Pushing Out the Boat: Our Blog
- Pushing Out the Boat at the WayWORD Festival 2021 (Lily Greenall, posted 10 Oct 2021)
- Launch of Issue 16 (Roger White, posted 19 May 2021)
- Q & A with Freda Hasler (Roger White, posted 29 Jan 2021)
- Pushing Out the Boat at the WayWORD Festival (Lily Greenall, posted 3 Oct 2020)
- Pushing Out the Boat in the time of corona (Roger White, posted 19 Aug 2020)
- Martin Walsh and Freda Hasler – a tribute (Judy Taylor and Lily Greenall, posted 30 May 2020)
- Introducing Lily Greenall, the new POTB Editor (Martin Walsh, posted 5 Mar 2020)
- An Appreciation of Gerard Rochford (Judith Taylor, posted 6 Feb 2020)
- Coordinator/Project Manager opportunity (POTB Team, posted 13 Nov 2019)
- FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHT PATROL TO POTB (Ian Thewlis (aka Peter Sheal), posted 14 Oct 2019)
posted on 10 October 2021
Pushing Out the Boat Event with Leopard Arts at the WayWORD Festival
The Aberdeen literary scene is back in full swing this autumn, with the return of the WayWORD Festival hosted by the University of Aberdeen. This year Pushing Out the Boat were again delighted to join Leopard Arts for a virtual literary reading at the WayWORD Festival. After participating in a similar event last year, we were happy to see another enthusiastic online turn out.
The event took place in the evening on Thursday the 23rd of September and opened with readings from Leopard Arts contributors. The event was introduced by Leopard Arts’ editor, Will Creed, and joint chaired by Pushing Out the Boat editor, Lily Greenall. Leopard Arts’ showcase featured a range of excellent work from within the Aberdeen student body and beyond.
Next up, the Pushing Out the Boat readings were kicked off by Gabrielle Barnby, who read from her beautiful, reflective prose piece, “From Poland”, which was featured in Issue 16. Our second reader was Mark Cassidy, who read three poems, including his piece “AGAINST THE GRAIN” which featured in Issue 16. He was followed by Nicola Furrie Murphy, whose poem “Passing Place” offered a poignant meditation on death. Nicola also read another piece about the joys of wild swimming.
Our final two readers were Max Scratchmann and EE Chandler. Max Scratchmann performed his poem “The Gaelic Teacher and the Dinner Lady”, while EE Chandler read several pieces of work, including her poem “Washing My Mother’s Hair” from Issue 16.
These readings were followed up by a lively Q&A which drew some fascinating insights on creative writing from both the Leopard Arts and Pushing Out the Boat readers. It was great to see so much enthusiasm and engagement with arts in the North-East and it was a pleasure, once again, to be part of this vibrant festival.
Launch of Issue 16
posted on 19 May 2021
PUSHING OUT THE BOAT ISSUE 16 LAUNCH
In the time of pandemic, the exception becomes the norm and the norm becomes the exception.
This thought must have crossed the minds of at least some of the near-one hundred souls who logged onto the online launch of Pushing Out the Boat magazine Issue 16 on the afternoon of Sunday the 16th of May.
Pushing Out the Boat’s recent norm, as old hands will know, has been to launch our new edition in the wonderful Phoenix Hall of Aberdeen’s Newton Dee community. Alas, Covid ruled that option out this year, so online it had to be or not at all.
Out had to go the pre-launch drinks and nibbles, the meeting of old friends and the making of new, the display of some of the art work from the magazine, and the buzz that can only come from face-to-face live performance. Out also, the chance to recoup some of the costs of producing the magazine through a ticketed event with added sales opportunity, a.k.a. our table laden with present and past issues of Pushing Out the Boat for sale (but don’t forget our online shop to order those extra copies for family and friends).
