Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bob Pegg and Pete Morgan - Cleveland Writers in Residence

From the early 1980's, thanks to the work of Gordon Hodgeon and relevant arts and educational institution, a number of strategic Writer in residences were established in the Tees Valley / Cleveland area.

These were the two earliest residencies.

Writer in Residence in Cleveland, based at the Dovecot Arts Centre in Stockton on Tees - 1983 - 1985
Bob Pegg was a leading folklorist, songwriter with a band called Mr Fox who toured with the Strawbs. In his own words
 " In 1983 I was appointed Writer in Residence in Cleveland for two years, taking workshops, running a songwriting project for schools, editing two anthologies of writing from the County, and organising the first Cleveland Literature Festival. It was during this time that my song-narrative The Shipbuilder was staged on a beach by Taffy Thomas' Charivari at Whitby Folk Festival for an audience of over 2000 people, and repeated later in Leith."

Bob Pegg's background was 

" When I left Leeds University in 1969 I had a degree in English Literature, and training as a
folklorist. I'd been lucky enough to do my fieldwork in the Yorkshire Dales, with fiddlers and squeezebox players, and it had given a lot of inspiration to the work that Carole Pegg and I were doing in folk clubs. In 1970, we formed the folk-rock band Mr Fox. We wrote most of the songs, but the line-up was based upon the instrumentation of the Dales village bands: fiddle, melodeon, harmonium, clarinet and cello (plus drums and bass). The two albums we recorded were well-received by the music press; the first, Mr Fox, was Melody Maker Folk Album of the Year. They were raw and full of energy and still stand up well on the Sanctuary CD reissue.

Read more of his work and background here -
I had seen Bob Pegg  play with his band Mr Fox in the early 70's with the Strawbs at the Lanchester Arts
Mr Fox
in Coventry. Ironically Dave Cousins of the Strawbs was programme Controller for Radio Tees - also then based in Dovecot Street, Stockton. (Perhaps it was Dave Cousins who recommended him to the Dovecot). 

The work we were doing with the Castalians / New Poetry and the Poly Multi Media Society and Ann Wainwright's Poetic Licence magazine worked separately from the official residences although some of the contributors attended both ours and Bob's events / publications. However there were no formal links back then between mainstream provision and the grassroots movement headed by Ann Wainwright and Trev Teasdel and associates in the early 80's. Trev Teasdel Bob Pegg at the Dovecot Arts Centre Literary Festival for a brief chat but no scope was seen for mutual works except that we passed Bob's publicity on to our members / contributors and possibly vice versa. Mainstream and grassroots didn't mix formally until Write Around was established in 1989 - or in the lead up to it.
did meet up with

Although our Write Around was claimed as the first Cleveland Literary Festival, actually Bob Pegg has that claim. The two festivals were quite different. Bob Pegg's festival was "a short 3 day festival..which packed as varied a programme of events as could be wished into its span. Something (nearly) for everyone)." As the Dovecot Programme announced in November 1984 -

The programme kicked off with Another Side of Bob Godfrey (film animations) and then Liverpool poet Brian Patten, Nick Toczek, Seething Wells, Beasties (Bob Pegg and Julie Fullerton) and local poet Gerry Moran.

I caught the performance of Brian Patten, spoke to Bob Pegg about the New Poetry Scene Events at the Dovecot and gave out a small poetry magazine (one of the forerunners of Outlet) at the event called Streetclean. It was only a taster but evolved into Outlet a little while later. 

Another link between Bob Pegg's work and ours was with the Teesside Poly Writers Workshop. A small Multi Media Society, some of whom, like myself, were on the BA Humanities degree course. English lecturer John Carthew (also on the board of the Dovecot Arts Centre) facilitated a writers group at the Poly,incorporated some Creative Writing modules into the English degree and linked up with Bob Pegg who mentored
Advert from Outlet Magazine
group of writers from the

Over the Border
 the group during his residency. This was quite a lively group and after Bob Pegg's residency finished, a new intake of students continued the group - Mark Rutter and Richard Briddon (blogged about here..). Under the enterprise of  Richard Briddon and Mark Rutter the group went on to produce the anthology Over the Border in 1989 and in 1986 were involved in organising the Writing competition Entertaining Hope which raised money for charity. Richard Briddon eventually joined us on the editorial board of Outlet and Write Around committee before initiating Paranoia Press.

Towards the end of the residency, Bob Pegg produced two fine anthologies, one for adult writers and one based around his work in Cleveland Schools - Crossing the T's and Dotting the I's. The residency ended with Bob Pegg and Julie Fullerton doing a tour of the Cleveland area with both their own performances and some of the writers who had been published in the anthologies.

Pete Morgan
Was Writer in Residence twice between 1984 and 1985. Gordon Hodgeon was instrumental again in
making this happen. This was another important residency in the literary history of the area. My knowledge 
of the residencies are sketchy however, as there was no formal links still between the mainstream and grassroots literary developments, However I do remember that Pete held 'poetic surgeries' in libraries such as North Ormsby and Redcar libraries, along with possibly others. I suspect he also held workshops in various schools in the area. Various poets and writers we worked with went along to these surgeries which they found found very useful but other than that I have no details. However I did book Pete Morgan (via the National Poetry Secretariat) to do a reading for the Teesside Writers' Workshop at the Albert Hotel, Middlesbrough in 1984. The Reading was well attended for this important poet. Here are some background details to Pete Morgan -

" Pete Morgan, a Lancastrian by birth and Yorkshireman by adoption, is a professional poet. In 1971 he returned to the North of England, to live and work in the Yorkshire fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay. In the same year a selection of his work was published in London by Faber & Faber. His first full-length collection, 'The Grey Mare Being The Better Steed', appeared from Secker & Warburg in 1973. This was followed by 'The Spring Collection' (1979), 'One Greek Alphabet' (1980). Morgan's most recent collection of poems, 'A Winter Visitor', celebrated the Robin Hood's Bay area of North Yorkshire and was hailed by The Observer as 'something of a triumph... the rhythmical energy is a delight, but much else derives from the spare Northern realism which Morgan sets down so accurately.'

Al Stewart (lyrics Pete Morgan) - My Enemies Have Sweet Voices

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