Luck plus one

Are you sitting comfortably, then let Sandy Chadwin tell you all about the Pot Luck Club, returning to Newcastle’s Old George on Thursday 22nd March….

IT WAS NOT twenty years ago today but about two years ago that Elaine Cusack, Jen Wilson and I were drinking in North Shields’ oldest pub, the Low Lights Tavern. We were chatting about the spoken word events we were considering when one of us, I forget who, came up with the idea for the Pot Luck Club.

It had started as a joke. We had chatted about our perfect spoken word evening.  Who would we invite if we had access to unlimited funds and a time machine? I was holding out for Stevie Smith but Elaine vetoed her on the grounds that she had heard recordings and Smith had a terrible reading voice. TS Eliot was vetoed on the same grounds. Byron was dismissed as he would probably insist on bringing his bear with him and none of us were sure whether public liability insurance covered that kind of thing. I forget who ended up on the list, if we ever actually settled on a definitive one, which I doubt but I do remember that we agreed that such an evening would be invite only. A private evening for the connoisseur as it were.

fab-audienceAnd then, as these things happen, the conceit began to mutate and warp. We discussed the various writing forms that we had all experimented with but were outside our comfort zone. We chatted about how appalling it can be that first time standing up at an open mike evening in front of a friendly crowd who are, nevertheless, partly wondering if this is going to be the complete car crash reading of the night.

So the idea of the Pot Luck Club was born. We would invite established performers to try something different. Poets reading prose, story writers reading poetry and so forth, along with first time performers, nervous but wanting the experience. And it would be a safe space as the audience would all be invited.

There it was left and we moved on to discuss other matters of high moment and philosophical depth. Honest.

Later that  year Elaine and I were back at the Low Lights and were sitting in the separate room they have there, what in Edwardian detective or ghost stories would be described as the parlour, which has no bar, an open fire and is cut off from the rest of the pub by a glass door. Cloud 9, the Coast based theatre company, were performing a play in there the next week and we could see posters for talks and other such events, all to be held in this room.

This, we decided, was the venue for Pot Luck Club.

mister-creenSo it was, in late January 2017, we held the first Pot Luck Club and it was a success. We had playwrights telling stories, poets singing, story tellers reciting poetry, writers who had never before stood on their hind paws before an audience reading their stories and poems and the Legendary Ken Creen rounding the evening off. Did it work? Well it seemed to. The only problem was that the room was too small.

The logical, though sad, thing to do was to find another venue and this, with heavy steps we did. After some rootling around we chose the Old George in the centre of Newcastle. As it happens, the Low Lights Tavern is widely thought to be North Shields’ oldest pub and the Old George is widely believed (since the closure of the Cooperage) to be Newcastle’s. A pleasing albeit unplanned bit of continuity. We had already held a Pure Fiction event in the upstairs room there and found it good so, in the autumn of last year, we held the second Pot Luck Club. Same as before, though it happened that there were more first-timers this time rather than people outside their comfort zone though Elaine did recite a poem she had written that rhymed, a thing she had never done before in front of strangers. Vicky Arthurs, the poet, did us proud by acting as the headline act.

And now we’re doing it again. Same place, upstairs at the Old George, off the Bigg Market in the centre of Newcastle. We have established writers doing new and daring things and newer writers risking a plodge for the first time. Harry Gallagher is our headline. Other performers include  Rob Walton, The Cornshacks, Krys Wysocki, Alex Heppell and Isaac Parker .Harry Gallagher photo credit Phil Punton

And you are all, of course, invited.

The Pot Luck Club, Old George Inn, Cloth Market, Newcastle, NE1 1EZ. Thursday 22nd March. Free entry. Thanks to Chris Anderson and Phil Punton for photos.


Football & Poetry

There’s something about this time of year for football fans. We’re two thirds of the way through the football season and the FA Cup’s moved up a few gears. What’s this got to do with writing? Over to our football correspondent, Rob Hawley…

I love football, but not for the usual reasons.

I don’t love it because of the tension, the passion, the glory, the thrills and spills. Nope, none of these things are the real reason I love football. I don’t even love it because of the sense of community, the camaraderie, the feeling of our club, our tribe against the world. No, none of that is the root of my football love.

