says Steve Cooke

after Norman Warwick recalls days at the aata ´office.´

So, we were business partners for several years, Steve Cooke and I. It was, though, perhaps something of an affair of the art, and as such  veered between admiration and attrition. The passion of creativity burns hot enough to burn paper and the wrap-around craving for artistic isolation creates chill-factors, We would sit at our very public desk, nearest to the coffee bar in Number One Riverside at Rochdale Central Library, and streams of local artists would wander in and out. We loved them and needed them; they were the life-blood of our columns. Most times they´d be invited over for a coffee and chat and sometimes they would come and join us of their own volition. I think I can safely say, though, that all those artist, perhaps of a shared artistic temperament, could clearly see the invisible Do No Approach sign that seemed to land on the table whenever Steve and I were getting on each other´s nerves.

Mostly, though, we would trudge along companionably because Steve could always come up with a sentence that I couldn´t argue with, such as that which opens his article below.


says Steve Cooke (above centre)

It is imperative that we support our authors and poets – many of whom are under direct or indirect threat from extremist states, groups, and individuals – a recent example being the assault on Salman Rushdie (left).

There also is an increasingly widespread suppression of writers across the globe- from Russia to USA, China to Iran.

As Turkish-British novelist Elif Shafak (right) recently said in the New Statesman.

‘We must show solidarity with all authors and poets who might be facing threats today, and we need to support literary festivals and cultural spaces as we celebrate pluralism, diversity, inclusion, equality, and the ancient art of storytelling.’

The ancient art of storytelling can play a vital role in our emotional and mental wellbeing – especially in these times of increased loneliness.

Loneliness being now recognised as a major public health problem – a minister for loneliness was appointed in 2018 by the UK Government!

According to UK Government figures at least 3 million people, or around 6% of the adult population in England aged over 16, say they feel isolated ‘often or always’. Those aged between 16-24 are especially vulnerable.

Quoting the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Policy paper Loneliness Annual Report January 2021.

[Visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/loneliness-annual-report-the-second-year/loneliness-annual-report-january-2021.]

‘Emerging research findings suggest that those most at risk of loneliness now are similar to those most at risk before the outbreak of COVID-19. Findings from a range of sources show this includes young adults aged 16-24; those with a disability or long-term illness; those with long-term health conditions; and those from lower income households. However, some other groups are more at risk than before, including students who were highlighted as being one of the groups more at risk of loneliness in research led by Dr Daisy Fancourt.

A survey from the Office for National Statistics showed a connection between loneliness and those experiencing high levels of anxiety. [Available on the ONS website https://www.ons.gov.uk]

Loneliness also is associated with a 26% increase in the risk of premature mortality, and can damage our cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems.

In addition, feeling lonely is a known risk factor for several mental disorders, including schizophrenia and major depression. It also makes us more fearful and anxious.

Bad news for both our, closely linked, physical and mental health.

An answer to the problem could be the healing power of literature and poetry to make us feel more connected to others:

Reading and listening to readings can let us connect with other people who have had similar experiences.

Having a book or a reader by our side, in a bag or on a bedside table, can feel like being accompanied by a friend, having a literary arm around our shoulders.

Literature and poetry can offer companionship at such times as that 3am feeling of isolation.

For many the Pandemic exacerbated feelings of not belonging as did the lack of access to mental health resources.

Thinking that this stuff works is not new – the ancient Greeks believed in the links between poetry and healing – Apollo was the god of poetry and medicine.

There is plenty of more recent research about the health benefits of reading, writing, and listening. For example, the American psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal, known for his work on seasonal affective disorder, believes that poems help his patients and frequently prescribes them.

With social prescribing on the rise this could be the time to spread the word and support our writers and poets.