Lily Greenall – Sheila Templeton – Michael Stephenson – Alison Bell – Mairi Murphy
In came an online slide show of all the art work in the magazine (which can now be viewed on the Issue 16 page of our website, along with a selection of sample extracts of poetry and prose), in came poets and authors far from Aberdeen able to read at one of our launches for the first time, and in came guests from across the UK, Italy, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Switzerland (and those are just the places we know about). In also came a live chat function, so we could not only highlight biographies and contact details for our fifteen readers as they introduced themselves, but also capture the immediate responses of those attending. Here’s a selection of what people said.
- Stunning artwork
- So enjoying all the voices today
- A real Sunday afternoon treat
- What a whole load of talent!
And, plucked at random, responses to some of the individual contributions.
- ‘Beyond the wind, by the asphodel-starred lochans, a redshank is crying …’ a gently hopeful ending (Alison Bell’s prose piece ‘Finding Ithaka’)
- ‘He nails your soul to the floor …’ Thank you. Lovely poem (Mairi Murphy’s poem ‘Roan Inish, Gweebarra’)
- ‘A certain heartbreak smell’. Wonderful to see the inspiring object (Gabrielle Barnby showed the audience the crucifix that was the subject of her prose piece ‘From Poland’)
- I could hear the sea in your voice. So good to hear the Doric (Alistair Lawrie’s poem ‘Switherin’)
- Just fabulous (Ellen Renton’s poem ‘In my best dreams’)
- Wonderfully precise and captivating. Thank you (Susan Elsley’s short story ‘Golden Air’)
- Names and identity are so important – thank you for writing this. Wonderful poem (Adebusola Bada’s ‘Identity’ – Adebusola is one of our young contributors, aged 17).
Gabrielle Barnby – Alistair Lawrie – Zoë Green – Ellen Renton – Eleanor Fordyce – Morag Smith
You can find recordings of all our featured authors reading their work here.
Not so long ago, any online arts event was very much the exception, associated with a sense of having been short-changed of the ‘real’ thing. Now the world of performance has been turned upside down. As one of our readers, Alison Bell, said in introducing her contribution, ‘Everything I wrote last year came out of the pandemic one way or another’ and we sensed a similar impact on many of our readers. Our online launch may have been part of the new norm but in the hands and with the voices of our contributors it also became exceptional, and we thank them, and our audience, for that. Thanks also, of course, to our editor, Lily Greenall, who introduced our readers and for the warm words about Pushing Out the Boat spoken by the author of Issue 16’s Foreword, Scots and English poet Sheila Templeton.
Footnote. Like most people, we also yearn for a return to the best of the old norm and hope to put on a live event of readings in Aberdeen as soon as we can, featuring local contributors to Issue 16. News of that will be publicised in the usual way – on the website, on social media and to our newsletter subscribers (you can join our mailing list here).
Susan Elsley – Ingrid Leonard – Adebusola Bada – Stella Hervey Birrell – Tom Bennett – Ian Crockatt
Q & A with Freda Hasler
posted on 29 January 2021
‘It was a huge learning curve …’
What’s it like being in almost at the birth of a magazine of new writing and the visual arts and seeing it through many years of increasing success? Our recently-retired coordinator Freda Hasler answers our questions designed precisely to explore that subject. You can find a tribute to Freda and her partner Martin in an earlier blog post.
Until your retirement recently, you had been involved with POTB for many years. What made you get involved in the first place?
There’s a very long answer! But the short one is to help my partner Martin, who became seriously ill shortly after becoming POTB’s first voluntary editor (the wonderful NHS cured him!). Even before that, when the magazine was still being run by Aberdeenshire Council, I helped with copy-editing Issue 4.
POTB is a magazine run entirely by volunteers, challenging to achieve at the best of times. What do you think has been the secret of its longevity?
Its unique quality – and wonderful teamwork of course. Utilising the web helped, not just keeping costs down, but aiding communications and raising profile: who would believe the increased number and wide variety of submissions achieved by 2020. But let’s not forget the array of invaluable skills so generously volunteered over the years – and we didn’t break too many arms press-ganging their owners on board!
Latterly, you were the coordinator for the magazine but you must have done many other things over the years to ‘keep the show on the road’, mostly in behind-the-scenes roles. What have been the highlights of your involvement?
