Poets pay tribute to Paul Blackburn - a founding father of Write Out Loud - after death at festival
Write Out Loud has been saddened to hear of the sudden death of Paul Blackburn, a leading figure in the north-west poetry scene for many years, who also played a key part in the growth and success of this website. He was a man of many talents, including compere, performer, poet, writer, singer, musician, workshop leader, film maker and publisher. His involvement with Write Out Loud was from 2005 to 2011. During that time he instigated and ran various regular and one-off events including World Book Day 2008 in Rochdale, and the BBC Radio 4 NW heat slam in 2010. He also helped organise and participated in poetry festivals in Bordeaux.
He never severed his connection with Write Out Loud, faithfully crossing the Pennines each year with fellow north-west poets to attend the annual Write Out Loud poetry jam at Marsden jazz festival in Yorkshire.
Paul Emberson, Write Out loud board member and technical director, said: "Paul contributed hugely to the development of the Write Out Loud website in its early years and his influence is still very much felt in the site today. He brought tremendous energy, wit and insight to our meetings, often held in hotel bars around the north. He predicted what poets would want from a site like Write Out Loud long before it had the user base it has today and had a great ability to shift between thinking as a poet and as a web creator.
"Paul took on roles of website management, moderator, feature innovator and often helped me debug issues on behalf of users. In more recent years he would always come to say 'Hi' when we crossed paths at the annual Marsden jazz festival poetry jams. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing."
After leaving Write Out Loud, Paul Blackburn edited and wrote for Wise Badger magazine. Although a critical success, the magazine had to close after two years due to financial problems. He later chaired the Bolton arts and heritage organisation Live From Worktown, working alongside his great friend Dave Morgan, a co-founder of Write Out Loud with Julian Jordon.
Alongside running various workshops over the years, Paul made several appearances on the Channel 4 TV programme The Word with Nat Clare. More recently he was commissioned to write poems for, and appeared on, Sky TV. He also made contributions to local and national radio programmes and appeared on regional TV stations.
A wave of tributes from poetry friends in the north-west have quickly appeared on social media. Dave Morgan said on behalf of Live From Worktown: “We are deeply sorry to announce that our dear friend and colleague, Paul Blackburn, passed away in his sleep on Saturday night. Nat Clare, Louise Coulson and myself dropped him off at his hotel at 10pm after seeing Roger McGough, Gerry Potter and Jackie Hagan at the Winter Gardens, Morecambe. We had had an hilarious day at the poetry festival. Paul was in top form and we left him in good spirits. Our thoughts go out to Rita, Martin and his family.”
Gerry Potter said: “Sad to hear of the death of Paul Blackburn, what a lovely bloke. Somebody intrinsic in building and enabling a scene so many peoples would pass through and benefit from. A Beat off the beaten track and able with words and music, to make you inwardly think and laugh out loud. I loved Paul and his gang, I’d call them the Boltonian poetry posse. I enjoyed that they came from a particular sense of ‘somewhere’, they twinkled with that 1960s/70s anarcho-socialistic … I so readily and excitably recognise. All of them knowing art, whatever it may be, whatever its form, belongs to anybody who wants to do it.”
Another poet and writer, Andy N, said: “I first met Paul at either Write Out Middleton or Write Out Sale somewhere around 2008, and always found him an entertaining and funny guy to meet and see/hear read. The energy he put into the early days of Write Out Loud and later the work he did with Live from Worktown /Preeta Press deserves respect from everybody.”
Former Write Out Loud Bolton compere and poet Jeff Dawson said: “It's fair to say I wouldn't have done half the things I have done without his and others encouragement since those early days when we met at Write Out Loud. He will be very sadly missed.”
Paul Blackburn's funeral will take place on Tuesday 10 October at 12 noon at Astley Bridge Baptist Church, Eden Street, Bolton. All welcome. Flowers - Family and very close friends only. There will be an opportunity to donate to 'The British Heart Foundation' at the service. 1pm Burial at Astley Bridge Cemetery, Eden Street, Bolton. All welcome. 2pm The Wake - Heaton Cricket Club, Church Road, Bolton. All welcome.