Poetry Happening Near You

Recent poetry events - Stoke

Spoz at ABLE - 15 January 2018

We had a fabulous time with Spoz at the ABLE project in Fenton, a drop-in group for adults with learning disabilities. Spoz has visited this group several times, and has a huge fan base here! The group listened (and joined in with) Spoz’s poetry performance, produced their own writing inspired by Spoz’s multitude of hats, and worked with Spoz to write their own song.

Tony Walsh aka Longfella - 29 September 2017 

We were honoured to host an evening of poetry with Tony Walsh, aka Longfella, one of Britain’s most renowned and in-demand  professional poets. His poem This is the place, read at the vigil to remember victims of the Manchester terror attack in May 2017, brought his work to a global audience. This was a brilliant evening of performance poetry: moving, hilarious and entertaining. As one audience member commented, “It was simply wonderful! The best event I’ve been to in ages.”

Spoz at Makefest

On Wednesday 31 May, the first ever Makefest event at City Central Library, Hanley, took place, and Spoz joined us as Poet in Residence. He had a very busy time delivering impromptu poetry performances, writing limericks and poems on demand, and producing a fantastic Makefest poem to mark the occasion. Huge thanks to Spoz and Poetry on Loan for helping to make this an excellent day!


Harry Baker live

On Friday 28 April world poetry slam champion Harry Baker came to City Central Library, Hanley. Tickets were sold out well in advance, and the room was packed with both long-term fans and people new to Harry’s work. “Clever…funny…brilliant…inspiring…moving” were just some of the words used to describe this excellent and engaging performance. The evening ended with a question and answer session, which provided fascinating insights into Harry’s writing. 


So This Is How We Love…

On Saturday 22 October Bert Flitcroft, the Staffordshire Poet Laureate, joined people at City Central Library for a poetry reading and workshop. Entitled “So this is how we love…”, Bert’s reading from his poetry collections inspired plenty of discussion, and the workshop provided lots of starting points for people to write their own poems. Participants enjoyed the friendly, accessible atmosphere and the chance to meet new people and old acquaintances.


The Trouble With Poetry

On Friday 7 October, in celebration of National Poetry Day, poets Brenda Read-Brown and Mark Blayney visited City Central Library. This was an excellent evening, with two exciting and inspirational performances followed by a fascinating question and answer session. Comments from audience members include “What a wonderful evening and inspiration”, “It made me decide to learn more poetry”, and “I've never really read poetry,  however I'm becoming more a fan the more I hear”. An evening to remember!


City Voices 10th Anniversary Celebration

2016 is an exciting year for City Voices, as the library-based creative writing group celebrates its tenth anniversary. On Wednesday 7 September City Central Library hosted their celebration event, as MC Emma Purshouse introduced readings from fifteen of the group’s members. The evening began and ended with a fabulous performance by Emma, and a presentation was made to the founder member, Paul Williamson. Drinks, food and lots of cake rounded off an excellent evening.


Spoz at St John’s Welcome Centre, Abbey Hulton

On Wednesday 28 September Spoz visited the Book Chat group for adults with learning disabilities at St John’s Welcome Centre in Abbey Hulton. The people in the group are used to chatting about books, but many are new to poetry. Spoz performed his poems aloud, inspired the group to write their own stories, and ended with a rousing sing-along to Spoz’s guitar. The group thoroughly enjoyed meeting Spoz, who made poetry accessible to all who were there. Since his visit, the group has been reading and enjoying Spoz’s poems, and is starting to discover other poets.


Hollie McNish

On Friday 13 May Hollie McNish visited City Central Library, Hanley, for an intimate evening of poetry and performance.

Hollie read from her book, Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood. The mixture of diary entries and poems was highly personal, and her performance was engaging and thought-provoking. Audience members commented on the quality of Hollie’s performance and the honesty of her work, with comments including “Fabulous delivery of poems that talk about real life and events that affect us all but aren’t always voiced…a lovely, interesting and funny event.”

Postcard Poets

On Saturday 30 April, poets Emma Purshouse, Hazel Anna Rogers and Sara-Jane Arbury performed their work at City Central Library. All three poets are featured on Poetry on Loan’s poetry postcards series.

