Greenland photo by Paul Lomatschinsky
SUSAN RICHARDSON and SIOBHAN LOGAN use poetry, storytelling and multi-media performance to evoke the unique appeal of one of the planet's last great wildernesses. Having experienced this landscape first-hand, they explore the heritage of the Arctic from indigenous peoples and Viking women to European explorers. They also highlight the fragility of this landscape at a time of climate change. The Polar Poets can offer performances, talks and workshops for adults or children on these themes.


Polar Poets EVENTS 2011

Arctic-ulate in Manchester

John Rylands Library Deansgate
Sat. Dec. 3rd 2011
2 - 4 Creative Writing workshop FREE
6 - 7.30pm 'Arctic-ulate' show FREE
pre-booking essential for both events
on 0161 306 0555 or

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Kabatic Winds at John Rylands

Under a marvellously vaulted ceiling and the squinting gaze of stone
griffins and assorted mythical creatures, we scratch on paper in
silence. Not with quills though it feels as if we might be. Circles
in the stained glass windows look like stacked bottles, a greenish
light pooled in each centre. A December afternoon hums around us in
the Gothic sanctuary of the John Rylands Library.

We are gathered for a Polar Poets writing workshop, preceding our evening performance. Inspiration comes from polar travellers, images of blue ice cliffs, orca whales and the inevitable white bears. And our imaginings of the 'White South within us all'
are grounded by the dark varnished oak table we press on. This is the kind of library where explorers once sketched out expeditionary
mission statements and consulted unfinished charts of 'Terra
, our theme for today.

Our workshop participants, who have never been near Antarctica, were
surprised to discover what vivid sense they had of the white
continent. The poems and prose they wrote in that wood-panelled room
could have come from the pens of Shackleton's men. We also created a
collective poem titled 'Frozen Planet', drawing on images from
a stunning BBC series and from a 'palette' of Arctic words. It was
the more unfamiliar words, like frazil ice and sastrugi,
that most caught the imagination and kabatic winds evoked a
powerful response, howling through the cloistered hush around us.
We were delighted to then perform our show 'Arctic-ulate'
in the intimate space of this Potteresque room at night. The JRL
librarians set things up beautifully with a wide-screen TV for our
projected images and a circle of chairs brought our audience close up to the action. As we roved on reindeer migrations or Viking
explorations and watched for northern lights, undoubtedly they came with us. There was also a lively Q & A session afterwards
focusing on our own travels and how we responded to the Arctic
environment as poets.
Never mind that it was rain rather than snow that lashed down on
Manchester that night. For those escaping the mayhem of a city in the
throes of Christmas shopping, our programme had a very seasonal
appeal. And it was particularly heart-warming to perform our 'winter
tales' at John Rylands once again. Librarians are the best hosts and
we were made so welcome, thanks especially to Jacqui and John. The
building as ever worked its magic and the gargoyles have not lost
their bite.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Polar Poets at Saltaire

The Polar Poets were delighted to make an appearance this month in the picturesque Salt Building in Saltaire. And the September sunshine did buff up that golden stone beautifully.
We were performing our show Arctic-ulate for the British Science Festival but managed to combine this with an event at the annual festival in Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A few snaps from our album will show you what we got up to. Here we've arrived early for our technical set-up - the car boot stacked with lap-top, projector, cables, screen, Cd player, tripod etc. And then there were the props! Though the heat made woolly hats and Arctic costumes out of the question ...
It was lovely to be working together again and the Salt Cafe proved an ideal venue with a decent stage area and excellent acoustics.

Our 'multi-media' show 'Arctic-ulate', is inspired by our travels to the Arctic and weaves story, music, poems and images together in a performance that takes our audience on a journey to polar regions and even out to space ...

For us as poets, it's great to be able to play with two voices and bring to life some of the characters and even arctic creatures of our poems. We were lucky to have a very warm and enthusiastic audience at Saltaire. In our final question and answer session, there were questions about the effects of climate change on reindeer, what it felt like to stand at the crater of an Icelandic volcano and what can we learn from the mini-Ice Age of the sixteenth century - we love it when we get out audience thinking!

