Special event to honour South Shields poets

South Shields poet James Kirkup.
South Shields poet James Kirkup.

Two of South Shields’ most renowned poets are set to be honoured at a special event in the town.

South Shields Local History Group will be marking the centenary of poet James Kirkup’s birthday by celebrating his life’s work.

The free event will also celebrate the work of fellow South Shields poet Francis Scarfe, who was both born and raised in the town during the inter-war years.

It is held on Wednesday in the Catherine Cookson Room at The Word, in South Shields, from 4pm to 6pm.

Visitors can expect readings and discussion of the work of both poets by Dorothy Fleet, Neil Astley, Sheila Wakefield of Red Squirrel Press, and poets Jake Campbell and Tom Kelly.

There will also be a short film made during made during Kirkup’s last visit to South Shields in the 1970s.

James Kirkup was born 100 years ago in April 1918 in Robertson Street, the only son of a carpenter, and grew up on Cockburn Street.

He spent much of his later life in Japan, publishing more than 40 books of poetry, in later years with Red Squirrel Press.

He was also a translator, specialising in Japanese poetry, as well as a novelist and critic.

James died in 2009. His books and papers are archived at the James Kirkup Collection in South Shields, established in 2006 by his lifelong friend Dorothy Fleet, and held by South Shields Museum and South Tyneside Libraries.

Francis Scarfe was born on Stanhope Road, and spent four years at the Royal Merchant Seaman’s Orphanage, after his father was lost at sea in 1917.

He spent much of his later life in Paris, achieving wide recognition as a poet and especially as a translator of French poetry, most notably the work of Baudelaire.

Dorothy Fleet, who is a member of South Shields Local History Group, said: “South Shields internationally-renowned poet and author, James Kirkup, was born and grew in Robertson Street on the Lawe.

“This month is the centenary of his birthday and we are marking the occasion with an event in his honour.”