I love Cullercoats. It’s not like anywhere else and I want to show it off to everyone. Hence the decision to base the 40th anniversary of IRON Press in the village.
I set up the small literary publisher in 1973 and in its early years it moved around Tyneside, but both IRON and me settled in Marden Terrace Cullercoats in 1976 and stayed.
Cullercoats has not always loved me. The Crescent Club banned me for 25 years for something I wrote. There were rows with the Community Centre during Cloud Nine Theatre Company’s early residency there in 1997-98.
Several local residents were miffed at my brightly coloured house front. My giant open mouth of a front door produced complaining letters to the newspapers. One neighbour ripped my shirt in anger.
No matter. I love the village, and have always dreamed of staging a Cullercoats Festival. Dreams come true next month with the IRON AGE, a five day celebration and quite the biggest thing in the village for – well, for as long as most folk will remember.
Despite this chequered history, every Cullercoats venue I approached agreed to take part.
Thus we have a leading poet in the concert room of The Crescent Club, Melvyn Bragg and David Almond at the Community Centre, a writing workshop in Bill’s Fish & Chip Restaurant, three events in the RNLI and 18 poets heading out to sea to pen haiku verse.
Oh, and a snooker tournament in The Watch House, a festival club at The Salt House and theatre at The Fishermen’s Mission. Plus a beach spectacular from Dodgy Clutch.
Which makes it different from the average literary festival. But then Cullercoats is different too. Writers throughout the world know the village because of IRON Press.
Authors have visited from the (then) USSR, USA, Lebanon and many other countries. A female Soviet poet proposed marriage to me here (to most of my mates too, I later learned).
The festival is likely to attract not only Tynesiders but curious folk from far afield and every literary event includes top musicians from our own region. Plus which the sea front can show off its new traffic system.
Not that all the village will come to love me. But they will all surely love THE IRON AGE Festival.
Tickets available on (0191) 251 6009, at Cullercoats Library, also online at www.ironpress.co.uk where the full programme can be viewed.