Norman Warwick learns about a new publication of poetry.

A huge replica of planet Earth appeared in Rochdale at the end of last year when the internationally renowned Gaia installation was available to visit at Number One Riverside in the town centre from Saturday 20 November until Christmas Eve.

UK artist Luke Jerram’s internationally renowned “Gaia” installation (left) is seven metres in diameter and created from detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface. It provided Rochdale the opportunity to see the planet on a huge scale, floating in three dimensions.

As many of us are more and more focused on (and lying awake panicking about – or is that just us?) environmental issues, this chance to marvel at a replica of our earth, and consider how precious and mind-blowing it is, was surely an unmissable experience for Rochdale and Greater Manchester in general.

During Gaia’s five-week Rochdale residency, television presenter and “Gastronaut” Stefan Gates performed his Extreme Science show. This delivered  “an unforgettable, explosive edible adventure” exploring the bizarre science behind our food. Visitors found vortex cannons, explosions, glowing drinks, edible chemical reactions and colour-changing cocktails. Those of nervous disposition were advised to stand well back, even  as audience interaction was being encouraged. 

Stefan has presented over 20 television series including the acclaimed CBBC series Incredible Edibles and Gastronauts. He is renowned for his world-class science and food shows.If you’re at the end of your tether with thoughts of soft play centres and Motherland-esque playdates, this one should tick the boxes for grown-ups as well as little buggers.

The  Gaia exhibition and supporting events were staged in partnership with Rochdale Borough Council and Your Trust (formerly Link4Life), supported financially by the Garfield Weston Foundation.   

Councillor Sue Smith, (right) cabinet member for communities and co-operation at Rochdale Borough Council reflected at the time that  “Gaia is uniquely inspiring and seeing it up close in Number One Riverside is amazing´.  

Gaia, whilst residing in Rochdale, certainly delivered an exciting line-up of other things to see and do. Activities ran during Gaia’s stay in Rochdale that addressed themes of sustainability, lifecycles and looking after the environment, not only offered Rochdale opportunity to give visitors a new perspective of our place on the planet, but also  provided for children and their families, a lot of fun too.

Darren Grice, deputy chief executive of Your Trust added: “We were delighted to support Gaia in Rochdale. Just like Dippy, (a dinosaur who had dropped into Number One Riverside earlier in the year) we saw Gaia will spark the imagination of local inhabitants and vistors to our town and helped inspire us all to think about the changes we can make to protect our precious planet.”   

With the Gaia centrepiece housed and held in Number One Riverside, (left) there were also many other events surrounding the Gaia installation in Rochdale.

The Stormwas a “powerful live theatre production that creatively confronted the climate emergency” from Rochdale’s M6 Theatre Company. It will was performed for the public at Number One Riverside and also toured local schools.

Mammoth, a new production from the Boroughs Skylight Circus “combining acrobatics, music and stunning lighting effects told a thought-provoking story about the big climate issues including extinction and protection of our natural environment”.

Global Circus was also performed beneath Gaia by Skylight Circus Arts. Animated, with specially commissioned music it was presented live by a local group of asylum seekers and refugees.

A unique yoga session, too, took place underneath Gaia, accompanied by a visual arts session with Cartwheel Arts.

The region’s schools too part in photography competitions, astronaut classes, music sessions and LGBTQ+-community-led art sessions all with the aim of raising awareness about environmental issues and climate change.

As I followed its progress from a  distance (a song written by Julie Gold and recorded by Nanci Griffith, that first opened my eyes to the issues addressed by Gaia)I was reassured to see the names of so many of Rochdale´s finest revenue funded arts organisations included.

Bodies such as Skylight Circus, M6 Theatre and Cartwheel Arts, all with their homes in Rochdale MBC,  do so much for the town and its people.

I found plenty of other familiar names included yesterday when I opened an e mail that was simply an attachment to a recent piece in The Rochdale Observer about a new poetry compilation. The report, in fact, was  by Steve Cooke, my former partner at all across the arts, who has done wonders in the seven years since he took on sole responsibility for the all across the arts page we used to run collaboratively in the Manchester Evening News Group paper, as well as in sister papers The Middleton Guardian and the Heywood Advertiser. (right)

One World, One Chance, Steve wrote, is a beautifully crafted, thought provoking collection of 27 poems, penned by ten of the Borough´s best writers.

If you think ten sounds to be quite a high number of gifted writers in one locality, I can tell you now that I remember there were plenty more where these guys came from, thanks in part to creative writing facilitators such as Robin Parker, Seamus Kelly and Eileen Earnshaw, all of whom have contributed to and/ or been featured on our pages here at Sidetracks And Detours as well as in my weekly column at Lanzarote Information.

Steve also wrote that he was ´honoured to be invited to the officlal launch of the book at The Vintage Worx, Falinge Park Arts And Crafts Café, where we were treated to live reading  of poems from the book, by eight of its contributors´.

For over ten years, Vintage Worx have been removing barriers and increasing potential. To help do so they provide workshops, training and support that give local people the belief and power to take control of their lives and achieve their goals. They are guiding local Rochdale residents to ensure the sustainability of the town´s Falinge Park area. Vintage Worx  develops genuine relationships with people that give them the confidence and self-belief they need to bring about positive change in their lives. Together they and the local community are transforming Falinge Parkto further our work and provide a community-owned and led space that local people can be proud of.

