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By Norman Warwick

Louise Fazackerley

We have previously featured on these sidetracks & detours pages the excellent work of Tony Walsh. The poet who brought the world’s attention to the Ariana Grande tragedy, will be performing today, Thursday 28th January, in Write Out Loud’s ambitious online poetry performance. Other big-name performance poets Rachel Long, Louise Fazackerley, Luke Wright, and Antonia Jade King, will also perform, with open-mic guests on a first-come-first-served basis.

They aim to raise funds for the organisation, considered by many a vital part of the UK – and wider – poetry community. Based in Marsden (Huddersfield), Write Out Loud is known internationally for supporting and encouraging poets and poetry organisations, including their rapidly-expanding work helping young people to write and perform poetry in schools. In spite of all its accomplishments, it has always been almost entirely volunteer-staffed and unfunded. I´m quite sure it must be more than twenty years since I first met a director of the organisation, Julian Jordan, and learned that his Write Out Loud and my Just Poets were ploughing pretty parallel furrows in the same fields. He and I would often find ourselves at the same poetry slam clubs and I have always been a great admirer of their work, the more so now that they are seeking to fill in the literary holes left in education throughout the North West in the UK by the demise of Artists In Schools, and nationally, of course due to the covid closures.

Like many artistic organisations, they have had a challenging Covid. With their famous poetry event listings – pre-Covid, the go-to resource for poets, publishers, organisers and festivals – having to close, and their team depleted by Covid-related issues, they had every reason to consider their future bleak.

Nevertheless, in the middle of the pandemic they set to and created a huge poetry competition in aid of the NHS Charities’ Covid-19 special appeal, attracting over 3,000 entries and raising almost £8,000 for the charity. And that brought the team back together to consider its future,………and, I hope,  to take a bow !

Write Out Loud have now seized an opportunity to raise funds via donations that will be doubled by matched funding from One Community, a Kirklees charity. They have until 31st January to raise the £10,000 they hope to use to re-organise so they can cope with what they are sure will be the increased demands for their work in the post-covid world.

As their development manager, Matt Abbott, says: ´2020 taught us the value of poetry in difficult times for solace, celebration, connection, and myriad other reasons. It taught us the power of the poetry community, which Write Out Loud has long been at the heart of.

Although 2021 threatens fresh challenges, we know we have poetry to carry us through, with open mic sessions set to remain on Zoom, online workshops growing in popularity around the globe, new writers emerging, and established ones producing vibrant, visceral new work.

With the public’s help Write Out Loud wants to be equipped to enable, champion, inspire, and connect poets – and organisations and schools – no matter what happens during the pandemic, and continue that once it’s over.´

Robin Parker & Katie Haigh (left)
& Langley Writers

The area of the North West I lived in, Rochdale, some sixteen miles from the Marsden home of Write Out Loud has always been blessed with a plethora of gifted and community spirited poets, buzzing creative writing groups of like-minded people and organisers like Val Chapman at Touchstones Creative Writing Group, Ray Stern at Can O´Worms, Eileen Earnshaw at Weaving Words and Robin Parker, Katie Haigh and others at Langley Writers, where Tony Walsh has often read and facilitated.

Tony Walsh

Now Write Out Loud are hoping this free event will encourage people to donate to their cause, following the support of some big names from the poetry world, including Tony Walsh who has long been a supporter of their work and a friend of Write Out Loud founder, Julian Jordon.

Julian, shown on our cover photograph in his favourite writing place, told Sidetracks & Detours that ´when Tony  read his poem, This Is The Place, at the vigil following the Ariane Grande attack in Manchester, the world suddenly realised what we, at Write Out Loud, had long known: the genius, the genuineness, of poet and performer Tony Walsh, who started his career by reading at our events, and has become a worldwide phenomenon.´

Neil Astley, who runs Bloodaxe Books, curated/edited a worldwide bestselling set of anthologies known as the Staying Alive trilogy adds that ´Write Out Loud is a great resource for everything going on in poetry from the grassroots upwards and outwards. The more people have used it, written for it, and fed it their news and poems, the more it has grown into an even lively and more accessible network which has become an online lifeline for many during the pandemic, not just helping you discover more about what took you there but surprising you with much you wouldn’t have known to look for. Write Out Loud want to develop its essential work still further and needs your help. please support them.

Poet, Kate Fox, (right) agrees with Neil that ´Write Out Loud has long been an invaluable resource for the live poetry scene. It recognises how the world of poetry is an eco-system with professional events and poets, amateur open mikes and poets all entwined and interdependent. With its competent journalistic approach, wide regional coverage and responsive listings, Write Out Loud has long been a notable part of that eco-system (and personally, often the first place I’ve approached with stories or things I’ve wanted to publicise). I’m excited and chuffed that they’re being ambitious in these changing times and happy to support their plans. As we move to a hybrid of live and online events, and as the poetry world continues to be a interdependent eco-system, so having an organisation passionate about linking disparate dots up is even more vital.

Keen to include as many young people as possible, Write Out Loud are also holding a huge, UK-wide, primary schools’ poetry party.

The free-of-charge adult event will be broadcast live on Write Out Loud’s Facebook page from 7-9pm this evening of Thursday 28th, with an open mic section as well – five slots of three minutes each. Email matt@writeoutloud.net if you’d like to book a slot. It’s first come, first served.  

Donations can be made – up to midnight on 31st January 2021- at the Write Out Loud Crowdfunder page, or on their Write Out Loud website donations page.

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