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The COVID effect – We’re not giving up!

2020 has been the most most challenging year in the history of publishing.  COVID-19 arrived without warning and, in our case, lockdown came at a critical point in the life of Angus Winchester’s book , THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE.   We worked hard to have the book printed, launched, reviewed and in the shops before Christmas and our efforts were quickly rewarded  by  excellent attendances at events to publicise its arrival and very encouraging sales.   The Words by the Water Festival in Keswick held in early March, just days before everything changed, attracted an audience which filled the main theatre. The future looked bright, particularly as Angus had scheduled a significant number of talks in forthcoming months.  And then the world was turned upside down by Covid lockdown.  To begin with sales momentum continued, with orders coming in on-line helped by a succession of very good reviews (see my last Post) and the efforts of hard-working booksellers. In April, Angus appeared on Countrystride, the wonderful podcast series from David Felton of Inspired by Lakeland and outdoor writer, Mark Richards. It is really worth listening to – as well as all Countrystride episodes (   Sales have slowed down as months have gone by but Handstand Press doesn’t give up and we are now working on an ebook and audio version of THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE.  These will become available and accessible to new audiences early in 2021. Look out too for some VIRTUAL events in which Angus will be taking part. We won’t let COVID beat us and this is such an important book it is worth the effort.


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Our latest book, THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE – A Journey into Lake District History, has had an enormous effect on the way I look at the landscape in Dentdale, where I have lived for just over twelve years.  I will always be an ‘off-comer’,  but during that time I have accumulated enough local knowledge to give me a  sense of belonging.  Once I learnt the names of some of the local farming families, the cycle of the farming year and discovered which was the ‘money’ side of the dale as opposed to the ‘money’ side, I  found I could begin to speak the language of the place.

Learning the language of the landscape helps to appreciate and understand some of  the history, folklore and traditions of Dentdale.   I now feel able to hold my own in a discussion about the likelihood of the dale being flooded, because I know where the ‘Hippings’ is –  the place on the road between here and Sedbergh where, if the River Dee bursts its banks, the road will quickly become impassable.  I have walked the Occupation Road,  climbed the hills that surround our house and seen the views from Aye Gill Pike and Great Coum.  I know where Tommy Bridge, Ibbith Peril and the Garlic Path are and have touched the County Stone.  I know some of the myths and legends that still arouse controversy – did they keep slaves at Whernside Manor for example and is there an underground tunnel connecting the house to the village?  As I gradually learn place names, key  features in the landscape, local folklore and the names of farming families who go back centuries, my attachment to Dentdale grows. This is  what Angus Winchester’s wonderful book, THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE, is all about.

Here are some extracts from recent reviews.

From the journal LANDSCAPES, Published by Routledge.  On line, 17 March 2020

….This is a book fully aware of the plurality and multiple meanings of landscape, a book about the idea of landscape not only a book about a landscape.

Most of all, this book shows us how to listen to the land, hence the book’s title. It is now a well-understood maxim that landscapes can be read; this book also hears landscape, listening to it as it speaks to us, through natural sounds of water and wind and even more through human sounds such as (at least to a knowledgeable ear such as the author’s) local farming (and mining) dialect, field names, the even older river names, and more recently through the names attached to ‘climbs’ and walks in the past century or two.

Graham Fairclough


From the Cumberland and Westmorland Antequarian and Archeological Society,  Spring Newsletter. 2020

…..This deeply enjoyable book is part memoir, part local history. Although it concentrates on one Lakeland valley, its themes are universal. What effect can a landscape have on our lives and imagination? How do the names given to features of that landscape add to our understanding and appreciation of the history of our environment and contribute to our sense of place? The reader learns much through specific local detail about the wider history of the Lake District.

Bronwen Riley


From Cumberland News. November 2019

… But this book, deeply informed as it is, is not an academic account of the history and landscape of that loveliest of valleys, that valley which includes Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere. It is a personal journey through history in which Angus’s very special feeling for the landscape leads the reader to a wider appreciation of all Lakeland landscapes

Steve Matthews


From Wanderer. The Journal of the Lorton and Derwent Fells Local History Group.

February 2020

….This is a book that everyone in the valleys should have on their shelves. Surely one wants to know the origin of field names, how boundaries have been fixed, what water does to us and what water has been, the numbers of sheep, the industries, the use of bracken.  It is here, the indispensable guide and settler of fireside arguments.

