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Launching at a Tennis Club or Pub near you…

If you live near Nottingham or Liverpool that is.

We will be formally launching the publication of the new, improved and illustrated Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player on Saturday 14 August at 6pm at the Park Tennis Club in Nottingham; and Friday 20 August from 3pm at the Fly in the Loaf, Hardman Street, Liverpool

The launches will have some readings, food and drinks – and with any luck enjoying the tennis of those afternoons.

If you are able to join us, please just drop me an email to confirm where you would like to attend, and how many tickets you would like so that we can make sure there’s enough refreshments to go round.

More information about the book here.

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No no no no no no no oh yes it does: Barrow goes to Penrith!

This summer, 20 prize winning phrases written by the people of Barrow-in-Furness will go on display alongside Cumbrian artists in an exhibition at Rheged Gallery, Penrith. The exhibition champions Cumbrian creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic details of which you can see here.

It all started with Art Gene’s 8 Words for Barrow-in-Furness competition during the first national lockdown in 2020.

Inspired by 8 empty sky blue billboards in the town, Art Gene invited people from Barrow and Furness to enter their own suggestions for phrases to fill the space. From over 180 entries, 20 competition winners were selected by Artist/Directors Stuart Bastik and Maddi Nicholson, and were presented in a socially distanced, outdoor artwork created by Maddi outside Art Gene HQ on Abbey Road in Barrow last year.

Nick Owen was one of the proud competition winners with his entry:

No no no no no no no yes

which itself was inspired by an earlier poem he wrote entitled Resistance is Futile, itself inspired by the Borg of even earlier manifestations of Star Trek.  The Borg would take immense amount of pleasure telling their hapless victims that ‘resistance was futile’ and that they just better buckle down and be happy with their lot. Even if it did mean colonisation, subjugation and eventual death.

It seemed right for this competition as he would often hear, when he was in Barrow, lots of reasons why things couldn’t happen – whether this be in a street, in a business, in a school: in all sorts of places from all sorts of people.  Hearing ‘no’ so often suggested that resistance to any kind of positive social change was pointless: and it seemed that in some quarters, the Borg were alive and kicking in Barrow.

People who tended to say ‘yes’ though were more likely to be the artists and educators who worked or lived here.  in the time he lived and worked in Barrow, he was increasingly be inspired by those who said ‘yes’ to the challenges, opportunities and sheer wonder of the town, its history and relationship with the natural (and industrial) worlds.  In short, he was reminded that resistance to the ‘no’ wasn’t futile, that difficulties could be overcome and that apathy was a choice, not a biological or economic given.

So for him, the poem summarises the aspiration of when faced with so many ‘no-es’, so many reasons not to do things, we need to find the ‘yes’ in a situation.  If we can find the ‘yes’, we can transform ourselves, our families, our communities and the world at large.

You can read ‘Resistance is Futile’ in our poetry anthology, There’s no such Things as an Englishman’ here. NIck’s other contributions to the competition are below

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Kevin Coyne plays ‘Mad Boy’ for Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player

When Paul Warren, the Confessions illustrator and I first met, we soon realised we were both fans of the Derby born musician, Kevin Coyne.

I had seen Kevin several times, and Paul was lucky enough to be one of his best friends and study with him at the Derby College of Art. We both thought it would be terrific if Kevin’s role in our lives could be acknowledged in the Confessions… book and so were delighted when Helmi, Kevin’s wife, allowed us to use of Kevin’s song, Mad Boy, as the accompanying song for Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player.

If you’re listening up there, Kevin, we hope we’ve done you proud.

You can see more about the Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player here.

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Tips for Business Start Ups: what your holiday swimming pool tells you about your next business move.

Clare is currently on holiday, sat at a Mediterranean hotel pool-side considering her next career steps. A long history of regular employment within the manufacturing industry has been a source of much stability and comfort; but increasingly as that industry gets leaner and meaner, she finds herself increasingly inside someone elses business, looking out at the possibility of setting up her own. A recent redundancy threat has focussed her attention substantially.

This move from long term employment to making something from nothing is a huge step for a fledgling entrepreneur who’s not spent the last 3 years at university on various boot camps, workshops or motivational seminars which are all geared up to the thrusting alpha (fe)male, hungry generation Y millenials who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain and know nothing other than cutting your opponents throat before wishing them to have a nice day. For Clare, and many others who are coming into business after a long time in employment, the thought of taking the next steps into self employment is riddled with uncertainty and doubt.

Today however she’s at the hotel pool-side, waiting for her kids to join her and as it’s still early, the pool has been undisturbed, it’s surface flat and as still as a mirror. She sits on the edge of the pool and slowly dips a toe in and out: and that small action sends out a series of ripples across the pool surface which travel undisturbed to the other side and from end to end. A ripple pattern shapes it’s way across the surface and before long she sees her small actions having a series of small but significant effects across the pool. She’s disturbed the status quo and nothing will be quite the same again.

Dipping her toe in and out of the pool is her first business move: the occasional phone call, the hesitant email, the chance meeting all combine to produce a series of actions which show the early business actions, reactions, causes, effects and consequences: all at a distance, someway removed from where she’s sat: but actions they are, and there’s no un-doing them.  Her business is beginning to make ripples back in the UK and when she gets home, her second steps will be to make some bigger waves and reap the consequences of those first tentative toes in the water.

You can read more ‘Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life’ here.

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Friday Means the Weekend!

(Another ducking and diving week is over!)

No more work
No more lunch
No more waiting for the next big hunch,

No more desk
No more screen
No more lamenting the last great dream,

No more stalling
from the banks,
No more laughter
down in the ranks,

No more! compart-ment-alising,
No more! quasi-fratern-ising,
No more! people pushing their luck,
Cos down in the cellar they don’t give a

And I couldn’t give a
And I won’t give a
And I don’t give a
Cos its Friday!

No more! hanging out in bars,
No more! sweating in their cars,
No more! interm-inable meetings,
No more! terrify-ing seating

Arrangements, arrangements,
Seating arrange-ments!
Intimidating, alienating
Procrastinating, exhaustinating,
Friday night, Sat’day morning,
Holding back, the interminable yawning
of the chips that need eating
and the dogs that need beating
and the carpets that need wringing and the bells that don’t stop singing

And I couldn’t give a
And I won’t give a
And I don’t give a
Cos its Friday!

(It’s time to go home and face the furniture!)

Friday Means the Weekend is available in our poetry anthology, There’s no such Thing as an Englishman now on sale here.

There’s no such Thing as an Englishman

Paperback book. Anthology of poetry.

£5.99