Between 2012 and 2014 the number of food banks in Derbyshire trebled to 22, with some banks showing 171% increase in usage. This reflects conditions in many parts of the UK, with people increasingly forced to turn to food banks because of cuts in services and benefits, and the impact of benefit sanctions. Swad is an affectionate nickname for Swadlincote, the South Derbyshire town on the edge of the Potteries and a former coal-mining area. This poem first appeared in Magma 60.

On the one hand? Half a chicken
and a bag of chops, best price. The other?
Poundstretcher’s upped sticks
but only down the road.

The Derbyshire Bank’s running a food bank,
Fish Friday’s unchanged at £6.09;
five boys flood out of a ginnel
on lime green scooters.

In the Library Cissy, 91,
purses her lips before replying
‘The Long Walk to Freedom
or Birdsong’.

There is a door
but no one’s told me the combination.



recently featured on Kim Moore’s Sunday Poem blog:

One of those rare poems that you read and instantly connect with…  Read Kim’s commentary and the poem


Pole Vault

Commissioned for the Cultural Olympiad, this poem was inspired by U20 pole vault champion Katie Byres. I met Katie when she was a sixth-form student at Glossopdale Community School, and together with a keen group of Year 8s wrote poems to celebrate young sportspeople. We could barely lift her pole, so were very impressed with a video of Katie vaulting, as well as the pole’s warning label: Danger, Death May Occur… Pole vaulting originated in fenlands, where branches were used to vault over canals and marshes. This poem was published in Let’s Play! Poems About Sports and Games From Around the World

My ancestors were kin to bridges,
helped fen-dwellers jump ditches.
I can snap, prove deadly,
I have limits, test me.

Hurtle with me through the air
then plant me, I am tree
I turn momentum
into energy.

Leap, and for the second
that I point at sky
I’m astronomer, amazed
to see a girl who flies.


Everything I Know About War

The winning entry describes the agony of survivors and yet is beautiful because it is written with great care and love for the people in the poem and for the English language.  – Adrian Mitchell, Red Pepper/Iraq Occupation Focus Poetry Competition 2004.

Read the poem and Adrian’s comments in full here


You Are Here

The sign points firmly south. Hathersage B6001.
It’s wrong. That is the Bakewell road. We glare,
imagine Easter visitors, a Scottish family en route to Derby
frowning, with a quarry wagon at their back,
the primary school about to spill across the lane like sheep.

Should we leave a note
pinned high as we can reach?
Warning. You are not where you seem.

Today we’re here. I feel it in the way
we amble through the house,
the path the sun makes on the kitchen floor,
hours like a slowly rolling ball.

I’m down to leeks chopped fine, half-hearted DIY;
your arms slip round me as I wash the pots.
Despite my well-worn maps
we’re here, wherever that may be
and here is moving with us as we go.

first published in You Are Here: Travels of a Derbyshire Poet Laureate