The theme of the morning was Light and Dark, and each poet read from a mixture of lighter and more serious poems. There was a fantastic range of poems and of performance styles, with audience members calling it a “brilliant event…hugely enjoyable”.

After the main performance had finished, Sara-Jane Arbury led a poetry workshop for members of City Voices. She was inspirational in her approach, with some excellent work produced in a short space of time. A very successful morning!

Jonny Fluffypunk at Open Door

Open Door is a busy session, attended by over one hundred people with support from around twelve volunteers. It needed someone who was confident to interact with homeless people, and who didn’t need much support – someone who could just get on with it. This was exactly what Jonny did, and a volunteer commented on how much this was appreciated. Jonny produced two poems – one group poem, which amalgamated the comments made by participants, and one individual poem, based on a ukulele which is being made from scrap – which have been shared on social media and given to the participants. 

A Stoke librarian said, "Jonny was the right person to deliver this session – he interacted very well with the group, and showed no sign of being intimidated by the numbers and type of people who attend the session. I particularly liked the ukulele poem – I remember researching measurements for this ukulele as part of a library enquiry, and it was really interesting to see this cross-over of participation between the library and Open Door."

And here are the two poems:

Willy George

Willy George
is named after
two grandfathers;

Willy George
is mixed race:
a coathanger bridge
frets from matchsticks on
a fretboard from laminated flooring

a wooden candle dish for a body
fabric back, Poundland glue
& a slap of cheap paint

Willy George
was born in shop doorways
nursed on benches & shaped
in a thousand hours of benefit queues

Willy George
is of warrior blood
& knows in his bones
that music can save sanity

Willy George
comes roaring into this world
stuffed full of the purest blues
& the sweetest soul music
you have never heard

Jonny Fluffypunk 

NB. Willy George is a ukulele made from scrap.


Open Door


“Open Door: now the doors are open
Walk through the door, hands together. Prayin'. Hopin'…” - Nathan

I look on life as a tapestry
and every so often there's a golden thread.
And this is one of those threads.

It's the meaning of a welcome,
It's a smile that is sincere and heartfelt,
genuine and honest

It's smiles from all the helpers
It's a visit that always makes my day
It's good that people just have time to listen

It's somewhere people can go and be treated with respect
It's somewhere to come for company
It's somewhere to get a nice cooked meal
It's somewhere you're always welcomed

It's a real honour to be with people here,
to be a part of their daily life, their journey.
It makes me feel good

This place is an island of light in a sea of darkness
It's a lifeline for me and all the friendly people I've met.
If it wasn't for this the higher power
would have gotten to us all a long time ago.

This place is a listening ear. It's friendly faces.
It's not just here for the material;
It's support and friendship
It keeps me occupied

It's a place where you can go and meet people.
Where people can come in and meet others
And be listened to

It's a refuge; it's a godsend.
It's a sanctuary. It's given me friends.
It's a great place to come on a Monday morning.
It's somewhere they always look after you.
It's where people come through the door
and leave with a smile
And they all
say thank you…

By the users and volunteers of Open Door, St Marks' Church, Stoke-on-Trent, 14th December 2015

Arranged by Jonny Fluffypunk


Ash Dickinson comes to City Central Library

On Friday 16 October writer, poet and comedy performer Ash Dickinson appeared at City Central Library, Hanley for a fantastic evening of performance poetry. With subjects ranging from Miley Cyrus to lovelorn fridges, Ash’s funny, intelligent and thought-provoking poems entertained and captivated his audience. A post-performance question and answer session provided some fascinating insights into Ash’s poetry. A thoroughly enjoyable evening!  

Knit and natter in Stoke

In September and October, two knitting groups which meet in Stoke-on-Trent Libraries received a visit from a poet. Spoz spent the morning with the group at Longton Library, and the City Central Library group welcomed Emma Purshouse to their fifth anniversary meeting.

Poetry, patterns, cakes, biscuits and stories were shared, and the resulting poems really capture the spirit of each group. They celebrate the variety of reasons why people attend the library knitting groups, from friendship through therapy to knitting for charity, and show how individuals can come together through a shared interest to create a group that’s welcoming to all. 