´One World One Chance is the outcome of a project led by Seamus Kelly, who says ´the plan was to deliver a series of creative writing workshops, inspired by the Gaia installation that was shown in Rochdale in November and December of last year. The project was called Climate Worx and the results would be some brand new writing by the participants that would be collected and published as a book. To do this Seamus partnered with Vintage Worx and with the afore-mentioned Eileen Earnshaw, who at the time was about to launch a new group of creative, meeting in Falinge Park, under the name of Falinge Writing Group.

It is astonishing that Rochdale is home to these two writers and more. Their respective bodies of work make great reading, addressing serious stories with a light touch and the two of them, and their fellow Rochdale writers are fine representatives of the town.

In fact, a total of sixteen people took part in the series of workshops, with ten of them contributing to this eventual commemorative publication.

¨The group was fortunate´, Seamus told Steve Cooke, ´to be invited by to view the Gaia installation from the balcony of Number One Riverside immediately prior to a workshop hosted by the BBC´.  

That above address by the way is of an award winning building that until storm-damaged by the Boxing Day Floods of 2015 served both as Rochdale Central Library and the Local Council Offices. When Steve Cooke and I were working together every day it was at a ´desk´ in the Beans coffee shop, also housed in the building.

The Gaia installation made us all acutely aware of the fragility of our planet spinning, as it does, millions of miles from its nearest star. That is a feeling that was felt by those early astronauts who first left the orbit of the earth and entered that of the moon. I don´t believe the future of our planet is at risk but I do believe that the future of Mankind and that of many other species is at risk !

As we worked through the project we had to consider what we can do to mitigate those risks. We have thought about the planet itself, about nature, about our environment, our climate and our societies.

I would like to thank everyone who has helped us do this, especially Vintage Worx for hosting the writing sessions and Rochdale Borough Cultural Network for their funding and Eileen Earshaw and Falinge Writing group for their enthusiastic contributions. The book includes writings by Glenis Meeks, Chris Green, Sandra Buckley, Ray Stearn, Robin Parker, Sylvia Anne Joes, Maureen Harrison, and Joanne Wood, as well as by myself and Eileen Earnshaw.´´ (most of whom are shown right)

Steve Cooke closed his article by reminding readers that One World One Chance will be available free of charge in print format in several local outlets, with a digital version plus a dyslexia friendly version being available free to download.

Steve also promised that further details would be published shortly in future editions of his all across the arts page, in The Rochdale Observer, and with radio presenter Steve Bewick and his wife Marlene, who were such frequent visitors to that coffee shop office Mr. Cooke and I once shared, due her on  Lanzarote for a short stay in May, I will certainly asking Marlene to see if she can find a free copy of One World One Chance for me to review in my weekly column in Lanzarote Information, and another that I might be able to place in our local Library in Playa Blanca and perhaps introduce it to somebody from the education system.

Meanwhile, though, it is time for Falinge Writing group to celebrate their achievement in bringing their work to publication. Several of these writers are also performance poets who deliver their poetry as Pegasus Poetry members at The Flying Horse. We are lucky enough to hold such events here on Lanzarote either on the beach  as the sun goes down or in lovely little sea front bars, but I remember the Rochdale events well, although they were then hosted by Those Bard From The Baum, at The Baum, and become nostalgic for things that used to be.

The latest Pegasus session was held at The Flying Horse, Rochdale Sunday 3rd April with what sound like certainly-lower-than-Lanzarote  temperatures. A noisy heating system sounded like it was working very hard but not effectively so, as it hardly seemed to work. It was not surprising, perhaps, that slightly fewer readers turned out than on warmer evenings. There were around twenty shivering devotees present, but with the chattering of their teeth  and the whines and the gasps of  the heating, listeners had to lean in to catch what reciters were reciting. Graham, the very vocal poetic rhythm and rhymester was there after a lengthy absence, and four brave souls from the Ukele Band were there in support. Fortunately they managed to play despite frost-bitten fingers.

In fact, I´m told that custom in pubs across the UK seems to be falling again recently since the promising late winter and early Spring of eased covid protocols. Still,  I´m told Spring almost brought Summer last week in the UK, with temperatures touching 70F.

´Shorts last week, jumpers this week,´ as my correspondent, currently working on The Ipcress File, told me in a coded message.

I gather the link to our recent article on Falinge Writing Group has found the poets Joy France and Eileen Earnshaw, and I also gather that the poets Robin Parker and Michael Higgins were reading at an event together recently.

We are awaiting further announcements about events on Bamford Day in Middleton on the 16th April, as mentioned in recent posts on Sidetracks And Detours by our art and culture correspondent, Michael Higgins. We understand the day will include history walks in the morning and afternoon, with a talk given by local historian Robert Poole, with entertainment ,in the Ring o’ Bells ‘upper ‘butterfly’ room over the lunchtime period. In late afternoon the entertainment moves to Ye Olde Boar’s Head with food. Neil Bell, Jennifer Reid, John Howarth, and Michael Higgins and a local musical group to be confirmed will be there. As yet, however, no printed programme or newspaper announcement has been issued.

And finally, as yet more evidence that we must intend what we write for light years of travel, we have heard that a recent Sidetracks And Detours piece written by Michael Higgins has been circulated to readers of The Bugle by Geoff Oliver, chairman of Royton Local History Society, who  has also circulated it to the appropriate online readership.

We thank all concerned for hearing the stories and passing them on.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.