Recent writing at Spotlight.

Below is a selection of work performed at Spotlight over the past few months -

Alan Swift has been a regular at Spotlight for over 15 years.


When I saw those Ohians

Hee-hawing and neighing

Drinking in every word

That cruel monster was saying

Not hectoring but crooning

His message of hate

I thought bloody hell

Is it really too late

To stop this blonde Hitler

From grabbing the crown

Of a mighty proud nation

And dragging the World

Down, down, down

Into misery and squalor?

Saw the evil beneath

The face of a clown

Rob Muir took first Prize in the November 2016 Open Mic Prize Slam with his piece: 'Smudge'.

We are standing and looking at Cheros Upworth's latest piece, in a gallery full of so called celebs.

I say: '…but it's just a…'

They say: 'Brings to mind Bacon.'

I say: 'I like Bacon…'

Belinda says: 'No no they mean the artist, come on Jack let's go get a drink…'

I follow Belinda through sycophants and jabbering penmen on her way to get another rum and code. I am drinking virgin Pina Coladas since the last time I had deflowered ones I threw up on a German Shepard.

I like Belinda because she agrees with me that pigeons are wankers. She has been looking after me since I got out. It was her idea to drag me to this art opening.

As we are waiting for our drinks Belinda points out interesting facts about the fellow guests. She identifies a lanky tube of tweed as Will Self, and tells me how his most recent article was written in his own blood to make a point about the digital age. She tells me that a pop star and someone from Poldark have just retreated to the men's room for some casual buggery. She also waves at Carol Ann Duffy and then turns to me and mouths the word 'batshit'

Our drinks arrive. I suck through a straw and think about the floor at Debenhams.

Upworth approaches us.

'Belinda darling you made it.'

Belinda air kisses him and I try to do the same but end up spitting in his left ear. He asks who I am.

'This is Jack…'

His Westwood shirt hangs tattered in several places in a fashion gambit that's either deliberate or definitely deliberate.

'How's your societal reintegration going?'

'Well the panic attacks have all but stopped but the geese are still telling me to fuck off so…'

Cheros belches and asks what I think of his piece which is a white canvas smeared with something. Some say the tears of orphans while others say the excrement of a deceased film star. The mystery is why it's so expensive.

'Well it is just a…'

'…daring piece' Belinda jabs me.

Cheros acts as falsely modest as he can while scratching his arse with a flayed chicken drumstick.

Wet Mary walks over, her eyes bulging with drugs and self-belief.

Wet Mary has been it all in her time, a performance poet and a vagrant: not surprisingly at the same time. She also became an anarchist; once successfully landing the nutella smeared gusset of some y-fronts into the face of Jacob Rees Mogg as he was touring a JCB factory in Wigan.

I feel sick. Not just my head sick but real sick. I want to leave. I know how. I smile and finally get to say: 'Yes your piece is amazing given that it's just a… smudge.'


2nd Prize in the Slam went Rowland Crowland with his poem


Where Beggars can be Choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

Sit down but stand out.

Chilly but confident.

Expecting a handout.

I'm homeless in Lancaster.

At home with the losers.

But this is the place where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

How did I get here?

I'm sat in a doorway.

It's terribly wet here.

But I've chosen my new friends

From smackheads and boozers,

Coz this is the place where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster

Where nobody knew me.

I dropped to much acid

And dropped out of Uni.

I'm no longer a posh academic peruser.

I've dropped into the place where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

It don't pay to be clever.

You just gotta get by

Whatever the weather.

It don't pay to consort

With thinkers and musers.

It pays to be here where the beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

No living wage there.

Living in Lancaster.

Living on welfare.

I could do some busking

And be a carouser

And sing of this place where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

The people are kind here.

I smell like a shit box

And nobody minds here.

Nobody piss takes.

There are no abusers

In this lovely place where beggars are choosers.

It's Xmas in Lancaster.

Pissing with rain here.

The Rotary Club

And all of their reindeer

Have tipped me some pennies

In onesers and twosers.

Welcome to the town where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

A sandwich from Asda,

A carton of couscous

With sweet corn and pasta.