Emma created a brilliant patchwork poem with her group, which we've tried to reproduce here; unfortunately you can't see all of it, but you can see what a lovely idea it was. But here is Spoz's poem:

Knit and Natter at Longton Library

Longton Library on a Tuesday morning,
Sunbeams glare through a missing blind
You’ll find a release for life’s little obstacles,
An antidote to the daily grind.

Where skeins of wool are swifted into balls,
They knit away the woes of the planet,
Louisa, Sue, Karen, Norma and Siva,
Alison, little Jasmine and Janet.

Needles of fire and hooks aflame,
With sweaters and blankets and socks,
Lifting the lid and giving a little
Of the remnant of Pandora’s box.

It’s a bit of the therapy that Karen enjoys,
As she crochets her way through a blanket,
Norma will warn yer of wool tangled chairs,
Where a yarn snap occurs if you yank it.

Sue’s lucky socks are a medical marvel,
Their powers are more than a rumour,
Just ask her good friend who she knitted them for,
Who’s recovering from the effects of a tumour.

It’s Siva’s first day of many,
As she’s embraced to the knit / natter bosom,
Her time will be great with these “pieces of eight”,
Which can sometimes swell to a dozen.

Alison has her hands full today,
As her daughter really needs her mummy,
The knit / natter group have known little Jasmine
Since she was a bump in Alison’s tummy.

Janet knits for LIFE in all aspects of the word,
To support the coffers of charity,
Governments should spend time with these lovely ladies,
To assist with a bit of clarity.

They’ve overcome challenges of so many kinds,
From bobbles to too many sleeves,
As well as running low on biscuits,
When they break for coffees and teas.

So get down to the library on Tuesdays,
Knit one, purl one and converse,
You’ll leave feeling so much better,
With no need for a doctor or nurse.

© Giovanni Esposito (aka Spoz)


Spoz visits Stoke-on-Trent

A group of adults with learning disabilities, who meet regularly to read and discuss poems and stories, read Spoz’s postcard poem, “Grandma’s Jumper”. They enjoyed it so much they asked the group leader to contact Spoz to share their thoughts about the poem. Spoz immediately responded and offered to visit the group; this took place on Monday 27 July.

The visit was a huge success. Spoz spent lots of time chatting to group members, and to other people who attended the session. He performed several of his poems (with added role-play, at the group’s request), answered questions about his life and work, and led a mini-writing workshop. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, and would love Spoz to come back and visit again.


What makes a winning poem?

On Saturday 8 August, Jean Atkin visited the City Voices writing group to deliver a workshop, “What makes a winning poem?”

Jean, who has herself won many poetry competitions, shared her tips for writing stand-out poems. She led the group through the drafting and editing process, and offered feedback on how to develop their poems. Participants said how useful this had been, with several people determined to develop and edit their poems. 


One man and his doggerel

On Friday 27 March, Elvis McGonagall visited Stoke-on-Trent Libraries for a fabulous evening of stand-up poetry. Elvis, who is a former World Slam champion and regular guest on Radio 4, entertained an audience of 58 people with an hilarious, acerbic and engaging performance. The audience reaction was fantastic, with comments including “An absolutely brilliant night”, “Wonderful, fun, intelligent and thought-provoking performance”, and “I’ve never laughed so much. More, please!”


Pop-up poetry for Valentine's Day

Fergus McGonigal entranced visitors to Longton Library on Valentine's Day, writing love poems for eight people. As Amy Shutler, Community Outreach Librarian said, "Fergus delivered a fantastic ‘poetry on demand’ session – he was pro-active in attracting people to the activity and engaged perfectly with people. We had a mixture of people taking part – some who were already in the library and some who had come specifically for the poetry event. Everyone was thrilled with their poems and I would love to run something similar again."

Amy had a poem written for herself, too - or at least, for her to give to her boyfriend - and she's agreed to let us publish it. Here it is:


To Paul (from Amy)

The person I’ll marry is larger than life,
He’s funny and vibrant, he’s hearty and hale,
At parties he heads for the crowd in the kitchen,
To talk about City and drink all the ale.

The person I’ll marry’s the soul of the party,
An expert on theme tunes from ‘80s TV,
A fan of Red Dwarf and a ringer for Al,
But much more than that - he’s the one man for me.

