Two Coventry-born poets, Jane Commane and Peter Raynard are to perform in the twin-city of Cork, Republic of Ireland as part of the ongoing poetry exchange now entering its 9th year.

As a continued expression of solidarity and a united commitment to art, the Cov-Cork Poetry Exchange supports emerging and established poets at key points in their artistic career to give two readings in Cork and Clonakilty [August 6-8th]. The poets will be hosted by Paul Casey of O Bheal Poetry, and will receive the same warm and generous welcome that has made the exchange so successful.

Adam Steiner of Coventry publisher, Silhouette Press, said: “It is really important for Coventry to maintain and build upon international links with other nations, especially its twin cities, like Cork. Both Peter and Jane are great poets, made in Coventry, and have already shown themselves to be enthusiastic supporters of other artists, Peter with his Proletarian Poetry website and Jane as the publisher Nine Arches Press. We would also like to thank Coventry City Council for their continued support that has allowed the exchange to flourish and grow poetry and culture in Coventry.”

The event was supported for many years by Coventry poet, Antony Owen who gave poets the chance to stretch their legs across the water and build upon Coventry’s long-standing relationship of friendship and goodwill with its sister city of Cork.

Paul Casey, of Ó Bhéal, said: “Here we mark the occasion of the ninth year of poetry exchanges between Cork and Coventry. Over the years poets from both cities have taken part and formed long-term friendships and meaningful, collaborations.

We are thrilled to witness this venture set sail once more, in the unshaken belief that both cities will continue to enrich their annual literary programmes, maintain their connection to shared poetic traditions, all the while fuelling the growth of new writers, audiences and networks. Acknowledgment is due to the City Councils of both Cork and Coventry for their ongoing support, as we encourage this now maturing exchange to continue its benefit to poets and community groups from both cities.”

O Bheal

In November [the 7th – 9th ], two Cork poets will visit Coventry and perform at Coventry’s long-established Fire & Dust poetry night, visit the region, perform on local radio and meet with Coventry’s Lord Mayor – further embedding the cultural links with our Irish cousins.

Peter Raynard is the editor of Proletarian Poetry (, which has featured over 130 poets on working class lives. He has written two books of poetry: his debut collection Precarious (Smokestack Books, 2018) and The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto (Culture Matters, 2018). He was sent from Coventry after thirty years, spent ten years in London, and now lives in St Albans, thus is slowly making his way home.

Peter Raynard Photo (5)


Jane Commane was born in Coventry and lives and works in Warwickshire. Her first full-length collection, Assembly Lines, is due from Bloodaxe in 2018. Her poetry has featured in anthologies including The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt Publishing) and Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon) and in magazines including Anon, And Other Poems, Bare Fiction, Iota, Tears in the Fence and The Morning Star. She has been a poet in residence at the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, and has led many writing workshops in a variety of locations, including in museums, castles, city centres, orchards and along riverbanks. In 2016, she was chosen to join Writing West Midlands’ Room 204 writer development programme. A graduate of the Warwick Writing Programme, for a decade she also worked in museums and archives. Jane is editor at Nine Arches Press, co-editor of Under the Radar magazine, co-organiser of the Leicester Shindig poetry series, and is co-author (with Jo Bell) of How to Be a Poet, a creative writing handbook and blog series. In 2017 she was awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship.

Jane photo

Credit:  Paul Lapsley Photography




SP NEWS! Second edition of The Best of a Bad Situation arrives!

Silhouette Press is very pleased to announce that after selling-out of the first edition of Jamie Thrasivoulou’s poetry debut we have just received the freshly reprinted second edition of his book!

This is a great achievement for Jamie and for SP [and for poetry] – this means that with our combined efforts [mostly Jamie] we have placed 300 copies of his book into the hands of readers and reviewers!

Please support the press by spreading the word – and if you haven’t read Jamie’s book yet – check it out!

The Best of a Bad Situation – by Jamie Thrasivoulou


Coventry-Cork Twin-City Poetry Exchange – Stanley Notte

Cork Poet, Stanley Notte, tells us all about his visit to Coventry!

‘Coventry is a shit hole that no-one should ever visit.’ Those are the words Terry Hall used to describe his home town in an interview in 1980.