The food is the business,

The people are groovers.

This sure is the place man, where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

A caramel latte

A mouthful of thunderbird,

A glug of frascatti.

A chance of some beer slops

Outside of the boozers.

There's a rave going on where the beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

I'm having a beefer.

A regular toff

With an occasional reefer.

It's not a big issue

In this town of old bluesers.

It's fab in this scene where the beggars are choosers.

But, homeless in Lancaster's

Not always so groovy.

You can't watch the telly

Or go to a movie

And life's a bit dodgy

Alone with the bruisers.

All on your own where the beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

Wherever I roam here

There's never a roof so

There's no place like home here.

I'm trickin for snaps

Like a right scooby doozer.

Things wear a bit thin when beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

My best friend's a thief!

Some of the beggars here

Beggar belief!

I can't call the coppers,

So what can I do sir?

The choices aren't easy when beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

The black Lune is flowing

Down to the quayside

Where the luners are going,

Dossing down in the dark

Where the dogs do their doozers.

I'm beginning to wonder if beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster.

Any chance of a bob sir?

Just give us a drink mate.

I can't do a job sir.

I'm seeing pink fairies

And crazy voodoozers.

It's scary in this place where beggars are choosers.

Homeless in Lancaster

I'm down on mi uppers

My defences are down

And I'm singing for supper.

A nice man and lady

Call me a nuisance

And it hurts in the place where beggars are choosers

Homeless in Lancaster.

I'm a right fuckin mess, me.

I'm losing my spirit.

Will somebody bless me!?

Prodders, Left-footers,

Muzzers or Jewsers.

Where gods are concerned

Need beggars be choosers?

Homeless in Lancaster.

My arse has gone numb!

I knew I'd end up

An insensitive bum!

Coz I can't leave my pitch

For a wee or a poo sir.

Is there any real choice

Where beggars are choosers?

Homeless in Lancaster.

Just when it gets nasty,

A kind passer-by

Stops and gives me a pasty.

Only one in the bag??!!!

There's usually two sir!!!

Coz this is the place where beggars are choosers.

Yeh this is the place where beggars can be choosers.



Sheila Liggett has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster Uni and says she is 'Nominal leader of small but lively writers workshop at the Dukes. New members welcome'. At the June Spotlight she read a short story, 'Getting The Bird' which was shortlisted for the H.G.Wells festival competition.

Getting the Bird

   Gerald and Maude were gardening. Generally speaking Gerald hated gardening, but his presence today was one of his little gifts to Maude, a kind of guilt tax which he paid every so often because of his long standing affair with Sadie. He didn't know whether Maude knew about Sadie, but she was so fey and away with the fairies that it hardly mattered. He looked at her now, from the other side of the garden, taking the bonfire pile to pieces in case there were hedgehogs. Honestly, as if it mattered. And every tree was festooned with nut feeders and old bones with bits of fat for the tits. He looked with distaste at the rickety bird table loaded with yesterday's bread, just a magnet for all kinds of pests. Blackbirds weren't so bad, but starlings… Free handouts weren't in it. He saw a movement on the ground, under the hedge. He hated cats too, particularly next door's. He seized a stone and threw it. The cat fled, unhurt. Gerald bent down to see what it had dropped and picked up a bird. It lay in his hand, limp, its beak open, its eyes hooded with a white membrane. Maude appeared at his side. She was small and pretty with long dark hair. All right if you liked that sort of thing, thought Gerald, not for the first time. Now Sadie, she was a real armful, and noisy and funny and demanding.

   'What is it, Gerald?'

   'Just a bird. Cat's damaged it. I'll ring its neck.'

   'No, no. Here, let me. It's a starling. Poor thing. I'll look after it. You do the bonfire, would you?'

She hurried off while Gerald did his best to extinguish the bonfire by putting too much rubbish on it.

   'I shall call him Caspar,' said Maude that evening.


   'The starling. He's looking much better'.

   'Bloody mite ridden pests, starlings,' said Gerald. 'I'm off now. Seeing old Pete at the pub.' The lie tripped easily.