Well, I learned a lot about publishing, though it was a huge learning curve. As part of the core team, one steps into roles as and when required. I had a period as Acting Secretary, with the unexpected bonus of forming long-term friendships with several (often first-time published) writers and artists – plus meeting many appreciative contributors at our brilliant launches. I enjoyed the networking (except when folk started to run away from ‘that POTB woman’ whenever I approached!). But my favourite task was working on the magazine layout and design: I’m proud of the look of POTB… I gather there may even be some imitations out there.
And the most challenging aspects?
We often seemed to lurch from crisis to crisis, with team members disappearing (some to far-away shores at short notice); we even had a funding heist! Supporting volunteers is never easy. I guess I won’t miss the increasingly 24/7 nature of the job, and the full calendar: fitting in holidays could be difficult, and necessitated lots of advance POTB prep. The latter did pay off when we got stranded in Japan (due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland!) and would have missed deadlines for the upcoming Launch of POTB 9. Luckily those pre-prepared documents were accessible online, and we were able to send everything – from our hotel bedroom. Phew!
Of all the work that has appeared in the magazine over the years, poetry, prose and art, do any pieces stand out as something you especially remember or feel affection for, and why?
Of course, everything by my partner Martin Walsh is a highlight – even his Doric poem [Martin is from Kent – Ed.]. He has such a following, and it’s a disappointment when his work doesn’t make the cut. (But that does prove the anonymity of the selection process). Having copy-edited many pieces over some fifteen years, several I know almost by heart, and they are very special. Amongst countless superb contributions, I’d have to include anything by Stephen Pacitti, with ‘The Possum Spider’ in my top ten. [You can find this story in Issue 12 of POTB online, starting at p.12– Ed.]
What practical tips would you give to the team now running the magazine?
We tried hard to share out the workload, and put good procedures in place; so the only advice I’d give is to avoid becoming dependant on too few individuals. Otherwise, the team are so talented that I’m pretty sure they don’t need any more tips!
What do you feel, from your experience, will be the most challenging issues for a magazine like POTB in the future?
These never really change. Most small publishers encounter similar challenges year on year (even without COVID), but POTB has the additional problem of finding those vital skilled volunteers; luckily we were assisted by incredible outside support. Also, selling a print magazine is an everlasting problem, so perhaps building a subscription base, even for the online editions, might help.
And finally, what now? You’re not a person to rest on their laurels, even after so many years of helping to make a success of POTB. What further challenges await you?
My ‘retirement’ coincided with the start of COVID, so our planned travels have been curtailed – hopefully to be resumed very soon. Mainly for the pleasure of learning new skills, I attend art courses, some latterly in fascinating places overseas – though right now Zoom doesn’t quite hit the mark. But other demands continue, including those of my Board duties with an Arts organisation, plus lay involvement with various university research projects. These keep the brain cells active. And there’s our beloved garden …
Pushing Out the Boat at the WayWORD Festival
posted on 3 October 2020
Poetry and Prose Via Zoom at the WayWORD Festival
Despite the continuing COVID restrictions, Pushing Out the Boat was lucky enough to be involved in a literary showcase via Zoom last Sunday night on the 27th of September. Combined with readers from Leopard Arts, a literary collective run by Creative Writing students at the University of Aberdeen, five regular POTB contributors took to the (virtual) stage to showcase some of their work. The event was the final reading on the WayWORD programme and was chaired jointly by myself and by Leopard Arts editor, Will Creed.
The Leopard Arts crew went first and provided a range of spectacular pieces, from spoken word poetry on the theme of modern life under pandemic conditions, to musings on American politics. After this hard act to follow, our segment of the evening was opened by Judy Taylor. Judy began her reading with Gerard Rocheford’s poem “Scarecrow”: a touching tribute to the North East poet, who died at the end of last year (Judy wrote a separate appreciation of Gerard on our blog earlier this year). Judy, who is a long-standing POTB team member, regular contributor, and a panellist on this year’s prose selection panel for Issue 16 of the magazine, then read one of her own poems about austerity and the pinched economic landscape of recent years.