They are also the first words that popped into my head when I was asked if I’d like to represent O’Bheal in Coventry as part of the poetry exchange.

Needless to say that is an inauspicious beginning to any trip. But as it turns out there was good news in that memory, and for two reasons. First it gave me a funny – or risky – introduction to the two scheduled poetry readings included in the trip. Second, as I am a huge music fan, and utilise song titles to write most of my poetry, it gave me an idea for a poem.

That poem was written using song titles of artists signed to the 2 Tone Record Label, founded in Coventry in the late seventies. And interestingly the The 2 Tone Village, a museum that pays homage to the Coventry music scene, proved to be a highlight of the trip.

But before I get to that highlight I need to go back to the start.

In truth my trip started earlier in the year when I met Andrea Mbarushimana and Russ Berry when they were in Cork on the first leg of the Cork/Coventry cultural exchange. At that time I didn’t know Andrea and Russ would be so prominent during the second leg of the exchange. If I had Terry Hall’s ominous words may not have worried me as much. But then, had that been the case, my 2 Tone Poem may never have seen the light of day, so perhaps my ignorance was a blessing.

In Cork Andrea (despite a recent health scare) and Russ read beautifully, and were excellent company. Russ has a love of music that is almost as severe as mine, and we whiled away time on both nights of their visit discussing artists, and – as always when music fans get together – views.

So, to Cov where Andrea, having rearranged her life (kids/school/husband), and wearing a welcoming smile, met Ciaran and I at Birmingham airport. From the first moment chatter abounded (even a tad of local gossip was offered) and the car journey to Cov (OK that’s the last time I’ll use that local abbreviation) was over before I knew it.

Once in the home of Terry Hall it was a quick cup of tea in Andrea’s place, and then a brisk walk to local radio station, the Hillz. Russ met us in the reception area. And, with our group was complete, we were ready for an interview with Kate Hill (who, surprisingly, doesn’t own the station).

With hindsight, the radio interview laid the template for the remainder of the trip. We were warmly welcomed, the interview was relaxed and easy going, with an emphasis on the creative process, and the time (just over an hour) on air flew by.

Mundanities (Hotel check-in, a snooze – we were up at Stupid O’ Clock for the flight – and a surprisingly good dinner in Coventry’s Premium Inn) accounted for the afternoon. And before we knew it Ciaran and I were one again in Andrea and russ’s company, and heading to The Royal Oak for our first reading.

To garner a sense of how this evening transpired I could simply point to the earlier paragraph about the Hills interview. But that would not allow me to mention how beautiful a venue The Royal Oak provided. The event – which was part of the Peace Festival – was held in an extension at the back of the premises that, due a soft ambience and views over the garden area, was ideal for a gathering of keen poets.


MC for the night, Aysar Ghassan  was genial, humorous and welcoming, and the audience attentive and receptive. Afterwards we adjourned to the local Witherspoon – if you just gasped at the idea of a cultural exchange party frequenting such a place, let me assure you (as is always the case) it is the company you keep that defines a gathering, not the location.

We chatted into the wee hours (or as wee as licence regulations allowed) solving world issues the good and great of the political arena cannot find solutions to. OK, we didn’t actually solve any, but we did have a few GREAT ideas.

Day two began – surprise, surprise – with breakfast. I needed a hearty one, as we were meeting the Lord Mayor of Coventry at 10am. As I view politicians with (at best) heavy scepticism, this is NOT my type of thing. To ease the expected trauma I wore a tee-shirt emblazoned with a word – Echolalia – that sums up my feelings about almost all political mutterings. Oh, I knew it wouldn’t make any difference, and was unlikely to register with Lord Mayor Tony Skipper, but hey one must do what one must do. As it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong about Tony. He was funny and articulate, well versed on poetry (he exhibited a selection of portraits of local poets a few years ago) and MOST IMPORTANTLY music. An added bonus, due to Coventry native and Labour MP Mo Mowlan’s key involvement, a signed copy of the original Good Friday Agreement hanging on Tony’s wall.