   The next few weeks were very agreeable. Maude was totally engrossed with Caspar. She was teaching him to speak and he was an apt pupil. His voice, as he copied 'Caspar' and 'Maude', was just like Maude's, at first. She taught him 'who's a pretty boy?', 'Hello Maude' and 'Where's my darling?'.

   Gerald told Sadie about it and they had a good laugh, although he was a bit stung at Sadie's remark that evidently Maude preferred Caspar to him, and perhaps she herself should have an affair with a parrot because at least she'd get some intelligent conversation. Sadie could be quite cruel sometimes.

   Caspar quickly returned to fitness and grew sleek and quite big - for a starling, and it wasn't long before Maude opened the French window and he flew into the garden.

   'That's that,' thought Gerald. He found birds in the house very unsettling.

   But Caspar stayed. He came to Maude's hand for bread, and rode on her shoulder when she gardened. And they talked - well, Maude talked and Caspar copied, except that one day Gerald distinctly heard Caspar making a complicated fizzing noise, followed by a telephone bell, and Maude copying. And then unmistakable peals of laughter from them both.

   Maude's voice was often hoarse these days. In fact Gerald bought her some Boots sore throat tablets and a silk scarf he had got for Sadie, for which she thanked him politely and did not wear. Gerald noticed that Caspar would come and sit on a branch outside the window looking in, and once saw that when Maude moved away from inside the window an imprint of her lips remained in the steamy breath on the glass.

   Another time, when Gerald came home unexpectedly early, he opened the door to the dining room and froze. Maude sat dressed in a long black dress of shot silk which glowed and changed in the firelight. The table was set with silver and candles. Caspar sat perched on the back of a chair next to her. Gerald watched as Maude poured bird seed into two bowls. Caspar picked up a piece of broken bread and offered it delicately to Maude in his beak. She accepted it into her mouth, and her shiny black head rubbed his. In the candlelight Gerald thought how like a yellow beak her nose looked. Then Caspar drank from a bowl of water, tilting back his head and showing his tongue as he swallowed. Maude drank from a glass. She too threw back her head and swallowed with open mouth. Gerald shut the door thoughtfully and went to sit in his study.

   'God, I hate that bloody bird.' Gerald was sure of Sadie's comforting agreement. 'Wish I could get my hands on him.'

   'Come on, Ger. God's sake. Poor old Maude. It's not much to want, is it? Think he's a demon lover or something? What's she got after all? A starling, and married to you!'

   He had laughed uncertainly.

   'She just wants someone to lerve her.' Sadie rolled her eyes and tweaked his ear painfully.

   'It's not funny. I must save her from this… obsession. She'll thank me later.'

   Next day in the garden, Gerald picked up a stick and advanced on Caspar, who sat on a low bough. 'Come on, pretty boy, pretty boy.' Caspar did not move. Suddenly Gerald lunged. 'Gotcha, you filthy vulture!' The stick hit the tree. Caspar flew onto a higher branch and gave a loud rasping call. In an instant the sky darkened and a thousand starlings descended, most of them on Gerald. He flailed his arms, screaming with terror. At that moment Maude appeared. She wore a black feathery kind of dressing gown which he hadn't seen before.

   'Dear friends,' her voice was deep, throaty, 'he is only human and does not understand. Leave him, for your queen's sake.' The starlings became still, and then, bobbing their heads as if in homage, flew off. Caspar watched from the tree.

   Gerald tried to hide his fright with anger. 'What on earth was that about? Do you know how ridiculous you look, standing there in that… thing? That bird's bewitched you. He's a psychotic…' Gerald spluttered, ' pest. He's got to go.'

   'He will dear, he will. Just give it time.'

   Her calmness enraged him. 'He attacked me!'

   'A misunderstanding. And anyway, he makes me very happy Gerald. You don't begrudge me that, do you? And you so busy?'

   That was true. Gerald was very busy. Buying and selling stocks and shares and counting the proceeds was time consuming, and so was Sadie, who was getting ever more demanding of his time and money.

