On this page you’ll find blog-style summaries of some of the wonderful projects I’ve worked on; some of these have been in collaboration with other talented writers and artists. They are (more or less) in date order with most recent first. For writing for wellbeing projects please check out the dedicated Pen Power page.
National Poetry Day 2020
Stockton Borough Libraries kindly invited me to film a performance of one of my Rare Birds poems in celebration of National Poetry Day, 2020. It featured alongside those of other poets from the region. Here’s the video:
Collaboration with Kim McDermottroe of Greener Lavelle
I’m currently working on an exciting collaborative project with the immensely talented artist Kim McDermottroe. I first met Kim a few years ago via the Tees Women Poets group. She was showing people her line drawings of hands, skilfully made to look like they were made of thread. I was so impressed that I commissioned her to draw the cover image for my pamphlet Frayed. And over the years we’ve become best of friends. So it’s a pleasure to be working alongside her now, contributing words to accompany the images from her Sketchbook Project. She has created some wonderfully quirky characters between the pages of this book, which could all be seen as scary in some way – gothic misfits in fact – but look more closely and you begin to see that perhaps they are a little misunderstood in some way (remember Edward Scissorhands? One of my favourite films!). I personally see a lot of pathos in these characters and am also fascinated by them. I’ve drafted a piece for one character called the ‘Noman’ and Kim illustrated ‘Nucifera’ inspired by a coconut I bought (and subsequently couldn’t bring myself to eat!) which looks like a bearded lady, thus she was nicknamed the ‘Coconot’. We’ll be launching the ‘Noman’ for Halloween 2020, and have big plans for the future…. so watch this space!
Artwork by Kim McDermottroe of Greener Lavelle. ©copyright 2020, Kim McDermottroe, no usage without permission.
Places of Poetry
Last year I pinned some of my poems to the Places of Poetry map – little did I expect that out of the 7000 pinned by poets from all over the UK, one of mine would be selected to feature in a beautiful anthology edited by Andrew McRae and Paul Farley. This project, supported by The Poetry Society, was shortlisted for ‘Research Project of the Year: Humanities and Social Sciences’ at the THE Awards, 2020.
Film-poem Renga for ‘Cherophobia’ by Jo Colley
This project marked an interesting shift for me as I wasn’t taking on the role of writer but rather film-maker! It was an experimental project led by Kirsten Luckins and Jo Colley, who invited artists to create renga-style short films in response to stanzas from Jo’s poem ‘Cherophobia’ (featured in her fantastic collection Sleeper published by Smokestack). I responded to the second stanza of the poem with a video of some shiny spoons in a drawer reflecting a face that gradually fades away from view. All of the selected films were edited into a final cut of which I am proud to be a part – you can watch the full film here.
Writing Project: Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison
There have been many strands to the Rare Birds project so far and it’s been a pleasure collaborating with so many other creative people along the way. For an account of the project from start to finish, please visit the dedicated webpage here. And do keep scrolling down this page for more of the Rare Birds affiliated projects – there’s quite a few!
On March 8th 2020, International Women’s Day, I celebrated the launch of a book that took me 4 years to research and write. The launch took place in the old courtroom in Middlesbrough Town Hall – an event produced by Kirsten Luckins. 11 other performers and poetry friends from the Tees Women Poets helped me to bring the poems alive on stage in a packed venue. After the performance, we invited audience members to make the ominous descent down the stairs from the courtroom to the police cells where I did a book signing. Fortunately they didn’t lock me in for the night!
From top left to bottom right: Natalie is joined by Bob Beagrie, Ann Cuthbert, Adele Duffield, Caroline Walling, Dianne Casey, Jade April, Janet Philo, Jo Colley, Judi Sutherland, Rob Walton, Kirsten Luckins, singer Nicola Sim and accompanist Philippa White. Photo credit: Kev Howard.
Community Project: Belonging
In early 2020, I received a commission to write some poems to accompany an exhibition at the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough, of David Watson’s artwork on the theme of ‘Belonging’. I had the pleasure of facilitating a community group meeting where participants were invited to discuss what belonging meant to them. I then wrote and voice-recorded some poems which featured alongside the artwork as part of the exhibition from 8th February to 19th April 2020.
Listen to the poems here.
