NUTS & POETS with Sheila Wakefield at Red Squirrel Press

I came across the prolific South Shields born writer and poet James Kirkup in 2010 when working on a short film which was made about him in the ‘70s.

The film needed some editing, plus synching Kirkup’s narration to the images and digitized onto DVD. The completed film was screened in 2010 at a poetry event for Kirkup in London.

He was born in 1918 and until his death in 2009 he wrote a number of books including novels and plays….

I first came across James when I was at school… remembers Sheila…. and the Red Squirrel Press ran the James Kirkup Memorial Poetry Prize for many years, the prize was publication of a pamphlet, sometimes I published the runners-up.

I no longer do the Kirkup Memorial as it’s very difficult to check hundreds of entries in order to police plagiarism, which is a shame.

Red Squirrel Press is an independently self-funded small press based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. Over 200 titles have been published to date, showcasing young poets such as Claire Askew and Andrew McMillan as well as more established names like James McGonigal and Tim Turnbull.

Red Squirrel has been shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial award three times.

When did you start Red Squirrel ?

I’d always wanted to run a small press so after graduating with an MA in Creative Writing from Northumbria University in late 2005, and completing a short play writing course,

I started the press in April 2006 in Northumberland where I was living then, surrounded by red squirrels.

The first books I remember reading were Beatrix Potter’s, particularly Squirrel Nutkin which started a lifelong love of red squirrels. My first event was a soft launch at Cafè Nero in Hexham as part of Hexham Book Festival.

Do poets surprise you with what they choose to write about ?

I like unusual subject matter and poets sometimes surprise me with poems about vulnerability, history and science.

Have Red Squirrel planned any events soon? 

We have the launch of Tom Kelly’s new poetry collection, This Small Patch at 7.00pm on Monday 2 December at the Literary and Philosophical Society, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SE. The event is free, wine and soft drinks are on sale and everyone is welcome.

For more information contact:

Interview by Gary Alikivi  November 2019.