A new year and old friends.

The scene outside may be a little bleak but it has been a very cheery start to the 2018 as I start to make contact again with poets I knew during my bookselling days in Ulverston. There was a lot of literary activity in the town at the time with South Cumbria Playwrights having their work performed regularly on stage and on Radio Cumbria; the launching of Word Market – a literature festival which ran for nearly ten years; and A Poem and A Pint, founded as an event to coincide with National Poetry Day and still running successfully today.  The format for a Poem and A Pint hasn’t changed since the very first in which I was involved, in about 1998.  The evening comprised a reading from an invited guest poet , an open mic slot for all comers, and a musical interlude.  Guest poets in the early days included John Fox (I think he was the very first Poem and a Pint guest), Christopher Pilling, Jacob Polley, Neil Curry, Dickon Abbott and Emma McGordon.  Gradually the net widened.  I remember a truly magical evening with Jack Mapanje.  Of equal significance however was the voice it gave to new Cumbrian poets.  Poets who are now receiving national recognition – Jenny Copley, Kim Moore, Kerry Darbishire and Geraldine Green for example.  I could list so many more and I am really look forward to representing them in our new anthology of Cumbrian Poetry.

Calling Cumbrian Poets



A New Anthology of Cumbrian Poetry

Handstand Press invites poets currently living or who have lived in Cumbria to submit three poems (maximum 60 lines) for inclusion in a new and exciting  anthology of best contemporary poetry.

The selection panel will be looking for lively, contemplative writing that fastens on the particular effect that Cumbrian people and places have on the imagination. The anthology aims to extend the rich tradition of Lake District verse in a collection by today’s poets.

Deadline for submission is April 1st 2018. All poets will be notified of the panel’s decision at the end of June 2018.  The anthology will be published in 2018 and poets whose work is chosen for inclusion will reach receive a copy. The work will be promoted in a series of events around the county to celebrate the launch of the publication. The selection panel will comprise Liz Nuttall from Handstand Press and poets Kim Moore and Kerry Darbishire.



  • For the purposes of this publication we seek poets with a strong association with Cumbria.  In that context this means writers currently residing in the county or who have, at any time, continuously lived in Cumbria for a minimum period of a year.
  • Entry is open to poets aged 15 or over at the time of entering.
  • The closing date is midnight, 1st April 2018.
  • Entrants should submit a maximum of three poems.
  • Each poem should be no longer than 60 lines.
  • The poems will be considered anonymously by the panel.  Please do not print your name with the poem.
  • Entries should be by post, printed on A4 in a minimum font size of 12pt.
  • Poems sent by email will not be accepted.
  • All submissions should be accompanied by a top sheet giving the poet’s name, contact details (including email address) and poem titles. Please give brief details of when, where and for how long you have lived in Cumbria.
  • The address for entries is: Handstand Press, East Banks, Dent. LA10 5QT.
  • Poems can be previously published, but poets will be responsible for gaining permission to reproduce previously published work – please indicate where the poem was published on your cover sheet and confirm you have permission to publish it.
  • Entries will not be returned, so please keep a copy.
  • If you would like confirmation your entry has been received please enclose a stamped, addressed envelope.
  • Under no circumstances can alterations be made to poems once entered.
  • All entrants will be advised of the panel’s decision before the end of June 2018.
  • The selection panel’s decision will be final and Handstand Press will not enter into any correspondence.
  • Publication is planned for Autumn/Winter2018.


We didn’t win but….

The Lakeland Books of the Year were announced yesterday at a literary lunch at Armathwaite Hall on Bassenthwaite Lake.  It is an event that everyone in the Cumbrian book world looks forward to with hope (maybe this year we have won something!) and because it gives such a boost to readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, designers and printers in the county.  The standard of entries gets better every year.  It’s great that Hunter Davies continues to front these awards despite the loss of his wife, Margaret Forster, and giving up his home in the Lake District.

We didn’t win but… were delighted that Helen Shacklady’s history of Ulverston made the long list.  It was hard not to be disappointed that Kay’s Ark wasn’t among the contenders but Kerry Darbishire was thrilled and gratified when Eric Robson, one of the judges of the awards gave it a special mention.  He has clearly loved the book.  So well done Helen and Kerry.  You have done Handstand Press proud.

Here is the list of winners.

Striding Edge Prize for Guides and Places. THE LAKELAND DALES, by Robert Gamble

Latitude Prize for Illustration and Presentation. NOWT BUT FLEEIN’ THING, by Al Phizacklea and Mike Crocker

Zeffirelli’s Prize for People and Business. DONALD CAMPBELL – AN ODYSSEY IN SPEED, by David de Lara

Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition. THE MARCHES , by Rory Stewart

Bookends Prize for Arts and Literature and Lakeland Book of the Year. HOW TO MEASURE A COW, by Margaret Forster.

Congratulations Everyone.


Meet Irvine Hunt on YouTube

A short film featuring Irvine Hunt is now available on Youtube.  It was recorded in an interview at his home near Penrith last year.  Irvine talks about his life as a writer and tells how the chance discovery of an old photograph of charcoal burners sparked his interest in Cumbrian life and tradition.

I am immensely proud to have had the opportunity to publish his two novels – The Drover’s Boy and The Ghost Show.  Irvine is an important literary figure in Cumbria whose poems, novels, short stories and photographic histories have contributed a huge amount to the county’s culture.  It is always fun and a privilege to work with him.  This film shows that dedication and determination are the requirements needed for a life in writing. Follow the link below to see the film.  If you enjoy it and haven’t already read the book, we are offering The Ghost Show at half price. Send an email to handstandpress@talktalk.net to order your copy.





