Neil Gower (poetry), Natalie Grahame (prose) and Sarah Barnsley (poetry) – Thursday 6th October 2022

Our next Needlewriters evening will be on Thursday 6th October 2022, featuring Neil Gower, Natalie Grahame and Sarah Barnsley.

This will be a LIVE event at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (upstairs room): doors 6pm for a 6.30pm start.

Tickets £5 (£3 students/unwaged and claiming benefit) available on the door. 

Books will be for sale on the night (cash only please).

More information about the readers will be posted here soon.

Poetry Special: Alasdair Paterson, Ruth O’Callaghan and David Swann – Thursday 9th June 2022

Our next Needlewriters evening will be on Thursday 9th June 2022, featuring Alasdair Paterson, Ruth O’Callaghan and David Swann.

This will be a LIVE event at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (upstairs room): doors 6pm for a 6.30pm start.

Tickets £5 (£3 students/unwaged and claiming benefit) available on the door. 

Books will be for sale on the night (cash only please).

Alasdair Paterson

Alasdair Paterson’s most recent collections are Elsewhere Or Thereabouts (Shearsman Books 2014), Silent Years(Flarestack Poets 2017) and My My My Life (Shearsman Books 2021). Born in Edinburgh, he began writing in Liverpool in the 1970s, winning an Eric Gregory Award in 1975. Later he took a 20-year sabbatical from poetry before starting to write again after a career in academic libraries. He has travelled extensively, from San Francisco to Siberia, from Samarkand to Swaziland – and to many places in between not starting with an S. He lives in Exeter, where he organises and presents the monthly Uncut Poets reading series. 

Ruth O’Callaghan

Ruth O’Callaghan has 11 full collections, has been translated into six languages, read from Mongolia to USA and many places between. She is a mentor and workshop leader in the UK and abroad, an international competition adjudicator, interviewer, reviewer and editor and hosts two London poetry venues to raise money for the homeless.

David Swann

David Swann’s most recent book is the novella, Season of Bright Sorrow (Ad Hoc Press), which won first prize in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award. Recently his novella, The Twisted Wheel, finished runner-up in the same contest. Dave’s poetry and fiction has won many awards, including the 2016 Bridport Flash Fiction Competition, his eighth success in a Prize that he judged in 2013. His other publications include The Privilege of Rain (based on his experiences as a Writer in Residence in jail, and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award) and The Last Days of Johnny North, a short story collection. A former local newspaper reporter, and a toilet cleaner in a legendary Amsterdam night club, he now teaches at the University of Chichester, and makes fires on his allotment.

Barry Smith (poetry), James Ellis (prose) and Peter Raynard (poetry) – Thursday 14th April 2022

Our next Needlewriters evening will be on Thursday 14th April 2022, featuring Barry Smith (poetry),* James Ellis (prose) and Peter Raynard (poetry)

This will be a LIVE event at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (upstairs room): please note the start time of 6.30pm.

Tickets £5 (£3 students/unwaged and claiming benefit) available on the door. 

Books will be for sale on the night (cash only please).

* Barry Smith is taking the place of Richard Skinnner who is unable to attend

Barry Smith

Barry Smith is the director of the South Downs Poetry Festival and co-ordinator of the Festival of Chichester. He curates the poetry element of Blakefest and edits Poetry & All That Jazz magazine. Barry was runner-up in a BBC Proms Poetry Competition and shortlisted for the Bread & Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award, 2021. His poetry is widely published in magazines and his first collection, Performance Rites, was published by Waterloo Press in 2021.

James Ellis

James Ellis has written two novels, The Wrong Story and Happy Family, published a number of short stories, a travelogue of his journey through Central America and a monthly column for The Gudgeon. His short story Connor and His Amazing Ejector Boots was nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize, and Kumi’s Cake was shortlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize and published on the Fairlight short story portal.  He is a presenter on Frome FM’s On-Air Book Group and is currently editing his third novel.

Peter Raynard

Peter Raynard is editor of Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives, featuring over 150 contemporary poets. He is an associate editor of Culture Matters and former member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. His two books of poetry are Precarious (Smokestack Books, 2018) and The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto (Culture Matters, 2018). His poetry is widely published and he lives in St Albans. His third book Manland will be published by Nine Arches Press in July 2022.

