Northampton News: The Bardic Picnic

This year's Bardic Picnic takes place on Sunday 15th September, that's this coming Sunday, on the Racecourse at the Umbrella Fair Pavilion. The Racecourse is a perfect place for the artists of the area to meet and engage in friendly song, dance and poetical competition. The Bardic tradition goes back to medieval times at least. And the Racecourse has been a place of communal activity in Northampton for centuries.

Unofficial race meetings were held there until 1681, at which point they were stopped because of the number of accidents. As much as I disapprove of horse racing, I can imagine the roaring, cheering (and probably at times dangerous) atmosphere at the meetings. The sense of freedom gained by hardworking people as they watched those marvellous wild creatures charge must have been exhilarating.

Between 1778 and 1882, apparently, the area now known as the Racecourse was called Freeman's Common and local freemen grazed their cattle there. That name has resonances in t…

Review: Once Upon a Nervous Breakdown

eBook from

ONCE UPON A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN is a new book of poetry by John Patrick Robbins, boss of Whiskey City Press. It's a strong book. Occasionally it's an outrageous book (for all the right reasons), linked, if not sequentially, then thematically:

     What would I write about if not for women and whisky?

     Who the fuck knows but I doubt you would be reading my work.

      ('We All Got Issues')

Not all of the poems are about women and whisky. Some are about loyalty. Some are about the trials of publishing. But they're all about the poet's responses (or the responses of one of his characters), to what he encounters: a life lived in the raw, retold in the raw.

And it's an interesting quote, the one above, from somebody who founded a poetry site dedicated to 'all things bar-room.' Is John Robbins admitting he's just an entertainer giving the audience what he thinks they want?

No. But he's partly right about reader …

Musicians Against Homelessness

A bunch of really fine musicians are putting this show on for an incredibly important cause. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. If you have a free night that night why not pop along?


I used to handle the rejection of my poetry very badly. I still don't like it; nobody does. But two or three magazines in a month declining my submissions won't make me question my right to call myself a poet anymore.

Once, in the print days, I had a lot of success publishing with Bryn Fortey in his legendary magazine 'Outlaw'. I thought I had cracked it; I thought I knew how to write good poetry and that everything I produced would be loved by everyone.

Then two editors sent my submissions back by return of post. One was brutal. I was so crushed by his demolition of my work I couldn't write for months.

Which is silly, really. I'd never met the man. Nor had I ever read any of his poetry. Why would his opinion matter if I had no measure of his right to offer one?

These days, roughly 50% of my submissions are accepted, or one from 50% of the bundles I submit, to be more precise. That's an average I'm proud of, though I'd like it to be higher. But I&#…

Book Review: 'The Two of Us' by Sheila Hancock

This week I've read The Two of Us. Sheila Hancock's memoir of her life with John Thaw. It was first published 15 years ago, but mylove of the Inspector Morse franchise hadn't consumed me in 2004. I liked the show, just as I had liked The Sweeney when I was a teenager, but it was still just unusually intelligent tv. Television was an intellectual bete-noire for me in those days. I hated the way it was always chattering away in the background at home, forcing what I considered a mentally deadening consensual reality on its audience.

Besides,  there really was no Inspector Morse franchise in 2004. The Morse spin-off Lewis wouldn't begin for another two years, and I didn't even see that until 2010, having jettisoned my tv between house moves at some point along the line. Finally I did see it, and I thought it was wonderful, almost as good as the original (I was too loyal to allow for anything else). By the time the Morse prequel Endeavour began in 2012 I was deeply im…

Guest Writer: Ed Markowski

Homage To Thompson
On January 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm the citizens of the world bid farewell to the Obama Nation and bore witness to the dawn of America's Abomination. In New York Harbor the inscription was amended to read . . . Give me your tired your poor your huddled masses yearning to breath fear when we arrived a one-hundred and ten story hotel and casino constructed entirely of Mount Rushmore granite had erased the faces by law dictionaries phone booksnews papers, magazines short stories bibles encyclopedias letters coupons and conversations could no longer exceed two-hundred and eighty characters regardless of faith race denominationand purpose kneeling on Sundays became a federal crime on July 16, 2018 in honor of the president millions of men women boys and girls had their hair dyed pale orange from Moscow to Minsk his last assault on Obama's legacy was the release of a previously classified National Inquirer that proved Hillary Clinton was the mastermind responsible for …

Tibet National Uprising Day

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising. The Parliament-in-Exile makes an official statement about the history and the current status of Tibet under occupation here.

References to the anniversary on British media, however, appear to be non-existent at the moment. Interest in the matter on the part of our political parties is equally hard to detect.

I had Sky News' Sunrise programme on in the background for an hour this morning and it didn't get a mention. I had Sophy Ridge on Sunday on for at least half an hour; most of that was taken up by an interview with Dominic Raab, in which he talked about Brexit, the 'Marxist' agenda of Labour under Corbyn and the 'good story' that the Conservative Party has to tell the electorate. He also coyly denied (looking all the time like an arrogant young murder suspect on Inspector Morse) that he had any immediate ambition to become prime minister.

I have The Andrew Marr Show on now. A newspaper revie…