My love comes from two things. One is the wonderful history of the sport, its Victorian origins, its rootedness in the story of northern working life, its (if you like) deep past. This, to me, is essential to football’s amazing glamour, its intoxicating allure.

footballThe other is (for want of a better phrase) the grammar of a football match, the shapes and patterns which endlessly repeat during match after match, which play out in similar yet constantly varied ways. Football, like chess, is played on a rigidly confined space, with players who obey rigidly-enforced rules. Yet despite the apparent tram-line uniformity of pitch and rule-book, the games which reveal themselves every Saturday are a series of never-ending variations, so different from one another that each one is memorably distinct – though some are much better than others. I’ve heard it said that there are more chess games, that is, more variations of the moves which can make up a game, than atoms in the known universe. The same must be true of football.

Perhaps this freedom-within-rules which creates the grammar, the syntax, the punctuation of football, is the reason I find watching it so restful. To me it is a kind of meditation – a ritual act. I think lots of people are like me in this, though few acknowledge it. The thought inspired this poem, which tries to convey something of the feelings I have about the Beautiful Game.


To a smattering of applause and some desultory chanting

twenty-two men trot out to enact it all again,

moves worked on since Edward VII was new minted,

pubs had stained glass and Players were on every corner.


As it starts the trusted ways are immediately taken:

the full backs’ line-length parabolas

the neat midfield passing keeping it in triangles

the clever ball into corner-flag space:

all met with approving claps and yells from the bench.


When the game warms and unfolds they delve

deeper into their past, into the box of tricks

likeliest to call up the luck they yearn for:

chips to the edge of the box,

cushion headers of the number 9, holding it up

while comrades flood into the gaps.

New things are permitted: drag-backs,

deft turns, outside-of-the-boot sliced passes

to the man overlapping.

Each team rummages for its rituals

and yet is thwarted. Whoever thought

of two teams and just one ball? It gets cruel

when they can’t both get it and the fouls begin.


Unable to rub up luck they opt for blind hope

and the aimless long balls are fought for in leaping thuds.

The dance, the trickery is abandoned.

It is a melee, as they opt for bludgeoning out a result.

The spectators accept this mostly. They’ve seen it before,

their own grandfathers did much the same thing

and it will happen again.

The crowd comes here to make the next week happen

while out on the grass coloured armies clash and shout and harry.


Copyright Rob Hawley

Rob Hawley was born in Lancashire in 1966. He is a teacher of History, a contributor to various county magazines under the pseudonym Jonas Holdsworth, a freelance copywriter and member of the Pennine Poets. His poetry seeks the union of formal style with vibrant musicality


On the issue of subsidies

This month’s post is from Sandy Chadwin:

pexels-photo-207636.jpegSO I SAID I would do January’s blog and I had a bright idea about considering the issues arising from the Art Council’s report on the future of Literary Fiction which was released at the tail end of last year. The report says that it, literary fiction, is dying out and ponders whether subsidy might be the way of keeping it alive. This, of course, begs the question that literary fiction should be kept alive. After all, if no-one wants to read it then why should the taxpayer fund it? You may deduce, from that last sentence, where my sympathies lie in this matter. Will Self is on record as saying that he believes that literary fiction will end up becoming an esoteric hobby, like Morris dancing I suppose, with small amateur groups keeping it alive.

The problem, or at least one of the problems, in this discussion is that no-one seems to be entirely sure exactly what Literary Fiction is. Some presumed that it was fiction that was not consciously written to fall into one the established genres – crime, science fiction, romance and so on – but that was quickly disabused by those who said that such writing is actually ‘general fiction’. The closest I came to a definition was someone on the Guardian website who suggested that literary fiction was fiction that concentrated on character and style to the exclusion of all else which led me to a tetchy Kingsley Amis-esque harrumph that if that was indeed the case, then the sooner it died out the better. That peculiarly WASPish form of fiction is one that I am not sympathetic to.

And yet, and yet. I do strongly believe that the arts deserve and need public subsidy. And furthermore that such subsidy makes sound economic sense. When Newcastle City Council a few years back made the headline grabbing announcement that it was going to cut its arts budget to nil on the grounds such funding only benefitted middle class people, it was pointed out somewhat forcibly to them that every pound put into the arts by the taxpayer brings back £5 in tax revenue. It might also have been pointed out that if you want to get businesses to relocate to the north-east, while they may not actually go to the theatre or concert hall or poetry readings, most business people like to live somewhere where they could if they wanted to. The policy was, of course, quietly dropped and the council closed all but three of their libraries instead in what seemed to be an act of rather petty spite.

