Eclectic IRON Festival brings a kaleidoscope of creativity and colour

A packed Community Centre for the Tony Harrison reading at the Eclectic IRON Festival.
A packed Community Centre for the Tony Harrison reading at the Eclectic IRON Festival.

The flags and banners have been taken down, the writers and musicians have melted into sweet memory and a calmness descends upon Cullercoats village.

For a period of four days it was otherwise, a creative and kaleidoscopic mixture of energy, erudition, noise and colour, as artists of every hue made Cullercoats the temporary centre of the universe and live music could be heard drifting across the bay.

Almost every event at the Eclectic IRON Festival was full. Within a short space of time (and distance) you could move from the fun and frolics of our Limerick event, brilliantly supported by Seaton Sluice Yukelelee Band, to the astonishing word power of Tony Harrison who stunned a packed Community Centre with poetry that managed to be simultaneously both epic and earthbound.

You could spot sixteen poets heading out the village on a 20-mile bike odyssey, returning weary but intellectually fired up some hours later ready for their haiku workshop with poet David Bateman at Cullercoats Bike & Kayak Centre.

A regular sight on Sunday were the 15 aspirant crime writers, wandering through the village consulting and checking their notes.

They’d been primed by various crime experts (including the writer Ann Cleeves), shown a body in the Watch House, given various characters and Cullercoats locations, then asked to begin writing their own murder story (or even novel) using some of the facts provided. Who knows what will result?

Our two writers on a rock provided great interest. Poet Joan Johnston, believing herself to be at a safe distance, took a crafty pee at one stage, unaware the RNLI binoculars were regularly being put to good effect by a curious public.

Tony Harrison pulled in a packed audience of 170, a similar figure to the opening night at The Crescent Club with my own play Fracking in Cullercoats, performed by drama students from Marden High School. More than two dozen musical turns performed al fresco at the Festival Fringe where Terry and Janice Jones laid on a mini-Glastonbury of hospitality.

Two vivid memories for me are firstly the poet Colette Bryce, then the musician Jack Arthurs performing work about the Cullercoats shoreline in the RNLI while the very same shoreline spread itself out, viewed through the large picture window behind them.

Cullercoats itself proved a star turn and how could it not? It could have been made for such a festival. And it opened its arms wide to welcome all visitors. One visiting poet told me he slept on the beach, maintaining the village’s bohemian traditions. Those with stamina could be at an opening event at 10am and be still going past midnight.

My own stamina – and that of most of the festival’s brilliant helpers – survived till late Sunday night, when exhaustion took over. Too old now for this kind of thing, I told my weary self, but by Tuesday I was mulling over ideas for the festival to come ...