has still two more on-going projects to keep him occupied throughout the new anti-covid measurements designed by the UK government to have everybody in tiers !

Coming soon from Fine Press Poetry collection of work by poet laureate Simon Armitage.

photo 6 Sidetracks & Detours recently ran a feature and review of Simon and his spoken work poetry recordings with his band LYR, recorded on their debut 2020 cd Call In The Crash Team which has met with considerable critical attention and acclaim.

For Andrew Moorhouse, however, the poet is back in the medium we most associate him with. The text of Simon´s Tract is written and is even further enhanced by artist Hugh O´Donahue, (left) who was born in Manchester of Irish Heritage.

Homer´s Octopus

Also available shortly will be Homer´s Octopus will be a collection by Northern Ireland poet Michael Longley´s ´Homeric´ poems alongside pen and ink drawings by the poet´s daughter, Sarah.

for further information on any of the above visit www.finepresspoetry.com

Sign Along With Us

We´re pretty sure that anyone who uses social media will be aware by now that sign along with us, the remarkable charity entertainment group formed to promote the use of sign language, finished runners up on the recently concluded series of Britain´s Got Talent. Some friends of Sidetracks & Detours, like Katie Haigh an occasional contributor to our pages, worked so hard to make that happen and unfolded a remarkable narrative in doing so. Inspired by teenager Jade Kilduff´s  burning desire to be better able to communicate with her younger brother through his physical difficulties the journey has seen this family from Rochdale appear on national tv and radio, perform live signed concerts and in general serve as a beacon of hope and humane compassion even through the period of covid crisis and lockdown.

Jade Kilduff

Meanwhile Jade Kilduff, of the aforementioned signalongwith us group, posted on facebook that ´I feel very overwhelmed with emotion but extremely excited to let you all know that I have been selected to receive The British Citizen Award.

The formal Medal and certificate presentation should have been held at the palace of Westminster this month but because of the current situation has unfortunately been postponed. Thank you so much to Sarah from one of the charities I am a ambassador for. I’m told she has nominated me for my charity work, my fundraising, my contribution to community and commitment to changing the lives of others. I am so grateful for your kind nomination Sarah and it was so unexpected but so appreciated So apparently technically I can now use the name – Jade Kilduff BCAc on formal things, I’m sure those who know common-as-muck me will have a good giggle at that one.´

We were fascinated by another recent article on the all across the arts page in a recent edition of The Rochdale Observer, after being told of it by Michael Higgins, our arts and books correspondent, that illustrated how creative ideas take shape. and are constantly revised until fit for purpose.

A few years ago I saw Robin Parker (left) deliver what I think might have been his premier performance of a new diversion from his already established art forms. Instead of poetry readings as we then knew them, Robin read to accompany a slide show of some his favourite paintings and artists. He had written a new poem describing his feelings for each piece, and he inserted these readings into an informative and entertaining talk about the works and the artists. I was really impressed, and whilst berating myself for not having thought of the idea first, I immediately began to think of counteless ways Robin might be able to penetrate and even create new markets. There was an annual Literature & Ideas Festival in his home town as well as a Science and Literary Society, Friends Of Local Galleries groups and plenty of artists´ networks. Believing as firmly as I do that art does not, cannot, exist in isolation I reckoned this linking of great works of visual art linked to newly created poetry, would provide opportunities for Robin and widen awareness of his work and make more accessible some of the high art people sometimes are wary of investigating.

After moving here to Lanzarote five years ago, I made a fleeting return to the UK just to tie up a few administrative loose ends, and managed to catch Robin giving one of his earliest performance of this new format. Although we have bumped into other a couple of times of late in isolation-enforced zoom gatherings I have never had the chance to ask him how that new venture has panned out.

Now an article by Steve Cooke provided some updated information.

Those of you who are regular visitors to these pages will know that Robin Parker, a former Mayor of Rochdale, is a pillar of the local arts community and a tireless worker with his local inter-faith group. He likes to see local arts groups working in collaboration, even if in different disciplines, and he himself takes an eclectic view of the arts.

Among his published works are The Edenfield Scrolls, which local legend has it were created after he found some dusty old parchments which shed new light on old biblical stories.

Robin also runs, with a lightness of touch, the Langley Writers group and Those Bard From The Baum poetry reading nights he and I once co-hosted, he now co-hosts with poet Eileen Earnshaw.

Girl In White by Van Gogh
a muse of Robin Parker

And whilst I´ve been wondering what he´s been up to for the last five years he seems to have been creating seventy five new sonnets celebrating the works of Van Gogh. A selection of three excellent examples, referring to Four Sunflowers Gone To Seed, Orchard In Blossom and Girl In White were published in Steve Cooke´s Rochdale Observer piece with an accompanying picture of each Van Gogh piece.

These sonnets convince me more than ever that a publication of such a collection followed by a localised series of talks by Robin, who is erudite, eloquent and entertaining would lead to much wider interest.

At Sidetracks & Detours we genuinely try not to overlook any arts related story, but we are especially proud to carry stories like this one above, spreading good news. We also like stories like this one below that prove the wisdom of some of the aphorisms we hear from our interviewees.

My song-writing partner, Colin Lever, who lives on Jersey has provided further evidence that in the metaphorical and physical sense we must intend what we write for light years of travel, a phrase I first heard from American troubadour Hugh Moffatt.

