Experiments in street photography

I love street photography, especially portraiture. I’ve taken candid shots of people before and caught some interesting moments. But I’ve never gone up to a stranger and asked them if I can take their photo. The main obstacle was fear, I think. What if they said no? Plus there’s that innate English awkwardness: who am I to go […]

Adding a little bit of happiness

This is Mick. He runs a South London charity called the Furzedown Project. Its mission is to prevent loneliness among the elderly. Mick organises activities like singing groups, knitting circles and exercise classes. He’s 56 and has been at Furzedown for the last seven years. “It’s a nice place to work,” he says. “I come […]

When Bob gets up to sing

They were singing Christmas Carols down at the old folks’ drop-in centre in Tooting on Wednesday afternoon. Quality variable. Then Bob, 81, who’d just been mumbling along until that point, steps up and offers to sing a solo. Oh, gawd. This will be awkward. But he opens his mouth and out comes a beautiful music hall ballad, […]

How a simple ‘what if?’ question is helping Hackney kids do better in school

[A story I wrote for The London Community Foundation…] Lots of great ideas start with a simple “what if…?” question. For Catriona Maclay, the moment came when she was talking with friends over dinner. As a secondary school teacher in North London, she’d noticed how easily young people could fall behind in their studies. Catriona […]

Writing with wu-shih

I ran a workshop at the Wise Words festival in Canterbury a couple of weeks ago. This is an excellent community arts event with an ambition to “inspire wonder and engage curiosity.” People were certainly curious about my writing with constraints session. I’d hoped that maybe eight people might turn up. Two minutes before start […]

Homeless in Kingston

This is Matt Hatton. He’s the director of a small charity called Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness. As the name suggests, Matt’s group helps homeless people in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Some of them are sleeping rough on the streets, most have no place to call home – they maybe sleep on a mate’s sofa […]

Constraints liberate

Bit slow to share my news on this one, but I ran a workshop on writing with constraints as part of the Guildford Literary Festival this summer. All of the 20 tickets for the event sold, which was very pleasing. It was wonderful to see a room full of writers beavering away with their pens and notebooks, and […]

A poem full of holes

Here’s a quick update about an interesting project I worked on recently. Writer John Simmons asked me and a few other people to create a collaborative poem on the theme of ‘home’. The idea emerged from a conversation between John and designer Mike Abrahams about a residential property development Mike was working on with Jaccaud Zein Architects. A […]

A mad hat, a simple poem

I went to Oxford’s new Story Museum last week for the launch of the 26 Characters exhibition. It’s the product of a great idea: photograph 26 children’s authors dressed as their favourite fictional characters; ask 26 other writers to create short poems inspired by the photos. I was part of the editorial team that pulled the […]