Book review - Between Here and Knitwear by Chrissie Gittins
PUBLISHED: 17:05 05 January 2016
Barbara Waite talks to Lancashire poet and storyteller Chrissie Gittins
Seeing the lights of towns and villages lining the valleys at the foothills of the Pennines is an abiding memory of Lancashire for poet and storyteller Chrissie Gittins.
Those night-time journeys with her father clearly stuck in her mind and even at a young age she had great powers of observation for the little things of everyday life which surface in her latest book.
Written over two decades, these short stories pack an emotional punch. She traces a life from childhood – she attended Heap Bridge Primary, Walmersley Road and Bury Grammar School for Girls – to adulthood, crystallising all the important rites of passage along the way.
Chrissie, who still has family in Bury and close to Preston, now lives in London where she visits primary and secondary schools as a poet, gives readings at venues and festivals, and writes radio plays.
The tightly-written stories deal with the small events in life making them very profound and memorable. They are at times bleak, at others funny, but always a little haunting.
She has been a full-time freelance poet and writer for almost 20 years after a degree at Newcastle University and a Fine Art degree at St Martins in London. For a while she was a full-time teacher, but now her writing has taken over, though she still visits the north west and this summer was reading at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival.
It’s no surprise that she has won children’s and adult poetry and short story prizes, five of which were read on BBC Radio 4 by actors including Anne Reid, Stephanie Cole and Penelope Wilton.
She has read her poetry at all the major festival in Britain and abroad, and her new book, Between Here and Knitwear, is her second collection of stories for adults. Her residencies have included Maidstone Borough Council, 12 Southwark primary schools, Croydon libraries, the Refugee Council, Bangkok Patana School and Belmarsh Prison.
So, what’s next? Projects include a book of children’s poetry - ‘Adder, Bluebell, Conker’ - which will be published in the autumn. It’s based on some of the 117 words connected with nature and the countryside which have been cut from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.
And there’s a third collection of adult poetry in the offing with visits to Burma and India as part of the research. Catch up with what she is doing on her website www.chrissiegittins.co.uk
Between Here and Knitwear is published by Unthank Books, price £10.