Performance Project: Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison
in 2018, I was awarded further funding from Arts Council England and crowd funding via Go Fund Me, to work with a team of creatives on a theatrical adaptation of Rare Birds: this included a two week workshopping and devising session and a showcase performance which I project-managed myself. It was supported by original music and songs from award-winning British musical theatre composers, and devised and directed by Simon Greiff, who is a champion of new writing for the stage. An ensemble of West End actors brought the poems to life in what was an unforgettable new theatre experience at Soho Theatre in May 2019.
I learned so much about the devising process in the three weeks I worked alongside Simon. We were able to collaborate successfully on many areas, as we had a shared understanding of the project’s aims from the outset. It was particularly valuable for me to work on structuring the script so that we could tell the story of Holloway’s history but also bring individual characters to life. Quite early on, we realised that there was too much material to create a show of just over 1 hour in length, so we had to be very selective when we were thematically grouping the poems.
Having the opportunity to workshop with actors and other creatives over two weeks was invaluable to Natalie & I to see what the project might become. I feel the sewing of song with speech, and how this helped an audience engage with the many stories and voices, was a big success.Simon Greiff, Director
I also enjoyed working with the composers (see full list of names and song credits further down this page) and Musical Director Michael Webborn. I learned a lot about the process of musicalizing an existing poem, and it was fascinating to see the songs develop as each composer put her/his individual style into them. Many of the poems remained unchanged as lyrics, which was very rewarding for me in terms of encouraging a potential extension to my writing career as a lyricist. In this vein, I particularly enjoyed working with composer George Stiles, who invited me to create a couplet to add to his song ‘Hoot in Holloway’ inspired by my poem ‘Ethel Smyth’. I had a similar experience with Michael, as we worked on the song ‘Just Like Josephine’ together during the workshop, collaborating on some additional lines for which I contributed the lyrics, and agreeing on the title. I also enjoyed my early conversations with Tim Sutton, who wanted to know more about Grace Marcon before he composed the score for her poem. He offered some very interesting insights based on his reading of the poem.
It was a great honour to be asked not only to musically direct Rare Birds, but also to write some material for the show. There are very few workshop environments that fully embrace the scope of new writing in the UK at the moment, so this project is something with exciting potential.Michael Webborn, Musical Director
We used a music hall style of performance to create the façade of light entertainment in stark contrast to the sombre tones of the subject-matter. It’s a little macabre but worked well as a way to both shock and present irony. For example the opening number of the show is led by our compere / ‘Inspector of Prisons’ who introduces a parade of prisoners – a phrase actually used in an article written by that particular inspector.
DEVISER/DIRECTOR: Simon Greiff
WRITER: Natalie Scott
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Michael Webborn
CAST: Martyn Ellis, Danielle Hope, Rachel John, Wendi Peters, Oliver Savile, Simon Thomas
COMPOSERS: Rebecca Applin (‘Voices Through the Wall’), Pippa Cleary (‘Nameless Prostitute’), Kate Marlais (‘Prisoner No. 6151’), Grant Olding (‘Edith Thompson’), George Stiles (‘Hoot in Holloway’), Sarah Travis (‘Sylvia Pankhurst’), Michael Webborn (‘Holloway Bomber’ and ‘Just Like Josephine’), Wigmore & Green (‘Amazing Results’), Laurence Mark Wythe (‘Parade of Prisoners’).
What a wonderful two weeks working on Rare Birds. Thoroughly enjoyed the working progress of starting with Natalie’s fantastic poems and creating a piece of theatre through word and song. The vision from the poems worked beautifully on stage. Interesting, funny, solemn, aggressive characters brought to life incorporating great songs written directly from the poems. Such a clever idea, and a joy to perform.Wendi Peters, member of cast
At the end of the show, Simon and I hosted a Q&A session and invited feedback, which was very positive. 95.5% said that they would like to see Rare Birds developed into a fully produced show. Here are some comments:
“An emotionally affecting show that was succinct and powerful in making its points.”
“It would be great to workshop with women in prison today. They will give amazing feedback. I work with women in prison and I can see some of them in your work.”
“Brilliant performances and characters. I believe this project should continue to expand into other areas.”
“Brilliant! Such a clever, engaging and moving piece. I think it would make a very entertaining but also informative and moving stage production.”
“Fabulous – words, music. Music hall perfect art form for this.”
