Category Archives: Reading

Urban Goals and Holiday Reading

Haven’t been here for a while, to Liverpool Central Library.But two special reasons to come today. First to see a new exhibition of photographs by someone that I ‘know’ in a Twitter sort of way. And second, to stock up with some holiday reading  as I’m taking some time off work.

Photos first then. The exhibition’s by my Twitter friend @UrbanGoals, and is in fact called “Urban Goals.” Turns out that’s not my friend’s actual name though.

Introducing Michael Kirkham.

Who looks, from his photo, to be a boxing referee. This exhibition though is about football. Not the glossy corporate world of Premier League football, but real football in the real places where we live.

Urban Goals on walls near you.

Continue reading

From the Planet Zogg: The Libraries of a Different World

dsc07973In this last week or so of January 2017 there has been much talk of dystopia. Living through these bleak days in the opposite of a world any of us would want to live in. Waking up in a science fiction novel you never thought you’d actually have to live through.

All of which has reminded me of a science fiction story I wrote a few months ago about libraries and their future in a world where we are free to have opinions, travel freely and generally be a planet of cultured and tolerant human beings.

It’s a story that starts and ends in Liverpool, where else? But as of this week it could be pretty much anywhere. Unlike most of my blog posts it contains no new photographs. Being, as it is, a radio broadcast back to those left at home from the not that fictionally distant Planet Zogg, some time in the imaginable future.livlib08

“The Libraries of a Different World”

The TransLibs

It was like this, we knew things were going to change for us in a big way and a few of us got together to discuss it all before we left. Before we left for the new planet.

You’ve probably heard this basic background a thousand times before, but just in case this story ever gets picked up, say in a library somewhere because, hey, this part of the story is going to be mainly about libraries, here it is. Maybe for someone who’s never heard of Earth, never mind Zogg, here’s the background once again. Continue reading

Writing On The Wall: WoWFest 2016 in May

WoWFest tickets available here, now.
DSC02296I’m sitting here in front of the Palm House, a beautiful place in Liverpool I hardly ever visit, thinking about how I should tell you about WoWFest 2016, taking place in Liverpool over the whole of May.

Sefton Park Palm House, nothing to do with WoWFest.

Sefton Park Palm House, nothing to do with WoWFest. Except it’s where I’m writing this.

Shall I tell you the headlines? Do it chronologically? Group it into themes, like comedy, social significance or science fiction? Or tell you the bits of it that most interest me and why? Or shall I just tumble into it and see where that takes us?

Obviously ‘just tumbling into it’ gets the vote. So here goes.

The WoWFest is Liverpool’s  longest running literary festival by a long way, this being its 17th year. It’s put on by Writing on the Wall who, if you’ve been paying attention (and if not..?) you’ll have read a fair bit about on here over the last year or so. Continue reading

It’s Liverpool, in 1964: City of Change and Challenge

Or ‘Seaport: A Life in a Book’challengeSeaport - 1This book came out originally in 1964 when I was ten years old. And though I had my adult-side library ticket by then it must have been a reference only book, as I have no memory of bringing it home. Instead I would sit in the North Liverpool library of my childhood and pore over it for hours. Fascinated by such a gorgeous book about the place that, even then, I considered myself lucky to have been born in. Much of which I hadn’t yet seen. My Liverpool was a Ribble bus to County Road and Stanley Park, near where I’d first lived, or all the way into town, with occasional rides on the ferry, back and forth, back and forth.

My parents, having lived through the war years in Vauxhall and Bootle next to the decimated docks, had been glad to move their little family out to the new northern suburbs where everything was new and life could only get better. And Maghull back then was a fascinating place to grow up in. Between our house and the library there was still a farm where you could watch the great big sow suckling her piglets. And the surrounding streets as they got built filled up with footballers from Everton and Liverpool who we would constantly pester for autographs. But also, of course, by 1964 the Beatles were among us and together with this book only added to my fasciation with the place I was actually from, my Liverpool.

So I would sit there in Maghull branch library, gazing at places I hadn’t yet seen and dreaming of finding them. Then over the decades that came I would find the book occasionally in the Liverpool libraries I by then lived near, and notice that in a way, the book and those early dreams were shaping my life.

Eventually a copy of the 1993 reprint of the book entered my life. The father of my partner Sarah, Frank Horton, was dying of lung cancer. And having seen how often I would look through ‘Seaport’ while visiting him, tenderly passed the book over to me, saying “I think it’ll be more use to you than me now.”

It’s one of my greatest treasures and I’ve long thought of writing about it on here. So here goes. No clever editing, we’ll just leaf through the book, and skipping back and forth across the decades since Liverpool in 1964, I’ll tell you the story of my life. Continue reading

Quiet Days in West Cork

Quiet Days - 1Writing this on the Ianrød Eirann train from Kent Station, Cork to Heuston Station in Dublin, after a week of quiet days in West Cork. Well mostly quiet and mostly West Cork, though we began and ended with nights in a hostel in Cork City. Bunk beds and excitable young voices in there, us taking refuge those evenings in the city’s pubs. The Sin É for the music, the history and the new out last year Rising Sons beer, brewed all of 800 meteres away. And the Shelbourne Bar for rare whiskeys we’d never afford and food you could send out for from the local cafés, such a civilised idea.Quiet Days - 2 Quiet Days - 3

Mostly though quieter days of quieter thoughts far along the Beara Peninsula in furthest West Cork, hanging right out into the Atlantic Ocean.Quiet Days - 4

The train here full of Cork voices. Continue reading

What’s Your Granby Story?

The last Granby 4 Streets Market of this summer season this Saturday, 5th September. And a very special one too.

We are telling the stories of the place now. Listen.

"His good name from 79 Granby Street and his legacy still lives on."

“His good name from 79 Granby Street and his legacy still lives on.”

This is Zeena Mekki telling a story of this week, this century and the last one. The story of a seafarer. The story of a migrant. The story of a refugee. A story of welcome. Of decades and of love. The story of coming home, of being human. The story of her Dad and Granby. Listen.

One story in a book of stories.

One story in a book of stories.

Written and told by the people of Granby. Continue reading

Socialist ’til I die

Lately and increasingly I have resumed writing in long hand when something really matters to me, when something needs working out. The slowness of it, the active thinking, from my heart directly down my left arm to the tip of my pen.Socialist - 6

I’m writing in long hand now, sat on the wall of Sefton Park, the Sunday afternoon before the 2015 General election. Sefton Park where I have come for most of my adult life to walk, reflect and think about all the really big decisions. When to invite, when to leave? When to say yes, when to say no. Today I’m here to keep writing until I can decide who to vote for this Thursday.

As you can tell by the title above, several parties and candidates have already been eliminated by the thinking and experiences of my life up to now. I am a socialist and always have been since, I think, my first ever visit to a public library some time late in the 1950s:

“We’d moved to our new house on a new estate, just North of Liverpool. And in one of our early explorations of the new place, called Maghull, I remember my Dad taking me to the Library there and explaining how it worked. That I could pick the books I wanted and take them home. Then after we, or rather he, had read them to me, we’d bring them back. ‘It’s part of how we’ve decided to run the country. Books are important and this is a good way of making sure everyone can read the books they want,’ he said, gently educating his little son in the gently British version of socialism.”

But as you’ll know from my recent posts about The Big Issue and Borgen the kind of socialist I am at the moment has been up for some degree of consideration. Consideration that continues now, sat on this park wall writing all this down. Continue reading