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‘Witty, emotive and lyrical’: Live Literature with Wilkinson and Evans – our correspondent Katie Wolstencroft reports

Bolton Library’s Live Literature event returned on the 27th February by welcoming performances from two inspiring Sheffield-based poets. From the apocalyptic wonderings of the award-winning poet, Suzannah Evans, to the celebration of Ben Wilkinson’s debut collection, Way More Than Luck, audience members were treated to an evening of witty, emotive and lyrical poetry.

Live Literature, 27 Feb 2018

The ‘Beast from the East’ snow storm did not stand in the way for the two poets, with determined members of the public battling Bolton’s freezing weather in order to fill the room. Sufficiently warmed with wine and biscuits, audience members were able to fully appreciate the humorous yet troubling themes that took centre stage without focusing too much upon their numb toes.

Suzannah Evans, winner of the 2011 Book and Pamphlet Competition chosen by Carol Ann Duffy, for her pamphlet, Confusion Species, took to the stage first and entertained the audience with witty anecdotes that form the basis of her poetry. With stories of robotic bees failing to complete their programmed missions, to the government’s questionable decision to cut down trees in her home town of Sheffield, Evans was able to provide the audience with some invaluable context behind her powerful verses.

SE, WMTL launchDrawing on the future of humanity, Evans’ poetry focuses upon an impending apocalypse, in which she described as an ‘awkward handover’ between humans and robots. ‘The Handover’, one of her readings from the night, harmoniously encapsulated these key themes, through its exploration of artificial intelligence physically replacing humanity. Evans’ subtle use of repetitive diction in the poem, namely the word ‘killing’, provided her stance on the topic without so obviously stating it. This was arguably mirrored in Evans’ calm and subdued performance of her poetry; her light-hearted demeanour towards such an intense topic drew the audience in like a robotic bee to pollen.

After more than twelve years in the making, audience members were treated to a one-day preview of Ben Wilkinson’s debut poetry collection, Way More Than Luck, before it was published by Seren Books. The collection explores the sensitive topic of depression, the redemptive qualities of long distance running and the art and beauty of the well-loved sport, football. Wilkinson’s approach to the highly stigmatized topic of depression, in particular, has to be applauded for its lyrical urgency. Drawing on Churchill’s well-known ‘black dog’ metaphor for depression, ‘Hound’, one of the many readings from the evening, portrays a sense of hopefulness in dealing with the ‘faithful pet / it pretends to be’. This beautifully crafted poem not only provides a doorway into understanding how important the collection is to Wilkinson himself, but how it could impact others that struggle with mental health.

BW, WMTL launchThe focus upon the complexities of football further on in the collection, with several poems dedicated to the ‘greats’ of Liverpool Football Club, such as John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish (who features on the cover), delivers an element of light-hearted relief. Wilkinson’s subtle humour throughout this section of the collection appeal to not only those who already have an interest within the sport, but those who do not follow it at all.

It is safe to say that Bolton Library’s Live Literature has kicked off to a fantastic start for 2018.


Katie Wolstencroft is a second-year English and Creative Writing student at the University of Bolton.

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Way More Than Luck

Yet again we get to celebrate the success of one of our own…only this time, instead of it being one of our students going on to great things (as they do!), it’s one of our staff.

We’re delighted to say that on a cold, snowy night, to a packed room, our very own Ben Wilkinson gave us a sneaky one-day advance on his new book, Way More Than Luck.Long overdue, this new collection has been described by the Poetry Book Society as “‘weighty and cinematic, and [Ben’s] gift for finding the poetry in football terraces as well as crafting lyrical intrigue demonstrate his range and place as an up-and coming voice on the UK poetry scene.” And who are we to argue?

Twelve years in the making. Twelve long, sometimes painful years; the opening section of the book matches the experiences of depression against the redemptive power of art and (distance) running, before combining meditations on the simple complexities of football’s beauty and social urgency with tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds. It’s an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue.

Way More Than Luck is a book that shows how pain comes to define our happiness, how we keep on in a world of chance, uncertainty and change. As a full collection it demonstrates the skill, persistence and charm of a writer who knows how to voice his concerns so that we can all hear.

Way More Than Luck
Ben Wilkinson
ISBN: 9781781724255
28 February 2018


‘Ben Wilkinson is one to watch. A fine poet with a deft ear and a nice sense of how the external world presses on the inner one.’ – Nick Laird

‘The beautiful game inspires some beautiful poems in Ben Wilkinson’s terrific debut collection Way More Than Luck, but there’s far more than football to focus on here. For Jung, Liverpool was the pool of life and this book is full of life too; politically astute, well-made and formally experimental poems celebrate even its sadness in fresh language, natural rhythms and subtle music.’ – Ian Duhig

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Live Literature returns for Spring 2018

Autumn 2017 brought a bumper showcase of new voices and performances to Bolton Library’s majestic theatre space.  From the warm, witty and wise lyric acrobatics of Kayo Chingonyi to the fascinating conversation between our own Simon Holloway and the novelist Sarah Bradley, audiences were treated to three excellent monthly events across the season. Eoghan Walls impressed with his poetic imagination and craic with the crowd, while the Bolton Poetry Competition winners’ reading showed that Bolton’s literary talent is thriving, with poets scooping prizes in student, public, and sixth form and college categories.

English and Creative Writing at Bolton are proud to again partner with Bolton Library and Museum Services for a new season of literary events. Spring 2018 will bring masterful novelist Susan Barker to Bolton in March, for an interview on writing practice and her most recent novel The Incarnations, taking in 1,000 years of Chinese history.