Many comments referenced the importance of getting the voices heard of women who would normally be silenced, developing the performance using more staging effects, costume, sound etc and adding context and expanding it into other areas such as prisons and schools. This suggests that there is scope for longer term impact as an educational medium if it was combined with an educational resource pack to be used in schools.
Members of the Prison Reform Trust who were in attendance said that there was great potential to take the performance into prisons and use it to work with prisoners. This is an idea I discussed with Michael Webborn, with a view to us collaborating on this and creating a series of 6 workshops using the format of Rare Birds as a starting point, which enabled participants to write their own stories and have them musicalized and performed. I am hoping to secure further funding to run this project.
Tees Women Poets, Rare Birds and Votes 100
I have been a member of the Tees Women Poets (TWP) led by Kirsten Luckins for many years now. The group has opened up many opportunities for creative collaboration which I really love. In 2018, I joined forces with other members to present my Rare Birds project to audiences. Our work went down so well that we were invited to present at many events in celebration of Vote 100 and International Women’s Day. Highlights included special commissions for Sashes and Suffrage at ARC: Stockton Arts Centre and an International Women’s Day celebration at Theatre Hullabaloo, organised by Family Help domestic abuse charity, where we spotlighted the suffragette and other strong female voices from the collection.
From top left to bottom right: Dianne and I ‘warming up’ in the dressing room, Kirsten Luckins, Jo Colley, Janet Philo, Dianne Casey and me. Photo credit: Kim McDermottroe.
We were also commissioned by Apples and Snakes to create a podcast produced by Jay Sykes for Vote 100 which features readings and interviews with myself, Jo Colley, Janet Philo and Kirsten Luckins. Listen to the podcast here.
Collaboration for World Poetry Day 2019
I was invited by poets Harry Gallagher and p.a. morbid to take part in a celebration of words for World Poetry Day 2019, which included a ‘walking workshop’ around the town and a poetry reading in the evening at the beautiful Whitby Bookshop. During the walk I was inspired to write my poem ‘Bram Stoker Takes a Turn Around Whitby Town, 2019’ which will be published in the Places of Poetry anthology in 2020/21. Here’s the poem:
Bram Stoker Takes a Turn Around Whitby Town, 2019 It starts and ends with the Crescent. His old stomping ground, not so changed but for the extra wear on the stone slabs, soft carved by a century's worth of feet, chasing his legend from site to site. Grave-cold and fizzing with rain. He doesn't quite see it all yet. His eyes are drawn to the cliff's edge, and beyond, where sky and sea scold one another, and remembers that ship, ablaze with imagination, that ship coming to wreak sweet havoc. Gentle annihilation. Bats trail him even in daylight. A fanfare of black flags. He hears their echo call to some higher power. Collar up, he cuts a silhouette through the screaming tunnel, (where kids test their best ghoulish howls), and shivers down the winding road. A face catches his eye in the window, gaunt and white. For a moment he sees himself, sun-starved and wanting, but a fanged smile breaks the spell. His heart swells with love for his creation. Nothing more to add, he moves on. He treads lightly, past gift shops, cafés and other temptations, stands coat-tail to coat-tail in the bottle-neck of people at the foot of St Mary's steps. He sees Lucy in her white nightdress; a ghost ascending, barefoot and cat-like, padding between tourists with backpacks and boots. He decides not to climb. He can do that in his mind. Unnoticed, he shadows his way back, through a wave of bodies clothed by his creations. Multiple vampire brides and Van Helsings, all trying to out-do each other. He wonders what he started.
Community Education Project: T-Junction Poets in Schools
In April 2018, I was commissioned to work alongside other poets, including Michael Rosen, as one of the visiting ‘Poets in Schools’ as part of the educational programme organised by Inspire2Learn for T-junction Poetry Festival. I designed workshops for six primary schools in the Redcar and Cleveland area (some of which were in deprived areas), themed around travel and exploration, celebrating the 250th anniversary year of Captain James Cook’s first voyage around the world on HMS Endeavour. Pupils aged from 6 to 10 years all contributed their poems and I helped to edit them for an anthology which was published by Sixth Element and launched at an event hosted by Michael Rosen.
Michael Rosen entertaining the crowd at the launch event for Endeavour published by Sixth Element.