Given all of the above you won’t be surprised to learn that the hour we spent in Tony’s company was very pleasant, and set me up nicely for the aforementioned highlight of the trip. I could wax lyrical for an age about the 2 Tone Village. But I won’t. Suffice to say it is a place that any music fan or history buff would enjoy. It is also a fitting tribute to the wide ranging influence 2 Tone had on many of my generation, particularly in raising awareness of racial acceptance.



The final official leg of our Coventry trip was spent in Kenilworth. Where we were guest poets at Pure, Good & Right, a regular – and well attended – poetry event. The venue – The Tree House Bookshop –  was cosy, and filled with the gentle ambience peculiar to spaces laden with shelves laden with tomes. Again we were warmly welcomed, and read to an attentive audience. MC John Watson not only steered the evening expertly, but also entertained us with poems of his own; a piece about manure. Afterwards Russ and Andrea passed a few hours discussing world problems with Ciaran and I in the hotel bar. And if we hadn’t received a message at 1am informing us our return flight was delayed we may actually have solved a few. Yes, we were that close!

Leaving Coventry on that delayed flight I had much to ponder. A lot had happened in such a short time, and I really hadn’t processed much of it. But on reflection I realised the trip was extraordinary on many levels. I had made new friends, read my poetry outside my home country for the first time and experienced a diverse city that has kept a belief in Peace at the forefront of it’s thinking for many years. But most importantly I learned that Terry Hall’s description of his home town in 1980 is now so inaccurate it may as well be deleted from history.  

Finally, it would be remiss of me not extend an enormous thank you to Andrea and Russ. There is an old adage that the greatest gift one can give is that of their time, and the time these two lovely people donated to Ciaran and I was, without a doubt, the vital ingredient in what was a fantastic experience.

Congratulations Coventry –UK City of Culture 2021 – Not Business As Usual

Silhouette Press is very happy to see that Coventry, the city, its citizens and the all of the artists, cultural organisations and the Coventry 2021 Bid Team have been awarded the status of UK City of Culture for the year 2021! Congratulations to All!


So what could this mean for the city’s writers, poets, performers and publishers?

Coventry is not often associated with writers and writing – but there have been numerous artists and publishers passing in and out of the city – recognition of the city’s literary legacy needs to change – hopefully Coventry 2021 – and the build-up to this will be the year[s] to make this happen – no more “business as usual”!

Here are ten things to consider to get involved and get engaged:

1.Make Coventry 2021 YOUR year to make things happen!

Coventry 2021 – and the three years of build-up towards it – are a great opportunity to start writing or start reading and tell new stories about the changing face of the city at a crucial period in its evolution!

Monkey read, monkey type [x1000]

 2. Fire & Dust – Poetry and Storytelling Open-Mic

Did you know there is a monthly open-mic night open to EVERYONE to come and read their work in front of a living breathing audience – or you can just sit and listen and soak in the words! There also special guests!



Fire & Dust – FIRST THURSDAY of every month @ The Big Comfy Bookshop [Fargo]

3. Buy / Read / Submit to Here Comes Everyone magazine

HCE is the only literary magazine published in Coventry – each quarterly issue is printed on real [recycled] trees and has a theme – their forthcoming BRUTAL issue will be out in December 2017.



You can buy the magazine and read blog posts on their website:


4. Check out Philip Larkin  [but remember it’s not all about him!]

Philip Larkin remains an important aspect of Coventry’s literary – but there is much, much more to Coventry’s contemporary story – and bear in mind that much of Larkin’s work was produced and most likely influenced by Hull, where he lived for most of his adult life [HULL being the previous winner of the UK City of Culture]

5. Be a Part of Coventry’s 2.2 Mile Ringroad Poem!

Along with the Coventry 2021 bid’s themes of Reinvention there are plans for a 2.2 mile Ring Road poem is set to one of the digital centrepiece of 2021 along with major productions by the RSC and the screening of the entire works of Shakespeare in iconic locations.

Bridge over


Make your Mark and get involved!