A series of events is being organised by libraries in Cumbria this May to celebrate local history month.  Local history is what Handstand is all about so I am delighted we have been invited to take part.

Kerry Darbishire is giving a talk about Kay’s Ark in Kirkby Lonsdale Library on 8th May, Barrow Library on 16th May and Ambleside Library on 25th May. Each event starts at 2pm so do go along, if you can, to hear Kerry talk about how she approached writing a memoir about her mother’s extraordinary life. If you are looking for inspiration to start writing your own memoir I think you will find Kerry’s account of the process of research and writing very helpful.

Two more Handstand authors will be joining Kerry in Barrow on 16th May: Sarah Holmes, who wrote The Paradise of Furness – The Story of Conishead Priory and Its People, and June Whitehead, author of Lost Children – The Ulverston Workhouse in the 19th CenturyBoth books have contributed enormously to local history knowledge in Furness.  Sarah and June will be in Barrow to talk about their writing and with books to sell.

Plans for 2017

We’re more than half way through January in this new year and I’ve been slow to get into gear.  I’ve had one of those horrible colds that seem to be afflicting so many at the moment and the motivation to do much more than feel sorry for myself has been woeful.  However, our local pharmacist has recommended a wonder tonic and whether or not it’s all psychological I’m feeling the energy and enthusiasm returning and it’s time to think about the year ahead.

For the moment I am not taking on any new publications in order to devote some time to promoting our title back-list. We have 9 publications currently in print and I am proud of them all.  They represent the talent of their individual authors and the result of a working collaboration with Handstand Press demanding time, effort and patience. All of them are a tangible contribution to the history and culture of Cumbria, telling stories of people, places and industry that have defined our northern county.  I had a lovely meeting in December with Helen Towers, the Reader Development Manager for Cumbria and we are talking about arranging events in libraries and linking up with schools in the county. There is also news of a new literature festival coming to South Cumbria and we hope to be a part of that. I am planning a series of ‘Meet the Author’ videos for our website and Youtube – starting with Irvine Hunt who I filmed in interview last autumn.  There’s lot to do!  I must try not to be distracted by the view from my office window.snowy-morning-2017



This is just one of the comments received in response to Kerry Darbishire’s book, Kay’s Ark.  Letters, emails and tweets have been arriving over recent weeks, full of praise for her memoir of her mother’s life.  It is a lovely feeling to have given such pleasure. Here are a few more.

‘ I finished your book this morning having read it in two sittings.  I have to say how much I enjoyed it. The format, moving between the recent and more distant past was delightful and it was so easy to read – the prose just flowed effortlessly….. At the end I almost shed a tear’.

‘It is a real gem, affection shining through, and no sentimentality……Like all good stories it hints at much more unrevealed, page turning mysteries.’

‘I want to thank you for being allowed to share your memories or your lovely Mum….. After all these years she is to me one of the few people whose face immediately comes into my mind when I think of her. What a wonderful life she led and how many people’s and animal’s lives were blessed by knowing her’.


Low Sizergh Barn has invited Kerry Darbishire and Irvine Hunt to spend this coming Wednesday signing books in their beautiful barn shop. If you don’t already know it, I recommend a visit. The shop, on three floors, is packed with specialist food and gifts, much of it sourced locally. They have been selling Handstand books for a number of years – The Little Cumbria Quiz Book is especially popular with customers. Kerry and Irvine will be there from 10.30 until 3pm so please come and say hello.  There’s a great café too!

Here’s the link to Low Sizergh Barn if you would like directions. http://www.lowsizerghbarn.co.uk

See you there!



Kay’s Ark was launched with a party at Zeffirelli’s in Ambleside on Sunday evening.  Kerry was understandably nervous – as was I – the event marked the culmination of years of thought and writing by Kerry and months of input from Handstand Press. We needn’t have worried.  Friends and family turned out by the score and three Handstand authors were there to celebrate as well. Two special guests made the evening memorable.  Kerry’s friend from childhood in Skelwith Bridge, Sheila Bamforth, came to the microphone to reminisce about the happy days spent at Rosewood surrounded by the warmth and energy of Kerry’s mother.  The best surprise of all was kept to the end when world class concert pianist,  Nicholas Ashton, performed the piece by Liszt (Un Sospiro) which Kay played for him when he first visited Rosewood.  It was a pivotal moment in his life which led to a long and fulfilling career in music.Kerry and Nicholas


What a night!




Kay's Ark Launch 1

Kerry with proud daughters, Naomi and Rebecca.


Kerry Darbishire and I met yesterday to make final preparations for the launch of Kay’s Ark. It will be on sale from September 19th – not long now! To say that this book has been a labour of love sounds like a cliché, but in this case it truly has.  Kerry tells the story of her extraordinary mother, Kay, with great tenderness but never over sentimentalises – it is an absorbing read. Ashley Holden from Chesters at Skelwith Bridge, where Kay is still remembered, describes it as ‘a lovely book ….and so fascinating’.

Book signings have been arranged so do come along to meet Kerry and buy her book. Dates are:-

Thursday 22nd September. Sam Read Book Seller, Grasmere. 2.30-5pm

Saturday 24th September. Sutton’s Bookshop. Ulverston. 11-1pm

Saturday 1st October. Just for Ewe. Coniston. 1-3pm

Saturday 8th October. Ambleside Library. 10.30 – 12noon.

We hope to see you there.