Monday, 20 May 2013

A Surreal Treat from The Pied Piper of Cullercoats

On Saturday our Room to Write Trio ploughed through walls of Northumberland Rain to spend a day at IRON AGE a very different literary Festival in the little fishing village if Cullercoats  on the North East Coast.  For five days the village hosted  the fortieth anniversary of IRON PRESS (set up in 1973): an example of independent publishing  to be celebrate in these days of depression and downgrading in the broader field of publishing.  

IRON PRESS is the literary child of one-off writer, playwright, cultural entrepreneur Peter Mortimer. Over the years what started out as the influential  literary magazine IRON  in the 1970s has evolved into a full blown independent publisher IRON PRESS,  dedicated to finding and publishing writers and poets of quality and originality.

Vintage IRON magazines in the window
of Oliver's bookshop on Cullercoats.

The festival was presided over by Cullerocoats' most illustrious literary resident Peter Mortimer who like the Pied Piper had enticed here hundreds of the literary and musically  minded young at heart  from across the north, including writers, poets, musicians - some to bread or perform, some to just relish the special atmosphere that seems to gather around Peter who has managed to sidestep the be-fogging bureaucratisation of the arts and retain his originality and iconoclastic vision of the nature of artistic enterprise.

Peter Mortimer: A literary Pied Piper - funny, clever, the doyen of original writing in the North East. Every region should have one.    

Novelist Kitty Fitzgerald reads a short story from her new collection Miranda's Shadow.  The talented Kitty works alongside Peter Mortimer as editor and quality controller to ensure the high standard ot the IRON PRESS list. She has been the other  key player in the success of this vivid festival,

One venue for the readings and performances was the Lifeboat Station witt this marvelous view of the Cullercoats harbour. Very moody. Worth a poem in anybody's page.

Despite the weather they built a symbolic Flat Iron 'birthday cake' on the beach,complete with candles and the Number 40. Worth braving the weather.

The Carnival band played, making us dance about under a canopy in the rain, then led brave souls  onto the beach to march and caper around the 40th birthday cake.

Musicians in red and black
Blue sails of the Lifeboat Station in the background

Sweet music! On Saturday night  Bridie Jackson and her stunning group Arbour made ethereal music in The Community Centre, warming us up for  before the headlining David Almond event.

 (And more music in the evening when David's daughter  Freya Grace and her friend sang a set for us alongside the poets  in the pub.)

After the Arbour performance David Almond read from his retrospective IRON PRESS publication NEST.
Listening to him read his own work is like listening to music crafted in spoken words. David is a friend so it is hard to reach for the proper superlatives. So i'll l let others speak for me....
Nesting - Short Stories by David Almond

"There is nobody quite like Almond writing in adults' or children's fiction today. A writer of visionary, Blakean intensity."
The Times
"David Almond's books are strange, unsettling wild things. They are, like all great literature, beyond classification:"
The Guardian

In a street a bit back from the harbour in Cullercoats we found this beautiful bookshop.

The interior could very well be an atmospheric setting for a  labyrinthine thriller.

Thank you Peter and Kitty for bringing true cultural warmth to a rainy day. 


Iron Press:  Iron Press 

David Almond  lDavid Almond
 Kitty Fitzgerald /Kitty Fitzgerald
Bridie Jackson  Bridie Jackson
Room to Write Room to Write


1 comment:

  1. So glad we were there - wouldn't have missed it - it was an extraordinary celebration and your lovely words and pictures do it real justice



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