Next up, Aberdeen based writer and author of the 2019 poetry collection, Fallen Stock, John Bolland read an evocative vignette set in and around the Aberdeen oil scene. Capturing the grim and gritty feel of the North East, Bolland’s reading made fine use of the distinctive Aberdeen dialect and granite scenery. John’s reading led on to a reading by acclaimed Aberdeenshire author, Sheila Templeton, who has just been announced the winner of this year’s McCash Prize for Poetry in Scots. Sheila read poems from her upcoming collection, Clyack, which is due to published later this month. The first of these was a moving dedication to her late sister, while another was written in Scots and charted the experience of her “Granda” who, on his journey across the Atlantic in 1912, believed he saw the very same iceberg that sunk the Titanic. “The Iceberg that Sunk the Titanic” is published in Issue 15, the current issue of Pushing Out the Boat.
After this, Gavin Gilmour read an excerpt from his current work in progress: a novel set in the North East that features an angry and apathetic young man as its protagonist. With pithy dialogue and touches of dark humour, Gavin’s piece built a strong sense of place and character and undoubtedly made listeners eager to hear more. Forfar writer Eleanor Fordyce concluded the evening’s readings, finishing with a pair of poems written in Doric and, once more, capturing the strong voice of the North East that defined the evening’s performances.
The reading was attended by around 50 audience members, who could watch the readers from home on their own Zoom connections. The event concluded with a lively Q & A session in the Zoom chat and was a lovely way to end a festival that had featured so many inspiring local events. Although many of the readers commented that it was certainly a new and strange experience reading to a webcam rather than a live audience, the event went off without technical glitches and suggests a welcome possibility for future POTB events in the time of corona. Although not yet online, all WayWORD Festival events were recorded and will be available for online viewing soon!
From left to right: Lily, Judy, John, Sheila, Gavin, Eleanor
Pushing Out the Boat in the time of corona
posted on 19 August 2020
17th March 2020, and the Pushing Out the Boat crew sail into new territory – a virtual team meeting.
Only the most hermit-like reader wouldn’t be able to guess why: the corona lockdown of course.
We embarked on this latest stage of our voyage with some apprehension.
The immediate question was could the team manage the vagaries of Zoom between us so we could continue to ‘meet’? Well, three meetings, a few unintended sightings of passing pets, one member’s exotic (electronic) background of sea and sun and a dropped laptop or two later, the answer’s a definite yes. Of course, we miss the social aspect of a face-to-face encounter but on the plus side our meetings are at least half an hour shorter.
The bigger question was did we have the resource to produce a next issue under potentially extended lockdown conditions? Even here, technology came to our aid. At the time, we lacked a magazine designer. Luckily, the online recruitment resources of Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations/Volunteer Scotland and Creative Scotland identified a number of promising volunteers and after a Zoom getting-to-know-you session, we were pleased to welcome Claire Martin as our new magazine designer. We decided it was all systems go for our 16th issue
The prescience of other team members (not this one) means that authors, poets and artists submitting work to Pushing Out the Boat no longer have to wrestle with paper or canvas, packaging, getting to a Post Office during lockdown, and the tender mercies of the Royal Mail to deliver their precious cargo to us. Submissions have been completely online for a while now: registering an interest and uploading text and graphic files couldn’t be easier. If you’re tempted to try your hand at submitting work, just go to our Submissions page before 30th September and take it from there.
Less positively, corona has had an impact on the steady stream of sales we usually enjoy between issue launches. Most of our wonderful vendors have been closed or operating under severe restrictions for some months now. If you need a magazine fix but can’t visit them, you can still order a copy of Issue 15 online, as well as earlier issues available at a discounted price.
Finally, those of you in the North-East of Scotland may have attended one of our reading events in the past. Frustratingly, these have had to be put on hold at a time when physical gatherings have not been possible. But technology and Aberdeen University have come to our aid: we are sharing an online platform with Leopard Arts for an hour’s online performance at the WayWORD Festival at 7 p.m. on Sunday 27th September. You can register here to view the session. It may be a precursor of other online events to come …
Footnote. Before this article went to press, a further local lockdown was introduced in our hometown of Aberdeen as there was a spike in corona cases associated with the hospitality industry (pubs, clubs and restaurants). All at Pushing Out the Boat hope you’re safe from the virus wherever you are in the world.
