Long time no blog…

… But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy…

In January I got very cross about our government (again) and decided to organise a march in Macclesfield to show support for the NHS. It happened on February 3, a national day of action, and was a great success, with around 500 people taking part. Loads of friends helped with organisation and stewarding. Demonstrators made placards at home or at a Macctivist workshop we ran on the previous weekend. Jo Bell was a brilliant MC.

With the colours and the music/chants/drums it felt like an artwork, creating a fabulous positive collective energy. See the wonderful film of the event here.


Then in March I was thrilled to be part of an exhibition at Townley Street Chapel in Macclesfield. How did it get so dark? was inspired by the ninth-century ritual of Tenebrae (Latin for shadows) which uses candlelight, darkness, silence, spoken word and cacophonous sound. Central to the experience are suffering and redemption. It is also known as the ‘extinguishing of the lights’, where candles are put out throughout the service. There remains one small light still glowing, which is symbolic of hope – a glimmer.


Mike Thorpe, Erika Groeneveld, Rachel Ho, Anita Reynolds and I approached this idea from many different starting points – some with faith, some without – and using many different media – sculpture, ceramics, 2D images, words. Despite and because of all our differences we collaborated to create a collective response based on our own perspectives – political, spiritual, personal – and on the answers provided by members of the public to the question, How did it get so dark?

The response was more than we hoped for: 80-90 visitors on each of the four days and lots of wonderful comments.

‘Better than anything I’ve seen at the Whitworth.’

‘Take your hanky! Would love to see this in a more permanent space. A wonderful collection to contemplate on, reflect & down right feel Arrrggghhh! As well as knowing I’m not the only one…’

‘This should be sponsored to run for a longer period or be housed permanently. It is genius. Felt so emotional but unsure what the emotion was. Just Wow!’

‘Proper art with the ring of truth. A delicious darkness.’

We do hope to exhibit again. Watch this space…


And finally… Last Saturday the Manchester Print Fair was held at Manchester Cathedral and our very own Print Mill was very pleased and excited to have been awarded a stall. We had a fabulous day, making badges with folks young and not-so-young, selling prints, cards and poems, and chatting to customers and other makers. It was a beautiful setting and all the colours of the various stalls made the space spectacular.


Next time: The reprint of my pamphlet… in new colours!


Print, fold, press, bind, trim… and launch!

So the many-staged process of making a physical object began… Those who know me know of my great love for medieval manuscripts. Beyond the beauty of their colours, I like the interplay of visual images and text and wanted some form of illustration for my pamphlet. Lili Holland-Fricke, my daughter, created wonderful circular pen drawings to chime with some of the poems. This for example for the poem that provides the pamphlet’s title: ‘She Fell in Love from Twenty-Four Miles Up’…

She Fell In Love Illustration
© Lili Holland-Fricke 2017


I’d chosen a font – PT Serif – and laid out the poems. Adding the illustrations made me shift the text around a bit until the balance looked right.

I printed the inside pages first, letting the ink dry on each side before printing the reverse. The Risograph requires gentle handling… 🙂


The cover I’d designed had four colours – blue, red, green and black – so each cover had to go through the Risograph four times.


Again, each colour had to be allowed to dry before the next one went on ‘on top’. And printing the blue meant printing each cover individually so the ink wouldn’t smudge on the next sheet coming through…


Then came the long but meditative process of folding – one sheet at a time. The covers had to be scored with a bone folder before folding to ensure a clean line. My advisor in this process was the lovely Rory Clifford, graphic designer and colleague at the Print Mill. He also showed me how to stitch the pamphlets by hand after rubbing the thread with beeswax. We decided to produce a limited edition of 25 stitched pamphlets – most of these were stitched by Rory.


The rest I stapled efficiently and prosaically. 🙂 Next the pamphlets had to be clamped under a board to press them flat – I did them in batches of five – then trimmed with a craft knife against a steel rule to remove the uneven edges. Then, barely 10 days later, they were finished…

20170915_121955 2


Now came the lovely and terrifying bit – sharing the pamphlet with the world. The launch was in the beautiful King Edward Street Chapel in Macclesfield.

King Edward Street Chapel

Lili Holland-Fricke played the cello as people arrived and then Jo Bell did a fabulous job of MC’ing, as always, making everyone laugh and feel welcome, and reading a few of her fabulous poems.

Jo Bell

Just over thirty people had come to celebrate with us and the warm friendly atmosphere meant that I wasn’t all that nervous in the end.


I got to sign my name as an author. 🙂


And then Twenty-Four Miles Up was well and truly launched and a few of us went to eat chips to celebrate at Waters Green Fish Bar. Tel even gave me a special shiny fork in celebration.