6. Coventry-Cork Poetry Exchange

Nearing its 10th year, the Coventry-Cork poetry exchange has seen Coventry and West Midland writers visit Cork, Ireland and for Cork writers to visit Coventry  and perform their work. Coventry invented twinning as part of its post-World War Two movement towards peace and reconciliation and the Exchange is a result of this. Find out more about the Coventry poet’s experience here: COVENTRY – CORK – POETRY EXCHANGE 2017 



7. Buy / Read Silhouette Press Books

Silhouette Press is a publisher, primarily of poetry books, we like to think we have grown our own audience, and have published writers from across the UK [hey, it’s not all about Coventry] – we’re still seeking new writers [see the SUBMISSION page on our website] check out our BOOKS [they are also available to read for FREE in Coventry Central Library]



The Best of a Bad Situation – by Jamie Thrasivoulou

The Africa In My House by Andrea Mbarushimana

Love And Loss And Other Important Stuff by Jonathan Pinnock

Exclamation Marx! by Neil Laurenson

8. Meet/talk to your Coventry authors…and find new ones!

There are lots of great contemporary writers from Coventry, some published others on the cusp of being published – connect with them – start a conversation about your own writing and support the author!

Here are just a few names:

Antony Owen, Andrea Mbarushimana, Barry Patterson, Alan van Widjgerden, Raef Boylan, Felicity Rose Barrow, Mantra, Leanne Brigewater, SuCat, Richard Houguez, Russ Berry, Emilia Moniszko, Martin Green, Aysar Ghassan, James Grady, Cathy Galvin,  Josie Allen…

Did we miss anyone? Probably…so get yourself out there!


9. START YOUR OWN writing/press/magazine/zine/poetry gig

Silhouette Press and Here Comes Everyone magazine are a DIY effort, started in 2012 due to a lack of publishing opportunities in the West Midlands and to avoid the Londo-Centrism of unpaid internships and personal debt [the founders are now retired or assumed missing at sea…] but Coventry needs more literary events, more writers out of the woodwork, more publications to tell its ongoing story!

Mag Covers Wallpaper

Great article about the process here

10. Be an Ambassador for Writing in Coventry

Silhouette Press currently divides its projects between Coventry and London – why? Because there is a whole world of writing out there, and its important that as much as Coventry develops its own writing scene, the city and its authors connect and grow links with other communities and places across the UK, indeed, The World.

L-R: Neil Laurenson, Dwane Reads, Antony Owen

Check out the very funny and profound meanderings of the blogger/author, Coventry Conch

SP did a book launch for our three most recent books at Housmans Bookshop in London  – WHY? Because it’s important for Coventry artists to be represented EVERYWHERE!

So take your mad, wild, brilliant words far and wide and help make Coventry 2021 the year of the word!







A brief review of the CORK leg of this year’s poetry exchange, the COVENTRY events will be taking place 8-9 Nov.


I needn’t have worried where I was going to get my hugs from. Somehow in the space of 24 hours the people of Cork had already carved a home out for me in words and pebbles and standing stones. What a trip! It’s hard to know where to start…

After meeting Paul at the airport we took a look at the city from on high, a hotel balcony furnished with possibly the world’s greatest chocolate brownies and a panoramic view of the city in summer sunlight. Then we were stabled in the Handlebar B and B and walked, waiting for our Irish debut, funnelled by narrow streets towards the beautiful Cathedral where I found a strange stone that turned out to be a (probably human) bone and slept under a tree in the sun. It was that kind of visit. Full of humanity and history and weight.


Cork is a vibrant and fascinating place, the centre of which is surrounded by water in the same way Coventry city centre is surrounded by the ring-road. The centre is collected and being squeezed upwards. But Cork has managed to keep it’s architectural charm and support independent and quirky commerce. It is a shopping mecca, but the values of the place are better demonstrated by the number of places in which to enjoy yourself with friends – eating, drinking, chatting.

Monday night we rocked up early at o Bheal and this gave us time to chat to people as they came in while my nerves gathered. The bar upstairs where we were stationed had the gorgeous, earless bust of a horses head on the bar. Oh, it was just knocked up by someone who used to work here – it’s sister is at the University! Cork is a city of creators. The famous o Bheal five word challenge gave further proof as nearly everyone in the room got up to the mike to read out the poem they’d crafted from a random generation of words in just fifteen minutes. The diversity of subject matter and the quality of the writing was inspirational. Russ’s and my own headline readings were warmly greeted and I settled down to enjoy the open mic-ers who were fantastic. Afterwards everyone tumbled round the corner to a bar that looked more like the apothecary it took over from, till the early hours of the morning. We had fun chatting to al the genuinely lovely, warm people whose work we’d listened to. It was brilliant.


