Poetry goes ahead at Sowerby Bridge as Calder valley mops up after the floods

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Poetry will be going ahead as usual on Monday in the flood-hit Calder valley – at least it will be at Puzzle Poets at the Puzzle Hall Inn at Sowerby Bridge, where the guest poet is Kim Moore on 4 January. Further along the valley at Hebden Bridge the news has not been so good. Shindig, the regular spoken word night run by Winston Plowes at Nelsons Wine Bar, which was hit by previous floods in 2012 and forced to close for several months, may have to look for a new home. Winston said: “It is unlikely that Nelsons will be ready for some months.” Winston’s narrowboat on the Rochdale canal broke loose from its moorings during the recent downpours, but was retrieved by neighbours, he reported on Facebook.    

Hebden Bridge’s independent bookshop the Book Case, pictured, owned by Kate and Jake Claughan, which has hosted a regular series of poetry nights run by poet Sarah Corbett in 2015, was one of the casualties in the recent floods that devastated the town. Authors including Jon Ronson and Ian Rankin have responded to a call to provide signed copies of their books to sell in an auction to raise funds for the bookshop.

On their Facebook page the Book Case said:  “We have have truly been amazed and overwhelmed by the support and solidarity from our customers and the wider publishing and writing community ... Poetry Nites organiser Sarah Corbett has also be organising donations of poetry books from poets who have read in the shop in the past and has told me she has had an amazing response. Thanks also to Sarah who washed and mopped for us.” 

Further along the road at Todmorden, Kava cafe, home of the regular poetry night Kultura run by Anthony Costello and Shirley-Anne Kennedy, has been mopping up after its basement flooded. But it is expected that Kultura’s January event will go ahead later this month.  

Meanwhile in York, the Basement at City Screen, home to regular Say Owt! poetry slam events hosted by Henry Raby and Stu Freestone, has also been hit by York’s latest floods. Henry said: “The Basement is flooded, but to be honest it's not the first time this year.” He added that it had previously flooded just before a recent Say Owt!, “but they are used to it so it was quickly sorted.  Lots of venues down by the river flood every year or so. Our next slam is the end of January, so we’re hoping it'll be fine for then.” Other regular York poetry venues in pubs such as the Golden Ball (Speakers’ Corner) and the Exhibition (York Spoken Word) remained dry.  

In Cumbria, poets Geraldine Green, Ann Wilson and Nick Pemberton are working on an anthology to raise money for the Cumbria Community Foundation Fund Flood Appeal. Twenty-seven poets have been invited to contribute to Watershed, a mix of poetry and prose, personal experience or response to global warming. Geraldine said: “We’ll be planning readings here and there - anywhere we can have a venue for free, or a small fee.”

She added: “The main road through Cumbria (the Lakes part of it) A591 Grasmere to Keswick over Dunmail Raise is completely out of action, trashed on 5 December and not looking likely to be repaired just yet. I’ve a reading in Grasmere on January 15 and hope the roads won’t be flooded again. Anyone who comes to the reading from the Keswick area has a detour either over Kirkstone Pass - not so good in snow, ice or floods - or the A66, M6, A590 and A591 - a heck of a long detour to actually get to the reading.”

Postscript: Back in 2012 Winston Plowes, in his capacity as Hebden Bridge arts festival’s poet in residence, wrote a poem about the impact of floods. 'Slopping Out' concludes:


     Sad to see those carpets rolled

     the damaged goods that can’t be sold.

     Sad to hear the sirens wail

     the sand bags stacked to no avail

     and skips dripping with lives.


     This town will still have troubled times

     and for now and many nights to come

     will hear dehumidifiers hum

     as it drifts off to sleep.






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