Then in April we’ll have a special event held in conjunction with the Poetry Book Society, founded at the turn of the last century by T. S. Eliot. Karen McCarthy Woolf will be joining us, reading from her collection, Seasonal Disturbances, alongside Michael Symmons Roberts, whose latest book, Mancunia, has just been shortlisted for the prestigious T. S. Eliot Prize.

First up, though, our very own Ben Wilkinson will be launching his debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, alongside the talented Suzannah Evans, a regular writing workshop leader who our third-year students will remember well for her eco-poetry of apocalypse and disaster!

Join us at Bolton Central Library, Tuesday 27 February, 6.30pm, for a fab night of Live Literature. We look forward to seeing you there!

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The Bolton Poetry Competition 2017: The Winners

2017 winners photo

Student winners Shirley-Anne Kennedy and Eileen Earnshaw

Those of you who attended the final Live Literature event of 2017 on 11 December will know that the quantity and quality of work entered into the Bolton Poetry Competition this year was broader and better than ever, with winners including students, the general public, and young voices from local sixth forms and colleges.

The Inside UoB news bulletin contains a full write-up. More here:


Live Literature will return in the Spring with exciting events including the launch of our poetry lecturer Ben Wilkinson’s collection, Way More Than Luck; an interview and reading with prize-winning novelist Susan Barker; and a special Poetry Book Society event, including a performance from Karen McCarthy Woolf and Michael Symmons Roberts. Watch this space!



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Live Literature returns: Autumn 2017



After a series of diverse and exciting events in Autumn 2016 and Spring 2017, including performances from captivating poet Ruby Robinson, flash fiction maestro David Gaffney, spectacular novelist Jenn Ashworth and many more, English and Creative Writing at Bolton are proud to again partner with Bolton Library and Museum Services for a new season of literary events.



Autumn 2017 will bring talented Leeds novelist S J Bradley to Bolton in November, for an interview on writing practice, her new novel Guest, and setting out as a published author. Then In December, we’ll have the mesmeric poet and performer Kayo Chingonyi joining us, reading from his stunning debut collection of poems, Kumukanda, a book already chosen by the FT as one of its picks of 2017.

First up, though, are celebrated young Irish poet Eoghan Walls and the multi-talented Mancunian fiction writer Neil Campbell.

Join us at Bolton Central Library, Monday 2nd October, 6.30pm, for an unmissable night of Live Literature. We look forward to seeing you there!



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Some more good news…

Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you Krysta Waddington.

Last summer Krysta graduated with a (mighty fine) degree in Creative Writing. Following that she started a PGCE at The University of Bolton, and we were only too happy to be able to offer her a placement with us, assisting with the teaching of the first year of the same course she’d just finished.

We’re delighted to be able to report now what we’ve known for weeks, that Krysta has not only completed her PGCE successfully but will be awarded a double distinction!

Now, we could claim some credit for this – we could say that the mentoring she’s received has been vital, that the willingness of all to help her wherever they could and accommodate her teaching needs has contributed in some small way.

We could, but we won’t.

Krysta, it’s all been down to you – to your work ethic, to your determination, to your months of struggle, to your perseverance, to your willingness to learn, to challenge yourself, and, above all, to the fact that you know what you’re doing and you’re very good at it!

It’s been a joy: on behalf of the CW team, and all our lovely first years, we’d like to say not only ‘Congratulations!’ but, more importantly, ‘Thank you.’

Thank you, Krysta, for all you’ve done – for helping our students with the transition to University learning, for the teaching, for the endless hours of tutorials, for contributing so magnificently to our courses. For the smiles. For the co-operation. For caring, so, so much. We know that our students have had a blast, that you’ve enriched both their learning and their experience of life at The University of Bolton. From them, too, a giant thank you.

We’ll miss you. Classes won’t be the same without you in them.

The kettle’s always on, if you’re near…

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The Bolton Review – Issue 5

The launch party for “Commas and Cocktails”, the latest issue of the University’s student-led creative magazine The Bolton Review, took place in the University Law Courts on Wednesday with guests enjoying a selection of canapes and cocktails.

Hosted by its current editors, English and Creative Writing student Holly Gray and Creative Writing student Madison Hope-Tatnell, the event included readings from writers published in the new issue.

The Review, published by Steam Hammer Press, is packed with prose, poetry, plays, photographs and illustrations with contributions from students, staff and alumni from the University as well as from college and sixth form students studying in Bolton.

This year the editors received hundreds of submissions, and due to its success the format has changed with the publication elevated to a sophisticated perfect bound style which was received with delight during the much-awaited unveiling.

Holly Gray and Madison Hope-Tatnell

Holly Gray (above left) said: ‘We are thrilled with the fantastic support The Bolton Review has received and the amazing turnout today. We have sold a record number of copies at the launch party and the contributors were delighted to see their work in print.’

Madison Hope-Tatnell (above right) added: ‘We would like to thank everyone involved with special thanks to Dr Simon Holloway for his encouragement and support and to the members of the Editorial Team who worked so hard with us to ensure Commas and Cocktails received this success.’

The magazine has been so well received that copies also flew out of the door at The Creative Writing Showcase which took place at the Octagon Theatre following the event, and discussions are already underway to produce a special edition later in the year.

Commas and Cocktails 1

You can email s.holloway@bolton.ac.uk to request a copy via post (£4 + P&P)

You can follow The Bolton Review on Twitter @TheBoltonReview and read Issue 4 online at the magazine’s website: http://boltonreview.wordpress.com