So where do I stand? Direct government payments to Will Self (the only novelist everyone seems to agree writes literary fiction) sticks in the craw. The novel has never been directly funded by patronage, which is all subsidy is. Poets, composers, painters and even playwrights have taken the penny from the obliging aristocracy and taking the Government’s penny is no different, but novelists never have. Well, Fay Weldon did that weird thing a while back when she wrote a novel sponsored by a jewellery company if memory serves, but it hasn’t seemed to take. Fiction has always had to stand on its own merits, like rock music in that way, another art form that has never been directly subsidised.

Ay, and there’s the rub. Directly subsidised. All the arts of all forms have benefitted immensely over the centuries from indirect subsidy and patronage through the provision of education and libraries and town and village halls where bands can play and actors act and writers read, from the provision of night classes where people can study and learn about the cubists and the modernists and the romantics or whatever there may be a demand for. So, rather than give Will Self £20 grand a year to keep him in similes, let’s keep Cullercoats Library open, let’s return to the old adult education system when you could, for about a tenner, sign up to learn Latin or all about the Bloomsbury Set. Let’s teach music in our schools and take the children on outings to the theatre and to the concert hall.

Yes, that’s a subsidy I can get behind.

Some goal-smashing advice!


We’ve got an interesting post on the blog this week, from Nicola Findlay, as part of her blog tour for Live Like You Give a F**k, her new book about how to identify and set goals, then go get them! I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve set myself plenty of goals over the years, and not always quite got around to reaching them, in writing and ‘normal’ life. So, we thought this might be a good read for TNP, and here’s Nicola, talking to us about what inspired her to write the book, and how she got it done. Having read the book myself, I think we could all learn a lot from her plans!

I grew up with mum juggling jobs to make ends meet.  Logically, my expectations for the future at this point were low.  I thought the best I could do would be to muddle and struggle through life like my mum. In my early twenties, I found myself in a boring job that I hated, too much month at the end of the money, credit cards maxed out on emergencies like a cute biker jacket from Zara and being in a dead end relationship where my partner felt more like a lodger than a lover!

I could have stayed this way but fate, destiny, the universe or whatever the hell you call it stepped in and and guided me in a different direction.!

An older, wiser colleague at work often asked me , “what the heck are you doing stuck in this stale office! Get the hell out of here and live a life of adventure and fun – you are too young to settle for a 9-5 boring office job’ As much as I new it to be true, the security of the job would always drag my sorry arse back.

The unexpected death of him was a lightening bolt to my system. Would I continue living a life that didn’t feel like mine or I could grab life by the balls and go live a better version?

In what seemed like a moment of madness, in a heartbeat, I took the first step that we all have to do to make change happen. I decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown!

From that point everything started to change pretty quickly.  I ditched the boyfriend and the job.  Moved down south and started an awesome career travelling the world as an air stewardess.

I loved my new life, work and new friends. Within a year I met a guy that blew my socks off.  I still can’t shake him off, I guess that’s because I married him.  One day I was introduced to my first self development book which was quite alien to me  as my usual reading materials consisted solely of OK and Hello magazine.  But I absolutely fucking loved it, and was so hooked and hungry for more.  That initial book started a trail into the ‘self help bubble’ which led to more life changing books, weekend seminars, an nlp practitioner course and running self development workshops in Brighton where I lived.  This journey of personal growth and development was pleasantly interrupted by the arrival of my baby daughter Melia and I stepped back to focus on my most prized possession.

Live Like You Give A F**K! is my debut title and it all started with a beermat type of idea I had almost two years ago to the day. I was sipping on a mimosa and writing my goals, on a cruise ship somewhere between Florida and the Bahamas. I usually make a list of the self development books that I want to read the following year when it struck me that the book I really wanted to read; one that had plenty of mojo in the motivation, was inspiring and practical as well as being funny as fuck hadn’t been written yet and I toyed for the very first time about writing a book. Of course I was immediately swamped with the usual fears and doubts; ‘You’re not a writer, no one is going to want to read what you’ve written, you haven’t got anything valuable to say’, so taking my own advice I slowly took another sip of my mimosa and told my fears and doubts to f**k off.

The only writing I’d previously done was for my courses and trainings so it was a huge leap for me to then commit myself to writing the 40,000 words for the book. I’m sure mine has been a typical journey that many writers face. The initial excitement that has you typing away for hours on end followed by lulls where you hit the brick wall and can’t string a sentence together for love nor money, which is frustrating as hell. The scariest part of all, is when you think you’re ready to submit your manuscript only to find that with the pressure of a deadline you now what to make a gazillion changes.

