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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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2019 began slowly for Handstand Press. My mother’s illness and death in January took me away from home and the office desk and it was some time before I could really start to focus on thinking about what next for Handstand. Things took a turn in May, when I heard from the offices of Cumbria Tourism that THIS PLACE I KNOW was on the short list for The Lakeland Book of the Year award. I was 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 will never know about it. She spent 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.

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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