Martin Walsh and Freda Hasler – a tribute
posted on 30 May 2020
March saw a major change to the crew and complement of the Boat with the retirement of Martin Walsh and Freda Hasler, who have been core members of the Pushing Out The Boat team since Issue 5. Between them, they have filled just about every one of the vital roles that keep the Boat sailing on.
They first came aboard (sorry, but Awful Nautical Puns are one of the traditions they established, and that we have a responsibility to continue) for Issue 5 of the magazine. POTB was founded and first edited by Magi Gibson, who at that time (2000) was Writer in Residence with Aberdeenshire Council. She was later succeeded in both roles by Mindy Grewar. However, in 2005 the Council found it necessary to end direct support for the magazine and Mindy, anxious to see it continue, put out a call for volunteers to take over its running.
Martin and Freda were among the first to step forward, and the work they have put in during the 15 years and 10 issues since has been pivotal to the magazine’s continued success. Martin was very much the public face of the magazine for much of this period, serving two spells as Managing Editor, as well as helming launches and fundraisers, and filling vital roles in Sales and Outreach. Freda meanwhile took a leading role on the production side as Coordinator, steering the internal and external communications, the teams handling layout, copyediting and proofing, and the multifarious organisational and administrative questions that arise in putting together a magazine.
The finished magazine is of course… well, it would be a pun too far to say “the tip of the iceberg”, but perhaps we can say it’s the grand entertainment on deck, band playing, whistles tooting, and flags fluttering, that can’t go ahead without huge efforts of organisation, expertise, and engine-power below decks. Submissions have to be attracted, then received, anonymised and distributed to panels evaluating prose, poetry and art submissions. The panels sift the daunting catch of hopeful works and make their selections, and then the work of layout and copyediting begins. Meanwhile, discussions will have been under way with a printer, deadlines set or revised, acceptances and rejections sent out, and editorial queries made, and the answers relayed. And, after the whole lot is finally ready and sent off to the printer, the arrangements for the launch need to be finalised. Post-launch there are only the small matters of publicity and sales, fundraising applications and events, annual reports…. before planning starts for the next issue.
There must have been times when both Martin and Freda pondered actually running away to sea for an easier life: but they have stuck with the Boat through 11 issues, literally thousands of submissions, uncertain financial times, a shift of gear to full charitable status, and an expanding profile both locally and internationally. Their contribution to its current standing is immeasurable. To be entering its 21st year is an enviable record for any literary/arts magazine; to have published the work of writers and artists both new and experienced, to have maintained a strong local presence while showcasing work from , and to have held to such high standards of quality throughout, is an achievement everyone involved can be proud of, and Martin and Freda most of all of us.
We will miss them both as we pipe them ashore (though we won’t be surprised if we see some contributions from them, now they have more time for their own creativity), but we wish them happiness in their hard-earned retirement, and above all, calm sea and prosperous voyage.
Introducing Lily Greenall, the new POTB Editor
posted on 5 March 2020
The following is a Q&A with incoming Editor Lily Greenall by retiring Editor Martin Walsh.
Note from the POTB team: we are delighted that Lily has joined us, and we wish her every success in her new role.
I know I speak for everyone in the team when I say how pleased and honoured we are to welcome you aboard. Could you tell us when and how you first heard of POTB and what were your initial impressions?
I first heard about POTB from my PhD supervisor, Wayne Price. He recommended it as a good place to submit some of my work and, following his advice, I sent in my short story ‘Frank,’ which was accepted. I came to a POTB event at the Aberdeen University May Festival and was really impressed by the quality of the work read out and the friendly atmosphere among the team; this encouraged me to apply when I heard that the Editor’s position was available.
I believe that, like me, there is a little bit of Kent in you? If so what brought you to Aberdeen?