© Steve Cooke

More happily it was encouraging to be reminded in Steve´s article  of not only the survival of writing groups, local to my home town, such as Touchstones Creative Writing Group and Langley Writers but also the emergence of new groups such as Falinge Writing Group – a trend that is reflected across the country. Steve and his team regularly report on the achievements of these local creative writng groups, Val Chapman, in a secretarial / publicist / organiser and generally chivier upper role, has run Touchstones Creative Writing Group with a lightness of touch for many years now, and Robin Parker is a stalwart behind the long standing Langley Writers, with Eileen Earnshaw working as hard still as she was doing when i lived over there, to successfully launch Falinge Writers (left). One of my favourite poets, Seamus Kelly, somehow spreads his inspirational writing and facilitating skills between the three groups-

The support between writers and poets and their local communities should be mutual, of course and if I´m honest I always felt that was pretty much the case when I worked in the Borough.

I´m also pleased to say that there seems to be mutual support and respect here on Lanzarote between arts practitioners and their communities. Generally speaking, the local councils here, similar in shape and number to Rochdale´s are supportive of the arts to, seeking to deliver as many events as possible and to provide paid-post jobs for our arts practitioners.

Sometimes, in a way that I´m sure is common to many countries the fight to fit the criteria and adhere to health and safety etc, can be tricky as the fact that we are such a multi-tiered government system, rsing from local council level, through the Lanzarote Cabildo (government) to that of The Canary Islands, all answerable to Spaion who are answerable to The Spanish government can cloud matters.

A few gigs have been cancelled at the last minute or not granted permission in the first place and in general that seems to be because one half doesn´t s know what the other is doing or understand the other´s requirements.

We, nor any other country really, should ever lose sight that the arts and artists, and that intangible feeling of creativity can boost local economy and attract new investment from outside the area, but all that is for much longer discussion.

Steve Cooke mentioned in his piece that literature and poetry can offer companionship, even at that three o´clock in the morning time of isolation.   

I am therefore pleased to say then that my friend Mercedes has informed me of a forthcoming poetry festival, here on the island.

This will involve self-penned poetry and selfie photographs apparently. We don´t know much more yet but watch this space over the next few days, as I have a feeling I might be entering the event.

Dear Norman, I know you write poetry and love to read it and hear it, so I would like to inform you of “Versos, Volcanoes and Wind” a Lanzarote Poetry Festival, consisting of three actions or events . The Festival will be held on November 25, 26 and 27 in the Villa de Teguise. The full name is:

  1. Friday 25 at 19.30 h. Poetry recital at the Timple Museum. Admission is free until full capacity is reached. 20 Canarian poets or residents in the Canary Islands will participate. This list is closed.
  2.  Saturday 26 at 10.30 h. Historical and poetic tour of La Villa de Teguise. The chronicler Francisco Hernández will make a tour of the most emblematic places of Teguise and the participating poets will read a poem at each point. The tour can be joined by all the inhabitants and visitors of Teguise who wish to do so.  The list of poets who will read on this tour is closed.
  3. Sunday 27 at 10.30 am Street Verses: Recital of free participation, in the Plaza de los Leones (Plaza de la Constitución) of Teguise. There will be a microphone and paper to write and everyone can write and read their poem there (you have to be the author). Then each participant will take a picture with his poem and we will hang it in the RRSS of the Festival and each author in their own. You will have to take a photo author and poem and hang it on your social networks and read it right there

I would very much like it if you participated in the recital on Sunday. You can take a poem of yours (not very long, or some stanza) and there write it, read it, and show it.

I would be happy to answer any questions you have, so you can include this event in your daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours or in your weekly column at Lanzarote Information,  as you prefer.

That interview with Mercedes (left) has now been arranged for Tuesday 1st November, so watch this space for an interview with my friend Mercedes Minguela, and a subsequent review of the event

I have dropped a few hints to Mercedes about how I was part of a published and recorded poetry duo for many years in the UK called Just Poets and also worked as a solo performance poet (right) at places like The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, Pilkington´s in St. Helens, Bolton Festival, The Grand Theatre in Blackpool, Bury Metro Theatre, and even hosted monthly poetry nights at The Baum in Rochdale and The Ring O Bells in Middleton.