   It was some time before he noticed how thin Maude had become, how she always had a cough which made her voice croaky. 'You should see the Doc,' he said at last. 'You don't look too hot to me.'

   'Oh, Gerald, don't worry. Nothing's the matter. I'm full of energy. It's just November. Frosty weather always makes me hoarse.' And indeed so she was, running hither and thither at her various jobs, with quick little steps, her eyes bright, her little head under its lustrous black hair nodding to and fro.

   Gerald mentioned it to Sadie, who got quite irritable. 'For God's sake, Gerry, shut up about it. She's mad, that's all. Come here and sit down with me.'

   But Gerald couldn't settle. 'What can I do, Sade? Evil parrot. He'd kill me for a bacon rind.'

   'I give up. If you're going to be a wet blanket you'd better push off. Trouble with you, you're jealous, jealous of a bloody bird for goodness sake. I'm going out. I want some fun even if you don't. Perhaps you're past it. Go home and go to bed. You look awful.'

   When he got home, Maude was not in her accustomed seat by the television. He poured a stiff whisky or two, and eventually stumbled upstairs to the bathroom. He opened the door. Maude was standing in the shower with her back to him, a thin spray of water glancing off - Gerald shook his head - her feathers. From neck to feet she was clothed in iridescent feathers which sparkled and shone as she moved. Then he saw Caspar sitting on the shower rail. The sharp round eyes fixed him, the yellow bill opened.

   'Leave the royal presence. Go. Do not come back.'

   Gerald slammed the door and went for some more whisky, thinking seriously about phoning Alcoholics Anonymous the next day. At last he went to bed. Maude lay motionless, still and small, hair tumbled over her face, the bedclothes drawn close. Gerald cautiously lifted the duvet at the foot of the bed. Maude's feet were encased in large fluffy bedsocks which met thick winceyette pyjamas, 'Your passion killers' as Gerald used to call them, in less complicated days. Relieved at such evidence of normality, and feeling very tired, he rolled into bed beside her. His sleep however was best with dreams. He dreamt of Sadie, and turned to touch her, but his hand met a hard claw, from which he recoiled, and then he saw Maude in the dim dawn light rise from the bed. He heard a tapping on the window and saw Caspar standing on the sill, shining, monstrous, filling the space. Maude crossed the bedroom with tiny steps, her head nodding, and pushed up the sash. Caspar and Gerald watched as she carefully pulled off her bedsocks so that they did not catch on her clawed feet, and then shook off her pyjamas. A thin ray of sun flashed on her feathers, and they reflected a thousand little rainbows. She hopped on to the window sill and rubbed her beak against Caspar's. Then he gave a harsh cry, and hovered in the air. Maude answered, and spread her wings. Together they flew away.

   He woke late to a bright winter morning, with a bad headache, and a renewed determination to cut down on the whisky. Such horrible dreams. More like the D.Ts, he thought nervously. All that bloody bird's fault. He would definitely strangle it if he could catch it or better still get an air rifle. He had potted quite a few starlings and cats when he was a kid. He felt cheered up, and went into his study to read his e-mail. The screen glowed -

'Hi Gerry. Look, it's been nice and all that, but I think you need a rest. Why not let's have a little break from each other? I'm going to Amsterdam tomorrow anyway. Don't know how long. I'll ring you. Cheers, Sadie.'

   So that was that. Ungrateful cow. After all that money. At least Maude didn't cost much. And where was she? He suddenly wanted scrambled eggs, with thin strips of bacon, the way she most deliciously cooked it. He went through the empty house, but Maude was nowhere to be found. He noticed with rising panic that not only she, but all traces of her had vanished. Clothes, books, shampoo, toothbrush, all had gone, except, he saw, as he entered the kitchen, a half packet of bird seed, and a single black feather, iridescent in the morning sun.


Gary Smillie is a writer of lyrical poems from Liverpool who has been published i some small magazines and websites. His poem usually centre around the characters he observes in everyday life - some have a political edge, although not overtly.