Yes, my mum’s side of the family are from Kent – I’m going on holiday there in March to visit them. I grew up on the Isle of Lewis though. We used to visit friends in Stonehaven a lot and come to Aberdeen to do our Christmas shopping, so I have nice childhood memories of the place. I came to live in Aberdeen ten years ago to start my Undergraduate Degree. After this I stayed on to do an MLitt at the uni and this led into doing my PhD here. I’ve always liked living in Aberdeen – I’ve lived in flats all over the city now! I think it’s a nice size of town for someone from a small place and I like being near the sea.
You are amazingly well qualified for this job, with your experience of editing Causeway, your PhD in Creative Writing and your own story-writing skills. Does it concern you that in generously taking on this (voluntary) job you will be reducing the number of hours you can devote to writing and/or earning a wage?
Thank you! I think it’s going to be a challenge at times, but I’m not overly concerned. I got used to doing Causeway – where the responsibilities for every stage of production were often shared between just two of us – alongside my PhD and the other responsibilities I had while I was studying, so I’m used to juggling my time. I’m also currently working as a freelance writer and, although I have lots of deadlines to meet, my schedule is very flexible because I can set my own hours. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep doing this and POTB will fit in well. In terms of my own writing, I think its always inspiring to read good fiction submissions and it keeps you motivated to write. Overall, I see POTB as a great opportunity to broaden my skillset in a way that I think will be very helpful to my future career, no matter what I end up doing.
What/who was the subject of your PhD?
I did my PhD on the figure of the Devil in Scottish fiction and folklore. Originally I planned to do it on folk tales from the Isle of Lewis but, as I discovered, there aren’t a huge amount of written tales about the Devil from there (although there is a very lively oral tradition), so I broadened my topic out and it ended up being a lot to do with Borders folktales and with Walter Scott and James Hogg.
Alongside this I wrote a collection of short stories that featured different takes on ideas about the Devil and the supernatural in Scotland. I was quite open-minded writing the stories so not all of them ended up featuring a Devil character, or even really fitting this theme. I think it was a cohesive enough collection overall, though, and it was great experience writing it.
When did you first develop a love of literature, which writers have most influenced you and do you have a favourite genre?
I always wrote stories and loved reading, but I didn’t really take it seriously until I was finishing school and deciding whether I wanted to go to university or not. What really made up my mind was, when I was about sixteen, I got really into a series of books called The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, which are these very Gothic historical novels set in the 1700s in New Orleans. I loved reading them so much that it set me off reading all sorts of other things and I started seriously working on my own fiction. I decided to study English at university and, once I started, I just wanted to keep doing it. Even one of the freelance jobs I’ve got just now is writing literature study guides.
I feel like I’m influenced by whoever I’m reading at the time, but I definitely have writers who always make me want to write and whose style really resonates with me. I really like Angela Carter and Shirley Jackson. At the moment I’m reading a lot of Doris Lessing. I love the way she writes, it’s very precise and observational – she makes you feel that there’s loads going on under the surface even when, seemingly, not much is happening.
My favourite genre is definitely Gothic fiction, even when it’s a bit silly and melodramatic. I just think it’s so fun. I love classic Gothic novels, like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Wuthering Heights, but I like a bit of modern horror as well. Stephen King is good – his novels are very vivid. James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is probably my favourite Gothic novel.
You had a story, ‘Frank’, in the last edition of POTB. The writing was spare and so beautifully observed. How on earth do you manage to get inside peoples’ heads, both sexes, so convincingly?
Thank you very much! I actually really like writing from the perspective of a man, although I haven’t been doing it so much recently. I used to write almost exclusively from the point of view of men. Partly, I think its fun just to imagine an experience which isn’t your own. I think men and women sometimes have a very different social experience and it can be fun to play at being someone who can do certain things that you wouldn’t do, or to imagine being someone that people would react very differently to or expect different things from.
I think a lot of it comes from the writers I’m reading as well. I think, just by accident, I used to read more male writers (or women writers who wrote from the perspective of men) and, recently, I’ve been reading more female writers so maybe that makes a difference in how I write.