And so, on to the next project or several… Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to buy a copy of Twenty-Four Miles Up, email me at hello@moormaidpress.co.uk. Copies are £5 each, UK P&P is £1.50. Just let me know if you’d like to pay by Paypal or cheque.

Paper and publicity

I’ve been thinking a lot about the paper for my pamphlet. It has to be special, so that reading the pamphlet is a tactile and physical pleasure… And I wanted to buy the paper in the Northwest, keep the whole project local, and had decided on trying Marc the Printers. I’d picked up their leaflet at the Manchester Print Fair so I knew they had a big choice, including lots of recycled papers. The eco-friendly Risograph works well with recycled paper.

I set off for the train one summer’s morning with my trusty trolley. It’s not fair from Manchester Piccadilly to Edge Street in the Northern Quarter.


It took me ages to choose paper and card but finally I did, both from the Evolution range. It all needed to be cut down to A4 from A3 so I went for a wander for an hour or so, and enjoyed tea in the Tea Cup in Thomas Street as well as a fab conversation with the lovely lady in the RSPCA shop who used to work in the education department of the Imperial War Museum North. She said she’d left when she hadn’t felt she was moved by the Holocaust films any more. She’d done an English Lit degree originally so we had lots to chat about…

When I returned to Marc the Printers I realised that I’d rather underestimated the quantity of paper and card I’d ordered. My trusty trolley was loaded up to overflowing, worsening a pre-existing tear in the process. The walk back to Piccadilly seemed rather long in the afternoon heat and my arms were a couple of inches longer when I finally got there. 🙂



Next task was starting to think about publicising the launch event. I didn’t want just to do online stuff so I made a quick leaflet on the Riso to put up around town – Library, Visitors’ Centre, Heritage Centre.


I did of course set up an event on Facebook and a ticketing page on Eventbrite, to make sure I’d covered all bases. I’m starting to look forward to it. Reading with Jo Bell is always great fun. Hope to see you there… 🙂

24 Miles Up Eventbrite pic 2


On printing

I’ve always been interested in printing. My maternal grandfather was a colour printer, in the days when that was a highly skilled job, and not something manufactured by Hewlett Packard. My mum used to talk about visiting him at work, watching him discuss colour reproduction with artists. For her, he was an artist too. Here he is in a photo taken by the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal, the one time he was in the paper (1960).


When I lived in York in the 1990s my university friend Lisa and I published subtext, our very own political-cultural magazine. To keep printing costs down for the first issue we hired a photocopier and installed it in my living room. A copy of my grandad’s photo was blu-tacked to the wall to guide and inspire us. (For more on subtext, see York Stories. Lisa’s website shines with her passion for her home city. If you don’t love York before you read it, you will afterwards.)

Without knowing it, we were a small part of a long tradition of women taking part in the printing process. See a few examples here and here.



And so to the present. For a while now I have been thinking about the design of my pamphlet, seeking inspiration from books and also from the Manchester Print Fair in April. So many wonderful people with wonderful things. Here are just a few, from Dot and the Line, Kristyna Baczynski, Mr PS, Incline Press and Red Button Press.

On Sunday 4 June myself and four other Print Mill peeps (Diana, Ellie, Molly, Rory) attended the first of our two workshops with Lisa Lorenz, to learn how to use the Risograph. Lisa took us right back to basics which proved to be absolutely right as we were astonished to realise how much we didn’t know. 🙂

Then we all had a play with some images and inserting/overlaying colours. We all felt much more confident by the end and ready to explore colours further…


At the next workshop we (Ellie, Maeve, Molly and myself) all worked together on one object: a Print Mill zine. 🙂 In reality this involved playing with images and texts and layering colours. As ever, we were guided by Lisa Lorenz, who had also brought some great coloured papers with her for us to experiment with.

There was lots of laying stuff out on the floor, copying, reducing, enlarging, cutting and sticking and in the end we had a simple folded zine made, as if by magic, out of one A3 sheet, with a Macclesfield poster in the middle.

It was a great day and gave me some new ideas for the design of my pamphlet. And I fell (slightly deeper) in love with the Riso…

Mentoring 3

Sun again. And Macc looks lovely. Does leaving a place makes it look different? The prospect of absence makes the spectacles rosier, or something…


In London it was warm enough to sit in the Friends House courtyard. Mimi said she now associates Friends House with me and sunshine. 🙂

I’d sent her a second attempt at a draft pamphlet, plus some additional poems which might replace any that we decided didn’t fit. Based on that she’d come up with a third version. She’d liked my substitution and some of my reordering. And she’d liked some of the additional poems and thought they could fit too. So now we had to ponder… Should we stick with 24 poems or push the boat out and go for 26?

