Caldew Press Interview

As you will already know from these pages, Annie Foster’s pamphlet Solway Songs will be published by Caldew Press and launched at the Poetry Symposium on May 18th. Below is an interview with Susan and Phil, the editors at Caldew Press – as it is very much our local small press, you will want to know more about them and what they do. You can come along and meet them at the Poetry Symposium, too.

What made you take up the reins of Caldew Press?

Susan: The reins were left sadly flapping. The ‘Freiraum’ event needed a publication to accompany it and I took on the task. The impetus to continue the publication of the Speakeasy anthology which had been started was the next task and as I had experience of the process I assisted with that. I like collating the work of the talented people I’m lucky to know and am keen to continue Nick’s work in providing a platform for emerging writers alongside more established writers.

Phil: Nick Pemberton and I were working on the ‘Freiraum’ project in collaboration with Goethe Institut, AWAZ Cumbria and many others in the arts scene in Carlisle and the surrounding area. Nick had agreed to put on a special SpeakEasy event to showcase the work produced around the themes of ‘Isolation’, ‘Overcoming Isolation’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘European Identity’. Nick sadly passed away in September 2018 before the project was finished and as I had been documenting the progress of the project, and discussing things with him, I found myself inheriting the delivery of the SpeakEasy event. This included a publication of work produced by local writers, musicians and artists. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t devote as much time to both sides of the project as was needed. Francesca kindly passed on some work which had already been sent to Nick. Susan had done a great job pulling things together for the poetry side of the Black History Month 2018 event we had been a part of at Tullie House, and had recently produced a publication with Carlisle Writers Group. She very kindly agreed to edit the Freiraum magazine and got Caldew Press back on its feet. SpeakEasy magazine issue no.3 quickly followed as has Annie Foster’s collection Solway Songs. Early on we decided it would be a good idea to have more than one person running Caldew Press to continue what Nick had started.

How do you see Caldew Press growing over the next couple of years? What are you looking to publish? 

Susan: Caldew Press was set up to give local writers and artists an outlet for their work. I would like that to continue to be the case, with Speakeasy anthologies being our staple, but also individuals who feel they would like a pamphlet produced for pop-up bookshops, launches such as the Poetry Symposium, and having hard copies to send to agents. Events such as ‘Mind Trees of the Urban Forest’ will benefit from having a chapbook to go alongside so people can read and digest the works at their leisure. There are so many talented folk in Cumbria, it is great to be able to get hold of their work! As for world domination…well….as long as I’m home for dinner.

Phil: It’s still early days but I think we are excited to be able to keep Caldew Press active and producing these collections. SpeakEasy is really lucky to have such talented writers and performers contribute, and the magazine has become a part of what we do. I think everyone is quite happy to see it carry on and with Caldew Press it can.

Can you tell is a little about Speakeasy Magazine? How often does it come out? How does the editorial policy work? How do writers submit?

Susan: Speakeasy is a laid back affair, and the magazine reflects this. It has different editors each time, so choices of style can be suggested (with the ok of the author and no wingdings). We try and produce one or more magazine a year plus other event publicity. We have Cockermouth live poetry breakfast to boost, plus the launch of Solway Songs plus the ‘Mind Trees’ publicity and anthology! The next submission window opens on May 1st for SpeakEasy and submissions can be sent to our email address:

Phil: We are thinking because SpeakEasy is a spoken word open mic night which includes music, and on special occasions film and video art, perhaps there would be a way to include live recordings. We considered a CD accompanying the next publication but hardly anyone seems to use them anymore, but with the inclusion of QR codes in the magazine, which you can zap with a smart phone, you would be able to link to a clip or a recording online. We think that could be a really interesting thing to look at and see if we can make it work.

What are you looking for when it comes to pamphlets? Do you have a submission window for these?


Susan: For pamphlets it helps if there is a theme, or a style running through, like a narrative. They are collections of poems after all, so the poets stream of consciousness or story should shine through. Solway Songs takes us on a temporal journey, a geographical journey, but also an emotional/spiritual one. At present we haven’t set any submission windows for pamphlets but are always open for a discussion.
Phil: Caldew Press is always interested in collections of work and I think we would be keen to do more pamphlets along with the other anthologies and publications we produce. We are fairly relaxed unless there is a specific deadline we have set in stone. That would probably be because of the printing and delivery side of things as that does take a number of weeks, depending on the size of the print run. All the Caldew Press publications we have produced since November 2018 are available from Amazon.
Are there any poetry small presses that you look at as role models – who ‘out there’ is blazing a trail for contemporary poetry, in your eyes?
Susan: I am impressed (!) By Arachne Press as Cherry Potts seems to have a lot of drive and energy in promoting the material and tying events to go with.
Phil: It’s still a new world to me, but the discussion at the Poetry Symposium in November 2018 about small presses was really interesting. What Richard Skelton, Autumn Richardson, Malcolm Carson and others were saying was really interesting about the world of publishing at the moment. Bloodaxe Books is a name I keep hearing. There are lots of opportunities out there but finding the right fit for your work can be tricky. Caldew Press is still establishing itself but there are some interesting things in the pipeline!

One thought on “Caldew Press Interview

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s