So, Paul, here’s the thing, let me ask you a question;
Oh, will you…Oh, will you…Oh, will you be mine?
I hope that you’ll like this romantic suggestion,
So Paul, will you always be my Valentine?

Fergus McGonigal

Postcard poets

Friday 5 December - Postcard Poets

Poets Jane Seabourne, Roz Goddard and Spoz came to City Central Library for an evening of postcard poetry. It was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere, with a rich variety of poems which brought up many memories and shared experiences. One audience member commented "I remembered why I used to enjoy reading poetry so much".


Funny men - Jonny Fluffypunk and Fergus McGonigal

Friday 3 October - Funny Men

Following the success of last year's Funny Women, Jonny Fluffypunk and Fergus McGonigal treated an audience at City Central Library to an evening of hilarious poetry. Audience members said they "haven't laughed so much for years", and "I didn't think I'd find it so side-splittingly funny". 

Spode Works workshop with Roz Goddard

Objects can be a great source of inspiration for poetry, and special objects even more so. Roz Goddard worked with a group in the Spode Works Visitor Centre in Stoke, encouraging people to use what they saw around them as starting points.

The end results were terrific. Here are two of them, including one by Stoke's very own Poetry on Loan contact, Emma George:

Whiter than white

Spode’s bone china was whiter than that of any English competitor.

I am whiter than white.

I am fine-crushed cattle bones
ground to powder in the stink of the bone mill.

I am the wet red heft of clay
hewn from the hill at back-breaking noon.

I am the coal-dark smoking chimney
my thick black smoke smothers the town.

I am the saggar-carrier’s sweat
my rivers trickle through grime-grey skin.

I am burning red heat of kiln,
black of slag-heap, brown of water.

I am whiter than white.

Emma George


The Gilder

Dawn, guilt, damp to the bone, 
baby’s howl brims over
clogs drumming along
cobbled alleyways.

Gas lamps snuffed,
stray dog growls,
lodgeman fires knobbled
hands by the brazier.

Mutton fat candle
thaws fingers, turn the wheel,
dip hog-hair brush into
mercury spiced gilt. 


Poise and barely
twelve bristles, encircle
the rim of the Chinoiserie
patterned bone china plate.

Sue Crowder



Poetry performance workshop

Writing poetry is one thing, but performing it in public is something completely different! A poetry group in Stoke is preparing for the first poetry evening when they will read their poems to others, and on 14th March, Emma Purshouse came to help. Emma is a very experienced performance poet.

The group says  that this session was of real practical value. Emma gave them invaluable advice to help their performance. She used a good variety of approaches, and they appreciated the time spent read and critiquing their work. "We feel much more confident about the event now," one of them said, "and I'm feeling that perhaps we're better than we had thought! And this was just the right time to hold the workshop - three weeks before the performance. It’s still fresh in our minds, but gives us time to put the suggestions into practice."

Love on demand

On Saturday 8 February Jonny Fluffypunk visited City Central Library, Hanley, to write poetry on demand .

Library customers aged from 4 to 80 received personalised poems to delight their loved ones. Jon was kept busy throughout the morning; as he commented, “There’s a lot of love in Stoke”.

One customer received a Valentine’s poem for his wife from his four-year-old daughter, Trinity. As he said, “This is the type of thing money can’t buy – she’ll be able to keep it forever”. 


Funny Women

Funny women came to Stoke on 3rd October 2013 and entertained an audience of 27. Unfortunately, one of the Funny Women, Win Saha, was unwell and coouldn’t make it, but Emma Purshouse and Jane Seabourne were enough to justify the title. Poetic subjects ranged from the hazards of driving in Wales, through gluts of courgettes, to the difficulty of keeping track of spectacles. As one of the audience members said, it was “not only entertaining but full of ideas for writing in the future.” 

In fact, poetry group members are now considering organising their own poetry evening, using a similar format; they have also expressed an interest in a performance poetry workshop.




Wendy Cope – A Christmas Song

In December 2012 nationally-renowned poet Wendy Cope visited City Central Library for an intimate evening of Christmas poetry.

More than fifty people attended the event, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Wendy’s beautiful verse was accompanied by mulled wine and mince pies, to provide a fantastic festive atmosphere on a dark Friday evening.