The hardest part for me was signing off the final proof. No more edits, no more changes and no more turning back.  As a writer you soon realise that you have to be fine with there being an end to the process, which is great,  because that’s when the book gets to deliver on it’s promise by getting into people’s hands and sprouting it’s message;  Empowerment, Motivation and Confidence!

And for all the ideas and thoughts that didn’t make it to print this time, well, I’ll just have to write another book.


It’s true, there is a lot to Nicola’s book which is common sense. But, sometimes, we ignore common sense, and need somebody to sit us down, and tell us exactly how it is. In this book, Nicola does this in spades. It’s a no-nonsense approach, going through the ins and outs of how to identify the life you want, then giving you the tools to get out there and get it. Throughout, Nicola’s voice is striking, and a bit like being given a pep talk by your best friend, which is basically what most of us need! So, grab yourself a notebook, get reading, and get planning your new life…

Live Like You Give A F**K!

NF V1.2

The No Nonsense Philosophy for Smart Girls who Want to Smash It!

Boss a bitch? Diet a hot mess? Broke after payday? Ghosted on tinder?

If life feels like a constant hangover why not take five f**king minutes for yourself to decide what you really want. Slam on the brakes, kick off your heels and unplug from the social media circus.

Stop Surviving – Start Thriving

Live Like You Give A F**K will show you how to create the future you want, not the one that’s been shoved down your throat. It will shake and wake you from the hypnosis of modern living. The triple shot of empowerment, confidence and motivation will unleash the badass in you.

Nicola Findlay is the straight-talking, bold, coaching diva who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. If you ask her advice about your lame partner she’ll give you a bitch slap, tell you to raise your standards and get rid of that loser.

She’s your best friend, your enemy, your punchbag and your cheerleader. Some people call her a diva, some people call her a badass bitch but whichever you decide you will get results.

WARNING: If you’re afraid of a few swear words on a page put this book down and go cry to your Mama. I’m not here to offend anyone.  I’m here to tell you how to rock your world, and because I’m so passionate about it I’ll be shouting and swearing from the rooftops.

Purchase from Amazon UK

Purchase from Barnes & Noble

About Nicola

Nicola Photo 1

Nicola Findlay, a former British Airways air stewardess, is a qualified neurolinguistic practitioner and accredited international coach with over a decade of experience. She runs personal group workshops, 1-2-1 coaching and corporate training working with companies such as Specsavers and Stella & Dot. Previously she managed the Brighton branch of Life Clubs where she ran weekly personal development workshops with different themes each week before starting her own company The Coaching Diva in 2015. In 2018 she is planning a series of live events in London and New York including; Attracting Mr Right and Live Like You Give A F**K! Nicola lives with her 7 year old daughter and husband in Surrey, England

Website –

Instagram –



Pure Talent next week

What does  “Dystopian novel” mean? We’ve taken the phrase as our theme for this Thursday’s Pure Fiction event at The Old George in Newcastle. Fancy joining us to listen to Sue Miller and Emma Whitehall reading from and discussing their work?

Pure Fiction celebrates writers of fiction and their work. Previous events have featured Jennifer C Wilson, Kitty Fitzgerald, Sandy Chadwin, Carol Clewlow, L.A. Craig, Rod Glenn and Victoria Watson. On Thursday 16th November it’ll be the turn of writers Sue Miller and Emma Whitehall. Host Elaine Cusack will let them run with the Dystopian novel theme and we’ll have the chance to ask questions and chat with them afterwards. Elaine’s colleague, Sandy Chadwin will kick off the evening with a Tall Tale.

Doors open 6.45pm and the evening starts at 7pm. Tickets cost £3 and can be bought in  advance or on the door. Here’s more information on Thursday’s authors…

emmapicEmma Whitehall is a writer, reviewer and spoken word performer based  in the North East of England. Emma specialises in supernatural fiction, and has been published in the United Kingdom, America, Mexico and Ireland. Her Flash Fiction has been longlisted for the Bath Novella in Flash Award, and shortlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction Award.

For more years than she wants to remember, Sue Miller  worked with families and communities locally and nationally as a psychologist, teacher and manager. Those experiences have given her knowledge and insight into the stories we all become: ordinary people often made extraordinary by what life throws at us. Sue’s debut novel 20/20 Vision They Didn’t See it Coming was published earlier this year and on Thursday she’ll  read from her current work in progress, a prequel to 20/20 Vision.