How would you like to see POTB develop?
For the moment I’d like to focus on keeping the quality of the submissions accepted at the same high level and, given my own connection with the university, perhaps build some more links there. I think it would be great to see more submissions from young writers or student writers as they’re often looking for places to send their work and get their first publication. It would be great to emphasize that POTB is a friendly place where young writers can send their work.
And finally, tell us something surprising about yourself, literary or otherwise?
I quite often listen to terrible electronic club music when I write. Something about the rhythm of it gets me energized to keep writing. The only problem I find is that, because I’m listening to this, I always end up writing scenes set in nightclubs. It wasn’t so bad when I used to go to nightclubs a lot, because I’d write about things I saw there or things that happened on nights out, but now I hardly ever go to nightclubs so it doesn’t really work as well.
Many thanks Lily: so good to learn a little more about you. I’m sure our readers will feel the same.
An Appreciation of Gerard Rochford
posted on 6 February 2020
Distinguished local poet Gerard Rochford died late 2019. He will be much missed. Indeed, as a key member of the original team of volunteers who kept POTB alive when Aberdeenshire council discontinued publication in 2005, we are proud to acknowledge his contribution with this Appreciation by poet Judith Taylor.
Gerard reading his work at a POTB Retrospective in the Blue Lamp in 2016.
It would be difficult – maybe impossible – to write a full appreciation of Gerard Rochford: life led him into so many spheres. He was an academic psychologist and a therapist; a beloved husband, partner and family man; a lover of music and the countryside; a man of deep thought and of wicked, deadpan humour. And he was not only a poet but someone who opened doors into poetry for many others, myself among them. This is the Gerard I want to speak of here.
I first met Gerard, as I first met so many poets, in Books and Beans on Belmont Street. In 2003 he, Doug Gray, and Eddie Gibbons began to look for a place to perform their work to the public. Books and Beans had newly opened and owner Craig Willox invited them to start a monthly poetry night there. And so Dead Good Poets (as it was then called) started, on the last Thursday of the month, with an invited guest or guests headlining and an Open Mic space for all who wished to get up and read.
Initially all three founders shared MC duties: but with Doug and Eddie working outside town the traffic was often a problem for them, and Gerard gradually assumed the mantle by himself. He was a courteous encourager of all comers – I was one of very many poets to take their first public steps in Aberdeen when I took a deep breath and put my name down for Open Mic – and the atmosphere of listening and support he fostered still endures, while his moving but unshowy readings of his own work set a standard to which we all aspired.
Encouraging poets into print was also part of the Dead Good Poets’ ambition. In 2004 they brought out a joint collection, Three Way Street, with Doug Gray’s Koo Press (which he had founded in 2002), and also became more involved in the running of the press, with Gerard editing or co-editing many of the collections, and Eddie contributing artwork and design. Koo Press gradually broadened out its operations, showcasing the work of new poets from the local scene and beyond: in its 10 year existence, it published some 38 chapbooks, many of them first collections, as well as anthologies and even collections of poetry and recipes. All of them were meticulously edited (Gerard’s motto “Delete, delete, delete!” still whispers in my ear when I come to revise my work) and beautifully produced. It’s a record to stand beside that of any small press in the country, and a roster I’m proud to have been part of.
While this was going on, Pushing Out the Boat sent up a flare. An important showcase for North-East writing and art, it had been published by Aberdeenshire Council since its foundation by then Writer-in-Residence Magi Gibson; but the Council was ceasing to support publication, and Magi’s successor, Mindy Grewar, wanted to ensure it continued. Gerard knew its value (he had a poem in the very first issue, as did Eddie and Doug) and was one of those who stepped forward, chairing the poetry selection panel for Issues 5 to 7 under the editorship of Martin Walsh, and contributing his painstaking skills to the copyediting process. As part of that early team he helped to set the high standards that the magazine has sought to maintain ever since.