So far, many of our shows seem to have been performed in the steamy heat of summer - or what's left of it. But we're looking forward enormously to a December outing for our next gig and a return to the gorgeously Gothic John Ryland Library in Manchester. Autumn is already nibbling around the edges. I'm just waiting for those first fingers of frost pinching the cheeks some morning soon ...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Poles Apart Poetry

There's been a long radio silence on this blog from the two poles of Leicester and Cardiff that the Polar Poets hail from. A posting is long overdue. And far from our venture having perished in the white-out, we have been incredibly busy in our separate corners. Writing new works. Performing. Telling stories.
So you can see above several events we've booked booked into diaries for later this year. Meanwhile, this very week Susan has launched a new collection inspired by notions of the North and illustrated by print-maker Pat Gregory. Where the Air is Rarified is published by Cinnamon Press. And you can catch more piccies of Susan's launch on her website.
More very exciting news from Susan is her imminent trip to Svalbard. Living up to the title Polar Poet, she has won funding to undertake a writing trip this summer - so expect to hear more from her about this expedition to the icy wilderness - real polar bear country!
For myself, I've been beavering away on a new collection too. Inspired by Susan's wonderful poems about Scott of Antarctica, I've spent months out on the sea-ice lost in my imagination. My new collection is a sequence about Shackleton's Endurance voyage to Antarctica in 1914. And the proofs for this new chapbook, 'Mad, Hopeless & Possible', to be published by Original Plus press, reached me this week. So by the time Susan and I perform together again after the summer, we will have much news to swap and two new books for the table.
Check out our sister websites for more details but I promise, there'll be more updates here too.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

What the Arctic Blew In

It's hard to believe that Christmas has come around so quickly - let alone that 2011 is rushing upon us! So it's time for Susan and I to wish you all a New Year that's creative and rewarding in every way.

Needless to say, we Polar Poets have been relishing the Arctic weather that blew in come December. Susan has been knee-deep in snow over in Cardiff - take a look at her gorgeous images of frost-rimed trees in Pontcanna. And I have been loving the white-out in the Leicestershire countryside, taking plenty of opportunities for long winter treks. Here's me savouring a wonderful Arctic dawn in the Midlands - yes, as cold as it looks but utterly spellbinding ...
Susan's own website is packed with interesting news in December, including a delightful telephone call on Christmas Day. And I have been making the most of the holiday to retreat into my writing notebooks and work on a new poem sequence about Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic expedition. So it's been the perfect season to boost our creative energies.

I guess this is also the time we review the 'journey', as they'd say on 'Strictly'. This time last year we were still dreaming up this collaboration and planning a launch of this site for January. Since then, alongside a busy schedule of our own separate events, we created and rehearsed our show 'Arctic-ulate' and presented it first at Wrexham Science Festival and later at Manchester Science Festival. It's been fascinating to explore this joint approach, working out to put a programme together that draws on our different interests and yet shapes a coherent story about the Arctic. And I know that it has influenced my own writing to a large degree, inspiring this new project of writing about polar exploration, for instance.
Above all, it was fun to be performing together. So we're looking forward to more opportunities to develop the Polar Poets in 2011 and do get in touch if you have any ideas on that front. For now, pull the curtains on that grey post-snow world, pull up a good book and savour the last crumbs of the winter feast. Enjoy your farewells to 2010 in whatever form takes your fancy!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Polar Poets in the Book-House

A turreted Gothic book-house, snaked with dragons and gargoyles, was the venue for our latest Polar Poets gig. And the cathedral-like Central Reading Room of John Rylands Library in Deansgate, with its stained-glass windows and Potteresque reading nooks, was a wonderful space to unfold our arctic stories. The acoustics were great and the library staff were very supportive. A team of 'guardians' whizzed through the technical set-up and then watched over our equipment between our rehearsals. Such attentiveness and efficiency is always appreciated. Pretty good cake downstairs too ...

We were there for the Manchester Science Festival and our show, Arctic-ulate, roamed through the geology and Viking settlements of Iceland, the relationship between indigenous Arctic cultures and the landscape, the science and myths of the Northern Lights and the impact of ice melt and industrialisation on creatures of the Arctic. Our way was lit with images and we listened to traditional Saami music. You can see from the picture that lassos and pointy hats also featured in our story-telling.

