The Liberty System – out today!


Hand-numbered limited edition CDs with three covers to choose from, a tiny lyric booklet and magnifying glass to help you read it. > Get yours from Bandcamp <

The Liberty System is a Brontë sisters triptych full of classical elements and meteorology. The songs Anne, the Gardener, Emily, the Diver and Charlotte, the Levitator study the literary sisters’ creative approaches and their influence on one another’s writing and ambitions.

Each song sees a sister returning to the Parsonage dining room to write – bringing the room alive – before her work is released into the world. Each sister has been ascribed an element and each seeks a different kind of liberty.


Anne, the Gardener 

Let out like a scream, you don’t fit with the scheme; an orange hawkweed
Among the blues and yellows, the bells and primrose that line the way home
Where you’re drawn, by-and-by, by invisible tie, a hand in the sky
You’ve been gritting your teeth until your release, and you stole truth like a thief

Sister, lay your burdens on the table
In a bundle of blooms let them grow
Twisting tendrils, oh tormentil your roots running over
To the edge; your wretched vetch stretching out, heading boldly
Down the table leg to flagstone bed – your honest seeds are sown

Now like your own self before watch them climbing the walls
Build your trellis according to new rules
Try to train them in lines, prune the faith-strangling vines
“Come forwards”

Sister, grow your garden
Though your soil is pure and giving, your work’s never done
Every harebell you get ringing they hide from the sun
Every yellow rattle shaken, selfheal nettle-stung
But wear your foxgloves with that perfect love, don’t hold your adders-tongue:

“You tell us curl up, ‘dear creatures‘, beside the fire at night
While you hedge this heaven’s pleasures to indulge your appetite
But here in the garden you must walk a straighter edge
You can really smell the roses if you cut back the excess
There’s an expansive future like the Scarborough sea
With all its hope and possibility
And dew from my sister gives my plants their Yorkshire tea
Untasted, unsalted, unkept, inspiring me
And the breath of my sister to spread my sprouting seeds

“Taking our plans
In our own hands
Working the land”

Emily, the Diver

From depths returned, floated back to land
Face of fog and body of clay
Diamond dust, evaporee

A river cut deep, a path drawn straight
Seen from above, the line of fate
Face of fog and body of clay
The earth moves out of your way

Myth sees you ride a dark wave neath the moon
Dredging all worlds from the ancient salty blue
A bride-less train of eternity
Dragged in your wake across the cold country

But on a damp and still morning – ah!
Your shadow there cast crepuscular
And in the garden your rain falls far from the plain
Each mark met with arrow’s aim
Your current strong, your clouds right wrung
A bay where floats your galleon

Quencher, oh drencher, lifegiver, life taker
Feed these roots, fill these boots, blot and cross the wallpaper
With port-wrenching power and starboard compassion
Love finds a lover but a storm soon comes thrashing
Then with mingled affection your steam-devil of a sister
Drives you to advection, that oft-brewin’ half-twister
And comes a creeping fog from her petting conquistar
Downward and townward to menace the vista

A low-lying, eye-widening solitary cloud
A galaxy unfocused unsettles the crowd
But you’re far from there; you are diving again
For no soul can be loosed in this world of men

Closer to home is closer to you
Closer still is the infinitely starry salty blue
Diving and grasping for hands outstretched
Take your place in the chain reaching down to the depths

Charlotte, the Levitator

A stillness she can’t bear,
This curling, swirling air
But she holds her breath and, from right to left,
Patrols the perimeter

Oh, a breeze breathes relief
She comes in, then what’s in is released
Soars to ceiling height, then from left to right
Spreads her secrets to each dew-soaked leaf

Decanter, thought-planter
Blow through the grass and speak at last
Set em flyin, dandelion
Come sing out loud, don’t whisper now
Navigator, levitator
Over mist prevail to fill that sail
Before you turn again, weathervane

Weeds to tumble and stalks to bend
Soil to crumble and breath to lend
Prithee pepperpot-shaker
Show your power, sea-shaper
Take us up, take us out, sky’s friend