A book Colin wrote several years ago, shortly after moving to the channel islands, has recently been positively referenced in a social media post from a reader in another hemisphere. A number of years and a few thousand miles after writing the fictive novel, Colin has heard that it has just been read by someone in New Zealand, who found it a little bookshop.

Such bookshops around the world notwithstanding, Colin´s work is also available via Amazon who offer a brief synopsis of the title on their site, telling us that La Chaire sits in a sleepy valley on the North East coast of Jersey, in the Channel Islands. Its significance in the history of gardens and gardening cannot be understated, exceeding most of its contemporaries. From its origin, as a place of scientific and horticultural investigation, helping to fuel the resurrection of Kew under Sir John Hooker, La Chaire became one of the most sought after gardens in Europe, bringing people to Jersey so that they could boast that they had promenaded along their magnificent floral avenues. Its conception and subsequent development trace the beginning of modern gardening as we know it. So why is the garden now devoid of visitors and vistas alike? Who brought about its ruin when everyone associated with the garden had worked tirelessly to maintain its splendour?

The story that is La Chaire is one of four lives separated by over one hundred years of history, four individuals connected by a single garden.

For each of them the garden was a place of refuge from the demands of an unforgiving society. For each of them the garden was a source of inspiration through which they gained strength to face a hostile world. By each of them the destiny of the garden was shaped.

“The book is a delight for both gardeners and historians, with an element of the whodunnit novel.”

The site also hosts a brief biography of Colin and his need to write.

´Writing is my cure all and creativity is my drug of choice,´ he says.

´It is intoxicating and keeps the black dog at bay, lifting my spirits above the mediocrity of day to day existence. My first ‘book’ was a Heath Robinson affair. Each photograph took 20 minutes to scan and there were 40 of them! I got a publisher first time. It’s easy this writing mullarky (lol). I managed to find my niche in the education market, moving onto what I really care about, children in need. I enjoy the challenge of research and then innovating, a methodology which defines all my writing. The move into fiction, was a natural one. However, the transition has been like starting anew. It is like a rite of passage, rejected by so many agents i have lost count, ripped off by vanity publishing and then finding that self-publishing means you have to do literally everything yourself. Those that persist must be deluded or, like me, undeterred. My first attempt was a 100 book run, a largely autobiographical text ‘Failing Teachers, Failing Children’. The book had not been proof read. As a gimmick I gave away a free red pen with every purchase. The ink had not been fixed and so if it got wet, words started to slither down the page. The book (now edited) is having a second wind as ex-pupils enjoy getting the low down on the school they attended. My next novel, ‘La Chaire, Beyond the Garden Gate’ took more than three years to research and write. Check out the website for more details. I enjoy turning an idea into something tangible. It is what keeps me awake at night.

All those times of mindlessness, stuck at the airport, family gatherings, vegetating in front of the TV are caverns of creativity. I am confident in my ability to recognise a good story and to create an innovative narrative but can I really write fiction? I will let you be the judge.´


To find more about the songs Colin Lever And I have collaborated in writing, check out www.lendanearmusic.com where you will also find details of work we have undertaken individually. Of whether our songs fact or fiction, we will let you be the judge.

We also forgot to tell you in October with the happy news that there is a new single from the wonderfully talented classical musicians that form the Kanneh Mason family. The Seal Lullaby is out now! This is a special arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s much-loved choral piece for all seven of the siblings. The harmonies are so beautiful and calming, and Sheku, the cellist in the ensemble,  tells us he thinks it was the perfect way to close the Carnival of The Animals album, from which it has now been released as a single. Some readers may recognise it from a recent concert at The Barbican!

Kanneh Masons play Ava Maria with accompanying dancers
Strictly Come Dancing Sunday 8th November 2020

Check out Sheku Kanneh Mason on you tube or visit the House of Music web site to order the album or single. Even as we updated this piece to include the above information, however, we were further updated by Sheku that the album Carnival of The Animals was released last week and is now available on line or on the High Street, whenever the High Streets re-open.

So we´re still behind the times on this story but Sheku told us in a recent e mail that ´the family feel honoured to have collaborated with Michael Morpurgo, Olivia Colman and the wonderful musicians who joined us. We’re so grateful we could make the album despite everything this year and are pleased to announce that the Carnival of The Animals album is now on sale and we hope that it brings you a moment of joy.´

Sidetracks & Detours can also remind those of you with catch up tv facilities will still be able to catch the family´s performance on The Strictly Come Dancing results show broadcast on Sunday 8th November. That will remind you to buy the album in time for Christmas !

Oldham Coliseum
Theatre Box Office

One other, final, and optimistic, piece of news from nearer to ´home´ is that Oldham Coliseum Theatre Box Office is now re-open for phone sales!  Box Office Manager Ann Marie is ready to take your calls Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm. If you would like to book tickets, or would like to speak to a member of staff about rescheduled / cancelled events, call 0161 624 2829. As you’ll appreciate, selling a socially distanced season is quite complicated and the theatre has had to create various different “bubble” sizes for each of the new events on sale. If you can’t find the right bubble size for the date / time you want online, you can call the Box Office team and, subject to availability, they’ll be able to sort this for you.

Happy diary-planning. 

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