A Walk to Morden Tower

In March 2024, the Newcastle Poetry Festival curated the project ‘A Walk to Morden Tower’. Built in 1290, the tower part of the city’s medieval walls and is one of Britain’s best-known literary landmarks. From 1964, Tom and Connie Pickard hosted readings in the ancient turret room. Poets who have read at Mordern Tower include Allen Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Roger McGough, Derek Mahon, Stevie Smith and Carol Ann Duffy.

The project was run in partnership with an exhibition at the Robinson Library on the history, architecture and legacy of Morden Tower. Three Creative Writing PhD students, Maisie Drummond, Steven Kendall and William Kerr, worked on the exhibition with NU archivist Rachel Hawkes. The exhibition focused the histories of poets Tom and Connie Pickard, the architecture of the tower itself and artefacts such as Morden Tower posters and programmes. There are also archived items belonging to poets who were integral to the tower’s history, such as Basil Bunting, Sean O’Brien and Barry McSweeney.

In the months leading up to the Festival, poet and lecturer John Challis led a guided tour to Morden Tower with a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students from Creative Writing, English Studies and other departments. John also worked with students in workshops to create poems inspired by the landmark, and these poems were read at the Festival on Sat 11 May at Northern Stage.

We are grateful to the Catherine Cookson Foundation and Newcastle University for funding this project. You can read the finished poems in this pamphlet: A Walk to Morden Tower.