Michael Baron

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It’s hard to post a news update from Handstand Press in such an extraordinary time.  The world is in a state of paralysis as we face a pandemic of cataclysmic proportions. Nothing is normal.  How could we have guessed as 2020 dawned that we would shortly be facing a health crisis that would effect our every-day lives so drastically?  We have no idea how long it will take to beat coronavirus and so, in the meantime, we have to create a new way of living and going about our business.  Handstand Press is still at work, thanks to the wonders of modern communications.  I will be posting our news soon.  All good wishes to readers, writers and everyone involved in the wonderful world of books.  Stay safe.  Let’s survive this.


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Angus Winchester’s wonderful book, THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE, A Journey into Lake District History, has gone to print. It is a satisfying moment – the culmination of at least six months quite intensive work. Publication date is 8th November and we are very much looking forward to events at the Maryport Literature Festival and the New Bookshop in Cockermouth to launch it.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE is a book for everyone’s bookshelf and the perfect companion for a day out in the Lakes. A walk on the fells is always life enhancing but how often do we look at a view of fields, becks and farm buildings and sheep grazing high up on the tops and wonder – has it always looked like this? Who were the first settlers, how did places get their names and in what way has the landscape been altered over the centuries by human intervention? On a journey from Cockermouth through the Vale of Lorton, to Crummock Water and Buttermere, an area known to the author since childhood, we see the way in which personal connection, knowledge of local history, place names, memory and myth, combine to deepen an understanding and experience of landscape.

Angus Winchester is Emeritus Professor of Local and Landscape History at Lancaster University.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE will be available from 8th November. Price £10. ISBN 9780957660977. Available to purchase from bookshops, from this website, and by email

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Prize Day at the Lakeland Book of the Year Awards 2019

Here we are, Kerry, Kim and I at the Lakeland Book of the Year awards, celebrating our win on behalf of the 93 brilliant poets whose work was published last year in THIS PLACE I KNOW. The judges praised the high standard and range of poems in the anthology. Hunter Davies recommended it as an ideal holiday read and said how amazed he was to find so much good poetry being written in Cumbria today. It was a tremendous day. We were very proud. Congratulations and thank you to all the poets who contributed so generously to the book.

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Wonderful news! I hear from the offices of Cumbria Tourism that THIS PLACE I KNOW is on the short list for The Lakeland Book of the Year award. I am thrilled to bits. It is a tribute to the talented poets of the county and my fellow editors, Kim and Kerry, that we were able to put together such a great anthology. The pleasure is inevitably tinged with the regret that my mother, who died in January, will never know about it. She spent so much of last summer helping to me read and edit the poems and encouraged me all the way. The awards for prizewinners will be made at a charity lunch on July 16th. I’m trying not to think about it too much. Should I prepare a speech?

Summer is here and we are all wondering when the weather will cheer up. The sunsets in Dent when the sun slowly sinks through the clouds over the Howgills make up a little bit for the disappointment of cold, wet and windy days.

Now I am busy again, preparing books for publication later this year. I am currently working on ‘THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE – A Journey Into Lake District History’ by Angus Winchester. This wonderful book shows how the naming of places and the memories and histories associated with them give meaning to landscape. In his introductory chapter he writes, ‘All names hold meaning, even if it obscured by age and the loss of language in which they were coined: as such they are a point of contact with numberless generations who, across the centuries, have lived in and experienced the same corner of the world’. On a journey from Cockermouth through the Vale of Lorton, to Crummock Water and Buttermere, part of the Lake District he has known intimately since childhood, Angus Winchester shows how clues to the evolution, history and culture of the Lakeland landscape may be found in the names given to its farms, becks, villages, fields and boundaries over the centuries. The book is a personal journey in search of the essential spirit of a much loved place. It is a fascinating read and you will find yourself looking at the magnificent scenery of the Lake District in a completely different way.

Finally, an important event. The Norman Nicholson Society is holding a weekend festival in Millom on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th June. There is a packed programme of speakers (including Sean O’Brien), creative workshops and guided walks. On Saturday evening, poets from Handstand Press’s anthology of new Cumbrian poetry, THIS PLACE I KNOW, will read their work at the Beggar’s Theatre, Market Square, Millom, starting at 8pm. Music from special guests, folk/blue duo The Demix. Admission is £7 (£5 for members of the Norman Nicholson Society), under-18s free. Pay cash at the door. To find out more follow this link


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The events to launch THIS PLACE I KNOW have been a whole lot of fun and utterly inspiring.  Any doubts I might have had as to whether this anthology truly represented the spirit of 21st Century Cumbrian poetry evaporated as, at every event from Maryport to Kendal, Carlisle to Grasmere,  poets came to the microphone to read.  Immediately we were captivated by the magical combination of words and imagery and the total engagement of each poet with their subject and theme. So much talent. The best poems get to the heart of things so that at the last line you find yourself taking an involuntary sigh because the poem has touched on a particular truth in a new way. That happened a lot!

