Thursday, 31 January 2008

Circus Elephants in Leamington Spa!

To coincide with the unveiling of a new statue in Leamington Spa early this spring, I have been commissioned to write a poem on the history of circus elephants in Leamington Spa.

I was amazed by the idea that Leamington and elephants were somehow linked, and at first couldn't see an easy way into the poem. But now that I've done some research, and let those ideas and images stew away in the back of my head for the past few weeks, the possibility of a poem is beginning to take shape.

Back in the Victorian era, circus elephants were kept in Leamington by the famous elephant trainer Sam Lockhurst (born Leamington, 1850). A special slipway - nicknamed Elephant Walk - was even built to allow the huge animals to be bathed in the river. You can find out more at this site, detailing the history of Leamington Spa.

It's always hard to get from commission to final poem, but there are so many exciting elements to this particular idea that it's been difficult to settle on a single theme. Hopefully it will now take its final shape in my head and be written over the next few weeks.

Once the commissioned poem has been read at the unveiling ceremony, I shall probably be posting it on this blog for everyone to read.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Raw Edge Magazine: Funding Cut

The Arts Council Cuts Funding to Vital Local Writing Magazine

This week, I received the following email from Dave Reeves, editor of Raw Edge, one of only a very small number of literary magazines operating in the West Midlands area. I decided to reproduce it on the Warwick Laureate blog, as his letter highlights a worrying trend in Arts Council cuts to poetry ventures, projects and journals not only in our own region, but across the whole of England.

Raw Edge is an important magazine. It encourages and features new writing in the West Midlands. Without a magazine like Raw Edge, some evolving local writers might go unpublished and fail to see their work develop as a result. My own work has featured there, as well as promotional material about online resources I administer like Poets on Fire, distributing vital information about the site to the people who need it.

It's inconceivable to me that ACE should have taken this decision to withdraw funding from such a crucial local publishing outlet, especially in the knowledge that it will now be forced to fold.

16000 copies of Raw Edge are distributed free, twice a year, through libraries and arts centres in the region. For details of subscription mailing service, you can send a stamped addressed envelope to Raw Edge Magazine POBox 4867, Birmingham B3 3HD.

I do hope you can support this appeal for help by emailing Adrian Johnson on this issue - - and immediately, before the deadline closes.



Dear subscriber, supporter of Raw Edge Magazine,

Re: Arts Council funding cuts

As some of you will already know, Raw Edge Magazine has been informed by Arts Council England that it will no longer receive funding for publication of the magazine. As this takes effect immediately there is currently no money available for a further issue.

We are allowed an appeal which we have to submit by 15 January 2008, but it has been suggested by Arts Council England that this is kept ‘brief and concise’. As some of these proposed cuts will be reversed, and that such decisions will be taken on the strength of the appeal submissions and the support that the funded organisations are seen to receive, we are asking all of our supporters, subscribers and users of our services to register their support for Raw Edge Magazine with Arts Council England.

We would be grateful if you could send a letter or email as soon as possible in which you might, for example, detail why you have found the magazine of importance as a reader/writer; what value you have found in its articles about writing in the region; how useful the Network section is as a first stop for information and as a round-up of the diverse literary scene in the region; plus any personal stories of the use it has been to you as an individual. Responses should be addressed to Adrian Johnson, Literature Officer, 82 Granville Street , Birmingham B1 2LH or email

We know that these submissions are being read and that they will make a difference both to our own chances of survival and, in the longer term, to the resources allocated to an under funded literature and spoken word community which can be seen to be pulling together and speaking collectively.

Can I take this opportunity to extend my thanks for your support over the years. I will keep you informed of outcomes but this may take some time due to the financial implications for us. In the meantime keep an eye on for any updates.

All best wishes,

Dave Reeves
Editor, Raw Edge Magazine.