Sonya Smith (poetry), Colin Bell (prose) and Kay Syrad (poetry) – Thursday 10th March 2022

Our next Needlewriters evening will be on Thursday 10th March 2022, featuring Sonya Smith (poetry), Colin Bell (prose) and Kay Syrad (poetry).

This will be a LIVE event at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (upstairs room): please note the start time of 6.30pm.

Tickets £5 (£3 students/unwaged and claiming benefit) available on the door. Still cash only please; we hope to have card payments enabled at our APRIL event.

Books will be for sale on the night (cash only please).

Sonya Smith

Sonya Smith’s first collection, every robin I never quite saw, was published in 2021 by tall lighthouse. From this collection, her poem ‘Telharmonium 1906’ was Poem of the Week in The Telegraph. Previously she has taken part in Poetry South East and Needlewriters anthologies and her 2009 pamphlet old panic undressed was also published by tall lighthouse. Sonya has a daughter, partner and dog and currently lives in Sussex.

Colin Bell

Former television producer-director Colin Bell’s debut poetry collection Remembering Blue was published in 2019 by Ward Wood Publishing. His second poetry collection, Brief Encounters – 100 Fibs, featuring the poems first published in the Fib Review, is scheduled to be published by Ward Wood Publishing. His two published novels are Stephen Dearsley’s Summer of Love (Ward Wood Publishing, 2013) longlisted for the Polari Prize 2014 and Blue Notes, Still Frames, (Ward Wood Publishing, 2016). His third novel, Over the Hills is a Long Way Off, will also be published by Ward Wood. A fourth novel is now in its final draft.
Several of his fibs have been set to music as the song cycle, Fibonacci Poems (2017) for tenor voice and piano by American composer Tim Risher. In 2020 he was made Musepie Press’s Featured International Poet and his Fibonacci poetry has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Kay Syrad

Kay Syrad’s publications include two novels and three collections of poetry, of which the latest is What is near (Cinnamon Press, 2021), which has been described as ‘a quiet engagement with moss, air, horizons, […] the human, the non-human and the spaces-between’. Kay was Poetry Editor of the longstanding journal Envoi from 2014-2020, and writes reviews and articles about both poetry and art. Kay has often collaborated with other writers and artists, including the environmental artist Chris Drury (Exchange, Little Toller, 2015), and she is currently half of the composite eco-poet kin’d & kin’d with the artist-performer Clare Whistler. Since 2018, kin’d & kin’d have run a variety of eco-poetry workshops and courses, including at the pioneering rewilded estate in Sussex, Knepp Wildland. Their collaborative work has appeared in journals such as Magma and Finished Creatures,  and their newest publication is Wild Correspondings: an eco-poetry source book (Elephant Press, 2021). 

John Davies (poetry), Derek Allen (prose) and Sally Festing & Peter Wallis (poetry) – Thursday 25th November 2021

Our next event on Thursday 25th November when we will be welcoming readers John Davies (poetry), Derek Allen (prose) and Sally Festing & Peter Wallis (poetry).

This will be a LIVE event at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (upstairs room): please note the start time of 6.30pm

John Davies

John’s published work includes two pamphlets, The Nutter in the Shrubbery and Glove Poems and the full collection Shedman, as well as Our Storeys, a book about art and poetry in healthcare written with artist Sue Ridge. He was the first non-Irish editor of The Stony Thursday Book, an annual anthology published in Ireland. In 2018, Jizz, New and Selected Poems was published in the UK by Kingston University Press and as Nest in the USA by Red Hen Press. He won third prize in this year’s Wales Poetry Award. His commissioned work includes poems engraved into the windows of a learning centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, to major hospital projects and a poem for the High Weald AONB.

John has perhaps been best known as his literary funster alter ego, Shedman, the original itinerant poet in a shed who has appeared at numerous festivals and events. His website is

Derek Allen

For many years, Derek Allen has been a frequent visitor to Denmark. He became fascinated by the stories he heard about the remarkable escape of most of Denmark’s Jews from the Nazis in World War 2. They also received assistance, often at considerable risk, from their fellow Danes who decided to help them flee the Germans. In his book, The Crossing, a young Jewish woman, Anna, her son and parents, have their lives brought to a halt as they become refugees in their own country and they are forced to leave their home and possessions, to avoid being captured. On their journey out of Denmark, they are never certain that the decisions they are forced to make will lead them to safety. The Crossing is Derek’s first book and is being readied for submission. He lives in Lewes and works in healthcare as a chiropractor.