So, as the roller-coaster ride of events slows down, I am beginning to think about the future for THIS PLACE I KNOW.  Here are Kim, Kerry and I being quizzed by Polly Atkin at the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival. A member of the audience asked us about the using the anthology as a springboard to inspire students in Cumbria schools.  We have been especially pleased that three young poets, still at school, are represented in the collection. It is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss and I plan to circulate a poetry leaflet among schools in the county to encourage more young people to read and write poetry. We are also hoping to set up a programme of readings around the libraries.

I mustn’t end this post without thanking the organisers of all the events for THIS PLACE I KNOW. In particular I’d like to thank Gwenda and Steve Matthews at the Borderlines Literature Festival, Popply Garrett at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, Paul Scully and Polly Atkin at the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival and Angela Locke at the Maryport Literature Festival.  We also had a wonderful party at the Castle Street Community Centre in Kendal.  I can’t recommend the place highly enough.  The staff were extremely helpful and the facilities there are just perfect.

Special thanks to Grevel Lindop who introduced the anthology at The Wordsworth Trust and the Maryport Literature Festival.  I have been grateful for his support throughout the whole process of editing and publishing this anthology.

A big thank you to Olivia Fern who sang so beautifully for us at the Poetry Party.


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THIS PLACE I KNOW is published.

I am thrilled to announce that THIS PLACE I KNOW, A new anthology of Cumbrian Poetry, was published on October 1st.  Exciting times!  Kerry Darbishire, Kim Moore and I have spent a busy year gathering together the very best contemporary poetry by writers from every corner of the county. We were delighted also to include work by Poets in Residence from the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere who have spent time working at the very heart of our literary heritage. Grevel Lindop’s foreword summarises beautifully our ambition for this collection, which was to give voice to the special effect that the place we call Cumbria has on the imagination.

Contributors include: Jacob Polley, Helen Mort, Kathleen Jones, Simon Armitage, Judy Brown, Neil Curry, Tom Pickard, Emma McGordon, Christopher Pilling, Pauline Yarwood, Angela Locke, Polly Atkin, M.R. Peackocke, Josephine Dickinson, Karen Lloyd, Helen Farish, Patricia Pogson and Katie Hale.

The first of a series of launch events for THIS PLACE I KNOW was held in Carlisle on 6th October for the Borderlines Literary Festival.  Sixteen poets read to a lively and receptive audience.

Further events include, 17th October at the Wordsworth Trust (SOLD OUT I’m afraid), Saturday 17th November at the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival (tickets and Sunday 18th November at the Maryport Literature Festival (tickets

You can purchase a copy from this site or any good bookshop.

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A Poem and A Pint – Faces of the Poets

It was another wonderful night of poetry in Ulverston on 17th February at A Poem and Pint.  The initial regret that the guest poet, Joanne Limburg, had flu and had had to cancel was soon forgotten as the committee stepped up to the microphone. Poems ranged from Mark Carson’s comic sea faring ballad, to Kim Moore’s clever, menacing mirror poem and Jenny Copley’s quirky tale of a couple who went down to the cellar and never came out again. Caroline Gillfillan remembered Women’s Lib in the 1970’s and Jo Stoney told of the father she loved.  And all of this was beautifully wrapped up by Ross Baxter as MC in pantomime mode.  And then up stood John Foggin, who had kindly stepped in at the last minute to replace Joanne.  John is a West Yorkshireman with an engaging style and poems full of humour and feeling. His poem of regret for past relationships was courageous. The quality of his writing is evidence of erudition and a commitment to getting to the heart of things.  Have a look at his blog – The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb.  Click here to see the faces of the poets.  Can you guess from the above which is which? (anwers at the bottom of this page)…….. pdf poets

Finally, don’t miss the next Poem and a Pint on 7th April 2018 at Greenodd Village Hall.  Jocob Polley, winner of the T S Eliot Prize for his collection Jackself, is the guest poet

In order clockwise from the top left they are, Jo Stoney, Caroline Gillfillan,  Mark Carson, John Foggin, Ross Baxter, Kim Moore.

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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.