Although I left that behind me when I retired here, an old poet never really retires, he just comes to the end of the line. So this poet and his ghost (right) are looking forward to performing a new poem in the public readings at the festival

Nevertheless, I have written four poems over here.: the newly developed harbour has changed The Playa Blanca Skyline that I wrote about in 2016, and the poem might now becomes a recording of a bygone time, when there were tiny wooden frame fishing boats moored on the shoreline. They had wonderful, evocative names painted on their frames that inspired me to write Sixteen On The Water completed in one sitting. from a bench looking down on the harbour, recording names like Lady Katerina´s daughter that were just impossible to resist.

I have also written Para Lara about a friend of mine who has become something of a muse, representing the wonderful spirit of so many young people here: working full time even whilst continuing into adult education, hopeful of the island´s future and proud of its past. Her generation has an elegance and decorum and still retains a wonderful sense of fun. The poem reflected that and has been translated into Spanish and is now being set to music, to be released next year.

The poem i most recently wrote here is called Last Boat Home, and may have echoes of some of my vague fears that the modernisation of the area might affect that bucolic view of the fishing boats, but really it is about the olden days when losses at sea were a common occurrence in the local fishing industry, and the women of the islands would wait, sometimes in vain, for the Last Boat Home to return their loved one to safety.

I look forward now to the forthcoming poetry festival that Mercedes is working on. I might even sharpen my pencil and have another go.

We have previously featured an artist who spends much of her time here on the island. She once contributed to an article for us entitled What Is Good Art? What Good Is Art? in November 2021 after we had reported on a previous exhibition of hers in October 2021, called Art Finds Its Own Space. Both these articles remain inm our easy to negotiate archives of more than 750 articles.

Meanwhile, though, Sigrid Braun-Umbach (shown below left with Norman Warwick at her previous exhibition) again reaches out to her ´dear friends of my work on Lanzarote´,´to inform us that there is another calendar for 2023 – this time only with photographs of our beautiful island of Lanzarote. I look forward to presenting the calendar on site and cordially invite you to visit a live exhibition…

Sunday, November 6th

from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Centro de Terapia Antroposófica,

Calle Salinas 12,

Puerto del Carmen (Sala)

I will show a small exhibition of other works in addition to the calendar pictures – there are drawings, prints, watercolors and acrylic paintings and mixed media. The calendar is published in a limited edition of 30 copies, all signed and numbered. The format is DIN A4 , the price is 30 EURO

I look forward to seeing you there

Sigrid Braun-Umbach


In closing this week´s Sidetracks and Detours I should comment again on the artist we have perhaps most mentioned over the past few days. It was Steve Bewick who first mentioned Karla Harris (right) to me and put me in touch with her husband John at Team Harris. From that point there followed an introductory article about the Atlanta-based singer, and then this week a review of her new album Moon To Gold and anyone who has read that must surely know I have fallen ion love with it and have not yet stopped playing it.

I mentioned her to Music That´s Going Places and Rob Adama responded that he has really liked the footage he has seen of her at various festivals in the States, (so that sent me off looking for that footage !)

I mentioned her also to Jim Wade at Jazz In Reading who hadn´t heard of her but got hold of the album anyway. He told me in an e mail that he loved the insertion into Nothing But Blue Skies of In Walked Bud.

Me too, but I realised in horror that actually I had overlooked mentioning that in my review of Moon To Gold in an article that is now filed in our easy to negotiate archives of over 750 essays. Just type in her name in  our search engine and the screen will bring up the piece.

Nothing But Blue Skies is a live track on the album and the insertion of In Walked Bud segues seamlessly into the song.

In Walked Bud  is, of course, a 1947 jazz composition by Thelonious Monk. It was composed by Monk in honour of his friend, fellow pianist Bud Powell, and based in part on the Irving Berlin standard “Blue Skies“. Monk recorded many renditions of “In Walked Bud” throughout his career, and it has been covered numerous times by other artists.

And this version by Karla Harris and The Joe Altarneck Trio will stand high in their company.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.