Writing Project: North x North East Poetry Project
In August 2018, I was invited to participate in the North x North East Poetry Project curated by Harry Man and SJ Fowler, which explored and celebrated ‘the resurgent northeast poetry scene through the power of collaboration’. I had the pleasure of performing alongside other poets at Missing Piece Arts in Stockton-on-Tees. This project was supported by The Poetry Book Society, Inpress, Staithes Gallery, Waterstones York and Middlesbrough Council.
Reading alongside other North East poets at Missing Piece Arts. Photo credit: Harry Man.
Writing Project: Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison
In 2016, I was awarded a Research and Development Grant from Arts Council England to research and write my poetry collection Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison. For this project I liaised with the London Metropolitan Archives and LSE Women’s Library to find a range of fascinating archived materials to use as sources of inspiration for my poems.
While I was writing and developing the collection, I ran a series of workshops and presentations by invitation at a variety of locations, including the LSE and Crossing the Tees Festival (who offered support in kind – huge thanks to Ruth Cull of Middlesbrough Libraries). It was great to share the stage with singer/songwriter Carl James Dunning, who has since gone on to write some songs inspired by the themes explored in Rare Birds. Listen to his song Freedom here.
The ACE funding also enabled me to have some mentoring from Glyn Maxwell, who was a joy to work with in helping me to shape the collection in its later stages. And I was delighted to be chosen for a place on the Spring Masterclass tutored by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke at Ty Newydd Writer’s Centre in 2017. I was delighted to be selected for this, as there was a lot of competition from some very impressive poets.
Just to get myself there, I had to overcome my own fears and anxieties about not being good enough. This is always a challenge I face with my writing. Meeting some of the other writers helped a lot, as I realised that they were going through similar emotions. We did a mixture of workshops and critique sessions. I was pleased to receive some encouraging feedback from the tutors as well as from other participants. To have the Poet Laureate say one of my poems was ‘well-written’ was pretty amazing, and better still that it was a Rare Bird – ‘Colonel Barker’! I was lucky with my accommodation too – a little garret overlooking a field and woods – waking up to the call of new-born lambs each morning was wonderful. And I made a feline friend too!
Writing Project: Just Checking by Vivid Theatre
In 2016, Vivid Theatre Company selected a piece I had written about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for their play Just Checking, which tells the story of someone living with the condition. My poem O.C.D. was performed as a combination of visual image of the text and voiceover to open the play. It was also published in my pamphlet Frayed (Indigo Dreams, 2016) which features a series of poems exploring the same subject.
Writing Project: Localism Exhibition
As part of the Localism exhibition at MIMA in October 2015, and in conjunction with Tees Women Poets, I was commissioned to write a poem in response to a painting of my choice by David Watson. I selected one titled ‘Beyond the Flesh’ which spoke loudly to me in its haunting image of shipyard workers heading to the docks, their faces with hollow eyes all carrying a similar expression. The artist himself responded to my poem by saying ‘Natalie from Teesside Women’s Poetry Society wrote a poem today and summed up my work better than I could ever have’. I was rather chuffed with that!
And here’s the poem…
Beyond the Flesh A response to David Watson’s painting of the same title We are the shapes of your industry’s past, still huddled in the daily trudge to work, becoming featureless as time passes but full of guts and grit and spirit. We keep alive your industry’s past; in the heavy footsteps of our boots that echo along dead river banks. Our ale-fuelled banter in the pub now closed and cobwebbed. In all the returns home to wife, tea, bath and bed. In the grim lines of our faces, the deep hollows of our eyes; shapes that say we worked hard, we gave it our all and keep giving. We strive to keep your industry alive full of guts and grit and spirit. Beyond the memories, beyond the blast, beyond the flesh.
Performance Project: Berth – Voices of the Titanic
This was an Arts Council funded project to create a theatrical adaptation of my published poetry collection Berth – Voices of the Titanic. I collaborated with Vivid Theatre on this project, which was co-managed by ARC Stockton Arts Centre and directed by David Edwards. The project culminated in a special two-night showing in April 2012, timed to commemorate the centenary of the Titanic disaster.
Hear more about the rehearsal process from the cast:
Berth and the Titanic Heritage Trust
The late and much respected Howard Nelson of the Titanic Heritage Trust was in support of my book from the outset and kindly funded the creation of some audio recordings of selected poems. Sadly, due to Howard’s passing, the CD never came to fruition but you can listen to a selection of the recordings here:
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