Sally Festing & Peter Wallis

These two prize-winning poets present poems about the head, both in its physical and mental aspects. Peter has just returned from a Hawthornden Fellowship in a Scottish castle, and Sally’s sixth book of poetry is White Queen’s Last Stand, out this year with KFS. They will read, however, largely from earlier work.

How does repeated brain surgery impact on families? What if the patient has an identical twin? The answers come, in Andrew McMillan’s words, in poems that see “life as something tentative as well as tender”. Similarly, how can the effects of something like schizophrenia, bear on future generations? Family history and a cache of intimate letters suggested Sally’s answers.

Alice Owens, Jeremy Page, Anna Hayward – Thursday 14th October 2021

Our next event on Thursday 14th October will be in-person! We welcome readers Alice Owens (prose), Jeremy Page (poetry) and Anna Hayward (prose).

This will be a LIVE event at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (upstairs room): please note the start time of 6.30pm

Doors open 6pm, readings start 6.30pm

Tickets £5 (£3 students, and the unwaged and claiming benefit) at the door on the night.

Alice Owens

Alice Owens has completed a first novel, Latent Grace, set in her native American South about a WWII German POW camp in a small Alabama town. It is currently with a potential agent.  She is also working on a second novel, a prequel to Latent Grace in which a young university student from the rural South finds himself thrust into the maelstrom of World War II as an intelligence officer and codebreaker.  Both works probe the impact of global events on isolated communities and the burdens of regional identity.  Alice taught creative writing for the University of Sussex.  She was founder and editor of the newsletter, Malawi Update, and co-editor of Human Rights and the Making of Constitutions:  Malawi, Kenya, Uganda.  Formerly, she was a civil rights lawyer in Washington D.C. and a Malawi human rights advocate with NGOs and the United Nations.  Most recently, she has led woodland writing workshops for young people from underserved urban communities.

Jeremy Page has published several collections of poems, among them Secret Dormitories (1993), The Alternative Version (2001), In and Out of the Dark Wood (2010) and Closing Time (2014). His most recent collection, The Naming, appeared in September. He has translated poetry by Giacomo Leopardi, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and Boris Vian, and his versions of the Lesbia poems of Catullus were published by Ashley Press in 2011 as The Cost of All Desire. His plays, Loving Psyche and Verrall of the White Hart, were performed in Bremen (2010) and Lewes (2014) respectively, and his novella, London Calling, was published by Cultured Llama in 2018. He is the founding editor of The Frogmore Papers, now in their 39th year, and lives in Lewes.

Growing up, Anna Hayward spent long, hot summers in the Apennine Mountains of Central Italy with her relations and was always fascinated by stories of her family’s past – hardship, war, and the spectre of Mussolini, intertwined with friendship, secrets and an expectation of how women should behave. Anna wrote for many years – holiday brochures, adverts, strategic reports, business plans until the Italian voices of her past could wait no longer. As a novelist, Anna has been supported by New Writing South as part of their NWS10 scheme for emerging writers and received Arts Council funding for research in Italy and mentoring. She is in the final throes of her novel, Broken Madonna. Think St. Bernadette of Lourdes meets Elena Ferrante.

Amanthi Harris, Charlotte Gann, Caraline Brown, Abegail Morley – Thursday 17th June 2021 (online)


Our next event is via Zoom on Thursday 17th June and we’re delighted to be welcoming Amanthi Harris (prose), Charlotte Gann (poetry), Caraline Brown (prose) and Abegail Morley (poetry).

Doors open at 6.20pm and readings begin at 6.30pm.

The event is free to attend but please do book in advance. If you feel able, we would be very grateful for any help you can offer us by way of a donation and you will have that option when you register.

Please register here on the Eventbrite page.

Amanthi Harris was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in London. She studied Fine Art at Central St Martins and has degrees in Law and Chemistry from Bristol University. Her novel Beautiful Place is published by Salt Publishing in the UK and Pan Macmillan India in South Asia. Lantern Evening, a novella, won the Gatehouse Press New Fictions Prize 2016 and was published by Gatehouse Press. Her short stories have been published by Serpent’s Tail and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her most recent short story, In The Mountains was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and is published in Best British Short Stories 2020. Website:

Charlotte Gann is a freelance editor from Lewes. From summer 2018 until Covid struck, she was Editor of Viva Lewes. Her two poetry collections Noir (2016) and The Girl Who Cried (2020) are both published by HappenStance. Her pamphlet The Long Woman (Pighog) was shortlisted for the 2012 Michael Marks Award. She’s also Co-Editor of the poetry pamphlets review site, run by HappenStance.  At the moment, Charlotte’s developing an idea called The Understory Conversation – for like-minded poets who’d like the support of a small group while they delve into their own reading and writing practice. Find out more at

Caraline Brown has always earned her crust from writing. Until recently, it was mainly commercial work, winning a few awards along the way. She has featured in many business titles and was named by PR Week as one of the most influential people in PR. She recently sold her PR business to focus on her creative writing. The Candlelit Menagerie is her first novel, published in the US by Skyhorse Publishing and distributed in the UK by Simon & Schuster. She has been signed by DHH Literary Agency and her second novel is almost ready.

Abegail Morley was Highly Commended in this year’s Forward Prize. Her debut collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection. Her latest collection, The Unmapped Woman (Nine Arches Press) explores the altitudes of loss and trauma, mapping the stark new territory that loss leaves behind. Nine Arches previously published The Skin Diary where new skins and old disguises are stitched together. Snow Child and an ekphrastic collection based on the work of the German satirical painter, George Grosz, Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush are published by Pindrop Press. She collaborated with artist Karen Dennison on a pamphlet, The Memory of Water based on a residency at Scotney Castle. Abegail is one of the co-editors of Against the Grain Press. Website: The Poetry Shed.

Karen Smith, Julia Webb, Jackie Wills and Emily Bell – Thursday 15th April 2021

Needlewriters is going to be online now until the autumn, when we’re hoping to be back at the John Harvey Tavern… but of course, that’s to be confirmed.

Meanwhile our next event is on Thursday 15th April and we’re delighted to be welcoming Karen Smith (poetry), Julia Webb (poetry), Jackie Wills (prose and/or poetry) and Emily Bell (prose).

Doors open at 6.20pm and readings begin at 6.30pm.

The event is free to attend but please do book in advance. If you feel able, we would be very grateful for any help you can offer us by way of a donation and you will have that option when you register.

Please register here on the Eventbrite page.

We look forward to seeing you!

Karen Smith is a wild swimming addict, librarian and poet from Uckfield, East Sussex. Since 2018, she’s been collaborating with Kin’d & Kin’d, an Ecopoetry collective of writers and artists. Her pamphlet Schistwas published in 2019 as part of the Laureate’s Choice Series and she is currently working on a hybrid text about water.

Julia Webb is a writer, teacher and artist living in Norwich. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse. In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition and in 2018 she won the Battered Moon poetry competition. She has two poetry collections with Nine Arches Press: Bird Sisters (2016) and Threat (2019). She is currently working towards her third collection.

Jackie Wills has been a journalist, editor and writing tutor but none exclusively. She’s written six collections, short stories and a handbook on running workshops. She’s run several reading groups, including for the Child and Adolescent Mental Heath Service on behalf of the Royal Literary Fund. Her most recent collection is A Friable Earth (Arc Publications 2019). Jackie has had an allotment for more than 20 years and has worked with the Surrey Hills AONB, Gatton House, the Garden Museum and RHS at Wisley. She’s written about her reading and writing life for Smith Doorstop – On Poetry –  will be published next year.

Emily Bell is a writer of prose and poetry and a research student at the University of Brighton. She is currently working on her PhD, a ficto-critical thesis exploring creative processes in literature and visual art, centred on the works of Emily Brontë.

Latest update January 2021

Although we have readings scheduled for 2021 (starting in April) it’s impossible to predict right now if they will happen or not. We held a successful reading on 14th January via Zoom, featuring poems and poets from the Poetry South East Anthology (Frogmore Press) and  we may do something similar if face to face meetings aren’t allowed this year.

We’ll confirm this nearer the time, and keep you updated by email. Please join our emailing list (if you’re not already on it) to hear from us.


Online event: Poetry from the South East

Our in-person events are currently suspended until restrictions are lifted. However we are holding an online event on January 14th  2021 from 6 – 7pm, via Zoom:

Poetry from the South East, a joint event with The Frogmore Press, will feature short readings by Charlotte Gann, Robin Houghton, Jeremy Page, Rachel Playforth, Catherine Smith, Peter Stewart, Janet Sutherland and Kay Syrad.

To request a joining link, please email and we will send you the link the day before. We hope to see you there!