This was a lovely event for us. Both the MSF festival and the library had been very good with the promotion of the show so ALL seats were pre-booked. But we still had a keen group of people who stood at the back for the show. Kids and adults alike seemed fairly engrossed. There was some interesting Q & A later about solar storms and the coming solar maximum and also the sources for our Icelandic research. And it's always nice when our audience stays around to chat afterwards and browse the books we'd brought.

I hope some of our audience got to sample other events at this excellent festival. Our own visit up north was a flying one with Susan trekking from Cardiff and myself from Leicester - but we were certainly impressed with the welcome Manchester gave us.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Arctic-ulate Up North

Well autumn is surely upon us and with it, preparations for our next POLAR POETS gig. I'm delighted that our next appearance is in my home territory of Manchester. Come October half-term I'll get a chance to catch up with my sisters in Bolton and perform our show 'Arctic-ulate' with Susan at the Manchester Science Festival. We're in the fabulously Gothic John Rylands Library in Deansgate - the perfect venue for our show. Here's a taster from the festival website:

Get Arctic-ulate in this multi-media show that interweaves poetry, performance, music and images. It explores the science and heritage of the Arctic landscape, from ice-melt and the aurora borealis to indigenous peoples and European explorers. Devised and performed by the Polar Poets, it also highlights the fragility of the Arctic at a time of climate change and increasing industrialisation.

Check it out on their website at:

Our show is free though requires booking and is open to adults/ teenagers. It's part of this lively science festival with over 200 events for all ages, including 'walks, talks, workshops, shows, comedy, exhibitions and more all in the name of science'. If you're in the area that week, you might also want to catch the Manchester Literature Festival 14th - 25th October which this year, curiously enough, has a science theme!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Arctic-ulating in Wrexham

So many stories, so little time. And in the steamy heat of a midsummer evening in Wrexham, we were conjuring an icy landscape – quite unable to don our usual costume of woolly hats and jacket! Susan and I were performing our brand new show, Arctic-ulate to an audience of science fans at Wrexham Science Festival. As time ran short, we were ditching poems and photos like desperate ice-trekkers trying to make the last mile. And as we moved through the plight of Inuits, polar bears and penguins facing pollution or possible extinction, the university's PC quietly shut itself down, the projector light faded and our 'Last Legend' was delivered appropriately enough in semi-gloom.

We were blessed with the intimate setting of a lecture theatre and an intelligent, responsive audience who were keen to ask questions and stay around to chat. They warmed to Susan's portrayal of the feisty Viking woman Gudrid, 'the world's most traveled woman' in her time. And they proved to be enthusiastic frost giants and football warriors when called on to participate in my Firebridge and Auroral Football poems. Later the questions and discussions focused particularly on how indigenous arctic peoples cope with the impact of westernisation and the pollution of their environment. Here's some of their feedback on our debut show:

'You two are so intelligent – you make me proud to be a woman!'

'There's so much work gone into this show – it was brilliant!'

'As a bit of a polar buff, this was right up my street. Really interesting.'

'I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights so the images were wonderful.'

This morning Susan and I got a chance to see around the rest of the Wrexham Science Festival on their Scientriffic day for families. There were wonderful interactive displays and activities for kids all over the campus. We saw children petting owls – amazingly calm creatures. There were the bugs courtesy of the Mountain Zoo. (We're also grateful to them for that side-splitting story of what happened when one of their attendants, dressed in a husky dog outfit, was mobbed by 400 brownies !) And at another stand we were blown away by pictures of 'star-dust clouds' in outer space and a narrative that took in the greatest mystery of all – what is the 'spark' that first gives rise to life on a planet? Great inspiration for a poet.

We were sorry to be missing upcoming events at the festival, such as 'Appleton: Discoverer of the Ionosphere', (Mon.5th July), 'Standing up for Nature' ( Tues 6th), 'Weathering Solar Storms' (Thurs. 8th) and 'Living Inside the Wolf Pack'. These were just some of the events which linked to our own interests but there are dozens of events to choose from all week. So all in all, great fun to do, lovely audience and a very positive debut for Artic-ulate. We're grateful to Katie, Andy and the team who looked after us, including Liam, our 'gofer' who took these nifty pictures for us. Have a great week, guys!