Next day we met the Mayor of Cork, who’d deputised a cultural attache to the reading last night – a man who’d eloquently expressed his passion for history and culture and his support for the arts. It was interesting to talk with them both about the pressures on culture in the face of austerity. We talked about Coventry’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021 and the impact of Cork’s experience as European City of Culture in 2005.

Via stone circles, the beach, skinny dipping and dinner with more new friends, we ended up in in Clonakilty in Western Cork for our final reading, with Coventry feeling very distant in space and time. De Barras club has played host to Bowie, who was invoked by Alexis during her reading. I did my best, reading from my new book from Silhouette Press ‘The Africa in my House’ and responding to interesting and insightful interview questions from Moze. Russ plied everyone with lyrical stories from Coventry and it was great to hear Ciaran and Stan, who we are expecting on the return link of the exchange in Coventry in November. Once again the five word challenge was amazing, as were all the readers. It was mesmerising watching everyone’s performances in such an auspicious venue.

It’ll take me a long time to unpack all the experiences and conversations from this short journey. I began writing two poems during my stay (not counting my five word challenge attempts, which believe me, really don’t count!). There are ribbons of ideas and thoughts about culture, comparisons between our two cities and attitudes to the creative arts which I’ll need some time to follow and unravel. What I can say beyond a doubt is that the whole trip was an absolute pleasure and an honour, that my Facebook friend count has increased exponentially and that I really want to revisit Cork again as soon as possible, to visit more of the sights but mostly to reconnect with the lovely friends we made. Big, heartfelt thanks to everyone involved.

Andrea Mbarushimana is a community worker, artist and writer, Andrea has been published in the London Magazine and Here Comes Everyone, exhibited in the Herbert, Coventry Cathedral Chapel of Unity and on various brick walls and has worked with refugees, minority groups, young people and parents.

Andrea made two short films televised on the Community Channel, one with young migrants and one tackling Islamophobia and she’s a regular spoken word performer at Fire and Dust in Coventry. Her Uncle once described her as ‘a real searcher’, which feels about right.

The Africa In My House by Andrea Mbarushimana


Andrea and I spent a fantastic couple of days in Ireland, performing at O’Bheal’s in Cork on the first night and at De Barra’s in Clonakilty on the second – both of them wonderful venues packed with enthusiastic listeners and supportive fellow poets. Paul Casey greeted us at the airport and instantly made us feel at home in Cork, pointing out sights to see and filling us in on the local history. We were blessed with fine weather, finding time to relax in the Cathedral grounds before enjoying a (vegan friendly) Thai red curry at the Co-op Quay restaurant overlooking the river. I was surprised to find that O’Bheal’s has not one but two in-house artists who sketched us during our performances – and the late night apothecary wine bar around the corner was an unexpected delight!

On the second day we met the Mayor of Cork Tony Fitzgerald and his deputy Kieron McCarthy (a passionate local historian who had attended and read some of his own poetry the previous evening). I thought it might feel a bit strained, but they were both very engaging and genuinely interested in the Twin Cities project. In the afternoon, on the way down to Clon, we stopped off to visit Drombeg earthworks and stone circle before going for a quick swim in the sea.


At De Barra’s that night I got to know Ciaran and Stan, two outstanding performance poets who will be visiting Coventry for the ‘return leg’ in November. We were also interviewed following our performance, giving us the opportunity to elaborate on some of the experiences that motivate and shape our writing. We packed a lot into our brief visit and met some charming, warm and very talented people. I feel very lucky to be part of the project.

Russ has been writing poetry for around 4 years, after featuring in the Bradford-on-Avon – Poems on a Beermat Competition in 2014. Russ regularly performs at Coventry’s Fire & Dust open-mic poetry night and at events around the UK. He has published poems in local anthologies and in Writer’s Forum magazine. In 2016 he was Writer-in-Residence for the Concealment and Deception exhibition at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and winner of the Oriel Davies Gallery prize for nature poetry.

BIG Thank you to Paul Casey of O Bheal and the people of Cork  – all of whom are – in their own way – fellow poets!