The Morning After (ii)…

Britain, 19th September, 2014

Nothing changed a bit, no hordes awoke,

The claymore wasn't reached for, after all

The highlands still were cloudy and rain soaked

The city's traffic at its standard crawl

The tartan slippers felt the same about

The feet of forty million sleepy souls

Who, trundling downstairs, flicked on the box

To check on what they knew, and last night's goals.

In Glasgow, midnight oil and dad's best scotch

Burned rather sorely in the throat, but though

Acid reflux almost made the odd man spew

Most kept their cool and drifted sadly home

Dunbarton shook its head and got its way

An exercise in risk aversion felt

Incongruous for clans men in face paint

But fitted, so it seems, more sober celts.

And oilmen in their Aberdeen hotels

Ordered English breakfasts and agreed

Their stocks looked better in the new old light

Then stirred an extra sugar in their teas

In Bullingdon and Eton, only nods,

For greeting something proper needs no fuss

And though there's not so many in 'the club'

They're pleased to call Wee Jocky "one of us".

The promises on promises went on

Safe in the reassuring, morning after glow

That nothing needed signing or sealing so

Just where's the harm in tossing off some hope?

And though the web of mutual interest shook

It held so that the spiders could regroup

To spin their many lines, to feed the press

That fill the column inches for the troop

Of 'Britons' at their papers, library quiet

Who read with coy relief, we were still whole

Then set to work churning the milk

For the cats at their creamy supper bowl.

On The Extinction of the Dodo

The thought of you grips me on the 23 bus

Stuck in traffic brought by a rush of rain

The hydraulics strain and awkwardly creak

And I'm thinking about your silly, clap board beak

Jabbering about colonialist policy

Flapping your wings and bobbing your head

In that deliberately comic way you did

I wonder what you'd make of all of this

Something funny and scathing I guess

But you conspired in your own downfall, let's not forget

All that floating on your island,

All that coupling reticence

All those stupid jokes you cracked

Instead of any full term eggs

All that green flash jungle wasn't nearly deep enough

To hide in like you seemed to want

To keep away from every hunter's shot

By the end your pigeon English only tied you up in knots

People couldn't understand you,

They didn't know where you were lost

Some even spread the rumour you were nothing but a ghost.

And though I know it's useless

Because it's been too long since we heard

Anything from you, you daft old bird

I can't help but try to bring to mind your cry

The ever fading sound of you

The last lonely dodo beneath the cold night sky.


Cynthia Kitchen.

Nightwalk with Phantoms

Women are out-not the moon,

pale and listening by hedges

to the Zeppelin raid of hail.

They darken by chance

in a lull of wind; quicken

from tree shapes, crouch

forgetful in wasted grass.

Cloud lifts-huge,silver-bellied.

The crone plays at trickery;

squat on shrubby heels, she's

whispered with new growth.

She springs elbows to east and west

becomes a stiff weather-vane

all set for change.

As dark moves in

A walk at Halloween is no more sinister

Than the call of a sheep or a moment of water

Hurtling at rock.

As dark moves in, some part of me moves out

Into soft mosses, grasses, on stone - feels

For the contour of moor

As though a hand

Reaches there, draws back this contact

Into my being.


John Fitzpatrick.


I put my name down for the open mic

It takes place at Spotlight on a Friday night

I text all my friends to tell them I'm on

You see I've had it confirmed in an email from Ron.

I arrive at 7.30, tell Sarah I'm here

Then head for the bar, oh how I need a beer

But that will have to wait until I've been on

It's water for now, beer later on

Waiting for Simon to call out my name

I watch the other acts take their 5 minutes of fame

I stress and I fret, take a deep breath

What's the worst that can happen? Well a stage death?

The time has come to take to the stage

This is my moment, come on be brave

I step into the spotlight, adjust the mic

Shuffle my papers, I must get this right

My set is all done, it really went great

But the nerves are not over, I have a tense wait

Then a tap on my shoulder, Sarah gives me the nod

She likes what I did, I've got a paid spot

It's not the X Factor, that is a fact

But you have to impress to progress your act

The judges to woo if you want to get on

It's not Simon and Cheryl It's Sarah and Ron