In the end (you knew it) we went for the latter option, dropping one poem which now felt heavy alongside the others, and adding three new ones. I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of thinking about selecting and ordering: thinking about how poems look together on a double page; about the transition between poems; and about creating/maintaining a ‘field’ of mood/tone throughout the pamphlet in the way I’d think about a field of vocabulary in an individual poem.

On the theme of mood/tone etc we talked about something Mimi had said in our previous session and which I’d kept thinking about since: ‘Sometimes the person we are as a poet isn’t the same as the person we are as a person.’ Or words to that effect. We discussed that there seems to be a part of ourselves that is the bit that produces poetry. We might want to write from a different bit of ourselves but then when we run a poetry geiger counter over what we’ve produced, there’s no crackling and the needle doesn’t move.

We went through a few niggles I had about some of poems: the odd word, a comma that suddenly looked weird. And we changed a couple of titles.

Then we went through the whole sequence again and decided we liked it.

And then it was the end of our last session. It has gone so quickly. I really hope to have the opportunity to work with Mimi in the future.

In the couple of hours before my train I walked to the British Museum. I hadn’t been since its reopening in 2000. The Great Court is amazing. Uplifting architecture.


It wasn’t long before closing so I didn’t have time to see much but I wandered through ‘Greek and Roman’ and a collection of clocks. One of my poems states ‘I like circles best’ and based on the photos I took, that seems to be true. I also loved images of women weaving. In Athens, 2500 years ago.

I walked back via Russell Square where two lovely girls were selling cookies to raise money for their youth club in Swiss Cottage, so that ‘people will come and teach us things’. And people were chatting in the sun and sitting with their backs against trees, reading. And there was a fountain. In a circle.


Mentoring 2

Is it not going to be sunny and warm every time I go to That London? Brrrrr.


I hate to admit it, but it got sunnier as I travelled southwards and London was definitely warmer than Macclesfield. But so many people!


With my habitual hour to spare I made a ‘Wellcome detour’ (their terrible pun, not mine) to the Wellcome Collection in Euston Road. The Electricity: The Spark of Life Exhibition is brilliant and well worth a visit. It includes not only fascinating information but also wonderful devices in glass and brass; old light bulbs from the John Ryland’s Library; films of Berlin in the 1920s and a video of a frog in zero gravity. Open till 25 June and free.

The shop is fabulous too. Very tempted by ‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ and ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ in the children’s section.

And then it was time to meet Mimi. Friends House café provided us with hospitality again.

I’d sent Mimi a suggested selection of poems for the pamphlet, plus a few new/stuck poems to discuss. We started by looking at the pamphlet poems. I’d been quite flummoxed by the task of selection. In the end I’d taken a sequence of poems which I knew I wanted to include and then thought of the field of words, moods, themes in which the sequence would sit. (The ‘field’ was a term Mimi had used at Arvon in relation to the vocabulary of a poem.)

By and large Mimi liked my selection, which was a great relief. We talked about the ones that didn’t work, and why. Then we went through each poem individually, discussing words/sections/rhythms that might need editing, and also starting to think about sequence. Mimi’s suggestion was to ‘order a pamphlet the way you would order a poem’, not to place oneself above the poems and sequence them according to some idea of ‘theme’.

With the time we had left at the end of the session we looked at the new/stuck poems. I really feel that the mentoring is giving my confidence with both writing and editing. It’s lovely to discuss my writing in detail with someone who writes so well and has read so much! I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to finalise the selection during the next session. Phew.

Outside, London was London.


Hello. I’ve never felt the need to blog before but now, here I am, preparing to add a few of my words to the oh-so-many already out there…

Over the next seven months or so these posts will cover my current venture — writing, designing and printing a poetry pamphlet. I’m very excited, and very grateful, to have been awarded an Arts Council Grant for the Arts and want to document the various stages of the project.

One of the brilliant things is the great people I’ll get to work with. I will be mentored by Mimi Khalvati (mimikhalvati.co.uk), talk about sequencing with Jo Bell (belljarblog.wordpress.com) and learn how to use a risograph with Lisa Lorenz (nous-magazine.de). I will print the pamphlet myself at the wonderful Print Mill in Macclesfield (facebook.com/pg/theprintmillmacc, home to creative types EllieMollyRalph and Rory.

I’m thrilled to have a studio at the Print Mill to write and design in. It even has a view of my beloved hills.


I’ll be posting updates once a month or so – maybe more often if I get over-excited occasionally. You can follow me on twitter if you like… @ailsaholland.

Let the work begin!


(Anyone who’s interested in stuff I’ve done up till now can find information on moormaidpress.co.uk. It includes performances, publications and projects including poems on streets; word art; a woven poem; and two free libraries — one in Macclesfield, and one on the border of the Peak District. There’s also a link to a photo-poem blog, ailsaandlisa.wordpress.com.)