Gerard’s own poetry very much reflects the man himself: meticulous and spare in its choice of words, but rich with feeling; curious, probing, and open-hearted; light in touch even with tough subjects; and always leaving the reader wanting more. He was a poet above all of the human heart – of love, of loss; of those he knew and those he wished to know better. His work of bringing poets forward into the world continues. And although we have lost Gerard the man, his voice remains with us in his poems, and his work will endure.
Links to poems:
A Poem About Li Po (Li Bai)
My Father’s Hand
Poems by Gerard Rochford can also be found in issues 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 of Pushing Out the Boat. Those in issues 9 and 10 can be read in the online versions of the magazine.
Coordinator/Project Manager opportunity
posted on 13 November 2019
Following on from our post of 19th September, we’re delighted to report that Lily Greenall has joined the POTB team as Incoming Editor. Lily is an accomplished writer with experience of editing a literary magazine and will be a great new addition to the team.
But we are still looking for a new Coordinator/Project Manager. Might you be interested?
We are a team of volunteers based in and around Aberdeen responsible for Pushing Out the Boat, North-East Scotland’s magazine of new writing and the visual arts.
This role involves project management of both team and the tasks needed to produce our regular magazine.
You would be joining us along with our new editor in time to help manage an entire production cycle from the commitment to go ahead through to publication and launch of a new edition.
Our coordinator/project manager assigns and coordinates tasks with team members, compiling a schedule of tasks critical to the agreed timetable, and ensuring those tasks are completed timeously.
While an interest in the arts would be a bonus, experience in coordination and project management are more important to fulfil this role successfully. We are a friendly group and the work of the editor and coordinator/project manager is supported by a wider team at and between regular committee meetings.
You can read more about us on our website, especially the About us page. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. After a first chat, the next step would be for you to meet our current coordinator, who can brief you about what the role involves in more detail. She will also be available to help hand over the work to you in a phased way.
FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHT PATROL TO POTB
posted on 14 October 2019
The opening chapter of my political thriller, Arabian Night Patrol, was published in Pushing Out the Boat 14 in April 2017. I’d been researching and writing the novel for several years, but it was still only partially complete, still a rather tender sapling. I’d previously had textbooks and business books published by Longman and Kogan Page, but fiction is even more competitive and with less assurance of publication, can be a dispiriting enterprise. Publication in POTB therefore was encouraging and I’m grateful for the confidence it gave me to carry on and complete the novel.
The POTB extract, The Candlelight Patrol, introduced my setting, a desert oil camp in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and the genesis of what became known as the War on Terror. It also introduced the main protagonist, Rob, a middle-aged engineer, who’s volunteered for the night patrol guarding the camp perimeter. As fighter jets screech overhead, air raid sirens blare over the call of the muezzin, and duels between Scud and Patriot missiles illuminate the night sky, he wonders what to do next with his life. His wife wants him to come home, but he’s tempted by a more exciting future when he falls for June, a free-spirited American artist. Yet her husband, Rick, is the camp’s powerful security boss, armed and dangerous. As the battle for Kuwait and terrorist attacks intensify, Rob must fight for his own survival.
Arabian Night Patrol, published under the pseudonym of Ian Thewlis, is based on my experience of working in the Saudi oil industry during the 1980s and 90s. Although I had that ‘lived experience’ to go on, as a Western expat, mine was inevitably a partial view and I wanted to give a fuller picture of the Gulf War. Consequently, I explored the conflicting perspectives and loyalties of a variety of Arab characters – including a Saudi detective, a young Islamist technician, an Egyptian manager – under the pressures of war and the threat of terrorism. In a sense the war puts everyone and their relationships to the test.
Reviewers on Amazon have commented on the contemporary relevance of the Arabian Night Patrol. One writes that ‘the novel deals with themes which continue to haunt the Middle East today.’ Another suggests that the novel is, ‘required reading after the recent drone strike against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.’ Certainly, the geo-political issues haven’t gone away, and the power struggles continue for control of the Arabian/ Persian Gulf and the Middle East oilfields which still power much of the world’s economy.
Arabian Night Patrol was published by SilverWood Books earlier this year and is available in Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.