Sue Miller



Top of the Pops

Last Thursday’s talk They Walk that Should Not about ghost stories has prompted Sandy Chadwin to list his favourite writers and stories:

Top Three Ghost Story Writers (in alphabetical order):

Robert Aickman
EF Benson
MR James

Top 10 Ghost Stories (in no particular order):

1/ ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
2/ ‘Three Miles Up’ – Elizabeth Jane Howard
3/ ‘The Screaming Skull’ – F Marion Crawford
4/ ‘Man-Sized in Marble’ – E Nesbit
5/ ‘How Love Came to Professor Guildea’ – Robert Hitchens
6/ ‘The Turn of the Screw’ – Henry James
7/ ‘The Ghost-Ship’ – Richard Middleton
8/ ‘The Signal-Man’ – Charles Dickens
9/ ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’ – Lord Lytton
10/ ‘The Red Lodge’ – HR Wakefield

MRJames1900Catch Sandy talking about MR James this coming Thursday in Newcastle’s Old George

October is the busiest month

We managed to sellotape Sandy “Busy Bee” Chadwin to his laptop for 10 minutes so he could write this blog…

For reasons that escape me, but are partly do with the time of year, I have a fair bit to do this autumn. Three gigs, to be precise, with two of them on the same day but it should be fun.

SandyFirst out of the hatch is They Walk That Should Not Walk, a talk that Elaine Cusack and I will be giving at the Northumberland Park Community Room (it’s attached to the café, or so I’m told) at 1:00pm this coming Thursday the 12th  of October. It’s part of the ‘Age Takes Centre Stage’ shenanigans that the council have put together for this month and it’s free though I think you need to register. Fuller details are here. If you’ve not been to the park (it’s between the golf course in North Shields and the Tynemouth Lodge pub) it’s a charming little place complete with its own pet cemetery and remains of a mediaeval hospital. And there’s a café. The talk (or chat more likely) will look at the history and fascination of the ghost story and if you’re coming, bring along memories of your favourite whether it’s one from Charles Dickens, EF Benson, Mrs Gaskell, or one of the James boys – Henry and MR. Should be fun, albeit in a somewhat macabre way.

Following that, I will have a brief pause before heading off to the Exchange in North Shields where, along with the Cracketts (a husband and wife folk duo) I’ll be presenting Tales from the Dead House at 7:30. This is an evening of spooky and macabre stories (from me) and songs (courtesy of the Cracketts) and is ticketed at £3.00, available on the door. Storytelling is a thing I do, unless politely but firmly stopped, and fits nicely with folk music and as the nights creep into the day, it’s the time to sit and listen, if only to escape the darkness outside. In the US they have the tradition of the campfire tale, a creepy and often gory story told while sitting round the fire while camping. Many of the urban myths we are so fond of probably started off as such tales – you know the kind of thing I mean. The Vanishing Hitchhiker (driver gives lift to girl only she disappears while still in the car and on subsequent investigation he discovers that she was run down and died on that very spot); Hairy Hands (woman gives lift to old lady but notices that she has suspiciously hairy hands and so when the old lady gets out at a garage to visit the toilet, the driver drives off and when she looks inside the bag left by the old lady, she finds it full of bloodied knives and a police investigation finds the clothes of an elderly woman in the toilet at the garage) and there are many others. I was actually told the hairy hands one by a friend back in the late ‘70s with the addition that the old lady was in fact the Yorkshire Ripper, who was still at large.

 MRJames1900Then, a full week later, I shall be giving a talk on the aforementioned MR James at the Old George in Newcastle at 7:30pm on the 19th. That has the bargain price of a mere £2.50. Buy your ticket in advance here. MR James is, I will be arguing, one of the best, if not the actual best, ghost story writer in English. He used to write them to tell to his Cambridge fellow dons on Christmas Eve and they are a potent mix of donnish humour and subtle horror. I did my dissertation on him back in the mid- ‘80s when you weren’t meant to take things like ghost stories as serious literature. My supervisor spent the first week or so constantly thinking I was writing about Henry James (no mean slouch at the ghost story himself as anyone who’s read ‘The Turn of the Screw’ will attest) and the external examiner mourned that I had wasted my time on such a petty subject. But now, Newcastle University does a module on them as part of its Eng. Lit degree or certainly did so a few years back, and you cannot buy a critical study of James or ghost stories in general for less than £30 odd. Hmm, perhaps I should dig out that dissertation…