Milestone birthdays can be mixed feelings events – occasions for congratulations against a background of an uneasy sensation of where did those years go?
But the 40th bash at Cullercoats in North Tyneside two years ago was a solid celebration from start to finish.
The five-day Iron Festival marked 40 years since the founding of Peter Mortimer’s Iron Press publishing venture.
A variety of events and happenings at six seafront venues was a serial sell-out, not least the capacity 200-plus who packed into the concert room of Cullercoats Crescent social club to hear funny man and poet Ian McMillan.
The festival went on to win its category at the The Journal Culture Awards.
“People thought the festival was brilliant. It was a hoot. The groundswell of opinion was can we do it again?” said Peter.
So he has.
The Eclectic Iron Festival will run from Thursday, June 4 until Sunday June 7 – again at a mixture of seafront locations in the village.
As in 2013, there will be the off-beat. This year will feature Writers on a Rock.
What is billed as “the two shortest writers’ residencies known to humankind” will see Joan Johnston and Sandy Chadwin occupy a rock for three hours on the Saturday and Sunday near low tide in Cullercoats Bay, equipped only with paper and pen.
They will give an informal account of their thoughts on the Sunday at the late night festival club at tbe Salt House bar and bistro.
The Baiku event on the Saturday will combine what are described as “two of the best activities going – poetry and bike riding”.
Simon Laing, of Cullercoats Bike and Kayak Centre, will lead a 20-mile coastal and countryside ride, with each participant armed with a printed guide to the attractions en route.
Afterwards there will be a session with poet David Bateman to turn the ride impressions into verse.
Cullercoats’ listed Watch House will be the setting on the Sunday for a Crime Writing Day, with a body provided on a pool table, witness statements and a village location map.
There will be priming from crime writer Ann Cleeves, of Vera fame, and encouragement during the day from village novelists Kitty Fitzgerald and Carol Clewlow.
Also to hand to answer questions will be real life retired police chief inspector Rocky Ramshaw and forensic specialist Brian Rankin.
“Our hope is that from this schedule will emerge the makings of at least one crime novel or short story based in Cullercoats which Iron Press would, of course, be interested in reading,” said Peter.
That night Ann Cleeves will be talking at the village community centre, with music by Shetland-born fiddler Catherine Geldard.
The festival will also feature a reading at the community centre on the Saturday by celebrated Newcastle-based poet Tony Harrison, whose accolades include the European Prize for Literature and the Wilfred Owen Poetry Award.
Among other festival events are: Fracking in Cullercoats, a play by Peter Mortimer performed by students of Marden High School; a celebration of the limerick; readings from two recent Iron Press publications, Animal Magic by Liz Brownlee and Millie and Bird by Avril Joy; The Inpress Book Fair and storytelling and an exhibition by Seven Stories at the village community centre; a reading by poet Colette Bryce, who was poet-in-residence at the local Dove Marine Laboratory (music by Katie Doherty); and the launch of new Iron Press poetry collections, Limehaven by Vicky Arthurs and The She Chronicles by Lisa Rodgers (music by Jack Arthurs).
Each night of the festival the local musicians who contributed to a CD called Coast Buskers will perform at Brown’s Salt House while the Eclectic Fringe will see performers doing their thing on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons on the open space at the corner of Mast Land and Beverley Terrace.
Cullercoats Brewery is producing a special Eclectic Iron bottled beer to help things go with a swing.
For tickets ring 0191 251 6009 or book online at www.ironpress.co.uk, where you can also view the full ine-up. Tickets are also on sale at Cullercoats Coffee in John Street.