Hair-tangler, cloud-wrangler,
It’s up to you when the sun breaks through
Take us higher, spread this fire
Through the great outside, be satisfied
Fog-lifter, seed-drifter
Your own heart as proof, tell the truth
Before you circle back on your corkscrew track

And with this tidy turn the wallflowers wince and waver
Flickering the lamplight, dropping the temperature
Throwing back the bushes like a tossed head of hair
Right to left – so bereft – blowing a cold, cold air

Refuter, uprooter!
“I gift to thee a dormancy”
Chastiser, capsizer!
“And evaporate this sinful strait”
Oh banshee, how can she!
“Watch me dim the Northern Lights”
Turn again, hurricane

The wind can but grasp at the hands of time
Wise-turner, late learner, all liberty thine

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Literature Fests – pics

Thanks to all who came along to Off the Shelf, Ilkley Literature Festival and Beverley Literature Festival over the last few days. I’ve loved every minute of being involved in this project and working alongside Andrew McMillan and Zodwa Nyoni. We’re hoping to take it to the Brontë Parsonage itself in 2017, keep an eye out.

Off the Shelf Festival – Upper Chapel
As well as being the first of our ‘New Responses to the Brontës’ events, Friday also saw the premiere of a film by Al Reffell which she had made to accompany my song Emily, the Diver. The film was projected onto the outside of the building, whilst me, Zodwa and Andrew were performing and discussing our work inside. Thanks to Wordlife and Arts Council England for supporting the film projection. It’s going to be projected twice more – onto CAST in Doncaster on Sat 29th October, and onto the Weston Park Museum in Sheffield on Fri 25th November. Available to watch online soon too.

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Ilkley Literature Festival – Ilkley Playhouse
Another great night followed on Saturday in Ilkley:

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L-R Andrew McMillan, Zodwa Nyoni, festival director Rachel Feldberg and me

Beverley Literature Festival – Beverley Minster
A stunning place to play!


Here’s my view from the ‘stage’:14695469_10154272520793705_969849062773389628_n
We were interviewed here by John Wedgewood Clarke, lecturer in Creative Writing from the University of Hull. Going back to Beverley also gave me the chance to revisit one of my favourite pubs – Nellie’s. If you’re ever in Beverley, these are my tips – the Minster and Nellie’s!

Again a big, big thanks to the teams at Off the Shelf, Beverley and Ilkley festivals!

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Brontës on 6 Music

Big thanks to Gid Coe for playing Anne, the Gardener on last night’s BBC 6 Music show. You can listen back here (38:23).

Shows coming up this Friday, Saturday and Tuesday!


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The Breakdown, 8.10.16

I was back co-hosting The Breakdown on Sheffield Live for a fourth time yesterday. You can listen back to it here.

I played:


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Honeymoon Planetariums & other Favourite Things

Sharing this on National Poetry Day:

I also feature in this week’s Sheffield Telegraph, out today. I was asked to pick some of my favourite things about Sheffield. You can read it here.


Here’s one of my picks, the Arts Tower, looking pretty this morning:



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My visit to Haworth

I’ve written about visiting Haworth back in May as part of my research for the Brontë project – have a read over on the Ilkley Festival website.

Here are a few pics I took on the day:






See more on Facebook.

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The Liberty System – out 21.10.16


My Brontë Sisters triptych will be available on limited edition CD next month.

The Liberty System is a study of the three sisters, using classical elements and meteorology. You’ll be able to choose from three different covers with artwork by Oliver Allchin (there are just 100 of each cover). Each hand-numbered CD also comes with a tiny lyric booklet and magnifying glass, inspired by the tiny books the Brontës made as children.

The first chance to get yours will be at the ‘New Responses to the Brontës‘ events:

Then on Friday 21st October I’ll put all the remaining copies up for sale on Bandcamp. The songs will be available digitally then too. The songs/covers are:

  1. Anne, the Gardener             2. Emily, the Diver                 3. Charlotte, the Levitator
    anne-cover    emily-cover     charlotte-cover
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