Travelling Through The Museum

On Friday I ran a writers’ workshop at the Portsmouth Museum. Participants were asked to pick an object from the exhibition ‘A Hard Choice’ that they would like to find themselves. They then wrote their fantasy journey to find this particular treasure. Some truly inspired adventures and wonderful imagery emerged over the course of the afternoon.

Here’s a poem I’ve written that hopefully captures some of the spirit of the wonderful writing that the participants produced –


Travelling with Bonnie Prince Charlie
through tartan glass, the fragments
of Chinese slippers, a hat
you can’t remember the name of
but still see on your great uncle
as he peers at you through his cracked monocle.

You are a collector of fine wine,
the wind that blows in the trees,
a doll that was broken
and could never be fixed.

You head out into the spring rain
with the taste of eels in your mouth,
slippery and unsure. The path
is strewn with active volcanoes,
ice storms, hot sand under your feet.

You celebrate nightfall
as a deep purple bruise.
You fly into the jungle,
no longer sure if your specimen jars
should hold Aboriginal stories
or if laughter can be posted home.



Yesterday I worked with students from Priory School who came to the Portsmouth Museum to see their fascinating ‘A Hard Choice’ exhibition. We wrote ghost stories inspired by objects they chose from the collection. I was really struck by not only the young people’s vivid imagination and dramatic descriptions but also the emotional depth of their tales of tragedy and revenge. Listening to some of them read their work aloud actually made me shiver! They will make excellent entries for our story competition. If you know anyone aged 7- 14 who’s interested in writing and lives in Portsmouth, then please do encourage them to enter. The deadline is June 30th.

Here’s a poem I’ve written inspired by the students’ fantastic writing –

Night At the Museum

The record player is haunted
by a young girl singing
for the parents who starved her,
a child scarred from a broken mirror,
the threat of pigs rampaging,
a castrated pervert, the artist
who murdered his model in a fit of a rage.

Inside the head of a boy,
there are the ghosts of eels,
unexploded bombs, vicious moles with razor teeth.
At night when you walk up these narrow stairs,
beware the negative ring that glows with death,
the face at the window insisting on silence,
the screens who guard their secrets.

These stories are knocking at the glass,
creaking in their frames,
whispering in the corners.
They collect the horror of heartbreak,
the breathless waiting for history
to shake itself free from the dust
of forgotten nightmares.


Free writing workshop this Friday

Friday, 26 June

Creative Writing Workshop for Adults

2:00pm – 4:00pm at the Portsmouth Museum

Work with Portsmouth Museum’s Writer in Residence, Aoife Mannix to use the fascinating objects on show in A Hard Choice as the starting point for writing inspired by the joy of collecting. The workshop will be fun and practical and no previous writing experience is necessary. A further workshop will run on Sunday 28 June, 10.30am – 12.30pm. You are welcome to join us for one or more sessions.

Free. Places limited; pre-booking recommended – call 02392 834744 or email Tracy Teasdale, Learning Officer, Portsmouth Museum or ask at Reception. 2:00pm – 4:00pm

On Fire

Aoife Mannix workshops May June 2015 006

Last Saturday, I ran a writing workshop for adults at the Portsmouth Museum. It was a fantastic group of people that included members of local writers groups as well as those who’d never attended a workshop before but thought they’d like to give it a go.

We were using the ‘A Hard Choice’ exhibition as inspiration. We wrote about what physical objects you would save from the flames if your house was on fire. The answers were very touching in their considerable variety but many of them had a connection with wanting to save a personal history and memories of family rather than items of monetary value. It seems we care more for our photo albums than our flat screen TVs!

I then asked people to chose something from the exhibition that they would like to live inside as their home, assuming they could shrink or somehow magically get inside it. Interestingly, everyone chose a different object and wrote poems that showed through beautiful imagery how inspiring these exhibits could be. I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the writing produced and am very much looking forward to it being submitted for the anthology we’re producing to celebrate my residency. The deadline for submission is July 30th and entries should be emailed to The next workshop will be on Friday, June 26th at 2:00. You’re welcome to come along whether you attended the last one or not. More details can be found here.

Here’s a poem I’ve written inspired by Saturday’s workshop.


If you live with the smell of burial, it’s important to know
where the light comes in, to keep the small authenticity
of past summers in a seaside painting. Saucy postcards
to make you smile in the long evenings as you wait
for those tick tock German bombs to explode.
A home is a treasure chest for grandchildren,
a suitcase full of baby clothes, an old book
that holds your father’s favourite drink.
It is the taste of clocks collecting dust
in the photo albums of our lives
as the flames climb higher and higher.

Museum Magic

Aoife Mannix workshops May June 2015 005

With the rain and wind howling outside, I had a wonderful time on Friday at the Portsmouth Museum working with children, as well as their families and carers, to celebrate the exhibition, ‘A Hard Choice’. We chose our favourite objects from the collection and gave them magical powers. Then we created adventure stories around finding these treasures and designed our own pictures to illustrate the magic and excitement. The imagination and the glitter flowed! The stories the young people came up with were truly impressive and I hope they’ll enter them for our children’s writing competition.

Here’s a poem I’ve written inspired by the work we did. Hopefully it gives you a flavour of just how much fun we had!


Look into this mirror
for eternal youth for your loved ones.
Step into the painting
to follow the murder corridor.
Pin this clock to a person in time,
breath another dimension,
navigate storms on the wings of a butterfly.
Take control of a castle that fits in your pocket,
hide a magic coin that multiplies into millions,
drink tea with Alice as you shrink,
fight colossal squids and the Loch Ness monster.
Win the prize of a chair that takes you
exactly where you want to go,
a hat that controls the weather,
a golden beach where the sun always shines.
Collect these tales from a rainy day
and discover the priceless gift of adventure.